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If The School Bus Isn't Coming-- Kids Are Encouraged To Walk or Bike

Rachael McDonald

Among the many challenges for parents and K-12 students is how to get to and from school safely. A national shortage of school bus drivers makes that more difficult. We checked in with the coordinator of Safe Routes to School in Eugene for some tips on alternatives to driving to school.



Sarah Mazze meets me by the bike racks at Roosevelt Middle School on a recent weekday morning.

“I did just hear from the crossing guard,” Mazze said. “She said that this is the most bikes she’s ever seen in the rack at Roosevelt. So, that’s fantastic.”

Mazze is the coordinator of Safe Routes to School for Eugene’s 4J District. The program encourages kids to find fun, safe ways to bike, walk, bus, or carpool to school.

“Because of the bus driver shortage we are seeing more families both walking and biking to school,” Mazze said. “I’m seeing more groups of families walking together. That’s fantastic. We’re also seeing more families who are driving their students to school individually and that’s causing problems as many of you have probably seen, around schools, in terms of traffic and safety for students.”

Just recognize that these are our community's children and we need to take care of them by driving responsibly.

Mazze pointed to 24th avenue where a steady stream of cars zoom by. She saidadditional cars add to the danger at the beginning and end of the school day. 

And sometimes drivers aren’t paying attention to the kids out here. 

“We strongly encourage everyone to follow the speed limits. Put your phone down,” Said Mazze. “And just recognize that these are our community’s children and we need to all take care of them by driving responsibly. If you happen to be driving a vehicle around a school at that time when schools are getting out or starting. It’s all of our responsibility to make it safer for kids.”

Credit Rachael McDonald
The crossing guard told Safe Routes to School Coordinator Sarah Mazze this was the most bikes she'd ever seen in the rack at Roosevelt Middle School.

Mazze said for families that live too far away to bike or walk, another option is to park and stride. Drive to a location that’s closer to the school and then walk together from there. 

She said Safe Routes helps families find good ways to get to and from school without driving.

“Think about the neighborhood streets and think about the ways that are not the typical car or vehicle routes to school,” Mazze said. “Know that almost all of our schools have back and side entrances to the site. You may still need to walk around the front to actually get in the building but you might be able to have a shorter and safer route by using one of those side entrances and the side streets.”

The organization also teaches the basics of riding a bike to kindergarteners, first graders and middle schoolers—it’s part of P.E.

“They’re kind of like pre-driver’s ed, for students who may never actually get a real driver’s ed class,” Mazze said. “But, in the middle school bike safety it’s two weeks on bikes and they actually learn the rules of the road, because bikes follow the same rules as people in cars and they practice in their parking lots but they go on a neighborhood ride and practice on the streets.”

Safe Routes to School gets funding from the state. Mazze is hopeful there will also be federal dollars in the infrastructure bill. 

Copyright 2021 KLCC.


Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s host for All Things Considered on weekday afternoons. She also is the editor of the KLCC Extra, the daily digital newspaper. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000.
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