SOLANA BEACH — Resident Stacy Bostrom remembers having tears in her eyes on the first day of school this year, watching as her two young children and other area kids “pour(ed) out of the neighborhood biking and walking to school.”
Bostrom said that of the children on her neighborhood street, almost 90% bike or walk to school.
And according to several Solana Beach parents, including Bostrom, such bustling activity has been made possible by crossing guard services — the culmination of a joint effort between the city and the Solana Beach School District reached in July 2018.
Every weekday morning and afternoon, six crossing guards can be seen manning the I-5 on- and off-ramps on Lomas Santa Fe Drive, seeing to it that kids get to and school safely. The city also added the intersection of Santa Helena and Lomas to the mix in August 2018.
And at an April 10 meeting, the council amended the Memorandum of Understanding with the district to add services at Stevens Avenue and Lomas — just east of Earl Warren Middle School — bringing eight crossing guards total to the city’s busy central corridor.
Resident Melissa Powers likened the guards to “guardian angels” — providing a safety buffer for the many families walking or biking under the I-5 in the mornings and afternoons to get to the area schools: Solana Vista, Earl Warren and Skyline.
Prior to the 2018/2019 school year, the Solana Beach School District had no official crossing guard services at major intersections or at the I-5 interchange.
Before the 2017/2018 school year, schools would have volunteers, teachers and staff help fill the gap.
But when those volunteer efforts were discontinued in 2017, parents and kids turned to the Solana Beach City Council in search of a solution.
About 10 children and several parents spoke at a September 2017 City Council meeting, urging the council to hire crossing guards and address the safety hazards faced by school-going children along the Lomas Santa Fe Corridor.
“I think we have a responsibility to our children to promote independence, healthy choices and environmental stewardship, all of which are promoted by student walking and riding to school,” said resident Kat Gilbert.
And the city took action, cooperating with the district to share the costs of crossing guard services.
The city manages the service and covers 35% of the cost, and the district reimburses the city for the remaining 65%. The total cost incurred by the city for the year of services is $33,636.
The program will be reassessed at the end of this school year, but so far, Councilwoman Jewel Edson told The Coast News there’s been “a lot of positive feedback from the parents and the community as a whole.”
“I think everyone feels safer with the crossing guards there,” she said.
Crossing guards are just one piece of the larger community effort to make the Lomas Santa Fe Corridor safer for bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages.
The city has implemented signal phasing that gives pedestrians a head-start on drivers at busy intersections along Lomas Santa Fe, such as at Cedros and Nardo avenues.
On a larger scale, the city is in the third phase of the Lomas Santa Fe Corridor Improvement Project — which aims to bring features such as buffered bike lanes to the thoroughfare.
To resident Douglas Alden, co-founder of the local advocacy group BikeWalkSolana, getting people out of their cars and onto their feet or bicycles is the “low-hanging fruit” of environmental sustainability — a central pillar of Solana Beach.
And for kids? “It’s very important,” he said.
“It gives them a sense of where they live,” Alden said. “They can understand how the road works before they get the keys to a car.”
For Alden, it’s not about eliminating cars completely in favor of bicycles, but making the option of biking or walking easier and safer for residents.
“Let’s try to get people to consider getting out of their cars once in a while,” he said.