Note: this was originally posted on our contractor, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance's blog.
During the winter, the Safe Routes Ambassadors take a break from teaching Bike Safety to fifth graders in order to teach Pedestrian Safety Education to second graders. Pedestrian Safety classes consist of just two sessions, one in-class and one on-street, but there’s still plenty to talk about!
Session One: In the Classroom
During our first session, students review key pedestrian safety skills and practice on a plastic roadway. We start the class with introductions before we jump into the “Pedestrian Safety Rhyme:”
Stop every time at the edge of the street
Use your head before your feet
Make sure you hear every sound
Look left, look right, look all around
Sidewalks: Why do pedestrians like sidewalks? Students come up with a number of reasons, but the main one we can agree on is that there are NO cars driving on the sidewalk. It’s important to remember that sometimes cars may drive across a sidewalk in order to access a parking lot or a driveway.
Parking lots: Students learn why it’s important to make eye contact with drivers exiting and entering a parking lot before walking in front of their cars, and to never take a shortcut across a parking lot. We discuss situations where it is safe or unsafe to walk behind a car when it is in its driveway.
Crossing the street: The crosswalk is the safest place to cross the street because people driving cars know to be aware that people might cross, and they know they should stop for them (although our experiences on the second day will sometimes show that people still won’t stop for us). The first day wraps up with some student volunteers demonstrating what they’ve learned on the plastic roadway.
Session Two: On the Street
For our second session, the ambassador scouts out a good route to take the class on a walk and give everyone a chance to try crossing the street. Students are asked to cross with a partner (both have to agree that it is a safe time to pass), as a class group (turn off your conversations while in the crosswalk), and alone (look left, look right, look all around). We check for cars in their driveways and determine if the cars are parked or if they might start moving in the near future.
I am consistently amazed by two things in this class:
1) Second graders, once they know the rules and steps they should take, are usually ready to be responsible for their own safety. Second graders are very safe and predictable pedestrians.
2) A surprising number of drivers express indifference and sometimes open outrage at having to stop at a marked crosswalk in front of a school so a 7 or 8 year old child can safely cross the street.
A friendly reminder for readers
We teach our students to be responsible for their own safety, which means they are never supposed to step in front of a moving car. So when you are driving or biking, if you are going to stop for pedestrians, please come to a COMPLETE stop for them. After all, it’s against the law not to.