Raphael Breines, father of two, set up shop on the blacktop at the center of Peralta Elementary’s campus in North Oakland on Wednesday morning, proudly wearing a school T-shirt. He put out boxes of snacks, booklets, pencils and stickers as he waited for students to arrive. At 8 a.m. excited voices began to fill the schoolyard as kids flocked to his table to report how they had traveled to school that morning—on foot, by bicycle, skateboard, scooter, bus or carpool.
Breines is one of many parent leaders who volunteer their time to coordinate events for Safe Routes to School, an ongoing program administered by the Alameda County Transportation Commission that encourages students to walk or roll to school on a regular basis to promote health, build a sense of community and reduce road congestion. Wednesday marked International Walk and Roll to School day; Safe Routes to School program coordinator Nora Cody said the event was being celebrated by 99 schools across Alameda County.
At the welcome table in the schoolyard, students received stickers to place on a big yellow “mode chart” next to the icon that represented the transportation they used that day. Peralta Elementary tallied 48 walkers, 15 rollers, 5 carpoolers and 12 students who rode to school in a single-family car. Cody said 22 other Oakland schools participated and of the 2,300 students who put stickers on mode charts across the city, about 60 percent walked or rolled—not in a single-family car.
“The time you spend with your kids while you’re walking or riding is really important time,” said Breines, who walks to school with his second-grade daughter and fourth-grade son every day and also bikes to work himself. “My kids really appreciate when they’re walking and we have these conversations that you wouldn’t normally have. It’s good time spent, obviously it’s exercise and it builds community.”