Menlo Park parent Jen Wolosin launches initiative to make school routes safer for kids

by Linda Hubbard on January 25, 2017

When Jen Wolosin moved from San Mateo  to Menlo Park four years ago, one of the things she was practically excited about was how close her new home was to Laurel School where her daughter would be attending. Then she encountered Coleman Avenue.

“I got one of those tandem bikes with the child-size bike in the rear thinking we’d bike to school every day,” she recalls. “But riding along Coleman Avenue was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. It’s designed to be a quaint country road, but it was a cluster of cut-through traffic, little kids on bikes, and teens making their way to M-A. We bought a minivan and started car-pooling.”

Her upclose and personal encounter with traffic in Menlo Park and Atherton, including some county areas, led her to launch a new local initiative, Parents for Safe Routes, earlier this month.

In a letter to Mayor Kristen Keith and the City Council, Jen, now a mother of two children, wrote: “…We are a local group of  dedicated families and neighbors committed to making our schools as walkable and bikeable as possible. Our goal is to encourage and support local jurisdictions and schools in their efforts to improve the safety of our kids. We see ourselves as partners with cities, the County, schools and neighbors and we look forward to collaborating with and working together to truly make Safe Routes a reality in Menlo Park.”

Jen is quick to point out the the organization expands beyond the “parents” in its name. She’s recruited an Advisory Board that includes members of the bicycle, planning, and transportation commissions as well as heads of relevant non-profits and businesses and residents who are in close proximity to schools. “I want this to be as inclusive as possible because it’s an issue for the entire community,” she says.

In organizing this effort, she cites great support from neighboring Palo Alto, whose bike and transportation committees get together every month to go over “the six Es – engineering, enforcement, education, evaluation, equity, and encouragement.”

Jen explains: “It’s a little simpler in Palo Alto, as there are not multiple jurisdictions and school districts like there are in Menlo Park. But the foundational pyramid of the six Es gave me hope that we can have a positive impact on the community. We’ll start with engineering and infrastructure.”

Jen attended the City Council meeting earlier this week to introduce the group to civic leaders and will also be at the City Council Goal Setting meeting on Friday, Jan. 27, starting at 1:00 pm in the Menlo Park City Council Chambers (701 Laurel Street).

“I view this initiative as one that is long, sustained, strategic and slow but steady,” Jen says. “It involves a lot of networking and word of mouth.”

Photo by Linda Hubbard (c) 2017

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