Students coming back to Santa Monica High School and other SMMUSD campuses will be feeling more safe thanks to the work of the city’s mobility department. Credit: Photo by Daniel Archuleta

For the students of Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District to enjoy their first days back, they first need to actually get to school.

On the first day of school Thursday, drivers and pedestrians alike will be faced with renewed traffic impacts typical of the SMMUSD calendar year. “[There will be] definite traffic impacts around all the schools in the 30 minutes before and 15-30 minutes after the instructional day,” Santa Monica Police Lieutenant Erika Aklufi said.

Aklufi also noted that residents not picking up or dropping off students should avoid the vicinity of the campus, if possible, during those strenuous times “to keep our kids safe and to save themselves the headache.”

Students who choose to walk or bike to and from school shouldn’t depend on drivers to see them, Aklufi said, and students should double check if the roadway is clear before crossing streets. Eye contact with a driver is also important before crossing in front of them.

One advancement in pedestrian safety has been the incorporation of Leading Pedestrian Intervals, which give students a head start in intersection walkways. The project was one of many taken up by The City of Santa Monica’s mobility department, led by Mobility Manager Jason Kligier and several partners such as Senior Transportation Planner Jack Moreau.

“It allows the pedestrians to get off the curb, get established in the crosswalk and be more visible, so that when cars are making turns, the pedestrians are really visible and there’s reduced conflicts,” Kligier said.

The mobility department also aids in the “Safe Routes to School” crossing guard program, and crossing guards will make themselves seen in school-area intersections starting Thursday. Aklufi stated that drivers should “slow down and pay attention” to intersections with a crossing guard presence, and that pedestrians “always get the right of way at marked and unmarked intersections.”

Student dropoff locations of note at SMMUSD schools include 7th Street and Michigan Avenue for Santa Monica High School, 16th Street north of Ocean Park Boulevard for John Adams Middle School, the 1500 block of California Avenue for Lincoln Middle School and the 800 block of Lincoln Boulevard for Roosevelt Elementary School.

Another transportation option comes from the mobility department’s collaboration with The Bike Center to provide family cargo bikes for pickup and dropoff, with a trial period so that families can test the vehicle.

With the bike program, the department continues to encourage alternative transportation methods, in order to reduce the number of cars on the road. While reducing cars also reduces the chance of a serious accident, the team is also looking to address climate goals with the push towards biking and walking to school, with Moreau stating that about 60 percent of Santa Monica greenhouse gas emissions comes from personal vehicles.

Another venture into alternate transportation is the third year of the GoPass program, which lets students sign up to receive unlimited free rides on public buses and rails such as the Big Blue Bus, as well as most other Los Angeles Metro services.

“It’s not just for the trip to and from school, but it’s for any purpose, really helping children exhibit some independence and not have to rely on their parents for pickup and dropoff on a daily basis,” Kligier said.

Thomas Leffler has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Broadcast Journalism from Penn State University and has been in the industry since 2015. Prior to working at SMDP, he was a writer for AccuWeather and managed...