Safe Routes to School program celebrates new ‘traffic garden’ at Auburn Elementary

Published Oct. 17, 2022

On Friday, students at Auburn Elementary School celebrated the addition of a new ‘traffic garden’ on campus, holding a bike rodeo with school staff and community partners to mark the occasion. Traffic gardens are miniature, child-scale traffic towns that provide a safe space for children to learn the rules of the road away from street traffic.

“We want to get more neighborhood kids able to walk or ride to school, and for families to feel safe enough to be able to do that. That’s the whole point of us doing the Bike Rodeo,” said principal Erin Fischetti. “We want to get kids outside; get them healthy, and just have them know their neighborhood and be able to walk to and from school safely.”

County staff from two Public Health programs – Safe Routes to School and the CalFresh Healthy Living programs  – and partners with the California Highway Patrol and Placer County Sheriff’s Office set up various agility courses on the school blacktop for students to practice important skills necessary to ride a bike safely and confidently, from hand signals to crosswalk etiquette.  At the end, students used the skills they’d learned to navigate the roadways, intersections, and crossings in the brand-new traffic garden that Public Health staff had painted on the playground. 

“I’ve been learning the bike safety around here like the hand signals and stopping,” said Bella, a fifth-grader at the school. 

Students who attended the bike rodeo received free helmets and other swag, and borrowed bikes from the Public Health team if they did not already have their own.  

The Safe Routes to School program, run by the Public Health division of Health and Human Services, has been working with Auburn-area schools for several years, providing education to pedestrians and drivers alike. The team has also been working in tandem with the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency to support the educational side of the Highway 49 Gap Closure Project, which will close the gaps between sidewalks in the Highway 49 corridor between Interstate 80 and Dry Creek Road, creating a continuous sidewalk on at least one side of the highway.