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Kids step up to learn pedestrian safety at LCF’s ‘Feet First’ event

Kids step up to learn pedestrian safety at LCF’s ‘Feet First’ event
Kids and parents cross La Cañada's Lasheart Drive Saturday, demonstrating a "walking school bus" during a "Feet First: Step Safe to School" event. Sponsored by the Southern California Assn. of Governments, the event is part of a campaign to promote safe walking and biking. (James Carbone / La Cañada Valley Sun)

Local parents, children and transportation officials celebrated pedestrian power Saturday in a “Feet First: Step to School” event designed to promote biking and walking as healthier, environmentally friendlier means of getting to and from school each day.

The Winery Channel parking lot at Foothill Boulevard and Indiana Avenue morphed into festival grounds as children ran and biked through art installations and a miniature city, winning prizes and learning lessons about safety in the process.

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La Cañada Mayor Terry Walker, who walked to the event with dog Zuri, admitted it can be difficult to extricate oneself from the California mindset of using cars to get everywhere.

“There’s so much we can do in this community with the facilities we have,” she said. “I think this event is a great tool in raising that awareness.”

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Children and parents who’d earned passport stamps for interacting with three informational exhibits got raffle tickets for adult and youth bicycles. The day was part of a “Go Human” campaign organized by Southern California Assn. of Governments (SCAG), which coordinates regional transportation projects across six counties and 191 cities.

Deanna Dupuy, a regional planner for the agency, said Go Human aims to reduce traffic collisions by promoting alternative modes of transportation while educating residents about street safety.

“We’d like people to rethink their daily commute and figure out, are there ways we can put our feet first?” she said.

Damian Tong from Street Magic shows how a bike helmet protects the brain during the "Feet First: Step Safe to School" event Saturday.
Damian Tong from Street Magic shows how a bike helmet protects the brain during the "Feet First: Step Safe to School" event Saturday. (James Carbone / La Cañada Valley Sun)

Damian Tong, who operates a transit safety program called Street Magic, used a magician’s set and a watermelon named Willy to impart bicycle safety lessons. He showed kids how helmets are made to fit the heads and brains that go in them, demonstrating on Willy what can happen in an accident with and without a helmet.

Nearby, La Cañada mom Adrienne Baerg said she can’t imagine 3-year-old son Philip having to navigate around street traffic, and has already taught him the importance of wearing a helmet when he’s on his scooter.

“It’s been interesting to see how much my perspective has shifted since becoming a parent,” Baerg said. “I always thought of [the streets] as safer, with everyone being aware of each other — now I don’t necessarily see it that way.”

Culminating the event, participants demonstrated a “walking school bus,” in which children in a pedestrian chain followed a qualified adult from the event site, down Foothill, to La Cañada Elementary School.

That’s just one way of getting kids to schools without creating unsafe car traffic, Walker said. Another way might be finding a pick-up and drop-off point a few blocks away from school, where parents and children can meet, or teens using shuttle stops along Foothill Boulevard.

“This is a first step,” the mayor said, adding the goal is not to give up driving completely. “We don’t have to conquer the world all at once — let’s just change our thinking a little bit.”

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