A South County elementary school is taking advantage of San Luis Obispo County’s No. 1 ranking for pedestrian safety among the state’s

26 metropolitan areas.

A recent study conducted by Transportation for America landed the top ranking for the county, which is spending more than $900,000 per year to maintain and improve pedestrian infrastructure, said a spokeswoman for SLO Regional Rideshare.

Oceano Elementary School is among area schools taking advantage of the high safety ratings by encouraging children to bike or walk to class.

At the start of the school year, Oceano Elementary teacher Jim DeCecco received a minigrant from the SLO Regional Rideshare Safe Routes to School Program to spearhead what he calls his “burrito program.”

Each school day morning, DeCecco asks his students to raise their hands if they walked or biked to school.

At the end of each month, one student who did wins a free burrito from a local restaurant.

“The kid’s love it,” DeCecco said, noting the more the students bike and walk to school, the greater their chance of winning.

His program has been so successful, it has now branched into 13 other Oceano Elementary classrooms.

“As the safest county in the state for pedestrians, there is no better time than now to encourage children to walk and bike to school,” said Kelsie Greer, program coordinator for SLO Regional Rideshare.

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“Contrary to popular belief, driving children to and from school can be more hazardous to their safety and health,” Greer said. “As more and more parents drive, traffic congestion around schools rises, and air quality and physical health suffer.”

Greer said the Safe Routes to School program gives parents, teachers and community members tools to make walking and biking to school safe and fun.

“By encouraging kids to ride their bike or walk to school, we keep our air clean, promote healthy lifestyles, independence and create safer communities,” she said.

The Safe Routes to School program in San Luis Obispo County is spearheaded by SLO Regional Rideshare, a division of the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments.

For more information, contact Greer at kgreer@rideshare.org.

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