Safe Routes to School :: Practice and Promise
Promising Practices -
From Whom Can We Learn?
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Chapter Four
  Santa Ana, California  








In the Southern California city of Santa Ana (population 320,000), the impetus for promoting safety and walkability for children came from the realization that the pedestrian death rate for the city was, in 1997, the second highest of any large California city. While approximately 50 percent of fifth- and sixth-grade children walk to school regularly, a majority of residents responding to a survey stated that it was unsafe for children to walk in their neighborhood. Children aged five to nine represented only nine percent of Santa Ana's population in 1997, but they were victims in 21 percent of the pedestrian injuries. The California Office of Traffic Safety funded the Santa Ana Pedestrian Safety Project for three years. After this project period, Santa Ana took over the operation of the project, which has spread to 20 schools and has produced many tangible results. Unlike many other projects, the Santa Ana Pedestrian Safety Project established specific measurable goals and objectives, and collected data from the beginning. All of the objectives were achieved.

A group of children holding a stop sign

Description of Efforts

  • Established Citywide Task Force with representatives from law enforcement, schools, traffic engineering and community development, elected officials, community-based organizations, and concerned residents. Meeting topics included presentations on pedestrian safety issues and services, discussions of unsafe situations, and updates on the Santa Ana Pedestrian Safety Project accomplishments.
  • Developed a comprehensive educational toolkit and community outreach program in English and Spanish; toolkit includes:
    • 20-minute pedestrian safety video with discussion guide.
    • 30-minute pedestrian safety presentation with slides.
    • Neighborhood Safety Survey — for residents to identify unsafe walking conditions.
    • Pedestrian Safety Solutions Guidebook.
  • Participated in Walk to School Day in 2001 (approximately 20 schools).
  • Provided small grants to community-based organizations to purchase materials and conduct outreach and education events promoting pedestrian safety.
  • Promoted walking and safety through a Family Literacy Program that includes publications about walking to school.
  • Collected data from Neighborhood Perception Surveys, Walkability Checklists, Geographic Information System mapping, and police summaries to develop a community profile of pedestrian injuries.
  • Developed pedestrian safety art exhibits and murals through collaboration with the Multicultural After School Arts Program and Operation Clean Slate.
  • Applied through the Public Works Department, for pedestrian safety improvement funding; projects included in-pavement lighted crosswalks, new signals, and sidewalk improvements.
  • Police Department made strong commitment to child pedestrian safety, conducting such pedestrian safety enforcement actions as ticketing drivers who did not yield, and working directly with children and their parents to develop children's safe walking skills.
  • City worked with schools to develop, update, and assess Suggested Routes to Schools maps for all elementary schools.

Key Desired Results and Objectives

  • To reduce the number of pedestrians under 15 years old who are killed and injured in traffic collisions by 15 percent.
  • To prepare a community profile of the pedestrian injury problem.
  • To develop multilingual, pedestrian-injury prevention materials.
  • To establish a community-wide Pedestrian Safety Task Force that meets regularly


  • Santa Ana's representative in the State Assembly sponsored a statewide “Safe Routes to School” funding bill, and supported other pedestrian safety legislation.
  • City assumed ownership and leadership for ongoing pedestrian safety program after grant period ended in 2001.
  • City and school district established a partnership.
  • Schools and school district have taken a more proactive role in addressing pedestrian safety for students by encouraging “walking school buses,” using more innovative signage, and improving school drop-off practices. Additional crossing guards have been provided to schools.
  • Pedestrian injuries for children under age 15 declined from 82 in 1997 to 48 in 2000.
  • Extensive media coverage during the first year of the project raised awareness and garnered support and involvement by community residents, professionals, and elected and appointed officials.


  • Time constraints and competing priorities of key stakeholders, and personnel changes within collaborating agencies. It was tough to maintain participants' commitment, momentum, and level of activity.
  • Working with the media to promote the issues and portray the statistics accurately. Publicity helped bring attention to the issue, but negative publicity sometimes interfered with collaborative efforts.


  • Santa Ana Pedestrian Safety Project operated for three years with the following funding:
    • California Office of Traffic Safety Section 402: $350,000.
    • In-kind support and provision of services from Orange County Health Care Agency and City of Santa Ana estimated at $100,000 a year.
    • City of Santa Ana allocated $715,200 for pedestrian safety improvements from city budget, and applied for and received:
    • $713,400 from state Safe Routes to School funding (AB 1475)
    • $251,200 through Hazard Elimination Safety Program
    • $150,000 through Federal Empowerment Zone fund
    • $384,000 from California Pedestrian Safety Program funds
  • Office of Traffic Safety second-round funding: one grant for Pedestrian Safety Task Force ($77,000) and a second for a crosswalk study and public information campaign ($142,000).

Lessons Learned

Santa Ana's approach to pedestrian safety enhancement is different from other safe routes to school efforts in that data collection and evaluation were included as important project activities from the beginning. The focus on injury reduction poses difficulty in evaluation. Working with different agencies to collect data, Santa Ana was able to document an overall reduction in injuries, but found that evaluation was difficult because the numbers of injuries in any local area are usually modest. The data collection experience highlighted the need for proxy measures (e.g., conflicts between the needs of pedestrians and the rights of motor vehicle drivers) and exposure data (e.g., number of pedestrians) to be able to measure effects of pedestrian safety programs. The pedestrian safety efforts included a very broad cross-section of the community, which the organizers report was essential to the program's success. They learned that a comprehensive approach was necessary, as opposed to focusing on just one part of the problem such as jaywalking education, ticketing parents for illegal parking, or simply teaching children about pedestrian safety. In such a multicultural community, it was important to develop materials and outreach efforts in languages other than English—in this case, the second language needed was Spanish. The Santa Ana Pedestrian Safety Project was also prepared to develop materials in Vietnamese, although they discovered that the need was not as great as originally thought.


Diane Winn
University of California, Irvine
Tel: (949) 824-7410

Ruth Smith
City of Santa Ana
Tel: (714) 647-5605

Unlike many other projects, the Santa Ana Pedestrian Safety Project established specific measurable goals and objectives, and collected data from the beginning.







Unlike many other projects, the Santa Ana Pedestrian Safety Project established specific measurable goals and objectives, and collected data from the beginning.






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