A third grader and a teen on bike rides collided with cars in Menlo Park over the last two weeks, local district officials are reporting. Police and school officials are reminding drivers to be careful and patient — especially in the mornings and afternoons when more children are walking and biking to and from school with the full return to campuses this fall.
Last Monday, Sept. 13, a driver hit a Encinal School third grade boy while he was biking home near on the 800 block of Laurel Street in Menlo Park, according to a Sept. 15 Menlo Park City School District (MPCSD) newsletter. He had been following behind a car traveling southbound and when the driver turned right into the parking lot, using her turn indicator, the bicyclist collided with the vehicle. He suffered a bloody nose and some scratches, sore teeth, but was otherwise OK, said Parke Treadway, the district's public information officer.
"Fortunately, the student was back at school in good spirits later this week," the newsletter states. "Menlo Park police and fire departments and another Encinal parent who was driving by at the time came to assist. We are all grateful that this student was not seriously injured, thanks in part to wearing a bike helmet."
Another Encinal parent driving by at the time stopped to help the boy and called his mom, Treadway explained. The driver who hit the student wasn't another parent, Treadway said.
On Sept. 8, a driver turning from southbound Johnson Street to eastbound Santa Cruz Avenue (near Menlo Church) in downtown Menlo Park when a 13-year-old bicyclist entered the roadway and ran into the vehicle, said Menlo Park Police Department spokesperson Nicole Acker in an email. The bicyclist sustained non-life threatening injuries to his face and head and was transported by ambulance to the hospital, she said.
The same week as the incident in downtown Menlo Park, a driver struck and killed a school crossing guard in Lafayette.
Menlo Park Police have "received safety concerns regarding students being dropped off and picked up at schools, students biking to school, and non-adherence to signs and crosswalks," officers wrote in a letter last week. "While we know school zones can be tricky to navigate due to congestion, we are providing these safety tips and traffic reminders to help prevent potential hazards and to possibly avoid collisions, and avoid traffic violations."
The incidents have prompted the district to alert the community to pay extra attention to safe driving, biking, and walking. Officials not only reached out to parents through its district and school-based newsletters, but also sent an alert to its full list of community voters for which it has email addresses, according to a Tuesday district press release.
The district plans to host bike rodeos, which teach students proper biking safety with courses set up at the school campuses, in the coming weeks, the release states.
"MPCSD thanks the community for helping keep everyone's children safe as we adjust to society's continued reopening, together," the release states.
The Atherton Police Department’s School Resource Officer Dimitri Andruha urged drivers to put their phones away while at the wheel and to give pedestrians the right of way when they are in crosswalks in a letter.
"I am reminded of a bumper sticker I saw as a child growing up in San Francisco. The bumper sticker was all yellow and in black writing it stated, 'School's open, Please drive carefully.'"
He advised children to always wear a helmet while biking (it's the law for those under 18) and reminded motorists to obey the rules of the road, such as stopping at traffic signs, signaling when they will turn, and staying within lane markings. Other tips he offered for students: walk facing traffic (against the flow) to see the vehicles coming in your direction; use a forward-facing headlight and a flashing tail light while riding your bike at dusk or dark; and don't try to cross the road in the middle of the street.
Menlo Park Police recommended in the letter that bicyclists should increase their visibility to drivers by wearing fluorescent or brightly colored clothing during the day, and at dawn and dusk. Police also reminded bicyclists to ride in the same direction as traffic.
There are also locally created tools that can help kids learn about pedestrian safety. The San Mateo County Office of Education created a Star Wars-themed virtual escape room, Baby Yoda's Safe Journey to help children learn to navigate the streets safely on foot or by bike.