May 5, 2014

Recently, there has been progress on the Safe Routes to School plans proposed for the Woodside Elementary School area. Lots of data has been collected and passionate cow-munity voices have been “herd,” with members of the Circulation Committee, parents, and safety advocates joining together to work on Safe Routes to School. The Town COWncil responded to this important issue by breaking it out from the Town Center Area Plan, a process that is already highly controversial and likely to take many month, if not years, to hammer out. We’re happy to be able to bring you up to date on this important info!
A student travel survey was conducted in Fall 2012, and a Walking and Bicycling Audit was held in June 2013. The travel survey showed that in the mornings, 80% of students were dropped off in a car in which they were the only student, with just 2% carpooling. Another six percent walked to school, and less than two percent rode bikes to school. The Audit was conducted in part to study why so few students walk or ride bicycles to school, and what can be done to improve student’s safety on their way to and from school.

The Audit is available here. Some highlights:

• While several of the crosswalks in the area are supervised by a crossing guard, there are those that aren’t. On school property, double-parking and obstructed crosswalks are a persistent problem. The school’s parking lots lack curb ramps, hampering access to those with limited mobility.

• Woodside Road lacks a dedicated pedestrian pathway, forcing parents and students to travel in bike lanes beside fast-moving traffic.

• Many of the feeder roads and paths to the school are inadequate, dangerous, and nearly impassible in bad weather.

The Circulation Committee and the PTA identified numerous safety issues, and the bulk of the Audit is dedicated to these concerns and to 18 individual safety recommendations, ranging from prohibiting parking near school entrances, to providing high-visibility crosswalk markings, rearranging parking and even narrowing Woodside Road. The proposed changes are sweeping and deserve to be examined closely and carefully, but in a timely manner to enhance the safety of our Town’s children and other pedestrians. All 18 recommendations and a handy map showing where each improvement or change would be made are included in the Audit report.

The Safe Routes to School Program was in real danger of being held hostage to the Town’s slow-moving Town Center Area Project (TCAP) – another important project in the same general area of Town, but one that has many stakeholders and potential disagreements. It’s considered common knowledge that that process is likely to drag on for quite a while. Meanwhile, our children are endangered and burdened every school day with unsafe and inadequate routes to school. COWs spoke up clearly at several Town COWncil meetings, demanding that Safe Routes to School be dealt with on its own.

We’re happy to say that at a recent Town COWncil meeting, the two issues were separated. We call it a victory for all the little ones in Town and those that care about them. Nonetheless those working on these important projects need to keep talking to each other since these two big undertakings definitely impact and overlap each other!

Remember the kids and drive safely!

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