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Walkability Audit at Grant Elementary

Note: A shorter version of this article appears in the March 2011 HumPAL enews; Jenny's full article appears below. - Chris

The PTA at Grant Elementary is extremely motivated to improve walking and bicycling conditions as well as reducing traffic congestion near the school during arrival and dismissal times. With the help of HumPAL and the Eureka Safe Routes to Schools (SR2S) Task Force, a Walkability Assessment and Workshop was held at Grant February 18, 2011 to observe the peak student arrival time, identify safety concerns, and come up with solutions to safety issues in the school neighborhood.

Two specialists from the California Department of Public Health’s SR2S Technical Assistance Center came from Sacramento to help facilitate the event. In addition to the PTA and parents, other participants included the school principal, the school board president, County Public Health staff, County Board of Supervisors, Eureka police, the Eureka Fire Chief, Eureka City Council, Eureka Traffic Safety Commission, County and City engineering department staff, employees of Redwood Community Action Agency, and local residents.

At the beginning of the workshop, participants were asked to share their vision for the workshop and the outcomes they would like to see. Healthy safe kids, safe streets, slower traffic, positive engineering solutions, and better access to school for all abilities were among the many visions of the passionate group.

Participants observed the two main dropoff areas in front of the school and then continued to walk around the neighborhood to investigate a long list of concerns identified by the PTA. After the walk, the group re-convened inside and viewed a presentation that highlighted different engineering, education, and encouragement strategies that could potentially help solve some of the safety concerns encountered on the walk. Breaking into small groups further helped participants identify problems and brainstorm solutions. By drawing ideas directly on street view maps, the groups could better visualize how their ideas might improve the walking and bicycling environment.

The workshop ended with each participant verbalizing what action they intend to do to help move forward with the proposed ideas. Some great education and encouragement ideas were discussed such as creating Walking School Buses where groups of children walk to school together supervised by adults. The PTA would also like to paint footprints on the sidewalk to direct students to the safest crossing locations. In addition, the City and County engineering departments noted that they have already been talking about improvements for F Street to slow vehicle traffic and create safer crosswalks. The County also expressed an interest in helping the school draft an SR2S grant application for 2011.

This collaboration of city and county engineering staff, planners, school staff and administrators, police and fire personnel, elected officials and advocates of safe streets is helping this dedicated group of parents head in the right direction to create the safe, healthy neighborhood their children deserve.

-- Jenny Weiss, Planning Specialist, HumPAL