Safe Routes to School

safe-routes-pic-640x400Getting to school safely will soon be as easy as ABC for students in the Florence-Firestone community.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a two-year project to improve pedestrian safety around six schools in the South Los Angeles County community. The $1.6 million Safe Routes to School project will install improved curb ramps, electronic countdown signals, and audible, push-button crossing devices. Construction is scheduled to begin in spring 2017, with the educational component rolling out sooner, in the fall of 2016.

“Students and their parents can heave a sigh of relief,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “These improvements would help reduce potential collisions, upgrade access for people with disabilities, and improve traffic flow.”

With funding from a state Active Transportation Program grant, the county Department of Public Works will design and build the improvements at nine intersections along Compton Avenue, Nadeau Street and Firestone Boulevard.

DPW assistant deputy director John Walker said the project would bring multiple benefits. “The improvements will promote healthy, active lifestyles,” he said. “They encourage walking and bicycling while raising the safety awareness of students and parents.”

Beyond the changes visible on the street, the program also will offer local students classes on how to bike and walk to school safely. Community volunteers will be trained to continue the classes after the project concludes.

When looking for potential sites, Public Works engineers sought out streets near schools and planned bike paths in order to maximize the public benefit. Florence-Firestone’s busy streets and high level of pedestrian activity made it the perfect candidate.

According to a 2012 report by the California Highway Patrol, 39% of fatal traffic collisions in LA County involved pedestrians or cyclists. Within the project area, there were six collisions—two of them fatal—involving vehicles and cyclists or pedestrians between 2003 and 2009.

Bill Sadler, regional policy manager for the nonprofit group Safe Routes to School California, said projects like the one approved June 20, 2015 make LA safer for everyone.  This is a safety issue not just for children going to school, but the community that is walking and biking on the streets to other destinations,” he said.

Beyond basic safety, getting more people biking and walking—especially for short trips—improves public health and reduces traffic congestion, he said.

The project is the first of two Safe Routes to School plans being developed by Public Works. A second project, now in the planning stages, will create new bikeways and improve intersections along Hubbard and Sixth streets in East LA. If approved by the Board, it promises safety improvements for even more LA County students.

CREDIT: NewsWorks website of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works.