City and school officials gather to chatter about safety of routes
On April 9, city officials and members of the community gathered at the Tonganoxie Middle School with one thing on their mind: how to make the city safer so children would be encouraged to walk to school.
"We want to get children to get out and start walking at a younger age," said Amy Sandlan, traffic engineer for Bucher Willis & Ratliff, the city's planning firm.
That Wednesday night about 21 people comprised of three representatives from BWR, members of the city staff, city council, police and fire departments, school district along with other members of the community met to discuss the Safe Routes to School Program. The program was designed to promote walking to school as an alternative to parents taking kids to school.
A recent BWR survey sent to parents of elementary and middle school students asked questions relating to how their children get to and from school. Of the 400 surveys sent, nearly half of them were returned.
The survey results stated that about half of the children at either school were taking the bus to go back and forth to school, but nearly 40 percent were being taken to school in a family vehicle. Less than 10 percent were walking to school.
Parents were also asked at what age would they allow their children to go to school. Twelve percent of parents said sixth graders would be allowed to walk to school with the percentages decreasing as the children get into higher and lower grades. Fifty percent of the parents surveyed said they would never allow their children to walk to school.
Some of the major issues concerning parents were the distance from the house to school (75 percent); amount of traffic (54 percent); speed of traffic (50 percent); safety of crossings (45 percent); and sidewalk conditions (42 percent).
Once the group heard the statistics, they spent time talking about some of the key problem areas in the city.
Joel Skelley, a member of the Tonganoxie Planning Commission, said it was important to get community involvement, but it was really important to get the schools involved.
"That's your mainstay with this, because that is what it centers around," Skelley said. "If you get them involved, you actually increase the chances of making it successfully. If there is an amount of the enthusiasm and backing from the school, you are going to see a success rate."
The information received from the meeting will be compiled and a plan will be developed by BWR. The city will have an opportunity for up to $250,000 in grant money from the Kansas Department of Transportation to implement the plan.
BWR will send the plan and an application for the money this summer and will be notified in the fall if any grant money will be available. But even if the city does not receive funding, Kevin Kokes, project manager for the BWR community-planning group, said the city would be able to use all of the information for future street planning.