Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on October 29th, 2010 at 12:47 pm
on a police officer to cross Springville
Road in Bethany.
(Photos: Kellie Rice)
This past Walk and Bike to School day was a smashing success. Throughout Portland's inner neighborhoods, schools reported overflowing bike racks, crowded crosswalks, and record turnouts.
That's all fine and good, but our experience of walking and biking to school in Portland isn't shared by everyone in the region. In newly developed suburbs of Washington County that lack a grid street network and a people-first engineering philosophy — walking and biking to school can be a much greater challenge.
The school is up and to the left.
After our coverage of Walk and Bike to School Day, I heard from reader Kellie Rice. Kellie is a P.E. teacher at Springville School in the unincorporated community of Bethany.
Bethany is a few miles north of Highway 26 just at the edge of the development boundary. Springville School is separated from most of its students by Springville Road, a high-speed arterial with a posted speed limit of 45 mph (see Google Map of school location).
Unfortunately, the only intersection with access to Springville School, NW Joss Avenue, lacks a traffic signal or a crosswalk (photo at right). This situation has several parents concerned about the safety of their children. When one parent found out there wasn't a crosswalk at that intersection, she told me, "I was dismayed... The school was essentially cut off from the majority of the neighborhoods that feed into it."
According to a source at Washington County, the Beaverton School District feels it's not safe to have elementary age students crossing roads with a 45 mph speed limit or greater. Standard traffic engineering policy is that a crosswalk in this type of location gives a false sense of security and might actually make conditions more dangerous. The preferred option is to have crossing guards (or, in the case of Walk and Bike to School Day, a police officer).
Springville School administrators are in contact with county engineers and ODOT has been out to the site to measure traffic speeds and consider various safety improvements (including lowering the speed limit, installing school zone flasher signs, and so on). P.E. teacher Kellie Rice would be happy to see any progress — even if it's just a sign saying kids and a school are present; but with workloads backed up and major budget freezes at ODOT, it could be 12 months before anything changes.
Despite conditions on Springville, Kellie remains positive. She reported that they had 263 walkers, bikers and scooter riders out of 615 students on Walk and Bike to School Day. Not a bad turnout at all. "Walking to school is becoming more of an option for some of our parents," she says, "Even if they have to cross Springville on their own."
For an inspiring look at the demand for biking and walking to schools — even in suburban-rural places like Bethany — take a look at the photos below...
We'll keep you posted on Springville Road conditions.