• Cheryl Wright

Students work on intersection safety

Students at Parkside Elementary have had a unique opportunity this year - they've been able to work with professionals to make a nearby intersection safer. A fifth grade class at this North Columbus school has been working with Healthy Communities and leaders from the City's Planning and Engineering Departments on a traffic calming project.

Traffic calming describes a range of methods, including physical design, that slow cars and improve safety for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists. A great local example of traffic calming can be seen at 27th street and California St, near Schmitt Elementary, where extended curbs reduce crossing distances for walkers and high visibility crosswalks help reduce car speeds.

Ever since Laura Garrett, Community Initiatives Lead at CRH Healthy Communities, found out about parents' safety concerns at an intersection near Parkside school, she's been looking for an opportunity to implement a traffic calming solution. In early 2018, the opportunity finally came around with a partnership with Safe Kids to work on the project. When fifth grade teacher Edie Logston found out that students were needed for the project, she jumped on the opportunity.

The project involves the intersection of Parkside Dr and Arlington Dr (pictured above). This is where cars enter to drop kids off at school in the 'car line'. Although the line usually moves quickly, it gets backed up (in all directions) at peak times. The school and city have already made this intersection safer with a new trail (not pictured) that diverts people walking and biking from the North and West around to the back of the school so they no longer have to cross at the intersection. The issue now is that walkers and bikers from the neighborhood south of Parkside still cross there, as do other people using the sidewalk. Due to the backed up traffic, cars and buses often squeeze past each other, making the two lane Parkside Dr into a four lane road. Although there are two crossing guards on duty at this location, there are still safety concerns due to all of these issues.

Mrs. Logston's class has been working on the project since February, and the kids have accomplished a lot since then. They've heard from people who use the intersection, they've had workshops with Laura Garrett, Dave Heyward, City Engineer, and Emilie Pinkston, Senior Planner, and have had a workshop with Mark Fenton, a nationally renowned public health, planning and transportation planning consultant. They've been collecting data on the intersection; using radar guns to measure car speeds, counting cars, walkers and bikers and timing how long it takes for cars to get through the car line. They've learned about some different traffic calming tools and have developed a temporary solution for the intersection, which consists of curb bump outs and a temporary sidewalk on the south east side of the intersection.

On April 10th, the City’s Board of Works met at Parkside school (pictured above) so the students could present their project. The kids, who have been enthusiastic about this project and engaged in the work from the beginning, made a very convincing presentation. The project was approved by the Board of Works. Thanks to all of the kids' and other team members’ efforts, the project is now being installed at the intersection (pictured below) and will remain until September. Then, the students will evaluate the success of the temporary changes and the City will decide whether a permanent solution is needed.

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