More Kids Who Won’t Be Walking to School

The reason: a collapsed pedestrian bridge.

I was puzzled by this last sentence:

A new bridge, if they decide to build one, could cost as much as 1-million dollars. Gugel says simply installing a traffic light may not be an option because Kearney Street has been designated a barrier street which means students shouldn’t cross it.

Somehow a “barrier street” doesn’t have the ring of something found in the MUTCD, but I may be wrong; any street, in any case, is a barrier with enough car traffic on it. But certainly street designations can be changed?

[UPDATE: See comment below for how the school defines ‘barrier street.’ The website also notes: “Springfield has a number of streets with an exceptionally high volume of traffic. In order to prevent students from having to cross the busiest street, SPS provides free transportation to students who live less than 1.5 miles from school in areas where they must cross a barrier street.”

This reads like something of a fait accompli: These streets are too busy, large, fast, etc. to allow students to walk, so they must be driven (by parents or the school), thus increasing traffic on those busy roads. But one wonders what the larger planning decisions were vis a vis the school siting and the classification of those roads (and one hopes that school is not separated from residences by an interstate highway!). Surely children could cross with relatively, with a road diet, slower speeds, a HAWK crossing or crossing guard?]

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010 at 8:12 am and is filed under Commuting, Congestion, Pedestrians, Roads. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

12 Responses to “More Kids Who Won’t Be Walking to School”

  1. Michael Says:

    Of course, when a cars-only-no-pedestrians bridge fails, repair is priority #1. Might have to close off a pedestrian crossing to make way for the detour, in fact. I’ve seen that where I live.

  2. Malik Says:

    “To be classified as a barrier street, streets must meet at least one of the follow criteria:
    * Any street with a functional classification of Expressway or Primary Arterial on the Springfield Major Thoroughfare Plan.
    * A street with a speed limit of 45 MPH or more.
    * A street with a traffic volume of at least 30,000 vehicles per day.”

    That’s from the school district website,

  3. John Says:

    This is where speed and other violations should be recorded with cameras– around schools. At the moment, it is the cars controlling kid traffic, when it should be the other way around–kids controlling car traffic.

    Number one Google search, “best driver in the world”

  4. Betty Barcode Says:

    “This reads like something of a fait accompli: These streets are too busy, large, fast, etc. to allow students to walk, so they must be driven (by parents or the school), thus increasing traffic on those busy roads.”

    Perfect example of how too much traffic causes a vicious circle of even more traffic. Why is it OK to allow cars to so totally dominate a thoroughfare that people (in this case kids) dare not use it? I ask my fellow “How We Drive” readers: are there any thoroughfares in America that are so dominated by people that cars dare not use them?

    Designated pedestrian malls come the closest, but in those places, cars are banned. I am thinking of places where cars are not banned, places where they are simply as rare as pedestrians along high-traffic roadways.

  5. Kevin Love Says:

    Meanwhile, here in Toronto, one of the suburbs just opened a new school as a “walking only” school. From:

    “The Halton District School Board will open one of its newest schools, P.L. Robertson Public School in Milton, on January 4, 2010 as a “walking-only” school. As the newly-built school gets ready to receive students, the school board and community partners have been busy ensuring the infrastructure and supports are in place for students to use active transportation to get to and from school.”

    It is not very hard to retrofit existing schools as car-free. All that is needed is barriers to keep cars off the school property. Then the local government signs the surrounding two blocks as a “no stopping zone.” Then the local police make it part of their daily routine to send an officer around for 1/2 hour before school starts and 1/2 hour after school lets out to enforce the no stopping rule by ticketing any car driver that stops to let out a child.

    All very easy, cheap and simple to implement. Any school can go car-free cheaply, easily and simply.

  6. Jon Says:


    $1,000,000 seems pretty expensive for such a bridge (williams elementary, kearney street, springfield, USA, on google to find the streetview). If you paid two crossing guards for three hours a day, 200 days a year for 30 years, you’d have to pay them more than $25/hour for the bridge to be cheaper. In the UK, a traffic-light controlled pedestrian crossing would cost £50-80k, so even factoring this in (with such young children and a busy street, you’d want the guard as-well-as) the bridge is more expensive. Presumably, the cost of a couple of buses is comparable to this.



  7. Robert Says:

    Here is a follow up to this story. Looks like the bridge will be replaced.

  8. Robert Says:

    Jon, the bridge would function for all pedestrians and not just the children. I use ped bridges all the time at a local University and I’m just crossing the campus. Seems to me that peds had ought to be able to cross the street 24 hours per day.

    My two cents; what else is the internet for? : )

  9. George Says:

    Oh what a tangled web we weave when we improperly frame the problem.
    KISS keep it simple stupid.

    I used to avoid my local elementary school when bicycling during rush hour. But now I don’t. I have found that riding by the school during those times can be very entertaining. I enjoy annoying the parents as I take my lane.
    I have been honked at, saluted [one finger] and told to do things that are physically impossible. My responce is always the same, Slow down smile and wave.
    I am not sure but me thinks they are very upset that they have to travel at 15 mph [25 mile zone] for two blocks. Thats a 19 second delay.

  10. Jon Says:


    Robert (Rob?), a traffic light controlled crossing would still be available for use by other pedestrians. It’s just that with such young children, it’s useful to have someone to make sure that they use it safely, and that the cars stop safely.

    I’m not a big fan of pedestrian bridges. They’re essential when both road and on-foot street crossing path between them have more than full utilisation of the space they’re sharing, and advantageous even quite a ways from that limit (common in universities). Also, vehicle fuel efficiency is increased because vehicles don’t have to stop and start for a pedestrian crossing.

    That said, for a pedestrian you have to go up a long ramp and down again, which uses up a decent chunk out of your ‘walkability radius’ for the area without actually getting you anywhere. Also, they can be unsightly (not an issue in this case, it seems).

    Conceptually, separating drivers from pedestrians this way prompts an auto-centric mode of thought among the drivers (in turn encouraging inappropriate driving), and a fear of crossing the street at ground level among pedestrians. It’s appropriate on the motorway (freeway) when the space really is segregated, but in this kind of environment its important that streets shouldn’t be a barrier to communities.


  11. doug Says:

    @ Betty Barcode

    It’s not much, but the street running through Pike Place Market here in Seattle might meet your description. It is thronged with pedestrians year round, but cars are not banned. They inch slowly along the brick roadway and often wait for minutes at a time for a gap in pedestrian traffic to turn right. I wish there were more streets like this in Seattle.

  12. JJM P.E. Says:

    Yehuda said it best:

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