The city and the school board are seeking public comments about a proposal to improve walking and biking routes to Bay Middle School, Normandy Elementary School and Westerly Elementary School.
The proposal is part of the statewide effort by the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School Travel program, which focuses on improving elementary and middle school students’ routes to and from school.
The first step is for the school district and city to create a school travel plan that describes the conditions and what they would like to improve the routes, said Katheryn Kerber, the city’s project manager overseeing the plan.
A study Kerber and her team conducted showed more than 4,000 car accidents were recorded within 2 miles of the three schools between 2013 and 2017. Among the main issues surrounding safe routes to school were the lack of crossing guards at each intersection, crosswalks that are not ADA compliant and drivers not following safety laws, her team found.
ADA-compliant sidewalks must be at least 3 feet wide to accommodate wheelchairs, the surface texture must be firm, stable and slip-resistant, and curb ramps are required wherever a sidewalk crosses a curb.
“We’ll have up to 600 kids riding their bikes to school, so making sure they can get to school and leave safely is extremely important to us,” said middle school Assistant Principal Tom Grodek, who worked with Kerber to create a safe route plan. “We want kids to be as safe as possible from their door to our door. Any way we can help that is huge.”
Improvements the city is considering include making crosswalks ADA compliant, implementing new cross signals and starting a bike safety class for second-graders.
As part of the process, the city spent the last year studying the arrival and departure process for each school. During a walk audit this summer, dangerous intersections were marked and sidewalk problems and other potential dangers were noted. Surveys were also sent to parents.
On Sept. 25 the city held a joint open house with the school district to listen to public input. After 45 minutes of the hour long meeting, no one showed.
Once finalized, the plan will go to City Council, the school board and the PTA for endorsement so it can be sent to ODOT. Planners hope that process will be done by the end of this month. If the state approves the plan, the city could receive up to $400,000 in grant money to begin making route improvements, Kerber said, adding that the cost per corner is $2,500. The group does not know the exact number of crosswalks that need work.
“Bay Village is already very safe, that’s why people live here,” Kerber said. “But there are always things we can do to make it better. With limited resources within the city, this is a really good opportunity to really evaluate what the current conditions are and get some outside resources to help us make improvements.”
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