Parents say traveling to Burnley-Moran without a vehicle feels unsafe
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Thursday morning, Kyle Savage walked his 7-year-old daughter, Adeline, from the Woolen Mills neighborhood to Burnley-Moran Elementary School on the U.S. 250 Bypass.
The nearly 10-minute commute on school days allows the pair to bond and chat about anything pertaining to school, including his first-grader’s passion for dance, Savage said.
“It’s a nice one-on-one you can have with your child,” Savage said. “You don’t necessarily have to get in the car. You can be more focused with your conversation with your kid — very pleasant.”
But once they reach the area of the intersection of East High Street and Meade Avenue, Savage said he feels unsafe.
“It’s the crossing of High Street that makes it unsafe,” Savage said, adding that the crosswalk near the Jak ‘n Jil restaurant does not have flashing signals or any indication of a pedestrian wanting to cross. “Often when we’re walking, it’s hard to get the eyes of a driver to stop for you.”
Savage is not alone.
Todd Neimeier and his wife, Erin Trodden, who also walk their first-grader to Burnley-Moran, take issue with the crosswalk. Neimeier said there’s definitely room for improvements to make the crossing safer.
Trodden said she walks her daughter to school every day because they live close to the school, and it seems “unnecessary to drive.”
“It’s healthier to walk,” she said. “It’s nice to spend time with your family.”
Savage has taken matters into his own hands by contacting local neighborhood associations, the Parent-Teacher Organization of Burnley-Moran and the city of Charlottesville.
“Sometimes when you want something to be done, you have to do it yourself,” Savage said. “You can keep asking to get something done, but without actions, who’s going to do it?”
He said it’s important to create a walkable neighborhood, adding that he wants to be able to walk to places, and it’s one of the reasons that he chose to live in the city.
On Wednesday morning, Savage said he applied for a Walkabout mini-grant. The Virginia Department of Transportation grant would fund a study for potential changes along the corridor.
Sometimes when you want something to be done, you have to do it yourself. You can keep asking to get something done, but without actions, who’s going to do it?
Kyle Savage, Charlottesville City Schools Parent
After the study, another grant application could be submitted for funding for the recommended improvements. The potential recommendations from the state would be in addition to what the city has already said it will do, Savage said.
The city is now looking closely at crosswalks because of the efforts of the parents and the community of Burnley-Moran, said Kyle Rodland, Safe Routes to School coordinator for Charlottesville.
“We don’t know what the solution is, but it will be some type of physical infrastructure change — whether it’d be there’s only one sidewalk on one side of the street, it could be a street move or the sidewalk moves,” Rodland said.
Speaking of the city’s plans for pedestrian crossings on High Street, Savage said any type of enhancement is better than nothing.
He added that crossing High Street has bothered him since he started living in the Woolen Mills neighborhood. There wasn’t any particular event that led him to voice his concerns to the city, but just an accumulation of events, he said.
“Since we’ve been walking our daughter to school, it’s gotten more and more bothersome,” he said.
In addition to High Street, the city also is looking at improving Hazel Street’s intersections with St. Clair Avenue and Locust Avenue.
The improvements will change things for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, Rodland said. The issues on Locust Avenue are sightlines and drivers going over the speed limit.
We don’t know what the solution is, but it will be some type of physical infrastructure change — whether it’d be there’s only one sidewalk on one side of the street, it could be a street move or the sidewalk moves
Kyle Rodland, Safe Routes to School coordinator for Charlottesville
With the way that the intersection is set up, drivers cannot see little children as easily as they could at other intersections, Rodland said, explaining that there’s not an absolute short-term plan for Locust Avenue. But there is the possibility of putting a crossing guard there.
“Locust Avenue is the biggest challenge with immediate action,” he said.
No one has been injured at these locations, he said, but parents avoid walking in these areas because they feel unsafe.
“We rely on feedback from the community,” he said. “They’re engaged and deserve a lot of credit.”