McKinley parents want safer walk to school

By Alan Hamari
Nov. 17, 2010

Walking and biking to McKinley Elementary School needs to be safer, neighborhood residents say.

To that end, nearly 300 parents and other supporters signed a petition asking Wauwatosa Mayor Jill Didier to improve safety measures around the school, especially for students who have to cross North Avenue or Swan Boulevard.

“We really want our kids to be able to get to school safely,” said Sarah Lerand, a parent and the head of the McKinley PTO’s “Walk to School” committee.

Crossing guards disregarded

McKinley Elementary is located about a block north of North Avenue, and while many students live nearby, other students who walk or bike have to cross Swan Boulevard or North Avenue to get to school.

Those streets – especially North Avenue – can get extremely busy during the day, and Lerand and other parents said they would like to see increased enforcement of traffic violations in the area.

There are two crossing guards on Swan Boulevard and two on North Avenue, Lerand said, but drivers “on a daily basis … disregard that those people exist.” There are signals, but no crossing guard at the intersection of Swan and North, she said.

Lerand said there have been a lot of “close calls” in terms of accidents on the busy streets, but it has been a number of years since someone was actually struck by a car.

Still, there are things that can be done to make the walking routes safer for students. For instance, Lerand said she would like to see more pedestrian signs – potentially like the LED displays seen at Wisconsin and Glenview avenues.

Lerand said the PTO is looking for a traffic assessment and for ways to slow traffic in that area.

“We will be doing some more surveys of the families in terms of what they feel are some barriers in terms of walking (to school),” she said. Others have also volunteered to do some traffic assessments of the streets around McKinley.

Stepping up efforts

McKinley parents kicked off the pedestrian safety event during International Walk to School Day in October, and Didier, McKinley Principal Mark Carter and Milwaukee County Supervisor Jim “Luigi” Schmitt all spoke about the need for safe routes to school.

Students that day also participated in a neighborhood walk with their classmates.

Lerand said the McKinley PTO would like to get involved with the Safe Routes to School program, a national effort to improve safety around schools and encourage more children to walk to school.

“We recognize that this is really just about improving our community,” Lerand said. “We value being able to walk and we just kind of want to keep the momentum going to improve things.”

AT A GLANCE

Some of the elements of the McKinley petition:

• Enforce all traffic regulations related to stop lights, stop signs, bicycle lanes and pedestrian crosswalks on North Avenue from 76th Street to Swan Boulevard and on Swan Boulevard between Menomonee River Parkway and Center Street.

• Develop long-term measures to greatly increase traffic safety around our schools and community through updated traffic-calming protocols and assessment of business parking.

• Develop a Safe Routes to School task force to explore new citizen-led and school safety initiatives, with a report to be issued by the end of 2010.

• Measure and re-evaluate traffic safety initiatives annually.

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