In Thursday’s opinion pages, Austin resident Sandy Silver writes about the need for dedicated bike lanes and why some people want to block them on Mesa Drive. You can read that here.
Her argument is that the safety of kids should take priority over the need for street parking. It’s a neighborhood where kids ride their bikes to and from Doss Elementary and Murchison Middle School every day. People have protested in support of the bike lanes and also wanted to get rid of them.
I have had kids go to four different Austin Independent School District schools, and the need for safe passage for cyclists and pedestrians in and around school has been apparent at all of them. And it’s become increasingly so as land around those schools gets developed or as traffic around those schools increases.
Most of the time, kids are relying on one crossing guard to help them in one area, when there might be four or five different areas where kids might consider crossing. Just the other day, I witnessed a parent, in a hurry, forget to stop for kids trying to cross the school driveway she was trying to turn into. Luckily, the kids were paying attention and moved out of the way.
Each day, when I drop off or pick up at the middle school, there is some occasion when I am holding my breath, hoping that the car gets out of the crosswalk, the kids stop darting across the street, the parents stop parking in the bike lane or on the side of the street where the flow of traffic is trying to get into the school.
For kids who are walking or riding to school from their neighborhood apartments, it would be a scary proposition. Even if they don’t have a street to cross, they still have an area packed with cars with drivers who are not paying attention.
I also see the school police watch all of this and say nothing to parents. Only when the no-cellphone-in-a-school-zone rule came into being did I see a few Austin police officers patrolling around where our then-elementary school was, but that was temporary.
It’s up to us as parents to remember to drive slowly and cautiously around schools and neighborhoods where children might be out and about. We cannot rely on kids themselves or the one crossing guard to make sure that no one gets hurt.
And it’s up to us to demand better sidewalks and bike lanes in and around our schools and our neighborhoods.