Editorial: Walking to school safely would include needed sidewalks

Abia Judd students and parents take part in the annual Walk to School Day, sponsored by Prescott Alternative Transportation's Safe Routes to Schools, Wednesday, Oct. 4 in Prescott.

Photo by Les Stukenberg.

Abia Judd students and parents take part in the annual Walk to School Day, sponsored by Prescott Alternative Transportation's Safe Routes to Schools, Wednesday, Oct. 4 in Prescott.

The centerpiece story on The Daily Courier’s front page Thursday, Oct. 5, asked the question: What does it take to walk to school safely?

A lot more than you might think.

The education effort for Walk to School Day by local nonprofit Safe Routes to Schools emphasized to the children who participated: “Be safe and be seen,” including flashlights if walking outside at night; “Be smart and alert;” and “Be careful at crossings,” noting that no one should assume cars will stop for you.

That goes hand in hand with the insistence of sidewalks, sidewalks, sidewalks — stay on the sidewalk.

However, the crux is that so many roadways in the Prescott area do not have those necessary concrete walkways.

It is no wonder then Abia Judd Elementary School Principal Clark Tenney, at the Walk to School Day gathering, said only three of Abia Judd’s 528 students walk to school.

This may be because of its location, near the busy corner of Iron Springs and Williamson Valley roads. It also could be because of Prescott Unified School District’s bus system; parents who want to drive their little ones to school anyway; or it could be that some schools’ students come from miles away — unlike some more neighborhood-situated schools in the school district.

Still, all of the good intentions aside, Prescott is a place where one cannot find sidewalks and/or bicycle lanes along every street or thoroughfare.

One of the more contentious rounds of discussion about this came in 2008, when the City Council examined the idea of bicycle lanes for Sixth Street, near Granite Creek Park. It generated a lot of debate in the community; while a number of Sixth Street business owners urged the council to retain a four-lane configuration, biking advocates pushed for three lanes with the addition of bicycle lanes.

In a 4-3 vote, councilors approved re-striping for the three-lane option — but without the bicycle lanes. Part of the majority did not want to encourage more bike traffic along a busy corridor.

The understanding that Prescott’s streets were laid out and constructed so many years ago without bicycle lanes is crucial. To add them everywhere now would require widening of the road or constricting motorized traffic.

“Everything is so high speed these days. It’s just nice to slow down and enjoy a beautiful morning,” a parent at Walk to School Day said.

It is more than healthy or fun.

These realities make it imperative that — in lieu of sidewalks — a walking or bicycling public must be even more cautious and aware; instead of defensive driving, call it “defensive walking.”

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