Given the number of drivers is increasing every day, many Austin parents have made complaints to the City of Austin about how dangerous school crossings have become. The problem is the city is not listening to any concerns about pedestrian safety around schools.
Parents reported to KXAN that there are not enough safe route options to counter the growing number of drivers. Most parents say they do not allow their children to bike or walk to school anymore because it’s just too dangerous, which is exactly why the City of Austin founded the Safe Routes to School Program. In addition to aiming to remove barriers that stop children from biking or walking to school, Safe Routes to School hopes to educate the community on pedestrian safety and provide crossing guards at school intersections. However, parents say filing a complaint with this program is difficult and many do not see results.
Filing a Claim with the “Safe Routes to School” Program Ineffective
Public records show the Safe Routes to School Program received more than 450 formal complaints (we repeat, formal complaints) from 2012 to 2015. One parent, who has been working to have the city provide additional safety measures for three years, said calling 311 to request changes to child routes actually hindered her efforts. She said 311 operators put up more barriers over new safety ideas, and many requests were denied without inspecting the physical crossing sites.
The process, however, is supposed to be easier and more responsive. If a parent thinks their school crossings are too dangerous, they are supposed to call the City of Austin. 311 takes down the complaint and sends it to the appropriate division, mainly Safer Routes to School. The program then conducts field investigations, analyzes the data or runs a full school zone study with Austin Transportation Department in order to close the complaint, which could take up to eight weeks. However, when KXAN assessed public records, it showed that there were still more than 30 open complaints open from up to a year prior.
The City of Austin May Be Failing to Protect Children
Some Austin City Council members are putting roughly $1.9 million towards building more sidewalks and pedestrian hybrid beacons. Additionally, Safe Routes to School is restructuring its processes to ensure claims are processed in a timely manner. A representative from Safer Routes to School insists that all claims are addressed and if a change needs to be made, it will be made. So, is the city implying that no changes need to be made, in spite of the outrageous number of claims? It seems the City of Austin is not taking concerns from parents seriously and more effort needs to be made to ensure child pedestrian safety.