Avoid driving distractions, cross with caution and use recommended routes to help kids get to school safely

watch your speed slider

A pair of Iowa City Community School District decisions are making a big impact on North Liberty this fall. The elimination of  discretionary busing means some 400 additional students will be walking, biking and driving to and from school each day. And the adjusted school start time will put students’ morning commute concurrent with peak traffic times. In response, the city’s Traffic-Safety Task Force and Mayor Amy Nielsen have been working to evaluate potential pedestrian safety improvements in North Liberty since earlier this year.

While the task force is able to focus on infrastructure improvements and personnel training, our kids rely on everyone taking action to improve safety:

  • Caregivers should help students be familiar with and follow recommended routes (see maps below)
  • Pedestrians and bicyclists should be alert and cross intersections with caution
  • Drivers should follow speed limits, obey traffic laws, be alert and avoid distractions

The task force, composed of the city’s planning director, engineer, streets superintendent and chief of police, reached its recommendations by working with and gathered data from a variety of resources, including:

  • Principals from each elementary school for insight into their operational challenges and planned changes
  • Troy Carter, the Iowa Bicycle Coalition’s Safe Routes to School director, for recommended walking routes for each school
  • ICCSD administrative staff for start time, student numbers, and other related data
  • Justin Campbell, a traffic engineer at Shive-Hattery Engineers
  • The public and elected officials

The task force identified many safety features, such as appropriate speed limits, school zones and countdown pedestrian signals, that are already in place.

Walking Routes VanAllen

Van Allen map

Walking Routes Map Garner

Garner map

Walking Routes Map Penn

Penn map

City staff are in the process of implementing the task force’s additional recommendations. In the short-term the city will add a push-button-activated flashing crosswalk sign at Penn and Stewart streets, additional crosswalks marked with higher-visibility and longer-lasting epoxy paints, additional training for city-employed crossing guards, additional cross walk and school crossing signage, and crossing guards equipped with high-visibility signs with flashing LED that automatically activate when in use as well as some modifications by the schools to parking arrangements.

The task force also recommended the addition of a sidewalk along Scales Bend Road between Pheasant Lane and Fox Valley Drive and a turn lane at Front Street and Birch Court, and the city will consider larger infrastructure recommendations from a traffic study of the Penn Street corridor conducted during the summer.

When the school year begins, city and school district staff will monitor changes and communicate concerns.

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