When officials from the Town of Pleasant View saw that children were walking to school—even without sidewalks—they decided to take action.
The town of Pleasant View has a population of about 4,100, and approximately 595 students in kindergarten through fourth grade attend Pleasant View Elementary School. Within two miles of the school, there are three neighborhoods comprised of a total of more than 300 homes, as well as the downtown area and Main Street.
“They [schoolchildren] were out walking on the road or through someone’s yard,” says Lisa Parker, City Recorder and local coordinator for Safe Routes to School (SRTS). “We wanted to have connectivity; we wanted to have a walkable community in our downtown area.”
Parker has attended the State’s SRTS workshops, according to Diana Benedict, SRTS Coordinator for Tennessee’s Department of Transportation, who notes that Parker’s commitment to the SRTS program has been part of its success.
“She has a really genuine interest in the kids’ health,” Benedict says, noting that with a SRTS program, having a local champion is helpful. “You have someone who is committed to making sure the program is progressing.”
In 1999, the Town had been awarded $157,700 from Federal Transportation Enhancement funds through the Tennessee Department of Transportation to build a trail from Pleasant View Park to Balthrop Park along Pleasant View Road and Church Street that connected a school, church, ball fields and residential area. It included striping, signage and lighting at Church Street.
In 2007, the Tennessee DOT awarded the Town a SRTS infrastructure grant of $249,825 for sidewalks, crosswalks and signs. The SRTS funds will help construct the second phase of the town project and will connect neighborhoods to the sidewalk that was recently constructed. The SRTS funding was timely, Parker says, since it will enable the Town to complete the second phase of its vision.
In February 2008, the Town sent home 610 surveys from the National Center for Safe Routes to School to find out how parents felt about their children walking and bicycling to school, and Parker received 245 responses. Parents said their top concern was distance to school followed by traffic volume, traffic speed and safety at intersections.
Although the school does not have crossing guards, Police Chief Michael Douglas directs traffic flow across Main Street and Highway 49, and Principal Mickey Dyce ensures that the school offers assistance to walkers crossing streets in the afternoons.
To complement the infrastructure improvements that are underway, the Town has provided the non- infrastructure education and encouragement programs in-house using existing budgeted funds, according to Parker. Police officer Adam Wright developed an age-appropriate education program, and the school held assemblies on walking and bicycling safety by grade. The officers use the IWALK instruction format for walking and bicycling education, according to Benedict.
“They have all the E’s covered,” says Benedict, adding that part of the education effort is targeted to parents.
The school held its first Walk to School Day on October 10, 2008, and 100 students participated. Members of the community donated prizes for the event. Parent and student walkers began at the church parking lot, and police helped the group cross the street.
“We were very fortunate to have so much support for the program,” Parker says.
Parker anticipates that the second phase of construction, which began in early March 2009, will be complete and ready for students to use when school starts back after summer break.
Many adults are out walking during their lunch breaks on the downtown sidewalk, Parker notes.
“We got a lot of ‘thank you’s,’” she says. “Once we get connected, our plan is to make an entire loop.”
After students begin using the second phase of the sidewalk construction, Parker plans to send the National Center’s Parent Survey home again to track any changes in people’s feelings and behaviors.
“We’ve had a lot of fun with it,” Parker says. “The community really came out and supported us. We’re very small. We all have to pitch in and help out.”
Town of Pleasant View