Andrea Fulton lives across the street from Gilbert Elementary School. But she wouldn’t dream of letting her 6-year-old son walk to kindergarten there.
“It’s horrible. Cars are crazy,” Fulton said Friday afternoon, as she walked her son, Warren, to her parked car to drive home.
“I was about to turn in here the other day, and this guy freaked out and started honking because I wasn’t turning. I was waiting for kids to cross.
“It would be really nice to walk,” she said, surveying crowds of traffic fighting to exit onto Gilbert and Elliot roads that border the school. But, she added, “Heck no.”
Town officials have just been awarded a $36,000 grant from the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School Program, which will be used to alleviate unsafe traffic conditions and make walking or biking to school safer for students.
Selected to benefit are Gilbert and Mesquite junior highs and Gilbert and Mesquite elementary schools, which total about 3,280 students.
Assistant town manager Tami Ryall said the focus of the program is not only to make it safer for children as they go to and from schools, but it’s also to encourage students to exercise.
“The connection to health and childhood obesity cannot be ignored,” she said.
“We want it to be safe so children and parents can feel confident.”
The grant will go toward improving sidewalks, traffic calming, street striping, educational programs celebrating safe bike riding and walking, and offering safety tips.
Nutritionists also will work with parents and teachers to promote bicycling and walking as a healthy lifestyle.
Parents, teachers and schools that actively support walking and biking will be rewarded with bike rodeo events.
The town will begin installing “driver feedback signs,” which tell drivers their speed, and encourage them to follow school speed limits.
Crossing guards will be offered training.
The town also will analyze traffic data to determine driving issues.
According to town officials, a fatal accident near Lindsay and Elliot roads caused many families to shy away from walking and bicycling, and turn to driving short distances.
The grant is one of several to make it easier to walk and bicycle in Gilbert.
Another grant will pay for a lighted crosswalk near Gilbert Elementary School in coming years.