The Town Council on Monday, Sept. 3, voted unanimously to endorse a plan to encourage Hodge Road Elementary students to walk or bike to school, by linking to the existing Mingo Creek Trail, which runs just north of the school.
The school is one of five in Wake County selected to work with the University of North Carolina’s Highway Safety Research Center and community groups to develop walk- and bike-to-school initiatives as part of the Safe Routes to School program. These pilot programs will be shared around the county.
The project is funded by a grant provided to the Highway Safety Research Center by the John Rex Endowment. The Hodge Road project would get $16,000, which according to Kristen Brookshire of the Highway Safety Research Center would not be enough to complete the plan, but some points of the plan Knightdale is considering independently.
“The idea, I think,” Brookshire said, “is to have them all documented in one place.”
The Hodge Road plan includes several recommended improvements based on their opportunity to increase access to the school and encourage more walking. Recommended improvements include:
• Constructing a path along the west side of Hodge Road between the Mingo Creek Trail and Mingo Bluff Boulevard. This link would provide access for several neighborhoods north of the railroad tracks along Hodge Road that are an easy walk or bike ride to the school and link the school to the Mingo Creek Trail.
• Evaluating the intersection of Hodge Road and Mingo Bluff Boulevard for a traffic light with pedestrian-activated signals.
• Lowering the speed limit on Hodge Road within the school zone to 25 mph during school hours.
• Replacing pedestrian crossing signs at the Mingo Bluff Boulevard crosswalk, connecting the school with the Mingo Village Apartments by erecting school crossing signs and adding paw prints at that crosswalk to reflect the school’s panther mascot and enhance visibility of the crosswalk.
• Adding high-visibility crosswalks at Mingo Bluff Boulevard to the west side of the Mingo Creek neighborhood similar to the network of crosswalks along the eastern section of the neighborhood.
• Constructing a path along the west side of Hodge Road and north side of Lynwood Road, which would complete neighborhood connections to the Mingo Creek Trail and the school.
• Installing bike racks along the front of the school. There are currently no bike racks at the school.
“There’s good infrastructure in place,” senior planner Jason Brown said. “The children in the neighborhood could walk.”
Wake’s participation in the Safe Routes to School project comes at a time when only 4 percent of North Carolina students walk or bike to school at least once a week. Pedestrian injuries are the third leading cause of death in Wake County for children under 18 years.
In addition to Hodge Road, the participating schools are Bugg Elementary and Ligon Middle in Raleigh, Lincoln Heights Elementary in Fuquay-Varina and Northwoods Elementary in Cary. The schools were selected based on factors such as whether there were child pedestrian accidents near them from 2007-12 and of the percentage of students receiving federally subsidized lunches.
There were two pedestrian crashes involving children near Hodge Road Elementary during those years, according to the data the John Rex Endowment obtained from police. Neither was within a mile of the school. Statistics show 83 percent of students at the school are on free or reduced lunch plans.
Matt Goad: 919-829-4826