Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Informal Newton South Observations

Just for fun I biked to Newton South this morning at 7:20. Distance: 1 3/10 miles. Elapsed time: 10 minutes. A recent walk took 25 minutes.

Car traffic en route (Parker, Hagen, Great Meadow, Brandeis) was thick: 6-10 cars were lined up waiting to turn at each intersection. Between Boylston St. and Newton South I counted 13 pedestrians and two bicyclists. I didn't count the cars, but I would estimate at least 60, many of which contained either 1 student or 1 parent and 1 student. At the main entrance of the school, 11 bicycles were parked at the bike racks, with space for one more. I didn't count car parking spaces.

I watched one pedestrian near the school's entrance waiting for a chance to cross the river of drop-offs entering from Brandeis St. Objectively, his wait wasn't that long (about 30 seconds), but it communicated volumes about what it means to walk to school at South. Walking is second-class. If you walk, you wait. The entrance is very much designed with drop-offs in mind; walkers are an afterthought.

What do we make of these numbers? Cars outnumbered walkers/bicyclists by at least 4:1. Bike parking reaches capacity at 12, and the school's entrance is car-oriented. (Kids on foot also have to walk past a gauntlet of parking student drivers, a daily reminder, no doubt, of their 2nd-class status.) It might also be the case that, being there a little late, I was observing a car-rich mix of arrivals.

If we're going to get more kids walking/biking to South, in addition to promoting it, we'll need to at least quadruple bike parking facilities (and wouldn't it be nice if they were covered?) and re-design the entrance area to make it more pedestrian-friendly.

And, of course, we'll need to convince parents that their 13-18 year olds don't need to be chauffeured.

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