Children walking to Woodside Elementary School from the south side of town -- from neighborhoods along Mountain Home and Whiskey Hill roads -- have not had the benefit of a crosswalk when crossing Mountain Home Road.
Crosswalks are a significant component of the town's efforts to improve safety for children walking to school, and the Town Council has been considering a crosswalk at Cedar Lane and Mountain Home, but it's off for now.
In September, the council approved two on Canada Road a new one at Glenwood Avenue and an upgraded one at Romero Road. But the council rejected a crosswalk at Cedar Lane in a 4-3 vote on Dec. 9.
The council also approved pavement markings to warn drivers of people and equestrians crossing Mountain Home Road near the bridge near Roberts market a logical crossing place. Adults and children do cross there, but a crosswalk is problematic due to property rights and constrained lines of sight for vehicles.
Councilman Dave Tanner said at the time that he crosses there daily, despite the danger, because it's less dangerous than his other options.
But on Dec. 9, Mr. Tanner joined colleagues Anne Kasten, Peter Mason and newly appointed Mayor Tom Shanahan in rejecting a Cedar Lane crosswalk. Council members Ron Romines, Deborah Gordon and Dave Burow dissented.
The proposal may come back if safe passage for students can be arranged between the school and Cedar Lane via a path along the side of the main fire station on Woodside Road. That path would allow students to avoid the corner at Roberts Market.
Crossing Mountain Home
The proposed Cedar Lane crosswalk became a source of contention over its precise location and its design.
The town hired the traffic-analysis firm Parisi Transportation Consulting to study the intersection. The recommendation includes a crosswalk at right angles to Mountain Home Road and at the north side of the intersection, where the line of sight was better and the landscape simpler, according to a staff report. Town staff concurred.
The equestrian-oriented Trails Committee wanted a diagonal crosswalk similar to the temporary crosswalk added at that intersection for the annual Day of the Horse celebration, the report says. But diagonal crosswalks put pedestrians' backs to traffic and lengthen their exposure to traffic, Parisi consultant Andrew Lee told the council. Elementary school students are also small, making them harder for drivers to see, Mr. Lee said.
"The least amount of time and distance on the roadway makes all the difference for students," he said.
Resident Rick DeBenedetti, a member of the Trails Committee but speaking for himself, said he's concerned that crosswalks and crosswalk warning signs could undermine Woodside's rural character.
The location was an issue for nearby residents. They want the crosswalk on the south side of the Cedar Lane intersection. Putting it on the north side places it in the path of vehicle traffic coming out of Cedar Lane not an issue on the south side since most traffic turns north, Mountain Home Road resident Rick Corso said.
But a crosswalk on the south side would deposit students on the wrong side of Cedar Lane, thereby requiring another crosswalk across Cedar, according to the analysis.
Mr. Corso added that a north-side crosswalk would terminate too near his driveway. A camera should be installed to study the traffic, he said. "I'm not an engineer," he added, "I just happen to have lived there for more than 30 years."
Opinions from council members in the majority reflected the concerns of residents who spoke. None spoke in favor of the proposal.
"I haven't found anybody who likes this plan, except for the engineers," Mr. Tanner said. "I stop for every kid I see. I have brakes. My eyes work. ... I'd be all for this if it was on a diagonal and serves the horses as well."
A crosswalk is not necessarily safe, he added: "I think you're going to find more accidents inside a crosswalk than outside a crosswalk."
The plan, Mr. Mason said, adds "a whole bunch of signs and pavement markings for a few users" and smacks of suburban character. "It doesn't seem right to me," he said.
The issues, Ms. Kasten said, are the norms of public safety, Woodside's rural character, child safety, and avoiding liability for the town. Maybe the crosswalk should be shelved pending resolution of the path through the fire station property, she said. "We want to get it right," she said.
Mr. Romines and Ms. Gordon put safety above other priorities. "I don't care if 99 percent of people stop for people crossing a road," Mr. Romines said. "If it's one in a thousand (who's in danger), that's one more kid that we could protect."
Millo Fenzi, chair of the town's Circulation Committee, said in an email that he understood caution on the council's part. Paths along Mountain Home Road are not consistent and safety is an issue in the Roberts Market parking lot, on the path between the market and the school, and in the school parking lot, he said.
Until these issues are addressed, perhaps including the Cedar-Lane/fire-station path behind Roberts Market, a safe walking route to and from school will not be available for homes in the neighborhoods of Whiskey Hill and Mountain Home roads, Mr. Fenzi said.
"This is a bit of a chicken and egg issue," he said. "Since the Mt. Home route to school is not safe, few parents/students use it. Since few use the route, the Council did not see a compelling reason to improve it."