Every day in Bend, a sea of children walk or bike to and from school.
Many are forced to cross busy city streets, made safer thanks to volunteer crossing guards.
“We get a lot of feedback from parents and kids walking to school that higher speeds make them uncomfortable,” said Janet Hruby, Principal Traffic Engineer for the City of Bend.
Now, the city is trying to make that walk safer.
The Bend City Council last approved a plan to install flashing beacons at more school zones and crosswalks across Bend.
The Oregon Guide to School Area Safety says beacon signs grab drivers’ attention easier, especially on streets where the speed limit is 35 miles per hour or higher.
Whitney Bennet, with Commute Options’ safe route to schools program, said it’s a welcome addition to community streets.
“What we’re very supportive of is trying to create a safe environment for students and families to walk and roll to school, so the beacons will help facilitate that,” said Bennett.
The flashing signs will cost the city about $169,000 dollars in the first year, with plans to add over $100,000 more to the project over a four year period.
The beacons will be installed later this year.
“A couple of eighth-grade students at Pilot Butte Middle School did their eighth-grade report on school safety and crosswalk safety and so we got a lot of feedback directly from students requesting additional measures to help make it safer to walk to school,” Hruby said.
The beacons will be reserved for higher volume traffic areas near local schools, but all the locations haven’t yet been finalized.
In residential areas where kids make the walk to school, those beacons could save a life.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people get in their car and focus on their destination instead of the journey and the path they’re taking and so the flashing beacons are a great tool to just remind people to focus on the 20 miles per hour school zone,” said Hruby.
Police will still monitor school zones closely, and crossing guards will still be on duty.
The beacons will act as a further reminder to slow down.