Our Schools Need Safer Pathways

York County communities need school districts, municipalities, the county, and the state to collaborate to make schools and surrounding neighborhoods safe for all road users. With cars hitting and sometimes killing people walking and rolling by our local schools recently, our growing region needs everyone to help.

Why bother? A more walkable/rollable community benefits: physical and mental health; community; the environment including air quality; the economy including property values; vehicular congestion; and safety.

People-Vehicle Collisions

In the Fort Mill School District (FMSD), this need is clear with cars:

  • killing 14-year old Brian Orkofsky walking on the Pleasant Knoll Elementary/Middle crosswalk in February 2020 a few months after another child was hit nearby;
  • killing crossing guard, Mr. Stanley Brucker, working at Fort Mill Elementary/Middle last month; and
  • hitting two students on scooters going to/from Tega Cay Elementary in 2018 and 2023.

Crossing guards tell of being disregarded by drivers regularly. Beloved retired Tega Cay Elementary crossing guard, Mr. Geoffrey Rumble, describes cars striking his stop-sign hand at least twice, and feels that crossing guards are “narrowly avoiding our demise.”

Why Is this Happening?

With people moving to the area, the cities, towns, and county zone for homes which developers build; the SC Department of Transportation (DOT) adds roads; and school districts add needed schools. Older schools were designed with no consideration for walking or bike pathways. Car traffic has grown. Newer schools are by busy roads with piecemeal sidewalks and no bike paths. Law enforcement has competing priorities.

What to Do?

So far:

We also need our cities, towns, and counties to partner with their developers and require a sound collector road plan with reasonable ped/bike/rolling accommodations.

The Bike/Ped Coalition, SC DHEC, Wholespire York County and over 20 partnering organizations did a walkability study around Fort Mill High School neighborhoods. We identified changes to the built environment that would help with safety, recurring traffic congestion, and air quality. We need continued collaboration by the school district, municipalities, county, state, developers, neighborhoods, and community members – at this school and others throughout York County.

We See the Challenges

Given walking and rolling to school seem like a natural part of childhood, why don’t we have safe pathways already? Because our roads accommodate cars, not all users.

Obstacles to adding safe pathways include:

  • Coming to agreement amongst agencies & private landowners
  • Lack of motivation for developers
  • Funding
  • Engineering challenges
  • Moving utility lines

Help Requested

We see the problems. And community members have asked for help:

Lost State Ally

When the SC DOT defunded SC Safe Routes to Schools in 2019, schools and parents lost a key ally. Unlike other US states, SC no longer has this statewide proponent to help make pathways safer for kids to walk and roll to school. But our growing region needs this support for students, and those who serve them. We ask SC DOT to reinstate SC Safe Routes to Schools.

With this backdrop, the Bike/Ped Coalition of York County tries to help by giving information, making connections, and leading efforts such as walkability studies where we can. And we implore all community members and stakeholders to help.

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