Walk audit examines safety of routes to school

BALDWIN — Baldwin Community Schools staff, students and community members took part in a walk audit on Wednesday, Aug. 30, to look for needed infrastructure improvements.

The walk audit is a requirement in the grant process for the Safer Routes to School program, which awards schools funding for infrastructure improvements and programs to encourage kids to walk or bike to school.

During the walk audit, participants broke into six groups and walked mapped-out routes within a mile of the school. They were encouraged to look for safety concerns such as condition of sidewalks, streets, street lighting and traffic volume.

Max Fulkerson, coordinator of the Safer Routes to School program, met with participants before the walk.

“Safer Routes to School is program to provide schools and communities the funds for students to safely walk, bike or roll to school,” he said. “This is to encourage students at a young age to adopt healthy lifestyles and show them the physical activity can be fun. This will also reduce traffic flow and vehicle pollution around the school.

“This is a community driven project. I am here to facilitate and help the community get funds of up to $200,000 for infrastructure improvements and $8,000 for programs to encourage physical activity. The Michigan Department of Transportation manages the infrastructure improvements and we oversee the programming.”

Cher Robinson, Baldwin Community Schools administrative assistant, and teacher Carol Brooks led a group of walkers down Cherry Street.

“There are places with cracks in the road and loose gravel,” Brooks said. “There are no sidewalks in many places.”

Walkers took note of a driver going through a stop sign on Cherry and 52nd streets going about 20 miles per hour over the posted speed limit. They also noticed of a big drop-off in the pavement at the corner of Lake and Cherry streets. A lot of potholes were found near the intersection of Cherry and Seventh streets.

A stretch of sidewalk was broken up and overgrown.

“I am not sure if this is a sidewalk or an obstacle course,” Brooks remarked.

The groups met back at the school to share their observations with Fulkerson. All of the groups mentioned the absence of crosswalks at busy intersections.

“Painting a crosswalk on M-37 would be a cheap fix to help drivers pay attention to walkers,” Fulkerson said.

Terra Dickson, Baldwin Village Clerk, suggested one improvement would be a safety patrol to help kids cross streets near the school. She said the village is on board with any needed improvements.

Fulkerson explained the next step in the process.

“I will type a summary to share with the community and will schedule another meeting to discuss solutions,” he said. “We are working with the school, village and road commission to facilitate these improvements. We need to go through planning to come up with specific treatment at the sited locations and turn it over to an engineer to come up with estimates.”