DPS' new transportation planner focuses on getting kids to school safely

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Stephen Mullaney bikes to work every day and on his morning commute, he noticed the obstacles that students face. He is a teacher for Durham Public Schools.

"Merrick-Moore Elementary School, right now for this community and the students that come here, is not walkable," he said. "There are no sidewalks either way down Cheek Road all the way to 70. Most cars are traveling down this road about 50 miles an hour. With no shoulder or sidewalks, it's a life hazard trying to walk on this street."

DPS has identified this as a transportation equity issue. They're looking into ways to increase mobility, accessibility and safety for students going to and from school.

"Lower-income communities are more likely to live in higher traffic or higher volume roads. So then, you have traffic safety concerns for those students walking or biking to school," said DPS transportation planner Kristen Brookshire.

This position is the first of its kind in the state. She will be in meetings with local government and NCDOT identifying problems and coming up with solutions. The idea of walking school buses is on the table.

"It's designating a process and a route for many kids to walk to school at the same time. And so you would have a leader and you would have school bus stops just like our buses here would be stopping along their route," said Brookshire.

School district staffers like Mullaney are applauding DPS officials for creating this position.

"This little grassy patch is the nicest place you could walk. And further down Cheek Road, there's three-foot ditches on the side of the road lined with rocks," he said.
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