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Thursday, December 20, 2018

Safety Concerns Inspire Residents to Take Action with Volunteer Crosswalk Program for Children

By Jessica Stringfield-Eden

Crossing the street is a daily concern for most families in such a walkable community as Fort Thomas. Local children often walk to school and many adults walk their dogs, run and ride their bikes. Crossing busy intersections to get from one side of town to the next is a normal occurrence in the community and fortunately, few accidents occur. However, some streets in Fort Thomas are noticeably busier than others and local residents near S. Grand Ave. and Pentland Pl. are now taking matters into their own hands to make sure their children are able to cross these busy streets safely.

“The idea originated with another parent living  in our neighborhood, Jill Spears. A few years ago she became concerned when there was no longer a crossing guard at the intersection of Grand and Pentland/Summit,” said Kelly Twehues, a resident who lives in the Summit subdivision.

“She began trying to get volunteers to walk kids across the street. When I witnessed three different children, one of them my own child, nearly get hit by a car turning left out of Pentland, I remembered her idea right away and thought it was the easiest place to start. This time around we have tried to start a Facebook page to keep people connected.”

In general, pedestrian accidents are a very real and current issue. According to national reports from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2016 was the deadliest year since 2007 for with nearly 6,000 pedestrians killed.

Improving the safety at S. Grand Ave and Pentland Pl. affects not only school aged children but any pedestrian in this area. “On the day we counted children crossing after school, we counted between 40 and 50 children from elementary to high school age. Of course that’s just school kids crossing,” said Twehues. “People run and walk from the Summit neighborhood everyday, at all hours of the day so really anyone living in the neighborhood or visiting the neighborhood could be affected by this intersection becoming safer overall through some type of traffic change involving the signals.”

Thankfully, Twehues and her neighbors had some expert help in improving the safety of this intersection. Fort Thomas Police Department’s very own, Officer Sean Donelan, was able to provide recommendations for the crosswalk volunteers so they can conduct their duties safely.

Donelan with Kelly Twehues, Cory Ruschman, Christy Pfetzer and Sherry Thompson. The mild November weather brought many kids to the corner of Pentland and Grand, heading back into the Summit subdivision. 

“Officer Donelan showed us a safe way to walk into the crosswalk in front of the children, keeping them on the sidewalk until we are there in the center and all traffic is stopped,” said Twehues. “He also talked to us about how the traffic signals could be altered if  the state of KY found there was a safety reason to do so.”

Office Donelan, who is the FTPD’s designated officer for coordinating, training and managing the city-paid crossing guards throughout the city, is also in charge of addressing concerns regarding crosswalks in Fort Thomas.

“On the day I helped and observed, there were approximately 40 students who crossed at that intersection, after school,” said Officer Donelan. “The pedestrians ranged from young elementary students, up to high school students. These concerns are not new. They have been raised in years past. The data has not supported adding another paid position at this specific intersection.”

Although an additional crosswalk position cannot be added at this time, Officer Donelan’s recommendation for this particular intersection at S. Grand Ave and Pentland Pl. is to cross the north side of the intersection to improve visibility for the pedestrian and any approaching motorists.

Officer Donelan has made it his personal priority to make sure residents are up to date on all current laws and safety tips regarding drivers and pedestrians and even addressing the issue on his day off.

A few days before his meeting with Twehues and other parents near S. Grand Ave and Pentland Pl., he came down with a nasty cold but he still attended the meeting citing this as an important issue that he didn’t want to further delay. “I actually used a sick day and was home from work. The issue of training parent volunteers was a priority to us. I applaud so many of these parents taking an active role in making the time to be there. It is one of the unique things about our city, that makes it such a great community,” said Officer Donelan. “Being a resident and parent of a child who walks home from school too, it was important for me to help and not delay the training.”

Some important pedestrian tips from Officer Donelan:

Be Defensive. “Don't assume that even though you have the right of way, that all motorists will yield to you. Be defensive. Teach your kids how to correctly cross, at marked crosswalks. If you think it is too dangerous for your child or they are too young to cross at a particular intersection, then don't let them walk unattended.”

Walk your bike, skateboard, etc, across the crosswalk. “A child or adult on a bike, non-motorized scooter, skateboard etc is not a pedestrian. We ask that you dismount your bike, or other conveyance, and walk across the intersections.”

Cross at a crosswalk. “At school dismissal, we have seen many dangerous pedestrian violations on Highland Avenue in the 300 block, near Madonna and Pentland.  We have also seen an issue at South Fort Thomas Ave and Tremont, in the bend.  There are also issues at North Fort Thomas Avenue in the 1000 and 1100 blocks, near Dixie.  None of which have a crosswalk.”

Make eye contact. "Pedestrians should  make eye-contact with drivers, to ensure that they have been seen."

His tip for drivers is simple — yield! “In addition to it being dangerous to not yield the right of way to a pedestrian, it is illegal,” said Officer Donelan, “The fine for that moving violation is $164.50 and will put 3 points on your driver's license. The points can also affect your insurance rates, with even just one infraction.”

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Although the rotation of school cross walkers at S. Grand Ave and Pentland Pl. is light now due the cold weather, Twehues said that the neighborhood hopes to begin their regular rotation of crosswalk volunteers again in the spring.

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