One after another cars breeze by, paying no attention to the striped lines painted onto the pavement beneath their tires. Around seven in the morning, despite the sun not even being up, students begin their trek to school. The single crosswalk on Day Miar Road in front of Lake Ridge High School is a safety concern at the school due to its poor visibility and lack of attention. It is located on a highly congested road and is only marked by two yellow posts with little orange flags and a lamppost off in the general vicinity. A crosswalk is supposed to eliminate the risk of accidents, but only when executed correctly.
Lake Ridge students can attest to the fact that the crosswalk is dangerous, detailing stories of close encounters and nearly being hit by cars. Bike riders and walkers admit to feeling unsafe due to the lack of visibility or signage of the Lake Ridge crosswalk.
“I can see when the cars are coming, but I don’t have lights on my bike anymore so they can’t see me. So I have people in Suburbans just fly by me an inch from my handlebars. I actually had the wind from someone knock me off my bike and make me hit the curb,” says Evan Probst, a senior at Lake Ridge.
It’s not that the students are not careful and vigilant, they are just trying to get to school on the only crosswalk available. By no fault of their own, drivers simply can’t see them in the dark, nor are they able to see the lightless signs in the surrounding area. Many feel there can be no other logical reason as to why so many students have almost been confronted with the grill of a car.
“I was walking across the crosswalk in the morning, so it was still dark out. Plus, it’s a busy road in the morning, so it’s not like I could have waited for the coast to be clear. So I just went across, not expecting the car to my left to speed up. They probably didn’t see me and were anticipating the end of the school zone or something. Either way, another car had to lay on their horn to get them to stop for me. It was scary because there was nothing I could have done to stop them at that point. Maybe it wouldn’t have happened if they had noticed the crosswalk,” says senior, Jonathan Flores.
The low visibility makes it difficult for both drivers and students who are crossing. Lake Ridge parents and students are in need of a quick solution to make changes to the crosswalk, before somebody gets severely hurt.
“I do think that it’s dangerous because it’s very hard to see and most cars don’t even slow down to see if somebody is there. If we had flashing lights or a crossing guard, that would be the cheapest thing. But to me it’s not a matter of if somebody is going to get hit, it’s a matter of when somebody is going to get hit by a car on that crosswalk. Especially when it’s still dark in the morning, you cannot see people crossing,” says Shana Steed, a member of the Parent-Teacher Association.
According to Natasha Stewart, Associate Principal at Lake Ridge, the school is aware that the safety of the crosswalk is still precarious. Unfortunately, there are challenges with deciding who is responsible for making changes to the road, adding more crosswalks, and making the crosswalks more visible.
“I know that there is a safety concern. We have parents calling on a regular basis telling us that they have almost hit students. The problem is that the school district doesn’t think that it’s their responsibility. We don’t have the personnel to put people out there to guard the crosswalk for the high school student body. The city doesn’t seem to think that it’s their problem. So right now a lot of the responsibility is left up to the students to pay attention as they are crossing the street,” says Stewart.
The issue still stands, should high school students be responsible for having to make sure a car isn’t barreling down the road towards them, or does the responsibility lay in the hands of the adults in the local government who are supposed to protect their constituents? At the end of the day, white lines on the road and two little flags alone just don’t cut it.
Mansfield’s Assistant Director of Public Works and Transportation, David Boski, says that Day Miar Road is under jurisdiction of Mansfield, therefore is the responsibility of the City of Mansfield. The problems with the crosswalk outside of the school are known by the city.
“I know that crosswalk. We’ve looked at it several different times. We have had re-stripes, put flags up there, and put lights out there. Other than that, we’re open to suggestions to what they think should be done to improve it. At this point we are limited on what we can do out there. It’s up to the drivers to pay attention also. However, we do have a project for Day Miar Road to expand that road to four lanes, and at the time the crosswalk would be reconfigured to make it a better location. But that project is still probably three to four years out,” explains Boski.
Even with these small changes, no substantial improvements for the safety of the students can be seen within the area. The same problem of poor visibility still occurs and the most permanent solution is four years out. According to Boski, it is going to take a bond program and an approval by the city council simply to approve the plan, then it has to move through to construction. This has a positive impact of improving pedestrian mobility and spreading out traffic, yet there still remains a need to protect the safety of Lake Ridge students until the permanent solution is in place.
Boski suggests that the Mansfield Independent School District could supply crossing guards, just as Stewart had suggested. However, according to Boski, a petition was run some years ago that resulted in no changes. The problem appears to be that Lake Ridge claims to not have the ability to hire a crossing guard. According to Stewart, the school cannot hire crossing guards since they only have the ability to hire personnel inside the school.
“We don’t hire the crosswalk people, we hire the faculty and staff that work inside the building, but the crosswalk individuals we don’t hire. I definitely think there is a safety concern there, we just don’t know how to solve the problem,” said Stewart.
They also do not have the power to make any changes to traffic outside the school. While the Mansfield government may have added some extra precautions in the past, parents and students are in agreement that the crosswalk is still unsafe.
The problem could be solved in a myriad of ways. The school zone begins only a couple of meters before the crosswalk, so local government could extend the zone to stretch from one end of the school to the other. This, in combination with a sign post with blinking lights signaling the crosswalk, would be a substantial move in the right direction. A crossing guard could also be added to ensure the safety of students. At the moment, the only high school with a crossing guard is Summit High School. A stop sign would also be an effective method of stopping traffic in front of the crosswalk. These solutions may be at a monetary price for the city, but either way, a student’s life is invaluable.
The ugly truth is that nothing is going to get done until somebody gets seriously hurt and either the school or local government is forced to act. Students and those who travel on Day Miar Road can only continue to hope that changes are made prior to a tragedy.