Parents say school route is unsafe in Vista Ridge neighborhood

A child swerves into traffic after another biker cuts him off on the sidewalk near Camacho Elementary School in Leander. (Courtesy: Samantha Schoen)

LEANDER, Texas (KXAN) — Nathanael Ferguson has two children at Camacho Elementary school in the Leander Independent School District, and he says he would never let them bike to school.

“Thankfully there hasn’t been a tragedy yet, but under present circumstances it seems reasonable to think it’s only a matter of time before we have one,” Ferguson said.

The Leander Independent School District no longer provides bus service for students in the Vista Ridge neighborhood. Many who used to ride the bus now have to walk or ride a bike to and from school.

Ferguson says the route is unsafe. For one, cars park in the bike lane.

“Children have to decide at that point if they’re going to veer left and go around the cars that are parked there,” Ferguson said. “If they do that, they go out into traffic.”

Children can ride on the sidewalk, but that can also be dangerous. The bike lane ends several yards before the ramp where riders can hop up on the sidewalk. Parent Samantha Schoen saw what happened when one student tried to make the transition, and she caught it on video.

When the bike lane ends, you can see the student rolling on to the sidewalk, cutting off another child, who then swerves into the street. Several cars put on their brakes to avoid hitting the child.

The city is working on solutions, like adding warning signs that the bike lane is about to end, and “no parking” signs along parts of the lane. The city will also add test barriers to the corners of Municipal Drive and Bagdad Road. They’ll consist of three-foot tall tubular delineators and eight-inch diameter button delineators spaced three feet apart. The signs and barriers will be installed by the week of Oct. 4, and will cost the city about $2,900.

The city also adjusted the traffic light timing at that same intersection to allow more time for pedestrians to cross.

However, that’s just one intersection, leaving the rest of the route open.

“Just because you have a white stripe that separates a vehicle lane and a bike lane, that doesn’t make it safe,” Ferguson said.

Parents insist the safest option is to bring a bus route back to the Vista Ridge area.

Districts across the state are required to evaluate every roadway within two miles of every school to see if there are hazardous conditions. The definition of a hazardous condition is when there is no walkway provided and children must walk along or cross a freeway or expressway, an underpass, an overpass or a bridge. It also includes any uncontrolled major traffic artery, an industrial or commercial area or another comparable condition.

Back in April, Leander’s top administrator said he thought his district needed to do a better job of evaluating hazardous routes.

“One of the things that has occurred in this process is while we have a committee that reviews it, there really is minimal community input into making us aware of concerns that may go beyond a scoring mechanism,” said Leander ISD Superintendent Dan Troxell during a board meeting.

That scoring mechanism is an evaluation required to be created and approved by the school district that looks at traffic hazards and rates them. Many districts have their criteria online, but to see the actual evaluation for your child’s school, you’ll need to submit a written request.

Leander’s superintendent says he walked four routes which the district said were not hazardous after parents complained. He felt one was still a danger, so he reversed the decision to cut bus service for that route.

Even if a district determines a route is hazardous, state law does not require it to provide bus service.

 

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