Healthy Savannah, YMCA work to improve pedestrian safety as more students walk to school

WSAV NOW

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — As more students are walking to school due to the bus driver shortage, two organizations are teaming up to make their commute safer.

Nearly 70% of Savannah’s paved streets lack sidewalks. An average of 168 pedestrians is hit by a vehicle in the city every year due to the lack of pedestrian and cyclist-friendly infrastructure.

Healthy Savannah and the YMCA of Coastal Georgia are leading an initiative that will identify safety barriers such as a lack of sidewalks, cracked pavement and inaccessible intersections in 12 communities.

“There are some places that are extremely walkable. If you’re downtown, you know how easy it is to get around,” said Armand Turner, physical activity program manager for Healthy Savannah and the YMCA of Coastal Georgia.

“But if you go to some of our other communities and neighborhoods, they don’t have that same infrastructure,” he added. “So for our youngsters who are walking or biking to school, we really want to make it safer for them.”

The first safety audit is underway in the Edgemere/Sackville community. Seven more neighborhoods will be studied in the next two years.

“In these neighborhoods, we have sidewalks that will go up until a block and then it’ll jump onto the other side of the street,” Edgemere/Sackville Neighborhood Association President Sean Mannion said. “That doesn’t really make it safe. What makes it even worse is there’s no crosswalk to bridge from that side of the sidewalk to the other side of the street.”

With funding from the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health Grant, they are addressing root causes of infrastructure disparities between neighborhoods.

According to a report by the Governors Highway Safety Association, Georgia was among seven states that accounted for more than half of all pedestrian deaths in the last six months.

They also report that people of color are disproportionately killed in pedestrian-vehicle crashes due to neighborhoods lacking streetlights and other safety infrastructure.

“We want them to be able to leave their house, maybe walk or bike a few minutes and they can hop on this trail that can take them anywhere in the city,” Turner said.

“It’s so important to connect our people to work, school, church, healthy grocery stores, and all that can be done without a car.”

12 communities selected for the Activity Friendly Routes to Everyday Destinations Plan:

1) Blackshear/Eastside
2) Historic Carver Village
3) Edgemere/Sackville
4) Largo Woods and Quail Forest
5) Wilshire Estates
6) Cuyler Brownsville/Metropolitan
7) Feiler Park/Hussards Terrace
8) Jackson Park/Cann Park
9) Kayton/Frazier
10) South Garden
11) West Savannah
12) Yamacraw Village

Turner says they will also offer assistance to other community members wishing to conduct safety audits in their neighborhoods. This includes access to an app, called Quick Capture, that volunteers can use to map the safety barriers. For more information, contact Turner at armand.turner@ymcaofcoastalga.org.

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