Looking for safe passage: Committee works to construct pathways for students

Written by Gillian Smith
 | Wednesday, 16 April 2014 16:57

Of 101 communities surrounding Boston, Duxbury has the smallest percentage of sidewalks and bike paths, something several residents are looking to improve in the near future. 

Peter Sullivan, chair of the Sidewalk-Bike path Committee in Duxbury, presented a project to the school committee last Wednesday that aims to provide pathways along Alden Street between the school campus and the Art Complex Museum to provide a safe route for students to get to school. 

Sullivan cited a 2011 Metropolitan Area Planning Council study, which looked at roadways in 101 communities surrounding Boston. The study found that 54 percent of roads in those communities lacked sidewalks, with sidewalks on 90 percent of main roads in Boston but only one percent of main roads in Duxbury. 

After speaking with residents, Sullivan said the area near the school campus was one that stuck out as needing what he called “multi-use” pathways. With after school programs at the Duxbury Free Library and the Art Complex Museum, Sullivan said having a pathway along Alden Street would provide safe passage for students. He also proposed a pathway along Railroad Avenue which leads many students to popular local businesses and after-school hangouts.

“We planted the seed and the Alden House and museum actually came to us and said they thought this was a good idea,” Sullivan said. “We are passionate about safe passage and good passage experience for our students and this will improve the safety of their trip greatly.”

Sullivan introduced the school committee to a program called Safe Routes to School, which is a federally-funded initiative of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. The program reaches over 600 elementary and middle schools in the state, providing safe pathways to walk and bike to school. The Safe Routes program is comprised of five facets: education, encouragement, enforcement, evaluation, engineering. 

The program educates children and adults about the importance to walking or biking to school and involves bike safety education. It encourages children to use those methods of getting to school by organizing events and activities, such as having a “walk to school” day, where students are invited to all walk to school on one specific day. Local law enforcement officers and crossing guards join forces with Safe Routes to identify safety concerns and the program helps the community gather data on the best transportation choices for the area. 

While Safe Routes provides some funding for projects of this nature, Sullivan said he is optimistic there may be private funds that will help get the project off the ground before the typical four or five years it takes Safe Routes to allocate funds for the project. 

“Safe Routes to School is a viable option; they will look at any project within a two mile radius of the school,” Sullivan said. “I’m not sure we can count on those funds so we should look elsewhere for them.” 

With well over 100 schools currently participating in the program in Massachusetts, Sullivan said Duxbury is a “bit behind the eight ball,” but he thinks the support of the school committee will help develop the project. Sullivan has attended meetings with other communities and said having “someone on the inside” is very helpful with moving the project forward.