City Gets $328k for Walking to School

VDOT has given $328k in funding to C’ville to get more kids to walk and bike to school, the Daily Progress reports. This is the third year running that the city has gotten a big chunk of change for this ongoing project. For decades we’ve built our transportation infrastructure in support of vehicles, but largely ignored pedestrians. Simultaneously, childhood obesity has become a major problem. That’s no coincidence. It just hasn’t been safe for kids to walk or bike to school, but that’s changed, and it’s continuing to change. The city has been using the money to build bike paths and trails, and this year’s allocation will go for new sidewalks and crosswalks.

I used to bike to school regularly in middle school. I’d show up awake and ready to learn, rather than groggy from a the soporific morning bus ride. This Safe Routes to School is a great way to get kids doing likewise today.

20 thoughts on “City Gets $328k for Walking to School”

  1. Does anyone know if elementary schools will qualify for these funds? I live near Clarke School, and there are some much needed improvements that haven’t been addressed for years.

  2. @Parent: Actually, I worked on this grant proposal. This grant was specific to safety improvements around the Burnley-Moran area. I agree that there is still important work to do at Clarke. I have seen a grant proposal for the Clarke area, but do not know its status. It may not go through until next year. Chris Gensic the City’s trails planner or Caroline Heins from the Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation would be good people to talk with.

  3. Doesn’t transportation work out a bus schedule for 100% bus riders? I don’t think any child in the city is categorized as a walker.

  4. I still expect that there will be lots of parents who won’t think its safe for their younger children to walk to school. Its not just a matter of traffic safety-its concern about criminal activity, sexual predators, and the fact that in some neighborhoods a child could get caught in crossfire between rival gangs or drug dealers.
    One thing I would strongly suggest. Discourage high school students from driving to school. I attended a rural Virginia school years ago where that was strongly discouraged and practically prohibited. The principal made the point that the taxpayers funded school buses for transportation-they did not have to provide parking for student vehicles.
    There would be lots of advantages to this,could be done by simply eliminating or cutting back on student parking.It would cut down on traffic in the early morning,and would prevent some accidents from occurring involving students driving to school. It would help with problems like students skipping, not having a car available at school.
    And by riding the bus it might even get youngsters used to the idea of using public transportation, a step toward alleviating our society’s addiction to the automobile. Raising the age for a full,unrestricted drivers license to 18 might also be a good idea.
    I rode a school bus morning and evening for 12 years, and some of the rides were long,in my sparsely populated county, where except for the students who lived in the towns where schools were located, walking was not an option.

  5. @Elizabeth: Yes, the city has a 100% busing policy mandated by the state. This requires that every student is able to take a bus. However, I think you’ll agree that students living within easy walking distance should be able to walk safely to school if they want to. And our counts confirm that some do, even in cold weather.

    @HollowBoy: Yes, children should be walked to school by a parent. One feature of the plan we put together was a suggested walking bus, which is a parent (more if needed) leading a group of children safely to and from school. We laid out three routes from the north, west, and south. The improvements specified by the plan and I believe funded by this grant will get those routes and related feeders to a safe level of service for walking buses. My hope is that this idea will spread.
    And yes, I agree that parking fees for high school students should be higher.

  6. I’m a little surprised that Burnley-Moran will be the only school to benefit from this money. It’s true that its location on the 250 bypass makes it one of the least walkable school neighborhoods in the city, although when we lived on Locust Ave I would often walk my children to school there. Our biggest problem was at the corner of St. Clair Ave. and Mowbray Place, where there was always an endless stream of parents in cars who didn’t want to stop to let us cross. We moved away, but I could swear the city already put a zebra crossing at that intersection because of the problem and put in additional crosswalks around Burnley-Moran as well.

  7. @Patience: Yes, improvements at that intersection have been put in place, and they appear to be successful. It’s a good thing too, two of the routes go through there. There have also been some new sidewalks added in the last few years. As for why Burnley-Moran got it, I think it’s a combination of parent involvement, planning support from the city, active administrators, ACCT’s great efforts, the compelling need for safety and demand for walking, and I like to think my team can write a mean safe routes plan and grant proposal. This is a fairly new program and most places don’t have the resources and institutional support that Charlottesville has to make the case. If you support the program, please inform your state legislator. $1 million can do a lot of good for a community, but the statewide need is huge.

  8. Here’s a tip: if you want to encourage walking, let the kids go to schools within walking distance. We live in Belmont – within walking distance of Clark but our elementary school is Jackson-Via. A few years ago I petitioned the School Board to let my kids go to Clark and was denied. Dopes.

  9. Lyle- great work on the grant, I will be walking/riding my bike with my children everyday to grade school, we are thinking about letting them ride their bikes to camp (4 and 5 yo with daddy of course), but the traffic is a concern.
    The bus stops right across the street- I keep telling my oldest, you will not be riding the bus (even though he really wants to) until at least middle school. I walked further than he will have to get to school, I am always looking for an excuse to walk, the kids are a great one!

  10. So do I have this right: the Commonwealth of Virginia is giving us hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote walking to school at the same time that the Commonwealth of Virginia is mandating that every child be given a bus-ride to school? Anyone else’s head hurt out there?

  11. Janet, the school board doesn’t want to allow school choice since it might unbalance the school population.

    Even smarter would be to redistrict the schools to have more contiguous districts. However, too many people don’t want their property values affected by the perception of what school district they are in.

  12. Janet–I think we live in the same neighborhood. It is frustrating to be able to see Clark from my house (in the winter, anyway when there are no leaves on the trees) and have to put my child on a bus to Jackson-Via which is located nowhere near my own neighborhood.

    I wholeheartedly support initiatives that help children walk to school, or any initiative that makes life easier for pedestrians over cars, but I think the 100% busing mandate also makes sense. If a child were not guaranteed a bus ride to school it could be a hardship for some parents. What if you were disabled or in some other situation in which it was impossible to walk your child to school?

  13. Lyle —

    Is there any way to add to the plans? The section of St. Charles Avenue that is off of the Bypass ramp to Locust (coming from the west to the east on the south side of the Bypass) does not have a sidewalk, which means that any children living on that road cannot walk to school safely (B-M is a few blocks away). In addition, some of the city school bus maps show that the bus stop for those kids is up on Locust, so they have to walk up there without benefit of a sidewalk.

    We’ve already contacted the capital projects coordinator for the City, but it looks like the sidewalk isn’t a priority — probably because there are only about 10 houses on that little stretch of St. Charles.

  14. A story from my daughter’s former days at Burnley-Moran (note to kids: run this by your parents before you contemplate trying this yourself): My 3rd grade daughter is on the bus, on Chesapeake St. at Riverside in the Woolen Mills. A kid at the bus stop apparently decides he wants a more BRACING commute to school. He doesn’t get on the bus, but takes off running instead. He is spotted in the cemetery as the bus goes up Chesapeake, and again on Fairway, and again at Jak ‘N Jill. (The kids on the bus are cheering.) Bus has to go up Hazel to St. Claire: the long way. When the school bus arrives at Burnley-Moran, this boy is sitting on the front steps, smiling. He won.

  15. @Jennifer: Right, I surveyed your street and came to the same conclusion. It should have been done right from the first, but here we are. I’m not sure how much change if any is possible. I would ask Angela Tucker or Chris Gensic at the City. If they manage to come in under budget there may be some money to expand the improvements. Something that occurred to me on the survey was that kids on Lyons Avenue have to go way out of the way to get to school. If there was a pedestrian trail across the stream to get to St. Charles, those kids would be much more likely to walk, and the case for sidewalks on St. Charles would be much stronger. Of course, I haven’t talked to the owners and don’t know what they would think of children walking on their property.
    Alternately, anyone can build sidewalks with permission from the city. If the property owners decide to pitch in and build the sidewalk, they can. Back before he was the trails guy for the city, Chris Gensic used to move those big blue postal boxes in other peoples’ neighborhoods for them because they blocked handicapped access and made it harder to walk. Good guy.

  16. Yes, children should be walked to school by a parent.

    I’m sure there are some neighborhoods where it’s a good idea, but there are plenty where kids should be capable of walking to school by themselves.

    (grabs cane)

    Back in my day, I walked over a mile to school uphill both ways! This was probably.. 4th grade? and the 5th graders would be stationed at various points along the walk to “patrol” .. no running, etc etc.

    I think the whole child abduction bit is wildly overblown. Let kids be kids! Let them feel some independence by walking to school themselves.

  17. @Lyle: Thank you so much for all the replies and all the work you do.

    @Everyone: ACCT is in the process (just beginning) of creating full-scale Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Plans for all eight elementary and middle schools in the city and for nine county schools. Funding from the federal government (through VDOT) just recently started for such projects and programs and initially municipalities were able to apply for $$ for infrastructure projects without having a SRTS plan. BUT, in the future, such plans will be required to acquire $$ for infrastructure projects.

    SO, we will be at the front of the pack it seems for acquiring these funds and there will be two comprehensive plans with projects prioritized according to all the feedback and information we get throughout the planning process.

    We will have an update on our website soon, but feel free to email me ( or Caroline Heins ( if you have any questions or comments.

  18. We requested and got approved a crosswalk along Greenbrier on the Rio Rd. Side for our children to walk to school and were told it would be last fall, then in the spring…still waiting. I’ll paint it myself if you let me.

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