Safe Routes to School: Forest Heights Middle School


Walking or biking to school can have health, learning, and other benefits.  These can be the only reliable options for some students to get back and forth between school. The Little Rock Public Schools does not provide bus service for middle or high school students living within two miles of the school (Fig. 1, sea green).

What Distance?

A half mile walk is considered convenient (pg. 4), which is why this distance from Forest Heights is shown in salmon on Fig. 1.  A mile walk may be approaching the maximum distance students would typically choose to walk, which is why the distance is featured in yellow on Fig. 1.  Students may typically choose to bike at a distance greater than one mile (and students can get but service beyond two miles), which is why the distance is shown in sea green on Fig. 1.  Therefore, in order to create Safe Routes to School for Forest Heights, safe bike routes should be the focus in the sea green area and both bike and pedestrian safe routes should be the focus in the yellow and salmon circles.

Existing Conditions

Fewer streets around Forest Heights have sidewalks relative to the streets around Horace Mann and Dunbar because, as Little Rock extends west, it has been developed more recently with less attention to pedestrian movement (click on the watch, bottom right).   Therefore, to make safe and accessible pedestrian corridors to schools, new sidewalks need to be built rather than repaired the further west the school is in Little Rock.  In April 2017, Little Rock Central High School student Ava Horton called attention to some particularly challenging routes to Forest Heights (Figs. 2-3).

Specific Opportunity

Construction of a sidewalk on the north side of H St. for the 955 ft. between N. McKinley and N. Garfield Streets could complete an important corridor (Fig. 4).  

Who Builds and Maintains Sidewalks?

In the City of Little Rock, sidewalks are typically installed by developers at the time of development.  What types of streets require what types of sidewalks is determined by the Master Street Plan, which itself is a summary of City Ordinances and codes.  Sidewalks maintenance is the responsibility of adjacent property owners.  However, the City also employs a crew to build and maintain sidewalks and sometimes contracts out sidewalk construction and repair as well.  Some sidewalk construction and repair has been funded by the City Sales Tax and Bond projects in the past.  Grants may also be available to build and repair sidewalks.

Figure 1.  Forest Heights Middle School is in the center of the figure surrounded by a sea green two-mile circle, a yellow one-mile circle, and a salmon half-mile circle.  Brown lines are existing sidewalks and visible green lines are streets without existing sidewalks. The bright blue line is the border of the Forest Heights two-mile circle.  No bus service for Forest Heights is provided within the bright blue line surrounding the two-mile circle.

Figure 2.  Streets highlighted by Ava Horton for pedestrian improvement.  Figure
 by Ava Horton.

Figure 3.  Sidewalks are absent or in poor repair along some of Evergreen St.  Figure by Ava Horton.

Figure 4.  A sidewalk on the north side of H St. between N. McKinley St. and N. Garfield St. could connect to the crosswalk across University on the north side of H St. and create better pedestrian connectivity to Forest Heights Middle School.