Safe Routes to School: Mabelvale 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).
A half mile walk is considered convenient (pg. 4), which is why this distance from Mablevale 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 Mabelvale, 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.
Few streets around Mabelvale 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 Mabelvale (Figs. 2-4).
Construction of a sidewalk on the south side of Mabelvale West Rd. for the 700 ft. from Nash Ln. to Train Station Dr. and a crosswalk at Mabelvale West and Nash connecting the sidewalks and a crosswalk at Mabelvale West and Train Station drive connecting the sidewalks would complete an important pedestrian corridor to Mabelvale Middle School (Fig. 5).
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. Mabelvale 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 Dunbar two-mile circle. No bus service for Dunbar is provided within the bright blue line surrounding the two-mile circle.
Figure 2. Routes highlighted by Ava Horton as having poor pedestrian facilities. Map by Ava Horton.
Figure 3. Mabelvale West Rd. is the sole access to Mabelvale Middle School, but has limited sidewalk connectivity beyond the school's footprint. Figure by Ava Horton.
Figure 4. South Loop creates the eastern border of Mabelvale Middle School's campus. It has no sidewalks, severely limiting student pedestrian access to the school.
Figure 5. A sidewalk exists on the north side of Mabelvale West Rd. from Mabelvale Middle School to Nash Rd. and on the south side of Mavelvale West Rd. from Train Station Dr. to Mabelvale Main St. and beyond. Connecting these two sidewalks would create pedestrian connectivity from Mabelvale to Mabelvale Middle School.