Parents urge safer pedestrian paths to schools


Seven parents on Feb. 10 implored the Encinitas City Council to make walking to local schools safer following a recent incident in which a car hit a mother and her 4-year-old son who were crossing the street to Park Dale Lane Elementary.

Tasha Boerner Horvath, who has advocated for safety improvements at Paul Ecke Central Elementary, said her “heart sunk” after reading about the mother and son. She applauded the council for allocating additional funds last spring toward school routes, but asked that the city focus further on implementing traffic-calming improvements identified in city plans.

“I would really like to ask you to start this collaborative process tonight,” Boerner said.

The Encinitas City Council, in response to the parents’ concerns, directed City Manager Karen Brust to meet with school and community officials to pinpoint which safety measures should be prioritized. By spring, the Encinitas Traffic and Public Safety Commission will review Brust’s recommendations, which could potentially go in front of the council.

Councilwoman Catherine Blakespear said the city should put in infrastructure for continuous school routes, rather than individual projects that don’t connect.

Councilman Tony Kranz said city staff should evaluate local school crosswalks as a first step, adding enhancements such as blinking lights at crosswalks could go a long way. Kranz added that some areas offer pedestrians orange flags for safely crossing streets where the sun is blinding.

The mother and son on Feb. 1 were crossing a Park Dale Lane Elementary crosswalk when a driver blinded by the morning sun hit them, according to an update posted on Paul Ecke Central’s website. It goes on to say they suffered injuries, the child a skull fracture and the mother a broken leg.

At the Feb. 10 council meeting, the parents who spoke represented Park Dale Lane and three other Encinitas schools. Their plea for action was made during the public comment sections of the council meeting, which is reserved for comments on non-agenda items.

Capri Elementary parent Kelly Barnes said that the story is the same for parents across Encinitas — they often don’t feel comfortable letting their kids walk to school given speeding cars and the lack of sidewalks.

“We have to do more,” Barnes said.

Ocean Knoll Elementary parent Ashley Lanahan said she saw a driver who was blinded by the sun almost hit a young skateboarder, and that another time she was almost mowed down by a speeding car. She added there aren’t enough signs in the area warning drivers to pay attention and slow down.

The city last spring completed Let’s Move, Encinitas — a comprehensive plan that lays out pedestrian and biking improvements around schools and well-traveled routes throughout the city. Parents have called for the city to actually build the projects.

The council last spring earmarked $842,000 toward school routes in its five-year budget. This bump in funding came largely because parents at Paul Ecke Central vocally advocated for infrastructure such as sidewalks and flashing lights on adjacent Vulcan Avenue to reduce traffic speeds.