Eyes on the Street: Denver Must Do More to Protect Kids at Montbello Kindergarten

Bella Rivera holds the hand of her mother Esther on her their way to school. "My daughter knows you need to hold onto me. Drivers don't care." Photo: Andy Bosselman
Bella Rivera holds the hand of her mother Esther on her their way to school. "My daughter knows you need to hold onto me. Drivers don't care." Photo: Andy Bosselman

A city council member used the annual Walk to School Day photo-op to demand that the city do more to protect kids when the best it could do was install a crosswalk 20 months after a child was hit in front of the Escalante-Biggs Academy in Montbello.

A driver hit a student there on January 12, 2018. The city installed the new crosswalk during the first week of school in August, according to Nancy Kuhn, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Works. And the neighborhood’s city councilperson, Stacie Gilmore, wants even more safety elements near the school, which serves only pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students.

“We’re just figuring out different options to slow down traffic,” she said. She would like to see DPW consider measures like flashing school zone signs and crossing lights that extend over the street (HAWK beacons). She’s open to other options DPW may suggest, too. “Tell me what we can do, not what we can’t do.”

Gilmore would also like a stop sign. DPW will soon take traffic counts outside of the school and a stop could soon follow.

“If the data that results from these counts justifies an all-way stop condition, a work order will be written shortly after,” said Kuhn.

The Department of Public Works installed new crosswalks at Escalante-Biggs Academy when the school year started in August. Photo: Andy Bosselman
The Department of Public Works installed new crosswalks at Escalante-Biggs Academy when the school year started in August. Photo: Andy Bosselman

In addition to the new crosswalk, the city added basic safety measures like putting up pedestrian yield signs and banning parking on the side of Crown Boulevard closest to the school. But Esther Rivera, a parent, says it’s not enough.

Escalante-Biggs is a “choice” school, which means many students do not live nearby and their parents drive them there. But the school offers no designated drop-off zone and few parking spaces, leaving parents to park on nearby streets before walking children inside.

“When we come, we park all the way over there,” said Rivera while gesturing toward 52nd Avenue, more than a block away. From there, she and her daughter must cross at Crown Boulevard. In the crosswalk there, drivers have nearly hit her and her daughter Bella three times, she said. “People do a quick stop and continue. They’re not paying attention to people who are crossing.”

Parents park on streets surrounding the school and walk thier children inside using wide streets with generous turning radii and few street safety elements. Photo: Andy Bosselman
Parents park on streets surrounding the school and walk thier children inside using wide streets with generous turning radii and few street safety elements. Photo: Andy Bosselman
Children and adults cross the street in a new crosswalk outside of Escalante-Biggs Academy. Photo: Andy Bosselman
Children and adults cross the street in a new crosswalk outside of Escalante-Biggs Academy. Photo: Andy Bosselman

In the three years since her daughter has attended the school, police have on roughly three occasions watched the intersection and issued tickets to drivers who didn’t stop, said Rivera. But the measure has done little to deter careless drivers at an intersection where wide streets and generous turning radii encourage unsafe driving.

“A lot of people don’t even know this is a school,” she said. “My daughter knows you need to hold onto me. Driver’s don’t care.”

Streetsblog observed parents parking two blocks away from the school in the opposite direction, on Maxwell Place. The street is a high-speed, four-lane street with no crosswalks on the sides closest to the school. But a sign there now signals to drivers that a school is near.

Once the students arrive on the small campus, a parking lot surrounds the main entrance. Within the lot, there are no crosswalks.

The school's main entrance is surrounded by a faculty parking lot.
The school’s main entrance is surrounded by a faculty parking lot.


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