A Nonmotorized Solution to School Congestion

Jefferson Parkway and South Division Street

The Northfield News ran an article this week — Late starts lead to traffic jams outside schools — about congestion around the South Division Street school strip (High School, Bridgewater, and Middle School). Reading it, I had trouble feeling sympathetic for parents “forced to find an alternate route” in the crowded traffic. Even more grating were the suggested solutions:

[District Superintendent Chris] Richardson said the high school is also encouraging students to use a “back route” to Raider Drive through Koester Court. The alternatives, Richardson believes, should help separate traffic going to the high school from traffic going to Bridgewater and the middle school.

Getting people to drive to the schools in a slightly different way might alleviate some of the symptoms, but the real problem here is that there are just too many cars on the road. Every child has access to the school bus. If they must drive due to extracurricular activities, they can certainly carpool. And of course, they can bike or walk.

Now part of what prevents biking and walking is an infrastructure problem. Division Street south of the High School is just generally terrible, and 2200 Division is simply a bad location for the Middle School, at least until some significant growth occurs on the south edge of town. Though these are important — and I plan to write more about the issues with this stretch of Division in a future post — the main issue here is the choice to not walk or bike. The main access for the schools — Jefferson Parkway or Division St — are busy roads, but all three have alternative routes.

Northfield High School

NHS can be accessed from Linden Place to the north (shared-use path that cuts through the tennis courts), or Raider Drive to the west.

Bridgewater Elementary

Bridgewater can be accessed from Roosevelt Drive (by way of Tyler Park) to the west. The sidewalks on Jefferson Parkway are also perfectly adequate for walkers.

Northfield Middle School

This has the most unsafe main entrance, but there’s a smaller west entrance off of Carter Drive (Roosevelt to Fillmore to Carter) which is perfectly safe for walkers and bikers.

It’s not always viable to walk or bike, but this was a nice September morning. I see no reason why more kids couldn’t have been getting themselves to school with their own two feet.

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