Parents demand a safe school crossing

Parents demand a safe school crossing

Recent accident has highlighted dangers for kids traversing Prospect at Daniel

CHAMPAIGN — A South Side Elementary student was hit by a car Monday on Prospect Avenue not far from the school, which has parents reiterating that they want safer walking conditions for students who cross the street to get to school.

Champaign police spokeswoman Rene Dunn said a 7-year-old girl was injured by a 2013 Ford Taurus that was driving northbound on Prospect Avenue when the driver passed a bus. The child ran into the road just as the car was passing, Dunn said, and the car hit her. The girl was taken to the hospital for a leg injury. The driver was not ticketed.

In a note to parents, South Side Principal Bill Taylor confirmed that a student had been hit Monday on Prospect Avenue at Daniel Street. The student was expected to recover quickly, Taylor told parents in the note.

"Clearly, Prospect is a very busy street and many South Side families cross it to get to and from school every day," he said in the note. "I have contacted the city in the past regarding my concerns about the safety of students crossing Prospect, and I will do so again."

Taylor said he's contacted Champaign police to request a crossing guard and crosswalk at the intersection of Daniel Street and Prospect Avenue, as well as a school zone on Prospect Avenue from Green Street south to Haines Boulevard.

No one from the Champaign Police Department was available Tuesday to answer questions about crossing guards.

Taylor is also requesting that police monitor that area regularly to keep an eye on traffic speeds, he said.

Superintendent Judy Wiegand said Monday that she will also request a crossing guard at Prospect Avenue near South Side.

South Side parent Kelli Weaver-Miner organized a gathering of parents after school Tuesday, with the goal of organizing groups to attend the next city council and school board meetings. She said she'd like to hear what the reasoning is for Prospect near South Side not being marked as having a school nearby.

The lack of a crosswalk there also affects bicyclists using the bike lanes on John Street, Weaver-Miner said, and the rest of the people who live in that area.

She said she often drives her kids to school and that on the occasion that they go on foot, she called it a "harrowing walk."

"The goal here is to get some movement on this," Weaver-Miner said.

Brock Angelo said his family lives west of Prospect, within walking distance of South Side.

But because of the traffic on Prospect, they drive to school. He said there's a bit of a hill in the area, which seems to make southbound drivers speed up and might cause northbound drivers not to see kids crossing Prospect there. Drivers also speed on the road.

"We rarely walk them," Angelo said, calling those factors a "bad combination."

A crossing guard might change their thinking, though, he said. He'd like to see one at Prospect and Daniel in Champaign because Daniel leads directly to the front of the school.

South Side PTA President Sara Balgoyen said she's concerned not only about the lack of a crossing guard on Prospect, but also the lack of a school zone and any sort of flashing lights warning drivers or even police presence.

Many students who live in that neighborhood go to South Side, she said, so many kids walk to school, she said.

Cindy Wachter has a fifth-grader at South Side and said she has been trying for the last 10 years to create some awareness on Prospect about students and other pedestrians crossing there. She said she's contacted the city, Champaign police and, two years ago, the Champaign school board and said she's frustrated that nothing has happened. She said she also knows of parents with older kids who tried to do the same years ago when their children attended South Side.

"We keep having to redo this generation after generation," she said, and one proposed solution, of crossing at the light at Green and Prospect, is out of the way for those heading to South Side. That sidewalk also has steps at the southwest corner, which makes it hard for people pushing strollers to use.

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RickLanglois wrote on September 11, 2013 at 8:09 am

The same dangerous crossing exists all along Mattis and most noticeably at Sangamon where school children wish they could cross five lanes of traffic to get to the middle school, the high school and the water park, among other facilities. Reducing the speeds along Mattis and Prospect has not been a priority for the city in spite of the fact that many citizens have expressed a desire for the city to reduce the negative impact these streets have on the neighborhoods around them. Alright, cars want to go fast. I get that. But safety for school children crossing these streets should be a priority! This includes during summer time when they go to their little league games and the pool.

garret wrote on September 11, 2013 at 10:09 am

We live just down the street from South Side, at the corner of John and Pine. 

There is no crossing guard at that intersection and there are no cross walks.   There is a school zone on John Street, but it starts just a few feet away, and the sign is too subtle and often ignored.

Every morning we are part of a raceway. Drivers heading north on Prospect at 40mph+ turn right on John Street, then take a quick left onto Pine Street, and then a right onto Green Street.   They do this to skip the long light at the corner of Green and Prospect.

All the while dozens of kids (including mine) are crossing that intersection.  It is crazy that we are only a few feet from the school and have to deal with such an unsafe situation every morning.

It's turning me into a raving loon.  I literally have stood in the middle of the street yelling at cars who blindly race through.

I think the key is Principal Taylor's request to make Prospect a school zone from Haines to Green Street.   And start ticketing people who drive too fast there.  Slow people down on Prospect, and they will slow down on the side streets too.

Any changes to this area would be an improvement.   We are so very lucky Grace was not more seriously hurt.   Let us take this chance to get things right.


Heather J. wrote on September 11, 2013 at 8:09 am

I live on Daniel street, just in from Prospect. Almsot every morning I see parents and their kids make a mad dash across Prospect. Cars FLY down Prospect. The parents and kids wait for a break in traffic to cross, but cars go so fast on Prospect that they have to really move quickly. Nobody will slow down. Speed limit is 35 but people go upwards of 50mph sometimes. When traffic backs up at the light on Green, they turn and FLY down Daniel, 1 block and zip past the school. It's so dangerous right here. 

I agree with the article, the light at Green isn't a good crossing. The stairs that are on the southwest corner of Green are very steep. Many kids going to South Side are on their bikes and other parents have strollers, thus making that crossing at Green mostly unusable. It's also two blocks North of South Side.

I'd really love to see a school zone placed on Prospect. It's really needed. There are so many kids that have to cross Prospect and I don't want any more kids to get hurt. 

epelz wrote on September 11, 2013 at 10:09 am

This is my grandaughter who was hit.  She and her family are very traumatized from this accident.  A school crossing sign, a crossing guard and police presence are sorely needed along Prospect.  It is sometimes like a raceway along that stretch!  Let's make this town safe for all of our school children!

pattsi wrote on September 11, 2013 at 10:09 am

Why is it that I see crossing guards and police at the Bottenfield crossing on Prospect, but none at all in the area near Southside? Unit 4 has established a policy of School Choice, meaning many attending children do not live next door to their schoos. There is a push now for several years of the walking school bus. But there is no universal effort to make the crossing areas near any of the Unit 4 safe to cross. A noticable solution by parents is to drive the child/children to school, even if only 2 blocks away, such as across Prospect on Daniel and only 4 blocks to walk to Southside.

pattsi wrote on September 11, 2013 at 11:09 am

Deleted duplicate post.

odragul wrote on September 11, 2013 at 11:09 am

What about a traffic light that only functions during school hours?

pattsi wrote on September 11, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Some of the safety issues along Prospect, especially when driving north have to do with the line-of-sight. Some of this was cleaned up when Green and Prospect was redesigned, but not all. When driving north the line of sight actually is Prospect and Springfield because of the downward slant of the hill. So to catch the driver's focus, the location of the lights at Green and Prospect were adjusted and signaled for 3-way lights along with clearing some of the trees. Adding another light at John or Daniel will cause the driver to speed up to make all of the lights because these are not synchronized. Even though the lights at Green and Prospect are 3-way, meaning north Prospect traffic goes, and finally two-way on Green, this is still a tough intersection to cross. It is too bad when John was dug up for the stormwater management project that an under pass was not put in at John and Prospect.

Steve Nesbitt wrote on September 11, 2013 at 12:09 pm

I would like to see more traffic enforcement in general in the City of Champaign.  The number of speeding tickets and moving violations I see every day would easily bring in enough revenue to pay someone's salary.

HOCKEYDAD wrote on September 11, 2013 at 2:09 pm

While I don't blame the Police Department, I do blame the city for complete failure on this issue. I live on Haines, and I routinely see speeds of 50 MPH plus on my street, as well as Hessel and John. Prospect is even worse. Speed Enforcement needs to be a priority, but the Police Department is doing all it can with the resources they have. The City needs to commit to hiring enough Police Officers so that the Department can do things like neighborhood speed enforcement and patrol. 

lovemahomet wrote on September 11, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Crossing guards in Champaign are city employees, which is a good thing, and gives the parents, the guards, and the schools much better access to truly safe school crossings. I worked for the city of Champaign as a school crossing guard for years when my children were school-aged, and again for a brief time a few years ago.

There used to BE a crossing guard at the corner of Prospect and Daniel for South Side. The school had been used by the Park District, and after it re-opened the schools were re-districted, and that post was not renewed because the district did not cross Prospect. At that time, I crossed children for South Side School at Green and Pine Streets. That post was soon moved to Green and New, and I worked there for several years. I think this post still exists, along with one at John and New. If those two New Street posts for South Side school still exist, that is where children who attend South Side are supposed to cross John and Green Streets. I believe they moved the crossing from Pine to New street for a couple of reasons: to prevent traffic backup onto Prospect, to improve the visibility of the crossing for drivers, and possibly to move the children crossing John street away from school bus traffic on Pine Street.

With the schools of choice program, I believe the city needs to re-assess the crossing guard situation. There should absolutely be a school zone on Prospect for South Side School. While many more children are picked up in cars due to living farther from their school, there are still many children who attend neighborhood schools. We need to do whatever is necessary to provide the school children with safe crossings. With the new pedestrian crossing law in Illinois, it should be an easy thing to get the necessary crosswalk with flashing lights at the corner of Daniel and Prospect. A crossing guard at that post is essential! 

Then the issue will become one of getting drivers to pay attention and obey the crossing guards! The police have been doing their best to have available officers at some of the most dangerous crossings as additional support for the crossing guards, but sometimes the officers are not available.

Also, in at least one instance the school has asked the officer to direct traffic in the parent pick up area. IMO, the school should oversee the parent pickup (should that even be necessary, folks?), and the officer should be able to back up the crossing guard on the busy street. Having been in the situation, I can tell you it is appalling how people disregard school crossings and guards! 

Let the situation of little Grace Pelz be a lesson to all of us who are drivers! Thank God that Grace's injuries were not worse, but we need to learn this lesson now: Slow down and pay attention when approaching school zones! Watch for crossing guards (they wear bright vests and carry STOP SIGNS, and they stand in the middle of the street to get your attention and make you stop so that CHILDREN can cross safely) Get off your phone (it's against the law to use a cell phone in school zones)! 

Trailmom wrote on September 11, 2013 at 10:09 pm

I understand the concerns of everyone: traffic moving too fast, no crossing guards, Schools of choice requiring the crossing of a busy street.

But ultimately it is up to the parents to get their children to school safely.  If that means loading them up in the car and driving them across a busy street, then that is what parents should do.  Perhaps not the ideal answer for those who prefer to walk, but as a parent I would (and did) do what was necessary to get my children to school safely.

pattsi wrote on September 15, 2013 at 6:09 pm

I have meaning to share the following information. Several years ago I was in SLC to attend a national planning conference. Lo and behold attached to the light pole at the intersections was this metal arrow quiver-like apparatus contact large florescent orange flags attached to a rather tall sturdy stick. The purpose is for a pedestrian to take a flag and hold it high as the pedestrian crosses the street. After crossing the street, the individual places the flag in the container attached the light pole there. Using the flag makes the pedestrian very visible.
 When I returned to C-U after the conference, I tried to get a pilot project using the flags at the crossing near Meadowbrook play park next to Windsor. No success doing so.
 Now another situation has surfaced in the community where the flags would be useful. Crossing guards are only available as with the police during certain hours. Children and adults cross Prospect at other hours to get to Southside.
 Here is information about the program and a U-tube.

View flags used in Kirkland, Washington


Here are additional resources:

Here are the resources:,d.aWM,d.aWM

dw wrote on September 17, 2013 at 11:09 am

Roundabouts fix this, quite nicely.

They both slow traffic maximum speeds, while increasing overall average speeds which results in motorists getting to where they're going in less time, but at slower speeds. They also reduce deadly T-bone accidents, of which we've had just a few:

Stoplights do NOT help. Where is the driver's focus when approaching a stoplight? On the light, watching for it to change. Where *should* their focus be? On the pedestrians, bicyclists and other motorists. This is where the focus is at roundabouts. Pedestrians only have to cross one direction of traffic at a time before reaching a safety island. No more playing frogger to get to school!

What does a motorist do when approaching a yellow light? Gun it to go through. And their speeds do not reduce back to what they were before. What happens at each roundabout? They slow down.

When this town gets serious about the safety of pedestrian (e.g. school children and the elderly), bicyclists, motorcyclists and motorists then it will get serious about making the priority choice for each new intersection and retrofit a roundabout. You can go to Carmel, Indiana (just north of Indy) to see and experience how modern designed roundabouts work in real life (it's not Chevy Chase in European vacation anymore!)

Anything less is just putting lipstick on a pig, and like the pig, the "lipstick" of increasing signage and law enforcement/ticketing isn't going to have a lasting effect -- it will eventually rub off if it's not constantly reapplied and it's just going to make the pig (in this case, self-absorbed drivers in a hurry to get to work) angry.

You want real, permanent change, then change the permanent infrastructure. Yes, there is a cost, but this will more than be made up for by fuel savings of the MTD (and private vehicles) by eliminating unnecessary stops, reducing collisions. Not to mention the savings in lives and anguish. And the community will walk more and bicycle more as speeds reduce and they feel safer.