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Pedestrian Crossing

Snowden School parents demand flashing crosswalk signs on North Parkway.

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It's 3:15 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, as a school crossing guard emphatically blows her whistle and repeatedly motions for a driver to move her car out of the crosswalk at McLean and North Parkway. The driver is applying mascara and doesn't notice for at least 15 seconds.

When she finally spots the guard motioning for her to back up, she looks embarrassed as she waves and mouths "sorry" and then backs up her car.

Meanwhile, a group of elementary students from Snowden School are waiting for the guard to allow them to cross at the busy intersection. Parents say such situations are all too common, and they're asking the city and the school system to do something about it.

"We've been talking with the city engineer's office for at least two years asking for flashing traffic-zone signs on North Parkway," said Gretchen Stroud, parent of a fourth grader at Snowden.

"It's a miracle every day that our kids are alive," added Bella Murphy, who walks her 5- and 7-year-old kids across the busy intersection every day.

Stroud said she's heard the city can't install a flashing light there because it's too close to a traffic light, and she's heard the city doesn't have the budget to add flashing signs.

"You do not want confusion relative to traffic signals," said city engineer John Cameron. "Someone approaching an intersection may not be paying attention like they should be, and if they see a flashing yellow light but there's also a red light, it may cause confusion if those signals are too close together. We like to keep the flashing lights 200 to 300 feet away from a traffic signal."

Stroud said she accepted that reason at first, but then she spotted flashing school signs near intersections by Grace-St. Luke's Episcopal School and Immaculate Conception Cathedral School. She took pictures and sent those to the engineer's office and city council.

"Several other parents followed up and said if you're doing this for other schools, we want the same treatment for our kids. It's a huge, dangerous, high-traffic spot, and people just come flying through because the existing signage isn't very good," Stroud said, adding that current signs are somewhat hidden by trees.

Cameron said such issues could only be resolved if a school safety officer contacted the engineer's office to request flashing signs. Stroud said she contacted Brian Shipp, the director of facilities at Shelby County Schools (SCS), but an email response from his office said that he would not pursue new flashing signs for Snowden. The SCS communications office did not respond to the Flyer's request for comment by press time.

Cameron said the city doesn't have the funding to cover more flashing lights at this time. It costs around $30,000 to put in two flashing signs.

Cameron did say, however, that his office will soon receive federal grant money to study the traffic situation at every school in the city. The grant includes money to implement needed changes, such as adding flashers, sidewalks, or crosswalk upgrades.

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