Bus stop safety initiative to begin this weekend
Installation of 200 school bus “safe zones” will begin this weekend.
The Rotary Club of Cape Coral and Kiwanis are providing the seed money — $50,000 per organization — to install 6-foot benches made of composite recycled plastic on concrete slabs. The clubs’ funds will be supplemented with donations from local businesses and community members.
They hope to have all 200 installed and ready for use by Aug. 10 before the start of school.
“It’s fantastic,” said Rotarian and Cape Coral pioneer Elmer Tabor, who was instrumental in getting this approved by the Cape Coral City Council last month, along with members of a stakeholders group dedicated to school bus safe zones. “We stood up to the plate to do something, and to make it safer for kids.”
The safe zone effort began following two child fatalities earlier this year.
Layla Aiken, 8, died after she was struck by a hit-and-run driver while waiting for a school bus in Cape Coral.
Alana Tamplin, 12, had walked her sister to her bus stop in North Fort Myers and was struck by a vehicle while walking home.
Both fatalities happened on dark roadways with no sidewalks or pedestrian paths.
The locations of the 200 benches are in the works, and will start being determined by Saturday, when the first round will be installed at semi-permanent bus stops around the Cape.
The School District of Lee County, along with the city of Cape Coral are working together to find the best places for these benches. Beginning Monday, the city had started looking at 35 intersections with 56 locations for benches.
Each week, Tabor and crew will receive 32 benches to install at the appointed areas from the city, or, as many as they can given the variable of weather.
They will place reflectors on each bench to help drivers in the often dim, early morning commute. Tabor said the city will also work to put proper signage at each stop to signify its presence.
“This is a great partnership with Kiwanis,” Tabor said. “Both organizations, internationally, are geared towards children — whether that be scholarships or education or growth. It was absolutely natural to join forces. We’re thrilled about it.”
Currently, the group has 100 slabs of concrete to lay down as soon as the city tells them the locations. To reach their Aug. 10 deadline, they will have to install 26 benches per week. They will be installing benches every Saturday throughout the summer.
There are roughly 1,200 bus stops in the city, with 675 semi-permanent, including 450 semi-permanent that are already in lit areas. Tabor said they will be installing benches at the already-lit locations, with the exception of five benches that will be placed in un-lit locations with donated lighting to see how much of an impact it will have.
“If found effective, we will install more,” Tabor said.
The School District, according to Tabor, will be sending about 35 locations each week as recommendations to the city so that they can stay ahead of the 32 benches-per-week time frame.
The School District also is working on an education plan for students and parents alike on school bus safety.
“We will continue to do what we can to make things safer,” Tabor said. “But the education also is key. We need help from parents to tell their children to stay in the safe zones.”
The public can make donations to the cause as well on the Cape Coral Rotary website. If a party donates $350, they may have their name — not a business name — on the bench on a 4-inch by 6-inch plaque.
Tabor said the donations have already been pouring in.
“It’s amazing to see how many people make big donations, and don’t care about the recognition,” he said. “The community is getting behind us.”
Tabor said the School District, city and a third party group will monitor the effectiveness of these additions from Aug. 12 to Dec. 15.
“We’ll get the studies back to see what’s working and what’s not and we’ll tweak it and go forward,” Tabor said.
To donate to the Cape Coral School Bus Safe Zones, visit www.CapeCoralRotary.com.
-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj