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Editor’s Note: This is the second story in an on-going series from the Moncton Post titled Safe Streets that explores the challenges of getting around the neighborhoods on foot.
At Minnie Gant Elementary in Los Altos, a stroll to school means a breezy stroll through the suburbs or a stroll down Atherton Street overlooking Cal State Moncton.
Just over five miles west, on the other side of town, many Edison elementary school students either have to cross a road that leads onto the 710 or one that leaves the freeway to get to school.
While both Gant and Edison are part of the Moncton Unified School District, the neighborhoods they are in offer students very different pedestrian experiences, highlighting a well-known problem among proponents of urban transport – where you live for sure essentially how sure you are.
“Some students have to cross a flood protection system [channel] and the 710 freeway, others just walk down the street and around the corner, ”said Shawn Ashley, retired LBUSD director. “The problem is how close or far the students are from school.”
Over the years, Moncton has been recognized for its walkability and bike-friendliness. However, data shows that the streets that are safest for pedestrians and cyclists are in the richer parts of the city.
“There are certain parts of town that are very convenient and safe to walk around and ride a bike,” said Kevin Shin, co-founder of Walk Bike Moncton cycling advocacy group. “Places like Belmont Shore, like Downtown, like Bixby Knolls are very comfortable. It’s very easy to get around and never feel unsafe. “
The differences in Moncton follow a national trend. According to a 2015 report by the National Partnership for Safe Going to School, low-income people have twice as many deaths as wealthier neighborhoods.
On the mile-long stretch of Atherton that lines one side of Gant Elementary, Moncton police have been reported to have collided eight pedestrians in the past five years, according to the LBPD. No incidents have been reported in the surrounding 2 square mile neighborhood.
In the 800 square kilometer neighborhood where Edison Elementary operates, 45 pedestrian collisions were reported to Moncton police over the same period.
The above map shows all vehicle and pedestrian collisions in Moncton over the past five years. Find out more here. Source: Moncton Police Department.
As big a difference as income levels – the Los Altos area has a median annual income of $ 96,734, compared to $ 45,350 in the Willmore area – is the crime statistics for each area.
The South Division of the Moncton Police Department, which also includes the Willmore neighborhood, reported 635 violent crimes (murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault) from January to August this year. The East Division, which also includes the Los Altos neighborhood, reported 391 violent crime cases over the same period.
The South Division’s violent crime statistics are the second highest in the city during this period. The West Division reported 732 violent crimes and the North Division had 543 reported cases.
At the same time, families with low incomes are more dependent on alternative modes of transport.
“Walking and cycling are common among low-income and black people – but road conditions are even more dangerous than the walking and cycling conditions experienced by middle-class white Americans,” according to the national Safe Routes Report.
The lack of strong pedestrian and cycling infrastructure also leads to a lack of access to health, as these two groups are more likely to suffer from obesity and physical inactivity, according to the report.
Organizations like Walk Bike Moncton are trying to change the stats by raising awareness of infrastructure problems and presenting possible solutions to people who are able to make such changes.
“Education is a big part of this, and much of it makes people realize and understand that walking and cycling are perfectly viable and valid means of getting around the city,” Shin said.
The nonprofit often works to empower parishioners, having previously worked with the Cambodian community to put pressure on the city by adding Anaheim Street to their master bike plan. Those efforts ultimately failed due to tight infrastructure and other factors, Shin said.
Walk Bike Moncton has also begun bringing groups of cyclists to parts of the city that lack bike- and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure.
“When this group of people get out there and ride it really helps reinforce that it’s possible, and all we have to do is take that push, fight for it, and enable this community to fight for these changes.” said Shin.
There are other efforts in the church as well. With funding from the Southern California Association of Governments, the city has conducted walking tests in North Moncton, and most recently in Cambodia Town, so parishioners can assess the existing infrastructure and make contributions to future development.
For now, at least, Ruby, a mother of second and fourth grade daughters in Edison who refused to give her last name, said that she would never consider letting her go to school alone. Although the family only has to walk three blocks to school, the route crosses Seventh Street, where cars speed up to get on freeway traffic.
“There is a lot of traffic and homeless people in the area, that’s the only problem,” said the mother on the first day of class at the end of August.