The Walking Detective™ is KC Healthy Kids’ new kid-friendly activity that teaches kids about the built environment and empowers them to advocate for change. Our intern Andrea Clark has been hard at work on this tool and reports on a test run.
I live in South Hyde Park, a historic neighborhood in midtown Kansas City, Missouri. The neighborhood is home to the sprawling Gilham Park, and Notre Dame de Sion, a Catholic primary and secondary school, is just north of the neighborhood. Yesterday, I took some friends and their kids on a walk through the neighborhood, park and school campus to find out just how safe and easy it was to walk, bike and play there. Like all neighborhoods, South Hyde Park has its plusses and minuses.
Trees line the neighborhood streets, creating shade and a barrier for pedestrians from street traffic. And there are usually sidewalks on both sides of the street, however many of the sidewalks are cracked, broken and uneven due to large tree roots. This makes it unsafe and difficult to walk, especially for someone using a stroller, walker or wheelchair.
As we walked out of the neighborhood into the park, we noticed there were no crosswalks. There are a couple pedestrians signs, but painted crosswalks would offer a safe route for kids walking or biking from the neighborhood to the park. Speed bumps in the parking lot would slow traffic coming in and out of the park and neighborhood.
The park has a playground, wading pool, tennis courts, and ball fields. While this is great for playing, the park is littered with trash including broken glass. Adding more trash cans and recycling bins around the park may help reduce the amount of litter.
Across the street from the playground there are trails for walking, running and biking. It is well lit during the day, but when it starts getting dark it does not feel safe because the trails are not lit.
To get to the school from the park, we had to cross a busy intersection with traffic lights. The crosswalks and crossing signals helped us cross the street safely, but we still needed to cross another wide street without a crosswalk. We saw a pedestrian sign, but not school zone signs. Crosswalks would give children a safe place to cross the street, and school zone signs would alert drivers to slow down and watch for pedestrians.
A lot of people in the neighborhood bike for transportation and recreation. According to traffic laws, cyclists are supposed to bike in the street, not on the sidewalk. In a neighborhood with street parking, this can be tricky for cyclists. There is not always room for cars to pass cyclists at a safe distance. Outside of the neighborhood, there are no bike lanes on major streets, meaning cyclists and drivers share the road. Dedicated bike lanes would help keep cyclists safe on the road.
On our way back to the park, we passed single and multi-family homes. There are storefronts on the other side of the neighborhood 6 blocks over, but many of them are vacant. It was hot and we were thirsty, but the nearest places to get a drink or snack were a dollar store and a gas station convenience store, which are about a half-mile from the playground.
South Hyde Park received a score of 64/87. The neighborhood is good for walking and biking, but a few changes could make it great.
- Add bike lanes along Gillham Road so bicyclists can safely ride next to cars.
- Add speed bumps in the park parking lot to slow traffic coming in and out of the neighborhood.
- Create crosswalks from the neighborhood to the park showing kids safe places to cross the street.