The Walking Detective™ is KC Healthy Kids’ new kid-friendly audit 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 in the Armour Hills neighborhood of KCMO.
My next stop was Armour Hills, the neighborhood our character Ella is from. After the rain cleared out, I walked from Armour Hills to Border Star Montessori School and then passed by the shops in Brookside on my way back. While Brookside is known as a very walkable community, there are a few small changes that could make it even better.
The Armour Hills neighborhood is predominantly single-family housing with a few apartment buildings. Sidewalks and trees line both sides of the street. I only saw one section of sidewalk that was disconnected, forcing pedestrians into the street. Speed bumps slow traffic on one the main thoroughfares. The neighborhood’s small public park was recently renovated. It features a playground, wading pool and tennis courts. From the park, I cut over a few blocks to catch the Henry Wiggins Trolley Track Trail. The trail is a popular place for walkers, runners and cyclists in the community. It should have been a pleasant, easy walk to the school, right?
Wrong. The trolley trail ends abruptly at an awkward, busy, four-lane intersection where traffic seems to flow in all directions, with no stop lights or crosswalks. It is unsafe to cross at the street here, but it’s the fastest way to get to Border Star. Pedestrians and cyclists continuing north have to navigate busy streets and parking lots in the shopping district before they can pick up the trail again.
From where I stood, I almost didn’t see a crosswalk up the street a ways—a car waiting at a stop sign had blocked part of it. Farther down the street, an intersection with traffic lights and crossing signals makes crossing safer. But while I was waiting for the signal to change, I saw a car run a red light.
The school is a great community asset when it comes to healthy eating and active living. Students maintain garden beds and the Brookside Farmers’ Market makes its home in the parking lot on Saturdays. The school playground is left open for the public to use outside of school hours. They even have bike racks so kids can lock up their bikes after riding to school or the playground.
The school is located across from the Brookside Shopping District. In addition to retail stores, restaurants, and coffee shops there are grocery stores, banks and a post office. The area is well lit and there are trash cans, although people don’t always use them.
Residents in Armour Hills can easily walk or bike to the shopping district. There are crosswalks with pedestrian signs and streetlights making it safer for people to walk around. Some sections of sidewalk are broken and uneven, but overall the condition of the sidewalks are good. There are bus stops so people can take public transit, and two tennis courts. All of these things encourage physical activity and reduce car traffic and pollution in the area.
Armour Hills received a score of 77/87, confirming that Brookside is a great community for walking and biking. There are a few changes that could make it safer for everyone.
- Add crosswalks to connect Armour Hills and surrounding neighborhoods to the school so kids have a safe route to walk and bike.
- Ensure that all sidewalks are connected and even.
- Add bike lanes so cyclists have room to bike alongside cars.Use traffic calming design to slow down traffic around the school and shopping district.