Karin Miller

Working mother Karin Miller lives just down the street from Concord Elementary School, a location most parents of school-age children would envy for the convenience it suggests. In point of fact, Miller says that, until just recently, life on Edina's aptly named School Road was anything but convenient.

For many years, despite living just a few doors down from the school, Miller felt compelled to leave work early and personally escort her two daughters home. "My children and other neighborhood kids had seen too many close calls on that short walk," she explained. Hazards stemmed from traffic congestion on a largely residential street ill equipped to handle it.
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"There were no sidewalks, which meant that kids were sharing the road with both buses and parent carpool traffic. When we would walk to and from, I could put my hand out and touch the buses as they passed," Miller remembered.

Compounding matters, "the street is really quite narrow for heavy traffic," leaving little room for vehicle maneuverability but plenty for blind spots.

That was on a good day. During the winters, snow banks encroaching on the roadway and the ever-present possibility of ice made the situation even more untenable. "I sent a video to the City Council of a neighbor child walking on top of a three-foot snow bank to get home. In that video, she slipped into the street. Thankfully, a parent stopped right away to help."

Miller felt the solution was as simple as the problem was acute. "We needed sidewalks installed for the foot traffic." By Miller's estimate, it took nearly six years of constant lobbying and planning, but that wish finally came to pass. The neighborhood breathed a collective sigh of relief. "Now, with the sidewalks in, my younger daughter and the neighbor kids can all walk to and from school safely."

School Road residents were delighted to discover that the street's new sidewalk not only fixed the immediate problem at hand, but fostered a renewed sense of community connectedness. "When you see people from other streets making use of [this stretch of sidewalk], you know it was missing, was needed and is appreciated."

Now that the sidewalk networks connect without gaps, Miller and her neighbors also feel comfortable letting their older children walk up the road to Southview Middle School. While this certainly speaks to how far the neighborhood has come, Miller believes the City's improvements are only groundwork. Edina's schools must also take measures to keep kids safe. "Crossing guards and clearly stated crosswalks are part of this," Miller said. "Some schools are already doing a great job with volunteers and properly trained kids," while others have room yet for improvement.

Schools should also be proactive on matters of traffic education. "When I was growing up in Edina, there was a bike training clinic at my elementary school every spring. We were taught to signal turns, get off our bike when crossing the street, bike single file, and other important rules. Now I see parents and kids alike all over the road, crossing corner to corner, biking against traffic, and so on."

Miller says that she still abides by the rules she learned in those childhood classes, and that such measures would still be time and money well spent today. After all, while young people do not get behind the wheel until they turn 16, they clearly become part of the traffic ecosystem at a much earlier age.