An Appeal to Your Good Sense and Self Interest

Please review and adhere to the guidelines Director Vince Durnan published for mitigating gridlock on 19th Avenue during Middle and High School afternoon pick up.
Here’s a message many years in the making, made especially urgent just recently. Our midday routines stopped suddenly last Friday, Sept. 10 when a preschool teacher and one of her students were struck by a motorist at Edgehill and 19th, right in the center of a painted crosswalk. The child was treated and released, but the teacher spent days hospitalized across the street. A terrible situation that rightly claimed our full attention.
We’re grateful to be invited to follow-up conversations with our Vanderbilt neighbors, determined to make that intersection safer. Stay tuned for updates, but in the meantime let’s commit to doing what we can, including addressing a daily afternoon crunch on 19th Avenue, one entirely of our own making. I’m determined to fix that recurrent mess — with all you’ve done to face down COVID-19, this remedy should be well within reach.
You may have noticed me posted up on the sidewalk each afternoon this week, and this is what I observed: backed up traffic for 20 minutes and, in response, every form of self-designed, dangerous work around on display. It’s really not OK — here’s what it looks like and here’s a solution:
At about 2:30 p.m., cars start lining up in our 19th Avenue lot, and by 2:50 p.m. they extend out into the street. Mind you, our HS does not dismiss until 3 p.m., and MS fifteen minutes thereafter — and no matter how early cars arrive, we dismiss at that same time. From 3 – 3:15 p.m., the traffic backs up, largely gridlocking the street, tempting frustrated passers-through to bolt through at high speed in the wrong lane as a circumventing means of escape. Super dangerous. And in the midst of this happening, children are running into that traffic, cell phone in hand, to meet rides hoping to thereby avoid looping through our lot.
It’s not uncommon to see desperate U-turns, to see drivers exit cars midstream and swap drivers as learners take the wheel, to see students run onto Edgehill as cars hold up the through traffic in the process, and to see other rides hiding in the ROTC/Vanderbilt childcare lot across 19th in an effort to hack the system by asking children to run through traffic. The crosswalks, by the way, are rarely in play. And this all happens in an amazing 20-minute window. Yikes.
What’s the fix? Glad you asked. In no particular order, here’s what I’m almost certain will work:
  • First, avoid arriving before the school day ends. I know some stubborn folks will love being first, or may arrive sooner than they had planned, or may never read this missive, but if enough commit to a timely landing, that will suffice.
  • Next, understand that crunch time is 3 – 3:15 p.m. That’s really it. If you roll up then, the street is jammed. Any time thereafter and you’ll hardly need to brake. Same disclaimer as above — not everyone will find this convincing, but you can be part of a solution as you avoid the delay. Five or ten minutes might do it.
  • Third, remember that if you arrive after 3:20 p.m., the mess will almost surely have cleared, and you can make the loop safely in the 19th lot with ease, as the system was designed and staffed. Think of all the time you’ve waited for your children — it’s only fair that they wait a little for you. Middle Schoolers, just to clarify, will not be asked to migrate to After School until 3:45 p.m.
  • If you must meet up away from campus to avoid the whole situation, ask that High Schooler to pick a corner a few blocks from school. Not sure that nets out to save you any time, but it’s an option for free spirits.
  • And lastly, in the hard no category, PLEASE don’t ask your children to run through traffic to meet you on 19th, or plan to stop in street traffic to load up, or to hide out in the lot across the street (a special peeve of our VU neighbors, of whom we regularly ask favors), or really choose any clever behavior that if others emulated would cause a fallacy of composition issue. Rule bending on a small scale tends to carry a kind of permissive multiplier effect.
If we commit in any numbers to the general concepts defined above and to the specifics detailed thereafter, we’ll be safer, less frustrated, and clearly smarter by learning from experience. That’s my pitch, made from the heart after hearing brakes lock up one too many times. Even one misstep could be tragic, and at the risk of antagonizing people, I’m claiming space on this soapbox before I get any closer to lame duck status.  
We can do this — here’s hoping we will,
Vince Durnan
    • Director Vince Durnan at his desk.

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