At the heart of the hazardous walking conditions statute rests the assumption that 2 miles between home and school is a “reasonable walking distance” for public school students. The 2-mile distance was established in order to set a limit on eligibility for student transportation service, but it also implied an expectation that students would actually walk that distance to and from school which then raised a need for the legislature to consider the hazards that student pedestrians might encounter along the way.
The hazardous walking conditions statute was enacted to address those hazards.
However, there are two problems with the “reasonable walking distance” assumption and the resulting hazardous walking conditions criteria:
First, students don’t generally walk 2 miles to school and they likely wouldn’t walk 2 miles even if all of the hazards between home and school were eliminated. They might walk as far as 1.25 miles, but not 2 miles.
Second, the current hazardous walking conditions criteria for public school students isn’t realistic or practical. It neither safeguards public school students who reside within a reasonable walking distance of school nor encourages infrastructure development and improvement that would make walking to and from school safe.
Crafting a balanced and practical resolution of the problems with the hazardous walking conditions statute begins with correcting the assumption that 2 miles between home and school is a “reasonable walking distance.” Instead, the statute should simply state that 2 miles is the “transportation service boundary,” the distance from school at which students become eligible for regular state-funded transportation service, and that 1.25 miles is the “reasonable walking distance” where the evaluation of hazardous walking conditions begins.
From that starting point, we can construct a reasonable and responsible hazardous walking conditions criteria that better serves the students who really need it and balances the cost of improving the core of the criteria.