Some Knox County parents can’t celebrate Walk to School Day due to lack of sidewalks

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Nearly 20 Knox County elementary and middle schools celebrated the 20th International Walk to School Day this year. Organizers say the event is a great way to promote family involvement in regular physical activity.

WATE 6 On Your Side viewers sent in pictures of walk-to-school events Wednesday morning, but there were also complaints from people who said it wasn’t safe for them to participate with because there were no sidewalks where they live.

Amy Hickman says for years she has always wanted to participate in Walk to School Day, but she’s never been able to walk her son to class.

“I’ve always wanted to do it, but it’s not safe for us to do. We are probably about two miles from Gibbs and the most dangerous part is Tazewell Pike because there’s nothing but weeds and embankments all the way through there,” said Hickman.

Assistant Director of Engineering and Public Works for Knox County Jim Snowden explained how they determine which areas get sidewalks.

“We do try to prioritize our improvements based on number of kids in the PRZ, the parental responsibility zone, linkage to other schools like if a high school or middle school are close by,” said Snowden.

He says those who live within a mile of a school aren’t provided bus transportation so the focus is on those areas.

“If we decided to build a sidewalk today, essentially one mile of sidewalk, it’s about $650,000. So we have to be very cautious about how we spend that money and make sure that we spend it in the best locations that are going to benefit the most people and provide the most need,” said Snowden.

He says where construction is underway at the intersection of Tazewell Pike and Emory Road, a mile of sidewalks will be put in to connect the schools and the intersection.

“If we had sidewalks then we could go from place to place biking, walking, anything like that would be nice,” said Hickman.

Snowden says anyone who wants a sidewalk in Knox County may call the Knox County Public Works Office at (865) 215-5800. They will try to put them in as funds become available. The office is located at 205 W Baxter Avenue.

The Knox County Engineering and Public Works Department says they use an outside consulting firm to study which schools need sidewalks the most by looking at which areas would get the most use out of having a sidewalk.

More than 4,400 schools across the country registered for Walk to School Day.

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