Worried about the safety of their kids, in 2016 Waianae parents and community members created eye-catching crosswalks near Leihoku Elementary School, where nearly 1,000 students cross the road every day.
But last month, the city painted them over. They were not replaced.
The Honolulu Department of Transportation Services says that a work order to create crosswalks was created in 2013 and that a crosswalk does exist nearby. But community members say the city’s crosswalk is in the wrong spot.
“Our kids are all risking their lives to get to and from school everyday,” saidMarc Pa’aluhi, a neighborhood board member and the parent of students attending Leihoku Elementary School. “Which is how it was all this time. For about two years they had some sort of crossing mechanism. Now they have nothing.”
When members of the community created crosswalks on their own two years ago, they painted “ALOHA” in block letters on one of them. The other one carried the street name — “LEIHOKU.”
Pa’aluhi said that he had reached out to City Council member Kymberly Pine multiple times since 2012 regarding painting crosswalks on Leihoku Street and that he was told that the developer still controlled the road. He says that Pine told him that if they created crosswalks, those would be grandfathered in when the city took ownership of the roads again.
While Pines’ office couldn’t confirm whether she had encouraged community members to take action, community liaison Chelsea Kewley said the office did put in a request to the Honolulu Design and Construction Department asking whether crosswalks were warranted by the city.
The Department of Transportation Services informed Pines’ office that a crosswalk was created close to the school in 2013, but that residents painted over the crosswalk with the word “ALOHA” and that the “markings were painted over due to safety concerns.”
Neighborhood board member Ken Koike said that there were markings on the road where crosswalks should have been placed, but that they were never put in by the city.
Before and after the addition, Pa’aluhi said that members of the community donned safety gear and escorted students across the roads as they walked to and from school.
Koike said that the aloha crosswalks reflected the nature of this project. When weighing the options of liability and the physical threat posed on children who cross the road daily, he said they had no choice but to take matters in their hands.
But since the crosswalks were not permitted by the city, they have been painted over and not replaced in those spots. One new crosswalk has been painted at a location closer to the school, but some are not happy with this placement.
Pa’aluhi said that city officials failed to recognize that moving the crosswalk was a bad idea because the traffic flow in that location is very heavy before and after school.
Koike also pointed out that the community-implemented crosswalks were placed between sections of sidewalk that have curb ramps — places where the curb is lowered to allow accessibility for wheelchairs.
According to John Nouchi, the deputy director of the Department of Transportation services, the city uses the Honolulu Complete Streets Design Manual to determine where crosswalks are warranted.
Factors such as pedestrian volumes, sight distance, number of lanes and speed limits are taken into account when determining where crosswalks are implemented.
Still, that isn’t sitting well with the community.
“We put aloha in our crosswalks and then the city comes and blacks them out, because it wasn’t approved,” said Koike. “They’ll put money in to taking them out, but don’t put them back in.”
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