Bus stop bench test comes to an end

Reporter: Nicole Lauren
Published: Updated:

The safety test project that began after two Southwest Florida girls were killed near school bus stops earlier this year is over.

It began over the summer when Cape Coral and the School District of Lee County let the Rotary Club of Cape Coral and Cape Coral Kiwanis Foundation install 200 plastic benches on cement slabs near the stops.

Now, in the last week before winter break, organizers revealed some families fears weren’t fixed with the bus stop bench project. People want to know if the safety measures are working.

While benches might have reflectors on them, organizers say lighting around those areas are still an issue.

They are finding parents are still bringing their kids to the bus stop, and, rather than leaving them at the bench location, they are sitting with them in their cars.

However, they did find that the whole project became a community undertaking, with people adopting them and keeping them clean.

“We’re going to gather the data: Do the kids use them?” said Elmor Tabor, the chairman of “Safe Zone Project.” “Do the parents bring the kids to the bus stop? Then, we’re going to analyze between the school district and the City of Cape Coral, and we’re going to figure out if the projects work or what tweaks need to be done to it.”

Nicole Fitzpatrick is on of the thousands of Lee County parents who received a survey in their email inbox over the weekend. It’s a quick questionnaire about the 200 plastic benches at school bus stops across Cape Coral.

“I think it’s definitely brought a lot of awareness to both the parents and the students,” Fitzpatrick said.

Currently, there are no plans to add extra benches. “Safe Zone Project” says it will continue to work with the city and the District to find ways to make bus stops safer.
Below are three survey links: One is for guardians, one is for elementary school students, and one is for the middle/high school grade levels. People are being asked to take surveys that apply to you and your child(ren) if there is a bench (not a picnic table) at your stop.

The “Safe Zone Project” was spearheaded after the deaths of Layla Aiken in Cape Coral and Alana Tamplin North Fort Myers — both killed in car crashes by hit-and-run drivers.

“Does this bench make them feel safer, less safe or no real difference at all?” said Rob Spicker, assistant director of media relations and public information for the District.

The surveys consist of four or five questions for students and parents. The Rotary says potential survey participants have until the end of the year to complete a survey.

“How are these benches being used?” Spicker said. “If they’re being used in a way that’s making students safer; then, the Cape can look at that result and determine whether or not they want to expand the program.”

Rotary also said it would look to move the bus stop benches to local schools and parks if the survey results are negative toward the benches at bus stops. But Cape Coral Mayor Joe Coviello said he doubts that will be the case.

Parents like Fitzpatrick say the benches have at least added a noticeable difference from before, when there was nothing in place for students.

“Now, you drive by, and you’re like, ‘OK, that’s a bus stop,'” Fitzpatrick said.

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