Traffic Garden Brings Smiles and Safety to Students and Families

Published on June 01, 2023

Kids in a traffic garden crosswalk

Spring can make you think of flowers, but for some students they now think of bikes and a traffic garden thanks to the help of the Charlotte Department of Transportation (CDOT,) Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) and Mecklenburg County.

What is a Traffic Garden?

Traffic gardens take facilities like school pathways and turn them into smaller versions of roadways and crosswalks with pavement markings and signage. The idea is that new cyclists and pedestrians can safely learn and practice the rules of the road in a space separated from automobile traffic. Bicycling and road safety is a priority, and this is a fun way children and families can learn new skills while having fun.

A Project and Partnership Forms

Winding Springs Elementary School was participating in the All Kids Bike program which provides new bikes to kindergarten and first grade students at CMS. Then, Michael Eastwood, the Safe Routes to Schools coordinator with Mecklenburg County’s Public Health department reached out to CDOT to assist with designing a traffic garden. CDOT and Mecklenburg County previously partnered on the Arbor Glenn traffic garden located on the Irwin Creek Greenway.  

CDOT got started on the project with engineer and project manager Katie Cogar and senior engineer Paul Benton. They were responsible for taking field measurements, designing a preliminary layout, and developing construction drawings and quantities for the project to be installed. They worked with Mecklenburg County and Winding Springs Elementary partners on site to determine available space and needs and used drafting software to create plans for construction of the facility.

A Small, but Impactful Project

The school hired a contractor to bring CDOT’s design to life and students had a blast on opening day with their new bikes while also learning about traffic safety.

“My favorite part was seeing the smiles on students’ and teachers’ faces on opening day at Winding Springs,” says Benton. “So many of us remember the feelings of fun, empowerment and excitement when learning to ride our bikes as a child. Those feelings were rekindled in me watching kindergarten and first grade students enjoy the facility we partnered with the Mecklenburg County Public Health and CMS teams to create.” 

Winding Springs Elementary has lots of plans for students to use the traffic garden through physical education class and the All Kids Bike program. Staff also told CDOT that they are already seeing neighbors, families and community members enjoying the traffic garden after school hours and on weekends. It was a small, but impactful project.

Benton says, “It is rewarding to be able to play a role in creating a space for these students to learn and develop what I hope will be a lifetime love of riding their bikes.”