City of Helena exploring ways to improve pedestrian traffic with sidewalks

Posted at 5:44 PM, Apr 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-12 12:30:55-04

HELENA — Not all of Helena's long-established neighborhoods have sidewalks, despite being regularly trafficked by kids and other pedestrians. The City of Helena is exploring ways to improve and expand sidewalks in the city.

The Helena City Commission’s second sidewalk summit occurred about two weeks ago, a special work session on the topic of sidewalks throughout the city, a pedestrian path that many neighborhoods throughout Helena are without.

“There’s a lot of moving parts to the whole thing. It’ll be a pretty, I don’t want to say long, but it’ll definitely be an in-depth series of these summits to really get to the answer at the end of the tunnel here,” says Deputy Director of Transportation Systems for the city, Chris Couey.

The lack of sidewalks is an issue that many neighborhoods throughout Helena deal with. Couey estimates that the ratio of sidewalks and no sidewalks is roughly 50/50. For example, Broadwater Elementary School, which just celebrated its 130th anniversary, is surrounded by areas with and without sidewalks, requiring some students who walk or bike to travel in the street for a portion of their trip to school.

“If you’re having to either walk or ride in the middle of the road, right, that’s obviously not the safest place for you to be at any time,” says Couey.

During the city’s second meeting, the idea of using schools as a central point for sidewalk expansion was brought up.

One parent I spoke to at Broadwater Elementary mentioned the dangers of having children on the road during icy conditions.

“Usually it’s after school, primarily that you see kids just kind of walking down the street because there’s no sidewalks at all. Well, I mean, there’s a few, but not enough for them to stay off of the road, so. Which during the winter you get ice and stuff on the roads and they’re wandering around and you don’t see them, they come out from behind a car or something unexpected, something could happen very easily,” says Chris Hoy, a parent at Broadwater Elementary.

During the next sidewalk summit, the city will discuss how to best fund sidewalk implementation.