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Mother upset over daughter’s walk to school

CAPE CORAL, Fla. – As a parent, you would do anything to keep your child safe. One mom in the Cape says she’s going to fight until her daughter’s walk to school is safe.

Rachel Rhodes lives in southwest Cape Coral, near Veterans Parkway and SW 20th Avenue, where there are no sidewalks, no street lights and now there’s construction because of city’s water and sewer project. Every morning Rhodes’ daughter Alana makes the walk to school along SW 20th, in the dark.

Rhodes says the bus won’t pick her daughter up because they live within a two mile radius of the high school and Rhodes works early leaving her daughter with one option: walk.

So we decided to walk and bike the route ourselves to see just how dangerous it was. The video speaks for itself. There’s barely enough room for a car and pedestrian to share the road and when it’s dark, like it is when high school kids in Lee County head to school, you can’t see anything.

In fact, look closely, that’s a biker, coming right at us.

“To me it’s dangerous,” said Rhodes.

And she’s not alone.

A Facebook page formed shortly after 15-year-old Austin Dukette was killed while riding his bike to school in northwest Cape. The name of the group is “Cape Coral needs sidewalks and street lights.”

So WINK News went to city council. We showed Councilman Lenny Nesta our video and asked for help. That’s when Councilman Nesta shared a very personal part of his past.

“I had a son that got killed…. he was walking home. He wasn’t on a bicycle. and got hit by another 16-year-old,” he told us.

The councilman and father is living Rachel Rhodes’ worst fear.

“There are just no answers to why the Lord took your son. So I can relate,” he shared with us.

Councilman Nesta says the city is doing what it can for now.

“I know there is money in the city budget this year for the sidewalk program and street lighting so we are diligently working on that this year, but again, short term, parents cannot rely on the city all the time,” he said. “I didn’t rely on the city when UEP went through my area. I relied on my neighbors, other parents that went to that school to carpool and we all shared rides for that short period of time and it worked out well for us.”

We asked the manager of the UEP project Paul Clinghan how short of a time it would be for Rachael Rhodes to see a change.

“Since then that particular area has been paved,” he shared with us. “All of SW 20th has been widened by two feet.”

Clinghan says he’s aware that particular stretch is busy and there are sidewalks and street lights in the city’s plan. But construction there isn’t slated to start for another year and a half.

In the meantime, for Rhodes, none of these answers are good enough.

“So I have to keep fighting the fight, until I feel comfortable and safe that my daughter can get home safely,” she said.

There is a state law that defines hazardous walking conditions for students. We went through them and the road is not considered hazardous, according to the statute.

We reached out to the Lee County School District. They tell us even if they made a new stop for our student Alana, she would still have to walk through construction.

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