Cape Coral will re-evaluate its bus stop bench project Wednesday and figure out what’s next when it comes to the 200 benches across the city.
A school district survey showed that out of 179 benches by school bus stops, 26 were used at least 50% of the time, while 125 of them were used less than 50% of the time and 28 of them never used at all. These benches were put in place after the 2019 death of 8-year-old Layla Aiken. A driver hit and killed her while she waited for her school bus.
Cape Coral city staff have met with the stakeholders for this pilot bench project, including members of the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs and people from the School District of Lee County, to discuss how the program should proceed. Based on the discussions from this meeting, the group is recommending that all benches remain in place.
The main change being recommended, however, is the removal of picnic tables that accompany some bus stops. These tables were not put there by the city and were probably placed by private resident groups. The Rotary and Kiwanis clubs have agreed to fund benches at 62 more locations to replace the picnic tables being removed.
Several people living in Cape Coral made clear to WINK News that neighbors value children’s safety above all else.
“I think that’s a great idea,” said grandmother Terry Morreale. “We need to make it safe for the kids because it’s not safe anymore these days. And the safer we can make it, the better it is for them. You always worry about your children and your grandchildren, because it is dangerous these days. People are on their cell phones and they’re not paying attention.”
Parents say they think the benches are a fabulous idea and they’re happy the city is taking their children’s safety seriously, but there’s just one problem most of them have with th execution: it’s still too dark.
Chelsea Deview, a Cape Coral mom whose daughter rides the bus every day, likes the idea of her daughter having somewhere to sit other than on the side of the street while waiting for the bus. But Deview says a lack of streetlights at the stop have kept her from leaving her daughter there alone, as it just doesn’t feel safe enough amid the heavy traffic. She and others feel there’s a bit more that could be done before they can feel 100% comfortable leaving their children at the bus stops.
The city does have an active streetlight program, which includes installing streetlights at these bus stops, but it’s clear that some parents feel the stops need more lighting.
“I love that they have the benches for them,” Deview said. “But it’s still not even safe enough to do that. Because if you can’t see them sitting there, then they can still get hit, or if they don’t sit or if it’s too crowded, because our bus stop actually had several schools at that corner. So there was a lot of kids.”