Lakeridge Junior High parent Cheryl Travers volunteers as a crossing guard to make sure students stay safe

REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Her two children's cooperation is the secret to her continual devotion as a volunteer, says Cheryl Travers, a critical care nurse.Most drivers can’t help but notice Cheryl Travers as she stands at the corner of Bryant and Jean roads on school-day mornings. Decked out in a full-length, reflective, fluorescent-yellow jacket and wielding a bright orange flag and flaming orange baton, Travers is easy to spot.

And that’s the idea.

As a volunteer crossing guard for Lakeridge Junior High, Travers makes sure drivers pay attention to her — and to the kids and community members she escorts across the street between 7:20-8 a.m. on weekdays. Travers bought all the equipment herself, including the orange cones she uses to mark each side of the crosswalks.

“You want to encourage walking to school and riding your bike," she says, "and if someone’s afraid, that’s not OK.”

Travers, a critical care nurse at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, says she started serving as a crossing guard in December because of two terrible things that almost happened. While driving her daughter and son to school this winter, she says she saw a couple of near-misses at the Bryant-Jean intersection: Once, a car almost struck a child riding a bike; another time, a vehicle almost hit a young pedestrian.

“From the perspective of drivers, nobody wants to be the person who accidentally hits someone. Nobody,” she says. “That would be your worst nightmare. So if all it takes is just going down there to help kids cross, that’s an easy thing. It’s nice to be able to help out.”

Travers says the near-accidents at the intersection probably had to do in part with dark, rainy mornings — especially in the winter, when visibility is poor. She thinks the crosswalk could possibly use a light or other improvements, so she has reached out to the City for solutions. But while City staff assess the situation, she says she feels she has to do something.

And so, since December, she has volunteered as a crossing guard in the dark mornings. On Wednesdays, parent Kristin Polliack also lends Travers a hand.

REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Cheryl Travers is a volunteer crossing guard who bought her own equipment and volunteers every weekday morning. Travers came up with the idea herself for a crossing guard at Jean and Bryant roads.“She's out there, early in the morning, with a smile on her face and clear traffic directions,” sasy LJHS Assistant Principal Alix Pickett. “We don't know what we'd do without her!”

The junior high school did have a volunteer crossing guard before for a couple of years, but not at the Bryant-Jean intersection. LJHS registrar Patti Griffith says she sometimes has to rush outside to help direct traffic when drivers won’t let buses through, and she wishes there were more people like Travers.

“We just need to clone her, that’s all,” Griffith says.

As a community member and commuter, LJHS attendance secretary and bookkeeper Sue Steger says she is “always worried about the safety of kids, especially” at the corner of Bryant and Jean. Steger says drivers behave better because of Travers.

“They used to slide through the stop signs, but because she’s there, they come to a complete stop,” she says.

Travers has sought a more long-term solution to the problem, discussing the issue with Lt. Doug Treat of the Lake Oswego Police Department and the City's Traffic Engineer Amanda Owings, who handles transportation, bicycle and pedestrian operations.

“It’s a scary intersection,” Travers says. “I know the City’s aware of it, and I totally appreciate the help of the Lake Oswego police.”

Owings says the “crash history is low” at the intersection, with just one accident in the past five years involving cars only and no crashes involving pedestrians or cyclists. Still, Owings says vegetation planted at the corner of the intersection can grow more than 30 inches high. In addition, drivers turning right from Jean Road may not be able to see pedestrians in the crosswalk across Bryant because it is located south of the intersection, she told The Review.

Owings says altering how the crosswalks are laid out and changing the vegetation could improve the situation. So could a traffic signal. But for now, she says, motorists simply need to be more aware.

“Drivers should check in each direction for vehicles, pedestrians and bicycles before proceeding through an intersection,” she says.

Owings says some issues have to do with motorists’ mentality, citing stories about a survey by the American Automobile Association in which nine out of 10 drivers admitted to risky driving in the past month. Behaviors included distracted driving and speeding.

Treat says he's seen firsthand how psychology plays a role in accidents involving pedestrians: Motorists are accustomed to keeping an eye out for other cars, he says, not people.

“Every driver who hit a pedestrian or bicyclist always (told me) they never saw the person they hit,” he says.

Owings says time of day is also a factor.

“Parents driving children to school and drivers during peak commute times tend to be in a hurry,” she says, adding that the City is in the information-gathering stage at this point regarding potential upgrades to the Bryant-Jean intersection.

“The City will be collecting data and reviewing this intersection over the next several months to analyze if a traffic signal is needed,” Owings says. “While I am thrilled to hear about more kids walking and biking to school, I understand that safety of those children is paramount. Once the data collection is complete, we can evaluate additional alternatives for improving pedestrian safety.”

Meanwhile, Travers has stepped up and stuck with it.

“Volunteers sometimes disappear,” says Sue Kelso, LJHS lead secretary. “She’s really kept at it. I think she really can see the importance of it, and I think that’s why she kept it up, because it’s so needed.”

Travers says she is in awe of the many hours other volunteers put in, and that her kids — eighth-grader Katherine and seventh-grader Kevin — are the secret to her being able to continue her crossing-guard duties. Though school starts at 7:55 a.m. most days, Travers now arrives by 7:20 a.m. at the school to do her volunteer work; that means she has to awaken her children earlier than usual — at 6:15 a.m. But Katherine and Kevin haven't complained. They do extra studying or otherwise occupy themselves before the bell rings.

“I’m just grateful," Travers says. "They’re awesome kids.”

Travers has her own admirers.

“I appreciate her very much,” Griffith says. “I do. I really, really do.”

By Jillian Daley
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