The Story of Pride Elementary

Student Volunteers and Community Partners Get Pride Elementary Walking to School!

At Pride Elementary in New Tampa, students take the lead in their own Sidewalk Stompers walk to school program.

When Pride students prowl into school in the morning on foot or on bike, 5th grade “student ambassadors” welcome them. Each ambassador carries a clipboard listing K-5 students who regularly commute to school walking or biking. They are responsible for counting all of the “active transportation” students and tracking that data in a spreadsheet.

Pride Student Ambassadors checking in classmates walking to school.

Pride Student Ambassadors checking in classmates walking to school.

“Our Student Ambassador Program has provided student voice and student input to help make suggestions and improvements at Pride, as well as increasing our community partnerships,” said Pride teacher Raquel Gomez-Johnson. Ms. Johnson started the program this school year.

With the November launch of the Sidewalk Stompers program at Pride, arriving students know by now to check in with these ambassadors every day before heading into class. And they know why: at the end of each week, another class will be selected to win the Golden Sneaker Award!

Principal Amy Zilbar created the trophy – a gold sneaker mounted on a stand – with the help of a local trophy store to add a little shine to the project. When she walks through the school carrying that trophy, students excitedly stop her to ask... who is this week's winner?

Principal Zilbar presenting the Golden Sneaker Award.

Principal Zilbar presenting the Golden Sneaker Award.

More prizes are on the way to reward this energetic example of student involvement in kids' health and wellbeing. Last month, we stopped by the Pride morning show with AdventHealth Tampa to announce a new partnership between the hospital group and Pride Elementary's Sidewalk Stompers program.

“We are excited at the opportunity to partner with Sidewalk Stompers and help bring this great program to schools in our community like Pride Elementary,” said Jen Bradley, Associate Director of Marketing at AdventHealth Tampa. “Our commitment to helping our community feel whole in every aspect – from encouraging healthy lifestyles, to enforcing safety initiatives, and stimulating growth through education – align with the key initiatives tied to Sidewalk Stompers. Safe walking methods are a shared responsibility between the students, teachers, school administration, parents, and the community – everyone is involved and everyone, including AdventHealth Tampa, can make an impact.”

Thanks to AdventHealth, walking and biking students who check in with their student ambassadors will be winning pencils, frisbees, water bottles, and more. And the classes with the most walkers will be winning baskets of outdoor play equipment to use at recess. 

“Advent Health has supported Pride Elementary from the inception of our Sidewalk Stompers Program and their partnership has resulted in more student participation, as they are motivated to earn the weekly ‘Golden Sneaker’ trophy or other prizes for their classrooms,” said Principal Zilbar.

Keeping your body active and getting involved with your community is what Sidewalk Stompers is all about. We are so proud of Pride’s student ambassadors, leading the way to promote healthy walks and bike rides to school.

Principal Zilbar, Sidewalk Stompers president Emily Hinsdale, and AdventHealth Tampa’s Jen Bradley and Roxanne Carlucci announcing their partnership on the Pride morning show in March.

Principal Zilbar, Sidewalk Stompers president Emily Hinsdale, and AdventHealth Tampa’s Jen Bradley and Roxanne Carlucci announcing their partnership on the Pride morning show in March.

Clearing Hillsborough County’s Path to a Safer Bay to Bay Blvd

Imagine the City of Tampa could cut traffic accidents by 19% on a thoroughfare that handles 18,000 vehicles a day. Would they pursue it? 

Imagine further, that this simple intervention could be implemented at no additional cost, completed in a few days, and did nothing to impede the existing flow of traffic. Would those benefits compel the city’s top executive to green-light his engineers’ recommendation? 


Let that sink in for a moment, because this is our reality. Hillsborough County owns a road that runs right through the heart of Palma Ceia. Looking for guidance on what’s “best for Tampa”, officials turned to the City for comment. Our otherwise forward-looking Mayor then advised the County to say no to Vision Zero, no to Complete Streets, and, instead, to embrace a road design for Bay to Bay Blvd. last considered best practice during the Nixon administration.

As Hillsborough County teams with City of Tampa to move Bay to Bay forward, let's make sure County officials understand City engineers’ recommendation as the safer-streets proposal that is was. Further, let’s make sure Hillsborough County Public Works Director John Lyons sees he has the public support to follow through on the County’s Vision Zero mandate and position greater Tampa Bay for future growth. 

If last weekend is any indication, that support seems to be mounting. 

Sunday’s “Walk for Safer Streets” - a community response prompted by the City’s decision - attracted close to 120 participants from the surrounding Palma Ceia neighborhood. Pushing strollers, walking dogs, and making their way to stops at local Bay to Bay Blvd. businesses, walkers teamed up to navigate telephone poles, inaccessible sidewalks and generally dangerous conditions as 45 mph traffic less than a foot from the sidewalk whizzed by them.

Nearly 120 residents from the Bay to Bay Blvd. corridor took the streets on April 29. Their message? Our neighborhood is not just an on-ramp to the Crosstown Expressway. 

Nearly 120 residents from the Bay to Bay Blvd. corridor took the streets on April 29. Their message? Our neighborhood is not just an on-ramp to the Crosstown Expressway. 

Their collective message? The Bay to Bay corridor is a neighborhood of value, dotted with schools, boutiques, and restaurants; it’s not just a on-ramp to the Crosstown Expressway. Residents want the City to better ensure the safety of the people who walk, commute and live here. 

As the City Transportation Manager went out of his way to articulate during a public meeting on the proposed project, the benefits primarily accrue to drivers and to pedestrians. The Complete Street Design was safer for cars, reducing the likelihood of collision between 19% and 47% by moving turning cars into a central lane. And by curbing dangerous passing behaviors, pedestrians also benefited, as aggressive drivers’ speeds would have been governed by those of the law-abiding citizens in front of them. Importantly, the study contracted by the City also indicated that the new design would produce no measurable increase in peak commute times for motorists. 

Implicit in the Manager’s presentation was a somewhat counter-intuitive message: lane reductions can yield more efficient traffic flows. Those certified by the State as traffic engineers understand this. Most others do not.  

That asymmetry of information and experience should give policy-makers pause before ceding ground to our community’s more reactionary constituents.

And yet, that ground in the campaign for a safer Bay to Bay corridor was quickly lost. Appealing to “conventional wisdom”, skeptics dismissed the results of the $50,000 study commissioned by the City. They raised questions about the credibility of engineers delivering recommendations, stating flatly, “we don’t believe you.”

For those of us living on the Bay to Bay corridor, observing the Complete Street debate has been like watching a slow-motion-car crash. Under normal circumstances, you’d expect the norms of research and policy-making to usher Palma Ceia residents to a safer, more appealing destination.  But in this case, the forces of skepticism and misinformation combined to knock Mayor Buckhorn and his team off the road.

The good news? An ever growing number of people - including the 120 that walked on Sunday - see the Complete Street proposal for what it is: a needed update that enables safer routes to school, accelerates the growth of a budding business corridor, and contributes to Bob Buckhorn’s legacy as an empathetic and forward-looking Mayor for the City of Tampa.

The road to effective infrastructure is fraught. Let’s signpost the clear path Mayor Buckhorn and Public Works Director Lyons need to get us there safely. They might just offer Tampa residents the same unobstructed route in return. 

The Story Of Bay To Bay Blvd.: Cars First, Kids Last

This is what a kindergartener sees walking to school across Bay to Bay Blvd. 

Bay to Bay 1.jpg

If this looks scary, remember what’s coming from the other direction.

Not to mention northbound cars turning right through the walk signal and southbound cars turning left through the walk signal. (Florida laws permit cars to drive through crosswalks unless there is a pedestrian in the portion of the crosswalk the car is crossing.)

If this set up seems to you like a dangerous design for children, too bad – Mayor Buckhorn is all for it.

With the Mayor’s decision to cancel his own traffic engineers’ proposed redesign of Bay to Bay Blvd., children’s safety is placed at risk.

But the Mayor’s announcement goes further. He doesn’t just insist on four lanes of traffic for children to cross instead of the two-lane plus turn lane “Complete Street” project. He plans to narrow each lane, packing cars closer in together while also extending turn lanes to allow cars to drive even faster on a road already known for excessive speeding.

Children from four different public schools must cross Bay to Bay daily to go to and from school. Two of these schools, Roosevelt Elementary and Plant High, will be impacted by the failure of the redesign effort. Had Bay to Bay plans moved forward, the project’s designers (City employees) intended to extend the safer road design further, improving safety for Mabry Elementary and Coleman Middle School students. Now that won’t happen either.

Most parents and students crossing Bay to Bay will tell you: this is a risky crossing, either by car or on foot. So why has Buckhorn refused to consider children’s needs in the neighborhood traffic plans? Why put cars first, kids last?

Tampa is consistently one of the most dangerous places to be on the roads. When Buckhorn himself asked the community, over 80% of those surveyed said fixing our transportation problems was the project they most wanted to see his waning administration take on. But Buckhorn has repeatedly blocked efforts to include pedestrians and cyclists – and especially children – in any development plans.

Buckhorn should take notes from other cities that have navigated rapid growth. Complete Streets, bike lanes, pedestrian pathways – these are all methods other communities have used to alleviate traffic woes.

Mayor Buckhorn, your unilateral decision to abandon months of planning and research puts our children at risk getting to school. Showing up at public marches talking about student safety is a great photo op but does nothing to address the time when children are most in danger in our community: on the road to school.

Mayor Buckhorn, please hold a public hearing to address your brand new, untested, unresearched plan for Bay to Bay. Allow the people who actually live here to offer their opinion on how their neighborhood will work.

Mayor Buckhorn, children are more important than fast cars.

The Story of Sterling Avenue: Getting over the Hump

Driving down Sterling Avenue north of Plant High School, cars slow to pass over a series of speed tables.

The City of Tampa says this sign, the only speed deterrent on Sterling Avenue, is not enforceable.

The City of Tampa says this sign, the only speed deterrent on Sterling Avenue, is not enforceable.

Driving down Sterling Avenue to the south, particularly south of Bay to Bay Blvd., it’s a different story – with no stop signs, no crosswalks, and not even enforceable speed limit signs, there is no deterrent to excessive speeding.

Who took speed tables off the table on Tampa streets?

Speed tables, or speed humps, are long, flat speed bumps designed to slow but not halt traffic, typically 6 feet long and 3 to 4 inches high. According to the Institute of Transportation Engineers, installing speed tables can reduce crash incidents by 45%. They have been popularly used in large US cities, including Oakland, CA, Austin, TX, and New York City. Other countries, including the UK and Australia have used speed tables more widely.

Ben Donnell on Sterling Avenue and sees people speed past his house daily. “My concern is [Corona] park. Kids walk there by themselves and there are a lot of people with strollers,” he says. Donnell called the City of Tampa to look into installing speed tables on Sterling Avenue.

However, funding for speed tables as a traffic calming measure has been eliminated, Donnell discovered. The City recommends only speed limit enforcement, in spite of the fact that there no posted speed limits on Sterling.

This leaves residents near Sterling with a couple of options: request regular police presence on this street (an unlikely use of police resources) or initiate and fund a speed table project as a neighborhood.

Donnell lays out the process as explained to him by City officials:

  • Enlist neighborhood association support for the project, specifically financial support.
  • Petition the City to have speed tables installed – this would need resident buy-in
  • Get a work permit of the City (including approval from emergency services)
  • Hire a city-approved contractor to construct speed tables

After hearing Donnell’s concerns, the City of Tampa will be conducting a two-week traffic study of Sterling Ave. between Bay to Bay and El Prado sometime in the next two months.

This section of Sterling lacks any traffic calming measures. People rarely park on Sterling and the paving is smooth. Not only are there zero stop signs for this half-mile stretch, there are not even any crosswalks to guide students walking or biking to Roosevelt Elementary, Plant High School, or middle school bus stops or to help people reach Corona Park, popular especially with young children.

With Tampa ranking as one of the most dangerous cities for pedestrians in the United States, with a rise in the number of children in this neighborhood using Sterling Avenue to access public schools and a public park, with data clearly demonstrating the link between speed and car crash incidents, it is time to take a closer look at the kind of traffic calming measures the City of Tampa employs in our neighborhoods.

Make speed tables, proven-effective internationally and locally, part of the solution. 

Check out the recent WFLA story about Sterling Avenue speeders.

Sidewalk Stompers Wins Planning Commission Community Engagement Award

The Sidewalk Stompers are proud to announce that the Hillsborough County Planning Commission's 35th Annual Planning & Design Awards program has honored us with an Outstanding Contribution to the Community award for 2017.


Sidewalk Stompers founders Emily Hinsdale, Tim Scheu and Vanessa Rukholm, along with Roosevelt Elementary School Principal Christina Dickens attended the award ceremony on Oct. 19th.


"We were honored to be in the room with so many remarkable people in the planning community who have put together incredible projects ranging from 'complete street' initiatives to public art installations. We are very proud of the Sidewalk Stompers, the Roosevelt PTA, Palma Ceia businesses and especially the wonderful Roosevelt students and parents for their hard work, turning a weekly Walk to School into a neighborhood initiative that can truly engender positive steps toward building safer routes to school," says Emily Hinsdale.


Thank you to the Planning Commission for the award. Thank you to Walk Bike Tampa, Lisa Silva, and Cindy Stuart for their encouragement and support.


Thank you Roosevelt Elementary School! Can't wait to see where we can walk together next!


Palma Ceia Residents & Roosevelt Parents on Danger of Bay to Bay Blvd

Palma Ceia residents and Roosevelt Elementary School parents who must cross Bay to Bay to reach the school share their thoughts:

Monica O’Flanagan, Palma Ceia resident and Roosevelt Elementary parent:
“We have been walking to Roosevelt with two of our children for 8 years now. We have witnessed countless close calls between pedestrians and cars, accidents and discourteous driving at the intersection of Bay to Bay and Concordia.  It is still shocking to me that there are no safety precautions in place to protect elementary-aged children walking to school. Walking to school provides exercise to students (and parents!), reduces traffic congestion through our neighborhoods, encourages community interaction and is a small step in reducing our carbon footprint. This should be encouraged and our children should feel safe.”

Monica Chandler, Palma Ceia resident and Roosevelt Elementary parent:
“I have experienced countless incidents where cars run the red light, turn quickly off Bay to Bay without yielding, or simply don’t pay attention to the pedestrian traffic at that corner. It has been enough to cause me to not walk my children to school. [The Concordia and Bay to Bay] corner is the safest light to cross Bay to Bay, yet it is still not safe.”

Nicki Rawlings, Roosevelt Elementary parent:
“[My daughter] attends Roosevelt Elementary IPEEPS (ESE-Special Education) program. We walk daily from our home on Bayshore Blvd to the school via Macdill to Bay to Bay to Ferdinand.  A direct route to the school is not more readily available because of the railroad tracks and Leroy Selmon Crosstown Expressway.  The 15-minute walk entails crossing Macdill and crossing the exit ramp from the Crosstown as it approaches Bay to Bay.  Because drivers are allowed to ‘yield’ if they are making a right hand turn and drivers are allowed to exit the expressway at high speeds, often times, despite the pedestrian signal in my favor, I am met by a speeding vehicle making the curve without realization that they need to stop for persons in the crosswalk. Additionally, often times drivers block the pedestrian crosswalk trying to merge into traffic on Bay to Bay.”

Lori Jennis, Palma Ceia resident and Roosevelt Elementary parent:
“We have walked our children to Roosevelt Elementary for the past six years and have often witnessed near-miss accidents involving pedestrians, car-to-car collisions that could cause secondary impacts to pedestrians, and just plain ignorant drivers unaware that it is the only designated school crossing point on Bay to Bay Blvd.

"The Concordia – Bay to Bay intersection is a multiple threat collision point as it currently exists. There are poorly marked crosswalks, limited pedestrian crossing signals, and no crossing guards or Slow Motor Vehicle Speed Limits during school hours.  I am amazed to see crossing guards, speed restrictions, flashing beacons, and other high visibility deterrents when traveling through other school crossing zones on mere two-lane city roads.

“Besides the imminent threat of a pedestrian or child’s death, what will it take to improve this major school crosswalk to national DOT/FHWA standards?

An Open Letter in Favor of an Optimized, Three-Lane Bay to Bay Boulevard

To Whom it May Concern:

Sidewalk Stompers, a parent-led, Palma-Ceia-based organization focused on safe pedestrian pathways to school, is in strong support of a redesigned Bay to Bay Blvd that reduces the number of car lanes to incorporate dedicated bicycle lanes and a central turning lane. Improving Bay to Bay’s function is essential to the future success of our school-focused pedestrian project.

Sidewalk Stompers promotes walking/biking to school as a healthy, community-building activity for our neighborhood children. In concert with the Roosevelt Elementary School Parent Teacher Association, we hold monthly Walk to School Wednesday events, where we have seen a more than 2x increase in participation. Our school has been commended by the Metropolitan Planning Organization and the school board for our efforts to provide a responsible path for getting children to school.

However, outdated and non-existent road safety infrastructure has proven a major impediment. School pedestrian programs cannot grow if students cannot safely walk along school routes.

Bay to Bay Blvd. is a significant barrier, bisecting the neighborhood of Palma Ceia. Residents on the north side of Bay to Bay must cross four lanes of traffic to reach their children’s district-assigned elementary school, Roosevelt. The crossing is particularly daunting during morning rush hour, as sunrise dangerously limits eastbound traffic visibility.

Sidewalk Stompers has made every effort to increase safety at crossings on Bay to Bay Blvd. We have educated the children about pedestrian safety rules and laws as well as common sense efforts to reduce risk. We have instituted a “flag bucket program,” providing students with large, orange traffic flags to make them more visible crossing the street. We have requested that our decades out-of-date traffic lights be replaced with current approved models.

A three-lane approach that serves a similar volume of traffic, while better ensuring pedestrian and bicycle safety seems the obvious solution.

We are asking Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa to include the needs of Bay to Bay area school children in any planning. Reformatting this dangerous road as a three-lane route with bike access and well-marked and updated crosswalks is essential to our neighborhood and our children.


Sidewalk Stompers

RelatedPalma Ceia Residents & Roosevelt Parents On Danger Of Bay To Bay Blvd

Considering Safety First

(This piece was originally published as a Guest Column in the April 23, 2017 Print Edition of the Tampa Tribune.) 

New Bell Schedule Increases Pressure on Sub-Standard Student Pathways to School

By Emily L. Hay Hinsdale & Tim Scheu

You’re 11 years old. You’re standing on the sidewalk by a four-lane highway, speed limit 40mph. The challenge: Reach the other side of the highway through rush hour traffic and make it to school by 9:30a.m. Ready?

No, this isn’t a video game; this is the proposed plan to get Hillsborough County students to school starting this fall.

According to a recent report by Smart Growth America, the Tampa Bay area is already one of the top 10 most dangerous metro areas for pedestrians. With diminished school busing already assumed, the proposed bell schedule changes only exacerbate that challenge and increase pressure on the region’s road safety infrastructure to protect kids accessing public education.

Should the school district’s proposed bell schedule changes meet with the school board’s approval on April 25th, here is what morning school transportation will look like for district students:

  1. High School, 7:15a.m. Transportation options include an increasingly limited supply of school buses, rides with parents or via their own cars, public transportation, and walking/biking. For a portion of the year, students will be on the way to school in the dark, crossing highways and roads with no sidewalks, faded or non-existent crosswalks, few traffic lights, and no crossing guards.

  2. Middle School, 9:30a.m. Transportation options are the same for middle schoolers as for high schoolers, minus student drivers. With a mid-morning start time, well after most parents’ jobs start, many 11-14-year-old students will be reaching school by themselves, traveling as far as (just under) 2 miles across highways and through rush-hour traffic.

  3. Elementary School, 8:30a.m. Most elementary schools will have limited to non-existent school busing options next year, meaning that students will arrive at school by walking/biking or being driven by parents. As with middle school students, children whose parents’ jobs begin before 8:30a.m. will be approaching schools by themselves.

There is an opportunity here for the school board, school district, Hillsborough County and City of Tampa to work in concert for a goal that should be desired by all: responsibly and safely moving students from their homes to their schools. As the law of the land requires children to attend school, it becomes a job for all of us to make it safe for them to do so.

Many safety measures are simple, but will require appropriate budgeting buy-in from our elected representatives: include pedestrian safety education in school programs, bring crosswalks on school walking routes up to current code, install more effective signage around school zones that is clear for pedestrians and drivers, mandate sidewalk construction near schools, and provide more responsive crossing lights near schools.

District officials are under pressure to operate responsibility, ensuring that revenues cover the cost of school bussing. They’ve demonstrated creativity in offering a new, albeit controversial, bell schedule. It would seem similarly prudent to ensure that safe pathways for our kids are also in place. It’s not clear how they model the cost of student fatalities, but accidents like that can’t help the bottom line.

We urge our city, county, and school representatives to take a proactive approach to student transportation. Prioritize discussions about student safety before the vote on April 25. Consider the suite of needed infrastructure improvements. Imagine yourself or your kids in the shoes of that 11-year-old, approaching that four-lane highway. What’s it going to take to make you feel safe?  

Emily L. Hay Hinsdale and Tim Scheu are two of the Co-Founders of Sidewalk Stompers, a Tampa-based effort powering community building and safer pedestrian pathways via school-based walking programs and public advocacy. For more information see