Do your streets pass the 8-to-80 test?

Work Zone Safety

Crossing a five-lane road with no pedestrian signal can be dangerous because a wheelchair can’t go fast enough to make it across before the light changes. At JMTE, we make sure our planning documents focus on the 8-to-80 model, which is “Can an eight-year-old on a bike and an 80-year-old out for a walk both navigate their streets safely?” Our design standards and project recommendations always feature accessibility standards and consider the overall network for connectivity. Call us today at 828.456.8383 with questions or more information.

ADA standards are personal for Kenny Armstrong
As a parent of young children, with strollers, scooters, and bicycles in tow, I am overly aware of the physical constraints that limit mobility wherever I go. There are often utility poles blocking a sidewalk, pedestrian crossings that force you to stand in the roadway to reach the button, driveway cuts so harsh they are a tripping hazard, and travel lanes so close to the sidewalk that people are at serious risk of getting their elbows knocked by car mirrors going 45 mph.
I am also close with my aunt, whose battle with multiple sclerosis has reduced her movement to wherever she can go in an electric wheelchair. When she began to lose muscle function, she at first used a cane, then a walker, and eventually the wheelchair. This means she cannot enjoy many of my daughter’s soccer games, has an incredibly hard time navigating narrow downtown sidewalks, and is often constrained by inaccessible buildings – two steps may not seem like much, but can force you to reconsider your plans altogether if you are in a wheelchair.
It can be frustrating, especially in situations where genuine effort was made but is ultimately insufficient. For example, many places may have ADA compliant curb ramps, but not enough time is allowed for a wheelchair to cross the street in one signal cycle. She now lives with her sister, who helps her with daily functions and driving places in a wheelchair-adapted van. She enjoys her garden and birdwatching and has the world at her fingertips thanks to phone and tablet technology, though her ability to grip and control her fingers continues to wane.
As the transportation planner at JMTE, I make sure that our planning documents focus on the 8-to-80 model, which is “Can an eight-year-old on a bike and an 80-year-old out for a walk both navigate their streets safely?” If not, then they are inadequate, so our design standards and project recommendations always feature accessibility standards and consider the overall network for connectivity. Sometimes, an overlooked segment of missing sidewalk can be critical for those with mobility constraints, so we make sure to listen to people’s stories of daily commute patterns and ongoing frustrations. We prioritize projects that will have the biggest return on investment for a client, with simple fixes and small-scale improvements often making the top of the list because they can have a dramatic impact on accessibility.
Many of JMTE’s projects directly affect the needs of differently abled people, playing a role in connecting our transportation systems and making sure the public realm can be used and enjoyed by everyone. JMTE helps communities with ADA self-assessments, sidewalk condition surveys, pedestrian plans, corridor studies, signal design, wayfinding plans, and parking studies. We always make sure to get input from as diverse a group of residents as possible, highlighting the specific needs of those with mobility impairments and developing recommendations to address them systematically through infrastructure improvements and policy changes.
Ever the optimist, my aunt always spends time with my children, going on trips to zoos and aquariums, and enjoys a weekly game of Scrabble with her siblings. My children love her and have learned so much from her strength. She is an honorary grandma to them, and they are lucky to have her.
I’m proud to honor her commitment by helping communities not only meet federal and state minimum standards but go the extra mile and significantly improve peoples’ daily lives. If you have questions, or I can help you in any way, contact me at, or call us at 828.456.8383.
Kenny joined JMTE in 2016 after completing Western Carolina University’s public affairs graduate program.

What's wrong with these pictures?

Following are some photos provided by the national Safe Routes To Schools (SRTS) Program to help local communities identify the types of common problems that children may encounter on a trip to and from school. Give yourself a quick quiz and see if you can name the problem, then check the answers below. 

The driver entering this street, just before the school crosswalk, is likely looking left for oncoming motor vehicles and may not see the child or the crosswalk to the right. The amount of traffic may be prompting the child to dart across.

Motor vehicle is stopped in the crosswalk and in the red no parking/stopping zone. The red curb paint is faded. In addition, most states require all crosswalks to be white.

There is no paved sidewalk for these students to use, and the rolling terrain can “hide” children walking in the street.

This is a long line of motor vehicle traffic for drop-off and pick-up of school children. The sidewalk on the left side of the street is almost blocked by overgrown bushes.

According to SRTS, school zones ideally start at the school’s front door and encompass not only the campus, but as many blocks as possible around the school. However, many schools, especially in rural areas, aren’t even located in real neighborhoods, which makes developing school zones more challenging. At JMTE, we have years of experience working with school systems and departments of transportation to help assess and improve on-campus and near campus school traffic safety. To find out more, contact Business Developer Dave Gildersleeve today at or 828.456.8383. It’s not to early to be thinking about the new school year!