The Tyler Loop’s pedestrian scorecard: Bonner Elementary to Hillside Park

The Tyler Loop makes a trip to a destination to decide: "How walkable is Tyler?"

Tyler is a growing city in population and area, boasting about 115,000 residents to date. That number swells to about 250,000 people who enter Tyler daily to work, shop, receive medical care and attend college and university classes. As more drivers are using city streets and highways, traffic inevitably increases. 

Most of Tyler is geared toward travel by car. But how do pedestrians experience the city? 

The Tyler Loop is seeking to answer that question with our Pedestrian Scorecard series, where we join Tylerite walkers through neighborhoods, shopping districts and destinations. 

For our second walk in the series, we joined UT Tyler biology student Esra Malim. Our walk took us from Bonner Elementary School to Hillside Park on Erwin St. The trip lasted fewer than 10 minutes and spanned a little over a third of a mile. 

Through the east side with Esra

Esra’s walk took her from Bonner Elementary to Hillside Park along Saunders Ave. and Erwin St. 📷all photos by Carter Mize

During the school year, Tyler parents and students take the same journey on foot after the last bell rings, whether to relax at Hillside or practice at the nearby soccer fields. 

Bonner Elementary is nestled in a residential neighborhood in east Tyler, just north of the city’s main hospital campuses. Esra led us out of the school parking lot and up two blocks of Saunders Ave. toward Erwin St. There were few hazards or traffic to make crossing difficult immediately surrounding Bonner. 

Saunders Ave. is lined with single family houses, which captured Esra’s attention early on. 

“I like [the neighborhood], it’s so cute.” Esra said. “It looks like everyone’s been gardening.”

Esra said she felt safe within the neighborhood and on its sidewalks, partially because of the quaint, comforting vibe of the homes. She also mentioned walking through driveways and around property fences felt somewhat awkward. 

Besides finding some occasional breaks in sidewalk coverage, our walk along Saunders Ave. went largely uninterrupted — until Esra reached a crosswalk at the intersection of Erwin St. 

The Erwin crosswalk had no guiding signals to ease crossing and protect pedestrians from heavier and faster traffic cruising along the road. Esra struggled to find an appropriate time to cross.

With this crosswalk situated near busy soccer fields, Esra felt like faster traffic could be intimidating for children. 

“It’s kind of dangerous,” she said. “If I was a kid, I don’t know if I’d want to do that. I’d definitely want a parent with me to help me cross the street.” 

Walking one block eastward along Erwin Street brought us near our final stop at Hillside Park, but Esra had to lead us across the busy street again, this time without a painted crosswalk alerting drivers to our presence. 

Hillside Park was easy to spot from across the street. The park features playgrounds, sidewalks and grassy areas, but visitors may first be drawn to the park’s long line of mural paintings by local artists. 

The murals include giant nature scenes, abstract art and a portrait of two adolescents from rivaling Tyler and Legacy high schools. Other areas of the park boasted unique features like the extra-wide slide and bridges made of East Texas ironstone. 

After taking in Hillside’s artwork and resting from the walk, Esra settled on a rating of A- for this pedestrian experience. 

“I think it was a really good walk down from Bonner to Hillside,” Esra said. “There were sidewalks, there were crosswalks, and the only sketchy part was crossing the street to the park itself, because it was kind of busy,” she said.

Esra imagined the walk as part of her daily routine. “If I had a kid at Bonner Elementary and I had to take this walk multiple times to pick them up from school, I would do it because it’s just convenient.There’s cute little houses everywhere.”

Esra gave her walk an A-.

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