Let’s make our future schools bike- and pedestrian-friendly!

Should the driveway to a school parking lot cross the main sidewalk where pedestrians and bicyclists are entering the school?  Is a separated bicycle lane or greenway possible leading up to a school?  What elements make for a safe and welcoming school entrance?

DSC_0910 (2) Let's make sure our future schools are safe and convenient for all modes of transportation.

These are some of the difficult questions that the City of Seattle School Traffic Safety Committee discussed on Tuesday in a meeting with architects, school principals and construction managers involved in the construction and planning of three new schools as part of the BEX levy.

With the recent attention on traffic safety around schools, the Traffic Safety Committee (TSC) requested a meeting with the architects and construction managers for several of the planned new buildings. Among the organizations represented on the TSC were Cascade Bicycle Club, Seattle Public Schools, Seattle Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School (SRTS), Feet First and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways. Tuesday’s meeting was exciting for us, as it marked the first time in recent memory that the committee discussed bike and pedestrian accessibility in the planning stages of new schools.

What may look like a great design to the architects and landscape designers -- taking into account all of the site restrictions and neighborhood codes -- may still fall short when looked at through the lens of bike and pedestrian access. So after the architects had presented their ideas, community representatives and bike/ped experts were encouraged to provide their comments in the hopes of building schools that are safe and convenient for all modes of transportation.

The following bike/ped improvements are examples of the proposals that will be considered:

- One of the schools is constrained by space limitations and limited neighborhood parking. A proposal suggests that a city park located just two blocks away could serve as a remote drop-off site for parents and/or buses if there’s a walking school bus in place to take the kids the remaining two blocks to school. This park could potentially also be used for outdoor school activities given the lack of an outdoor field on the small school building lot.

- In another school design, the architects had proposed a bus drop-off area on the paved playground due to the limited neighborhood parking spaces.  Instead, they are now exploring the option of moving the buses to a place where they won’t come in conflict with children and families walking and biking to school. A  welcoming “community entrance archway” for walkers and bikers could be build where the bus entrance to the playground would have been.

This meeting is an example of what can be accomplished when we give opinions and options in the early stages of a planning process, before the plans are finalized. We are inspired by what these future schools can look like, and thank the architects for being receptive to our ideas.