Highlights of the Year – Education Department Pt. 1
school safety

Let’s make our future schools bike- and pedestrian-friendly! Cascade helps shape school designs

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?

These are some of the difficult questions that the city of Seattle School Traffic Safety Committee discussed recently 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. The 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 suggested 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 built 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 have a meeting scheduled with two more architects at the end of October, so we’re continuing to work on safe bike/ped access to schools. We are inspired by what these future schools can look like, and thank the architects for being receptive to our ideas.

 

Middle and High School Urban Riders Camp: Edmonds Edition

Last summer, we had the chance to explore Edmonds and Lynnwood with twelve middle and high school kids by bike in a weeklong camp. This camp is an example of what we hope to do more of in the future.

We started the week with learning skills that would help students safely navigate through the community. From changing gears and braking to hand signals and left turns, we encouraged riders to make smart choices.

The rest of the week we spent time putting what the students learned into practice. They used bike lanes to get to Lynnwood Bowl and Skate. The students were excited to get somewhere that they didn’t think was possible by bike – they initially wanted to know how they were going to get to the bowling alley as part of the biking camp field trip, not believing that they were actually going to bike there.

They had a little bit of rain on their ride to the Edmonds Ferry Dock, which made for some slick riding. The kids took their time and left plenty of space between each other’s’ wheels. By the time they made it to the beach, the weather cleared up, and they had time to skip rocks in the water and get themselves some Fro-Yo before heading back.

On the last day, they used all their skills to ride 17 miles to Martha Lake. We made it to the Lake in 55 minutes and celebrated with lunch, ice cream sandwiches and a game of ultimate frisbee. On our way back, riders had the opportunity to take turns leading. 

HUGE thank you goes out to Verdant Health Commission for supporting such a great camp! And congratulations to all these great riders. They put in 50 miles with nothing but smiles on their faces! And they learned that bikes can be used for transportation and fun, to get to places in their neighborhoods!

The work our education team does in schools is made possible through your support to the Education Foundation. Please return the enclosed envelope with your year-end gift today or give online at : www.cascade.org/donate.

 

Julie Salathe
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