Seattle releases unique walking and biking maps for each public school

Map for Orca K-8

Map for Orca K-8

Earlier this month, we reported on the city’s fantastic School Road Safety Plan, designed to help schools, parents, students and the city all work together to end traffic deaths and injuries near schools.

Well, one cool part of that plan was to improve the existing walking maps for each school and add information to help families identify a safe biking route to class. The city released those maps recently.

By marking every single sidewalk and highlighting the best crosswalks, the maps are much more useful for families trying to find the safest and easiest route for their child to bike or walk (though it would be cool to add topographic info for steep hills). The maps also include circles to help you estimate how long it will take to walk or bike to class.

Aside from being good resources for picking a route to school, however, they are also very useful for trying to address your school’s unique transportation challenges. As the map for Orca K-8 above shows, most of the school’s walk zone (where the District does not provide buses) is within a 20–25 minute walk or 10 minute bike ride.

But compare that to Rainier Beach High School, where students are currently protesting the huge walk zones for middle and high schools, arguing that more (or all) students should get free ORCA passes to help them get to class. Look how far many “walk zone” homes are from the 20-minute walk circle around the high school:

Rainier BeachOf course, many students CAN (and do) bike or walk to school in this walk zone. And the school should absolutely do all they can to encourage more students to bike, whether that means helping students get access to a working bike, helping students acquire proper lights for dark months, offering education on how to be safe and confident in traffic, and lobbying the city for safer bike routes throughout the whole school walk zone.

But that’s not good enough. This system is not fair to students who live two miles from school and can’t afford a car or a bus pass. Showing up to school is one of the most important factors in graduation. We can’t let young people fall through the cracks just because they live in a limbo zone in their school’s transportation plan.

You can support the students in their cause by signing this petition on the Transit Riders Union’s website.

More details on the new walking and biking maps from SDOT:

Earlier this month we launched our new Safe Routes to School 5-Year Action Plan called Safe Streets, Healthy Schools and Communities to support reaching our Vision Zero goal to end traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030.

As part of this plan, we developed new walk and bike maps for every public elementary, middle, and high school. These maps help parents and students determine the safest ways to walk and bike to school. They show crossing conditions, walking and biking conditions, and community facilities like community centers, libraries, and parks within each school’s walk zone. If you are a parent of a student at a Seattle Public School, be sure to check out these maps!

The back side of the map will guide you on how to use the map to plot the safest route from home to school. The maps display which neighborhood streets and busy, arterial streets have sidewalks and which don’t, helping you to identify a route to school that avoids busy streets without sidewalks when possible. You can also identify on the maps the safest places to cross busy streets, like adult crossing guards locations, designated school crosswalks, crosswalks with crossing beacons, all way stops, and traffic signals.

Once you’ve identified your best route, be sure to sit down with your child and go over the walking and biking safety tips included on the back side of the map. For walking, these include looking left, right, and left again at all intersections, making eye contact with people driving before crossing the street, and walking on the left side of the street far from traffic on those neighborhood streets that don’t have sidewalks. For bicycling, always wear a helmet, ride predictably and use hand signals, ride in the same direction as traffic, and walk your bike on crosswalks across busy streets.

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23 Responses to Seattle releases unique walking and biking maps for each public school

  1. Mark says:

    I find it interesting that 2 or more miles is a problem to these kids. If a party was 2.2 miles away…would they find a way? If a football game was 3 miles…would they find a way?

    If a girl or a guy wanted to meet them whom they liked…would they find a way?

    You bet they would.

    I commute my kids 2.9 miles on a bike. They will be just fine.

    • Eileen says:

      I think you are missing the point. That’s great you can commute that far with your kids but why does the bar have to be that high for everyone? The point of the article is that it is creating one more barrier between kids and school and is proposing a way to overcome that barrier.

    • CN says:

      I’m glad your kids bike commute, good for them. Do you make sure they have a bike that fits and is well-maintained? Do they bike even if they have to stay late for a group project or a sports practice? Even if they have to carry three giant textbooks and a musical instrument? Even if it’s pouring freezing rain?
      2 miles is a long way for a middle schooler, especially for those who might not have such good support at home. Why would we not want to encourage kids to get to school as much as we can? These maps are a good piece of that and ORCA cards could be too.

  2. Shirley says:

    In briefly looking at the schools in my neighborhood it seems that SDOT forgot to add the East-West Rainier Valley Greenway that is pretty much done. I really hope that SDOT also makes it possible to provide some kind of feedback to add more traffic calming around schools, which are some of the worst places to bike or walk near during peek pick-up and drop off times.

  3. Andres Salomon says:

    I was surprised to not see a map for Roosevelt High School. I see other high schools (like Nathan Hale), though. Oversight?

  4. Shirley says:

    Tom, I sent Yvonee an email letting her know.

    • Shirley says:

      Off all the maps, that one is butt ugly. They should have narrowed it closer to the school, all that green makes it hard to read.

  5. meanie says:

    All of this is nonsense without overlays of the school attendance boundaries. I live two blocks from a elementary school for my kindergartner but we are out of the boundary, so I ride him 1.5 miles in the opposite direction to school each day.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      That’s a good point.

      School attendance boundaries are a whole other monster, influenced by politics and affecting property values. They sadly often have little to do with walkability.

    • Andres Salomon says:

      I’m pretty concerned about this too, although I know there’s been a lot of drama around redrawing the boundaries. My neighbors across the street go to Green Lake, but my kid will be going to Wedgwood (ES). Routes to both are hilly, but at least GL is a gentle slope. Wedgwood is a steep drop and then a steep rise. It would be nice if school boundaries took into account topography, as a means of encouraging active transportation.

  6. Peri Hartman says:

    I’m wondering how a 2 mile radius is supposed to translate to a 20-25 minute walk. Tom mentions that the no-bus service area applies to those living within a 2 mile radius. However, the diagrams in the two maps above show areas which appear to be much smaller than that. The rings do look like they are reasonable close to 10 or 20 minute walk, respectively for both maps.

    Where does the 2 mile radius apply? For a 2 mile radius, those the furthest out would need to walk diagonally, meaning zig-zag, for a total of about 3.5 miles each way. At 20 minutes per mile, which is fairly brisk, that’s over an hour each way.

    While I totally support encouraging walking or biking to school and making it safe, expecting kids to spend an hour each way is not reasonable in my opinion. What am I missing from this story?

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