Seattle Public Schools will identify safe walking routes for walking school buses for every K-8 school in the district as part of a plan to prevent car drop-offs.
Providing safe ways for kids to bike and walk to school is one of the biggest and most popular effects of neighborhood greenway, and many of the neighborhood groups pushing the projects have identified routes that pass within a block or two of schools.
Navigating the insane school drop-off zones is among the most dangerous activities a child will face on an average day (whether they walk or are driven). Crossing guards, safe infrastructure, walking school buses, bike trains and safe route advice can go a long way in changing the way children arrive to class each day.
Plus, studies consistently show that kids who walk or bike to school arrive more ready to learn than kids who do not get a little exercise before classes begin, and the mission of getting more kids to walk and bike to school has galvanized parents across the city to get organized behind the call for safe streets.
But, of course, this news comes as the US House is working to demolish the federal Safe Routes to School program in favor of more oil and highway subsidies.
With a unanimous vote of the Seattle School Board on February 1, 2012, the Seattle Public Schools (SPS) officially made Safe Routes to School a key part of their transportation strategy. The School Board voted to adopt new language into their Transportation Service Standards, integrating walking and biking into the pupil transportation plan. Titled “Safe Routes to School / Biking & Walking Student Wellness Plan,” the new provision intends to:
- Continue employing adult crossing guards within the K-8 school boundaries;
- Conduct an annual mode choice survey in every K-8 school in the district; and
- Identify safe walking routes for Walking School Buses at every K-8 school beginning in the 2013-2014 school year.
This policy enhancement is a critical piece of the district’s shift to neighborhood schools. The progressive policy proposed by Seattle Public Schools Transportation Director Tom Bishop, seeks to make it easier for families to walk to their neighborhood schools following a district-wide consolidation and reduction of bus service. “Nobody wants to see an increase in single-vehicle rides to neighborhood schools,” Bishop says, “but with parent concerns about pedestrian safety, we know it’s a risk. By supporting walking school buses, the district is working to make it easier for more children to walk to school.” And the community will also reap the benefits of the school district’s efforts with a reduction of traffic. According to the National Center for Safe Routes to School, 10 to 14 percent of morning traffic is attributable to children being driven to school.