Mayor McGinn announced three significant Safe Routes to School projects during a press event Wednesday as part of his ongoing 2013-14 city budget proposal roll-out. In doing so, he also stressed the importance not only of road safety, but the effect a safe route to school can have on the health of Seattle’s young people. From the Mayor’s Office:
“These projects will help improve safety for our children, and improve the quality of life near these neighborhood schools,” said McGinn.
McGinn made the announcement at West Woodland Elementary School in Ballard. A Safe Routes to School project there will upgrade a half-signal to a full signal and install new marked crosswalks and curb ramps at Northwest 58th Street and 8th Avenue Northwest. This is a project that is also part of the proposed Ballard Greenway, a neighborhood-initiated project to improve conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists.
The funding includes a project near Beacon Hill Elementary, installing curb bulbs, curb ramps and a pedestrian island at Beacon Avenue South and 14th Avenue South. Also funded are improvements near McGilvra Elementary at East Madison Street & 37th Avenue East, including a sidewalk extension, curb bulbs and curb ramps.
The $800,000 in funding is from City’s Real Estate Excise Tax, which by law must go to fund capital projects such as these.
Safe Routes to School projects are obviously not just about getting to school. For example, one of the proposed projects is a crossing improvement at Beacon Ave and 14th Ave S. That intersection (pictured above via Google Street View) is extremely poorly-designed and unnecessarily dangerous for anyone trying to access Beacon Ave and 14th Ave businesses. In an attempt to make the streets safer for children, they will also become safer for everyone.
The projects also highlight the connection between neighborhood greenways and Safe Routes to School. The more I think about neighborhood greenways, the less I see them as bike routes and bike facilities because that mentality vastly undersells the biggest benefits of the projects. 14th Ave S is a fantastic bike route between North Beacon Hill and Georgetown. But the biggest benefit from this new crossing is the improvements to neighborhood life (businesses, schools, homes, libraries, etc), not the improvement of a bike route.