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Two chances this week to weigh in on school road safety investments


Image from SDOT

One of Seattle’s smartest road safety strategies in recent years has been its school road safety efforts, funded in large part by school zone speeding cameras.

You have two chances this week to weigh in on the efforts and help guide investments:

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  • Tuesday (today), 6 p.m. at Northeast Branch Library (NE 68th St and 35th Ave NE)
  • Thursday, 6 p.m. at Garfield Community Center (23rd and Cherry)

The city’s efforts are brilliant, combining immediate and permanent solutions to school zone safety and giving more students the opportunity to walk or bike to class. Once speed cameras are installed, the number of people speeding near the school plummets almost immediately. People who get one ticket very rarely get a second, which is a good sign that the cameras are effective at encouraging people to change their speeding habits near schools.

But the truly brilliant part of the system is that the city then takes the money generated by the speeding cameras and invests it into Safe Routes to School projects that make permanent road safety changes, like installing safe crossings of busy streets, missing sidewalks, flashing school zone signs, speed humps and other needed complete streets elements. The city also invests in road safety education and bike/walk encouragement efforts.

This year, the city has already installed flashing school zone signs at 11 schools in all over town. The city has also completed significant safety improvements in Olympic Hills and Roxhill with plans for 14 more projects (.docx), many of which will be installed by the end of the year. See more details via the city’s Safe Routes to School page.

The city is seriously tackling the goal of having zero dangerous streets near schools. I can’t imagine a better city transportation effort. So go to one of the meetings and let the city know you support these smart investments.

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways has put together these ideas to bring with you to the meetings:

  1. Quickly grow the 20 mph School Speed Camera program so that every school can benefit. Currently, Seattle has 20 mph School Speed Cameras at just eight Seattle Public Schools. This program is a huge win-win. People who speed in school zones pay a hefty fine and comply with school speed zones in the future. Win. The fines provide millions of dollars each year in school road safety improvements in the school walk zone. Double win! We’d love to see this program expand as fast as possible to as many schools as possible.
  2. Approve Enforcement Cameras on School Bus Stop Signs and put violation monies into school walk zone improvements. In the one-day May 2014 annual count of school bus stop sign violations, 370 Seattle drivers did not stop, up 16% from 2013. Approve the Enforcement Cameras on School Buses and invest this money into priority school walk zone improvements.
  3. Extend investments in school road safety to entire school walk zone, not just crosswalks. The bulk of Safe Routes to School money goes into needed improvements adjacent to schools: crosswalks, signals, traffic islands, sidewalks along the face of the school. However, children usually walk from many blocks to their schools. Spend the discretionary money that comes from 20 mph School Speed Cameras and the School Bus Stop Violation Cameras into priority road safety improvements throughout the school walk zone. Greenways Go to School.
  4. Prioritize investments equitably in areas with families that do not have access to cars. While all children have the right to safely walk or bike to school, there are priority areas of great cultural and economic diversity in Seattle where families do not have the option to drive their children to school. Prioritize these equity areas for road safety investments first.
  5. Create a citywide agreement to expedite access through School property to connect safe street networks. Several existing and planned greenway routes could benefit from easements on Seattle Public School property. For example, the Wallingford Greenway could have an easement through the Lincoln School property, and the Wilson Pacific School could provide a small easement through N 92nd St to connect the Greenwood-Licton Greenway. These easements will require a Memo of Understanding between SDOT and SPS. Please put a process in place to create a “blanket MOU” to simplify and expedite these easements.
  6. Bring information about YOUR local school safety issues. Bring photographs, maps, diagrams, and specific stories as useful documentation.

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8 responses to “Two chances this week to weigh in on school road safety investments”

  1. Josh

    Just one question… why should automated crossing protection be limited to kids getting off of school buses?

    School zones cry out for automated enforcement cameras at crosswalks, too. Washington law is easier to enforce, too — we’re not a “yield” state, but a “stop” state — drivers approaching an occupied crosswalk must stop and remain stopped.

    It seems like an obvious opportunity for camera enforcement of one of the most fundamental rules of the road.


    1. Tom Fucoloro

      That’s a very interesting idea. I have never heard of an automated system for this, but I would love to know if anyone has ever tried something like it.

      The problem with typical crosswalk stings is that it takes at least two officers to conduct (one to walk and get cut-off, another to pull the offender over). While I think it’s worth it, coming up with an easier-to-conduct enforcement effort could do wonders for people’s consciousness of crosswalk laws.

      Some subtleties might be hard to catch, such as instances where the person on foot waves a person driving or biking through (would clearly look like failure to yield, but is actually safe). But I’d be really interested to see more on this idea.

      1. Josh

        Also, if the system works like red light cameras, the potential infraction is generated automatically, but a local law enforcement officer reviews video of each potential infraction before actually issuing a citation. The automated system may generate false positives, but video review can strip them out of the ticket stream.

        Note, however, that the law doesn’t actually *allow* a pedestrian to wave a driver through — the legal requirement is to stop and remain stopped until the crosswalk is clear.

        That can matter when there are multiple crosswalk users — I might wave you through, not realizing that a small child has just stepped into the crosswalk on the far side of the street. If you go on my wave, you’ve violated the child’s crosswalk right-of-way, but I might also have some liability for encouraging you to do so.

  2. Gary

    If we just made it possible for more kids to walk and bicycle to school there would be fewer parents dropping kids off at school. And they are the worse offenders of the lot.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      I just got a press release from Seattle Schools. Here’s a sentence from it:

      “Next year’s expected enrollment growth of 1,300 students means the district will be serving 6,400 more students next year than in 2009. ”

      All these kids cannot be driven to school. It just doesn’t work, and it makes the area around a school more dangerous at the exact time when it needs to be safest. So walking and biking to school could also be seen as a school capacity issue.

  3. Jayne

    I have no involvement in the public school system whatsoever. Do schools do any kind of outreach to parents at the beginning of the school year regarding the correct way to behave in proximity to the school? Addressing driver behavior in this way should be mandatory.

    1. Matthew

      I do have two children in Seattle Schools. Hamilton International School does send out information on the correct route to use when dropping off children; it may be as much to reduce congestion as for safety. Daniel Bagley Elementary School also sends out information. The big problem is getting parents to read the material; there is so much information sent home that much of it does not get read. Elementary schools are the worst in my experience. Lots of parents in a hurry, using the “just this one time” excuse over and over.

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