Making Safe Routes Safer

Crosswalk enhancements at Coe Elementary

SDOT’s Safe Routes to School Program had a busy summer in preparation for the 2011 – 2012 school year.  Safe Routes to School works to improve safety near schools by installing physical improvements along designated school walking routes.  SDOT works closely with school administrators, teachers, parents, and students to identify barriers to walking and collectively work to devise solutions. 

Coe Elementary was one of six schools to receive improvements this summer.  The top priority of the Coe community was improving conditions on 7th Avenue W.   The existing crosswalk at 7th and Wheeler spanned a wide arterial street where vehicles would often speed.  To improve the crossing, SDOT developed a design to shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians and reduce vehicular speeds in the school zone.

The new bulb on the east side of 7th Ave W

On the east side of the street, a large curb bulb was installed to assist pedestrians walking to and from the entrance to the school.  Curb bulbs extend the sidewalk into the street, reducing the time and distance it takes a pedestrian to cross.  Curb bulbs can also prevent drivers from parking in front of crosswalks or blocking curb ramps. The visibility between drivers and pedestrians is also improved with curb bulbs because pedestrians are much closer to the vehicular travel lanes before stepping off the curb, making crossing locations more recognizable.  Coupled with a chicane on the west side of the intersection, this crossing went from a pre-project width of 40 feet to only 25 feet wide after the concrete cured.  Cat prints were impressed into the new concrete near the school to honor the school mascot – the Cougars.

Looking west across the bulb out. Notice the cat print in the concrete on the lower left side of the photo.

Curb bulbs and chicanes have a natural traffic calming effect which helps reduce vehicle speeds.  Drivers feel more comfortable on wide roads since potential obstacles are further away from the travel lane.  As a result, speeds tend to creep higher on wider streets.  On narrow roads, drivers naturally slow down to adjust to conditions.  Speeds on 7th Avenue W should fall as a result of these improvements.  And if the narrow roadway isn’t enough to slow drivers down when passing the school, the new school zone signage with flashing beacons and increased enforcement from our partners at the Seattle Police Department should do the trick.   

While these new improvements will enhance this area for the Coe crosswalk safety patrol and students, the entire community will undoubtedly benefit.

Check back to the SDOT Blog for more stories about our Safe Routes to School Program in the coming weeks!