It’s back to school time! We’re keeping kids safe on the way to class & helping them use transit

Photo credit: SDOT

Summary:

  • Kids are heading back to school and it’s important to keep them safe: drive the speed limit, obey signs, and expect more families on our sidewalks and streets. 

  • School zone safety cameras are being turned on starting September 1. The speed limit in school zones is 20 mph when the lights are flashing, so drive slow and pay attention to keep kids and families safe and avoid getting a ticket.  

  • Schools, PTAs, and community groups can apply for a Safe Routes to School Mini-Grant and get up to $1,000 to encourage kids to walk and bike to school. 

  • In 2020 and so far in 2021, we have built a total of 29 Safe Routes to School projects. We are continuing to build new improvements to make it easier and safer for students to walk, roll, and bike to school.  

  • School Streets close some streets to most cars and open them to students and guardians walking, biking, and rolling to and from school. 

  • And, we give free ORCA cards to all high school and income-eligible middle school students attending Seattle Public Schools. These ORCA cards are good for unlimited free rides to encourage students to take transit. 

School goes back into session starting next week! That means sharing the road with children walking, biking and taking the bus to school. We all have a part to play to keep kids and families safe: drive the speed limit, obey signs, and expect more families and kids on our sidewalks and streets.   

Photo credit: SDOT

People driving should slow down and pay attention. Follow the speed limit to avoid getting a ticket when school zone safety cameras are turned back on. 

Starting on September 1, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) will turn on school zone safety cameras throughout Seattle.  Cameras are located around the city and automatically send tickets to drivers photographed speeding. Lights on the signs will flash on school days during arrival and dismissal, warning drivers to slow down, keep our students safe, and avoid getting a ticket in the mail.  

Photo credit: SDOT

School zone safety cameras only operate when the school zone flashing beacons operating. We set the flashing beacon schedule based on when students arrive and leave school grounds. To determine what school zones require a safety camera, SDOT looks into criteria such as vehicle speed, traffic counts, and geographical balance. Check out this brochure to find the locations and specific times of operations for school safety cameras in your neighborhood.

Currently, there are 14 schools that have safety cameras in the Seattle area, including two new additions at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic School on 35th Ave SW between SW Willow St and SW Othello in West Seattle and Whitter Elementary School on NW 80th Street between 12th Avenue NW and 14th Avenue NW in Crown Hill. 

The speed limit is 20 mph near schools and along residential streets that don’t have a dividing yellow center line. For most other streets with a dividing center line or multiple lanes, the speed limit is 25 mph, unless you see a sign specifically saying otherwise. Over the past year, SDOT has lowered speed limits throughout the entire city and on many state routes as part of our Vision Zero effort to end traffic deaths and serious injuries on city streets by 2030. 

The goal is to improve safety by reducing speeds, not to issue tickets. Driving the speed limit saves lives. Lower speeds help prevent car crashes, and also drastically reduce the likelihood that someone hit by a car will be killed. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 20 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 30 mph, according to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.


Schools, PTAs, and community groups can apply for a Safe Routes to School Mini-Grant up to $1,000 to support and encourage kids to walk and bike to school. 

Safe Routes to School Mini Grants are for small projects like bicycle helmet giveaways, blinking lights for students walking and biking, pedestrian crossing flags, walking school buses, and more. We are now offering the Mini Grants on a rolling basis. Nonprofits, Seattle schools, and school-oriented community organizations can apply for a grant any time of year and can receive up to $1,000. 

Photo credit: SDOT

Also, we have a new application system. To apply, follow this link. We’ve also developed a how-to guide to help you apply.


SDOT has completed 29 Safe Route to School projects in 2020 and so far in 2021 to increase safety for people walking, rolling, and biking to and around schools. 

Safe Routes to School is a national movement to make it easier and safer for students to walk, roll, and bike to school. In 2020 and 2021 thus far, SDOT has completed 29 Safe Routes to School projects funded by Levy to Move Seattle tax dollars (see map below), with 4 additional projects currently under construction.  

These projects include a new Neighborhood Greenway, crossing improvements, speed humps, and other safety improvements to slow people driving down and make people walking, rolling, and biking more comfortable and visible.  

But it doesn’t stop there. We continue to make our streets safe for our youngest travelers and their families. The Safe Routes to School projects that are currently in construction are:  

  • Raised crosswalk across on 30th Ave NE at NE 75th St for Eckstein Middle School  
  • Walk signal at MLK Jr Way and E Alder St for Garfield High School and Leschi Elementary School  
  • Walk signal at 12th Ave NE and NE 67th St for Roosevelt High School  
  • Walkway on 15th Ave NW from NW 95th St to NW 96th St for Whitman Middle School 

Last April we rolled out, “School Streets,” which closes streets to most cars and open them to students and guardians walking, biking, and rolling to and from school. 

We’re supporting schools that prefer to limit driving around school entrances. Similar to Stay Healthy Streets, these School Streets also provide more space for social distancing at school pick-up and drop-off. 

School Streets are one or two blocks directly next to schools and clearly marked with “street closed” signs. This means that they are closed to all pass-through traffic. So far we have opened School Streets near LowellEmersonRoxhillOlympic Hills, Montlake, Whittier and Wing Luke Elementary Schools and Jane Addams Middle School. We continue to support any additional schools who request similar street closures.  

Know a school who might be interested in closing streets next to their schools?  School representatives can still sign up to participate!  

For everyone’s safety, families dropping or picking up children should avoid driving or parking on these streets. School buses and students with mobility needs may still access the block. People driving who need to get to homes and businesses on a School Street are also able to drive on them. People driving should use caution and yield to people on the street and families enjoying the street should be mindful of drivers too.

Photo credit: SDOT

Over the past year, SDOT has also opened up about 25 miles of Stay Healthy Streets (map) which are closed to pass-through car traffic and open to people walking, biking, skating and rolling. Many of these Stay Healthy Streets go to schools and are a great way for families to be active on their way to school, especially if your Seattle Public School bus service is no longer running. 


And, if you’re a student who takes public transportation to school… 

We give unlimited use, 12-month ORCA cards at no cost to high school and income-eligible middle school students at Seattle Public Schools as well as Seattle Promise Scholars, through our ORCA Opportunity Youth program.   

This year, we rolled out a new application for our middle schoolers through the City’s Affordability Portal. This makes it easier for families to get an ORCA card for their child.  The form is now available at: Middle School ORCA Application. 

Photo credit: SDOT

High school students can pick up an ORCA card at their school. Look for information from your school to learn what dates your student can collect their card. Please remember all high school students are required to complete a Conditions of Use form to receive one.

Seattle Promise Scholars are able to pick up their cards during Summer Bridge on September 14 and 15. 

Photo credit: SDOT

We encourage your family to walk, bike, take the school bus, or use public transit to help reduce traffic congestion and reduce greenhouse gases near our schools.  

We can all play a part in keeping our children safe. Let’s exercise extra care and caution to help keep kids and families safe on their journey to and from school. And remember, to always wear your mask when you are on the bus or light rail.  

Good luck on the first day of school, and stay safe! 

For more information:

School Zone Safety Cameras

Safe Routes to School Mini Grants

Safe Routes to School

School Streets

ORCA Opportunity Youth Program