LEVY DOLLARS AT WORK | The future of Seattle’s Safe Routes to School

Walking to school on Rainier Ave S. Photo Credit: SDOT Flickr.

Safe Routes to School is a national movement to make it easier and safer for students to walk and bike to school. Like many cities, we have a Safe Routes to School program at SDOT focused on reaching this goal in Seattle. 

Through our program, we teach students the joys and health benefits of safe walking, rolling, and biking – and create an environment where they are able and encouraged to do so. This helps to make active transportation a lifelong passion that contributes to community well-being while reducing our city’s carbon footprint. 

Our 2021-2025 SRTS 5-year action plan is for you – our community – to see how we plan to achieve these goals over a five-year period. (Got a minute? Take a look at an overview of the plan.) 

The Safe Routes to School Action Plan 

Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is a national movement to make it easier and safer for students to walk and bike to school.  

The Safe Routes to School Action Plan lays out actions across seven categories that SDOT will take over the next five years to work towards the goal of making it safer and easier for kids to walk, roll, and bike to school: 

 

Foundational to our program, EQUITY is infused into each of the other five categories. Seattle’s Safe Routes to School program is committed to taking a racial justice-driven approach to promote more active commuting among students because all children have the right to health, happiness, and academic success, regardless of race. 

 

ENVIRONMENT: In everything we do, reduce the impact of school travel on the environment and climate change. 

Example SDOT action: To support carbon sequestration and reduce the impacts of increased temperatures, we are focusing our tree planting program along Neighborhood Greenways, routes which have been improved for people walking and biking, in the hottest parts of the city which are also within communities of color. 

 

EDUCATION: Ensure that everyone learns how to travel safely. 

Example SDOT action: Provide in-classroom and/or virtual walking and biking safety education to every 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade student in Seattle every year. 

 

EMPOWERMENT: Provide resources to school champions  

Example SDOT action: Provide up to $1,000 to schools and community groups on a rolling basis for activities that encourage safe walking and biking to school through our Mini Grant program. 

 

ENCOURAGEMENT: Promote walking and biking in the school community  

Example SDOT action: Provide books to students with themes encouraging walking and biking, prioritizing communities of color. 

 

ENGINEERING: Design streets for safety and predictability  

Example SDOT action: Help expand the Neighborhood Greenway network, which provides routes that prioritize people walking and biking, by specifically providing these along routes to school. 

 

EVALUATION: Track progress toward our shared safety goals 

Example SDOT action: Conduct a citywide survey to understand trends in walking and biking to school and evaluate perceptions of safety. 

 

 

Learn more and read the full report at http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/srts
Click the image above for a full-size version.

Our vision for Seattle students is to start their day experiencing the benefits of walking, rolling, and biking to school: having fun, feeling safe, strengthening connections to their communities, arriving to school ready to learn, and improved physical and mental health. 

Our Action Plan contains tried-and-true – and some new! – strategies to help reach these goals.  

Not all kids in Seattle have the same experience while walking and biking in their neighborhoods. There are differences by race, income, ability, gender, and more. To support Seattle’s effort to end institutionalized racism and build a more equitable city, we are focused on removing barriers to walking and biking to school for students in these groups: 

  • Communities of color 
  • Low-income communities 
  • Immigrant and refugee communities 
  • People with disabilities 
  • People experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity 
  • The LGBTQ community 
  • Girls 

So, we’ll continue and expand on what’s working well: 

Dropping off bikes at a school as part of the Let’s Go program. Photo Credit: Seattle Public Schools. 
  • Provide up to $1,000 to schools and community groups on a rolling basis for activities that encourage safe walking and biking to school through our Mini Grant program using the new online grants management system. Schools, PTAs, and other non-profits can apply for mini-grants whenever it works best for them.   
  • Find opportunities to improve lighting for people walking and biking near schools, prioritizing communities of color. 

And we’ll put other ideas in action – including the following – with the support of our community and local leaders: 

  • Develop a playground bicycle course for schools  
  • Support schools and community groups to map walking, rolling, and biking routes to schools  
  • Explore opportunities to partner with Seattle Public Libraries to support childhood literacy, improved learning outcomes, and increased access to libraries through walking, rolling and biking 

Thank you for what you do for Seattle students.  

It takes everyone to make streets safe for kids, whether that means driving the school zone speed limit, walking your child to school if you can, or applying for a mini-grant for your school.  

Together, we’re building a city for everyone – including our youngest walkers, rollers, and cyclists. 

Students crossing School Streets at Whittier Elementary School. Photo Credit: SDOT. 
School Streets at Whittier Elementary School. Photo Credit: SDOT.