LEVY DOLLARS AT WORK | The school year is starting! Learn how your student can get to school safely and smoothly 

A crossing guard helps two people on bikes safely cross a street on their way to school. Photo: SDOT.

Summary: 

  • A new school year starts on September 7 at Seattle Public Schools! This blog post features ways for students to get to school safely and effectively, as well as highlighting our ongoing work to improve safe travel to schools. 
  • Thanks to the Levy to Move Seattle, we completed 22 Safe Routes to School projects in 2021 and 5 so far in 2022.  
  • Schools, Parent-Teacher Associations (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. Our program also offers multiple incentives and resources for students and schools. 
  • Public transit is free for students 18 and under for the 2022-2023 school year. Please visit FreeYouthTransitPass.com for more details.
  • School zone safety cameras are being turned on starting September 7. The speed limit in school zones is 20 MPH when the lights are flashing, please drive slow and pay attention to keep kids and families safe and avoid getting a ticket.   

School returns next Tuesday, September 7! We all have a role to play in keeping students and each other safe. Drivers, please be aware of kids traveling to and from school, and keep an eye out for students crossing the street. Please drive the speed limit, obey signs, and expect more students and families on streets and sidewalks. 

Please note: Seattle Public Schools (SPS) manages all school bus transportation services. For the latest information, please visit the SPS Transportation web page

Active travel to school – biking, walking, or rolling to class 

Parents and their students have a variety of options for how they plan to get to school each day, which may include biking, walking, or rolling. Through the Safe Routes to School program, we partner with Seattle Public Schools to 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.  

Thank you, Seattle! Safe Routes to School projects are funded in part by your tax dollars through the Levy to Move Seattle. 

Orange yard sign with text "There's a school in this neighborhood! Take it slow and drive safe" in white letting with a graphic of a green turtle holding on to a steering wheel.
A yard sign reminds drivers that there’s a school nearby and to drive slow and safe with children traveling in the area. Photo: SDOT. 

The Safe Routes to School program also provides ways to get involved and resources for families to check out, including: 

  • Mini-grants: These small grants fund schools, Parent-Teacher Associations, and community groups to encourage safe walking and biking to school. 
  • Request a School Street: Schools can request to close a street to through traffic for safe walking, rolling, and biking to school 
  • Get a Map to School: School walk and bike maps show safety conditions and help you figure out the best route to school. 
  • Order yard signs: A limited number of Vision Zero yard signs are available for curbside pick-up. 
  • Start a Safe Route to School campaign: Download a guide to starting a Safe Routes to School campaign at your school. 
  • Walking and biking incentives: Get kids excited to walk and bike with fun, free incentives like stickers and temporary tattoos. 
  • Share your story: Help us bring community stories from people of color to the forefront. 
  • Let’s Go education program: Walking and biking safety video curriculum for students, families, and educators. 
  • Request a bike rack: Submit a request to have a bike rack installed at your school for bike parking. 
  • Become a School Crossing Guard: Seattle Public Schools has a number of openings for School Crossing Guards to help students safely get to school. 
A bike rack with 4 bikes locked on in the shade with two yellow school buses behind the rack.
Several kids’ bikes parked outside a school on a sunny day, with two school buses in the background. Photo: SDOT. 

Safe Routes to School projects completed in the 2021-2022 school year 

We have completed multiple Safe Routes to School projects to improve safety and accessibility for students and families funded by Levy to Move Seattle tax dollars. In 2021 alone, we completed 22 projects, as well as 5 out 9 planned projects in 2022.  

These projects include crossing improvements, flashing beacons, neighborhood greenways, and other efforts make people walking, rolling, or biking visible and comfortable on their way to school. 

Map of Seattle with highlighted locations of Safe Routes to School projects completed in 2021, updated in January 2022.
Graphic of Safe Routes to School projects completed in 2021. Credit: SDOT 

More recently completed projects in 2022 include: 

  • Speed humps and new marked crosswalks in school zone near Ballard High School 
  • Pedestrian railing to provide a buffer between the sidewalk and travel lane near Concord Elementary School 
  • Crossing improvements near Lincoln High School 
  • Street trees near the Martin Luther King Jr Elementary school zone 
  • Crossing improvements near Roosevelt High School 

Riding a bike, walking, or rolling, to school 

Biking to school is a great way to get students familiar with routes and become comfortable cycling. Plan out routes that include Healthy Streets, Neighborhood Greenways, and School Streets, all which are either closed off, restricted, or with reduced speeds for drivers and help encourage biking, walking, and rolling.  

We recently released a new, refreshed Bike Guide that includes tips on family biking – how to teach your student to ride a bike, instructions on starting a bike train, and general biking guidelines to help ensure your student is confident and safe on their next ride.  

Students and parents riding their bikes to school around a traffic circle on a street.
Students travel in a large group while riding bicycles and a scooter en route to their school. Photo: SDOT. 

Use our Safe Routes to School maps to find the best biking, walking, or rolling route for you and your student. These maps display streets with and without sidewalks, locations of streets that are closed to cars, crossing guard and school patrol locations, crossing beacons, and more. 

Riding transit to school – and using the new Free Youth Transit Pass program 

As part of the Move Ahead Washington statewide transportation funding package, students aged 18 and younger can take public transit for free beginning on September 1. Many transit agencies across the Puget Sound will be participating in this program, including King County Metro.  

Three people waiting at a bus stop to board as a bus stops in front of them.
People wait to board a King County Metro bus in Seattle. Photo: SDOT. 

Riders are encouraged to show either a youth ORCA card or a current school ID to a driver – but it is not required to board for free. Students who have kept their youth ORCA card from the 2021-2022 school year can continue to use the card for boarding, and it will continue to work through June 30,2023. To learn more about this program, please visit FreeYouthTransitPass.com.  

Driving to school 

Starting September 7, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) will turn on school zone safety cameras throughout Seattle. Cameras are located near schools throughout the city and will automatically send tickets to drivers photographed speeding in school zones. School zone safety cameras only operate when the school zone flashing beacons are on. Lights on signs will flash during school days during arrival and pickup times to warn drivers to slow down and keep students safe. Please follow the posted speed limit to avoid getting a ticket in the mail. 

There are currently 16 schools that have safety cameras throughout Seattle, and the City will be adding three new camera locations this September at Garfield High School, South Shore K-8, and Whittier Elementary. These cameras are meant to improve safety by encouraging drivers to reduce their speed.  

A flashing beacon sign that reads "School. Speed Limit 20. When children are present or when flashing"
A flashing beacon highlights the 20 MPH speed limit near a school when children are present or the light is flashing – an important safety reminder to drivers. Photo: SDOT. 

The speed limit is 20 MPH near schools and along residential streets that don’t have a dividing yellow center line. For most other arterial streets with a dividing center line or multiple lanes, the speed limit is typically 25 MPH, unless you see a sign specifically posted with a different speed limit. While driving slower may seem like an inconvenience, it often means a minimal increase in how long the average trip takes. If adding a couple minutes to your trip means avoiding a crash resulting in serious injury or death, it couldn’t be more worthwhile. As part of our Vision Zero goal, we are continuing to rebuild and redesign Seattle streets with various safety improvements

We encourage families and students to walk, roll, bike, or take public transit to school when possible. This helps reduce traffic congestion, is a great way to get students moving actively, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions near our schools. Good luck on the first day of school and stay safe!