Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn (front, left) joined Highland Park Elementary students in their walk to class after celebrating International Walk to School Day and a new crosswalk at 11th and Holden in West Seattle.
UPDATE: Mayor McGinn joins Highland Park Elementary students for International Walk to School Day
Updated story for Oct. 3
The northeast corner of 11th Ave S.W. and S.W. Holden St. is mighty busy around 8 a.m. as commuters cram Holden in their rush to work, while parents and children attempt to navigate the arterial on their way to school.
On Oct. 3, International Walk to School Day, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and Seattle Dept. of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School Coordinator Brian Dougherty met with around 30 parents and children of Highland Park Elementary to celebrate a recently installed crosswalk at the corner and discuss the importance of walking to school on two fronts: doing it safely and doing it for the sake of health.
Rachel Wright, a Highland Park Elementary parent and activist for safer routes to school, spoke first.
Wright moved to the neighborhood in 2002 and had her daughter a year later. Knowing her child would one day have to cross Holden on her way to school “terrified” Wright, and prompted her to get involved in looking for improvements.
Wright said the school received a grant in 2011 from the Safe Kids Seattle Coalition, part of which included taking safety experts on a guided tour of the gauntlet that is Holden during commuter hours.
“What struck me most is none of them wanted to cross Holden,” she said.
Wright commended SDOT’s Dougherty for his tireless effort in finally bringing a crosswalk to the intersection.
“In 2011 we had 10 traffic fatalities in Seattle … and our goal is to reduce that to zero traffic fatalities,” Dougherty said. “It is a realistic goal, but there is no silver bullet in terms of making that happen. Safety requires a heroic team effort … including Rachel Wright, the Safe Kids Seattle Coalition, … Feet First, and the neighborhood, specifically the Highland Park Action Committee, who has persisted for years in asking for a crossing at this location.”
“Our streets are our largest public spaces,” Dougherty added, “and we have a right to feel safe using them.”
McGinn congratulated the Highland Park community for their perseverance in making a safer route to school and touted Seattle’s Be Super Safe Campaign, a plan to eliminate serous injuries and fatalities involving car-to-car wrecks and collisions with pedestrians by 2030.
Broadening the discussion to the health benefits of self-propelling one's self to school, McGinn said his youngest child started riding her bike to class recently, and he was struck by the increasing anomaly of that experience.
“In 1969, 48 percent of children ages 5 to 14 biked or walked to school (nationally) … but now, today, 14 percent of our kids walk or bike to school," he said. "It shows how we are not getting activity into the daily lives of our children, which has real effects later in terms of their personal health."
McGinn said his proposed budget, now in the hands of the City Council, includes additional funding for Safe Routes to Schools and Neighborhood Greenways (“improving the walkability of our neighborhoods”).
“This is a prime example of one of the challenges of neighborhood greenways” McGinn said, referencing the steady stream of vehicles on Holden and inquisitive looks from within as commuters wondered what their mayor was doing on the street corner at 8 a.m. on a Wednesday.
“We can use residential streets as primary corridors for walking or biking, but the big challenge is when you reach the busy arterial, how do you get across it?”
After the talking was complete, McGinn joined a small army of Highland Park Elementary students and families in their journey south to school, crossing Holden at what is now a clearly marked crosswalk.
Original Post on Oct. 2
Mayor's office press release
Mayor, children, and school communities celebrate International Walk to School Day October 3rd
Mayor Mike McGinn will celebrate a recent pedestrian improvement designed to increase safety, joined by children and parents from Highland Park Elementary, Safe Kids Seattle, FedEx, community leaders from Feet First, and the Seattle Department of Transportation. Afterward, the mayor will lead a “walking school bus” to Highland Park Elementary along 10th Ave SW.
WHEN: 8:00 a.m. October 3rd
WHAT: Ribbon cutting followed by walk to school with children from Highland Park Elementary
WHERE: 11th Ave SW and SW Holden Street in Seattle, walking along 10th Ave SW to the playground at 1012 SW Trenton Street, Seattle WA 98106