Walking and Biking and (new) Seattle School Boundaries

Unless you’ve been successfully avoiding all local news and social media (and if so, congratulations), you’ll know the Seattle School District is in the process of redrawing neighborhood school attendance boundaries.

The changes are being driven by a number of real issues—overcrowding, bus routes & schedules, expected demographics, remodeling and construction plans, and so on. And some of these changes are positive, designed to provide relief to schools nearly bursting at the seams. However others are less positive and potentially could take kids away from a walkable neighborhood attendance area, requiring a bus or car trip to school instead.
For details on how these changes can impact walkable communities, make sure you check out Feet First‘s blog post calling the district add another criteria to their school zone plans: Walkability.
The Seattle School District is in the process of changing elementary and middle school boundaries to respond to capacity needs and demographic projections. To succeed in the important task of drawing school boundaries for the greatest benefit of students, Feet First joins a growing number of communities in insisting an additional factor be taken into consideration: walkability. – Feet First

SPS Growth Boundaries Survey

As an organization, Walk.Bike.Schools doesn’t have the staffing or resources to evaluate the plans and changes for each and every school and neighborhood. (In fact we have no staffing or organization, but that’s another post).
We do however, come down solidly on the side of any family who feels their the district is removing the opportunity to attend a local, walkable or bikeable school.
Therefore I urge you (and your friends and neighbors!) to review the district’s maps & proposals to make sure these changes work for you. And then please speak up if you find changes in the plan that would hinder the ability for a child or family to walk or bike to school!
For this issue, the district is recommending use of the survey for feedback. Please share this tool with friends, neighbors and school community members. The survey is open until Oct. 21. If you have questions about the plan you can contact GrowthBoundaries@

seattleschools.org or the board at schoolboard@seattleschools.org

 Next Steps
  • Provide Survey Feedback through Oct.21.
  • Revised recommendations will go to the School Board at the November 6, 2013, board meeting.
  • Board will vote on the recommended boundaries at its meeting on November 20, 2013.

Recap of Fall Info Sharing Meeting

Folks from 9 schools and several other organizations attended the information sharing session earlier this month. Many other folks expressed interest, but couldn’t make it due to a variety of conflicts. This time of year is especially busy in the school communities!

The major topics we discussed included:

Ballard Bikes
The new Ballard Bikes program is a multi-school collaboration to get kids biking and walking to school at several Ballard schools (currently seven). The focus is on year-round encouragement and sharing of resources, as well as creating a “bigger buzz” about active commuting in Ballard. The schools have already co-hosted a bike rodeo at the Ballard Neighborhood Greenway opening, and are holding a bike to school kick-off event on September 28 at Salmon Bay K-8.

International Walk to School Month and IWalk
October is International Walk to School Month. All local schools are encouraged to participate. One way to get plugged in is through Feet First, which has many resources available to help plan and run events. Schools can use a variety of approaches, ranging from a single day event, to weekly or month-long events to encourage walking to school. Wednesday, October 9, is International Walk to School Day. To register an IWalk event, go to http://www.walkbiketoschool.org/node/add/event.

SDOT Mini-grants
It is almost mini-grant season. Last year 29 schools and organizations received grants — a record year! At the meeting, Seattle Department of Transportation requested input on the size of grants, the outreach flyer they are using, etc. There was no shortage of ideas; two good ones were (1) to consider changing the timing of the annual grant program so it coincides with the school year, and (2) to augment the existing annual grant program with smaller “quick start” type grants so that new schools could apply any time. The tentative date for applications for 2014 funding is October 25.
School Road Safety Initiative
The City of Seattle’s School Road Safety Initiative involves both planning and implementation to improve traffic safety in and near school zones. The major elements are a city-wide plan, traffic safety plans around twenty schools, and Safe Routes to School projects. The work will address all five “E’s” of Safe Routes to School — engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, and evaluation.  Funding for both planning and implementation is coming from traffic speed cameras installed in school zones, and currently $14.8 million is anticipated for 2013-14., with a mayor proposed list of projects under review at this time as well.
Folks in attendance shared information on a few other upcoming events and initiatives as well, including tonight’s Green Your School Fair at Lincoln High School.
Thanks to all who could attend, and to everyone else who expressed interest as well. Here’s to another year of walking and biking to school!

 

Fall 2013 Walk and Bike to School Info Session

Parents, teachers, staff, and students across Seattle are beginning another school year. As the instruction and extracurricular activities begin, parents are also planning the school commutes that take tens of thousands of Seattle kids from where they live to where they learn. So It’s a great time to get the creative juices flowing and share ideas for helping more of our kids choose active and sustainable transportation for this coming year.

Come meet with other walk and bike to school organizers and advocates next Tuesday and get things rolling for another school year.

Fall 2013 Info Sharing Session

Tuesday, September 10, from 6:00 to 7:45 p.m.
Ballard branch, Seattle Public Library, 5614 22nd Ave NW

Are you a Safe Routes to School organizer at your local school? A parent interested in starting a program? A community member interested in what the buzz is about and maybe wanting to lend a hand? This meeting is for you.

Next Tuesday evening will be an opportunity to share updates, ideas, and plans for ramping up walking and biking this year.

The agenda will include:

  • “Ballard Bikes” multi-school walk and bike to school plans
  • Creative ideas from individual schools to get more kids walking and biking (share yours with others!)
  • A report from Feet First on October Walk to School Month
  • A report from SDOT on upcoming Safe Routes to School mini-grant opportunities
  • The latest on the School Road Safety Task Force

This event is open to everyone in the community who is interested in increasing walking and biking to Seattle schools. Hope you can join us and please spread the word.

Their are good options for getting to the Ballard library by bike, on foot, or on public transportation. There is bike parking out front and the library is near several bus routes. If you drive, you can park for free in the garage underneath.

Seattle has seen continuing growth in the number of schools promoting active transportation, and in the number of families choosing to commute to school under their own power. Let’s work together to maintain the momentum in 2013-14!

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Bike to School Month is Almost Here!

Sacajawea bikersReady for Bike to School Month? May 1st is right around the corner.

If you’re not fully prepared, don’t panic. Folks at other schools are still hatching their plans too. May sneaks up on us every year, and this year is no different.

And this year Bike to School Day is May 8th — earlier in the month than usual. So now is prime time for finalizing plans to get more kids biking at your school this spring.

Maybe you want to put together a month-long program. Or perhaps a one-day activity on Bike to School Day. Or maybe you’re thinking of once-a-week activities — maybe Bike to School Fridays with something planned each week.

Any of these approaches are great, and in fact many established programs started small. Even a modest Bike to School Day event can begin to create a bike culture at your school.

The primary purpose of walk.bike.schools is to share information among schools — tips and techniques, including what has worked at other schools. So if you’re planning some bike to school activities for May and beyond, hopefully the following links to some past posts will be useful.

And if getting kids walking is more your thing, that’s cool too. May is also an awesome time to walk to school!

Without further ado, here are links to some posts that focus on various aspects of putting together a bike or walk to school day, month, or longer term program:

The Big Picture

Some specific ideas

Highlights from a few schools

And some walk to school ideas

Hope this is helpful as you gear up for May and the rest of the spring. Let us know how it goes!

Let's fill the bike racks at every Seattle school this May!

Let’s fill the bike racks at every Seattle school this May!

Spring Walk.Bike.Schools Meeting 4/10 Salmon Bay K-8

bike to school sign-in table at early Bryant Bike to School kickoff

Parents and school-community members are invited to participate in the spring Walk.Bike.Schools meeting 7pm Wednesday April 10. We’re headed to Ballard again, this time the Salmon Bay K-8 library.

In addition to our normal information sharing and bike-program planning, we’re hoping to talk a little bit about strateegery. It’s been a year since we kicked off this “program” (using the term loosely here) and it makes sense to step back and see who or what the group wants to be when we grow up. Anne first broached this in a message to the WalkBikeSchools Google Group, but we didn’t get any discussion on the list. It was April Fool’s day, so maybe folks were so busy with hi-jinks like freezing bed sheets and putting “Wet-paint” signs on dry paint. In a nutshell, we came up with a rough outline about who we are (much of it based on what we were thinking when we launched the group), but still need the group to help decide what we want to do.

Who/What is Walk.Bike.Schools?

This is first and foremost a parent group. We invite any interested parent who cares about walking and biking to school to join and participate. We also welcome neighbors of a school to participate [and members of a school staff/faculty]. Schools and neighborhoods should work together to encourage walking and biking to school.

 This past year other groups have attended meetings and participated in the conversation surrounding walking and biking to school. From Bicycle Alliance, to SDOT, to Feet First, to Cascade Bicycle Club, to Undriving, to members of the Pedestrian Advisory Board and the Bicycle Advisory Board. Did I miss any? If you are a member of a group that cares about encouraging kids and families to walk and bike to school, you too are welcome. We will all likely have opportunities for collaboration.

We’ve added that to the “About” page here on the blog, but we’ve still got a bunch of decisions to make as a group. For example, are we happy just meeting every three or so times a year for general information sharing and bike and walk planning? Those are great activities and I think we can all agree it’s pretty helpful to have someone to bounce ideas off— especially if it’s someone from another school who’s already been through the startup phase!  We’re all busy, so maybe that’s enough. Fair enough.

But there’s also an opportunity to use our unique position as parents to demand  the city and SPS to do more to encourage active transportation. For example the district is making noises and passing resolutions about walking school buses. But so far, we haven’t seen much in the way of action beyond a survey. Does this group want to take a stand on things like that? Do we want to hold the district accountable to the safety and transportation issues we care about? As parents, I certainly feel we should, but whether we take an official group position is up to all of you.

That’s probably enough to chew on now. A brief agenda is below.  As always, you are welcome to contribute your ideas. If you have a program to share (or questions/comments about starting a program at your schools) please come to the meeting.

Walk Bike Schools Spring Meeting
Where: Salmon Bay library 1810 NW 65th St. • Seattle, WA  http://www.salmonbayschool.org/
Date: Wed, April 10th
Time: 7:00 – 8:30
 
Agenda
  1. Welcome and Intro (Anne)
  2. 1 year check-in for Walk.Bike.Schools. Who are we? Do we need a mission or direction? What does the group want our role to be (Tim)
  3. Walking and biking to school in Seattle. Are there specific issues Walk.Bike.Schools wants to take a position on? If so, which and how do we act? (Clint)
  4. Loyal Heights bike club info and update (Shannon)
  5. Salmon Bay – getting a new bike and walk to school program off the ground, challenges etc (Karen)
  6. SDOT mini grants, How to keep track of expenses for year-end reporting (Anne)
  7. General bike to school month discussion, program & event tips, etc. Bring your questions and ideas and make use of the group’s collective wisdom (all)

A reminder for future events: We love mixing up the location of meetings and sharing the walk.bike.love with communities all over the city. If you want to host, give us a shout!

Plan now for the coming Spring!

It’s still a little wintry out, for Seattle anyway. But the days are getting longer and spring is right around the corner. For many of us, late winter is the season for bike swaps, chilly-hilly rides, and final laps to the ski hill. It’s also an excellent time for spring bike to school planning.

Seattle’s “official” Bike to School Month is in May, coinciding with Bike to Work Month. And the word on the street is that Bike to School Day this year is May 8, so mark your calendars.

May is still a couple months off, but we’ve found that getting an early start is essential. Maybe this means holding a parent meeting in March. Or hosting a kick-off event or bike rodeo in April. Or just coming up with a strategy for starting or growing a walk and bike culture at your school this coming spring.

Planning for a successful event — or better yet for a successful month or longer-term program — requires thinking ahead. Some ways to get started:

  • Put together a team. Find some like-minded parents and staff or administrators to work with.
  • Come up with some fun and creative events, anything from a Bike to School Day blitz to a month-long set of activities. Check out previous blog posts here to get some ideas.
  • Come up with a strategy for communication and advertising.
  • Source some donations or discounts from local businesses. Bakeries and bike stores are especially helpful to have on board!
  • Get your administration and PTSA involved.
  • Talk it up with other parents.

Once you’ve established a plan and a team and gotten some resources together, you’re on your way.

Need some more ideas about how to get going? Check out our Getting Started post from last year. And look forward to a walk.bike.schools meeting or two in the next few months to compare notes among schools as we collectively launch springtime programs.

There’s no better time than now to begin gearing up for a springtime of biking to school!

You can even get the kids involved in bike planning. Here some middle schoolers envision better parking.

Consider getting the students involved in bike to school planning! Here some middle schoolers envision bike parking improvements.

A Kid-powered Holiday Commute — UPDATED

The results are in: Jingle bells, colored lights, yummy treats, and happy kids… we had two fantastic and fun bike to school events just before the holidays.

Serving up treats by headlamp; middle school starts early!

Serving up treats by headlamp; middle school starts early!

This was the first-ever holiday bike celebration at Eckstein, and parent organizers decorated the bike cage the night before, so that we were ready to go when the middle school bikers began to arrive at 7:15 a.m. The holiday bike to school morning was scheduled for the day before winter break, which happened to coincide with the winter solstice this year. It was the darkest morning all school year, and sure enough the early bird kids got there before twilight. Parent volunteers served donuts and cider by headlamp!

In Seattle, middle schoolers end up biking in the dark this time of year, so getting them lit up is essential. We’ve been doling out bike lights at the last few events, and were happy to see that all of the arriving kids had front and rear lights for their bikes. One or two kids needed upgrades, and we were happy to provide them.

For Bryant, this was the second annual holiday bike ramble. Once again, we met at Top Pot Doughnuts for festivities before riding and walking to school as a group. Several families came with their bikes already decorated — including an extracycle with a Charlie Brown tree on the snapdeck! — and we had plenty of decorations available so others could join in the fun.

It’s always great when the school administration participates in these events, and in this case, Bryant’s principal joined us for the festivities. The Seattle Police Department was also on hand to help control the route, with two cruisers and three bike cops who said that once again helping kids get to school on their own power was a lot more fun than their other police work!

Enjoying treats and festivities before the ride to school.

Enjoying treats and festivities before the ride to school.

New for this year, we added some holiday music to the mix at both schools. An iphone with a Rhapsody playlist and one small powered speaker was enough to provide just a little background music. Along with lights, tinsel, and other decorations, the music really added to the holiday mood.

For me, one big highlight of the morning was chatting at length with a middle schooler who rides his bike to school every day. He was the first one to show up at Eckstein, and we had some time to talk a bit before the rest of the Eckstein bikers began to arrive.

This 7th grade biker began riding to school at Wedgwood Elementary in 5th grade, and he never missed a beat when he entered Eckstein. As a sixth grader last year, he was part of our inaugural year of the Eckstein Bikes! program. He reported that riding to school is a blast, and sheepishly mentioned that he didn’t even learn to ride a bike until he was 10 years old. Now he rides every day. Clearly he is a fast learner!

Can’t wait to do it again next year! Happy New Year!

Group ride to Bryant

Group ride to Bryant

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Original Post

What better way to celebrate the holidays than with a community bike or walk to school event? And what better way to demonstrate that walking or biking in the Seattle winter is a viable and even fun way to get to school?

Are you planning an event at your school? A couple of schools are, with rumors of colored lights, holiday outfits, bike decorating, treats, jingle bells, and maybe even a little music.

At Bryant we’ve done this before, and it was a huge hit last time. Okay, admittedly there was a little less turnout than on a beautiful spring day, but we learned that a surprising number of families will show up to bike or walk in the rain, especially if you throw in some holiday festivities.

There is something about gathering with the community to celebrate the holidays and the fun of kid-powered transportation. There is also the great feeling of accomplishment when kids get to school under their own power on a truly wet and chilly Seattle December morning. And who knows, maybe this will be the year that it’s dry and sunny!

One of the goals at Bryant last year was to expand the time of year when families walk or bike, and to encourage that with at least an occasional event in the “off-season.” It’s pretty well-established to host bike events in May and walk events in October, but ultimately we want families to opt for active transportation year-round!

A bonus this year is that the Friday before Seattle Public Schools’ holiday break happens to be the winter solstice, yet another reason to celebrate by getting a group together to walk or bike.

Events are planned at Eckstein and Bryant. We’ll let you know how it goes. And if you have something planned at your school too, feel free to share some ideas.

Happy Holidays!

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