Meet Alyssa and Shanti — typical parents trying to get their kids to school with the least stress and hassle possible. But these two Seattle moms are different. When they recognized an opportunity to improve their kids’ commutes to school, they thought outside the box and took action. And because of their creativity and ingenuity, the communities surrounding Whittier and Fairmont Park Elementary schools enjoy the benefits of new bike racks and an active, fun way to walk to school.
It began on a cold day in January 2015, when Alyssa got annoyed with the masses of bikes strewn around the school playground at Whittier Elementary. There was not enough bike parking despite — or because of — the school having one the highest rates of students biking each day. Alyssa worked with other parents, the school’s building leadership team, Safe Routes to School and Seattle Public School’s Self Help Projects Program to spearhead the installation of two new bicycle racks in May of that year. Now, the racks hold even more bikes as the number of students riding continues to increase. This year more than 80 students rode to school on Bike to School Day.
Meanwhile, at Fairmont Park Elementary, Shanti was tired of driving her children to and from school every day and began researching other options. After surveying other parents in her neighborhood, she found consensus to try a different idea: a Walking School Bus, where children walk en masse to and from school with at least one adult. Several Walking School Bus routes took shape and soon more than 30 students on four routes began participating. Because parents share the escort responsibilities, Shanti only “drives” the Walking School Bus once a week, an arrangement that she says is a “combination of usefulness and fun” for her and her children.
The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) appreciates such parental involvement and inspiration and is working to develop more options. SDOT’s Safe Routes to School Program actively works with parents to foster projects that make school commutes on foot and bike safer and more accessible to more families. Both projects received financial help from the Safe Routes to School Mini Grant Program, purchasing safety vests, stick- ers and signs, and funding the bike rack installation.
4 Super Low-Cost Ideas for Safe Routes to School Mini Grants
- Crossing Flags – help decide where to place the flags and flag buckets
- Start a School Patrol – help train and supervise student safety patrol members
- Perform a Walking Audit – Find the streets that need the most help from the City
- Start a Walking School Bus – snag a bunch of safety vests, pins and signs
For more information and resources visit:
Brian Dougherty — Seattle Safe Routes to School Coordinator