By Zoe Harris, Safe Routes to School Coordinator with Feet First
Drivers in Seattle’s Lake City neighborhood once had little to slow them down on 30th Avenue NE. After passing the street light at NE 143rd Street, drivers heading south encountered no traffic calming until a marked crosswalk and stop sign on NE 130th. Neighbors complained that traffic moved fast and that it was difficult to get drivers to stop for or even see people as they tried to cross.
But things are better today, thanks to a group of dedicated Walking School Bus leaders, the Olympic Hills Comic Book Club and Safe Routes to School funding. Neighbors worked with Feet First to install safety flags and flag buckets at the intersection of 30th Avenue NE and NE 137th Street. The buckets are attached to poles on either side of 30th Avenue, and are stocked with bright orange flags that pedestrians use to increase their visibility when crossing the road.
Studies show that between eighty-one and ninety-two percent of drivers stop for people holding orange safety flags, compared to just twenty percent when flags are not used. This is particularly important on 30th Avenue, because it lies between the densely populated Little Brook community and the local elementary school. This is also the location of Metro and yellow school bus stops that bring dozens of school-age children and other residents to the intersection every day.
The bright orange flags, with a strip of reflective tape, were decorated by the Olympic Hills Comic Book Club led by kindergarten teacher Jeremy Whiting. Flags feature people walking, cars, dinosaurs and ghosts and provide safety messages like “stop cars! what are you doing?” and “look left, right and left again!” Parents helped out by labeling the flags in both Spanish and English.
The key to sustaining the safety flags is Walking School Bus leader Jose Perez, an OHE parent who will maintain the safety flag bucket and replenish flags as needed. Feet First has found that a stash of fifty flags is enough to stock a typical intersection for about two years. Instructions for making safety flag buckets are online and require little more than some PVC pipe and zip ties.
Traffic Safety Engineer Dongho Chang and Senior Transportation Planner Brian Dougherty joined our Walking School Bus earlier this school year and thanks to their recommendation, this intersection just got even safer with the installation of a new marked crosswalk.