Agencies eye adding pedestrian access to Hazelwood

October 9, 2011

By Christina Lords

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Hazelwood Elementary School paired last year with members of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington to teach fourth- and fifth-graders at Hazelwood bicycle safety tips at a Safe Routes to School program event. Contributed

Entities seek quick fixes, long-term solutions for safe routes to school

With some short-term fixes already realized and long-term strategies starting to take shape, Hazelwood Elementary School Principal Cindy Farnsworth said local agencies have come together to make walking and biking safer for area schoolchildren.

As a part of Washington’s Safe Routes to School program, about 30 teachers, parents and students participated in a walking audit last month — a report Farnsworth said can lead to tangible improvements to access to school by pedestrians and bikers alike.

The state’s Safe Routes to School program and grant money provides technical assistance and resources to cities, counties, schools and state agencies for improvements that increase safety, reduce traffic congestion around school areas, and provide healthy alternatives for children by walking and biking.

“We looked at the whole report and decided what we can focus on, what we can do something about,” Farnsworth said. “We’re looking at quick and easy solutions and how to keep those moving forward, while collaborating with other agencies who are working toward more long-term and sustainable goals.”

The program also encourages healthy activities that combat childhood obesity, she said.

The school paired with members of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington to teach fourth- and fifth-graders at Hazelwood bicycle safety tips.

Representatives from the city of Newcastle, the Renton School District, the Newcastle Police Department, the city of Bellevue and Feet First, a nonprofit walkable communities advocacy group based in Seattle, recently met to discuss the findings of the audit report.

“With all of us meeting together, we could see what was already being done in these areas,” she said. “Then we could go from there to start to put plans in place for the future.”

Newcastle Public Works Director Mark Rigos said the city’s role in the project would be to install and maintain certain types of infrastructure that will facilitate better access for residents and their kids.

“The obvious benefit for us is public safety, for children to be able to walk to school with their parents,” he said. “It also provides safety for other walkers and bicyclists using those routes.”

Tree trimming for improved sign visibility and maintaining sidewalks and gravel walkways are a few ways the city can provide support to the Safe Routes program on a local level, Rigos said.

The city will also remind residents living along sidewalks with rolled curbs to not park on the sidewalk, which can be a barrier to bicycle and pedestrian access.

City officials also will consider adding handrails on certain stairways, establishing new crosswalks, conducting speed studies and installing vehicle-activated signs in some areas to ensure children have safe routes to their school, Rigos said.

The city’s sidewalk improvements along 116th Avenue just south of the elementary school are examples of long-term projects that will benefit pedestrians in the area — including students attending Hazelwood — for years to come, he said.

“If residents or students or teachers come to us with something they see that needs improvement, it’s beneficial for us because the more eyes on these things, the better,” Rigos said.

The money raised from that event helps support the school’s field trip curriculum, purchase items for teachers’ classrooms and provide for community events throughout the school year.

If you go

Fun run/educational events to promote walking and biking to school

Organized by the Hazelwood PTSA

9:45 a.m. Oct. 7

Hazelwood Elementary School

7100 116th Ave. S.E.

204-4550

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