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Seattle receives national recognition for Safe Routes to School work. Mayor Harrell commits to work even harder to improve traffic safety.

Seattle, WA (October 12, 2022) – The National Center for Safe Routes to School has named Seattle the 2022 recipient of the U.S. Vision Zero for Youth Leadership Award. The award was presented to Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell and Seattle Public Schools (SPS) Superintendent Dr. Brent Jones this morning at a press event outside of Dunlap Elementary School as part of the school’s National Walk to School Day celebration. Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is currently working to build new walking and biking safety improvements around this Rainier Valley school including new sidewalks on S Rose St and a new traffic signal at Rainier Ave S and S Rose St.  

“Seattle is working hard to prioritize safe walking and biking for the city’s youth,” said Nancy Pullen-Seufert, Director of the National Center for Safe Routes to School and Senior Research Associate at the UNC Highway Safety Research Center. “This Award recognizes the commitment of Seattle’s local government, its transportation department and public school system to lead community-engaged, equity-focused efforts geared toward making a great impact on walking and biking safety for its youngest residents.” 

Pullen-Seufert said the Award Committee was impressed by the creation of School Streets and Stay Healthy Streets that prioritize people rather than cars, citywide speed reductions and traffic calming measures, and creating a community-engaged equity plan specifically for the Safe Routes to School Program.  

SDOT also partners with Seattle Public Schools, Cascade Bicycle Club, and the Outdoors for All Foundation to bring the Let’s Go Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety program to elementary and middle school physical education classes. Seattle is the nation’s only school system that provides walking and biking safety lessons at this scale, ensuing that every public-school student receives walking and biking safety education. The program currently reaches about 10,000 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders each year, and will soon be expanded to include all middle school students up to the 8th grade.  

“It is an honor to be recognized for our investments in safe routes to school and Seattle’s safety education program for public school students,” said Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. “While I’m proud of the improvements we’ve built so far, you can be assured that we will not be resting on our laurels when it comes to safety. Public safety includes safe streets. Tragically, the number of people killed in car crashes has increased in recent years, and we must redouble our commitment to the goal of ending traffic deaths and serious injuries on city streets by 2030. While some say that this goal is too ambitious, there is no number of deaths which we can consider an acceptable goal, other than zero.” 

“I am thrilled the National Center for Safe Routes to School has recognized Seattle’s work to improve safety for students walking, rolling, and biking to school, and am committed to working even harder in the future to support this goal,” said Seattle Department of Transportation Director Greg Spotts. “Since coming to Seattle, I have joined families and teachers on neighborhood walks and bike rides around schools. While people appreciate the safety upgrades we’ve built so far, they’ve also shown me that there is still a lot of work to do so that every family has a safe path to school.” 

“Seattle Public Schools is proud to be one of the only districts in the country with such a robust bike skills program! We have many students whose first chance to ride a bike is in our elementary physical education classrooms,” said Dr. Brent Jones, Superintendent, Seattle Public Schools. “Our teachers help students become more comfortable with biking. These students get to experience the freedom and confidence that comes from learning how to safely ride a bike. That work – paired with safer streets for pedestrians and bicyclists – makes walking and biking to school a healthy and viable option for more families.” 

The U.S. Vision Zero for Youth Leadership Award, now in its fourth year, recognizes cities that are leading the way in prioritizing children’s walking and biking safety. Past recipients include the City of Los Angeles and L.A. Unified School District, New York City and its Vision Zero Task Force, and the City of Fremont, CA. The Award is presented by the Vision Zero for Youth initiative, led by the National Center for Safe Routes to School with support from the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, the FIA Foundation, and the UNC Highway Safety Research Center