Monday, March 24, 2014

Neighbor Comments On School Zone Safety On NE 45th Street As Well As 46th And 47th Avenues NE

Two radar speed machines 2 weeks ago on NE 45th Street

Following our recent post about the two radar speed signs placed on NE 45th Street just near the south playground of Laurelhurst Elementary School, the Blog Staff received many  comments.

SDOT delivered the machines two weeks ago to one of several neighborhood school zone areas in response to an application submitted by Steve Clark and Paul Hanson, in conjunction with the City's School Traffic Management Program.  

The two Laurelhurst Elementary school fathers also submitted an application for the Neighborhood Park and Street Fund for either radar signs and/or flashing yellow  lights, which the Northeast District Council will formerly decide on next month,. NEDC will stack rank this project between three other requested traffic safety and park projects, as well as consider available City budgets against cost for each project..

Steve and Paul cited in their application that there was "excessive speed and lack of awareness of pedestrians around Laurelhurst Elementary during school hours."

SDOT conducted a traffic study of that area which showed that the average speed over 24 hours was 23.9mph and maximum speed was 0.1% of 7,686 cars going 65.2mph.

The various comments received specifically addressed why the radar machines were placed on NE 45th Street, rather than the much more highly travelled vehicle and pedestrian areas of 46th and 47th Avenues NE:
On the blog your article mentioned “Mike said he is much more concerned with traffic speed on 46th Avenue NE at all times of the day and secondarily on 47th Avenue NE."  I live on 46th Avenue NE across from the school.  I agree with this parent and will go one further.  After school in particular the chaos that is parking and picking up kids is often crazy, including drivers talking on cell phones while driving, parking on the “NO Parking” side of 46th in the backward direction and blocking driveways.  This happens pretty much every day. I occasionally alert Parking Enforcement, but they have to be here in that window of 3:00 to 3:30 to really make an impact, and I get tired of whining.  Most parents/nannies figure that the No Parking signs don’t apply to them.  I am waiting for the day a school bus rips the rear view mirror off of one of these cars, or a Fire Truck gets stuck in the backup because of these drivers.  Another idea about speed, maybe SDOT could install those speed bumps on 46th like they have up on that long street below the Villa (is that 49th?)   Also every once in a while neighbors have talked about applying for a traffic circle at the corner of 50th and 46th Ave to address the speeding and occasional collisions. Thanks for an informative article!

We have lived across from the school for over 40 years and have always seen cars racing down our street. We have been nearly struck by parents in a hurry to drop off kids, other cars racing down the street not slowing down to see if kids are around. It is a very dangerous area, much, much more so than the one block on NE 45th Street where the radar machines were placed. Why isn't the PTA looking at ways to improve safety on 46th Avenue NE, the school's busiest area by far than any other location? At each corner of the school on NE 47th Street is also very busy, again much busier than NE 45th Street. Hundreds of children and parents are crossing these intersections before and after school, and the school flaggers are not always alert, sometimes chatting with one another and not ensuring the safety of their fellow students and parents.  
If the PTA is looking into school safety, we implore them to first and foremost, come up with a plan for the consistently speeding cars on 46th Avenue NE, a very narrow street, with parking on just one side. Every crosswalk on that street is filled with parents and kids crossing in the morning and afternoon. Why not try to see what can be done - speedbumps, round a bout, etc. ? That should be the first place of attention, not NE 45th Street. The student population is mostly off of NE 45th Street and on the residential streets on either side of the school. 
NE 45th Street is not the issue here at all. The concentration of kids and parents is on 46th and 47th Avenues NE and NE 47th Street. Cars speed on both streets, making 46th Avenue NE especially dangerous as it is a narrow street. Crosswalks on either end of the block are filled with kids and there is often poor visibility with parked cars around the crosswalks. Add to that speeding cars and that poses a very dangerous situation. 
Why are the school parents looking at NE 45th Street to improve safety? Kids are not crossing the street in that one block by the south playground. The highest amount of traffic is 46th and 47th Avenues NE obviously. Cars need to slow down on those residential streets, which people use as freeways to drop kids off at school at a very high rate of speed. In addition, parents park illegally on a daily basis, not having respect for school safety or for the residents who live on the street.  
A comment about safe driving around the school--I sometimes walk in this area in the morning. I am much more concerned about drivers parking where it impedes walking. Some parents park on the wrong side of the street at the school, e.g. driving north but parking on west side of street where southbound cars should park, and then pulling out into traffic. Or parking across the street and helping their kids cross in the middle. Lots of ways drivers could be a little more considerate of neighbors. 
I’ve noticed school buses racing up and down NE 45th in the early evenings going what appeared to be well over the speed limit.  Granted there are no children on board but still seems dangerous. The school buses we saw were flying up or down 45th at around 6 pm, and I am guessing were activity buses. I didn’t see any on 46th but it was the steep hill on 45th by Laurelhurst Elementary. They did appear to be going well over the speed limit for that area though we didn’t clock them. I’ll mention my concern with Seattle Schools.   , I swear one of the buses caught air while sailing down 45th passing the elementary school.

Tonya, a Laurelhurst Elementary PTA member and "Safety Patrol mom" sent us these comments: (in part):

It is illegal for a car to travel more than 20 mph in a school zone.  To help clarify the law, a journalist at the Seattle Times has boiled it down
(article written by Times Eastside Bureau author in 2005):  

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission defines a school zone as 600 feet in length, designated by two signs, both 300 feet on either side of a marked crosswalk.
The speed limit within a school zone is 20 mph at all times on all days unless otherwise posted, said Lynn Drake, the commission's Pedestrian, Bicycle and School Zone Safety Program manager. Speeding through a school zone will net a fine of at least $177, she said."I think what people tend to forget and don't really realize is our schools are now more of a community hub for children even after school," said Drake, naming clubs that meet after the final bell and sports teams that practice on weekends as examples. "There's a constant flow of pedestrian traffic around our schools."
The activity at Laurelhurst Elementary starts and ends far beyond school hours/days as does the activity for the community center and Laser program which are all located on campus.   
Student Safety Patrol is one of the components of pedestrian safety and are there as courteous reminders to all who travel the school zone.  The school also sends out frequent pleas and reminders for traffic safety to the school community.
As a patrol mom, I have stood at crossings at the peak of child foot traffic and watched drivers exhibit truly egregious behavior and open hostility towards children, parents and crossing guards. Laurelhurst is a great, close-knit neighborhood with fantastic community involvement.   
However, the school-zone is regulated by the laws of Seattle, not the annoyance of neighborhood drivers.  We sometimes forget there is a bigger world beyond our own comfortable walls and the heated seats of our SUVs. 
At any one time there are more than 400 small humans tucked away in the school's rooms and streaming out onto the sidewalks.  Thinking about these kids is a helpful way to remember its okay, as a driver, to be momentarily inconvenienced by 20 mph

On April 4th from 11-noon, Feet First is having a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Action Network conference call about funding school walk and bike route improvements in neighborhoods. Residents can join this SRTS conference call and learn about two grant funding sources for infrastructure improvements in Washington.

The speakers will be  Charlotte Claybrooke, (WSDOT) who will present about WSDOT’s Safe Routes to School grant program, which has an open call for SRTS projects right now. And Stevan Gorcester, Transportation Improvement Board (TIB) will discuss how to access TIB urban and small city sidewalk programs for school walk route improvements and Theresa Adkinson, Grant County Health District, who will offer her perspective on how to identify partners, assess needs, and apply for grants.

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