Monthly Archive for December, 2011

Feet First: Working on behalf of walkers

I recently sat down with Lisa Quinn, Executive Director of the non-profit organization Feet First which celebrated its 10 year anniversary recently. We discussed the organization’s current projects and future plans, and also talked about ways people can get involved.

Feet First’s mission statement is “Creating Walkable Communities.” The organization performs walking audits, creates walking maps, participates in community events, works with cities to provide input on pedestrian plans, and promotes safe walking routes to schools.

Safe Routes to School is a major focus for Feet First. They helped 61 schools across the state participate in International Walk to School Month. In Seattle, Feet First is a consultant for Olympic Hill, Roxhill, Dearborn, and Hawthorne Elementaries. The group will soon provide a neighborhood walking map for the area around Concord International School.

Quinn describes how Feet First’s school consultancy program works. “First, we take a step back and do a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats analysis, and then we do a walking audit, and from there we are able to map out what we want to do for a school.”

“Schools may want a walking school bus, but they take a step back, they realize it’s not going to work, and what they really need is better signage…with our walking audits, it really helps the community be engaged in what outcomes they want to see,” she says.

Feet First is working with eighteen schools in South King County to identify walking audit routes and make recommendations. For each audit the organization works to foster communication between diverse groups including city planners, representatives of the school district, parents, and teachers. City of Renton planners are using Feet First’s walking audit report as a checklist of issues to address.

Compensation for many of Feet First’s paid staff comes from grant funding. Recently, this funding allowed the organization to hire a walking ambassador program coordinator. There are twenty trained ambassadors who lead walks in their neighborhoods and produce a number of published walks each month.

The ambassador training process, Quinn says, is “not just showing how to lead a walk, but giving people tools and knowledge on how to advocate for better conditions in their neighborhood.” Information about the ambassador training program can be found on Feet First’s website.

Feet First recently adopted and released an official Agenda outlining the group’s mission, goals, and specific initiatives for cities. The group’s evaluation of cities in the region concluded that Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond and Seattle already follow the outlined strategies. These four cities have been recognized as Feet First Agenda Cities. The current goal, Quinn says, is to get five more cities to commit to meet the nine criteria and “pass a resolution acknowledging that they are Feet First agenda city and that they are making a commitment to continue to build a walkable community.”

Feet First’s approach has to implement small programs, learn from them, and grow gradually. Because of that, Feet First is not yet well known across the region. Quinn says, “Unlike bicycle organizations like Cascade, which has over 13,000 members, we don’t have that critical mass–except everyone’s a pedestrian.”

While Quinn sees a lot of similarities between the Cascade Bicycle Club and Feet First, she says getting people to identify as pedestrians has been a challenge almost like “herding cats.”

Feet First currently has about 100 registered members and they are holding a membership drive during the month of December to grow that number. Their website explains the three different levels of membership, including the benefits that new members would receive if they join this month. The organization is also welcoming volunteers to staff event tables, write blog articles, participate in the safe routes to school program, and attend public meetings. More information about these and other volunteer opportunities are listed on their website.

The organization’s current walking maps are available for download, and their walking maps for West Seattle are on display at eight kiosks in the neighborhood. In the coming months, Feet First will examine the potential of engaging walkers through technology. The organization is investigating creating their own mobile app that pedestrians could use to identify areas that present challenges for walkers.


“Take it Slow” Downtown

The “Center City Holiday Pedestrian Safety Campaign” has started, and encourages pedestrians, drivers, and bicyclists to “take it slow” this month.

Here is SDOT’s press release:

SEATTLE— Seeking to reduce collisions on Seattle’s busy streets, the Center City Holiday Pedestrian Safety Campaign urged everyone traveling through downtown to “Take it Slow.” Distracted driving and walking can lead to pedestrian-involved collisions during the busy holiday season, so the campaign reminds drivers and pedestrians that everyone has a role in improving safety. As highlighted during recent Road Safety Summit meetings, the city of Seattle envisions a transportation system with no traffic fatalities or serious injuries, and where all users safely share the streets.

“We all have a responsibility to make Seattle’s roads safer,” said SDOT Director Peter Hahn. “The Center City Holiday Pedestrian Safety Campaign asks people to show empathy and be responsible when driving, walking or biking. This is a key area of focus as we move forward with our next Road Safety Summit meeting.”

Center City is home to over 182,700 commuters, major destinations such as Pike Place Market and a number of seasonal attractions such as the Holiday Carousel. Data shows many of the collisions occur during afternoon peak travel periods when large numbers of commuters are leaving their workplaces and people are arriving to celebrate the holidays. Starting on December 12, the Seattle Police Department will arrange for extra traffic patrols for four weeks. The main goal of enforcement is to deter unsafe behavior by drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists, and to encourage people – whether they are driving, walking or biking – to obey traffic laws and share the road. Much of their time will be spent during the p.m. peak with some patrols also occurring in the a.m.

“Downtown’s holiday festivities attract thousands of additional visitors, many for the first time, to our city sidewalks,” said Downtown Seattle Association President & CEO Kate Joncas. “With all of the bright lights and decorations to look at, it’s easy to get distracted. The city’s pedestrian safety campaign serves as an important reminder to visitors, and locals alike, to take it slow and pay attention while driving or crossing streets so that everyone’s holidays-in-the-city are safe and memorable.”

Today’s crosswalk action emphasized safe behavior. Volunteers gathered at Westlake Center walked around the block using sidewalks, marked crosswalks and wearing bright clothing. Participants put away their cell phones and head phones and paid attention when crossing the street.

“I focus my professional coaching techniques on training competitors for the mental game. From amateur race car drivers up to Indy cars and NASCAR, from lacrosse to racquetball, and motorcycle racing to tennis – it’s all about focus,” said Ross Bentley, race car driver and author. “While driving downtown
isn’t a race car track, much more focus and attention is required to keep pedestrians safe than most people realize.”

Last week, posters went up in store windows, coasters were distributed to restaurants and bus ads in bright neon colors with slogan, “See You in the Crosswalk” began running. People shopping at Pacific Place, Westlake Center or in Pioneer Square can visit participating stores and take our safety pledge to:
· Cross safely at identified crosswalks;
· Watch for cars when walking; and
· Take extra precautions when driving, biking and walking.

Those taking the pledge will be entered to win a $500 gift certificate redeemable at select stores listed on the campaign’s web site.

This is the third year of the campaign. At the conclusion of the campaign a survey will be conducted to see how effective messages were in changing behavior. The results will be used in 2012 to further develop the campaign to keep pedestrians and motorists safe. The city plans on conducting the safety campaign for five years and, if successful, move it into other neighborhoods. For more information and tips on driving, walking and biking safely visit our Web site:

The public is invited to stay involved on this subject and attend the final Road Safety Summit Meeting, Monday, December 12, at 6 p.m. in the Bertha K. Landes room at City Hall. This final meeting will be an opportunity to hear what the next steps are for Road Safety in Seattle. Details are available at:


1/3 of Seattle’s pedestrian deaths occur on State and Federal roads

Walking in Seattle has analyzed pedestrian fatality information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA’s) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) for the years 2001-2009.

Of the 104 pedestrians that were killed in Seattle during that period, 31 were killed on state or federal highways. While these roadways only cover a small portion of the city, nearly one third of Seattle’s pedestrian fatalities occured there.

By far the deadliest roadway in the city is I-5, with 17 fatalities during the studied period. While most people in their right mind would not consider trying to walk along or across I-5, the freeway cuts a deep path through the city and offers pedestrians no way across for long stretches.

SR-99 / Aurora is the worst state highway in the city, with 7 pedestrian deaths to its name. Other deadly roadways include SR-519 and Lake City Way / SR-522.

While the city of Seattle is responsible for these state highways, funding is not available to re-build these streets as complete streets.

The high rate of fatalities on these roadways is indicative of a few things. While these roads don’t cover a lot of area in the city, they do carry a lot of vehicles, increasing the chances of driver-pedestrian encounters. These highways are also the city’s longest, so they are statistically more likely to show up in a list. More importantly, though, these roadways show a disregard for active transportation. Highways and walkers don’t mix well, as these statistics remind us.

Click here for a searchable map of pedestrian fatalities from Transportation for America.