Pedestrian Safety and Support in South Park

AppleCorps is all about health and wellness.  The health aspect of my position within this excellent group of Americorps members deals with pedestrian support and safety.
My name is Will, and I work through Solid Ground via Feet First to coordinate volunteers and to provide community organizing for Concord International Elementary.

Feet First is a non-profit pedestrian advocacy organization located in Pioneer Square comprised of a small staff of five employees: Lisa Quinn, executive director; Jen Cole, Safe Routes to School program coordinator; Gia Clark, mapping specialist; Derrick VanKirk, communications coordinator; and myself, Will Beard, community organizer.  However, our board members, interns, volunteers, and program partners provide crucial supplemental support that makes our programming possible.

Concord International Elementary is a K-5 public school located in the South Park neighborhood of Seattle that receives the international title from its language immersion programming, with bilingual Spanish/English education offered in Kindergarten and 1st grade.  Concord is home to a variety of cultures and features a majority Latino population.  This diversity is celebrated with enriching cultural projects, after-school programming, and parent involvement.

Today we find our blog entry focusing on community feedback from a summer/fall 2010 renovation project made possible through funding by the National Center for Safe Routes to School, Seattle Department of Transportation, and the Seattle Foundation’s Neighbor to Neighbor Fund that transformed a dangerous eyesore of a pedestrian bridge and turned it into a safe and welcoming asset.  On September 10th, 2010, the grand opening celebration of the “Little Bridge” took place to highlight the new fencing, community involved painting, graffiti removal, and landscaping of the area.

In late January and early February, we went to the “Little Bridge” at S. Henderson St. in South Park, the pedestrian bridge that connects César Chávez Village to Concord.  With help from my supervisor Jen Cole, and fellow Americorps Jenny Almgren from partner organization Cascade Bicycle Club, we conducted brief surveys to identify its current users and to record the opinions and behavioral changes that users associated with the bridge since the renovation project was completed.

The community members of South Park primarily use this pedestrian bridge as an essential utility linking their homes to their workplaces and children’s school, Concord International Elementary.  The latter is the predominant reason why pedestrians take this route, which greatly reduces walking time to the school and features less motor vehicle traffic with fewer roadway crossings.

Our survey respondents reported a substantial increase in their perceived safety and some changes in increased walking behavior.  Those who reported an increase in walking behavior also gave positive comments on the art and safety modifications.

Whether they were walking during their lunch break, doing physical therapy, or coming home from school, we found most pedestrians happy to talk about their walking experience while hailing the bridge improvements.  Two students crossing the bridge after school said, “the bridge looks nicer, but it should have the Concord name or logo!”
One mother remarked how happy the family was about the bridge now being clean and the graffiti gone.  One agreed upon issue remaining is that lighting outages occur occasionally making this dark area even darker, but residents can report these issues using this Seattle City Light form.

Concord students and staff cross the “Little Bridge” on September 10th, 2010 for the grand opening celebration after renovations were completed.

Tune in next time for more community programming!

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