Safe streets are part of an age-friendly neighborhood

The Seattle City Council Human Services and Public Health Committee adopted a resolution last week “expressing the City of Seattle’s commitment to being a more age-friendly city under the criteria established by the World Health Organization and the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities.”

On the same day, the Mayor announced a series of “age-friendly initiatives” to support the health and well-being of older adults in line with the AARP initiative.

What is the AARP’s Network of Age-Friendly Communities? The initiative encourages cities to prepare for the rapid aging of the U.S. population by paying increased attention to the environmental, economic, and social factors that affect older adults. They identify eight domains of a community’s livability:

  1. Outdoor spaces and buildings
  2. Transportation
  3. Housing
  4. Social participation
  5. Respect and social inclusion
  6. Civic participation and employment
  7. Communication and information
  8. Community support and health services

What does that mean in Seattle?  Among a variety of ways to make the city more age-friendly, Mayor Murray identified sidewalks in particular as important: “A sidewalk free of bulges and holes appeals to everyone in the neighborhood, including the mom pushing her stroller, a child riding a scooter to school, and those who may find walking a challenge. Investing in safe walking routes for all of us should be a top priority for our Age-Friendly city.”  The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has been tasked with examining intersections, sidewalks, driver behavior, and public safety and identifying opportunities to improve the pedestrian experience in the city.

Earlier this year, an older adult was struck by a motor vehicle and killed at the intersection of NE 65th Street and 20th Avenue NE. One way to create an age-friendly neighborhood is to ensure our streets are safe for everyone, no matter what age.

What does that mean in Ravenna-Bryant? In 2016, the Ravenna-Bryant Community Association adopted a mobility safety action plan to guide activities for creating a safer neighborhood for pedestrians. These activities align with transportation-related goals of the Age-Friendly initiative. RBCA’s activities include advocating for a safer NE 65th Street and for sidewalks where none currently exist, in particular along NE 50th Street between 30th and 35th Avenues NE.

Making NE 65th Street more age-friendly: SDOT recently started the community outreach phase for developing plans to make NE 65th Street safer for everyone who uses it. To make streets safer for all, including older adults, the AARP initiative recommends that cities consider:

  • Reducing the width of car lanes and reducing the number of car lanes on a street;
  • Reducing the length of a crosswalk;
  • Making crosswalks more visible;
  • Adding medians or pedestrian islands on busy streets;
  • Giving walkers a head start at traffic lights;
  • Banning right turns on red;
  • Installing speed bumps;
  • Installing red light cameras;
  • Enforcing traffic laws.

All of these strategies can be considered as our neighbors think about how to make NE 65th Street, and all of our arterial roads, safer for everyone.

Looking west on NE 50th Street toward University Village: no sidewalks, not age-friendly!

Making NE 50th Street more age-friendly: Though not included in the recently adopted Pedestrian Master Plan, sidewalks are needed on NE 50th Street, south of Calvary Cemetery. The street provides an important link between the Bryant neighborhood, the shops in and around University Village, and the Burke-Gilman Trail. Without sidewalks, this corridor remains unsafe for all pedestrians, including older adults.