Active Seattle

Achieving Walkability in Diverse Neighborhoods

Although an organization working to make Seattle a more walkable city has accomplished citywide change that could increase walking over time, a local assessment reports there are still barriers that require the initiative to modify its methods and programmatic approach.

Active Seattle (AS), a partnership of a pedestrian advocacy group and the City of Seattle’s transportation and public health units, was formed to increase walking among the city’s minority populations. Data showed that African Americans and Hispanic/Latinos were almost twice as likely as whites in Seattle to be inactive. In five neighborhoods with vulnerable populations, AS focused on advocating for policies and projects to create a more walkable city; and social marketing and education to get more people walking.

Key Findings:

  • During the program’s five-year history, Seattle has committed funding to pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure and safety; adopted a “Pedestrian Master Plan” and a “Complete Streets” policy to focus on the needs of walkers and bikers; and completed physical projects, revised school zones and improved sidewalk requirements.
  • Now, more children walk to school; community members are better educated about why and how to increase walking in their daily lives; and health and equity issues of pedestrian safety are considered more in plans and projects.
  • However, beyond the agency level, the highest levels of government—the mayor, council and state and federal officials—need to buy into the “active transportation” mission so that large-scale funding can be obtained to create large-scale change.
  • More advocacy for physical improvements in diverse neighborhoods must be done so there is funding for safer walkways; Active Living education in these neighborhoods is not enough.
  • To date, AS has focused on specific pedestrian problems identified by neighborhoods; improvements have been concrete but small and isolated, such as improvements to particular intersections.

In its five-year history, Active Seattle has achieved a good base of policy change, local improvements and more public and governmental awareness of pedestrian issues. But the assessment’s authors say specific local problems should be funneled efficiently to transportation officials, while AS and other advocacy efforts should focus on larger-scale policies and programs with widespread impact.

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