Monday, September 14, 2009

Creating Safer and Healthier Suburbs, Starting in Burien: Guest Blog Post

The Transportation Choices Coalition board recently endorsed the Burien Safe Sidewalks campaign.

Today discussing the measure is a guest blog post from the campaign chair, Burien Planning Commission Chair, and friend of TCC, Joe Fitzgibbon. Please consider supporting this effort and enjoy the guest post.

From Joe:
Throughout our region, two critical modes of transportation that suffer from a lack of adequate infrastructure are walking and bicycling. The deficiency in infrastructure is most stark in the suburbs and in neighborhoods at the margins of urban centers. These neighborhoods -- in Seattle, think Rainier Beach, Delridge, Georgetown, Greenwood, Lake City -- tend to be dense, close to transit, and close to jobs and commerce. Because walking and biking are less safe in these neighborhoods than it is in those with better infrastructure -- Capitol Hill, Queen Anne, Ballard, the U District -- more people end up driving.

One of King County's most forward-thinking suburbs, Burien, has proposed taking a big step to start to address its own shortage of good pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. The city formed a Transportation Benefit District specifically devoted to the completion of certain high-priority pedestrian and bike projects from the 2004 Pedestrian and Bicycle Facilities Master Plan and asked the voters to consider a $25 vehicle license fee to pay for the improvements. TBDs, which the Legislature authorized as a tool for local governments to fund transportation improvements, have been formed in other cities in region, but Burien's is the first in Western Washington devoted specifically to pedestrian and bicycle projects. The fee will last two years and will be on the November ballot.

An important component of Burien's plan is the fact that improvements will make it possible for students at Cedarhurst Elementary School to walk and bike to school safely. As it is, kids who walk or bike to Cedarhurst are walking and biking in the margins of the road with traffic. Understandably, many parents are reluctant to send their kids to school this way. Safer pedestrian and bicycle facilities will make it possible for more kids to get to school without motorized transport, helping them develop active and healthy habits that will stay with them into adulthood.

Cities throughout the region and the state are watching Burien to see if voters are willing to slightly increase their taxes for badly needed tangible improvements in infrastructure. Will we see other cities take the plunge and ask voters to pay for comparable improvements? If the vote in Burien fails, it's unlikely that suburban city councilmembers elsewhere will have the appetite to take the chance. If the vote succeeds, other cities will be emboldened to go for it.

Burien is a progressive city, voting overwhelmingly last fall to approve ST 2 and to increase property taxes to pay for two new fire stations. However, approval of the vehicle license fee is not going to be an easy sell. The Safe Sidewalks Now campaign is working to get the word out about the vote, but we need your help. The most important thing you can do is to tell your friends in Burien about the opportunity to improve their bike and pedestrian infrastructure. You can also help by writing a check to support the effort financially. If you're interested in helping make our region more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly, which will reduce the number of single-occupancy vehicles on the road and promote transit ridership, please consider supporting the effort.

For more information, contact Joe Fitzgibbon of Safe Sidewalks Now at or visit Checks made out to Safe Sidewalks Now can be mailed to (UPDATED ADDRESS) 615 SW Ambaum Blvd. #204, Burien, WA, 98166.

1 comment:

  1. Such a great effort! Good luck! How can we help to get the word out?