School buses: Red lights flashing? You should be stopping!

In Bellevue, school buses traverse the City in the mornings and afternoons picking up and dropping off children to 16 elementary schools and 5 middle schools (high schools utilize King County Metro). At any given time while driving, you may encounter a bus with red lights flashing and the stop sign or bar out signifying that children are either getting on or off the bus. On a two-lane road, everybody must stop when this happens. But what happens when traveling on a three-lane road or a road with a median?

Follow our handy graphic to learn when you should stop if you encounter a bus with red flashing lights on.

passing-school-buses

When to stop for school buses?
1. 2-lane roadway: both directions stop
2. 3+ lanes: stop if traveling same direction as bus
3. Turning lane: stop if traveling same direction as bus
4. Median: stop if traveling same direction as bus

Thinking about not stopping for a school bus when the red lights are flashing or the stop bar is out? Be prepared for a $430 fine. Traffic enforcement officials need not be on-hand to enforce the infraction; bus drivers are trained to document infractions which are admissible in a court of law.

If you’re still uncertain about when to stop, check out this video from the Washington State Patrol—it contains all the vital information (including reinforcing the $430 fine!).

Updated 11/28/16 to reflect updated fine amount.

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Back to School Edition: 2013

Image courtesy of Flickr user tncountryfan

Image courtesy of Flickr user tncountryfan

Pencil boxes are fully stocked, brown bag lunches carefully arranged, and a new pair of sneakers can only mean one thing: back to school time!  Though school started last Tuesday, we are still hearing comments from parents and residents about congestion around schools, especially elementary schools.  To help you ease into and prepare for the school year, below are resources offering traffic safety tips, updates, and upcoming events!
Check out last year’s Back to School edition!

Traffic Safety Tips:

Whether you are driving, walking, biking, or taking the bus, please exercise caution and travel safely.

  • Slow down
  • Pay attention while driving; don’t be distracted by using electronic devices or cell phones
  • When beacons are flashing or children are present the speed limit is 20 mph
  • Stop for pedestrians and children getting on and off school buses
  • Remember to be aware of your surroundings while turning or changing lanes
  • Stop completely at all intersections
  • Pedestrians should use crosswalk

School Fines Doubled in Elementary School Zones

Did you know fines double in school zones?  Around elementary schools when children are present or when yellow beacons are flashing, you are subject to higher fines when cited speeding or other moving infractions.

164th South of NE 24th BSchool Zone Flashing Beacons Coming to 3 Elementary Schools

Speaking of school zone flashing beacons, you have probably seen them around Bellevue and Issaquah (Cougar Ridge and Sunset Elementary Schools are part of the Issaquah School District but located in Bellevue) elementary schools.  The list that has beacons is increasing this year as the City received state grant funding to install beacons in three new locations: Cherry Crest, Cougar Ridge, and Bennett elementary schools.  Installation should occur before the end of the year.

Generally, the flashing beacons begin to flash about a half hour before school starts and continues for 10 minutes after the first bell (see full schedule).  The beacons resume flashing in the afternoon 10 minutes prior to dismissal time followed by an additional 30 minutes.

Walking School Bus

A walking school bus can make your commute smoother and also encourage children to lead a more active lifestyle.  A walking school bus is a group of children walking to school with one or more adults.  Volunteers in the neighborhood work with one another to create a schedule and timetable of all the planned meetings spots.  Much like waiting for a school bus, children wait at their designated stop until the walking school bus arrives.  They then join the walking group and pick up more students until they reach the school.

WalkToSchoolDay_LogoWalk to School Day 2013—October 9

Walk to School Day is on October 9 when schools all over the world encourage children to Walk to School that day. This year, the City will be coordinating with elementary schools to set up activities that may increase visibility and accessibility of children walking to school.

This year, the City of Bellevue is coordinating with Bellevue School District Elementary Schools to plan for Walk to School Day.  If your school agrees to participate, additional information about Walk to School Day events will come directly from your school or PTSA.

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Keeping in touch!

If you access this blog via Google Reader, you are probably aware that on July 1, Google is discontinuing this service. That means you need to find other ways to get here!

Fear not, for there are many other ways to make sure you don’t miss out any content.

  • RSS Feed: Obviously if you were a Google Reader user, then you know this blog (and every blog) is RSS enabled. So just subscribe using any aggregator or reader that isn’t, you know, Google Reader.
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  • Follow us on Twitter: The Bellevue Transportation Department is on Twitter! Each new story on SAFE gets tweeted so you never miss a beat.
  • Remember the URL: Definitely the most low-tech and good for memory! Just type in the URL to check and see if new content is up.

Thanks for supporting safe streets in Bellevue and beyond!

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NE 5th Street to Close for 3 Weeks; Starts Monday

NE5THworkzonemap

Construction along NE 5th Street will close the roadway 24/7 for approximately three weeks.

Construction in the Wilburton neighborhood along NE 5th St between 120th Ave NE and 124th Ave NE is set to begin today (Friday, April 26).  On Monday, April 29, construction work will ramp up requiring the roadway to be closed in both directions until mid-May, weather permitting.

The closure of NE 5th St will allow access to properties on NE 5th St and the cul-de-sacs of 123rd Ave NE and 123rd Pl NE.

To help expedite this construction, the work will continue through the weekends. Please drive safely and obey flaggers through and around the construction zone.

The NE 5th Street Neighborhood Traffic Plan includes a one-lane zone, a crosswalk on 124th Avenue NE at NE 5th Street and landscaped medians on NE 5th Street east of 124th.

Follow @BvueTrans on Twitter for updates.

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New Real-time Traffic Map Released

The City recently released a new, spatially accurate real-time traffic map to provide residents and visitors with another way to make informed travel decisions.  The map, based in Google Maps, overlays 75 traffic cameras through the City and capitalizes on the familiar color-coded traffic conditions (black/red-red-yellow-green) used in Google Maps to depict congestion levels.

The new real-time traffic map has a familiar Google Maps interface and combines current traffic conditions with more than 70 traffic cameras situated around the City.

The new real-time traffic map has a familiar Google Maps interface and combines current traffic conditions with more than 70 traffic cameras situated around the City.

The map features convenient views that focus on the entire City or some of the most traveled parts of town such as downtown, Factoria/Eastgate, and Crossroads.  Additionally, through the use of layers, users can quickly link to other adjacent Eastside and regional traffic maps including Issaquah, King County, Redmond, Seattle, and WSDOT. 

In addition to viewing Bellevue traffic and traffic cameras, you can quickly jump to other regional traffic maps.

In addition to viewing Bellevue traffic and traffic cameras, you can quickly jump to other regional traffic maps.

Releasing the map precedes the start of a busy construction season around Bellevue.  Many projects from Transportation, Utilities, and Parks are currently underway or will be shortly. For example:

  • Construction on West Lake Sammamish Parkway began earlier this year resulting in increased congestion during certain times of the day. 
  • In May, the Utilities Department will begin work on replacing the Coal Creek Culvert  which will reduce travel lanes down to one in each direction.

Checking the map before you leave home or work will help you to plan a more time-efficient trip, especially as projects transition from design to construction. 

Checking traffic before you leave will help you to avoid congested areas like this stretch of West Lake Sammamish Parkway which is currently under construction.

Checking traffic before you leave will help you to avoid congested areas like this stretch of West Lake Sammamish Parkway which is currently under construction.

To learn more about projects that are sprouting in Bellevue, come to the April 24 Spring Forward Expo where 60+ projects will be on-hand to share information and gather public feedback.  The event will be at Bellevue City Hall from 4-7 p.m.

In addition to checking the real-time traffic map, be sure to subscribe to traffic advisories and follow @BvueTrans on Twitter.

You can access the map from the front-page of the City of Bellevue website.

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Radar Signs Installed Ahead of March 19 West Lake Sammamish Parkway Detour

At this point, the West Lake Sammamish Parkway (WLSP) southbound detour from SE 34th Street to I-90—scheduled to commence March 19 and last approximately 8 months—should come as no surprise.

While the closure will impact commuters and residents by potentially adding a few minutes to their trip, neighborhood residents adjacent to the detour area will deal with other effects from increased volume traveling on their streets.

To address increased volume and to remind drivers of the posted speed limit, NTSS recently installed 4 new stationary radar signs along SE 34th Street, 164th Place SE, and SE 38th Street.  Stationary radar signs display motorist’s speed and, if necessary, alert driver’s to reduce their speeds if they are exceeding the posted speed limit; the speed limit is 30 mph along SE 34th Street and 25 mph along 164th Place SE and SE 38th Street.

 

This radar sign on the north side of SE 34th Street just west of West Lake Sammamish Parkway was installed prior to the March 19 detour.

This radar sign on the north side of SE 34th Street just west of West Lake Sammamish Parkway was installed prior to the March 19 detour.

There had been an existing radar sign located on 164th Place SE south of SE 34th Street.  This sign, one of the first of its kind installed in the City, was positioned in such a way that its visibility was hindered by encroaching vegetation and the curve of the street.  With this installation, the sign was removed and relocated farther south where it will be more visible and thus effective at slowing southbound drivers.

WLSP Detour  

Untitled-1

The southbound WLSP detour will begin Tuesday, March 19.  Access is limited to as far south as SE 34th Street.  Northbound access will remain open along with local access to businesses, schools, and recreational activities.  Though the northbound lane will be open, delays are still possible.  The 8-month southbound closure is necessary to expedite the completion of the project.  If both lanes were kept open, the construction timeline would double to 16 months.

Follow us on Twitter to stay updated as the detour starts.

WLkSammamishPkwyDetour_8x11_100

Additional Resources:

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Why are there multi-colored paint lines across my yard?

small_max_call before you dig

Max is here to remind you to call 811 before you dig*

As we spring forward early Sunday morning on March 10 (you’ll remember to set your clock one hour ahead, right?) and the days become longer, it’s time to restart those home improvement projects that have been hibernating during the dark, cold days of winter.

But before you put shovel to dirt to build a new fence or plant a tree, be sure to call 811 a few days before your digging project to identify underground utilities. After calling, a locator will come to your property, FREE OF CHARGE, to properly identify underground utilities.  Even if you think you know where all utilities are, don’t take a chance and start a project without calling 811 first.  If you unexpectedly hit something, you may be subject to fines, injury, and major inconvenience.

You’ve probably even noticed this when walking in the neighborhood: multicolored collages of spray paint on a roadway or in your yard. These marks are a critical first element in safely identifying underground utilities for transportation projects or any project that mandates digging or excavating (which is 99.9% of them).

So what does this color-coding actually mean?  A uniform color code developed by the American Public Works Association (APWA) and used nationwide, removes uncertainty and guesswork around what is lurking beneath the surface.

Utilities Color Code

It’s equally important for the City to call 811 when starting projects.  Knowing where existing utilities are and which type they are guide the design, construction, and maintenance of projects. 

UPDATED (3/12/13): Transportation has received some concerns recently that these locate lines are taking away the beauty of the neighborhood.  Please remember that the paint is only temporary and will wash away.  Tempting as it may be, please note that it is illegal to remove the paint and/or flags used to locate underground utilities. They exist to provide safety for you, your neighbors, and crews working on the project. 

So next time you see painted lines on the ground, you’ll know what’s beneath your feet and that a project may be coming to your neighborhood!

More information:

*Image source: http://www.callbeforeyoudig.org/
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How Effective Are Radar Signs?

radar-sign-animatedThe City employs many methods to deter speeding vehicles: building speed humps, requesting police enforcement, and promoting education efforts. These efforts have been used for many years in the City of Bellevue and are tried-and-true.  Another approach to deter speeding vehicles is the use of stationary radar signs; you know, those signs that display your speed when you drive by (and flash when you are exceeding the speed limit).

You drive by them and they are meant to get your attention, but do they actually get you to slow down?  In Bellevue, the answer is yes.

Let’s take a look at how/why stationary radar signs are installed and how effective they are in keeping speeds near the posted limit.

Neighborhood Traffic Safety Services, the group in the City that manages this blog, is also responsible for installing and maintaining both elementary school flashing beacons and stationary radar signs throughout the City.  Currently, 31 stationary radar signs can be found on streets in Bellevue and most elementary schools have flashing beacons that help establish when 20 mph school zones are active.

The When, Where, and How of Radar Sign Installation

Radar signs can be a less obtrusive measure than installing physical elements, such as speed humps.  They are relatively low-cost tools that require minimal community support (65% of responding households in the proposal area must support the sign before moving forward with the project).  To help prioritize where signs should be installed, a rating system is used that takes into account the average speeds of vehicles, average daily traffic, number of accidents, proximity to community destinations such as schools and parks, and the presence of pedestrian facilities.  As funding allows, signs are installed in locations with the highest priority.    

Effectiveness of Radar Signs

Once a location has been equipped with a radar sign, just how effective will it be in reducing vehicle speeds?  In Bellevue, they are categorically effective in reducing vehicles speeds.* Note that over time, the effectiveness in reducing speeds actually has gotten better!

The below chart shows the reduction in vehicle speeds over three periods of time: 1 to 3 years, 2 to 5 years, and 6 to 8 years with the sample sizes of 31, 22, and 10, respectively.  After 1 to 3 years, 19% of the 31 radar sign locations in the study saw reductions of 85th percentile speeds of 0 to 4%, 42% of locations experienced 5 to 9% reductions, with 36% of locations experiencing 10% or more in speed reductions.  One location, or 3% of the sample size saw speeds slightly increase.

radar-signs-with-timeline

The trend over time reveals that speeds at radar sign locations continue to decrease with 60% of locations experiencing a 10% or more speed reduction after 6 to 8 years of installation.  Clearly, radar sign installations are not fleeting in their effectiveness; they have prolonged utility in reducing vehicle speeds. 

Radar Signs Decrease Speeds, but do People Like Them?

Since 2000, installing radar signs has been a robust element of the City’s traffic calming toolkit. Year after year, residents see the utility in these signs and often take to the Radar Sign Request form to formally ask for one in their neighborhood.  Once the form is received, it will be evaluated based on the aforementioned criteria. 

Radar Signs Coming Soon!

In the coming months, we will be installing radar signs on SE 34th Street near West Lake Sammamish Parkway and on 164th Place SE/SE 38th Street.   Check out the Projects tab on the blog for more information.

Additional Resources:

 *Data used to determine effectiveness from the 2009 Stationary Radar Sign Program Report. Reduced speeds represent decrease in 85th percentile speeds—the speed at which 85% of vehicles are traveling.  

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LEDs Added to Bellevue Streets

LED Infographic2_2_2For years, millions of moody yellow street lights have blanketed American cities.  The City of Bellevue alone owns and operates approximately 3,000 street lights and operates an additional 5,000 owned by Puget Sound Energy (PSE).  Whether you walk to the bus stop early in the morning or dash to the store before it closes at night, you probably take this technology for granted; it’s always just there and you rarely notice it.

That is you rarely notice it until the light that you are so accustomed to traveling under looks different.

And looking different is exactly what’s happening all over the City as older, yellow high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights are gradually being replaced by higher-efficiency, longer-lasting light emitting diode (LED) lights. 

What is an LED street light? 

A War and Peace-sized novel could be written about LED street lighting and the nuances of how many lumens per watt are emitted, optical control, surge suppression ratings, and ambient temperature.  Essentially, a LED light uses many individual light sources (LEDs) to form a matrix of light compared to a single bulb used in HPS lights.

Making the switch to LED in Bellevue

Switching to LED street lighting will help support Bellevue’s Environmental Stewardship Initiative by reducing the City’s carbon footprint, as well as reducing the ongoing cost of providing street lighting.  With rising energy prices, the City’s street lighting budget has increased faster than inflation.  Gradually switching from HPS to LED lighting will enable the city to not only reduce costs, but also  be a leader in how public agencies provide street lighting on their roadways. 

Started as part of a cost-savings and energy-reducing initiative, LED street lighting is becoming more commonplace throughout the City.  The first experience with LED lighting was a test project in Factoria in 2008, with the first roadway section being rolled out shortly thereafter in Wilburton on 118th Ave SE from Main Street to SE 5th Street.  Bellevue now has 140 LED street lights, with more planned soon.

Bellevue is not alone in converting from HPS to LED.  Seattle City Light is a leader in the conversion to LED lighting, and many cities all over the world are making the switch too, and for good reason. 

Why use LED Street lighting?

  • Longer life. LED lighting has a 10-15 year useful life compared to 4-5 years for a HPS light bulb.     
  • Cost Savings. Because LED lights use less energy and last longer, operation and maintenance  costs are reduced.  It is estimated that if Bellevue is one day able to switch to all LED lights, $340,000 per year in energy costs would be saved.
  • Less Light Trespass – LED is more exact in lighting the desired areas with less light trespass (i.e. more light on the road and less on adjacent properties).
  • Environmental Benefit.  LED lights result in reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from producing less energy to run the lights and fewer service trips.  Also, no mercury is used in the production of LED lights.
  • Management.  LED lights come with features that allow for the implementation of a future street light management system.  Such a system would allow for remote detection of failures and ability to dim lights during certain hours for additional energy savings.

Though there are many benefits to using LED street lighting, especially in the long-term, there are some short-term considerations.

Considerations:

  • Higher initial cost.  The initial cost of the LED light can be up to three times as much as HPS lights.  That higher initial cost is recovered and converted to cost savings over the life of the light.
  • Mimicking daylight.  LED lights produce a whiter light compared to HPS.  This has the potential to disrupt individual circadian rhythms more than the yellow light of HPS.  The upside of the whiter light  is  it is easier for the human eye to distinguish details and colors  leading to research into the idea of using less light on our roadways.
  • Brightness.  LED lights tend to be brighter than HPS when looking directly at the light source.  This may cause more discomfort for aging eyes as it takes more time to adjust eyesight to lighting conditions.
  • Risk.  The implementation of any new technology comes with risks, especially for early implementers.  For instance, the lower life cycle costs expected from LED are based on projections and not actual case studies because LED lighting is new.  However, projections are based on standard testing procedures.
led example_flickr letscommunicate

An example of LED lighting showing the matrix of individual LEDs that comprise a street light (Source: Flickr user letscommunicate)

Moving Forward

While there currently is not a set schedule for converting all city street lights to LED, there are certain areas and instances where LED is prioritized over HPS, generally falling into 4 categories:

  1. Retrofitting existing PSE owned lights that are on  wood poles in residential areas,
  2. Lights on new roadway and development projects
  3. Retrofitting existing arterials that have city-owned HPS lights
  4.  New light installations on existing wood poles in residential areas

The city recently received an energy conservation grant to retrofit over 100 street lights on three corridors in the City.  This project is planned for implementation on Cougar Mountain Way, and portions of NE 24th Street and Northup Way, in 2013.

Due to the newness of LED technology and with the introduction of new products, how the City uses LED lighting is continuously refined.  For instance, LED lights from just two years ago were much more “white” than current lights; the whiteness is now analogous to the color temperature of moonlight.   Each wave of technology and lessons learned from the rolling out of LED lights are fed back into how City engineers manage LED street lighting.  As the wrinkles of this new technology are ironed out and more benefits are realized,  the future looks bright for the streets of Bellevue.

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2012 on SAFE: A Recap

2012 on SAFEAt the beginning of 2012, Streets are for Everyone was just an idea kicking around yet to be realized.  The first half of the year was spent planning, designing, and writing to prepare for the July launch.  How the blog would be received was on everyone’s minds prior to the launch.  Fortunately, in six months, SAFE has attracted thousands of visitors from over 50 countries.

When launching, the goal was to publish every other week.  With 19 stories (including this one!) published in six months, we exceeded our goal.  Looking to 2013, we will continue to publish every other week with the opportunity for more stories as they arise. 

As we look toward the one year mark, we want to make sure we are covering the topics that are important to you. In the coming months, we will have stories on new LED lighting in Bellevue, what the black tubes are in the roadway, why people are spray painting markings on your lawn, and more. 

What stories do you want to see on SAFE in 2013?  Let us know in the comments.

Thanks for following us during the past 6 months! Stay tuned for more posts from Bellevue’s Neighborhood Traffic Safety Services Group!

PS: The Bellevue Transportation Department recently launched a Twitter feed so be sure to follow us to stay on top of alerts, impacts, and travel resources.

Here is a summary of our posts, in chronological order, along with the top-5 most read.  Enjoy and Happy New Year!

1. Welcome to Streets are for Everyone (6/27/12) – Our very first post describes how the Neighborhood Traffic Safety Services can help you make your neighborhood an even better place to live.

2. Neighborhood Streets ≠ Playground (6/27/12) – #1 most read. Explains how “Children at Play” signs can create a false sense of security.

3. To stop or not stop, is that even a question? (7/9/12) – #4 most read. Clarifies how the city decides when and where to use stop signs.

4. Annual Repaving Program Focused on City’s Main Thoroughfares (7/23/12) – Details the city’s annual repaving program.

5. New Guidebook Explains Traffic Safety Services (7/27/12) – Information on the City’s traffic safety services and how you can get involved.

6. Contacting the RIGHT Person About More Than Traffic Concerns (8/6/12) – Clarifies who to get in contact with to best serve your traffic and transportation needs.

7. What are those black rubber spikes in the roadway? (8/10/12)  – #2 most read. Explains those so-called black “spikes” you may have seen in the roadway.

8. Comment on Neighborhood Sidewalk Proposals (8/20/12) – Information about current sidewalk projects in Bellevue and the opportunity for you to suggest where the next sidewalks should be built.

9. Speeding in School Zones; Double the Trouble (8/22/12) –  Details the consequences of speeding in school zones.

10. Back to School Edition  (9/5/12) – Suggests alternative methods of getting your kids to school as well as information about the flashing beacons you may have seen in school zones.

11. Colorful Addition to Intersection near Sherwood Forest Elementary (9/11/12) -Newly decorated utility boxes near Sherwood Forest Elementary.

12. Be a Good Neighbor: Trim Hedges, Create Safer Streets (9/20/12) – Improve sightline distances for drivers and pedestrians.

13. Be a Good neighbor: Clear the Walkway! (10/1/12) – Keeping walkways clear for better pedestrian access.

14. Speed Humps: You Either Like Them or You Don’t (10/17/12) – #5 most read. Information on how speed humps are installed.

15. Should I Stay or Should I Go? Flashing Yellow Arrows Being Used in Bellevue (10/31/12) – #3 most read. New traffic signals give preference to those making left turns. 

16. Travel Smart During the Holidays (11/14/12) – Suggestions to ease travel on your holiday trips to Bellevue.

17. Driving in Snow and Ice in Bellevue (12/3/12) – Winter driving safety tips.

18. Traffic Safety Concerns in Bellevue. Where are they? (12/17/12) – A map showing where the City has developed Traffic Action Plans.

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