Safe Routes to Healthy Food for Older Adults: DC Residents Create Colorful Crosswalk for AARP’s Community Challenge Grant

taste of harvest

The Safe Routes Partnership was awarded a 2019 AARP Community Challenge grant to implement a safety project in Washington D.C.’s Bellevue neighborhood. Bellevue is located in Ward 8, where a single grocery store serves over 80,000 residents, many of whom are older adults. With a new grocery store coming to Bellevue early next year, residents wanted to celebrate the occasion and advocate for safer, easier shopping trips. Our AARP grant project, Safe Routes to Healthy Food for Older Adults, presented an opportunity to support residents in their advocacy efforts while turning art into community action.

This October, Ward 8 residents and community partners gathered to create a colorful crosswalk and design custom reusable grocery bags as a part of Safe Routes to Healthy Food for Older Adults. Members of the Ward 8 Traffic Safety Team had long expressed an interest in bringing colorful crosswalks to neighborhoods East of the River. We partnered with local arts organization Project Create to paint a temporary crosswalk with a healthy food design. One of our goals was to show larger community support for permanent artistic crosswalks in Ward 8. Another goal was to raise awareness about the new grocery store coming to Bellevue by using eye-catching temporary infrastructure.

We partnered with another community organization, THEARC, to organize our crosswalk painting activity during their annual Taste of Harvest Festival. Attendees of all ages gathered to help paint the crosswalk and customize reusable grocery bags using fruit and vegetable stamps. As participants worked, we shared information about the project and gathered feedback on what kinds of safety improvements they would like to see during trips to the grocery store. There was overwhelming enthusiasm for a permanent artistic crosswalk, ample parking, and increased bus service.

safety demoA week later, we installed our crosswalk at Bellevue Library and had visitors try it out during a farmer’s market event. Drivers noticeably slowed down while turning onto the street. Pedestrians asked if we were going to paint the design on the ground because it would be a nice addition to the neighborhood. Many market shoppers expressed how proud they were that the crosswalk was created by Ward 8 residents, for Ward 8 residents. Most of the participants at the safety demonstration were older adults from the Bellevue neighborhood who experience barriers to transportation and food access. We spent the afternoon listening to their stories, asking how we could support them, and celebrating their leadership. Our Ward 8 Traffic Safety Team will continue developing traffic safety solutions in the months leading up to the grocery store opening.

The Safe Routes Partnership thanks AARP Foundation for supporting Safe Routes to Healthy Food for Older Adults.