Monthly Archive for February, 2010

Walking Georgetown Industrial Area

People don’t normally think of the industrial area in Georgetown as a good place to walk. An area with warehouses and other light industrial uses, it is criss-crossed by a grid of streets that are often traveled by large trucks and sometimes not served with sidewalks. However, if you know where to go, you can stay on the sidewalks and walk along some quiet residential streets and get a feel for this unique part of Seattle. Also, this time of year many cherry trees are blossoming, so let’s go for a nice walk in the industrial (and residential) part of Georgetown.

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You can get here by driving and there should be short-term parking available on many nearby streets, or you can take the 23 or 124 bus from downtown.

Start at 4th Ave S and S Lucile St. At the northeast corner of the intersection you’ll see the Vac Shop – notice the vacuums outside made to look like robots and animals. Walk north along the east (right) side of the road.

Cross S Brandon St and turn right on S Brandon St. At the right time of the year, you’ll see the trees on the right side of the street covered in beautiful pink cherry blossoms. On your left you’ll pass Oasis Water Gardens, a nursery for water gardeners.

The intersection with 5th Ave S is one of those Seattle intersections with no signage, so cross traffic may not stop. At the next intersection, traffic at 6th Ave S has the right of way. Continue walking along S Brandon St. On the right side of the street, you’ll see some of the houses that are scattered throughout Georgetown. At Maynard Ave S, you’ll see Lect’s Soup Stop serving soups out of an old train switching location.

Turn right at Maynard Ave S. Unfortunately, while some of the east-west streets in this area well-served by sidewalks and consistently lined with trees, many of the north-south streets are lacking in amenities. Still, this street has a sidewalk, but rather than grass and trees insulating you from the street, there may be parked cars instead.

When clear, cross S Lucile St and continue heading south and cross S Findlay St where Maynard Ave S curves left and changes into S Homer St. Stay on the right side of the street so that you can remain on the sidewalk. The streets in this area may be lined with parked rigs, which are not uncommon in this area. Continue and cross 7th Ave S and the old railroad tracks along the road. The block on your right is completely residential, including some nicely maintained and colorfully painted houses. As you approach Padilla Pl S, you may see the Georgetown Playground on your left.

Turn right on Padilla Pl S before you get to the New Direction Missionary Church and then turn right on S Orcas St. There is a substantial buffer between the sidewalk and the street, and despite the King County maintenance building on the left side of the street, this area feels like many other quiet residential areas. Here is what the sidewalk on the left (south) side of the street looks like when the cherry blossoms are in season:

Cherry blossoms in season along S Orcas St

Walking westward when the cherry blossoms are in season toward 7th Ave S on S Orcas St

Continue across 7th Ave S. You’ll pass the Georgetown branch of the US Post Office on your right. The street curves left and you’ll cross 6th Ave S. On your right are the headquarters for kitchenware retailer Sur La Table, which opened its first store in 1972 in Pike Place Market. The store in Kirkland regularly offers cooking classes. On your left is the Seattle Design Center, where interior designers (and other interested parties) can tour 65 home decor showrooms.

Cherry blossoms between Seattle Design Ctr and Sur La Table

Cherry blossoms between Seattle Design Ctr and Sur La Table on South Orcas st

You’ll continue on S Orcas St, past the Tiger Lounge on your right, back to 4th Ave S.

Turn right on 4th Ave S and walk two blocks back to our starting point of 4th Ave S and S Lucile St. From here, you can call it quits, or we can continue walking on the other side of 4th Ave S. Cross 4th Ave S and turn left (south). You’ll walk past a pho restaurant, where the sidewalk may be partially occupied by parked cars, and you’ll pass a Subway, and Marco Polo Bar & Grill, which has some of the best fried chicken in town and karaoke on Friday nights.

Turn right on S Orcas St. This side of 4th Ave S is more industrial, with a few scattered houses, but is still a good, quiet place to walk. As we continue, feel free to stop at the Little Deli Mart on the right if you want a bottled drink. Otherwise, turn right on 1st Ave S. You’ll walk by Slim’s Last Chance Chili Shack and the Pig Iron Bar-B-Q, either of which would be a fine place to stop and eat.

Continue to S Lucile St and turn right. Walk east towards 4th Ave S. At 3rd Ave S, you might notice the Sherman Supply company, which has 6 butts on the wall:

Butts on wall at Sherman Supply Co

Butts used for advertising on the wall of Sherman Supply Co on S Lucile St

Past that is a lot where you can buy lawn statuary, including an alien holding a football, as well as slightly classier lawn ornaments, though no marble columns for sale.

Anyway, here is where our walk ends, back where we started. Despite perhaps looking like an uninviting and dull industrial area, even this part of Georgetown offers a pleasant walk.

Highlights: Relatively quiet streets, beautiful cherry blossoms at the right time of year, some quirky establishments, a diversity of houses and light industrial, some good places to stop and eat or drink

Lowlights: Care required to cross some streets, not very popular, light industrial creates some dead spots, walking across railroad tracks can be slippery


Transforming downtown to make Seattle America’s Most Walkable City

The city of Seattle just finished the most comprehensive study ever done in a US city on improving public spaces. The architecture firm that performed the study presented their preliminary findings this past Tuesday.

You can download a PDF version of the presentation from the International Sustainability Institute.

The presentation starts with some key findings about where pedestrians go downtown, noting that the waterfront is undervisited partially due to poor connections between the waterfront and downtown. It also maps the dull area in the central part of downtown between the retail core and Pioneer Square.

The presentation then moves on to some recommendations:

  • upgrading the waterfront toward making Seattle a waterfront city
  • using the east-west streets as “green connectors”
  • turning alleys into “green lungs”
  • greening building roofs and walls

There are a few motivating graphics that show how adding greenery and other pedestrian amenities could transform downtown, specifically King Street Station and 1st Avenue.

It also shares some lessons from New York City’s conversion of Times Square to reduce vehicle traffic.

The easy suggestions it makes are to:

  1. Better connect Pike Place Market & Westlake
  2. Complete the bicycle network
  3. Prioritize 1st Ave to make it a great street
  4. Green the alleys
  5. Create active facades to replace plain walls

Seattle has a lot of potential to make the downtown area great and this study seems to have identified a lot of good ways to do that. The full results will be out in March.

You can watch the presentation here. The Seattle PI’s In Pioneer Square blog has a good overview as well.


Walking Alki

Alki in West Seattle is a popular place to go on any sunny day. This walk takes you alongside the water for a great view of the city and the skyline, then a view across the water towards the Olympic Mountains. There’s also a beach and several places to stop and eat or have a drink.

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You can get there by taking the Water Taxi, the 37 bus on weekdays, or by taking the Harbor Ave exit from the West Seattle bridge.

We’ll start our walk along Harbor Ave SW near Fairmount Ave SW, close to Salty’s on Alki and just south of the Water Taxi dock.

The main sidewalk parallels the road, but there are also paved paths that take you closer to the water for better views of the city.

Seattle skyline from Alki

You’ll pass a couple parking lots as you approach Duwamish Head, the northernmost point in West Seattle. After curving past Duwamish Head, there is a pier that you can walk out onto for a good panoramic view and to get a good final look at the skyline before continuing on the west side of Alki.

Now that we’re on the west side of Alki, this part of the path is often very busy on sunny days with bikers, joggers, skateboarders, rollerbladers, and other walkers.

You’ll walk this way for about a mile before reaching Alki Beach, but that mile will pass by quickly as you enjoy the view and people watching.

At Alki Beach Park you’ll start to see several places to stop to eat or grab a drink. You can also sit in the sand, play beach volleyball, or go swim in the (cold) water, or watch others doing any of those things.

Olympic Mountains from Alki Beach

Our walk ends at the Alki Beach bathhouse, but you could continue toward Alki Point and the lighthouse, or stay and enjoy the beach.

Highlights: great view of the city and mountains, wide sidewalk, people-watching, places to stop and eat or drink

Lowlights: sidewalk can get crowded, can be windy and colder than elsewhere in the city


Walking Obstacle – Sidewalk Dumpster

Dumpster on sidewalk

Excuse me, I'd like to be walking there


Lecture on making Seattle Most Walkable City in America

Note: This post was intended to be published on February 17

Great City has set up another talk, this time to discuss the results of a study done on Downtown Seattle:

Seattle has just completed the most in-depth study of public spaces Downtown ever conducted in a U.S. city. Don’t miss this free forum about how to turn Down­town into a world-class pedestrian-friendly experience.

Head over to their blog to get the details.


Walking Discovery Park Loop Trail

Discovery Park is a popular place to go for a walk on a nice sunny day. While there are numerous trails, the Loop Trail provides an enjoyable and relatively easy 2.8 mile journey through the park.

Discovery Park has three main parking areas, a North Parking Lot, an East Parking Lot, and a South Parking Lot. You can also get there by taking the 19, 24, or 33 buses from downtown.

The park has directional signs at most intersections so it’s pretty easy to find the Loop Trail from wherever you enter the park. And, being a loop, you can go clockwise or counter-clockwise, depending on your preference.

Our route will Start heading counter-clockwise at the East Parking Lot. Unfortunately, the walking route from the parking lot isn’t especially clear, but head toward the main road and you’ll soon see a sign for the Loop Trail.

Along the way, you’ll cross other trails that can take you on side trips, such as down to the water. However, the Loop Trail itself offers some good views. Most of the trail is forested with moderate changes in elevation. There are many trees and logs and in the winter months you’ll see plenty of moss.

Moss-covered rock

The moist winters can leave natural elements covered with a thick layer of moss

Aside from crossing a couple roads, some of which are no longer used by vehicles, there’s not much to interrupt the beautiful northwest forest. If you’re walking counter-clockwise, you’ll eventually cross a street and pass by a military housing development that is part of Fort Lawton. After ascending a hill, you’ll see a beautiful view of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound.

Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound

People stop to rest and observe the view

After you’ve taken in the view, you can continue on. This section of the trail is very different, as there are no trees, possibly due to building Fort Lawton. You can read a little more of the history of the Park at You’ll also see a large radar across the field.

Radar across a field at Discovery Park

Radar across a field at Discovery Park

Continuing on, you’ll pass by some public restrooms and will re-enter some more forested area and pass by the South Parking Lot. As you look to the distance on your right, you’ll see the Fort Lawton Cemetery. Though the trail splits off somewhat around this section, just continue walking and you’ll soon return to the Discovery Park Visitors Center and East Parking Lot

Highlights: beautiful natural area, trees, trail normally in good condition, forest, well-labeled, alternative trails, view, public restrooms

Lowlights: can be busy with children, dogs, and joggers, trail can be hard to find around parking lots


Times Square to stay pedestrian-friendly

After an 8 month experiment, New York has decided to keep Broadway closed to vehicle traffic in Times Square. From what I’ve heard, the changes were very well received by pedestrians.

Seattle is planning its own version of this by closing part of Westlake to vehicle traffic in order to create Westlake Plaza, as we posted about before. Westlake Plaza won’t quite be Times Square, but the project offers a similar type of enhancement to a public space, so it will be exciting to see the project develop.


Laws for pedestrians

The laws governing when and where pedestrians can legally cross a street may not be universally clear. Fortunately, the Post-Intelligencer’s Seattle 911 blog has addressed quite a few of these issues in the past, so let’s take a look how the laws apply to pedestrians.

First off, pedestrians can legally cross a street at any intersection, even if it’s not a marked crosswalk (except where specifically prohibited, of course). And, of course, cars are required to stop:

State law says drivers must stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross the roadway within a crosswalk, unmarked or marked, “when the pedestrian us upon or within one lane of the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning.” (There are exceptions for curb ramps.)

However, at an unmarked crosswalk, cars are not required to yield for you until you’ve begun to step out into the roadway:

At an uncontrolled intersection (no signals, signs, or marked crosswalks), if a pedestrian is standing on the sidewalk or off of the roadway and has not stepped out onto the roadway so as to indicate an intention to cross the street, vehicular traffic is not required to stop.

However, once the pedestrian steps or is in the act of stepping into the street, he/she has indicated an intention to cross the street and vehicular traffic must come to a complete stop and allow the pedestrian to cross.

And, in case you were wondering, the same laws apply to the Seattle Streetcar.

Also, apparently, crossing the street at somewhere other than an intersection is legal as long as you yield to traffic.

Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right of way to all vehicles upon the roadway.

However, to be clear, this doesn’t apply to arterials:

Seattle police spokesman Mark Jamieson says if you’re crossing in the middle of the block and not at an intersection, then that would be illegal. “If somebody tries to cross the street in the middle of the block because they see an opening, then they would be jaywalking and would be subject to ticket if they were stopped.”

So, I suppose that means that you can cross any neighborhood street pretty much anywhere, but can only cross arterial streets at an intersection or crosswalk. However, the streets of Pike Place Market are legal to cross anywhere:

The Seattle Municipal code prohibits pedestrians from crossing an arterial street other than in a crosswalk except upon the following portions of streets within the Pike Place Market Historical District

At signaled intersections, it’s illegal to cross when the “don’t walk” signal is flashing. However I rarely see anyone observing that, as most people seem to prefer scampering across the intersection before the light changes over halting their momentum to wait for the next walk signal.

Anyway, hopefully this helps clear things up a little bit about what you can and can’t do (legally) as a pedestrian.


Westlake Plaza design

The city is in the process of developing an outdoor plaza near Westlake Ave & Stewart St.

View Westlake Streetcar Plaza in a larger map

The Seattle Transit Blog covered an open house event last week:

SDOT hosted an open house for the Westlake Streetcar Plaza last Wednesday. (For background, Adam covered the project in great detail last year.) The open house presented the project at the 60% design stage and took public comments. From this point SDOT will move towards finalizing the design and implementing the project. If you want to make a comment, do it as soon as possible. Construction is planned to begin this July and finish this November.

The enlarged plaza area should be friendly to foot traffic and will have connections for a food vendor.


Walking through Belltown

Belltown is the densest part of the city outside of downtown and makes for a good place to walk. This route goes along the two most active streets in Belltown – 1st and 2nd Aves.

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Start at 1st and Virginia and head Northwest, parallel to Elliott Bay. This part of Belltown has the most shopping and, being close to downtown and Pike Place Market, is an easy starting point. Walking along either side of the street is fine, but the right side has several small parking lots that interrupt the streetscape.

The first parking lot you pass has a wall decorated with one of the larger graffiti-style urban art projects in Seattle (go here for pictures from the Hideous Belltown blog).

As you continue walking, you’ll see lots of historic low-rise buildings and will pass more retail, including an Army/Navy Surplus Store. At Battery St, you’ll pass over highway 99 and will have a view of Elliott Bay. On the other side of the street you’ll see some more old Belltown buildings, including the Austin A Bell bldg from 1890.

Historic buildings in Belltown

Old architecture from 1889-1890

Continue walking a few more blocks and turn right at Vine St. Vine St is a relatively narrow street lined with trees but without much for retail or dining. Vine isn’t a major street, so you won’t have a crosswalk or a traffic light when crossing Belltown’s Avenues, so be careful. Pedestrians can legally cross any intersection, but some drivers may not know that. Unless you’re doing this walk at a busy time of day, you should be able to cross easily during a break in vehicle traffic.

Turn left at 5th Ave and walk a block in parallel with the monorail. You’ll arrive at Tilikum Place, a shaded outdoor plaza with a fountain, surrounded by a few places to stop and eat.

Tilikum Place

The trees offer shade and there are benches to watch the fountain in the summer months

Feel free to stop and rest or continue and walk southwest along Cedar St. At 3rd Ave, you’ll see a large mural on your right on the building of New Horizons Ministries.

Mural at New Horizons Ministries

Colorful mural at 3rd and Cedar

Belltown has a diversity of architecture to enjoy. The buildings on the eastern side, away from the water, tend to be shorter and are less likely to be inhabited by any street-level retail or dining. As you continue towards the water, you’ll see more recent development and high-rise condo buildings. We’ll turn left at 2nd Ave toward downtown.

2nd Ave is a 3 lane street with relatively few traffic lights, so it does have some fast-moving vehicles. However, the parking and trees insulate help to insulate pedestrians from the street, and curb-bulbs at intersections make it feel a little safer to cross the avenue. As you continue southeast, you’ll encounter more bars and restaurants, especially once you get to Battery St.

Feel free to stop at any one of these restaurants or bars for something to eat and drink, or stop for a game of pinball at Shorty’s.

A few blocks more and we’ll end our walk at 2nd Ave & Virginia, just a block away from where we started.

Highlights: continguous urban streetscape, density, restaurants and bars, stop and rest at Tilikum Place, coffee shops, diverse architecture, wide sidewalks

Lowlights: a few parking lots, some dead spots without much to look at, can be rough at night, not much retail outside of 1st Ave, lack of designated crosswalks