Monthly Archive for April, 2010

Fighting for sidewalks along Aurora

In the 1950s, Seattle annexed unincorporated land between N 85th St and N 145th St. However, with no local jurisdiction, much of that area was not developed with sidewalks and according to local resident Richard Dyksterhuis, little has changed since then. Like the Bitter Lake resident who wants to make his neighborhood more walkable, Dyksterhuis wants to make this part of town better for walking.

For the past five years, Dyksterhuis, 83, has rallied neighbors and contacted city officials numerous times to call attention to the lack of sidewalks on his street. “Between 800 and 1,200 low income elderly live in the Linden Avenue area,” said Dyksterhuis, who wants to make it into a complete neighborhood street where his peers can walk or use their wheelchairs safely.

There has been some improvement recently:

A 100-foot stretch of gravel and potholes has been asphalted and a line painted on the pavement to mark the path for pedestrians. Further north, bewteen 143rd and 145th streets, an 8-foot-wide sidewalk was built last fall, three years after Dyksterhuis and other neighborhood activists got Mayor Nickels to pay a visit and the project was included in the city’s budget.

However, more could be done to transform the area by making it more walkable:

But opportunity for change has opened since two car dealerships have gone out of business and the big lots have been put up for sale. “I want you to find a developer with a heart, compassion, sense of beauty and commitment to social change,” said Dyksterhuis, who envisions a residential complex with a 18-story apartment building, a European-style plaza and small businesses. “It would help transform Aurora Avenue North.”


SDOT Annual Report

SDOT has released its 2009 Annual Report. In 2009, SDOT did the following:

  • Built 26 blocks of new sidewalks
  • Rehabilitated 24 blocks of sidewalks
  • Installed 36 new single crosswalks
  • Re-marked 810 crosswalks
  • Installed 34 curb bulbs
  • Constructed 392 curb ramps
  • Retrofitted 19 curb ramps
  • Retrofitted 5 stairways
  • Improved 6 walking routes to schools for safety
  • Installed 40 pedestrian countdown traffic signals
  • Improved 116 pedestrian and bicycle spots

In 2009, SDOT also completed its Pedestrian Master Plan toward prioritizing pedestrian-oriented improvement areas and policy and program implementation actions.

SDOT made a lot of progress toward making Seattle more walkable in 2009, but there is still plenty of room to go.


Pedestrian hit and killed in Ballard

A 67-year-old man was walking through a parking lot and was backed into and run over. He was dragged under the vehicle and died on the scene. More details are available at the Seattle Police Department Blotter.


Walking Madison Park

Madison Park on the shore of Lake Washington is a peaceful place to walk with a small village of shops and restaurants.

View Larger Map

Madison Park used to be a popular destination for Seattlites in the early 20th century. A cable car ran from downtown to the lake. Until 1950, there was a ferry that took passengers across the lake to Kirkland.

Start at E Madison St and E McGilvra St. There is street parking in the area, or you can get here by the 11 bus.

Head northeast on Madison St along the southeast side of the street, passing retail establishments on both sides of the street. At E Blaine St, turn right. You’ll pass by the tennis courts of Madison Park on your left before reaching 43rd Ave E.

Cross 43rd Ave E before turning left. On your right is the Madison Park beach. Feel free to stop at a bench or walk down to the water for a view across lake Washington toward the Cascade Mountains and Bellevue.

Then, continue north along 43rd Ave E until you reach E Madison St. This intersection is a little unclear for pedestrians, but traffic should be light. Cross over to the northwest side of E Madison St when you can and head southwest along E Madison St.

Feel free to stop and enjoy a meal or drink at one of the restaurants you walk by. Otherwise, continue through this main part of Madison Park back to our starting point at McGilvra Blvd E.

Our short walk ends at McGilvra Blvd E & E Madison St, but feel free to explore the nearby upscale residential area or head back to the park and the water before heading home.

highlights: view across Lake Washington, quiet tree-lined streets, restaurants, park

lowlights: may be a little too upscale for some, park is a little small, can become crowded on a summer weekend day


Pedestrian hit by Link light rail train

It’s important to watch out for cars while walking, but any moving vehicle can be dangerous. In this case, a pedestrian was hit by a Link light rail train. Fortunately, the train was going slowly enough that injuries aren’t life threatening.

A teenager was taken to the hospital after being struck by a Sound Transit Light Rail train Friday afternoon.

It happened around 3:45 p.m. at S. Othello Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Way S.

A Sound Transit worker tells KING 5 the girl was on her cell phone when she walked in front of the train.

A Seattle Fire Department spokesperson says the girl was conscious and alert. It appears her injuries are non-life threatening. She was taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.


SDOT sidewalk repairs

Here’s an interesting look into an SDOT project to repair a West Seattle sidewalk.

Property owners are required to maintain sidewalks around their property, except where damage is caused by the city or a tree. In this case, the city and property owner worked together:

By sharing the cost of the sidewalk, rather than just making repairs around the tree base which the BTG funding would cover, the property owners and SDOT were able to expand the scope of the work to repair the entire sidewalk length of the block from curb to the building, preserving street trees and giving them a better growing space for years to come.

This blog entry from SDOT has some more interesting information on sidewalks, including how sidewalk repairs are prioritized and the huge need:

SDOT Pavement Management estimates there are well over 7 million square feet of sidewalk that need fixing throughout Seattle.

To report any concerns you have or suggest a repair, use the Street Maintenance Online Request Form.


Bringing sidewalks to Greenwood

Our current mayor started his path into politics by helping to get sidewalks installed in his neighborhood of Greenwood. However, there are more sidewalks needed. Residents are working to have sidewalks installed in Greenwood and needs more volunteer support.

The “Greenwood Sidewalks” Neighborhood Matching Fund project is getting underway, and the group working on it needs more volunteers to make it happen. The project includes not just sidewalks, but drainage, planted buffers, etc.


Making Bitter Lake walkable

While there are many neighborhoods that make it easy to get around by foot, the neighborhood of Bitter Lake is not one of them.

A resident examined the limitations of the area and came up with some suggestions of how to make Bitter Lake more walkable.

As you can see it’s a fairly discrete area, bounded on four sides by busy arterials. Inside those arterials, there’s no reason you couldn’t have a thriving community. It already has a decent walkability score. There are a couple of parks; Greenwood boasts several restaurants and cafes; Aurora has an array of big box retailers; there’s a great supermarket just a few blocks north of 145th. There are more people coming in, too, as a series of condos are built along Linden.

But despite all the ingredients … there is no such community. The first and primal cause is that there are no %*#! sidewalks. (You hear me Mayor McGinn? Show me what the new guy can do!) But I think the problems run deeper. Look closely at the map and you’ll note that the development pattern is almost aggressively misanthropic. Everyone is isolated from everyone else!

Consider how the character of the neighborhood might be different if it were more of a grid

There’s some more good stuff there, including some history of the area, and a suggestion for us all.

Here’s the takeaway, for the few hearty souls still reading this logorrheic post: one of the biggest challenges in years ahead, as we attempt to densify and green our communities, will be retrofitting existing neighborhoods to increase walkability, sociability, sustainability, and safety. It’s worth a minute of anyone’s time to ponder how they could make their own surroundings more amenable to spontaneous, non-commercial, human-scale social interaction.


Walking NW Market St in Ballard

NW Market St passes through the heart of Ballard and is an enjoyable street for a stroll on your way to the popular Hiram M. Chittenden Locks.

View Larger Map

Start at 17th Ave NW and NW Market St. There are several buses that serve Ballard, and the 44 and 46 take you right to our starting point. There is street parking in the area, and you can click here for driving directions.

Head west along NW Market St along the north side of the street. You’ll pass by several retail storefronts, including the Ballard Sip & Ship, which sells coffee and provides mail services.

Soon you’ll pass by the Ballard Carnegie Library, which opened in 1904 and operated as a library until 1963.

You’ll then pass by the Majestic Bay theatre which first opened in 1915 showing vaudeville stage shows and silent films and was converted to a three-screen theater in 2000.

After crossing 22nd Ave NW, you’ll walk by the old Ballard Building in the heart of Ballard.

At 24nd Ave NW, cross NW Market St and continue west.

After another couple blocks, the sidewalk will veer left along 54th St toward the locks. Pass the Lockspot Cafe and the red telephone booth and turn left toward the fence and entrance for the Hiram M Chittenden Locks.

As you walk along the main path toward the locks, there will be a garden on your right and a rather interesting museum & gift shop on your left. Keep going toward the locks and spend some time enjoying the grounds before heading back.

The return trip through Ballard will be the same, except for variation I’d suggest staying on the south side of Market St until you get to 22nd Ave NW, at which time I’d cross back over to the north side of Market St.

Ballard Building

Ballard Building on Market St

Our walk ends where it started, at 17th Ave NW and NW Market St.

highlights: historic buildings, street-level retail and dining, Locks, garden and museum on locks grounds, wide sidwalks through heart of Ballard, longer blocks allow for less interruption from cross traffic

lowlights: intersection of Market St, 22nd Ave, and Leary Way can take some time to cross; opposite side of Market St not as enjoyable to walk along in some places, narrow sidewalk in some areas


Trade-offs of sandwich-board signs

The A-frame advertisements that local businesses place on the sidewalk to attract business can get in the way sometimes. Those sandwich boards have to compete for sidewalk space with bike racks, outdoor tables and chairs, trees, and of course people.

For that reason, the city limits businesses to one sandwich board. However, recent enforcement of that rule is hurting a Pioneer Square business.

Customers at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop have been cut by more than a third since the bookshop was told to remove its second sign.

While people do need enough space to use the sidewalk comfortably, advertisements for nearby establishments can be a helpful enhancement to the causal walking experience.

At a time when businesses and Pioneer Square in general are struggling, is a one-sign limit reasonable? In Portland, businesses have to pay a nominal fee for additional sidewalk signage. Would a policy like that be an improvement here?