Monthly Archive for June, 2010

Last night’s Walk Bike Ride session

The mayor’s office has organized several community engagement forums as part of the city’s Walk Bike Ride initiative. Walk Bike Ride is an initiative towards making it easier for people to get around Seattle without driving.

Last night, around 50 people gathered at REI’s flagship store in South Lake Union to design a better city for walking, biking, and riding transit.

The room had several informational displays, including basic facts and information about transit, bicycling, and walking, as well as displays showing a proposed redesign of Kinnear Park.

Representatives from the mayor’s office and King County spoke briefly about the Walk Bike Ride initiative and its goals.

In addition to residents from around the city, representatives from many local transportation-oriented groups were present, including Seattle Transit Blog, King County Metro, and SDOT.

There were several tables, each with its own map of a Seattle neighborhood, including First Hill, Pioneer Square, Downtown, and Capitol Hill. For most of the session, participants worked on redesigning their neighborhood to make it easier to get around by foot, bike, and transit. Ideas ranged from the cheap and easy (e.g. improving signal timing for pedestrians) to the more ambitious (e.g. building a pedestrian bridge over I-5).

People had a chance to see the ideas shared for all neighborhoods. At the end, the city took the results of these working sessions to incorporate in their planning as the city moves forward with this initiative.


McGraw Streetcar Plaza design

SDOT is in the process of developing the McGraw Square area and a portion of Westlake Avenue into a Westlake Transportation Hub at the downtown terminus of the Seattle Streetcar.

McGraw Square Park is currently the site of a historic bronze statue along with a couple park benches, one of which is often occupied overnight for sleeping.

Plans include another streetcar platform to allow boarding on both sides as well as bike parking, natural landscaping, artistic lighting, and a retail kiosk.

Westlake Transportation Hub design

Westlake Transportation Hub design showing uses of McGraw Streetcar Plaza

This was presented at the last meeting of the Seattle Design Commission, however there were some concerns that the design needs to be refined further to be flexible for future uses.

You can download a draft version of the presentation from the Design Commission website. Construction is expected to start this year.


Walk, Bike, Ride forum in South Lake Union

There will be another Walk, Bike, Ride forum this coming Tuesday in South Lake Union. From the event description:

When it comes to getting around easily without a car, the City wants to know what is – and what isn’t – working for you. The Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plans help guide the City’s improvements for biking and walking, and Mayor Mike McGinn is currently updating the Transit Master Plan. Join us to learn more about these plans and talk with representatives from the Department of Transportation about where you think there is the most trouble – and the most potential – for transit, pedestrian and bicycle enhancements.

The South Lake Union Seattle PI blog has more details on this event and on other projects in the neighborhood that affect pedestrians.

This currently appears to be the last Walk, Bike, Ride event on the calendar, however more may be scheduled.


Walking Aurora and Dexter

Highway 99 isn’t a popular pedestrian route, but the segment on the east side of Queen Anne Hill is surprisingly sheltered and comfortable, leading to beautiful views from the Aurora Bridge. Dexter Ave N is a nice residential street for a stroll on the way back.

View Larger Map

Start at Aurora and Mercer. The 5, 16, 26, 28, and 358 buses will get you very close, or there is some street parking along Dexter just a block east.

Head north along the east side of Aurora. Across the highway is the Church of Scienology, with its large Dianetics advertisement. Up ahead you’ll see a large neon Pepsi sign. The original sign, installed in 1958, was globe-shaped and was replaced by the current version in 1998.

Neon Pepsi sign

Neon Pepsi sign, installed in 1998

After passing a parking lot on the right, Aloha Street is the last through street that you’ll have to cross for over a mile. The sidewalk is insulated from the street by a row of trees that provide a surprising amount of shade and protection from rain (as I learned from experience). And, while the buildings aren’t really pedestrian-oriented, they combine with the trees to provide a surprisingly comfortable walking experience.

Sidewalk along Aurora

Greenery along Aurora

There are a few breaks in the trees and the buildings as you pass by some parking lots and car repair businesses. There is also a courtyard and some other viewpoints where you can overlook Lake Union and look across to Capitol Hill.

View from Aurora of Lake Union

View from Aurora of Lake Union

On your right are several staircases down toward Dexter Ave. The street will veer left. This is one of the more uncomfortable parts of the walk, as you can see where some vehicles have left the roadway.
On the opposite side of the street is the Aloha Inn Transitional Housing.

Flattened bushes and sign near the sidewalk

Flattened bushes and sign

You’ll pass by Seattle Hydroponics, which sells lights and other materials for growing plants without soil, a more efficient way to grow plants. You’ll see their large revolving lights through the window as you pass by.

The east side of Queen Anne hill is interesting, as there are several old, non-descript buildings, including a couple homes and the Hillside Motel.

Nestled in the hill along Aurora

House and garage nestled in the hill along Aurora

At one point you’ll pass over a quiet one-lane road, which is the southbound exit from Aurora to Dexter Ave. Shortly after that is Lynn St, which you’re free to take, as it curves right back around to Aurora.

The George Washington Memorial Bridge is close ahead. Feel free to walk as far along it as you wish. It offers a beautiful view east including Wallingford and Gas Works Park on Lake Union.

Dexter Ave & Lake Union

Dexter Ave & Lake Union from the George Washington Bridge

There is a staircase to pass under the highway if you’d like to look out on the west side toward Fremont, Ballard, and the Olympic Mountains. The bridge was opened to traffic in 1932 and has been the site of over 230 suicides becoming the second deadliest suicide bridge in the US. Phones and posters were installed as a deterrent, but some groups are campaigning for the installation of a safety net or protective barrier.

Sign and phone on the G Washington Bridge

Sign and phone on the G Washington Bridge

Head back south along the east side of Aurora. Cross the first street you pass, Halliday St, and then turn left on it. If you turn left on it before you cross, you’ll reach an awkward little intersection with no crosswalks where the sidewalk just ends. Continue along Halliday St as it curves right and turns into 6th Ave N. You’ll pass a park and p-patch under construction on your right before reaching Dexter Ave N.

Go right on Dexter to head south. This is a nice little neighborhood and is similar to Eastlake, though without the commercial center or new condos.

Old building along Dexter Ave

Old building along Dexter Ave

Swedish Cultural Center

Swedish Cultural Center along Dexter

Aluminum garage door

Plenty of aluminum on this apartment building's garage door

Warning, Car Approaching

Watch out, pedestrians

Enjoy the stroll on this quiet street as you head back toward our starting point at Mercer.

highlights: few driveways to cross over along Aurora, trees provide good cover and insulation from the street, Dexter Ave is a nice residential street, good views from the bridge
lowlights: few commercial places to stop for a drink, lack of public space, fast traffic along Aurora


Re-paving a pedestrian pathway

SDOT’s blog shows the makeover of a sidewalk along Northgate Way. The asphalt had degraded as greenery had grown onto the path and after receiving a request, SDOT repaved it with funds from the Bridging the Gap initiative.


Pedestrian hit near Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill Seattle reports on a pedestrian being hit on Pine Street at 10th Ave yesterday evening.

View Larger Map

The pedestrian was taken to Harborview but her injuries are not life threatening.


Pedestrian improvements in Ballard

My Ballard reports on crosswalk improvements on Leary Ave NW.

View Leary Ave NW between Market St & 20th Ave in a larger map

Changes include ladder style crosswalk markings in the street, overhead flood lighting in the crosswalk zone, a vehicle stop line for southbound traffic, new signage, the removal of one tree on the west side of the street, new light poles and new parking restrictions on the east and west side of the street for a distance of 35 feet in advance of the crosswalk. The work will take about seven days and will completed at some point before Labor Day.

There will also be curb bulbs added as part of this project. SDOT will continue evaluate additional improvement options, though funding for that is not currently available.


Beacon Hill intersection needs attention

The Beacon Hill Blog writes that the Pedestrian crossing at Beacon and Lander demands attention.

View Larger Map

Since the light rail station opened last summer, the crosswalk at Beacon and Lander has become the busiest on Beacon Hill. The majority of the people exiting the station are headed west to go to the bank, Red Apple, the southbound bus stop, or home. All of these people must cross Beacon, and many get very creative in the process. Because the crossing is way out at the corner and runs diagonally to the corner away from Red Apple and the bus stop, many people choose to just cross through the middle of the street. Because the crosswalk—which now has flashing beacons and signage, but once only had markings on the pavement—is at the intersection with Lander, there is not only north-south traffic moving through but also people turning onto Beacon from Lander. With the long crossing, the multitude of car approaches, and the scurrying light rail riders, it is ripe for an accident.

The post also includes videos of the intersection, showing plenty of close calls between pedestrians and cars. Beacon BIKES! has been working with SDOT to improve this crossing.

If you want to get involved please email me at, and attend the next Beacon BIKES! meeting on Monday, June 21, at 6:00 pm at the Beacon Hill Library, 2821 Beacon Avenue South.


Should Jaywalking be a Crime?

The jaywalking stop that went out of control has made the national news with video of a Seattle police officer punching a girl.

But that raises the question – should jaywalking be illegal in the first place?

Dan Savage of The Stranger says no, citing David Owen’s book Green Metropolis (emphasis his):

In Manhattan, creative jaywalking is an environmental positive, because it makes traveling on foot easier: it enables pedestrians to maintain their forward progress when traffic lights are against them, and to gain small navigational advantages by weaving between cars on clogged side streets—and it also keeps drivers on their guard, forcing them to slow down…. Tightly controlling pedestrians with a view to improving the flow of car traffic just results in more and faster driving, and that makes life even harder and more dangerous for people on foot or on bikes.

In fact, studies have shown that pedestrians are safer in urban areas where jaywalking is common than they are in urban areas where it is forbidden.

His post has received 150 comments with many different viewpoints.

Some people feel that jaywalking is a safety issue:

Jaywalking might seem insignificant in a city with serious crime issues, but police and the nearby high school say it’s a dangerous epidemic. John Navel graduated from nearby Franklin High the year before and said many people don’t see anything wrong with running across a busy road. “They don’t think it’s a big deal that’s why they were saying ‘you just hit her over jaywalking.” Navel believes the officer acted appropriately when he used force to gain control of the situation and he supports the officer going out there to look for jaywalkers.

The police say they also get complaints from businesses and even drivers. Barbara Hayes passes through on her way to and from work every day. She doesn’t think it happens too frequently but is glad the officers are trying to stop it. “I saw an incident the other night, the guy was lucky he didn’t get killed – it was only because there was a smart driver there.”

However, it appears that jaywalking stops often turn confrontational:

Auditors who oversee complaints against Seattle police officers have repeatedly expressed concerns about jaywalking stops and minor street confrontations that escalate into physical altercations, and they say better training is needed.

At least four auditor reports since 2004 — the most recent last year — have flagged the issue, which is receiving renewed attention in the wake of Monday’s videotaped jaywalking stop in which an officer punched a 17-year-old girl after she shoved him.

The history of jaywalking is an interesting one. As linked to from this blog, The Toronto Star reviews the history of jaywalking. Here’s more good insight into how walking across the street has become criminalized as “jaywalking”:

The cleverest anti-jaywalking publicity effort was in Detroit in 1922, where the Packard Motor Car Company exploited the new fashion for monuments to traffic fatalities. Packard built an oversized imitation tombstone that closely resembled the monument to the innocent child victims of accidents in Baltimore. But Packard’s tombstone redirected blame to the victims. It was marked ‘Erected to the Memory of Mr. J. Walker: He Stepped from the Curb Without Looking.’

What preceded the invention of jaywalking? A 1926 report notes “a Common Law principle which developed centuries ago… This ancient rule is that all persons have an equal right in the highway, and that in exercising the right each shall take due care not to injure other users of the way.” (Miller McClintock for the Chicago Association of Commerce, “Report and Recommendations of the Metropolitan Street Traffic Survey,” p. 133, quoted by Norton on p. 289.)

So, should we go back to those idyllic days when roadway users had equal rights? It’s doubtful that would go over well with the motorists of the world. Considering how cities have been built for cars over the last several decades, a drastic change is unlikely. But, at the very least, it may be worth reconsidering how “jaywalking” is prosecuted.


Walk to school for health

The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity has set a goal for increasing the number of children who walk or bike to school by 50% by 2015. It also recommends Safe Routes to School programs nationwide. Fortunately, SDOT has an active Safe Routes School Program.

Do your part and walk or bike to school more often. It’s fun, a good workout, and a great way for parents and children to spend time together. To find out more about what our Safe Routes to School program has been up to click here.