Monthly Archive for July, 2010

Driver runs red light, hits elderly pedestrians, not charged

Last night, two pedestrians in Lower Queen Anne were hit by a driver who ran a red light at the intersection of Roy St & 1st Ave N. The driver was interviewed by police but was not charged, though police are continuing to investigate. The victims were taken to Harborview Medical Center, but their injuries are not life-threatening.

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Walk Bike Ride update

Several city councilmembers and other local leaders are participating in the city’s Walk Bike Challenge by cutting vehicle trips. And they’re blogging about it.

Go to read about councilmember Licata’s colorful experience on the 358. Or, since this is a walking blog, read about the pleasant walk had by the Director of the Department of Planning and Development. An even more positive experience was had by the Director of the Office of Economic Development:

An annual event I attend was held the evening of the 15th. Even though I was a running a bit late, I chose to walk to the event and arrived earlier than I expected. I realized that if I had driven, I would have still been looking for parking.

This part of the Walk Bike Ride initiative is about to wrap up at the end of this month, but hopefully these experiences help people to find easy ways to work walking into their lives.


Streets For All Seattle Kickoff and Fundraiser TONIGHT

Streets for All Seattle is having an event tonight in Fremont at 7pm:

Please join us Thursday, July 29th, 7pm, at Nectar Lounge in Fremont for the Streets For All Seattle Kickoff Party and Fundraiser as we rock out before the City’s budget season begins.

Over the past three months our Streets for All Seattle coalition has grown in strength and size: over sixty organizations have endorsed our campaign, we’ve trained over one hundred volunteers, and thousands of people have signed on in support of our vision. Just as important, our elected leaders have reiterated their support for our goal of $30 million dollars in annual dedicated funding for pedestrian, bicycle and transit investments, but we know that our voices will need to be actively engaged in the budget process, which is why your support is so valuable.

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Pedestrian struck on Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill Seattle reports:

A man crossing 12th Ave was struck by a white pick-up truck traveling south on the arterial route late Sunday night. The driver of the pick-up sat on his tailgate and waited as police cordoned off the street for an investigation of the incident after the ambulance and emergency vehicles had left the scene. In front of his truck, articles of clothing and blood could be seen on the pavement. People with cars parked inside the police tape waited for permission to either move their cars or collect their possessions and walk home.

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We’ve confirmed the details of last night’s incident with SPD and have better news than expected to share. SPD tells us the 29-year-old man who was struck was transported from the scene with serious head injuries but that his condition was upgraded and that the injuries are not considered life-threatening.

The department’s preliminary investigation indicates the 29-year-old was crossing 12th Ave mid-block and not in a crosswalk when he was struck by the pick-up truck. The truck’s driver was interviewed at the scene but it was determined that he was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.


More and better sidewalk cafes

Recently, the Times reported that new sidewalk cafes are popping up all over. The sudden popularity of dining al fresco is partially due to the city making a restaurant-friendly cut in the cost for permitting. Now businesses can license their outdoor seating areas for as little as 1/5 the cost as before and even less time.

In October 2008, the city, under then-Mayor Greg Nickels, made it cheaper and faster for restaurants to get permits to seat customers in front of their establishments. Nickels said he was inspired by downtown revitalization in Melbourne, Australia, and Copenhagen, Denmark.

The new rules cut permit costs from $2,100 — and sometimes as high as $3,700 — to $707 for a 100-square-foot sidewalk cafe, roughly space for four tables with two to four chairs at each table. The permit process now takes about 10 days. Several restaurant owners complained the process used to drag on for months.

Since this process was streamlined, almost 100 businesses have begun pursuing outdoor dining. And, to help make sidewalk cafes even more popular, Great City has a great idea:

Currently, the rule is that any outdoor seating where alcohol is served (the only kind that’s worth the trouble for the average restaurateur) must be directly adjacent to the establishment in question. Trouble is, this is usually also the part of the sidewalk most in demand as a place to, you know, walk.

Great City landscape architecture and transportation geeks, along with our allies at Cascade Bicycle Club and Feet First, have suggested the proper place for sidewalk café seating is in fact in a place they call the “amenity zone,” that section of sidewalk reserved for street trees and the display boxes of Seattle’s only newspaper.

Check out the suggestion at Great City to see how this could work. The state would have to change the law to allow this, but it could be worth it.

The Times article mentions that former Mayor Nickels recognized the potential of sidewalk cafes on a visit to Melbourne. That city has great examples of what sidewalk dining can do toward making a lively city. Some streets were set up as Great City suggests, with the sidewalk between the restaurant and the dining area and with large awnings, and as you walked by, it almost felt as if you were passing through each restaurant. It was a great pedestrian experience if you were looking for somewhere to eat. If you were trying to get somewhere quickly, the servers passing back and forth across the sidewalk and diners socializing after their meals could slow you down a bit. Even here, sidewalk cafes are not without their drawbacks. From the Times:

Some objections have come from advocates for the disabled. Bill Wippel, executive director of Tape Ministries Northwest, which records material for the blind, said outdoor tables and chairs can be “obstacles” for those using wheelchairs.

It is important that our sidewalk cafes do not interfere with our two-wheeled, two-legged, or four-legged pedestrians. There are many areas in which sidewalks barely seem wide enough for people, and adding tables, chairs, and umbrellas, could increase pedestrian congestion. But, if done correctly, and with the suggestion of Great City to provide adequate room for passage, sidewalk cafes can make for a more pleasant experience on the sidewalks of Seattle for anyone walking, rolling, drinking, or eating.


Walking Downtown Fremont

Enjoy the quirky local landmarks along this stimulating urban walk.

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Start at N 34th St and Fremont Ave just on the north side of the Fremont Bridge. The area is well served by several bus routes, including the 26, 28, 30, 31, 17, and 46 (weekdays only). If you’re driving, there is some garage and street parking in the area – click for driving directions.

We start by Waiting for the Interurban, a piece of public art that’s always changing based on the clothes that residents put on it. This aluminum sculpture was created in 1979 and is named after the Seattle-Everett Interurban railway that ran along Fremont Ave. The sculpture is on a large concrete median that separates the eastbound bicycle lane and westbound car traffic from eastbound car traffic coming from Fremont Ave N.

Walk south along Fremont Ave N toward the Fremont Bridge. The Fremont Bridge opened in 1917, the same year as the Lake Washington Ship Canal. The bridge does not open for boat traffic during rush hour, but otherwise is raised 35 times per day on average. The blue and orange colors for the bridge were chosen as a result of a poll taken in 1985. Continue across the bridge and enjoy the view to the left toward Lake Union and the George Washington bridge.

Once you reach the intersection, notice the 1930s transit stop at the SE corner of the intersection at Westlake Ave and Dexter. Cross Fremont Ave N (you’ll have to cross two separate roadways).

Head back north along the west side of Fremont Ave N. From this side of the bridge, you can look west along the tree-lined ship canal. There are trails for walking and biking on both sides. After crossing the canal, look for the stairs on your left that will take you down to the popular Burke-Gilman Trail.

Burke-Gilman Trail

Head west along the trail and be careful to keep to the right so that bikers can pass. While you could take this trail all the way to the Ballard Locks, stay on it for only two blocks before turning right on Phinney Ave N. The cross streets aren’t easy to identify from the trail, so just pay attention to the parking lot that the trail goes beside – the parking lot will curve toward Phinney Ave, which is where you want to turn.

At the intersection with N 35th St is the Theo Chocolate factory, which is the “only organic, fair trade, bean-to-bar chocolate factory in the United States.” The factory offers public tours 7 days a week.

On the opposite side of Phinney Ave is a large wall painted with the likeness of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, stars of the classic film Casablanca.
This is the Fremont Outdoor Cinema, which shows outdoor film screenings in summer.

Continue for another block and turn right at N 36th St. This is a busy arterial street, but has street parking and buildings along the sidewalk that make this a comfortable place to walk. It’s also a long block, so there won’t be any motor vehicles crossing your path for a little while. The houses to your right were built in the early 1900s and have been converted to commercial use. You’ll pass the Fremont Chamber of Commerce, whose office was built in 1901. Many of the more industrial looking buildings were built in the 1920s. Continue walking on this side of the street – you’ll see some coffee shops and places to eat on the opposite side of the street as well.

At the next intersection you’ll see the Statue of Lenin. After the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia, this statue was almost melted for its bronze. However, a resident from the Seattle area who was teaching English nearby managed to have it shipped back to the US. The statue is for sale, but has been displayed in Fremont since 1995 and has become a local landmark.

Statue of Lenin

Communist Vladimir Lenin towers over this intersection in Fremont

Continue along the main road, which changes names to Fremont Pl N. There are many places to eat around here. You’ll see the Fremont directional sign to your left as you cross 35th St.

Directional sign


Continue on to 34th St. Turn left and cross Fremont Ave N along 34th St. Then reverse direction and head north along Fremont Ave N.

There are more places to eat and shop as you head up the hill. At N 36th St, turn right. This section of Fremont is mostly residential, though you’ll pass Fremont Baptist Church, which was built in 1924. Troll Ave N is at the next block, and to your left is the famous Fremont Troll, which was built in 1990 to help clean up the area under the bridge, as it had become used for illicit activities.

Turn right and head downhill along Troll Ave N, which runs under the Aurora Bridge. Cross N 35th St when you can and turn right toward the west. On your left will be the Fremont Public Library, which was one of several Carnegie Libraries in Seattle and opened in 1921. Just past the library is A. B. Ernst Park, which opened in 2004. Go through the park and stroll back down to N 34th St.

At 34th St, just across the street is the J.P. Patches statue, dedicated to popular local clown J. P. Patches. Turn right at N 34th St to head back to our starting point at Fremont Ave N. Or, if you’d prefer, from here you can start our Fremont Walk along the Burke Gilman Trail.

highlights: quirky local landmarks; places to stop to eat, drink, and shop; historic architecture; Burke-Gilman Trail; public art; not many interactions with vehicles; vibrant urban environment

lowlights: sidewalk can get crowded; some backtracking; crossing busy street along Troll Ave N


How to submit a sidewalk or signal request to SDOT

The Seattle Department of Transportation has an online form that allows you to easily report issues that you may come across while walking in the city.

For example, you can report an uneven sidewalk and SDOT will examine the issue within days and then schedule the sidewalk for repair. This most likely means one sidewalk tile will be shaved so that it’s not a trip hazard or that a patch of asphalt will be installed to smooth the sidewalk.

Or, if there is a signal that isn’t timed right, submit a request and the traffic department will install equipment to monitor the intersection. This process takes a couple months for them to install the equipment, gather data on the usage patterns of the signal, and then analyze the data and determine what action to take. From there, it can take another month for any changes will be made to the intersection.

A fair warning, for a signal to be deserving of an automatic pedestrian crosswalk, SDOT’s standards may be higher than yours. Though some urban intersections have frequent pedestrian traffic during most hours, SDOT’s policy seems to require that push-button signals be used in most cases. Still, it may be worth submitting the request to have them study it.


Madrona Walking Maps Available

From Central District News:

The 2010 updated edition of the Madrona walking map and business directory brochure is now printed and available at local businesses. This is the second time BOOM (Business Owners of Madrona) have produced a walking map, which is designed to encourage foot traffic and increase exposure of some of the more out of the way shops and services.

You can pick up your copy at any of the usual suspects in the main business district.


No street art in Seattle?

SLOG criticizes the recent report on graffiti:

The report includes a street count of graffiti found in four areas—two in Capitol Hill, downtown, and First Hill. Here’s what has local street artists (and appreciators) pissed: while city officials found 556 examples of graffiti during their street count, they discovered “no instances of what could be called artistic tagging.” Street art is defined in the report as “colorful or complex… masterpieces.”

“It’s ridiculous,” says street artist Scratchmaster Joe. “Even if you call art subjective, even if you hate all graffiti, not finding one instance of art takes the credibility right out of their report.”

Groups like Seattle Streetart are devoted to capturing the best of the city’s fleeting graffiti. The group boasts over 35,000 images of street art uploaded by 1,800 members. Clearly, a large number of people in the city appreciate graffiti’s artistic value.

While Seattle doesn’t quite have its own Hosier Lane, it still seems that there are places in the city where street art can be found. For example, this building on 50th and Roosevelt has been the sustained target of street artists for several weeks:

Graffiti on TUBS at 50th and Roosevelt

Does this qualify as street art?

Does this qualify as street art? Or just graffiti? And is this an important to distinguish for pedestrians?

Personally, I really dislike graffiti tags. However, I do like colorful graffiti, even if it doesn’t meet everyone’s criteria for masterful art. I also don’t mind graffiti stickers placed on signs and whatnot. I see these things as interesting and eye-catching enhancements to the urban pedestrian experience. But, if overdone or done poorly, I suppose it can lead to an area feeling unsafe or rundown. That may depend on the area – a busy pedestrian neighborhood like Capitol Hill may benefit from street art, but a quiet residential part of town may be damaged by a smattering of graffiti. For better or worse, I suppose, graffiti and street art aren’t going away, despite the city’s efforts to fight them.


Streets for All Seattle

Streets for All Seattle is a campaign to increase funding for the pedestrian and bicycle master plans. The campaign has identified $30 million of potential funding sources that could be dedicated towards creating more complete streets (safe for all users) in Seattle. The funding sources aren’t identified on their website, but they do identify quite a few supporters, and it’s rumored that the mayor’s office may have been a catalyst for starting this public campaign.

Their website has a nice slideshow on the history of streets. You can also sign up to support the campaign on their website and find them on Facebook and Twitter.