Monthly Archive for August, 2010
Capitol Hill Seattle reports on a new crosswalk near the light rail station under construction.
Here is a release on the crosswalk from Sound Transit, who is managing the construction of this light rail station:
Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has installed the crosswalk at 10th Avenue E. and E. John Street on Capitol Hill. This crosswalk will help pedestrian traffic cross the busy intersection at 10th Avenue E. and E. John Street. A portion of Denny Way has been closed until 2016 to accommodate the construction of the Capitol Hill Light Rail Station.
The Bridging the Gap levy approved by voters in 2006 has led to quite a few pedestrian improvements – 54 blocks of new sidewalk, in fact. Check out a few photos from SDOT of recent sidewalk construction that has helped make it easier and safer to get around on foot in Seattle.
The Seattle Weekly takes a peek at statistics on pedestrian safety and points out that they may not be entirely accurate.
For one thing, most jaywalkers who get hurt are, in fact, drunk off their ass — “as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes, ‘about 25 percent of fatally injured pedestrians have a BAC greater than .20′” — a condition for which there is already another law on the books.
WalkScore (featured on this blog a week ago) has been releasing new features recently.
They released Transit Score, which returns a rating of how well your location is served by transit.
Additionally, and more relevant to this blog, is the custom walking map feature.
Search for an address to get a WalkScore, and then click the “Customize Map” tab. From there, you can select or deselect the amenities most important to you and watch as they are instantly added to or removed from the map, creating a custom map based on what’s important to you.
WalkScore’s data comes from Google, so some establishments may not be in the right category, but it’s a good way to see what the closet places are to you.
This could be really helpful if you want to see how many bars there are in the area before you take that new job. Or if you live in a dense urban area, you might need a reminder of all the options you have for going out to dinner.
After some recent opposition to SDOT’s plan to rechannel 125th St, in addition to the heavy opposition to SDOT’s rechannelization of Nickerson, SDOT has gone on the offensive, with the benefits of road diets.
There has been a lot of interest in rechannelizations over the past few months, especially with SDOT’s proposal for NE 125th and the recent work on Nickerson. SDOT makes such changes to a street’s configuration to reduce vehicular speeds and make the road safer, especially for vulnerable users like pedestrians.
Seattle has been successfully installing these “road diets” since the Uhlman Administration and we are not alone in doing so. Cities such as San Francisco, Portland, Orlando, Oakland and New York all utilize them to make their streets safer. Though a rechannelization also allows us to incorporate wider lanes to better serve freight or install bike facilities, these are secondary to our primary goal of enhancing safety.
We often hear that these rechannelizations will increase congestion, diminish roadway capacity or cause more crashes. However, those concerns never actually materialize on roads that have been improved in this way. What one can document here and elsewhere are lower speeds, less crashes and fewer injuries from collisions. These are changes that benefit everyone from pedestrians to motor vehicle operators.
The recent examples of Stone Way N and Fauntleroy Way SW highlight how these inexpensive striping changes improve safety with no additional equipment or personnel costs. In fact, we recently studied how Stone Way performed after the change in lane layout and documented that:
Motor vehicles now travel at speeds nearer the legal limit;
Total collisions dropped 14 percent with injury collisions down 33 percent;
Pedestrian collisions declined significantly;
Bike trips increased 35 percent but collisions per bicycle trip have declined; and
Volumes show the roadway still easily accommodates motor vehicle traffic.
(You can read the full Stone Way report here: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/docs/StoneWaybeforeafterFINAL.pdf.)
Having rechannelized 26 different roads in Seattle over the past several decades, SDOT can confidently state that “road diets” make our roads safer for all. And do so in a way that keeps traffic moving.
SDOT has linked to the Federal Highway Administration’s report on road re-striping, which shows that road diets increase safety with minimal impact to vehicle traffic.
They’ve also publicized some key safety statistics about 125th St – including that the vast majority of drivers speed on the road and that there have been almost 80 collisions with injury on this roadway.
And in response to criticism that SDOT did not publicize the 125th St road diet well enough, SDOT lists all the ways in which they reached out to the community.
Hopefully this communications effort will help refocus the debate – much of the discussion about road diets has been framed in terms of bikes vs cars, and SDOT is getting away from the term ‘road diet’, which may be a little alarming to drivers who fear for reading road capacity. As SDOT points out, road diets are nothing new, but they are still apparently controversial. Being more vocal in advertising these safety facts will surely help future road diets – excuse me, road rechannelizations – to generate less rancorous debate and anger towards bikers.
Not only will drivers and bikers benefit from increased safety, but reconfigured lane striping is welcomed by pedestrians who are able cross streets more safely both at marked and unmarked crosswalks, not be exposed to high-speed traffic right beside them, and overall feel more comfortable walking in their own neighborhoods.
In case you were ever wondering, pushing the crosswalk button multiple times doesn’t get you across the street any faster than doing it once. But, if it makes you feel better to push it multiple times, it doesn’t hurt.
And, if you only push it once, there’s always a chance that you don’t push it all the way and you’ll be stuck there until the next light cycle. I always push it a couple times to make sure I don’t get stuck there for longer than I need to be.
There are some interesting comments in this post from the PI’s Seattle 911 blog, such as this from yaddayadda:
I know of at least one mechanical button that doesn’t always respond to the first tap, so I alway press them twice. I’ve also heard from an employee at sdot that there are some buttons that are completely inoperable, that the walk signal comes on every cycle, but the buttons were placed there to placate those who think they have to hit a button in order to get the walk light.
Personally, I’d rather not have buttons and have the pedestrian light come on every signal, especially in very urban areas of the city. Sometimes the buttons aren’t clear to see, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of consistency from intersection to intersection when a pedestrian signal comes on automatically isn’t clear. Several times I’ve seen people ignore the button because they expect the light to change automatically.
This quiet residential neighborhood in Northeast Seattle is home to a large glacial boulder and the city’s first P-patch.
View Walking Wedgwood in a larger map
Start at the Ravenna-Eckstein Community Center at NE 65th St and Ravenna Ave NE. If you’re driving, there is street parking in the area. The 71 or 76 buses will take you right there, or the 68 will take you just a couple blocks away.
The Ravenna-Eckstein Community Center was a public school from 1911 to 1981, mostly for elementary-aged students, but it also had grades 7 and 8. Since the school was sold to the city in 1986 to be repurposed as a community center, the top floors have served as the Ravenna School Apartments for the elderly. Seattle Public Schools has an overview of the school’s history here in PDF format.
Head north along Ravenna Ave NE. This is a quiet neighborhood street with sidewalks. At NE 75th St, turn right, go three blocks, cross 25th Ave N, and then turn left to cross 75th and continue north along 25th.
Soon, you will reach Dahl Park, and the sidewalk curves away from the road to allow for angled parking. Dahl Park was once known as Ravenna Swamp and now has several play fields. There were originally a few houses built on this site, but they sunk into the swampy land and the city purchased the land to create this park – one of the houses was moved elsewhere.
After crossing NE 80th St, the road will veer left slightly as it approaches the Picardo Farm P-Patch. The parking lot of University Prep has a good view of the entire P-Patch. This land was originally swampy and has very good soil for planting. As you walk along 25th, turn right to walk down into the P-Patch. Depending on the season, you may see ripe fruits and vegetables and colorful flowers. This is one of the largest p-patches in the city and is also the very first. The P in P-Patch stands for Picardo, the name of the family that owned the land before it was given over to the parks department.
Explore the garden, including the controversial bronze Venus statue and professionally maintained gardens toward the back corner, before heading back out to 25th Ave. Head north on 25th and turn right on NE 82nd St. Continue along 82nd and turn right on 30th Ave NE. Be careful when crossing 75th St, as vehicle traffic can be fast, however pedestrians do have the right of way to cross here. After crossing 75th, turn right and walk for one block before turning left on 28th Ave NE.
Just a ways down on the left side of the road is Big Rock, as known by residents, or Wedgwood Rock, as known by geologists. This is the second largest glacial erratic in Washington State, the largest being on Whidbey Island. Before recreational rock walls existed, this rock was used for practice by area mountain climbers. When the land was platted for housing, the developer agreed not to destroy the rock and to turn the area into a park. While there isn’t a park, at least the boulder was preserved, however climbing it is now illegal.
Also, notice the cross streets in this area – this is one of the first neighborhoods in Seattle where the developer adapted to the terrain and did not employ a strict grid pattern for the streets – a precursor to the winding suburban roads of today’s housing developments.
Continue south to NE 65th St and turn right there. There are a few shops and restaurants in this area. Just 6 more blocks until Ravenna Ave, where you’ll return to our starting point.
highlights: Big Rock, P-Patch, Community Center, quiet residential streets with sidewalks
lowlights: lack of shade, may be difficult to cross 75th St
The Seattle PI looks into why Seattle doesn’t have many all-way-walk signals. We currently have an all-way-walk at 1st and Pike downtown and at the Alaska Junction in West Seattle. You may be more familiar with these if you’ve visited Denver or parts of San Francisco. An all-way-walk signal allows pedestrians to cross streets in all directions with no vehicle traffic. However, the drawback is that pedestrians have to wait through two light cycles, one for each direction of vehicle traffic. SDOT says this longer total light cycle would slow down vehicles and pedestrians:
“In 2007, SDOT conducted a comprehensive ‘All-Way-Walk’ (AWW) analysis at more than 70 signals in the downtown retail core area. The study results showed that the vast majority of intersections would actually experience a significant increase in delay for motorists and pedestrians at AWW intersections and also, in turn, other intersections along the corridors. The delay to buses would also be significantly greater,” he says.
I really liked the all-way-walk signals in San Francisco, but can see the definite drawback of having to wait longer to cross. It seems something like this would work best where pedestrian traffic is high and vehicle traffic is low enough to have a quicker signal cycle. Is there anywhere else in Seattle where an all-way-walk would make sense? Maybe somewhere on Capitol Hill? Or what about Pioneer Square?
Most pedestrians out there are well familiar with Walk Score, the Seattle-based online walkability calculator. For those of you who aren’t, Walk Score calculates the walkability of an area based on its proximity to services (shopping, grocery, entertainment, etc). It doesn’t determine walkability in terms of pedestrian amenities (e.g. sidewalks and signaling), but is a good gauge for how easy it is to get around an area by foot.
Since the data relies on Google Maps, it’s changing all the time, so even if you’ve done it before, go ahead and check out the Walk Score of your home again. It seems that ours has gone up a few points since I last checked.
For a broader look at walkability within Seattle, Walk Score has determined the Walk Score for every neighborhood in Seattle. Seattle rates as the 6th most Walkable city in the county. Walk Score counts 77 different neighborhoods in Seattle, ranging from the most walkable (Pioneer Square – score of 99 out of 100) to least walkable (Blue Ridge – score of 32 out of 100).
Some neighborhoods have very walkable centers but include a lot of land that isn’t close to those centers (see Capitol Hill). That said, you can look at the map of Seattle walkability to see patterns of the most walkable areas. Of course, downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods incorporate the largest, most walkable area of the city. There are also scattered islands of walkability that correspond to various neighborhoods (e.g. Columbia City, Georgetown).
One way that Walk Score can be especially helpful is when looking for a place to live – to help you determine how easy it will be to walk to the places you want to go. You could even use it look for jobs – walkable areas are usually full of places that employ people and usually make for a wide array of lunch options.
It’s wonderful to live in an age where information like this is available to people who can use it to make decisions, and it’s great to live in a walkable city.