Monthly Archive for October, 2010

Walk & Talk with Nick Licata in Yesler Terrace

Feet First is hosting another Walk & Talk, this time with council member Nick Licata in the neighborhood of Yesler Terrace.

Community leaders will lead a short walk, stopping at three locations to illustrate Yesler Terrace’s future redevelopment opportunities, specifically with regard to walkability, connectivity and access to area amenities.

Feet First Walk & Talk events are designed to showcase area redevelopment that incorporates features to promote walking and to make people more aware of the importance of walkable communities.

Walk & Talk participants will have the unique opportunity to learn how the Yesler Terrace neighborhood will be transformed into a more walkable and livable area. The walk will end with a reception.

Tickets are $10 for members or $15 for non-members. Sign-in begins this Tuesday at 5 pm at the Yesler Community Center at 917 E Yesler Way and the walk will last from 5:30 to 6:30 with a reception afterward.

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Five People hit crossing 1st Ave S

A group of five people who were leaving a show at the Showbox SoDo at 1st Ave S near S Massachusetts St were struck by an impaired driver last night. There is coverage of the incident here, here, here, and here. 1 person is still in critical condition. It’s unclear whether the pedestrians were crossing along the unmarked crosswalk, however SDOT is currently doing a project to upgrade the intersection in this area.

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The longest walk

What is the farthest you've ever walked in Seattle?

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Keep your sidewalks walkable

Property owners, take note – a tip from this month’s Way to Go newsletter:

Nearly everyone, regardless of age or ability, is a potential sidewalk user. Did you know that Seattle property owners have the responsibility to keep the “Walkable Zone” on the sidewalk near their property clear? Think of the Walkable Zone as a box six feet wide by eight feet tall that extends all the way down the sidewalk. Property owners are responsible to keep the Walkable Zone free of obstacles such as parked cars, recycling bins, plants, ice and leaf litter, and to fix cracks in sidewalks along their property. By keeping this area clear and maintained, we can all help to make Seattle America’s most walkable city.

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Walking school bus

Recently the Seattle Times profileed the walking school bus of West Woodland Elementary in Phinney Ridge:

This well-oiled machine of chattering kids and banging backpacks has been running since 2005. So when West Woodland decided to take part in National Walk to School Day last week, and expand it into “Walk and Wheel Month,” well, this was the group to emulate.

Nationwide, 3,384 schools have groups like this one; in the Seattle area, 18 schools are walking and wheeling this month — and there’s no reason not to do it all year. The kids are exercising, their families are bonding, and in the process, our somewhat disparate neighborhoods are being threaded together into a quilt of trust and familiarity.

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Last budget hearing for pedestrian project funding

This Tuesday night at City Hall is the last public hearing for the city’s 2011 budget. Mayor McGinn’s budget proposal includes about $2 million for pedestrian projects next year, including more sidewalks, curb ramps, walking/biking trails, stairways, and pedestrian lighting.

There is some opposition to the funding sources for these projects as funds will largely come from increased parking rates. There is concern that the increased parking fees will keep people (and their money) away from downtown Seattle’s businesses. The Stranger examines what the effects might be of increased parking rates and suggests that increased downtown parking rates will be good for businesses.

The City Council appears apprehensive to support this budget with the increased parking fees, and Dan Bertolet at Publicola calls on the City Council to lead:

Unless they can propose a realistic and equivalent alternative source of funds for Walk Bike Ride projects, how can council members possibly claim with straight faces that they believe it’s important to create walkable, transit-rich communities in Seattle? (The recently approved $20 license fee is slated to fund about $2 million in Walk Bike Ride projects starting in 2012.)

The change we need will never happen until we start spending serious dollars on the right things, and the reality is, $5 million per year for Walk Bike Ride projects is only a meager first step. But new funding requires either new taxes or cuts—either of which is bound to piss off someone, somewhere. Where does that leave the city’s leaders? Well, it means they actually have to lead. And to do that, they might have to upset the status quo.

However, it may require a strong show of support to embolden the council enough to support the mayor’s budget. Feet First is encouraging people to come out to the final budget meeting:

City Council needs to hear from you about protecting funding for pedestrians in this year’s budget!

Your voice is crucial to the decisions that are being made about the budget.

The final budget meeting is this Tuesday at City Hall, in the 2nd floor City Council Chambers. Sign-in is at 5 pm and the hearing begins at 5:30.


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Editorial: Does Seattle need a pedestrian advocate?

The Planning Picture blog raises an interesting argument that pedestrians need an advocacy group. The writer perspective mostly references Vancouver, BC, but much of it applies to Seattle as well.

A couple of things recently have brought my attention to the fact that pedestrians are perhaps becoming overlooked in the development of our cities. I know this sounds crazy, but bear with me. They are being overlooked, often, in favour of cyclists. At a recent Gaining Ground workshop that I attended there seemed to be a consensus that while bicycle advocacy was well advanced in some areas (and rightly so) and has achieved some notable victories (Vancouver’s downtown bike lanes for example) there is no one flying the flag for pedestrians.

The City of Vancouver has a Bicycle Advisory Committee which is consulted on major development proposals and capital projects to ensure that cyclists needs have been taken into account. In addition, there is the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition who are the leading cycling advocates in the area and then there is, of course, Critical Mass. All of these bodies do great work (although I sometimes have doubts about critical mass). The point is not that bicycle advocacy has gone too far, but that pedestrian advocacy has, erh… well, not really started yet.

This discrepancy is very clear here in Seattle when controversial road rechannelizations (diets) are proposed. Conflicts are often portrayed as bikes vs. cars, when in fact projects like these are just as valued by people on foot. The influence and power of local cycling organizations, at least compared to what exists for pedestrian advocacy, may be part of what makes bicyclists so prominent in these discussions. Pedestrians don’t have strong organizations that speak for us.

Organizations like Streets for All Seattle and Great City are working for a pedestrian-friendly city, but their umbrella of interests also is also big enough to cover people on bikes and buses. Feet First is the premier organization in Seattle supporting walkability, but its influence is limited.

Even without a strong pedestrian voice, SDOT is doing a lot of good work for people on foot – just take a look back at our archives to see the important projects SDOT is doing.

Unfortunately, it will take a while to replace all the poorly-placed curb ramps, install enough pedestrian signals, and build all the missing sidewalks. It will take time to make our city’s streets into complete streets for people in cars, on bikes, and on foot. It will also take a lot of money.

And while there is still another budget meeting where you can show support for the mayor’s Walk Bike Ride funding, the City Council has already shown disinterest in the funding sources for some of these important pedestrian projects.

Infrastructure is critical to make Seattle the most walkable city in the nation, as the city’s Pedestrian Master Plan aspires to accomplish. But it will take more than just sidewalks and signals to make Seattle the most walkable city in the nation.

Should the most walkable city in the nation require you to push a button to cross a street in parts of the urban core of the city? Or allow building construction projects to close busy sidewalks for weeks at a time?

Seattle is not the most walkable city in the nation nor will it be without walking advocates who work to make things happen.

Seattle needs advocates who will work not just to implement infrastructure projects that will save lives, but to change the culture that endangered them to begin with. Until pedestrians organize and push Seattle to becoming the most walkable city in the nation, the city will fall short.

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Ergo Crosswalk

Check out this cool crosswalk design, which matches much more closely how people actually cross the street. (Hat tip Seattle Transit Blog):

Clever Crosswalk design

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Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt

The book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt, goes into a lot of detail about driving behavior. While it mostly covers motor vehicle traffic, it talks about a few things that may be of interest to people on foot.

It spends some time talking about Dutch woonerven where people on foot and on bicycles share the space with people in cars, creating a calmer and safer environment than typical roadways for everyone.

It also provides some insight into crosswalks, showing that unmarked crosswalks may actually be safer for pedestrians:

Studies do show that motorists are more likely to yield to pedestrians in marked crosswalks than at unmarked crosswalks. But as University of California – Berkeley researchers David Ragland and Meghan Fehlig Mitman found, that does not necessarily make things safer. When they compared the way pedestrians crossed at both kinds of crosswalks on roads with considerable traffic volumes, they found that people at unmarked crosswalks tended to look both ways more often, waited more often for gaps in traffic, and crossed the road more quickly. Researchers suepect that both drivers and pedestrians are more aware that drivers should yield to pedestrians in marked crosswalks (even though 35% of drivers polled did not know this). But neither are aware of this fact when it comes to unmarked crosswalks. Not knowing traffic safety laws, it turns out, is actually a good thing for pedestrians. Because they do not know whether cars are supposed to stop – or if they will – they act more cautiously. Marked crosswalks, by contrast, may give pedestrians an unrealistic picture of their own safety.

Another interesting fact is that if you cross the street without looking, you’re less likely to be hit, though I wouldn’t recommend that.

The book is worth a read if you’d like to learn about safer roadway design, the lack of effectiveness of street-signs, and the causes and dangers of driver inattentiveness, just to name a few of the topics covered.

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Seattle Art Walks

City Councilmember Nick Licata has created a site to identify Seattle’s many neighborhood art walks. From Madison Park to Ballard to Georgetown and everything in between, this gives you a good overview of where you can go to walk and experience local art.

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