Monthly Archive for November, 2010

Streets for All Seattle update

Great City posts an update on the Streets for All Seattle campaign. The city council approved a budget that includes some increased funding for pedestrian needs, though not as much as the mayor had proposed.

Streets for All Seattle puts it all in context.

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Help SDOT count pedestrians

Seattle Department of Transportation will be counting pedestrians and cyclists next year. Based on this information, SDOT will be better able to serve the needs of Seattle’s walking and cycling communities by making the case for more infrastructure improvements. SDOT is now recruiting volunteers to help count.

SDOT has traditionally relied on volunteers to help us count pedestrians and bicyclists, and we have been grateful for the enthusiastic participation in the past. With the new and improved methodology, we will need even more volunteers than before. We would like to recruit approximately 120 people to assist with the quarterly counts and hope you will be one of them.

Each volunteer will be asked to:

  • Attend a short training (either in person or by viewing the training materials on line)
  • Conduct counts for a two-hour period on a weekday or Saturday (or both!) once per quarter, starting in January.

Visit SDOT’s blog for more details.

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Walking in Seattle now formatted for mobile devices

If you are using a mobile phone, you can now navigate to WiS.troyh.us to view a mobile version of Walking in Seattle. You can also continue using the same link you’ve always used and the mobile theme should detect whether you’re using a mobile device. If the theme auto-detects incorrectly, you can scroll to the very bottom and click the link to switch which theme you prefer.

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Pedestrian struck by train in NW Seattle

Yesterday afternoon a 41-year-old female was walking on the train tracks near the Blue Ridge park struck by a southbound train. She was wearing headphones and walking along the track for reasons currently unknown.


View Pedestrian struck in a larger map

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Share links and follow us on Twitter

To go along with the new look unveiled last weekend, we’ve also added a Share/Save button to the bottom of each post to allow you to easily bookmark, tweet, or like any blog post.

Additionally, Walking in Seattle is now tweeting new posts on Twitter @WalkingSeattle.

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Help SDOT keep sidewalks clear

Person walking on the icy sidewalkSDOT is encouraging people to keep their sidewalks clear of snow and ice on Twitter and Facebook: “Remember to clear your sidewalk before leaving home today. Let’s keep those pathways open for pedestrians.”

This isn’t just a suggestion, it’s also the law, according to the PI’s Seattle 911 blog:

“Property owners and occupants, whether business or residential, are responsible for removing snow and ice from sidewalks that abut their properties,” Department of Transportation spokesman Rick Sheridan said. “The penalty for non-compliance is $250 for the first citation and up to $500 for subsequent citations.”

Police say people should not call 911 about sidewalk ice violations, and if their neighbors are a problem, they should contact them in a cordial manner.

Meanwhile, “SDOT will deploy pedestrian safety crews to clear specified curb landings and stairways. These areas were selected using Pedestrian Master Plan criteria.” It’s not exactly clear which curb landings and stairways these are, but they are likely to be well-traveled areas.

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Ice makes commuting painful; walking not impacted as much as other modes of transportation

Yesterday’s commute was miserable for some people – it didn’t matter if commuting was by car or by bus, it took many people hours to get home. At that rate, it seems like it would have been easier to get out and walk, which some people did that, leaving their cars abandoned on the streets of Capitol Hill and elsewhere.

As for this morning, it looks like most people have chosen to stay home, as roadways are icy and many bus routes are rerouted or canceled. The snow on the sidewalks is not packed into ice, though, making walking not too difficult, except when crossing icy streets. What has your experience been? Did anyone here just get out and walk yesterday?

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PubliCola argues for accelerating the Pedestrian Master Plan

In the budget review process, the City Council decided to reject the mayor’s proposal to fund the Pedestrian Master Plan. By doing this, much needed safety improvements will be delayed. Erica C. Barnett at PubliCola argues that implementing the pedestrian plan should be accelerated so that pedestrians aren’t put at risk.

[B]y slowing implementation of the already-behind-schedule pedestrian master plan, the city is all but ensuring that dangerous intersections get fixed more slowly than they would have if the master plan was a higher priority, and that puts all pedestrians at risk.

She points to the intersection of 15th Ave. NW and NW 87th St. where a 12-year-old boy was critically injured in a location without a lit crosswalk sign.

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New Look

We’ve had a generic WordPress theme for long enough – it’s time Walking in Seattle has a look to call its own. With a custom header image and vivid color scheme, hopefully this makes your browsing experience more pleasant.

How do you like the new look?

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If you find any bugs or quirks with the theme, or have any thoughts, leave a comment.

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SDOT’s explanation for crosswalk closure worth examining

Earlier this week we pointed out that the crosswalk along Westlake at Mercer has been closed as part of the Mercer Corridor Project. We have an update, as SDOT has responded to confirm our assumptions:

You are correct that the eastern crosswalk at Mercer St. and Westlake Ave. N is closed due to the two left-hand turn lanes from southbound Westlake Ave. N onto eastbound Mercer St. The volume and timing of traffic turning left (traffic that crosses the eastern crosswalk) is too high to keep the crosswalk safely open. This traffic configuration is in place to accommodate high volumes of traffic now using Westlake Ave. N to access Mercer St. while construction is occurring on other streets, such as 9th Ave. N.

The eastern crosswalk at Mercer St. and Westlake Ave. N will likely be closed for the duration of the Mercer Corridor Project, through mid-2013.

(emphasis above is mine) The Mercer Corridor Project will significantly improve the pedestrian environment in this area, however, like the McGraw Square construction, this is another project where the impact to pedestrians is worth examining.


View Westlake @ Mercer Crosswalk Closure in a larger map

As with most things SDOT does, safety appears to be one of their foremost considerations. However, the current intersection signaling appears to pose safety risks to both drivers and pedestrians. The current light signals allow drivers on southbound Westlake Ave to turn left onto Mercer St after yielding to northbound traffic. Then the signal changes to a green arrow to allow a protected left turn. By allowing drivers to turn left on yield, the chances of a vehicle collision are increased, which is apparent upon observing rush hour traffic. Due to traffic back-ups, northbound vehicles sometimes have to stop on green before entering the intersection or stop in the intersection, making the unprotected left turn dangerous for vehicles during peak hours.

Vehicle navigating unprotected left turn

Vehicle navigating unprotected left turn

Furthermore, with the large “Crosswalk Closed” signs, and no visible crosswalk signal on the east side of the intersection, drivers will be less likely to scan for pedestrians inevitably crossing in this area. The crosswalk closure means that there may be fewer people on foot to be hit by turning cars, but with drivers focusing on navigating the unprotected left turn, the few pedestrians who do cross (albeit illegally) may be more likely to be hit.

Keeping traffic moving through the intersection may be a bigger reason for SDOT closing the crosswalk, but doing this doesn’t significantly increase how many cars can turn left onto Mercer during peak periods. During this evening’s commute, only around 2-5 cars were able to turn on the unprotected left arrow – a relatively small number compared to the high number of cars that turn left on the protected arrow. Re-opening the crosswalk may slow down the cars that are able to turn left on yield, but the number of pedestrians crossing here isn’t high enough to have much of an impact to left-turning traffic.

One of the goals of the Mercer Corridor Project is to support walking in the area – the project will create a street through a neighborhood (South Lake Union) where there is now basically an onramp to a freeway. So why shouldn’t this transformation start with the beginning of the construction project?

By closing this crosswalk, SDOT is expecting people on foot to cross Westlake twice to cross Mercer once, which can add over three minutes to a walk on foot – a long time to spend navigating a single intersection, especially in a city that aspires to be the most walkable city in the nation.

Pedestrians walking on closed crosswalk

Life-threatening jaywalking or civil disobedience?

As with most construction projects, some inconvenience is unavoidable. However, if SDOT were serious about improving safety at this intersection and upholding the objectives of the Mercer Corridor project, my opinion is that the unprotected left turn for vehicle traffic would be eliminated, at least at peak periods, and the crosswalk would be re-opened at all hours.

On the other hand, SDOT is correct that this is a high-traffic area, and reducing the number of cars able to turn by eliminating the unprotected left turn and by re-opening the crosswalk will have some impact on how quickly vehicles can drive through during rush hour. What do you think? How would you respond to these questions?:

  1. Does blacking out the crosswalk signal and putting up “crosswalk closed” signs make this intersection more or less safe than if the crosswalk were still open?
  2. To address the safety issue posed by jaywalking pedestrians, should SDOT install physical barricades (e.g. jersey barriers) or should there be a police presence to reduce the number of people on foot who cross illegally?
  3. If you were walking along the east side of Westlake and needed to remain on the east side of Westlake, would you cross here illegally where there has been a crosswalk in place, or cross Westlake twice to cross Mercer legally?
  4. Is SDOT striking the right balance between vehicle throughput and pedestrian accessibility?
  5. Is there another way this intersection could be configured during the construction period?

Should this crosswalk across Mercer be closed to pedestrians until 2013?

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Share your thoughts in the comments. Also, if you have a strong opinion or questions of your own, contact the construction project hotline at (206) 419-5818 or mercerinfo@seattle.gov.

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