Monthly Archive for December, 2010

America Walks

DC’s StreetsBlog has a good profile of the walking advocacy organization America Walks:

People tend to identify most strongly with things that set them apart. If everyone’s doing something, it hardly seems worth calling attention to the fact that you do it too.

Which may be part of the reason it’s been hard for pedestrian advocacy organizations to build a strong identity around walking.

America Walks is the only national organization dedicated to pedestrian rights and walkability. The fifteen year-old organization supports community-based walkability movements, such as Seattle’s Feet First. America Walks is putting together a national coalition of organizations that support pedestrian mobility, including the American Heart Association and the Rails to Trails Conservancy, and predicts expanding from 70 coalition members today to 500 by 2012.

They also hope to gather 25,000 signatures for their vision statement:

By 2020, walking in everyday life is embraced across America. Streets and neighborhoods are safe and attractive public places that encourage people of all ages, abilities, ethnicities, and incomes to walk for exercise, recreation, and transportation. Walkable community policies promote health, economic vitality, environmental sustainability, and social equity.

DC StreetsBlog concludes:

If that’s the future, it’s also the past. After all, as America Walks points out, “In 1969 walking made up 40 percent of all transportation trips, but in 2008 walking trips decreased to 11 percent.” Although walking is good for our heart rates and waistlines, modern road design can make it hazardous to our health: in the past 15 years, 76,000 pedestrians have been killed.

“We need to create places where you feel safe and comfortable walking along the street and even in the street, playing in the street,” says Bricker. “Crossing the street needs to be easy, accessible and safe.” He points to simple additions like crosswalks, raised median islands, and countdown signals as innovations that immeasurably improve the pedestrian experience.

Funding for active transportation has risen dramatically from 0.1 percent of the federal transportation program in 1992 to 2 percent this year. Considering the fact that 11 percent of all trips are by foot, America Walks wants to make sure walking gets its fair piece of the pie.

And though creating a strong identity among walkers can be challenging, Bricker says, “We don’t hear people saying, ‘this is not important, walking is not part of the transportation system.’ People understand that walking is a fundamental part of life.”


Seattle saved from network of highways

Central District News looked at how R. H. Thomson Expressway would have walled off the Central District from Lake Washington. This was posted in May of 09, but we just came across it.  The report shows how walkability in Seattle almost took a big blow due to over-ambitious freeway construction. A freeway master plan shows a Seattle criss-crossed with pedestrian-impeding highways. One in particular would have sliced through the Central District and included crossings only at a few major intersections:
View Thompson Expressway in a larger map

Head over to Central District News to read more and find out how activists were able to stop the project.


Two people hit on Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill Seattle reports that two pedestrians were hit yesterday.

View Two Pedestrian Accidents in a larger map

One person was taken to Harborview with serious head injuries. The condition of the second person is not known at this time.


People happier in walkable neighborhoods

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to residents of the 6th most walkable city in the country, but a recent study has shown that walkable neighborhoods have happier people:

People who live in walkable communities are more socially engaged and trusting than those who live in less walkable areas, says a new study from the University of New Hampshire.

The study buttresses other research that has linked a neighborhood’s walkability to its residents’ quality of life, notably improved physical and mental health.

The researchers scored 700 residents of three communities in New Hampshire on measures of “social capital” such as socializing with friends, civic engagement and trust in their community. They found those in neighborhoods with higher Walk Score ratings reported being happier and healthier and more apt to volunteer, work on community projects or simply entertain friends at home.


More safety reminders

From SDOT’s Holiday Pedestrian Safety Campaign:

When you’re driving:

  • Don’t block the box
  • Never pass a vehicle that is stopped at a crosswalk—assume they are stopped for a pedestrian
  • Don’t be a distracted driver—don’t use cell phones or text while driving
  • Yield to pedestrians
  • Make eye contact with a pedestrian before proceeding through a crosswalk

When you’re walking:

  • Use the sidewalk
  • Wear bright clothing at night so you can be more easily seen
  • Always use marked crosswalks whenever possible
  • Make eye contact with drivers who are approaching
  • Don’t be a distracted walker–turn off headphones and pay attention when crossing the street

Central District News suggests road diet for 23rd Ave

In response to the pedestrian “death map” we published, Central District News offers safety suggestions to combat the disproportionately high number of fatalities in their neighborhood:

So what can be done to reduce collisions? On a personal level, try to cross hilly streets either at the top or bottom of the hill. Make eye contact with vehicle drivers when crossing to make sure they see you. When driving, remember that all intersections are crosswalks by default whether there is paint on the ground or not, and pedestrians do have the right of way.

They also suggest a road diet for 23rd Ave, one of the most dangerous streets in the neighborhood:

There are other tools the city has used to increase safety on streets like 23rd Ave (I will now put on my safe roads advocacy hat). Currently, 23rd is a four-lane road with few safe pedestrian crossings other than at stoplights (what I would call a highway design). Four-lane configurations make left tuns onto and off of these roads difficult for drivers. They also prevent the city from being able to install safe crosswalks in sections where there are no stoplights for several blocks.

With only 15,100 vehicles per day south of Madison (according to 2006 data, the most recent readily available for this road) 23rd Ave has similar traffic volumes to roads across the city that have recently been reconfigured to increase safety for all users. These so-called “road diets” often add a center right left turn lane and sometimes bike lanes while removing one travel lane in each direction. Though they have proven to decrease all road collisions dramatically without reducing vehicle capacity, some have been controversial


West Thomas overpass construction to start in March

Work will begin in March to connect Lower Queen Anne with the Myrtle Edwards Park via a pedestrian and cyclist bridge over Elliott Ave and the railroad tracks. From Seattle Likes Bikes:

After years of work (and fears the project had stalled for good), SDOT has announced that it has the funding to move forward with a bicycle and pedestrian overpass connecting Lower Queen Anne and Myrtle Edwards Park. The bridge will be built in the middle of a 1.2 mile stretch where the park and the neighborhood currently have no crossings. The project will make the park and the Elliott Bay Trail much more usable for both recreation and transportation.


Out of control driver was under the influence

The driver who struck three pedestrians at Pike Place Market was under the influence at the time of the accident:

King County prosecutors filed vehicular assault charges Tuesday against a driver who struck three pedestrians outside Pike Place Market.

Filing the charges, prosecutors claim Travis Clinton Lipski was high on Thursday morning when he drove a Subaru through a red light near the market and struck three people.

According to charging documents, Lipski, 39, has twice been convicted of driving under the influence. The Seattle resident is alleged to have admitted to smoking an herbal substance similar in its effects to marijuana shortly before the crashes.

Vehicular assault carries a maximum penalty of 10 years and prison and a $20,000 fine.

Fortunately all three pedestrians are expected to survive, however two sustained broken bones and one of the two is still in the hospital.


Cab driver rams pedestrian

A pedestrian who complained about a cab driver’s driving ended up being the victim of vehicular assault:

Describing the Dec. 5 incident, Seattle Detective Timothy DeVore said the alleged victim was walking in the alley with two friends when, at about 9 p.m., they were nearly struck by Christy’s cab.

Christy, a driver for Yellow Cab, was stopped and attempting to turn on to Mercer Street when the three pedestrians confronted him, DeVore told the court. The victim, a resident of the neighborhood, said he was tired of cabs driving too fast down the alley where he and others walk.

A slice of pizza in hand, Christy was unrepentant, the detective continued.

“There are no normal people left in Seattle, nothing but (anti-gay slur) and scum,” Christy is alleged to have replied.

Christy then pulled into traffic and appeared to be leaving the scene when he made a U-turn at 1st Avenue North and drove toward the trio, who were crossing Mercer Street, the detective continued. Having driving past, Christy is alleged to have cut a second U-turn and drove into one of the men who’d confronted him.

“Christy sped his cab toward (the victim) striking him on the left side of his body,” DeVore told the court. “Just prior to being struck by the vehicle, (the victim) jumped in the air and bounced on top of the cab and then onto the street.”

The man sustained minor injuries and was treated by Seattle Fire Department medics. Christy, the detective said, fled the scene but was located by officers after a witness noted his cab number.

The driver was charged with second-degree assault.


“Death Map” shows “city hasn’t taken pedestrian safety in the Rainier Valley seriously”

Erica C. Barnett at PubliCola, responding to SDOT’s map of pedestrian fatalities first published at Walking in Seattle, calls for the city to do something about the high number of deaths on Ranier Ave S:

In five years—despite dire warnings from groups like Save Our Valley that surface-level light rail construction and operations would lead to a rash of pedestrian fatalities—there have been zero deaths in the past five years along Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave., where surface-level light rail opened in July 2009. In the same period, there have been seven deaths on or near MLK’s parallel street, Rainier Ave.

The correlation is no coincidence: As I’ve written before, Rainier Ave. is a pedestrian nightmare, a five-lane arterial where drivers speed along at 50 mph and where stoplights are as far as a mile apart. MLK, in contrast, has more stop lights, fewer lanes, and frequent pedestrian crossings, especially at light rail stations. According to the, Rainier is the most dangerous street in the city, with 61 reported car-pedestrian collisions between 2002 and 2006. The intersection of Rainier and 39th Ave. S. tied a several-block-long stretch of Aurora for the most jaywalking incidents (six) in the city.

The solution (as I’ve also written before) is to add more stoplights and lighted, marked crosswalks all along Rainier. As long as people have to walk a half-mile in each direction to get to the nearest stop light and back, people are going to keep jaywalking across Rainier, and people are going to keep getting hit. The pedestrian death map highlights what’s already obvious to anyone who walks, rides the bus, drives, or bikes along Rainier: The city hasn’t taken pedestrian safety in the Rainier Valley seriously, and it’s time for them to step up and do so.