Monthly Archive for January, 2011

Vote for the Worst Intersection in Seattle

Note: The winning intersection has been announced.

The nominations are in. In no particular order, here are this year’s nominees for Worst Intersection in Seattle (click on images for map):

  1. Intersection at NE 45th St & 7th Ave NE 7th Ave NE and NE 45th – “The bizarre center-of-the-intersection crosswalk, the fact you have to wait three whole signal changes to cross catty-corner (which nobody does), the fact that it’s the only “safe” crossing of 45th for several blocks headed east (so you end up with mass jaywalking). Just awful.” (nominated by Tom F)
  2. Aurora and cross streets Republican, Harrison, Thomas, and John – “These intersections all suck for not existing, pedestrian-speaking. We have enough geographic barriers to movement in this town, we don’t need to create our own with concrete.” (nominated by Hans)
  3. Eastlake Ave & Fuhrman Ave Eastlake NE and Fuhrman E – “ear-crushing noise off I5, car drivers rushing to turn off or onto the University Bridge, which often means navigating around a ‘oh hey a pedestrian’ car stopped across the pedestrian walkway, which pushes you out into the Bicycle Lane, who in turn have their own troubles with cars failing to yield.” (nominated by Jeremy Mates)
  4. Aurora Ave & Bridge Way exit Bridge Way exit off of Aurora – “Has the most dangerous sidewalk in the city. I believe many people would get hit there were people actually using it. It is a soft turn off of Aurora, so drivers come flying around at 50+ mph. Drivers can’t see if anyone is on the crosswalk and pedestrians can’t see if anyone’s coming toward it. To make matters worse, there’s a two foot drop from the sidewalk to the street, so if you saw a car was coming at the last minute, it wouldn’t be easy to get back to safety. When I’ve walked up Aurora this way, I’ve gone way out of my way to 38th to get back onto Aurora, rather than put my life on the line trying the direct path.” (nominated by NJL)
  5. Mercer St / I-5 on-ramps & Fairview Ave Mercer / I-5 ramps and Fairview – “Basically a 8-lanes of freeway onramp / offramp. Not only can’t you cross Mercer at all on the east side of Fairview, but if you’re on the north side of Mercer, there are no pedestrian signals to cross any street – you’ll have to walk a block back north to cross Fairview at Valley.” (nominated by Troy)
  6. Latona Ave & Pacific St Latona Ave NE and NE Pacific St – Pedestrians have to “dodge cars, large trucks AND bikes at this intersection. The Burke Gilman trail merges with the sidewalk at this intersection so you have large numbers of bikes, many moving fast, that must be avoided by pedestrians. The noise from the I-5 bridge makes any attempt to warn “on your left” impossible to hear. Large trucks entering and leaving Dunn Lumber have a steep hill that they must stop on before pulling across the Burke Gilman trail/sidewalk and turning onto Pacific. Vehicles on Pacific turning south on Latona must not only do the usual checks but also look over their shoulder for fast moving bikes on the Burke Gilman. A mess for all!” (nominated by pat)
  7. Westlake Ave & Valley St Westlake and Valley/Broad – “It is particularly dangerous if you are trying to cross Westlake on the north side of the intersection. It is a soft right turn for people traveling east on Valley and turning onto Westlake, so most don’t slow down at all or bother to consider there might be pedestrians who have the right of way. Also, the cross walk a block up Westlake is mostly useless, as no one ever stops for it.” (nominated by NJL)
  8. Pine St & Boren Ave near Capitol Hill / First Hill Pine and Boren – A very busy pedestrian intersection, with pedestrians exposed to the noise from the freeway below and surrounded on all sides with cars and concrete. “I keep hoping those overpasses are near their end-of-life so they can be replaced with something that buffers the noise, ideally with some vegetation.” (nominated by Tom F)
  9. Fairview Ave & Eastlake Ave Fairview and Eastlake – “The sidewalk vanishes into a parking lot. The parking lot itself is barely distinguishable from the road when it isn’t filled with cars.” (nominated by NJL)

[poll id=”6″]

Update: The winning intersection has been announced.


Bill would allow cities to lower speed limit more easily

Seattle Bike Blog discusses a bill in Washington State’s legislature that would make it easier for cities to set non-arterial speed limits at 20 miles-per-hour.  Currently, cities are required to perform an engineering study in order to lower speed limits.  As Seattle Bike Blog reports, pedestrians hit at 20 mph have a 5% of dying, whereas the likelihood of dying after being hit at 30 mph is 40%.


SDOT’s 2011 plans include more pedestrian projects

The Seattle Department of Transportation’s 2011 to do list includes many pedestrian projects.

One project starting in March is the West Thomas pedestrian / cycling bridge, which links Lower Queen Anne with the waterfront.

The Mountains to Sound trail will provide greater pedestrian and bicycle accessibility around and across I-5 and I-90 near Beacon Hill.

The exciting Linden Ave N complete streets project will give a full makeover to 17 blocks’ worth of curbs, curb ramps, sidewalks, bike lanes, and trees.

Seattle is putting significant resources into improvements for pedestrians even in this lean budget year.


Two pedestrian collisions over the weekend

SPD Blotter reports on two pedestrian collisions over the weekend. At Boylston Avenue and Pine Street, a woman was struck in a marked crosswalk. The victim was taken to Harborview with life-threatening injuries. The driver attempted to flee, but was caught by police and booked for driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

The second accident was on Denny Way near 1st Ave, as a man was struck when crossing mid-block. In this case, the driver doesn’t appear to have been at fault. The pedestrian sustained serious head injuries and was taken to Harborview.


Reasons to be nice to pedestrians

A piece in the Boston Globe lists 10 reasons to be nice to pedestrians in 2011.

1. If you’re driving, you’ll soon be one. Think of how deferential you are in the parking lot outside Target. You know that as soon as you park the car, you’re going to be in their shoes, trying to cross or deposit a shopping cart.

2. Some very famous crosswalks are being honored with historic designation — the one used by the Beatles for the cover of Abbey Road (28 IF? No socks for Paul).

3. Because our children deserve Safe Routes to School.

4. Walking (and biking, and roller-blading) consumes no fossil fuels and discharges no carbon emissions to worsen global warming.

Seattle drivers may not be as discourteous as their Boston counterparts, but these reminders are useful nonetheless.


479 Vehicle-Pedestrian Crashes in 2009

Erica at PubliCola shares some statistics from SDOT in 2009:

  • Car collisions with pedestrians were also down, but they remained more common than bike collisions, with 479 crashes (11 of them fatal) last year alone. Sixty-eight percent of the time, the pedestrian was hit in a crosswalk (just 8 percent of all crashes were pedestrians crossing intersections against the signal).
  • Although pedestrian and bike collisions were the most likely collisions to be fatal (accounting for 11 of 24 fatalities), overall, driving a car remains the most dangerous way to get around. Ninety-three percent of all accidents in 2009 were between cars or cars and stationery objects (like parked cars, which accounted for 24 percent of all car-on-car crashes, or things like phone poles and street signs, which made up another 6 percent).
  • Finally, the data suggest that if you’re going to get drunk, just stay home. Although just one cyclist was hit by a drunk driver in 2009, five drunk cyclists were involved in crashes, along with 11 pedestrians. (Two pedestrians “had taken medication,” one was under the influence of drugs, and one was “apparently asleep,” according to the report.

While it’s good that pedestrian accidents declined in 2009, accident and fatality numbers are still way too high. 251 of these accidents were at least partially the fault of drivers. With driving on the decline, hopefully these accidents will continue to decrease. But more vigilant prosecution of dangerous driving, as well as some changes to protect pedestrians (e.g. disallowing right-on-red in some locations), could help make Seattle a safer place to walk.


Nominate your worst intersection in Seattle

Walking in Seattle is going to identify the worst intersection in Seattle, and you’re invited to submit nominations. Once nominations have been received, all readers will be invited to vote for the worst.

The worst intersection could be the most dangerous, or perhaps one with limited pedestrian crossings, poor signaling, or no curbs. Intersections like 23rd & Yesler or 12th & Madison are two intersections that might be worth nominating. Whatever qualifies as your “worst,” suggest it in the comments. The most nominated intersections and intersections with the most persuasive nominations will make it to the voting round.

Update: Time to vote!


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Year of Seattle Parks

The City of Seattle has 403 parks.  One intrepid resident is on a quest to visit all of them in one year:

I know what you’re thinking. All the parks in the city of Seattle in one year? Piece o’cake. I thought the same thing, too…. this will be a fun, easy project. I’ll visit one park every week, I thought. Write a few notes about them and throw my musings up on a blog.

Well, much to my surprise when I visited the city’s web site I discovered that Seattle has 403 parks. No kidding.

Now, I’ve lived in Seattle for several years and really enjoy visiting parks for picnics, swimming and walking. And, I considered myself pretty knowledgeable about the parks in this city.

I had no idea.

There are parks I have literally never ever heard of. Like Albert Davis Park and Amy Yee Tennis Center. And, that’s just a couple from the “A”s. How about the tempting Beer Shiva Park and Benefit Playground? Or, the curiously named Condon Way Centerstrip and Counterbalance Park: An Urban Oasis. No clue about those either.

A Year of Seattle Parks contains information on each park visited so far along with photos and suggested walking routes. Stop by to find some new places to walk in the city.


First and University intersection should be improved further

The intersection at 1st and University was recently converted to an all-way walk signal, improving pedestrian mobility in the area. However, Dan Bertolet says that’s not good enough:

First and University belongs at the top of Seattle’s list for places where we ought to celebrate urban walkability. The city recently took a positive step in this direction by converting the intersection to a “scramble,” where vehicular traffic is stopped on both streets at the same time, freeing pedestrians to walk in any direction, including diagonally.

With the scramble came the super deluxe new white paint job you see in the photo. When I first saw those truncated diagonal lines I thought they couldn’t possibly be finished, but alas, I have since learned otherwise.

Yes, credit is due to the folks at the city’s transportation department who took the initiative to push the scramble conversion through the bureaucracy. And yes, there are probably arcane city regulations that dictate how intersections can be painted. But c’mon people, is this really the best we can do?

More white lines would be a good start, but what First and University deserves is a full pavement treatment across the entire intersection. Something like the paving on Pine St. between Fourth and Fifth Ave. would be nice, though it wouldn’t have to be that fancy. It just needs to visually distinguish the intersection as place where pedestrians take priority over cars. A raised tabletop would be ideal.

To Dan’s point, the city of Seattle has a special opportunity with this particular intersection. But practically every intersection in the city could be improved further. In this case, at least we have an all-way walk signal, which uses standard striping patterns, even though it may not visually cue drivers to watch out for people walking.

But, with limited funding, is it more important to pay special attention to the intersections that could benefit most from special treatment, or should SDOT focus on addressing the intersections lacking basic infrastructure like sidewalks and curb ramps?

To give credit where it is due, SDOT has done an good job of addressing basic, relatively inexpensive pedestrian needs by striping crosswalks, putting in curb ramps, and adding missing sidewalks.

But, when will they do more than just address basic needs? Will that have to wait for all the basic infrastructure gaps to be fixed?

At some point SDOT is going to have to target more expensive and potentially more controversial improvements like a raised tabletop on 1st and University. And with a pro-pedestrian mayor in place, now seems like a better time than ever.