Monthly Archive for February, 2011

Vulnerable User bill passed by Senate

Senate Bill 5326, which would increase the penalty for driving negligently and hitting a pedestrian or cyclist, was passed in the state Senate by a vote of 43-5 on Thursday.

This bill addresses negligent (not reckless) driving, so it wouldn’t apply to recent sentences, that were given for drunk driving. Here’s more information from The Olympian:

Under existing law, the penalties are the same for someone who drives negligently but does not hurt anyone and for a negligent driver who injures or kills a biker or pedestrian.

“If you are negligent and you kill someone, what you get is a ticket and a $250 fine,” said Sen. Adam Kline, a Seattle Democrat and the bill’s primary sponsor. “Families see that small fine and wonder, why is someone getting away with a killing and getting a $250 fine?”

According to data from the Cascade Bicycle Club, which helped draft the bill, an average of 229 Washington bikers and pedestrians were killed or seriously injured per year between 2004 and 2007 in accidents where the driver failed to yield, was driving too fast, ran a red light or wasn’t paying attention.

John Schochet, a lawyer from the Seattle City Attorney’s Office who worked on the bill, said if you drive recklessly, meaning you are intentionally driving in a way that is likely to harm a person or property, but don’t hurt anyone, you can be charged with a misdemeanor. If you drive recklessly and do hurt or kill someone, you can be charged with a felony.

If you drive negligently, however, meaning you don’t drive in a way that a reasonably careful person would, you have committed a traffic infraction, not a crime, and you get the same penalties whether you kill someone or not.

For a case where someone is injured or killed, police officers and courts have to decide whether the driver who caused the accident was reckless or negligent, and, Schochet said, there is no middle ground between the two.

“This fills a gap,” said Schochet, referring to the Senate bill. “Right now there’s really nothing between a traffic ticket and a felony charge.”

If the bill is enacted, people who drive negligently and seriously hurt or kill a “vulnerable road user” would either have to pay a $1,000 to $5,000 fine and have their licenses revoked for 90 days or appear at a hearing, pay a $250 fine, take a traffic safety course and complete 100 hours of community service. Vulnerable users include moped riders, equestrians and tractor drivers as well as bikers and pedestrians.

A bill has to be passed by the House as well, however the good news is that the companion bill HB 1339 has made it out of the house rules committee.


Walking the new waterfront with Sally Bagshaw

Many people who support walkability are opposed to the Alaskan Way deep bore tunnel, but there’s no question that removing the viaduct presents an opportunity to transform the waterfront. Sally Bagshaw shares her vision for the waterfront:

I can just taste what our Waterfront will become. Imagine walking with me – or your best friend – just a few short years from now, from Safeco Field up to the Olympic Sculpture Park. Satisfied with another Mariner’s victory…

Her post includes conceptual renderings of the waterfront and imagines what the waterfront could become for walkers. Grab your walking shoes and rose-tinted sunglasses and take a stroll to the future.


Seattle stairs slideshow

Susan Ott Ralph, who has walked 650 stairways in the city and mapped them online at Seattle All Stairs, hosts a slideshow this Friday at the Montlake Community Center from 7 – 8:30 PM.


Drunk driver gets less than 3 years in prison for hitting 5 people

A woman who was driving with a blood alcohol level of more than 3 times the legal limit, who ran over five pedestrians, has been sentenced to 29 months in prison.

Wright, 43, pleaded guilty earlier this month to three counts of vehicular assault and one count of reckless driving in connection with the accident that sent four people to the hospital. One victim, a 28-year-old woman, suffered a brain injury that required doctors to remove a portion of her skull, according to charging paperwork.

The sentence imposed Friday by King County Superior Court Judge Bruce Heller was at the high end of the sentencing range, according to the King County prosecutor’s website.

I dunno what to say.


How SDOT chooses which sidewalks to improve

SDOT is currently selecting pedestrian improvements for 2011. Their blog gives some insight into this process:

Seattle’s Pedestrian Master Plan places a high value on data to determine where new projects will be built. SDOT planners utilize a wide variety of information when deciding where to build new sidewalks – existing facilities, the potential demand for new infrastructure, traffic volumes, street width, and socioeconomic and health factors to name just a few. The goal of this analysis is to focus investment in new infrastructure where people need it most. Once our data has been run through a Geographic Information System (GIS), our planners visit candidate project locations to ensure that the new facility can be built within our budget. If the project cost estimate exceeds the budget, we seek funding from other sources to complete the project.

SDOT has identified 9 locations in the city to build new sidewalks:

  • N 125 th Street between Greenwood Ave N & the Interurban Trail (north side)
  • 26 th Avenue NE between NE 125 th-127 th Streets (west side)
  • 8 th Avenue NE between NE 106 th St & NE Northgate Way (west side)
  • College Way N between N 97 th-100 th Streets (west side)
  • S McClellan Street between 25 th & 26 th Avenues S (north side)
  • 1 st Avenue S between S Dawson & Bennett Streets (west side)
  • 4 th Avenue S between S Fidalgo & Front Streets (east side)
  • SW Cloverdale Street between 8 th-9 th Avenues SW (south side)
  • SW Barton Place at 22 nd Avenue SW

Visit the Sidewalk Development Program website to see a map of these improved sidewalk locations.


Neighborhood pedestrian project funding

Many pedestrian improvement projects are funded through SDOT programs responsible for implementing the Pedestrian Master Plan. There is also funding available to the community for neighborhood improvements. As SDOT’s blog summarizes,

The Neighborhood Projects Fund, or NPF for short, offers up to $90,000 a year for small improvements. With NPF dollars, neighborhoods have been able to build short segments of new sidewalk, repair existing sidewalks, construct median islands and curb bulbs, and install new crosswalks. Applicants are encouraged to work with their neighbors and SDOT to develop proposals prior to participating in the NPF process. SDOT staff can guide applicants through the process, provide feedback about the feasibility of the project, and ensure that the scope of the project will not exceed the budget. Check out the NPF website for information about the process including helpful tips.

The Bridging the Gap Neighborhood Street Fund, or NSF, funds projects that cost more than $100,000 and less than $500,000. Typical NSF projects include large segments of new sidewalks, street repair, and traffic calming work. The Neighborhood Street Fund is a bi-annual grant that won’t be available again until 2013.

The Department of Neighborhood’s Neighborhood Matching Fund (NMF) finances a diverse range of projects from small street improvements to tree plantings. The NMF requires a community match in the form of volunteer labor, donated materials, professional services, or a monetary donation. Click here to get started.


What’s your favorite walking route?

We’ve featured several walking routes throughout Seattle, including urban areas like the downtown retail core and Pioneer Square, natural areas like Discovery Park Beaches, Schmitz Preserve Park, and Union Bay Natural Area, and neighborhoods like South Lake Union, Fremont, and Ravenna/Wedgwood.

What’s your favorite walking route in the city?  Share your suggestion in the comments and we may feature it here. Or contribute by clicking the “write” tab.


9th Ave N closed to pedestrians near Mercer

Impacts to pedestrians continue for pedestrians trying get around Mercer. In addition to the closed crosswalk across Mercer on the east side of Westlake, sidewalks on both sides of 9th Ave N are now closed. Click here to see the latest map showing all the closures in the area.


Road rules for drivers: yield at crosswalks

SDOT’s blog highlights some rules of the road for drivers, which is a good refresher for anyone who ever gets behind the wheel. The section on crosswalks is of particular importance for pedestrian safety:

Most people are unaware that every intersection contains a crosswalk whether marked or unmarked. This is true throughout the state of Washington. Drivers must stop for pedestrians when crossing the street at marked crosswalks and at intersections as well. Whenever a vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of another vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass the stopped vehicle.

When attempting to make a left turn at an intersection with pedestrians in the crosswalk, state law says that drivers can turn into the crosswalk only after pedestrians are one lane past the drivers half of the roadway. The image below should help clarify this law. Just remember that pedestrians and bicyclists have the right-of-way at crosswalks and intersections.

Washington State's Crosswalk Law

Although the rules are pretty simple, 251 drivers were at fault for hitting pedestrians last year. Drivers have a lot to pay attention to, but remembering the rules of the road is one way to be a more responsible driver.


Pedestrian fatality in Rainier Valley

A pedestrian was struck and killed in the Rainier Valley this morning. It appears that a woman in her late 70s was crossing against the signal and was struck by a vehicle and died at the hospital.