Monthly Archive for May, 2011

Q & A with City Council President Richard Conlin

Richard ConlinWalking in Seattle is running a series to showcase the perspectives of prominent walkers in the city. This week’s Q&A is with Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin:

Walking in Seattle: Where is your favorite place in the city go for a walk?

Richard Conlin: I have a favorite route that leaves my house in Madrona, goes through Frink and Colman Parks, and returns along Lake Washington. I walk home from City Hall frequently as well, usually along Madison and then Union or nearby back streets.

WiS: What do you like most about walking in the city of Seattle?

Conlin: Greenness and flowers, many people out on the street.

WiS: What is the top thing you’d like to see improved for walking in the city of Seattle?

Conlin: Increased maintenance on sidewalks and stairways.

WiS: One last question – be honest, do you wait for the crosswalk signal?

Conlin: If the coast is clear for a couple of blocks, I won’t wait. Also, hate being at crossings where the crosswalk doesn’t correlate with the green light unless you were there to push the button when the signal changed.

If you’d like to nominate a local walker to be included in this Q & A series, or volunteer to participate, please use our contact form.


Natural drainage systems in sidewalk construction

In Crosscut, Roger Valdez looks at the impacts of traditional sidewalks on the environment. A Washington State Department of Transportation study unsurprisingly shows a benefit from installing sidewalks.

Here’s the key paragraph from the study:

The results provide early evidence in the potential effectiveness of sidewalks to reduce CO2 and VMT [vehicle miles traveled], in addition to a mixed land use pattern, shorter transit travel and wait times, lower transit fares and higher parking costs. Sidewalk completeness was found to be marginally significant (at the 10 percent level) in reducing CO2, and insignificant in explaining VMT.

In this sense the term “marginally” might read as “small.” But in a research context “marginally significant” also means sidewalks can make a difference along with other factors to significantly reduce CO2 emissions.

However, pavement is impermeable, blocking rainwater from being absorbed by the ground and redirecting it to the storm sewers that send it to Puget Sound.

After it rains, water hits all that pavement and it starts rolling around, picking up the petroleum drippings from cars, pesticides from lawn care products, and a legion of other things that end up harming fish and other creatures trying to survive in urban creeks and streams. Ultimately, all that water winds up in the Puget Sound, where the Partnership for Puget Sound says at least two species of salmon are threatened with extinction because of stormwater runoff.

Valdez supports natural drainage systems, like the one installed on NW 110th St. These narrow the roadway and include landscaping to collect rainwater runoff, reducing the amount of rainwater and pollutants channeled into the Sound.

The project that Valdez references was constructed by Seattle Public Utilities whereas most sidewalks are constructed by SDOT.

However, the city’s 2009 Stormwater Code requires SDOT to consider green stormwater infrastructure. SDOT spokesperson Marybeth Turner says:

This means that where space is available and it is technically feasible, elements such as bioretention swales, porous sidewalk, and new street trees are required to be installed adjacent to the new sidewalk in the planting strip between the sidewalk and street. These measures are meant to infiltrate or reduce the surface water generated from the impervious surface of the sidewalk before it reaches the gutter and eventually the drainage system and Puget Sound.

There are several current SDOT sidewalk projects that include green stormwater infrastructure elements. On these projects, SPU is “providing guidance with respect to maintenance requirements and direction on standards requirements.” These projects include NE 55th and Ravenna intersection improvements, Linden Ave N Complete Streets Project, and “numerous neighborhood sidewalk projects funded by the Bridging the Gap transportation initiative,” according to Turner.

While these sidewalks take cues from the green drainage designs that SPU has developed, this design cannot be applied everywhere. “The space may not be available, the pollutant loading too great, the soils may not be conducive, and there are in most cases numerous other utilities which may be in conflict,” Turner says

Still, it’s good to know that the city is working to limit negative side effects of new sidewalk construction. Now, if only they could build more of them.


Blocking us from Walking

We’re starting a new series to point out drivers who obstruct pedestrian mobility in the city. This includes drivers obstructing crosswalks, vehicles parked on sidewalks, delivery trucks blocking intersections, and Metro buses running the light.

Examples of vehicles obstructing pedestrian and bicycle movement are common throughout the city. And, if you’re a driver, you’ve probably found yourself in the wrong position from time to time as well. Still, by calling out the most egregious examples, hopefully we can remind all drivers to be more careful how they use their vehicles.

Upload your photo via our contact form and they may be featured on the blog.

Driver blocking crosswalk


Summer Streets on Alki this Sunday

Alki Ave SW will be fully closed to vehicle traffic between 63rd Ave SW and 56th Ave SW for the Summer Streets program. It starts at 11 and includes special demos, kids activities:

With the streets car-free and fun-focused expect the unexpected…random yoga; intermittent acts of dance; sidewalk chalk…outside the lines! So plan on playing in the street this weekend – the Summer Streets – and…bring your creativity!

It’s everybody’s street. Imagine the possibilities.


Contributors Welcome

Since Walking in Seattle was started in January of 2010, we’ve averaged about 4.5 new posts per week. That may slow down a little bit as I will have some other obligations over the next few months, like visitors, travel, and more work than normal at the job that I get paid for doing. Others are welcome to contribute to the blog to help keep up the pace.

One relatively easy thing that could be done is to link to and analyze pedestrian news from other sites. There is also an opportunity to do original reporting, which could be a good unpaid opportunity for any journalism student, or anyone who may want to give it a try. Thoughtful and considerate editorials and commentaries may also be welcome.

Feel free to send this link on to others who may be interested. If you want to contribute or have questions, please fill out our contact form.


Q & A with City Council Member Tim Burgess

Tim BurgessWalking in Seattle is running a series to showcase the perspectives of prominent walkers in the city. This week’s Q&A is with Seattle City Council Member Tim Burgess:

Walking in Seattle: Where is your favorite place in the city go for a walk?

Tim Burgess: I do my exercise walking in my Queen Anne neighborhood, usually very early in the morning. I have a 3.1 mile loop that I walk three or four days a week, most of it along park boulevards that loop around the hill.

I also walk downtown almost every day as I move from meeting to meeting; walking is often quicker than checking out a car from the City motor pool, driving, and finding a place to park.

WiS: What do you like most about walking in the city of Seattle?

Burgess: We have a great cityscape, lots of parks and boulevards, and urban density that makes walking fairly easy. Joleen and I can walk from our house to nearly all of our favorite shops and restaurants, our church, and friends in our neighborhood. But not all neighborhoods in Seattle are so amenable to walking because they lack sidewalks, aren’t perceived to be safe, or don’t have the level of density that makes walking attractive.

WiS: What is the top thing you’d like to see improved for walking in the city of Seattle?

Burgess: More sidewalks in those neighborhoods that don’t have them, better pedestrian lighting, better way finder signs, especially in the greater downtown area, and more traffic calming efforts like our very successful road reconfigurations.

WiS: One last question – be honest, do you wait for the crosswalk signal?

Burgess: Absolutely. I think all Council members are quite sensitive to obeying the crosswalk signals all the time! We certainly wouldn’t want to get “caught” crossing against the signal.

If you’d like to nominate a local walker to be included in this Q & A series, or volunteer to participate, please use our contact form.


Greenwood alley makeover tomorrow

Tired of potholes in your alley? Check out this do-it-yourself project these Greenwood residents are doing (via Feet First):

Thirteen Greenwood neighbors in Seattle are giving their alley a makeover. After only 3 months of conversation (not a whole lot of process in Seattle terms), these neighbors have come together with $450 ($35 each) to pour crushed rock along the alley between 95th and 97th in the Seattle Greenwood neighborhood.

The folks in this neighborhood knew it would probably be many years before the city would fix the potholes and the puddles of water that accumulate during a rainfall, so they decided to take matters into their own hands. And, without a large transportation budget, they are making it a lot easier for people to use this public right of way.

On Saturday, May 14th at 12pm at the alley at 95th and 97th between Phinney and Dayton, residents are coming together to spread the crushed rock along their alley. Alleys are gaining popularity as their appearance–narrow spaces that move people, create connections, which inspire a new way for people to see their neighborhood. Come out and learn about this neighborhood’s DIY transportation improvement that will inspire you to do some street repair in your neighborhood!


Stairway wiped out by mudslide, repaired by SDOT

A stairway near Thornton Creek had been wiped out by heavy rains several weeks ago. SDOT engineers quickly repaired the stairway and SDOT Blog has a few pictures that show the before and after.


Walk & Talk in Capitol Hill with Sally Clark

Sally Clark (recently interviewed by Walking in Seattle) will be leading a walk through Capitol Hill as part of Feet First‘s quarterly Walk & Talk series. The walk will stop at three places in the neighborhood to highlight recent changes that have made the area more walkable. The livability enhancements featured include green space, multi-modal investments, and mixed use and compact development.

The walk starts at 5:30 on Tuesday, March 24 at the Odd Fellows Building (entry to the right of the Odd Fellows Cafe) at 1525 10th Avenue. Tickets can be purchased online for $7 for members and $10 for non-members online – the cost is higher if purchased the day of the walk.

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A reception will follow at the Baltic Room at 1207 Pine St.


All intersections legal for crossing

As many of you know, pedestrian crosswalks exist at every interesction in Washington, whether marked or not. But what about T-intersections? And what about odd-angle intersections? And, what about intersections where pedestrians are expressly forbidden? Well, the last one isn’t a legal crosswalk, but the other two are.

According to SDOT:

Legal pedestrian crosswalks exist at every intersection, including three way and odd angle intersections, whether the crosswalk is marked or unmarked. A marked crosswalk normally indicates a preferred pedestrian crossing point which is the safest place for a pedestrian to cross. Perhaps it is a location where lighting or visibility is best among a number of options, or where the potential for pedestrian-vehicle conflicts is lowest.

Safe crossings of streets are dependent upon good driver behavior and good pedestrian behavior. Any situation can become a dangerous one if poor driving or improper pedestrian or driver behavior is involved. While SDOT focuses on both traffic operations and the physical environment, everyone plays a role in pedestrian safety.

So, while three-way intersections and odd-angle intersections may not be particularly common, and while people may not cross at some intersections very frequently, they’re all legal crosswalks.