Here’s a very interesting infographic on pedestrian safety:
Monthly Archive for April, 2012
A Visitor’s Impressions on Strolling Seattle’s Walking Trails[Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Tim Eyre]
Walking may be a last-resort mode of transportation for many car and bicycle owners, but in my life (traveling around the country on a weekly basis for work) it’s how I stay fit and sane. Urban dwellers, pressed for time, often hop into their cars or rely on public transportation to get from point A to point B. Sometimes, it seems there aren’t enough hours in the day to venture outdoors on foot.
Seattle, already regarded as one of the most traversable cities in the U.S., is opening up troves of scenic foot paths, setting the stage for cities from coast to coast to design more walking-friendly layouts. It’s put the city at the top of my list on my regular work circuit, thanks to the chance to stroll right out of urban life and into nature.
Whether setting out with a destination in mind, or in the mood to meander along a scenic pathway, Seattle features a handful of noteworthy walking trails that beckon you to ditch your car or skip the next bus heading to town.
Over three weeks since my first work visit to Seattle last fall, I’ve made it a point to explore on foot. The area, I discovered quickly, features a nexus of scenic walking routes that lead to and from Downtown.
Burke-Gilman-Sammamish River Trail
(Photo by Joe Mabel)
A major corridor for urban dwellers, the bustling Burke-Gilman trail stretches roughly 27 miles one way, passing through a variety of neighborhoods and parks with multiple access points that connect schools and businesses throughout the area. A day after arriving in Seattle, I found myself on the trail, which follows the once heavily traveled railroad line of the Burlington Northern Railroad, running from Downtown to Bothell, then switching over to the Sammamish River Trail that runs to Redmond.
Speckled with farms, wineries and luxurious lakeshore homes — not to mention remarkable vistas of the Downtown skyline — I realized in no time why natives recommended I check out the trail, deemed by many as the most well-known trail among the area’s urban routes.
Chief Sealth Trail
Connecting Beacon Hill with Rainier Valley, the Chief Sealth Trail winds around more than three-and-a-half miles of hills undulating throughout the city’s Southeastern corner (http://www.ci.seattle.wa.us/transportation/chiefsealthtrail.htm). The trail was built with recycled materials, including repurposed soil and concrete, cutting through a variety of affluent and middle-class neighborhoods.
Commuters heading to work come and go, as various access points connect walkers to the Sound Transit Link Light Rail stations. Plans are in the works to open up more access to Downtown, I hear. But for now, the brisk one-hour walk — stretching from the South Beacon Avenue-South Dawson Street intersection to the South 56th Avenue-South Gazelle Street intersection — serves as a window into Seattle’s suburban life.
About two miles into the 14-mile trail, I learned from a passerby that I was following a route traveled until 1939 by Seattle’s Interurban Trolley.
The trail, now frequently used by commuters traveling between South King County and Auburn, Kent, Tukwila, Renton and Downtown, sets out near Fort Dent Park, crossing over the Green River and dipping beneath Interstate 405.
Views of landscapes and historic industrial towns filled my peripheral before I crossed into the breathtaking Green River Valley, causing me to draw a deep breath and soak up the serene setting before taking the next step.
Weaving in and out of remote stretches and crowded junctures, the Interurban Trail epitomizes Seattle’s pursuit to fuse nature with city-living.
(Photo by Joe Mabel)
Accompanied by walkers, joggers and bicyclists on a fair-weathered spring afternoon, I set out from the northeastern shorelines of Alki Beach along this five-mile trail (http://www.rei.com/guidepost/detail/washington/hiking/alki-trail/3030). Flocks of geese glided periodically over Puget Sound, with the Olympic Mountains presiding in the distance.
Along the breezy walkway, running past Harbor Island to West Seattle over the swing bridge on Southwest Spokane Street, and eventually winding north on Southwest Harbor Avenue along the Elliot Bay shoreline, numerous sail and steamboats cruised the waters. I’d recommend this route highly to visitors and locals alike.
Ship Canal Trail
Rustic maritime industrial neighborhoods speckle this peaceful trail, which runs along a canal from the Fremont Bridge, passing alongside Seattle Pacific University and Lake Union. I encountered numerous dog walkers and joggers along the trail, though other stretches proved remote and less busy.
A three-quarter-mile extension of the water-lined trail, I learned, was completed in November, opening up access to Downtown. The trail also links the Burke-Gilman Trail with the Emerson Street bike path — one of many junctures threading together Seattle’s trail system.
Tim Eyre works in the self storage industry, regularly traveling to see locations that have
self storage units in Seattle. In locations near the Vancouver self storage facility, Tim helps folks in the Pacific Northwest store seasonal equipment when it’s not being used for outdoor activities.
More walking-related news from the area:
- Pedestrian improvements will be completed by early April on NW 90th Street between 13th and 14th Avenues NW. Improvements include wider sidewalks, improvements to curbs and planter strips, as well as providing safer access to local schools, services, and bus rapid transit. Click here to see details and a map.
- Undriving, the Seattle-based organization that issues undriving licenses has won a national advocacy award for “joyful enthusiasm” (via Seattle Bike Blog)
- The Duwamish Trail has opened:
Looking for an easy walk or bike ride? Try the Duwamish Trail, approximately two-and-a-half miles along the west side of the Duwamish River in West Seattle. It’s a wonderfully flat trail, starting from the lower South Spokane Street Bridge, following West Marginal Way Southwest, southward to the First Avenue South Bridge.
- Summer streets schedule has been released, including Ballard, Alki, Greenwood/Phinney, Rainier valley
- On your next walk, check out the Paper Mache creature sinstalled near Hing Hay Park
- Feet First has an urban greenway ramble planned for 4/11:
This walk will begin with a tour of the Children’s Playgarden, and then follow the Mountains to Sound greenway to Lewis Park on Beacon Hill, passing little known parks and stunning viewpoints along the way. The walk will conclude with a visit to Jimi Hendrix Park, adjacent to the Northwest African American Museum, where plans for this new community gathering space will be discussed.
- Join Feet First, Latona Pub, and Seattle-based brewery Two Beers for a beer-drinking Earth Day celebration:
You are invited to join this unique Earth Day celebration highlighting the work of beer lovers and supporting our people powered movement. This one of a kind event benefits Feet First, the only organization in Washington working to ensure there are walkable communities across the state. Your ticket gets you a Feet First pint glass, a big frothy mug of Two Beer’s limited edition Hand Truckin’ Wheat Ale, and the chance to toast Mother Earth with craft brewers and pedestrian advocates.
You could pick dozens of bad intersections in Seattle from an era of car-friendly road building. However, in the case of 5th and Denny, the concrete that was poured decades ago isn’t the biggest problem; it’s the regulated, almost deliberate hostility to pedestrians in an area that demands the opposite. Four blocks away from last year’s worst “intersection” of Aurora and its non-crossing cross streets of John, Thomas, Harrison, and Republican, 5th and Denny is an active intersection for multiple modes of transportation in a very walkable area in the heart of the city. The sidewalks are relatively wide and smooth and the intersection has two plazas and street-friendly retail.Bordering Belltown, this intersection is host to substantial foot traffic from residents. Unfortunately, pedestrians aren’t allowed to cross Denny on the east side of 5th/Cedar, and instead must cross three streets instead of one. On southeast-bound 5th Avenue, which some call the “5th Avenue onramp,” pedestrians are forced into areas outside drivers’ lines of sight and cars veering onto Fifth speed by.
One of the most remarkable problems of this intersection is the one that is the easiest to address. People trying to cross Denny often find themselves stuck waiting for the signal to change, not realizing that they have to push the button to cross.In much of this area near the Space Needle and multiple hotels, tourists from Tucson to Toronto and Spokane to Sequim experience what walkable, urban, Seattle has to offer. With high pedestrian traffic, frequent bus service, and the monorail soaring overhead, this intersection could serve as an example of what a pedestrian-friendly city can be like. However, the 5th and Denny intersection treats them like second-class citizens with the same “no pedestrians” sign they might see if trying to cross a freeway in Fargo and the same push button signals they would use to cross an 8-lane suburban highway in Houston.
For all of Seattle’s progressive urban undertakings – greenways, road diets, and the proposals to lift parking requirements – what does it say about the city if we can’t be practical enough to make an important urban intersection work well for walkers? What does it say if we don’t allow pedestrian to cross an urban intersection without hitting a button? What does it say if we’re ok with pedestrians being forced to cross three streets instead of one? What does it say if we allow pedestrians to be hidden behind a pillar?
It says that despite the city’s progressive urban ambitious, we will never reach our potential as a city until we rethink intersections like 5th and Denny that put cars first and put pedestrians last.