Monthly Archive for October, 2012

Campaign supports “All-Way Walk” intersections in Seattle

A new local campaign hopes to improve pedestrian safety at intersections by making all traffic light intersections turn in to “all-way walk”.

An all-way-walk signal allows pedestrians to cross streets in all directions with no vehicle traffic. However, the drawback is that pedestrians have to wait through two light cycles, one for each direction of vehicle traffic.

This group is on Facebook as “Seattle Campaign for Pedestrian-Safe ‘All-Cross/Walk Intersections’.

The city of Denver, as well as parts of San Francisco, have many more all-way walks than Seattle does. The Seattle Department of Transportation installed a couple all-way walks along 1st Ave within the past couple years, to go along with 1st and Pike downtown and Alaska Junction in West Seattle as the more prominent all-way walk intersections in the city.

The campaign says:

This common-sense safety campaign seeks “ALL CROSS/WALK” signal lights at signal light intersections in the city of Seattle.
ALL CROSS/WALK signal light intersections SAVE LIVES.
To help make the ALL CROSS/WALK intersections workable we’re asking the Council & Mayor to authorize the DOT to install NO TURN ON RED DURING PEDESTRIAN WALK TIME signs @ each intersection the DOT changes to all cross/all walk intersections.

ALL WALK/CROSS intersections are a COMMON SENSE, SAFETY FIRST solution to Seattle’s EXTREMELY DANGEROUS INTERSECTIONS . The current system preferred by Seattle’s DOT allows drivers to be moving behind and simultaneous to pedestrians – for pedestrians – especially those with babies, toddlers, children, seniors, the disabled, and the elderly, it’s horrific and frightening.

The group suggests the intersections of 23rd Ave S & Yesler and Madison & Boren as the first two intersections for implementing an all-way walk.

On the other side of the issue, SDOT says that implementing all-way walks would slow down traffic significantly. In fact, SDOT studied 70 signals in the downtown retail core and found that pedestrians and motorists would experience a significant delay at these intersections and at other nearby intersections – and that the delay for buses would be even worse.

For my part, I’m not sure that providing an all-way-walk at all intersections would be reasonable, but there are probably some intersections that would deserve it. Maybe some intersections on Capitol Hill, or the center of the Greenwood business district at 85th and Greenwood Ave N.

What do you think – are there other areas that are deserving? Or should all of them get the all-way walk treatment?

Where should Seattle implement all-way-walk intersections?

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Running Tips in Seattle

This is a guest post from Heather Roberts

Living in a city of any large size be it Seattle or any other place offers great opportunities for some scenic routes, though there are some aspects of that that may need addressing. Walking and running are great ways to stimulate ourselves and to bring back that energy and drive we all need as time goes by. There are plenty of things in the urban environment which may get in our way so here are a few useful tips on the subject that may help you out:

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  1. Use local parks
    Although this is the most obvious choice for city walks and running many people still prefer to run around the neighborhood or down certain trails. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but parks offer the best air quality in cities and they have much less factors which may interrupt your training or walking. Keep in mind that big cities often suffer from excessive pollution regardless of the best attempts of the local government and that even the small amounts of smog we inhale daily are very bad for our overall health. The colder months of the year are known for better air quality than the hot and humid days of summer, so plan accordingly. For the most part Seattle is a much cleaner and better place than, say, some parts of New York, so it isn’t much of an issue but parks are still preferable spots. A great place is Washington Park and Gas Works Park also offers a neat place to walk and run and a great view of the skyline by Lake Union.
  2. Running in town
    You can always walk and run outside parks and the usual trails though you should always be aware of the traffic being there to cut you off and get in your way. There are a lot of nice places in town where you can enjoy a change of pace from the usual paths though there are a few things you should always keep in mind and most of all safety. Avoid running or walking in places you’ve never been to after dark and always carry your ID and enough cash tucked away safely where its unlikely to be found like socks or inner pockets of clothes. The areas Downtown and around Pike and Pine streets, South Dearborn Street to Yesler Way and to the east of I-5 on Yesler Way have been reported as the most common concentration of violent crimes by the Seattle PD. The last area is known for the murder of police officer Timothy Brenton back in 2009. Being in these areas in the dead of night and cutting corners through alleys is a recipe for trouble on the wrong day. Overall Seattle is much safer than other cities like New York or LA, but you should still use common sense when walking or running after dark.
  3. Embrace the city
    Interruptions are bound to happen when you walk the streets so be patient at crosswalks and traffic lights and if you’re running use the opportunity to stretch or do some squats instead of impatiently pacing in place. The city has a flow of its own, feel its rhythm and accept it as inevitable. When you are walking make sure you take breaks and pay attention to how your feet feel – concrete and asphalt are one of the worst surfaces to walk and run on because of their poor shock-absorbing qualities. This can give you joint pain and if you’re not wearing comfortable shoes even blisters. Use your common sense and do things in moderation.

This is a guest post from Heather Roberts. If you need more interesting destinations check: http://www.vacation-rentals.com/blog

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Street disorder an issue for pedestrians

Seattle’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau has started a new campaign to deter street crime and disorder, which has been met with opposition from homeless advocates and social service organizations, and with apathy from some Seattle residents.

The new campaign called “See it, send it”, encourages people to send photos of crime, disorder, and uncomfortable situations to their city council members. As reported by the Times:

Tom Norwalk, president and CEO of the visitors bureau, in an emailed message to city and county officials, said Seattle’s visitor experience has reached a tipping point.

“The situation is getting worse, not better, and we are hearing increasing negative comments from key convention, business and leisure travel customers and clients.”

Mayor McGinn defends what the city is doing about the issue and points to growing tourism and a decline in downtown 911 calls as positive indicators. He also touts his Center City Initiative, which aims to create a vibrant and safe street environment, among other goals. Some Council members are critical of the mayor, however, and say there has not been consistent focus or follow through on the issue.

Unfortunately there isn’t consensus on the solution. Social service organizations emphasize the need for affordable housing, shelters, and treatment for drug abuse and mental illness. The visitor’s bureau wants more focus on safety patrols and enforcement of existing laws against illegal activity and aggressive panhandling, as well as outreach to individuals most in need.

Coincilmember Sally Clark posted on her blog, acknowledging the complexity of the situation.

We do have stretches of our streets and areas in our parks where crime, trash and behavior make a lot of people – including homeless people – feel less welcome and less safe. We’re not good at saying so. It makes us feel mean and less compassionate.

While some residents may dismiss the complaints about street disorder as a non-issue, or suggest that this is an issue that only affects tourists, this is an important topic for all pedestrians. Experienced urban residents may be able to ignore homelessness, begging, and drug use, or accept them as part of city life, but they do impact the pedestrian experience. It’s true that many types of public behavior are apparent in cities, and the diversity of people and activities is one of the things that makes city life interesting and appealing to many. But, based on my experience in other cities, mental illness and drug use aren’t inherently present in cities as they are in Seattle.

Recently, I had visiting relatives in town and we were enjoying a remarkable sunny weekend in October, and downtown Seattle was a vibrant and fun place to be. However, on our way walking from Pike Place Market to the waterfront, we passed someone shooting up on the sidewalk. I haven’t seen that before in Seattle, and would rather not see it again, regardless of whether I have visitors.

Pedestrian advocates may want new sidewalks to help people feel comfortable and safe while walking, but disorderly or intimidating public behavior undermines the quality of the built environment.

Many may call street disorder a “problem”, others will discern that it’s a symptom of economic issues and a limited safety net that affects people in many cities. It’s true the situation is complex, but the Visitors’ bureau calls attention to something that pedestrian advocates should be concerned about as well.

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Walking Safely In and Around Your Seattle Campus

This is a guest post from David Sportsman of Degree Jungle, a college student resource site.

Creating a more accessible and safer walking environment should be every locale’s goal. Seattle has realized how important it is to ensure the safety of its citizens ranging from students to professionals to senior citizens. People face several common pedestrian issues that are grouped as such:

  • Safety and Security
  • Crossing the Road
  • Walking Along the Sidewalk
  • Destinations/Locations
  • Making a Change

Safety and Security

There are specific issues that can be addressed; motorists or drivers drive too fast around the campuses, and students or pedestrians steering clear of walking at night to avoid accidents. In addition, there are some pedestrian laws that are not followed or acknowledged by cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists on and around the campuses. Other issues involve a large number of crashes entailing pedestrians, and the lack of access for pedestrians with physical disabilities.

Crossing the Road

Although crossing the street is not seemingly a difficult thing to do, there are some issues that many motorists and pedestrians come across. There are a number of people that find it difficult to cross the streets or roads especially when the streets or roads are extremely busy. Fortunately, there are tools that can be used to improve the safety of pedestrians when it comes to crossing the street. The street or road crossing experience normally comes down to the behaviors of the motorists and the pedestrians.

In addition, it involves the crossing or intersection designs. The driving speed is just one of the many factors that influences the motorist’s behavior. It is safe to say that a motorist that drives his or her car slowly has more time to look around, react on time when he or she needs to, and to stop for pedestrians. When there are more students on the street, they enhance the motorists’ attentiveness.

Walking Along the Sidewalk

Moving along the sidewalks is one of the key components of a campus that are safe to walk on. The conditions of the sidewalks, as well as along the roads and streets influence the students’ comfort, safety, travel, orientation, and the community’s visual quality. Sidewalks that are blocked by poles, trees, trash bins or cars make it difficult for pedestrians to walk there. For this reason, it could be dangerous, especially when the street or road is busy and the students have to make use of the busy sidewalks. Sidewalks that are not properly maintained by the community are another issue that can influence the safety of pedestrians.

Destinations/Locations

Well kept destinations or locations encourage students to walk. Attractive campuses with beautiful trees, stunning blossoms with varied intoxicating scents, and perfectly manicured bushes will definitely encourage more students to walk, as opposed to areas with too many buildings, garages and parking lots around or nearby the campuses.

Making a Change

The pedestrian issues that many students around campuses face can be solved by discussing the issues with the campus officials or even with the community members in the surrounding neighborhoods. By working together, it makes it easier to care for and maintain the campuses, sidewalks, roads, and streets. It is advisable to discuss necessary funding that could improve or enhance the safety of students and pedestrians.

David Sportsman is an experienced freelance writer who has an extensive knowledge on a wide range of subjects. He contributes to Degree Jungle a college student resource site.

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Austin vs. Seattle: How do they compare?

This article was written by Matt Schexnayder from SelfStorage.com.

Austin is known as the “live music capital of the world”, and for good reason. Home to the ACL music festival, SXSW, tons of music venues, and of course Austin City Limits, the longest-running music program in television history, Austin knows a thing or two about music. In addition to that, they having amazing food (especially BBQ), they are one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, and more recently they are becoming a hotbed of entrepreneurship.

Seattle, on the other hand, has just as much going for it. While some of us may just think of rain and coffee, residents know there is much more to Seattle than that. In addition to being the birthplace of Starbucks and Seattle’s Best Coffee, the city is also a thriving cultural center that boasts one of the most literate populations in the country. And thanks to the Space Needle, the city has one of the most recognizable skylines in the world.

These two cities have been compared to each other before, and in more ways than one. Besides the loveable population, distinct culture and the general desire for people to relocate there, they are also two of the most bike/pedestrian active cities in the nation. In this article, we will take a look at some of the ways they are similar, and what each city has done to improve its pedestrian safety.

Walking is the oldest and most affordable, efficient, and environmentally-friendly form of transportation known to man. Currently, both cities are seeking to improve pedestrian safety and encouraging more walking by creating an environment where pedestrians can walk safely and comfortably.

Unfortunately, so far this year there have been a higher number of pedestrian deaths in each city. Back in April, three pedestrians were hit and killed in a single weekend in Seattle; that is definitely a cause for concern. And in Austin, during the first 10 weeks of the year, there had already been three fatal pedestrian accidents and one serious injury. Add another week to that and there were four more!

This sort of thing cannot continue to happen. Thankfully, both cities police departments and city officials are doing everything they can to make sure this number doesn’t continue to climb year-over-year. Some of the measures being taken include increasing funding for pedestrian improvements, recommending new and revising old policies, and to some extreme going undercover as pedestrians and giving tickets to those that don’t yield.

With these steps in place, hopefully this will lead to less pedestrian related incidents and more safety and comfort for those walking around in these cities. Seattle once ranked in the top three safest cities for walkers. So with the right push, ideally we could see both Seattle and Austin in the number one and two spots in the country.

This article was written by Matt Schexnayder. Matt is on the SelfStorage.com marketing team and writes for the Storage Facilitator blog. Need to find self-storage in Seattle? Use SelfStorage.com to search thousands of facilities for free and reserve the best unit to fit your needs.

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Walking News Roundup – 10/14

A few local news items and links:

  • Town Hall Seattle is hosting a Walkable Cities event with planner, architectural designer, and author Jeff Speck to speak about creating walkable cities. “Speck, co-author of the landmark bestseller “Suburban Nation” and author of the new “Walkable City,” offers insight into what urban planners actually do and how cities can and do change, laying out a practical—and eminently achievable—vision of how to make our cities work.” The event is on November 19 at 7:30 pm
  • SDOT is accepting applications for mini grants to fund projects that educate students about pedestrian and bicycle safety and encourage walking and biking to school.
  • Feet First is accepting applications for the International Walk to School challenge.
  • The Thomas Street Overpass for pedestrians and bicycles is now open
  • Seattle Neighborhood Greenways have a calendar of local walking and biking events.
  • Walking in Seattle is on Twitter – follow us on Twitter
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