SDOT’s pedestrian safety initiative critcized

SDOT is working to make downtown safer for pedestrians during the dark winter months as part of their Holiday Pedestrian Safety Campaign. There are more pedestrian collisions during the winter months as shoppers rush around dark downtown streets.

One way they are doing this is by providing bright umbrellas for pedestrians downtown to borrow. The umbrellas make people more visible to drivers and also serve as a visual reminder of the safety campaign, which also will use advertisements, posters, and other ways of getting people to think about safety.

However, some people aren’t happy with the campaign and feel that the $47k that SDOT is spending to reduce the risk of collisions would have been better spent on snow removal or in myriad other ways.

While the region’s response to Snowpocalypse 2010 (also known as snOMG) was underwhelming, the factors that contribute to Seattle’s snowpocalyptic tendencies are greater than what SDOT can solve, even if they took money away from safety initiatives like this.

It’s easy to second-guess how money is spent, but it’s not as easy to keep pedestrians safe in the street. This Holiday Pedestrian Safety Campaign takes a relatively small amount of money ($47,000 or 0.00015%0.015% of SDOT’s budget) and uses it to help stop collisions and potentially save lives.

SDOT makes a strong argument in support of the campaign:

So, as highlighted in Seattle’s Pedestrian Master Plan, changing behavior is one of the keys to making everyone safer, especially when traveling around downtown. It’s convincing pedestrians to look before entering the crosswalk and getting drivers to be more aware of people walking.

Some have argued that trying to change driver and pedestrian behavior is a waste of time and resources. However, to create a walkable city we must use all available tools to reduce the number and severity of crashes. That means engineering improvements, enforcement and education. Our campaign this year includes bus ads, posters, stickers, displays for merchants, umbrellas, publicity events and public service announcements. The money we are investing in this pedestrian awareness campaign is worth it if we prevent one collision or save one life.


7 Responses to “SDOT’s pedestrian safety initiative critcized”

  • What is SDOT’s budget? Your %0.00015 implies SDOT has a budget of 31 billion dollars.

  • Came across this little nugget today: “The economic impact of motor vehicle crashes on U.S. roadways has reached $230.6 billion a year–nearly 2.3 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product or an average of $820 for every person living in the country–the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports.”[1]

    Just to put the pittance spent of pedestrian safety in context.


  • I’m generally supportive of the campaign, but I definitely have quibbles with it. (I tried to comment on SDOT’s latest blog posting, but lately they don’t seem to want to hear what I have to say.)

    SDOT refers to “engineering improvements, enforcement and education” as their available tools “to reduce the number and severity of crashes”. I see the engineering improvements in things like rechannelizations (aka road diets), and I see the education in the PSAs and bus ads. But where’s the enforcement?

    As part of Pedestrian Master Plan implementation, in 2008 there were six stings conducted by SPD to catch drivers who failed to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. In 2009 they bumped it up to a whopping 10. And in 2010? I can’t find anything from SDOT, SPD, or the local media about a single sting taking place this year.

    I know City budgets are tighter than they were in ’08 and ’09, but a KIRO report from 2009 mentions a one-hour sting resulting in over 40 drivers getting a $124 ticket each. That’s $5,000. In one hour. While I assume many of those tickets get reduced in court—which is another thing that needs to change if the City is serious about traffic safety—I can’t imagine the end result is a loss for City coffers. And, of course, these stings saw coverage on TV, radio and in print, which effectively did the same job these PSAs and posters are doing to educate (or simply remind) drivers of their responsibilities.

    Fact is, I think most drivers know perfectly well that they’re supposed to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, just as they know they’re supposed to stop for red lights. But people still run red lights because they know they’ll usually get away with it. And when it comes to not stopping for pedestrians, they know they’ll virtually always get away with it. Until SPD and city prosecutors get serious about enforcing pedestrian and traffic safety laws, most all of SDOT’s efforts are indeed likely wasted.

  • Andreas said it better than I could. I’ll add that while saving one life does make the money well-spent, aim higher, dammit! The target is bigger than one person, and if this money is seen to be poorly spent, then that makes it that much more difficult to spend on pedestrian safety down the road.

  • Wait a minute. When it comes to pedestrian safety shouldn’t pedistrians participate?
    I remember even before I wend to kindergarten, I was taught to look both ways before crossing the street. I still do it. I KNOW a car is bigger than me and can do a lot of damage to myself.

    I work in downtown Seattle and I shake my head in disbelief as I watch grownups walk into a cross walk without looking to see if it is clear to cross. I also see throughout the city, parents walking with kids that don’t look before crossing the street. It is rare indeed when I see a parent teaching their children to STOP – LOOK- and LISTEN before starting to cross the street.

    This does not diminish a drivers responsibility to obey the lae, but perhaps pedestrian should also get tickets when they violate crossing rules. And they should be hit up side the head when they dont’t look before crossing.

  • I agree with Dave. I grew-up in Boston, aka Land of the Jaywalkers, and since I moved here I’ve been a little shocked at how many people don’t look before crossing the street! It’s especially nutty when they don’t look before crossing where there isn’t even a crosswalk. I admit jaywalking in Boston isn’t always the best idea, but at least we LOOK before we do something dumb, ha.

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