Tag Archive for 'legal'

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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.


10 year sentence for driver who struck and killed pedestrian

From the Times:

A 34-year-old sex offender with a lengthy rap sheet was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison Friday for running over and killing a 91-year-old Capitol Hill woman last year.

Shipp’s blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.16 percent, twice the legal limit, after the crash, according to police. Shipp, police said, denied being drunk, saying he had taken a 500-milligram Vicodin pill several hours earlier.

[Judge] Yu told Shipp his two-page criminal history persuaded her to hand down a harsh sentence. The judge questioned whether Shipp ever had learned a lesson from time he previously spent behind bars.

It’s unlikely the sentence would have been nearly as severe if the negligent driver were not a repeat offender. Currently, a vulnerable users bill is being considered in committees in the state congress, which would increase penalties for vehicular negligence. Seattle Bike Blog has a good write-up of the status of HB 1339 and SB 5326.


Bill would allow cities to lower speed limit more easily

Seattle Bike Blog discusses a bill in Washington State’s legislature that would make it easier for cities to set non-arterial speed limits at 20 miles-per-hour.  Currently, cities are required to perform an engineering study in order to lower speed limits.  As Seattle Bike Blog reports, pedestrians hit at 20 mph have a 5% of dying, whereas the likelihood of dying after being hit at 30 mph is 40%.


Pedestrian safety reminders for drivers

Here are some pedestrian safety reminders for drivers:

  • Drivers must stop for pedestrians in crosswalks and at all intersections, marked or unmarked.
  • Drivers must stop before the stop line or crosswalk
  • Drivers crossing a sidewalk to enter or exit a driveway, alley or parking lot must yield to pedestrians.
  • A driver can turn into a crosswalk only after pedestrians are one lane past the driver’s half of the roadway.

Speed is Deadly for Pedestrians

  • 8 out of 10 pedestrians hit at 40 mph are killed.
  • 1 in 20 pedestrians hit at 20 mph is killed.

These are included on a pamphlet provided to drivers who are cited for breaking the law on Aurora, as part of the Aurora Traffic Safety Project. You don’t have to get pulled over to see the whole pamphlet, though, you can find it here.


Keep your sidewalks walkable

Property owners, take note – a tip from this month’s Way to Go newsletter:

Nearly everyone, regardless of age or ability, is a potential sidewalk user. Did you know that Seattle property owners have the responsibility to keep the “Walkable Zone” on the sidewalk near their property clear? Think of the Walkable Zone as a box six feet wide by eight feet tall that extends all the way down the sidewalk. Property owners are responsible to keep the Walkable Zone free of obstacles such as parked cars, recycling bins, plants, ice and leaf litter, and to fix cracks in sidewalks along their property. By keeping this area clear and maintained, we can all help to make Seattle America’s most walkable city.


Illegal to park vehicles on sidewalks

In case there was any question, the PI’s Seattle 911 blog clarifies that it’s illegal to park a vehicle, either a car or a motorcycle over any portion of a sidewalk:

It’s illegal to be parked on any portion of the sidewalk, Seattle Department of Transportation spokesman Rick Sheridan said.

He cited section 11.72.360 of the Seattle Municipal Code, which states: “No person shall stop, stand or park a vehicle on or over a sidewalk, whether constructed or not.”


Walking home drunk is legal

In case you were wondering before going out this weekend, it is legal, though probably unsafe, to walk home drunk if there are no other options. However, according to the PI’s Seattle 911 blog, there are often other options:

Several bars in Seattle and surrounding cities provide vouchers for a free cab ride home for intoxicated patrons.

You can even get a free cab from Safeco Field, according to the organizers of Anna’s Ride Home.


More and better sidewalk cafes

Recently, the Times reported that new sidewalk cafes are popping up all over. The sudden popularity of dining al fresco is partially due to the city making a restaurant-friendly cut in the cost for permitting. Now businesses can license their outdoor seating areas for as little as 1/5 the cost as before and even less time.

In October 2008, the city, under then-Mayor Greg Nickels, made it cheaper and faster for restaurants to get permits to seat customers in front of their establishments. Nickels said he was inspired by downtown revitalization in Melbourne, Australia, and Copenhagen, Denmark.

The new rules cut permit costs from $2,100 — and sometimes as high as $3,700 — to $707 for a 100-square-foot sidewalk cafe, roughly space for four tables with two to four chairs at each table. The permit process now takes about 10 days. Several restaurant owners complained the process used to drag on for months.

Since this process was streamlined, almost 100 businesses have begun pursuing outdoor dining. And, to help make sidewalk cafes even more popular, Great City has a great idea:

Currently, the rule is that any outdoor seating where alcohol is served (the only kind that’s worth the trouble for the average restaurateur) must be directly adjacent to the establishment in question. Trouble is, this is usually also the part of the sidewalk most in demand as a place to, you know, walk.

Great City landscape architecture and transportation geeks, along with our allies at Cascade Bicycle Club and Feet First, have suggested the proper place for sidewalk café seating is in fact in a place they call the “amenity zone,” that section of sidewalk reserved for street trees and the display boxes of Seattle’s only newspaper.

Check out the suggestion at Great City to see how this could work. The state would have to change the law to allow this, but it could be worth it.

The Times article mentions that former Mayor Nickels recognized the potential of sidewalk cafes on a visit to Melbourne. That city has great examples of what sidewalk dining can do toward making a lively city. Some streets were set up as Great City suggests, with the sidewalk between the restaurant and the dining area and with large awnings, and as you walked by, it almost felt as if you were passing through each restaurant. It was a great pedestrian experience if you were looking for somewhere to eat. If you were trying to get somewhere quickly, the servers passing back and forth across the sidewalk and diners socializing after their meals could slow you down a bit. Even here, sidewalk cafes are not without their drawbacks. From the Times:

Some objections have come from advocates for the disabled. Bill Wippel, executive director of Tape Ministries Northwest, which records material for the blind, said outdoor tables and chairs can be “obstacles” for those using wheelchairs.

It is important that our sidewalk cafes do not interfere with our two-wheeled, two-legged, or four-legged pedestrians. There are many areas in which sidewalks barely seem wide enough for people, and adding tables, chairs, and umbrellas, could increase pedestrian congestion. But, if done correctly, and with the suggestion of Great City to provide adequate room for passage, sidewalk cafes can make for a more pleasant experience on the sidewalks of Seattle for anyone walking, rolling, drinking, or eating.


Bicyclists must yield to pedestrians on sidewalks

Sometimes pedestrians share the sidewalk with bicycles. When that happens, bicyclists are required to yield to pedestrians. From the PI’s Seattle 911 blog:

Every person riding a bike on a sidewalk or public path shall yield the right of way to a pedestrian and must give an audible signal before overtaking and passing any pedestrian, Seattle police spokesman Jeff Kappel said.


Trade-offs of sandwich-board signs

The A-frame advertisements that local businesses place on the sidewalk to attract business can get in the way sometimes. Those sandwich boards have to compete for sidewalk space with bike racks, outdoor tables and chairs, trees, and of course people.

For that reason, the city limits businesses to one sandwich board. However, recent enforcement of that rule is hurting a Pioneer Square business.

Customers at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop have been cut by more than a third since the bookshop was told to remove its second sign.

While people do need enough space to use the sidewalk comfortably, advertisements for nearby establishments can be a helpful enhancement to the causal walking experience.

At a time when businesses and Pioneer Square in general are struggling, is a one-sign limit reasonable? In Portland, businesses have to pay a nominal fee for additional sidewalk signage. Would a policy like that be an improvement here?