City Pedestrians in Peril!
posted by August 15 at 18:14 PMon
To the surprise of nobody, the city auditor’s office announced this week that many construction projects are blocking sidewalks.
Under current rules, most developers only provide signs that say, “Sidewalk Closed,” which is another way of saying, “Jaywalk Here.” And some sites create perilous detour channels into the trajectory of oncoming traffic.
Requested by city councilmember Nick Licata, the report, titled “City Should Take Steps to Enhance Pedestrian and Cyclist Mobility Through and Around Construction Sites,” makes four no-brainer recommendations: “Making pedestrian and cyclist mobility a priority, coordinating multiple projects located in the same area, improving inspection and enforcement, and communicating with the public.”
“If New York is doing this, why cant we?” asks Licata. Good question—and good on ya, Nick, for getting this ball rolling. Almost every construction site in New York City either provides a walkway on the sidewalk that’s covered, or a walkway on the street protected by a wall of barricades. The report (.pdf) advises that we adopt those and other alternatives, using a model from Washington, D.C. If we do, Licata says, “Anyone who wants a permit [to block the sidewalk] has to give a written explanation on why they can’t do one of the alternatives.”
The question, however, is whether the Seattle Department of Transportation will adopt all the recommendations.
“We realize we have room for improvement,” says SDOT spokesman Rick Sheridan. But some of these changes seem so obvious, it’s hard to understand why SDOT hasn’t required them before. When pressed for an explanation, he said SDOT “actually does require that pedestrian access be provided on one side of the street.” That’s a little unambitious. Licata says the department may not have been that diligent in the past because it gets money for street-use permits: SDOT issued 19,000 street-use permits last year (though not all were for construction). But SDOT’s Sheridan says, “We are ready to embrace these findings.” His department will make a trip to Washington, D.C. and “see how we can do this job better,” he says.
The city council could pass a law to require the changes. But, Licata says, if SDOT “opposes legislation, the council may decide not to got there.” Uh, is it just me, or is that completely backwards? If SDOT refuses to enact the recommendations—then, hello—the council needs to pass legislation to force the department to capitulate.