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Thursday, April 30, 2009

How Much Studying Will It Take?

Posted by on Thu, Apr 30, 2009 at 12:47 PM

Nearly nine months ago, the Seattle Department of Transportation reported that construction projects were blocking sidewalks. Because most developers provided no alternative walkway—and the city didn’t require them to—pedestrians were risking their lives by walking through traffic. Other cities quell this hazard by requiring covered walkways and creating temporary barricades in parking lanes for pedestrians. The report’s number-one action item: "Develop a set of preferred and alternative methods for pedestrian protection based on the Washington D.C. model."

At the time, SDoT spokesman Rick Sheridan said, “We are ready to embrace these findings.” He added that SDoT would make a trip to Washington, D.C. and “see how we can do this job better.” Okay. So here we are nine months later. Let’s look at three current construction projects on my walk to work:


Here on East Pike Street, when pedestrians encounter a construction project, they're don't turn around and walk a half block back to the nearest intersection, cross the street, and then continue on the other side. They take their chances in traffic. If they cross the street at all, they cross mid-block, dodging out far from the crosswalk. Anecdotally, some folks say they've seen more projects around town with pedestrian-friendly accommodations. But at this one, in an area zoned for pedestrian mobility on a highly trafficked arterial, the city either doesn't require or enforce a pedestrian right of way. (By the way, those little cones in the photo are right next to the fence, so they don't create a walkway, and even if they did, cones in the street are a piss-poor barricade for cars.) Here's another pic:


That nice lady on the right, she just walked through traffic to get around a project on East Union Street. One bad driver, accidental swerve, etc. and she's flat as a pancake. The photo sucks, but way down on the sidewalk you can see a blue backhoe at another construction project. Same problem there, too.

This is not rocket science, city. It’s not science at all. Require construction sites to barricade pedestrian lanes. But when’s the city going to do it? I’m waiting to get a call back from SDoT.


Comments (21) RSS

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One thing Seattelites love to do- entitlement whine. I have never lived in a place where people get so upset about things so trivial.
"Oh, poor us. We have so much development (ie. money creating jobs) that a sidewalk is temporarily blocked with construction. Now I have to walk two blocks out of my way!" Boo-hoo.

Wow. Get over it.
Posted by JoJo on May 1, 2009 at 9:24 AM · Report this
yes, this has pissed me off for a while. another disgusting downside of the condoization of Seattle. I wonder how many people have condos killed this way?
Posted by evergreen grad on May 1, 2009 at 2:25 AM · Report this

DPD likes to say that its goal is to "bring people into compliance." This is an indirect way of saying that it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, and that they're not gonna make you tear down illegally built stuff if they can get you to pony up after the fact for it.

Just another good reason why DPD should be paid for out of the City's General Fund, rather than being funded by permit fees.

Posted by Mr. X on April 30, 2009 at 4:46 PM · Report this

It's especially fun when they do that on a really busy arterial, like Denny, where there's no place to safely cross for a hundred feet (if you're lucky). That new nursing home, oops, I mean "assisted living facility," off Fairview was on my shit list for at least a year.
Posted by keshmeshi on April 30, 2009 at 4:02 PM · Report this
@14 - It's illegal, not under shitty city code, but under the American with Disabilities Act.
That's where the real challenge to this should come. Able bodied folks, especially those with great legs like our photo model, can get around these problems without too much difficulty. If you're in a wheelchair, or use walking assistance? Forget it.
You simply cannot provide a public service that only able bodied folks can use, but not disabled folks, especially public right-of-ways. That's the whole purpose of ADA.

And my understanding is that the proper placement of the "Sidewalk Closed" sign is at the nearest marked crosswalk, not mid-block.

Seattle's building permit racket has been a joke for decades. Most of those little projects you see in residential areas have no permitting whatsoever. They just take the chance that no inspector will ever show up or find out about it, so why bother following any other laws? If they get caught, there's always a way to "pay a fine" (cough) and proceed with the project. You may notice that the signs & barricades around those projects are clearly stolen from other projects. I always find that part funny.
Posted by Sir Vic on April 30, 2009 at 3:51 PM · Report this
I am fucking sick of developers blocking pedestrian access everywhere on the hill. I pay my dumb high rent so I get to live in an area where I can walk all over the place, and I really resent all the blockages. Especially 'cos a lot of them are around FOREVER.
Posted by Will on April 30, 2009 at 3:16 PM · Report this
Time to get a new mayor.
Posted by Will in Seattle on April 30, 2009 at 3:01 PM · Report this
I also love how construction projects put signs "sidewalk ends" two feet from where the sidewalk ends. What the hell are you supposed to do now?
Posted by Joseph on April 30, 2009 at 2:40 PM · Report this
I'm an environmental professional who occasionally is required to install monitoring wells on the public right of way (AKA the sidewalk). When I do this I have to jump through amillion hoops with Seattle Dept of Transportation. I'm required to develop a traffic control plan, have it reviewed and signed by a Professional Engineer, secure street/sidewalk closure permits and rent required signage...all to close the sidewalk for half a day. All this can cost in excess of $1,200!

I just wonder what makes developers so special that they do not have to properly close off the public right of way in the same manner as other private parties do.
Posted by Mitch on April 30, 2009 at 2:37 PM · Report this
genevieve @ 7) The third project is in the background of the second picture. And the Pike street project was photographed yesterday, so it hasn't been taken care of for "several weeks."
Posted by Dominic Holden on April 30, 2009 at 2:24 PM · Report this
I fear the day one of those temporary covered sidewalks collapse and crush people walking through them.
Posted by CommonKnowledge on April 30, 2009 at 2:20 PM · Report this
I was just about to complain to the city about the new building going up at Broadway and Harrison, then a day later there was a covered sidewalk. It made me happy.
Considering our usual weather, I feel most sidewalks should be covered. It's nice while waiting for the light to turn to be able to wait outside of the downpour.
Posted by Enigma on April 30, 2009 at 2:13 PM · Report this
There is just about no better measure of the extent to which our City Government is willing to whore itself out to developers than this issue.

Those are OUR sidewalks you're letting developers use rent free, folks.

Posted by Mr. X on April 30, 2009 at 1:57 PM · Report this
My favorite sidewalk fuckup is 6th Ave N between Denny & John. Both sides have the sidewalk blocked. They added a half-assed pedestrian crossing in the middle of the block..
Posted by Westlake, son! on April 30, 2009 at 1:42 PM · Report this
Where's the third project?

The Pike St project is now a moot point, as full pedestrian access has been available in front of that once for several weeks now - but agreed that most people (including myself) would just walk in the street or cross mid-block.

The worst Cap Hill offender that I've seen is the project at 14th/Union (the 2nd pic just might be that site from many months ago before the Four Angels building came down). The Union sidewalk was blocked only for a few weeks and now has covered scaffolding so folks can walk, but the 14th side is pretty bad. if you're heading south, you have to walk far out into the street against oncoming cars with a road that jogs ever so slightly to the left for them so they can't really see you until they're almost on top of you - I've learned to just cross at Piecora's. it looks like there won't be a walkway there for a long time still.
Posted by genevieve on April 30, 2009 at 1:38 PM · Report this
I love bacon but I'm not fond of cats, I'm afraid. No offense.
Posted by Fnarf on April 30, 2009 at 1:32 PM · Report this
Oh, Fnarf. I love you.

Come, have a slice of me on your favorite sandwich. I'm sizzlingly good.
Posted by Baconcat on April 30, 2009 at 1:14 PM · Report this
Nice gams.
Posted by Fnarf on April 30, 2009 at 1:10 PM · Report this
Actually, if you step out of your office and walk up Pine to 12th, you'll see a developer who created a covered sidewalk.

just sayin'
Posted by mojo mojito on April 30, 2009 at 1:06 PM · Report this
Having lived in Washington, DC, any city that has to take advice from that municipality has some serious problems. Telling anyone you're going to DC to find out how to do something better is nuts. If those people had any sense of shame this would no longer be an issue.
Posted by Jack Ryan on April 30, 2009 at 1:03 PM · Report this
Fuck, I hate the mayor.
Posted by DOUG. on April 30, 2009 at 12:56 PM · Report this

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