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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pedestrian Insurgence

posted by on August 28 at 14:33 PM


The city released an audit a couple weeks ago that calls for improving pedestrian mobility around construction sites. While the city figures out how to do that, Dan Bertolet of Hugeasscity has a post on the stroller revolt around the Four Seasons hotel construction site. What happens when pedestrians are faced with a “sidewalk closed” sign on First Avenue during rush hour? Mothers carry babies, fathers push strollers, and scofflaws tote bouquets into the path of oncoming traffic.

“There are places around city where a sidewalk has to be closed due to safety considerations,” says Rick Sheridan, spokesman for the Seattle Department of Transportation, when I called him today. Gee, it looks more dangerous to have it closed. Shutting down a sidewalk, he says, “is allowed by Seattle Department of Transportation, but we always make sure that one side is open to pedestrians and cyclists.”


Several other major cities require developers to provide covered sidewalks for pedestrians. But not here in Seattle. “Hills make it impossible” for staging construction equipment on certain side streets, says Sheridan, requiring developers to use the sidewalk for equipment. In those cases, other cities require barricaded walkways on the street. But here in Seattle, this is what we do to pedestrians in the street. Sheridan says, “To close a lane [on First Avenue] would create a lot of complications just for traffic.”

To remedy the problem, Sheridan says, “We are going to Washington, D.C. to see how they accommodate that traffic and see if there are techniques we can adopt in Seattle.”

More pictures at Hugeasscity.

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I have thought for a very long time that Seattle's sidewalk closures are fucking RIDICULOUS. Sure, crossing over and back once on a street isn't that big of a deal...

But about a year ago I suddenly found that to walk to work on the east end of downtown from my house on 17th I now had to cross over and back on Pine street no less than 4 fucking times! In less than a mile!

Are you fucking kidding me? Fuck you City of Seattle, and your fuck you crappy ass sidewalk closures too.

Posted by Queen_of_Sleaze | August 28, 2008 2:41 PM

Dear SDOT:

You provide a temp sidewalk and you cover it. That's it. If it intrudes on a lane of traffic, too bad.

There. Please remit $5,000 for this consultants' report. This is quite a savings over spending $10,000 to fly your directors and staff to DC to find out the same thing.

Please keep us in mind for other $5,000 reports. Thank you.




Seems like they can read this post and figure out what they do in DC without flying there and going on vacation. What are they going to do, walk around construction sites,

Posted by The PC Group, Traffic Engineers Ltd. | August 28, 2008 2:42 PM

Hire carpenters and build a covered walkway for pedestrians. Problem solved.

Posted by Greg | August 28, 2008 2:47 PM

"Impossible because of the hills."

Do they have an engineering department?

Posted by Ziggity | August 28, 2008 2:49 PM

Contractors in hilly SF don't seem to have any problems building covered sidewalks - sometimes out into a lane of traffic with markers to direct traffic.

Seattle has long been under developers' influence, I'm not surprised laws like this are slow coming there. I'm willing to bet, however, something in the Americans with Disabilities Act already has strict guidelines about this. It might be easier to get those enforced than submit new legislation.

Posted by Dougsf | August 28, 2008 2:53 PM

I never walk anywhere, I mean just look at me? People should just hop in their SUV and drive everywhere! That's what I do and look at my sexy physique!

Posted by Greg Nickels | August 28, 2008 2:54 PM

or, the real reason, Seattle lets developers do whatever the fuck they want because god forbid you do anything to upset them or impede progress! That would be unAmerican, anti-capitalistic and downright Communistic!

That's ALWAYS been the Seattle way and I don't see it changing in the forseeable future....

Posted by michael strangeways | August 28, 2008 2:59 PM

“We are going to Washington, D.C. to see how they accommodate that traffic and see if there are techniques we can adopt in Seattle.”

Just get them fellers in D.C. to take some fucking pictures for you of their pedestrian accommodations and send them on the email thingy. Then arrange a phone conference to have them sloooowly explain to you SDOT fuckwits what it is you're looking at in the photos. Then put the goddam techniques in place. Fucking boondoggle fucking junket.

Posted by tomasyalba | August 28, 2008 3:01 PM

I was just driving down Green Lake Way and saw the massive sidewalk/bike lane closure just before the intersection with Ravenna Blvd. The sidewalk and bike lane have been closed for months on end, and the contractor is apparently done with whatever work justified the bike lane closure, so now there's just a derelict car parked there and a few other items that could easily be stored on the building site.

Could someone at SDOT get on this instead of wasting their value staff time making pitiful excuses for their indefensible lack of action?

If ever there was proof that our City government is bought and paid for by developers - this problem is sure it (and even our former developer Mayor Schell never let things get this bad).

An aside - I had a great interaction w/a biker as I was approaching this site. He was cruising nicely along in the bike lane, and was just getting ready to pass a slower bicyclist in the bike lane as I was coming up on him. I slowed down to let him pass the other biker in my lane before I passed him, he gave me a friendly wave of acknowledgement, which I cheerfully returned. Who says we can't all get along?

Posted by Mr. X | August 28, 2008 3:02 PM

Here in SF, where we know a thing or two about hills, pedestrians are NEVER forced into traffic. Ever. If a pedestrian walkway causes a lane of traffic to be closed, well, that's life. It's better than a pedestrian getting hurt or killed.

If this so-called "Sheridan" person says that they can't make it work, then they're either lying or lazy or both.

Posted by mattymatt | August 28, 2008 3:04 PM

Right. 'cause when I was in D.C. last summer, I distinctly remember thinking to myself, "DAMN! This city's got more hills than Seattle!"

Posted by COMTE | August 28, 2008 3:07 PM

I despise SDOT.

Posted by elenchos | August 28, 2008 3:11 PM

None of the areas without covered pedestrian protection during construction are on hills that I've seen.

Try a different lie and we might believe them.

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 28, 2008 3:11 PM

how in holy hell did they choose DC?

Posted by lkja | August 28, 2008 3:13 PM

I haven't been downtown in over a year. How is the stretch on Third between McD's & Century Plaza? Is there still scaffolding? I swear it has been up for years.

Posted by elswinger | August 28, 2008 3:17 PM

That situation at 1st and Union shown in that picture totally sucks. During most of the day the curb lane southbound on first where the people in the pic are walking is completely closed. That wouldn't be so bad, but the left lane is stopped, because so many cars are sitting trying to turn left across traffic onto University. Sometimes the traffic gets backed up quite a few blocks, and I get pretty late (I drive the 15/56). When that lane is closed, left turns to University from 1st should be prohibited.

Posted by Justin J | August 28, 2008 3:19 PM

Waaaaah! I have to walk around construction! Waaaah!

Posted by GK | August 28, 2008 3:30 PM

The city seems to be able to figure out how to tow cars and tax plastic bags quite efficiently, what's the big hang up in getting a freakin' covered sidewalk on First Ave?

Posted by Westside forever | August 28, 2008 3:43 PM

What, and inconvenience an upscale developer?


Posted by Mr. X | August 28, 2008 3:45 PM

The laws are already on the books at WADOT!

There are "inspectors" who are supposed to enforce them.

It's simple open lawbreaking.

Posted by John Bailo | August 28, 2008 3:46 PM

sidewalks are always fuck ing closed in DC for construction they won't learn shit

Posted by dc | August 28, 2008 3:55 PM

They could also, you know, go to Bellevue. I've seen a couple of covered walkways on sidewalks there.

Posted by Greg | August 28, 2008 3:59 PM

Gee, some of you might want to get your facts straight before commenting/whining. The project on 1st @ Union HAD covered sidewalks, but they had to be removed in order to pour new, permanent sidewalks in front of the building. Would you prefer the old construction cracked sidewalks or do you expect personal jet packs to transport you over the drying concrete? What is sad is that the people in photo were too dumb and/or lazy to cross a freaking street during the one week that the new sidewalk had to cure.

In the future you shouldn't need to wonder why SDOT and every other city department ignores you morons when you remeber your established track record of crying wolf.

Posted by Know the facts | August 28, 2008 4:07 PM

I grew up in Pittsburgh, which may be second only to San Francisco in terms of hilliness for a major city. Whenever contractors had close a sidewalk, they always built a covered walkway in the lane closest to the sidewalk and eliminated either parking spaces or a lane of traffic, depending on the street. Drivers put up with the inconvenience, though they may not have been happy about it.

My current city (Baton Rouge) hardly has any sidewalks at all, and pedestrians are forced to walk on the street. They can't even walk in people's yards, which are generally right next to the street, because there is usually a drainage ditch right in front.

Posted by Sheryl | August 28, 2008 4:13 PM


It's finally gone. Right after all the publicity about the crime problem on that block, workmen appeared at that site and finally did whatever it was they were supposed to be doing and the scaffolding came down.

Posted by keshmeshi | August 28, 2008 4:17 PM


I expect an excuse, from you, for all of the dozens of other projects around town that completely cut off the sidewalks for months on end.

Don't worry. I won't hold my breath.

Posted by keshmeshi | August 28, 2008 4:19 PM

Excuse. They're just making excuses. Construction contractors are like the rest of the country in thinking that pedestrians are 2nd class citizens and think, "Fuck them, they can cross the street."

Posted by Gomez | August 28, 2008 4:20 PM

#25 Did the crime on that corner go away too?

Posted by elswinger | August 28, 2008 4:21 PM

Where is useless Nick Licata on this one? Seems like the city's advocate for pedestrian safety is MIA.

Posted by umyeah.... | August 28, 2008 4:44 PM

@28 same "vendors" and that smoke shop is still there fulfilling all 3rd and Union crackpipe needs. FWIW: The Stranger or that other rag reported that the Church of Scientology is the landlord or subletting those storefronts (supplements and cell phones in the others).

Posted by La Mareada | August 28, 2008 4:46 PM
31, Licata just had the City Auditor study this issue, and is moving forward to try and get SDOT to adopt the Auditor's recommendations to ensure better protection of pedestrian sidewalk access.

(however, considering SDOT's pathetic "too many hills" excuse - which is a bald-faced lie as far as most of the sidewalk closures I've seen - Licata may need to get 4 other votes on the Council to actually force SDOT to obey the law).

You might try placing the blame where it belongs - on the Mayor and the City Departments he runs.

Posted by Mr. X | August 28, 2008 4:50 PM

@ 29) Nick Licata is the one putting the pressure on SDOT--he requested the audit.

Posted by Dominic Holden | August 28, 2008 4:51 PM

@26 - Um, I believe that it was you, Chicken Little, that wailed a few weeks ago about all of the times that you had been inconvenienced when sidewalks on BOTH sides of the street were closed. When asked if you could provide a single example, what was your response? If I remember correctly, absolute silence. My point is that it is toolbags like you that ruin it for the rest of us.

Are there examples of places/times when SDOT rules could be better crafted or enforced? Certainly. But it makes it much harder to be heard in those cases when people like you go into histrionics over non-issues or (as in your previous post) simply make shit up. So once again, either get your facts straight or STFU.

Posted by Know the facts | August 28, 2008 5:35 PM

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