Monthly Archive for October, 2011

Q & A with Mayor Mike McGinn

Mayor McGinn

Photo from Mayor's Media page

Walking in Seattle is running a series to showcase the perspectives of prominent walkers in the city. This Q&A is with Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn:

Walking in Seattle: Where is your favorite place in the city go for a walk?

Mike McGinn: I like taking walks with my family in our neighborhood (Greenwood).

WiS: What do you like most about walking in the city of Seattle?

McGinn: I really appreciate the views of the water and walking through small business districts.

WiS: What is the top thing you’d like to see improved for walking in the city of Seattle?

McGinn: I’d like to see more sidewalks, calmer streets, and safe crossings of arterials.

WiS: One last question – be honest, do you wait for the crosswalk signal?

McGinn: Yes.

If you’d like to nominate a local walker to be included in this Q & A series, or volunteer to participate, please use our contact form.


Crosscut: SPD enforcement inconsistent with collision data

Former Washington state Secretary of Transportation, Douglas MacDonald, has a post on Crosscut that examines some of the city’s traffic fatality data, asking how safe are Seattle’s roads?. He points out that the number of fatalities for pedestrians is much higher than that of bicyclists:

The numbers are stark, starting with the death toll. In the three years 2008–2010, there were 62 traffic fatalities in Seattle. More than half involved pedestrians (25 deaths) and cyclists (7 deaths). Just to put the scale of traffic victims against the scale of crime victims, that toll of 62 deaths on the roads compares to the three-year Seattle homicide total of about 70, so long as you, like the Seattle Police Department, don’t drag in another half-dozen “officer involved” shootings.

It’s a great write-up, pointing out that elderly pedestrians are more at risk, and that collisions with pedestrians and cyclists account for 10% of all collisions between moving traffic. And, he reinforces what we reported on yesterday:

Cutting through the huge variety of circumstances in all these collision, the data reported by SPD points in one dramatic direction. Three-quarters of vehicle collisions with pedestrians and cyclists in 2009 and 2010 involved the actions of the driver as a contributing factor. In two-thirds of those cases (about half of the total) the problem was the most basic of driver derelictions: failure to yield the right of way to the pedestrian or cyclist. So, with a myriad of steps that can be taken to improve safety, the most fundamental lie with getting the drivers to mind the rules.

This creates a very troubling juxtaposition with what the statistics show concerning traffic enforcement. In 2010 the Seattle Police Department issued 27,348 traffic tickets for moving violations. This was down by 7 percent from 2009. In 2010 just 197 tickets were issued to drivers for failing to yield the right of way to pedestrians. That was down by over 50 percent from 2009. SPD did, however, issue 1570 citations to pedestrians in 2010. That was up from 1274 in 2009. That picture might suggest that the enforcement priority lies with picking the low-hanging fruit rather than focusing on the heart of the problem.

The article recommends attending a road safety summit – there are two left.


Ped collisions in 2010 second highest in last 10 years

SDOT has released its annual traffic collision report on Friday. Pedestrian collisions were up, last year, to 529, the second highest rate in the last 10 years. However, pedestrians were injured in a lower percentage of collisions than normal, and only 5 pedestrians were killed, the lowest since 2002. While conclusions can’t be drawn from one year, one could hope that a drop in injuries and deaths would continue from drivers going more slowly.

Overall, vehicle traffic volumes were slightly up for the year. The city counted fewer pedestrians walking downtown last year, but has since switched to a more thorough and standard pedestrian-counting methodology that will be used starting this year.

There is a lot of missing data with regard to pedestrian collisions, however where data was available for drivers, 256 of them did not yield the right of way to pedestrians, which was the biggest cause of pedestrian collisions.

The report indicates that SPD and SDOT work together to target enforcement efforts. According to Acting City Traffic Engineer, Brian Kemper, “When we [SDOT] have locations of concern, we work with SPD…and provide the engineering or traffic solution that is appropriate.” The improvements the city has made, “have been pretty effective,” but it requires a team effort between SDOT and SPD of education, engineering, and enforcement.

SPD did conduct 42 pedestrian safety emphasis patrols, where a plain clothes officer acts as a pedestrian crossing the street legally, and 48 violations were written as a result of these stings.

Though the leading cause of pedestrian collisions is drivers failing to yield the right of way, SDOT issued 8 times more infractions against pedestrians than they did against drivers failing to yield the right of way to pedestrians. In fact, the violations issued to drivers for failure to yield to pedestrians in 2010 was down to half of 2009’s level. Also, remarkably, the number of citations issued in school zones were dropped by over 60%.

SPD does deploy a van to monitor speeds in school zones from state funding authorized in 2009, resulting in the issuaance of 1,808 citations last year, averaging a decrease in speed of between 5 and 10 miles per hour in school zones.

The report provides statistics related to the lane rechannelization at Fauntleroy Way SW, and shows that collisions dropped by 31% and injuries dropped by 73%. Rush hour travel time for drivers did increase by 4 to 65 seconds from Alaska to California Ave.

Also, since 2006, more pedesrian collisions have happend in November than any other month.

The Seattle PI has a general recap of the report, as does PubliCola.

A link to the final report can be found here


Added more walking resources

Check out the resources tab at the top of the page for more walking resources. We’ve recently added links to more walking maps and walking routes, as well as SDOT contact information. There are also links to general walking information, pedestrian organizations, and walking books.


Vote Yes on Proposition 1 for Transportation Improvements

Map of potential sidealk projects

Potential Sidewalk Projects

Ballots have been mailed for this year’s most important transportation measure. The proposition has something for everyone, as it would double funding for sidewalks, improve transit, expand bicycle infrastructure, and fix potholes.

Streets for All Seattle has a wealth of information on what the proposition funds. As related to pedestrian infrastructure, the proposition would fund a variety of improvements around the city, shown on the map at right, and explained by Streets for All Seattle:

A $44 million investment in our neighborhoods will double our city’s annual investment in new sidewalks, add hundreds of crossing improvements and new pedestrian countdown signals, expand family-friendly bicycle infrastructure, fund the completion of a freight master plan, and expand the Neighborhood Street Fund by nearly 50% to provide more sidewalks, safe crossings, and other safety needs identified by neighborhood councils.

This funding will come from a $60 car tab fee that will be levied for the next ten years. While opponents charge that the fee is regressive and impacts poorer drivers more than richer ones, it will make it easier to get around without a car. Sightline does a good job of putting this $60 fee in perspective of the overall costs of car ownership.

If you already support this, Streets for All Seattle is making a big push to voters:

Ballots have dropped. Now it’s time to vote yes on Prop 1.

There’s 380,000 registered voters in Seattle — and the best way to convince them to vote yes is with face-to-face conversations. That’s why we’re holding a huge canvass on October 23rd to talk to thousands of people.

Let us know that you’re coming to The Big Neighborhood Canvass this Sunday >>

Proposition 1 is a down payment on becoming a 21st Century great American city. Designed by a citizen panel, Prop 1 will connect our neighborhoods with fast, reliable transit service, double our annual investment in sidewalks, nearly double the number of neighborhood repaving projects we do every year, and expand family-friendly bicycle infrastructure. Prop 1 is thousands of smart, simple improvements that will make our transportation system work better for everyone.

But our opponents are working to defeat us with a deceptive campaign that has mis-stated facts and mis-represented who their supporters are. In fact, our opponents are supported by the president of the Seattle Republican Party and their main funder is an anti-transit land barron.

With ballots in everyone’s mailboxes, we’ve got to double-down and talk face-to-face with thousands of Seattle voters this weekend.

Join us on Sunday for The Big Neighborhood Canvass >>

Day: Sunday, October 23rd
Meet: 11 a.m. at the Sierra Club Office, 180 Nickerson St.
End: 3-4 p.m.

If you have time for just one volunteer activity this election season, this is the one you should do. After you RSVP, we’ll send you additional details.

Vote yes on Proposition 1 to make Seattle a better, more walkable city, and get out and encourage others to do so as well.


Road Safety Summits coming up

The mayor’s office is holding several road safety summit meetings.

The Road Safety Summit, through two public forums, an online survey, and in-person outreach, is providing a chance for the public to give their input on three questions:

What do you think are the highest priority safety problems to solve on Seattle roads?
What do you think are the most important things to do to make Seattle roads safer?
We often talk about what government can do to promote safety. What are the ways that non-governmental groups can promote safety?

The times are listed below or on the Road Safety Summit site:

Public Forum #1:
Monday, October 24th, 6pm in the Bertha K. Landes room at City Hall

Public Forum #2
Tuesday, November 15th, 6pm at the Northgate Community Center

Public Forum #3
Monday, November 21st, 6pm at the Southwest Community Center

I have a few items on my pedestrian wishlist that I’d like to bring up. Changing jaywalking laws is worth looking into as well.


SDOT stairway maintenance may be cut

The city’s proposed 2012 would enact cuts at SDOT that would defer stairway maintenance, according to a KOMO news report.

Last year’s budget dedicated over $1 million for stairways, including maintenance and funding from the Bridging the Gap levy. This year, however, $200,000 may be cut from SDOT’s stairway budget. The cuts would impact maintenance, including eliminating two positions – a stairway design and inspection engineer, and a stairway construction worker.

The potential cuts would mean that the city would no longer perform regular stairway inspections and would instead rely on existing assessment to prioritize improvements and maintenance.


Feet First celebrates 10 year anniversary

Tonight marked the 10 year anniversary celebration of Seattle’s pedestrian advocacy organization, Feet First.

During the evening’s activities, Mayor Mike McGinn spoke, encouraging the audience to support Proposition 1, the $60 car tab fee on the ballot to improve roads and public transit. He spoke of the value of walkable neighborhoods and suggested taking advantage of small conversations with friends and neighbors to speak of the positives of walkability, saying “the little things add up.” He also shared a fact from a study, indicating that the single biggest factor influencing people to walk in their neighborhood is not sidewalks or a grocery store, but the presence of a tavern.

Several city council members were also in attendance, including Richard Conlin, Tim Burgess, Tim O’Brien, and Jean Godden.

Matt Lerner, Chief Technical Officer of Walk Score, gave the keynote speech, sharing examples of the influence of walkscore (4 million daily searches), and urban examples from other cities, including Parklets from San Francisco and bicycle boulevards from Vancouver. Lerner finished by encouraging the Feet First community to accomplish the next 10 years of goals in the next 5 years, saying that the efforts of the organization are needed for the issues of global warming, the obesity epidemic, and childhood safety.

Feet First started in 1995 as a group of concerned citizens whose first major action was convincing SDOT to build a crosswalk signal in Green Lake. Since then, the organization has grown to 3,000 supporters and 100 members.