Another crosswalk in the city’s crosshairs

August 1, 2007 at 5:53 pm | In Gatewood, Transportation | 22 Comments

WSB reader/commenter (and blogger) Chas Redmond writes to tell us flyers have just gone around announcing the imminent demise of the 35th SW crosswalk at Kenyon (photo), hot on the heels of the Java Bean crosswalk removal….

35kyn.jpg

Chas elaborates on this better than we could, so we’re quoting verbatim from his e-mail:

SDOT appears to be on a crosswalk-removing rampage – again claiming that “safety is our highest priority” and that un-signalized but marked crosswalks do not meet Federal standards based in part on a 2002 Federal Highway Administration study. So, the latest victim is the marked crosswalk at Kenyon and 35th Avenue SW. Oh, SDOT also says that “it is also important to note that, according to Washington state law, a legal pedestrian crossing exists at every intersection regardless of whether or not a crosswalk is marked. Thus pedestrians will continue to have a legal right to cross at this intersection.”

What they don’t state is that they are removing more and more of the visible signs of pedestrians, giving drivers even more incentive to ignore pedestrians. Irrespective of whether or not un-signalized crosswalks are safer or not, marked crosswalks remind motorists that there other users of the roadway or intersection and removing them is one more notch on the belt of automotive traffic at the expense of pedestrian traffic. Responses can be made by calling SDOT’s comment line at 206-615-1608 or e-mailing “walkandbike@seattle.gov.”

But be it known that the flyer states emphatically “SDOT will be removing the crosswalk at 35th Avenue SW and SW Kenyon Street.”

22 Comments

  1. I do wonder how long it is going to be until someone starts to paint their own crosswalks in protest.

    Late night street painting anyone?

    Comment by Shawn — 5:58 pm August 1, 2007 #

  2. You know, the “painted crosswalk lines are safer” argument that people here keep returning to has not been backed up by any kind of reasonable study. In fact, it may be that painted but un-signaled crosswalks are more UNsafe because pedestrians then feel more secure and entitled when crossing, despite traffic. It seems like the removal of the crosswalks backs up the latter theory rather than the former, doesn’t it?

    Comment by Michael — 6:33 pm August 1, 2007 #

  3. I’m not arguing the logic of SDOT or FHA analysis. I’m arguing that the removal of obvious signs of pedestrian traffic and presence does not promote a walkable city. So? Are any unmarked crosswalks “more” safe? Probably not. The issue is attention on behalf of the pedestrian to look both ways – twice, and on behalf of the driver of a vehicle to acknowledge that the pedestrian has a “right” to cross the street. Without more signs of pedestrians, drivers can completely ignore all of us. By the way, the distance between controlled crosswalks – Holden to Thistle – is about 1400 feet. How long does it take a car going the legal limit of 35mph take to travel that distance? How long does it take a pedestrian to travel that distance? Where’s the equity?

    Comment by chas redmond — 6:41 pm August 1, 2007 #

  4. Arrrgghh, I am so mad when ever they throw that “peds have the right of way at every intersection” b.s. out.. I hate it. Peds need to cross where it is safest, not where ever they feel like. hell, I ‘d be stopping every block on California. Arrrgghhh.

    Comment by Todd in Westwood — 8:50 pm August 1, 2007 #

  5. If I recall correctly, studies have shown that painted but un-signaled crosswalks are less safe than unpainted but un-signaled crosswalks, so removing the paint should improve pedestrian safety. I agree with Chas that it is desirable to increase driver awareness of pedestrians, but fighting to keep painted but un-signaled crosswalks is counterproductive since they actually reduce pedestrian safety. Maybe the energy can be better put into getting the city to install more signaled crosswalks, or to put more money into a PR campaign to educate motorists.

    Comment by s — 8:55 pm August 1, 2007 #

  6. I got this flyer at my home, too. I wonder if they will paint it back when Denny is built on the backside (Kenyon) of the Sealth property, and students cross 35th at Kenyon?

    Comment by Josh — 9:03 pm August 1, 2007 #

  7. They’re doing the same thing to the crosswalk at Fauntleroy Way & Rose St.

    In this case, Rose ends at Fauntleroy, so it’s not a full intersection. Our flyer says they’d rather have us cross at either Kenyon or Cloverdale, two blocks N. or S. It also mentions that it’s still legal to cross the street at Rose.

    I don’t necessarily have a problem with this, but I do wonder how often drivers ignore pedestrians because it seems like they’re not crossing at “real”, 4-way intersections.

    Comment by Jenny — 10:25 pm August 1, 2007 #

  8. Josh…Denny will be a few blocks south, I believe…closer to Trenton, etc..

    Comment by Jan — 10:53 pm August 1, 2007 #

  9. Being a frustrated pedestrian who is tired of cars not yielding to me at Fauntleroy & Dawson (one day last week I counted 45 cars that passed by without even a glance while I waited to cross), I decided to email Seattle Police about traffic enforcement. I’m still waiting on the determination on whether the intersection warrants a signal (and not holding my breath), but in the meantime, if they want pedestrians to be safe, they need to enforce the law that cars yield to pedestrians who are legally crossing. The citizen inquiry form is at http://www.seattle.gov/police/contact_form.htm and I recommend that every pedestrian who has trouble with cars yielding to them at a regular intersection they use, write to them and let them know. It took a week, but I got a reply from an officer who said that they would have a traffic control team take a look at the intersection. If they start hearing from a lot of us with the same complaint, perhaps they will find a different way to deal with the situation and at least acknowledge that this is a problem.

    Comment by Sue — 8:25 am August 2, 2007 #

  10. I’m more inclined as a driver to watch for pedestrians if I see a crosswalk. Unfortunately, crosswalks that aren’t maintained and painted regularly with no lights are sometime impossible to see until it’s too late to stop. I will try to stop for anyone crossing anywhere if I see them. F*ck the rude self important drivers who have no idea what a pedestrian is dealing with when crossing a busy street, and refuse to slow down or stop for them. It’s dangerous.
    Removing crosswalks completely callous and insane for people who walk or need to get to bus stops. They do work. This city is just too freakin lazy to maintain the crosswalks so they remove them, so unattentive drivers can wank off on their cell phones and ipods without having to watch for people crossing the road.

    Comment by flipjack — 8:30 am August 2, 2007 #

  11. Most drivers don’t know that pedestrians have the right of way at all intersections,regardless if there is a marked cross walk. I didn’t know that until a police officer (!!!) hit my brother while he was in an unmarked crosswalk.

    Marked crosswalks at least alert a driver to pay attention for peds. The city should be putting in more crosswalks instead of taking them away. Driver education is key; but don’t get me started on that topic!

    Comment by m — 10:01 am August 2, 2007 #

  12. The thing that worries me about stopping for a pedestrian at an unmarked intersection on 35th is either I’m going to get rear-ended waiting for the person to cross or they’re going to get hit because the other 3 lanes of traffic doesn’t stop. As much as I’d -like- to follow the rules at these intersections it almost feels safer to ignore the pedestrian and hope they find a marked/signaled intersection to cross at.

    Comment by MargL — 10:29 am August 2, 2007 #

  13. I don’t get it. Painting crosswalks at unsigned or un-raised crosswalks can increase pedestrian hit rates. So why do we want more painted crosswalks?

    Argue for more signed or raised crosswalks…not just more painted crosswalks.

    Go here and read the abstract: http://www.urbanstreet.info/2nd_sym_proceedings/Volume%202/Esse.pdf

    Comment by s — 10:38 am August 2, 2007 #

  14. Isn’t it usual that the city only does something like putting in crosswalks when someone dies and/or sues? (Note they went on a crosswalk-deleting binge when someone sued …)

    Comment by eilis flynn — 10:42 am August 2, 2007 #

  15. MargL, this happens sometimes on Fauntleroy. One day there were 2 lanes of northbound traffic stopped for us, but not the southbound traffic. I’m waiting at the curb, needing to cross the non-stopping southbound traffic in order to get to the side where they yielded. Meanwhile, the drivers stopped on the other side started screaming at us out their car windows: why aren’t you going? (Duh – there are cars coming at us!) Then the drivers behind them started beeping at them to move. We finally get a chance to start walking, approach the stopped traffic on the northbound side, and some moron who was impatient had raced around in the parking lane to pass them all, oblivious to why they were stopped, and we had to stop dead in the intersection to avoid being hit by him.

    Comment by Sue — 10:47 am August 2, 2007 #

  16. m, I agree – a marked crosswalk makes me much more aware as a driver that pedestrians might be nearby. When I’m driving on California – which has a number of marked crosswalks – I tend to drive slower and actively look for pedestrians at each of them. On roads like 35th and Fauntleroy, I don’t notice as much.

    Comment by Sue — 10:49 am August 2, 2007 #

  17. No one can tell me that a crosswalk that is both painted bright white (and re-painted annually so as not to fade away) and has one of those neon colored ‘pedestrial crossing’ signs (as well as a flashing light like the one at Admiral and 47th; at least for the most hazardous crooswalks) is less safe than no crosswalk at all.

    Comment by Elizabeth — 10:58 am August 2, 2007 #

  18. Sue and Elizabeth–Take a look at figure 1 of the pdf link above. It explains a lot of what the past few posters have written.
    1) Painting unsigned crosswalks does NOT make them more dangerous when there are 2 lanes (e.g. California Ave)…but they don’t make things safer either.
    2) Painting unsigned crosswalks ARE more dangerous when there are more than 3 lanes and heavy traffic (e.g. 35th and Fauntleroy). So fighting for painted crosswalks on busy, big streets is a waste of time.
    3) Studies have shown that a) a painted AND otherwise improved (e.g. neon signs and flashing lights) crosswalk is safer than b) an unpainted crosswalk, which is safer than c) a painted crosswalk. In other words, a painted crosswalk is not enough…you need the other bells and whistles as well. Paint alone makes it MORE dangerous, at least on multi-lane, busy roads like 35th and Fauntleroy. So the energy should go into getting those bells and whistles. And if we can’t get those bells and whistles, we should remove the paint on those big busy streets.

    Comment by s — 11:19 am August 2, 2007 #

  19. So far it seems that eilis is the commenter who seems to be on the right track. The city doesn’t care about pedestrians – it cares about getting sued. Someone hit in a marked crosswalk may sue the city (and has done so) claiming the crosswalk was in a bad place visually. If they’re hit at an unmarked, but still legal, crossing they don’t really have the ability to sue the city.

    I don’t like to see the lawsuits any more than the city (since we residents pay for them in the long run anyways) but the city needs to be smarter. How about some signals?? Some painted stripes on the road may not be enough to make drivers aware of a crosswalk – but flashing lights go a lot further towards increasinf visibility. Maybe the city can take some of the money it hopes to save on lawsuits and pay for some signals.

    Comment by Jim — 11:50 am August 2, 2007 #

  20. >>Paint alone makes it MORE dangerous, at least on multi-lane, busy roads like 35th and Fauntleroy. So the energy should go into getting those bells and whistles.

    Comment by Sue — 12:27 pm August 2, 2007 #

  21. “Paint alone makes it MORE dangerous, at least on multi-lane, busy roads like 35th and Fauntleroy. So the energy should go into getting those bells and whistles. ”
    S, I understand that. I’ve been putting my energy into trying to get a street light at my corner on Fauntleroy. But if they say no, *something* has to be done to protect pedestrians. There is a bus stop at this corner – people need to cross Fauntleroy for it. It’s unreasonable for someone to tell me to go to a signaled intersection nearby – the nearest one in either direction is 1/4 mile. I moved here because I have physical limitations and thought it would be great to be across the street from a bus stop for my commute. I never realized what a headache it would be, unable to easily cross this street, or I would have reconsidered it.

    Comment by Sue — 12:28 pm August 2, 2007 #

  22. Sue, I am totally with you…I’m all for more lights in places where they are needed. I’m only saying that we need to fight for lights–and not for paint that doesn’t do anything. I realize a lot of people already understand that.

    Comment by s — 12:44 pm August 2, 2007 #

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