I am blown away by the backlash against a recent SDOT pedestrian safety campaign. You may be asking, Wait, there are people who are against a marketing campaign aimed at decreasing collisions between cars and people walking? Yes.
The charge was led by King 5, whose basic thesis is that the colorful umbrellas SDOT is giving away to promote the concept of visibility and stage a flash mob are not snowplows. Gold star, King 5, you’re right!
Erica at Publicola points out that the entire safety campaign, of which the umbrellas are only a small part, costs 0.015 percent of SDOT’s budget. SDOT says the point of the campaign is to help change pedestrian and driver behavior. Pedestrian-vehicle collision rates are much higher in winter months, so they launched a campaign (this is the second year) to try to change pedestrian and driver behavior.
Why King 5 and folks decided to attack this program is beyond me. Their main interview was with the owner of Arundel Books at 1st and Madison who, Seattle Transit Blog points out, is a GOP delegate who loves Sarah Palin. He doesn’t have a point, but King 5 doesn’t seem to mind. It snowed, therefore we shouldn’t have a pedestrian safety campaign. Makes sense…
Meanwhile, SDOT and some excited dancers used the umbrellas in a flash mob at Westlake. If you listen close, you can almost hear the anti-pedestrian safety campaign people scolding the dancers from the sidelines: “Wipe that smile off your face, missy. You can dance with your friends as soon as you learn to drive a snowplow!”
Pedestrian safety is a serious issue and worth spending time and money on. Luckily, this misguided media blowup has the potential to give the campaign some added attention. People need to know about the increase in pedestrian collisions during the winter. People need to see a map showing that collisions almost always happen at intersections so they can walk/drive differently.
I commend SDOT for trying to increase pedestrian safety while having a good time. Flash mobs aren’t really my thing, but the big group of people involved seemed to really be enjoying themselves. Add the word-of-mouth messaging from those there and those who witnessed it to all the people who will watch the video online, and I would say that’s a pretty successful campaign. Plus now some people who are shopping in downtown businesses will be able to use an umbrella if it starts raining. That ain’t a bad thing, either.