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City gives opposite tickets to people obeying the 2nd Ave traffic signals

SDOT's Jim Curtin and volunteer Marley Blonsky give gift cards to people following the rules.
SDOT’s Jim Curtin and volunteer Marley Blonsky give gift cards to people following the rules.

Most people follow the rules on 2nd Ave. Most people biking stop when the bike signal is red, and most people turning left obey the red arrow and wait their turn.

Unfortunately, most isn’t good enough, and there are far too many people still turning across the bike lanes when people on bikes have the green. While we have reported previously on how to make the traffic signals less confusing (hanging signals over each lane would help), many of those turning know they’re not supposed to and just don’t care. Police enforcement may be the only way to change their behavior.

But what about all those people who are doing their part to make the street work? Can the carrot be as effective as the stick? That’s what the Seattle Departments of Transportation is hoping for with their “re-enforcement patrols” this week.

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Staff and volunteers from Pronto Cycle Share and Cascade Bicycle Club were out on 2nd Ave Thursday afternoon giving opposite tickets: $5 Starbucks gift cards for following the law.

IMG_0208“Woah, that was amazing! You turned on your blinker and stopped at the red light, and you aren’t on your phone,” SDOT’s Jim Curtin told one person waiting for the light before handing a gift card and brochure about Vision Zero through her car window.

Staff and volunteers were also giving cards to people biking and walking who stopped for their respective signals.

The action was the second of three this week. Wednesday, staff were at West Seattle’s Arbor Heights/K-5 STEM School rewarding parents dropping kids off and, of course, the kids themselves for being safe (coffee is yucky, so the kids got glow-in-the-dark reflective key chains, coloring books and crayons).

All the rewards were funded by a grant.

The re-enforcement patrols will be on the west side of the Fremont Bridge tomorrow morning from 8–9 a.m., so be on your best behavior and they might buy you coffee. And maybe if you’re all really, really good, SDOT will buy gift cards for a good coffee shop next time :-)

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40 responses to “City gives opposite tickets to people obeying the 2nd Ave traffic signals”

  1. Scott Bonjukian

    Good strategy! Do you know if SDOT has data on bike usage before and after the this PBL went in?

  2. David Hiller

    Cool concept. (And, just imagine how the previous administration would have been pilloried for this. We got hammered mercilessly for giving out umbrellas as part of a ped safety awareness campaign during the holidays.)

    But, man… Jim looks like he’s about to backfist that window in the photo. Hope big-Jim didn’t scare too many good car-drivers away.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Ha! He’s gesturing toward the signal she stopped for. Curtin was hamming it up and having fun.

  3. mark

    Do happen to have an idea of what grant it was that funded it and how they qualified?

  4. Todd

    Since you’re always promoting agenda’s Tom, and in fact question why people in Seattle obey crosswalk signs for both bicyclists and peds… it’s about time you call it the way it is. Most people on bikes are vigilante a-holes only following the traffic rules when convenient for them to do so. I know because mostly the people I see while commuting daily for the last 5 years do not — including sometimes — repeat sometimes — myself. If we bikers want to share the roads with the cars, then we must abide by the rules of the road. We can’t have it both ways and I for one choose to accept responsibility rather than saying it’s a ‘sign’ fault. Sadly, I think a few more tickets to bikers would do the community good. Alright you guys let me have it — but deep down you know I’m right.

    1. Meg

      Why do you think most people on bikes are vigilante a-holes only following the traffic rules when convenient to do so? People don’t change temperament each time they hop on a bike.
      I think cycling is perceived to be a scary activity only appropriate for risk takers and so attracts a disproportionate amount of people who like taking risks. The best way to change the culture of risk-taking is to increase the pool of users to include all kinds of temperaments. Creating infrastructure that serves 8-80 can do this. If we want to encourage new cyclists (and not scare them off the road), we need to write tickets to cyclists and drivers to enforce road laws. Since drivers make up 4% of commuters, 4% of tickets should conceivably go to them.

    2. Peri Hartman

      Can you be a bit more clear on the type of violations? I don’t keep count but I do see a lot of cyclists stop properly a red lights. I see very few who race along parked cars and then hop onto the sidewalk and dodge people, then drop back onto the street. Yes, occasionally. But few.

      I do see people riding along the right of cars waiting at a light. That’s legal.

      What I do see a lot of, including my self, is people who don’t come to a complete stop at a stop sign. I’m not speaking of “blowing through”, but coming to a near stop, then accelerating. True, that’s not legal. But it’s really, really minor and not endangering anyone. The tradeoff of coming to a complete stop is a huge loss of momentum, especially noticable uphill. And I doubt the percentage of cyclists doing that is any higher than that for cars.

      What else is on your list?

    3. (Another) Tom

      Actually, we CAN have it both ways. Unsafe behavior should be called out but following the rules to a T is often not the safest way to ride.

      Cyclist truly running a red light without looking? That’s a problem and they should be ticketed. Cyclist using the Idaho stop at a red light that slows and looks both ways before proceeding across a clear intersection? Nothing wrong with that at all, it is safe and efficient even though it is against ‘the rules.’

      Deep down I know you are wrong and the proof is in the pudding. How many people have cyclists killed in Seattle this year? How about last year? The year before that? The reality is that for all the pearl-clutching about scofflaw cyclists they don’t actually seem to be causing much harm and when they do they are the ones paying the price. Now let’s compare that to drivers who break the rules far more frequently and with real consequences.

      Safe in a car?

      Safe on the sidewalk?

      Safe in your bedroom?

      Such an absurd notion that there are all these dangerous cyclists out there throwing caution to the wind. Actually, you can’t be a bad cyclist for long because you will get hurt or killed in no time and then you can’t ride a bike anymore. You can be a bad driver your whole life though. Plow a couple of kids over in the crosswalk? Nbd, the car will still start tomorrow. Get t-boned by a car while on a bike? Serious injury or death means no more cycling for quite some time.

      Your complaint isn’t about reducing harms or making the city safer. Like most drivers that just hate, hate, hate cyclists your anger is really about some elementary school-level understanding of fairness when a cyclist passes you in traffic or goes through a red light while you have to wait and it makes you mad. Your anger should be directed instead at the poor infrastructure that leads directly to these encounters and indirectly encourages so many others to get behind the wheel (and in front of you at that stop light.)

      1. RDPence

        Re “Cyclist using the Idaho stop at a red light that slows and looks both ways before proceeding across a clear intersection? Nothing wrong with that at all, it is safe and efficient even though it is against ‘the rules.’ ”

        If it’s really so “safe and efficient,” then it should be available to motor vehicles too, right?

      2. Peri Hartman

        No, there’s a big difference. On a bike, when you approach a crosswalk, your head is closer to the perpendicular sightlines and it is easy to see if there are peds about to cross. In a car, even a small one, you have at least 5 feet from your head to the front of the car, A-pillars, more speed, and other factors which obscure your vision.

        In a car, by the time you realize you should have stopped, you’ve already hit something! Won’t happen on a bike.

    4. LWC

      obvious troll is obvious.

    5. jay

      Of course you are right Todd, since bicycles are a small minority of the vehicles on the road, I have no doubt that you are correct when you say: ” I know because mostly the people I see while commuting daily for the last 5 years do not [follow traffic rules] — including sometimes — repeat sometimes — myself”
      BTW, do you drive a red pickup? on my way to work today, on my new Surly TROLL (from Ride Bicycles, a SBB advertiser) some guy in a red pickup Blatantly blew straight through a red light (that I stopped for), totally red, there is no way he could even pretend it was still yellow. He wasn’t even turning right, in which case I wouldn’t have expected him to stop.
      Now while I might occasionally roll past a stop sign, typically at about walking speed, you know many (nearly all if they are turning right) drivers do too, though often rather faster than I. Why just a few weeks ago, while riding up to Ride to order my TROLL, some driver blew through a stop at a scary speed (to fast for the street, regardless of the stop sign) forcing me to use my brakes to avoid a collision while I was on the freaking 12th Greenway!
      On my way back, after ordering my TROLL I made the mistake of taking the new “protected” bike lane on Roosevelt, in that case the woman who came up from behind am and abruptly turned right towards me did slam on her brakes before she hit me. I imagine that since she didn’t hit me that technically counts as “yielding”, I don’t believe the law says anything about scarring the crap out of the people one is yielding to.
      Of course none of those drivers were “vigilante a-holes” they were just ordinary oblivious a-holes in charge of deadly machines, well, maybe a bit worse than ordinary, but still not vigilante.

      1. RTK

        What kind of bike do you ride?

    6. Obvious Troll

      Todd rides bikes all the time with Dori Monson and his black friend.

  5. Michael

    Not sure what you mean by ” the west side of the Fremont Bridge”, as the bridge is north/south. Do you mean they will be on the sidewalk on the west side?

    1. Yep, probably this.

  6. trb

    Tom (Fucoloro), you know you’ve really made it when your blog has its very own resident troll. Congrats, Tom! Keep up the good work. ;)

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Sigh… I go on one bike ride and a “cyclists break laws too” troll moves in. For a while there I forgot that we can’t do anything to make streets safer until every person on a bike follows every law.

  7. Harrison Davignon

    Both drivers and cyclist are responsible for bicycle accidents. Some drivers have no respect for bicycle riders. We need drivers to be aware of bicycles and a least have natural feelings toward cyclists. Like say if a driver is like there is a bicycle rider, I understand not everyone drives and I need to pay attention and go around the person on their bicycle. If people would driving put the cell phones down, slowed down and payed attention to the road, bicycle riding would be safer. If bicycle riders followed the rules of the road we have less angry drivers making things safer as well.

  8. Jeff Dubrule

    Given how poorly much of Seattle’s road design is for people on bikes, when faced with “legal but somewhat unsafe” vs “illegal but perfectly safe”, guess which one I go with?

  9. Jen

    Is there a WordPress plugin that will automatically add the same old argument about cyclist-vs-driver behavior to every post? It would be very efficient to get that out of the way quickly. ;)

    1. Law Abider

      Bikers break traffic laws; cars break traffic laws. Just go for a run or a bike ride (or a drive if you’re insane) during rush hour. You’ll see a LOT of instances from both. The laws bikers breaks tend to be different that the laws car tend to break. It’s getting worse on both sides and will continue to get worse.

      The reason? No enforcement. As more and more people are moving into the region, they realize that SPD’s traffic enforcement is a joke. I’ve seen cars and bikers commit traffic violations literally in front of an SPD officer and they don’t even bat an eye. A couple deaths here and there is no biggie, apparently. But we’ll soon reach what can only be called “peak traffic violation”, which will put a serious damper on Seattle’s Vision Zero plan.

      1. Kirk

        Exactly. What is needed is a self funded traffic enforcement division; the tickets they write pay for the enforcement. They only focus on traffic enforcement, like the parking enforcement squad. There are clearly plenty of people volunteering to pay for this.

      2. Josh

        Washington law is set up to pretty much prevent self-funded traffic enforcement.

        After you take the state’s share of traffic fines, the amounts set aside for specific programs, victim compensation, etc., there’s not enough left to pay for even the most junior officer in a low-wage small-town force.

        Traffic enforcement happens when voters complain enough to their elected officials that those officials are willing to pay for enforcement by taking money from other programs or raising taxes.

      3. Kirk

        Raise the fines and/or change the law. A self funded system would help get traffic violence under control. A self funded system makes the users (those that break traffic laws and need the enforcement) pay for it.

      4. Josh

        I’d be happy to see the law changed, but you’d have an uphill fight getting the Legislature to go along with either giving up the state’s share of ticket revenue or raising fines enough to cover costs.

        Partly the state is already short on revenue, and partly there’s a strong popular feeling that “the man” is out to get drivers for money, not for safety.

  10. Geoffrey

    As our cycling infrastructure improves and more cyclists take to the road, so must cyclist’s respect for “the rules.” Not because of some childish mutual distaste between cyclists and motorists, but because “the rules” are what keep pedestrians safe.

    I walk home from work in the afternoon and am frequently terrified or yelled at by cyclists who don’t [want to] stop for me when I’m using the crosswalk. The respect that cyclists want from motorists needs to be shown, by cyclists and motorists alike, to pedestrians who can be seriously injured by bad behavior from either group.

    Please, stop completely at red lights and stop signs before turning, and whenever a pedestrian is crossing the street. Swerving around pedestrians, hopping up onto the sidewalk to avoid a red light, and/or shouting “on your left” while racing by are all behaviors that endanger and terrorize pedestrians in exactly the same way that motorists endanger cyclists when they break similar rules or shout at riders.

    1. Lisa

      If they shout “on your left” as they race by, that’s an improvement over the silent ninja type.

  11. Maybe SDOT staff should go out to all the intersections along the pedestrian and bike routes they claim to be building as part of the Mercer project and hand out gift cards to everyone that waits for the stupidly long light cycles, or goes around three sides of the intersection to avoid another in the litany of sidewalk and crosswalk closures.

    I wouldn’t care if they paid cash, I’d jaywalk anyway.

    1. Breadbaker

      “You didn’t make a right turn in front of the huge ‘No Right Turn’ sign on southbound Dexter at Mercer. Enjoy this latte.”

      1. Tom Fucoloro

        They would never give away any of those lattes.

      2. Ha. Ha. Ha. Maybe they could give out decafs to the people that at least yield properly when making the illegal turn.

        As far as I can tell the walk signal crossing Mercer hasn’t been working correctly since the crosswalk was moved to the west side of the intersection. What I’ve seen so far of the setup makes me worried that they’re just waiting to screw pedestrians and cyclists crossing Mercer with a long southbound right-arrow phase.

      3. Decaf is a very Seattle approach!

  12. Dan

    ““Woah, that was amazing! You turned on your blinker and stopped at the red light, and you aren’t on your phone,” SDOT’s Jim Curtin told one person waiting for the light before handing a gift card and brochure about Vision Zero through her car window.”

    It’s sad that simply following the rules passes as “amazing” behavior.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      He was just hamming it up and having fun. People get very confused when they get handed free stuff for just doing something normal like not breaking traffic laws.

  13. Josh

    While this is a fun feel-good program, how does it reach the people who actually need to be reached, the ones who run red lights, fail to yield, text while driving, etc.?

    It feels a bit like preaching to the converted.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      The news coverage of the event spreads the message. And people who get the gift cards will probably talk to others because it was so weird, which helps spread the message by word of mouth.

  14. pqbuffington

    What is it with the American mind and the false equivalency…

    “are all behaviors that endanger and terrorize pedestrians in exactly the same way that motorists endanger cyclists when they break similar rules or shout at riders”

    …of course you can seriously injure, and even kill, someone by crashing into them on a bicycle. But these occurrences – as offensive and brutal as they might be – are not even close to the carnage we effect upon ourselves everyday with automobiles. Not even anecdotally taken, as they always are, do they come close.

    Of the two bicycle/pedestrian fatality cases that I can remember (correctly, I hope) in western Washington, one was caused by a cyclist (on the sidewalk!) knocking someone onto the street and into an oncoming bus; the other was an elderly women knocked down on a multi-use path. No one blamed the bus or the frailty age imposes one’s person as the “cause” – and rightly so. But if I was as cynical toward the victims of these “accidents” as many are toward cyclists and pedestrians on the receiving end of similar violence, I might ask or imply just that.

    It really is fascinating to see such thought over-and-over again. The marginalized and victimized – in short, the weaker – are equally at fault, so it is not that, e.g. “Black Lives Matter”, it is “All Lives Matter” because whitey just cannot let himself comprehend the world that was his making. No context, historical or otherwise; everything is the same and all are equally responsible and share culpability.

    Our streets and roads are our society; when you are on foot or on a bike, or simply not in a car, you are in the ghetto of your own choosing. Such a nice notion as it lets us all off the hook.

  15. Brian

    I agree that most is not enough. We have to learn to drive and ride defensively and expect surprises all the time. I wish driver’s ed teach that in places with too few cars or bad drivers. There is such a thing as risk compensation. If a street is always quiet, people may be less cautious by blindly entering or leaving a hidden driveway. When riding on the protected bike lanes, we should expect people to disobey the bike and turn signals.

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