— Advertisement —

To learn how to respond to community-created crosswalks, SDOT should look to their own past

Photo of plastic posts along a bike a lane line at night.
Image from the Reasonably Police Seattleites, April 1, 2013.

In the dead of night in early April 2013, one First Hill resident dragged $350 worth of reflective plastic posts down the hill and glued them on top of the brand new bike lane line SDOT had painted on Cherry Street under I-5. He then went home and wrote an email to Seattle Bike Blog with a cc to then-Director of SDOT Peter Hahn explaining his action. He called himself the Reasonably Polite Seattleites.

A “guerilla” bike lane was already an interesting story, but it was SDOT’s response that attracted national and global attention. Yes, the department sent out a crew to remove the posts, which did not conform to standards. But SDOT’s new Traffic Engineer Dongho Chang surprised everyone when he apologized to the Reasonably Polite Seattleites for needing to remove the posts, thanked them for their statement about the need for more bike lane protection, and then offered to return the posts. But it didn’t end there. Within months, SDOT crews were out installing plastic posts as an official city engineered project.

I know that today’s SDOT is aware of the story of the Reasonably Polite Seattleites, but judging by this week’s response to a community-created crosswalk on Capitol Hill, they may have missed the lesson it can teach them. Dongho making that Cherry Street bike lane official did not set off a string of other unofficial bike lanes across the city. His thoughtful response did not embolden people to take matters into their own hands to get their desired improvements completed. It did the exact opposite. It communicated to people that they don’t need to do this themselves because SDOT was going to do better. And they did. The number of protected bike lanes they installed increased dramatically after 2013 thanks to the department’s commitment to the revised Bicycle Master Plan.


— Advertisement —

This week, SDOT presented a gruff and authoritative stance against the painters of the Olive Way crosswalk, writing on Twitter, “Improperly painted crosswalks give a false sense of safety which puts pedestrians in danger. There are better ways for people to work w/ us to indicate crossing improvement needs & to make sure changes achieve what is intended — get people to their destinations safely.”

People have responded adversarially as you would expect because the whole point of the crosswalk action (I assume since I don’t actually know the painter’s intent) was to highlight the city’s lack of urgency in painting official ones. It comes off as though the agency is more concerned about defending its domain over street changes than it is about creating safe places for people to cross the street.

Someone who is so concerned about street safety that they are willing to go out and paint a crosswalk with their own time and money is not SDOT’s adversary. They are providing feedback that SDOT’s current processes for making official crosswalks is not working. If it was, they would have just filled out the proper form.

If SDOT wants people to stop painting crosswalks, then they need to create a reliable and responsive way for people to make such requests and then see them happen within a reasonable time frame. Wagging your finger at people and telling them that the existing system is fine is the surest way to guarantee someone else is at the hardware store right now buying a can of white paint.


About the author:


Related posts:

Comments

One response to “To learn how to respond to community-created crosswalks, SDOT should look to their own past”

  1. Ronny

    Sounds like hand wringing to me. I’ve been almost hit several times while walking in marked crosswalks. The solution is to fix the drivers, not throw more paint on the ground.

— Advertisement —

Join the Seattle Bike Blog Supporters

As a supporter, you help power independent bike news in the Seattle area. Please consider supporting the site financially starting at $5 per month:


Latest stories

Bike Events Calendar

Jun
22
Sat
all-day Bicycle Weekends on Lake Washing…
Bicycle Weekends on Lake Washing…
Jun 22 – Jun 23 all-day
Bicycle Weekends on Lake Washington Blvd
Details from Seattle Parks: On scheduled weekends from May to September, a portion of Lake Washington Boulevard will be closed to motorized vehicles from 10 a.m. Saturday to 6 p.m. Sunday. “Seattle Parks and Recreation[…]
Jun
23
Sun
all-day Bicycle Weekends on Lake Washing…
Bicycle Weekends on Lake Washing…
Jun 23 – Jun 24 all-day
Bicycle Weekends on Lake Washington Blvd
Details from Seattle Parks: On scheduled weekends from May to September, a portion of Lake Washington Boulevard will be closed to motorized vehicles from 10 a.m. Saturday to 6 p.m. Sunday. “Seattle Parks and Recreation[…]
10:00 am NE 8th St Bridge Opening @ Totem Lake Salt & Straw
NE 8th St Bridge Opening @ Totem Lake Salt & Straw
Jun 23 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Join us for a relaxed group ride along EasTrail to the NE 8th St Bridge Opening! This is an All-Ages and Abilities event, we will not be leaving anyone behind and we will all be[…]
1:00 pm Redmond History Ride @ Marymoor Park Velodrome Parking Lot
Redmond History Ride @ Marymoor Park Velodrome Parking Lot
Jun 23 @ 1:00 pm – 4:30 pm
Redmond History Ride @ Marymoor Park Velodrome Parking Lot | Redmond | Washington | United States
Join this 13 mile bike ride around Redmond at a Leisurely pace. We’ll visit various sites both old and new as I tell stories about the city that was once known as Salmonberg.ShareMastodonTwitterFacebookRedditEmail
Jun
27
Thu
7:15 pm Point83 @ Westlake Park
Point83 @ Westlake Park
Jun 27 @ 7:15 pm
Point83 @ Westlake Park
Meet up in the center of the park at 7ish. Leave at 730. Every Thursday from now until forever rain or shine. Bikes, beers, illegal firepits, nachos, bottlerockets, timetraveling, lollygagging, mechanicals, good times.ShareMastodonTwitterFacebookRedditEmail
— Advertisements —

Latest on Mastodon

Loading Mastodon feed…