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Bloomberg: Olive Way crosswalk showed ‘how needlessly difficult it is to build safer streets’

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The crosswalk at Harvard and Olive Way is gone, but it left an impression on more than just the roadway itself. The social media storm following SDOT’s decision to remove it (and their clumsy response explaining themselves) elevated the action to achieve national attention.

Bloomberg has a story arguing that this guerrilla crosswalk and others like it “demonstrate how needlessly difficult it is to build safer streets in US cities.” From Bloomberg:

“This is infuriating,” Seattle councilmember Andrew Lewis tweeted. “We have the time and money, apparently, to expediently REMOVE a crosswalk, but it takes years to get around to actually painting one. No wonder neighbors took it upon themselves to act.”

Lewis made a reasonable point: When motivated, transportation agencies can quickly alter streetscapes. But they often seem to show more urgency removing citizen-built crosswalks than they do installing official ones.

Indeed, that is part of the power of guerrilla crosswalks: Even if they are not long for this world, they demonstrate how needlessly difficult it is to build safer streets in US cities.

Read more…

Reporter David Zipper cited some Seattle Bike Blog stories about former SDOT Traffic Engineer Dongho Chang’s response to the Cherry Street guerrilla bike lane in 2013, and then asked Chang about the recent crosswalks.

“It would be good to acknowledge the effort that was done by the residents,” Chang told Zipper. “If there is a way to keep the crosswalk, it would be ideal to try to do that.” Zipper accuses Seattle Bike Blog of garnering Chang with “enduring appreciation” and, well, guilty as charged.

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8 responses to “Bloomberg: Olive Way crosswalk showed ‘how needlessly difficult it is to build safer streets’”

  1. Bob

    We need to start a Seattle guerilla collective to pain every crosswalk intersection in the city. How, when, and where can we start?

  2. asdf2

    What this shows is that painting a crosswalk is easy, it’s the beurocractic work to get a crosswalk approved that’s hard. I’m imagining traffic study after traffic study until you have an airtight proof that cars are not delayed more than x seconds. Only then can the crosswalk go in, and of course, the traffic studies cost far more money than the actual paint. In other words, we’re still operating in a mode where “vision zero” means “zero impact on cars”, not zero pedestrian deaths.

    1. Nils

      Shouldn’t we question ‘number of seconds’ delay to cars as a metric at all? How many seconds is one human life? Is a stray pet more or less than that?

  3. Bob

    I emailed SDOT a couple years ago to request adding a “cross traffic does not stop” sign to an existing stop sign at a confusing intersection and they replied not enough accidents have occurred at that intersection. I’ve had close calls there, as I’m certain have others, but SDOT prefers to wait until much more severe things happen before installing a $15 sign. I’m getting inspired to buy a sign, bust out my cordless drill, and fix that problem in 30 seconds.

    1. asdf2

      Ok the contrary, I would argue that I’d you need a “cross traffic does not stop sign”, it’s probably better safety-wise to just put in a stop sign and have the cross traffic stop.

      1. Bob

        I agree whole heartedly, but the point is getting even simple fixes (that are obvious and demanded by their “customers”) is pulling a tooth with these guys. Getting an all-way stop would be like getting all teeth pulled and replaced with a gold grillz!

  4. Eric Norberg

    Cynically, this should surprise no one. SDOT has proven itself to be far more responsive to preventing litigation than to preventing injury/loss of life.

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