Seattle.gov Home Page
Seattle.gov This Department
Link to Transportation Home Page Link to Transportation Home Page Link to Transportation About Us Page Link to Transportation Contact Us Page
A vibrant Seattle through transportation excellence Interim Director, Goran Sparrman

Services 

Projects 

Planning 

Resources 

Events

News

Site Index


Home
Summary
Vision & Goals
Plan Background
State of Pedestrian Environment
- Background
- Planning Context
- Existing Conditions
- Conclusions
- Maps of Conditions
Planning Process
Policy and Program Recommendations
Project Recommendations
Becoming the Most Walkable City
Pedestrian Toolbox
Performance Monitoring and Stewardship
Library
Frequently Asked Questions
Search the Plan
Contact Us
Disclaimer

Planning Context

Seattle is a vibrant and unique community. It is a city of neighborhoods, with mixed-use urban villages such as Queen Anne, University District, Capitol Hill, West Seattle Junction, Columbia City, and Ballard that are vital hubs of pedestrian activity. [View a map of Seattle’s Urban Villages.] Additional pedestrian destinations and generators include schools, transit stops, colleges and universities, parks, and open space. [View a map of Pedestrian Destinations.] Seattle includes the full range of land use types, from a heavily urban core with nationally recognized pedestrian destinations, such as Pike Place Market, to automobile-oriented commercial arterials such as Aurora Avenue, Martin Luther King Way, Lake City Way, Northgate Way, Greenwood Avenue, and Rainier Avenue. It includes industrial areas such as the Duwamish Manufacturing and Industrial Center and the Georgetown neighborhood, as well as single-family residential neighborhoods throughout the City.

Commuting To Work DataSeattle’s topography, and its location between Puget Sound and Lake Washington, contributes to pedestrian issues that are unique; for example, there are extraordinarily steep sidewalks, with slopes of over 12%, and frequent bridges over waterways. [View a map of the Seattle’s Topography and Watersheds.] These challenges affect the pedestrian network, as do the highways and railroads that bisect the City. Addressing these slope constraints in the context of universal design principles is an important consideration in Seattle’s pedestrian planning.

Table 1 above shows the number and percentage of people taking public transportation and walking to work in Seattle and other selected cities, according to the U.S. Census’ 2006 American Community Survey. Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan includes goals of increasing the proportion of work trips to Seattle and its urban centers using Non-Single Occupant Vehicles (SOV) to 42% by 2010 and 45% by 2020. For residents of Seattle and its urban centers, the Comprehensive Plan includes the goal that 55% of all trips will be made by Non-SOV modes by 2010 and 60% by 2020. The implementation of the strategies and recommendations of the Pedestrian Master Plan will be instrumental in reaching these goals.

Back to Top

A. Policies and ProgramsTable 2: Sample Plannig Documents

There is support for pedestrian planning efforts at the local, regional, and state levels, as demonstrated by the plans listed in Table 2. City of Seattle policy initiatives, such as the Complete Streets Ordinance, Climate Action Now Plan, and Seattle Comprehensive Plan, propose improvements to the pedestrian environment and experience in order to encourage walking as a transportation choice and to improve public health and safety. In addition, the “Bridging the Gap” levy, which provides funding for various transportation projects, including a number of pedestrian facility improvements, was approved by Seattle voters in 2006.

Seattle laws, ordinances, and codes also significantly impact walking in the City. The municipal code is a particularly important document because it outlines Seattle’s zoning classifications, which regulate the use and bulk of buildings and structures throughout the City. [View Seattle’s Zoning Map.] The municipal code also includes standard speed limits throughout the City. As noted in Section 11.52.060, “Except in those instances where a different maximum lawful speed is provided by this subtitle or otherwise, no person shall operate any vehicle at speed in excess of twenty-five (25) miles per hour on any street.” Section 11.52.080 notes a maximum lawful speed of thirty (30) miles per hour on arterial streets except in those instances where a different maximum lawful speed is provided.

Figure 1: Sample Pedestrian Rules

Pedestrian-related laws are also covered in the Seattle Municipal Code, which regulates a range of safety issues such as pedestrian street crossings, walking along the roadway, and walking on bridges. A list of the types of pedestrian-related areas that the Seattle Municipal Code law covers (in Title 11, Section 4) is included in Figure 1. Additional codes, ordinances, and regulations that impact the pedestrian environment include:  

  • Washington State Rules of the Road
  • Director’s Rules (e.g. 04-01 on crosswalks, 11-2007 on Green Streets, 22-2005 on the Right-of-Way Improvements Manual, 2004-02 on Street and Sidewalk Pavement Opening and Restoration Rules, etc.)
  • General code-related documents
  • Community standards-related codes
  • Construction-related codes
  • Land use-related codes
  • Environmental protection codes

Various agencies and departments in Seattle are responsible for enforcing the regulations listed above, highlighting the need for both interagency and interdepartmental coordination. In addition to these regulations, the City’s pedestrian planning efforts are influenced by the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA’s implementing regulations require that all new and altered facilities—including sidewalks, street crossings, and related pedestrian facilities in the public right-of-way—be accessible to and usable by people with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) provide guidance for the design and construction of pedestrian facilities.

The City also has a vibrant array of ongoing pedestrian-related programs such as the SDOT Pedestrian Program and the Safe Routes to School Program. SDOT’s Pedestrian Program seeks to improve pedestrian safety and to encourage more walking by creating an environment where pedestrians can walk safely and comfortably. Creating safe walking and bicycling routes to Seattle schools is a top priority for Seattle. The Safe Routes to School program aims to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety near schools through education, encouragement, enforcement, evaluation, and engineering efforts. The program is an important piece of Seattle's “Bridging the Gap” transportation levy. The SDOT Safe Routes to School Program includes the Annual Program, the Focus School Program and the Mini-Grant Program. The purpose of this program is to:

  • Improve safety along designated school waking routes
  • Increase the number of students who walk or bike to school
  • Provide students and parents attractive alternatives to vehicular transportation, and
  • Promote healthy, active lifestyles

In addition to the programs discussed above, there are many committees, boards, and initiatives such as the Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board, City Council’s Special Committee on Pedestrian Safety, Mayor’s Youth Council, and the Sustainable Infrastructure Initiative that work on behalf of pedestrian issues in the City. There are committees and agencies at the regional and state level as well, such as the Puget Sound Regional Council’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, and the State of Washington Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee. Non-governmental organizations and initiatives promote the walking environment of the City including Feet First, Seattle Parks Foundation Bands of Green and Open Space Seattle. Some of these strive to provide pedestrian infrastructure on the ground, while others focus on education, awareness, and enforcement. The following section includes a broad overview of the land use and urban design characteristics found throughout Seattle that impact, both positively and negatively, the pedestrian environment.

Back to Top

B. Land Use and Urban Design

Seattle’s downtown and urban villages demonstrate the relationship between land use and urban design and the pedestrian environment. In these areas, the physical character of the community meshes well with all modes of transportation, supporting more than just automobile travel. Other areas of Seattle have physical characteristics that are more automobile-oriented, resulting in difficult conditions for pedestrians, poor access to transit, lack of destinations and services within walking distance to residences, and other issues that make walking a less viable mode of transportation. There are also a variety of issues such as ADA compliance and roadway crossing conditions that exist across all of the different land use types in the City. Table 3 includes a summary of general land use types found throughout Seattle alongside a summary of typical pedestrian issues.

Table 3: Land Use Types in Seattle and Typical Pedestrian Issues

Urban Core

 

Physical Features

Typical Pedestrian Issues

Urban Core

  • High density development
  • Pedestrian-scale
  • Mix of uses
  • Significant topography
  • Quiet side streets
  • Few pedestrian crossing islands
  • Wide streets to cross
  • Character varies block to block
  • Large-scale construction projects
  • Variety of travel options
  • Crosswalk encroachment by motor vehicles
  • Conflicts with turning vehicles
  • Aggressive drivers
  • Significant differences between day and night activity
  • ADA issues
  • High traffic volumes on some streets
  • Large numbers of pedestrians and high demand
  • Narrowed sidewalks due to placement of sidewalk cafes or street furniture
  • Driveways crossing the sidewalk
  • Sidewalk closures due to construction
  • Potential conflicts due to the frequency of transit stops and the high number of transit vehicles

Urban Village – Neighborhood Commercial

 

Physical Features

Typical Pedestrian Issues

Commercial Neighborhood

  • Mix of uses
  • Pedestrian-scale development, moderate density
  • Many pedestrian amenities
  • Vibrant streetscapes
  • Quality buffers
  • Range of crosswalk treatments
  • Sidewalk quality and material varies
  • High quality pedestrian environment
  • Sidewalk obstructions
  • Roads can be difficult to cross
  • Sidewalk maintenance
  • Access to transit varies
  • Signal timing issues
  • ADA issues
  • Uncontrolled crossing issues
  • Large numbers of pedestrians and high demand
  • Driveways crossing the sidewalk

 

Commercial Arterial

 

Physical Features

Typical Pedestrian Issues

Commercial Arterial

  • Auto-oriented development and scale
  • Few pedestrian crossing islands
  • Wide roads
  • Large distances between traffic signals
  • Single-use development
  • Few buffers
  • Wide roads, limited crossing opportunities
  • High traffic volumes and speeds
  • Conflicts at driveways
  • Uncomfortable for pedestrian travel due to noise and vehicle speed
  • Separation between pedestrian realm and front doors
  • ADA issues
  • Signal timing issues

Single-Family Residential

 

Physical Features

Typical Pedestrian Issues

Single Residential

  • Single-use development
  • Significant traffic calming
  • Sidewalk presence and quality varies
  • Quality buffers
  • Some areas lack sidewalks and curb ramps
  • Inconsistent curb ramp and sidewalk installation
  • Parking in pedestrian travel ways
  • Erosion in pedestrian travel way and maintenance
  • Lighting
  • Access to transit varies
  • ADA issues

Industrial

 

Physical Features

Typical Pedestrian Issues

Industrial

  • Single-use development
  • Auto-oriented development and scale
  • Disconnected sidewalk networks
  • Few buffers
  • Uncomfortable physical environment
  • Limited sight lines
  • Large turning vehicles
  • Lighting
  • ADA issues
  • Potential conflicts at driveways

 

 Back to Top




Home | About Us | Contact Us | Site Index | News | FAQs | E-Mail Alerts