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Delivering a first-rate transportation system for Seattle Scott Kubly, Director







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State of Pedestrian Environment
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Becoming the Most Walkable City
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people crossing the street downtownSeattle has important strengths on which to build as the City works to encourage walking, to reduce the number and severity of pedestrian crashes, and to engage the community in a meaningful dialogue about what is needed to create and connect walkable urban villages and important destinations throughout the City.

Current pedestrian infrastructure in the City is an important asset. Seattle has connected sidewalk networks and high-quality buffers in many parts of the City. It has led the nation in utilizing traffic calming measures such as curb cuts and chicanes, and uses a range of other pedestrian-oriented design strategies, such as overhead pedestrian crossing signs, raised crosswalks, and accessible curb ramps. The City has an active driveway and curb ramp retrofit program that is improving the existing environment, and its new residential and commercial developments include features that encourage walking. The City has been a national leader in its use of innovative pedestrian measures, including pedestrian “half” signals, unique signage, and raised crosswalks on arterial roads.

Seattle also has some challenges. The City’s topography creates obstacles for pedestrians, including steep grades and limited sight lines. There are many areas of the City without sidewalks, and a number of residential neighborhoods lack curb ramps. The distance between traffic signals, and the lack of pedestrian crossing islands on busy arterial roads, makes it difficult for pedestrians to cross safely.

Current City policies and practices also create challenges for pedestrians in Seattle. The City does not regularly install advanced stop lines, and there are fewer marked crosswalks at unsignalized intersections than in many other cities in the U.S. The City uses pedestrian push buttons in business districts and along main streets with substantial pedestrian volumes, where a pedestrian signal phase should be automatic. In many areas, the signal timing could be improved to make crossings more pedestrian-friendly.

The practices of developers and private citizens present challenges as well. For example, vehicles parked on curbs block pedestrian travelways. In other cases, construction sites create unnecessary obstructions by closing sidewalks and forcing pedestrians into the roadway.

As Seattle embarks on its exciting and timely Pedestrian Master Plan process, it has both strengths to build on and challenges to address. The State of the Pedestrian Environment Report provides an overview of existing opportunities and constraints to walking in Seattle and sets the stage for subsequent tasks that will include more in-depth analysis and recommendations for areas such as funding, education, and encouragement.

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