Capitol Hill residents, activists, and their dogs took a walk on Sunday carrying signs with a photograph of Max Richards who died after being struck by a motorist on September 21.
“To feel that the community is concerned is very special,” Marilyn Black, Richards’ wife, told CHS about the outpouring of support.
Central Seattle Greenways organized the walk to remember Richards and bring awareness to their call for safer streets in the city.
Her neighbors have embraced her, Black said, bringing her food and words of comfort, but it still doesn’t feel real that Richards, 79, is gone.
Richards died after being hit by a driver as he walked his dog across Belmont Ave E near Bellevue Place E. Pink, the dog, was unharmed. The collision remains under investigation by Seattle Police.
Prior to Richards’ death, Black said she had concerns about pedestrian safety in Seattle, especially compared to their previous home in Melbourne, Australia. She even mapped out what she thought was a safe night-time walking route with her husband. But he liked to explore, she said, and only followed the map a few times.
Black plans to continue to advocate for safer streets. Richards often worked toward social improvements.
“It’s for him that I do it,” Black said.
This wasn’t the first time Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, which is made up of about 20 neighborhood groups, has honored someone killed or injured by a motorist. In fact the memorial walk for Richards was the 16th event Greenways has organized following similar circumstances, Cathy Tuttle, founding executive director said.
“Every one has been a person of merit. Every one has been a tragedy that’s changed not just the person who died, but their families, their friends, their communities,” Tuttle said. “… And there’s no reason that we have to have these horrible fatalities, these serious injuries.”
The tools to resolve the issue are available, she said.
“It’s a tragedy that could have been prevented with good street engineering,” Tuttle told CHS about Richards’ death.
Along with Richards’ wife, son Andrew Richards, and Greenways members, some others who attended didn’t know Richards or just knew him from walking around the neighborhood.
Gabe Joseph didn’t know Richards, but lives a few blocks from where he was hit. Joseph said he carries a flashlight on his walks and is often worried about his safety.
Seattle needs more marked crosswalks and to enforce its own laws, he said.
“The city should put its money where its mouth is,” he said.
Rene Costales said he met Richards while walking his dog and came to the walk to remember him. Richards’ death, Costales said, is a reminder that as neighborhoods and the city grows, changes need to be made.
Generally, Costales feels safe while out walking, but has seen poor driving behavior many times.
“So the issue hits home for me,” he said.
Sunday afternoon, the group gathered at the intersection where Richards was struck — Bellevue Place E and Belmont Ave E. There is a small park, Summit Place, with a large, old tree in the center. Black said it was a favorite spot of Richards and he took Black there to see the tree change with the seasons.
“I suppose I can’t think of a more fitting place for him to say goodbye to life than by this tree,” Black said. “There was some comfort in that for me.”
Richards’ family and others who participated in the memorial walk laid flowers at the base of the tree, and Black read two of the English literature professor’s poems. Richards spent most of his career as a professor of English literature at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. Two years ago this month, Richards and Black moved from Melbourne to Seattle so Black could attend a masters program at Seattle University.
From there, the group walked to Cal Anderson Park to discuss what Greenways is doing to push the city to make streets safer including an online petition urging elected officials to allocate another $3 million in the 2017 for safer streeters under Seattle’s Vision Zero program that aims to achieve no fatalities or serious injuries by 2030.
At least some of the funds would be for spot improvements like improving crosswalks, adding speed bumps or other safety features.
Tuttle admitted $3 million isn’t a lot when talking about transportation improvements, but it’s enough to make some changes.
“I have a lot of confidence that we will be successful,” Tuttle told CHS about getting the funding allocated to Vision Zero.
The petition is available here.
Neighbors are also asking for more to be done at the site where the fatal collision occurred. A Seattle Department of Transportation official said a traffic study will be done at the intersection to provide engineers with data to assess the traffic flow in the area and possible safety changes. Neighbors have so far collected 500 signatures on a petition asking for a painted crosswalk on the street.