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Small progress on Olive Way crosswalk

With the increased traffic in the area from trucks involved with the construction of the Capitol Hill light rail station and tunnel, there is good reason to be concerned about pedestrian safety on area streets — especially in areas that already have a lot of foot traffic and questionable crossing safety. Cap Hill blog Life on the Hill has been asking around Seattle’s Department of Transportation for answers on what they city is going to do to help make for a better walking environment. Here is what they heard back from SDOT’s pedestrian and bicycle safety group:

Based on the data that has been collected so far I can tell you that we are focusing on Boylston Ave E [as a possible crosswalk site] where there is a preferred pedestrian crossing. However before we can provide a good decision on what sort of crossing improvement can be made a more detailed look at the intersection and adjacent roadways is required.


Here is a map of the construction zone. The blue lines are the main truck routes in and out of the area. The yellow pin marks the point where SDOT is considering developing a crossing on Olive Way.


View Larger Map

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11 thoughts on “Small progress on Olive Way crosswalk

  1. As someone who drives very often in the Capitol hill area I really dont think this issue is in the hands of the city. In fact I challenge anybody that the problem is the pedestrian. 90 percent of the time a pedestrian is hit, they are crossing illegally. I have nearly hit several peds while driving and I am a very alert driver. There is a sense of entitlement that pedestrians have that they have the right away of.

    SMC 11.40.060 Prohibited crossing.

    No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and
    move into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is
    impossible for the driver to stop.

    I see this several times a night. People jump out in front of cars who have to slam on their brakes to avoid from being hit and then gingerly cross the street as nothing happened.

  2. “There is a sense of entitlement that pedestrians have that they have the right away.” — That’s because they DO have the right of way, at marked OR unmarked crosswalks (AKA every intersection).

    Drivers must yield to pedestrians at intersections – Vehicles shall stop at intersections to allow pedestrians and bicycles to cross the road within a marked or unmarked crosswalk (RCW 46.61.235).

  3. As someone who walks and cycles every day on Capitol Hill, it’s very clear to me that individuals operating automobiles have a pronounced sense that they are more entitled to the street than other individuals who happen to not be surrounded by 3,000 pounds of steel and glass.

    The municipal code that the first commenter cites clearly puts the higher burden on the vehicle, not the pedestrian. If it’s possible to stop, the vehicle is required to do so. If drivers find it inconvenient to drive slowly enough to see and react to pedestrians, well that’s too bad. Adjust your mind-set when wheeling your deadly weapon through the most densely populated neighborhood in the city.

  4. As someone who both DRIVES and WALKS in the Capitol Hill area, the issue is usually drivers. I see someone nearly hit every week when a driver takes a right without looking at the crosswalk on Olive and Denny.

    There are also drunk / crazy / both people crossing against lights in spite of traffic. I’m sure they nearly get hit sometimes, but they’re usually insane looking enough that they get noticed.

    “Driver,” there are two different problems here: one is pedestrians forcing drivers to stop. Those drivers have to slam on their breaks or tap a crazy-a** pedestrian. That sucks.

    On the flip side, pedestrians who are following the law and crossing with a walk sign who get hit are a lot worse off.

  5. I think part of the confusion comes from unmarked crosswalks, which includes basically all intersections (as cheesecake noted):

  6. Maybe it didn’t like the link the first time…

    I think part of the confusion comes from unmarked crosswalks, which includes basically all intersections (as cheesecake noted): http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/pedrcw.htm#crosswalk. I’ll walk in front of oncoming traffic at unmarked crosswalks if there’s sufficient time, visibility, etc. but I get the impression that drivers are surprised and feel wronged. This is worse on major roads like 24th, where there are technically a bunch of unmarked crosswalks, but of course no driver will ever stop for you.

    Another thing that hurts pedestrians is those traffic circles found on all the hill’s smaller streets. They force cars into (unmarked) crosswalks and where bikes tend to be. The plants in the circle itself often are high enough to restrict visibility. It’s usually easy to avoid other cars at these intersections, but pedestrians and bikes are smaller and more vulnerable.

  7. I’m a pedestrian and a driver and I think drivers are pretty oblivious to everything around them most of the time. But I found it interesting to read this Q & A in the PI.

    It describes the right-of-way when it comes to drivers vs. pedestrians in unmarked intersections. And it basically says that if a ped hasn’t stepped into the roadway / unmarked intersection then the driver is not required to stop (no specific law or code is cited).

  8. Regarding the Q&A article it is important to note who is commenting: Seattle Police Department. This is not the department that plans, constructs, and responds to how people are using the street (that is most often SDOT). This is the department that defines ‘illegal’ and ‘legal’ and enforcing these standards.

    Given this interpretation of the law there is a catch 22 for the pedestrian. Cars do not need to recognize the pedestrian until they start crossing; yet the pedestrian cannot start crossing if a car is ‘to close to respond. On a street with a semi consistent stream of cars, the pedestrian is stranded unable to initiate the cars to stop without being labeled a ‘dart-out’ (by the way, I’m not sure when something moving less than 3 mph was considered darting).

    I have heard countless times police officials comment that it is much harder to enforce car yielding to ped laws than ped jaywalking laws because cars get away faster. Makes me wonder if this interpretation of our law is for public safety, equity, or just convenience of the police.

  9. I continually hear that most pedestrians are hit by cars because they are running out into some street they don’t belong in. Get your facts straight:
    1) most pedestrians are hit while crossing at a signal with the signal giving them a walk sign. From the 2007 ped collision report:
    “The pedestrian was crossing with the signal in 51 percent of pedestrian collision incidents at intersections. Pedestrians were crossing at an intersection with no signal 28 percent of the time. Pedestrians crossing against a traffic signal were the third most common pedestrian action, though these accounted for only 11 percent.”
    See the report at http://www.seattle.gov/Transportation/docs/pmp/07%20Ped-Bike I couldn’t find a more recent report, but this follows recent trends.
    2) Police don’t enforce driver behavior, while they reprimand pedestrians all the time. In 2007, only 386 tickets were given for ‘failure to yield’ to drivers. 2,524 ‘jaywalking’ tickets were given in that same period. In 2007, there were 492 pedestrian collisions, with around half of these resulting in a failure to yield ticket. Tickets are mainly given when there is a collision – when there is a blatant requirement to write a ticket.
    3)Streets are public space, not car space. There has been a gradual appropriation of street space by a subconscious car culture (not saying conspiracy, just gradual cultural redefining). Now, land space for cars is about 30-50% of a cities land area. I recommend reading this other blog that talks about the history of jaywalking:
    http://westnorth.com/2009/02/01/a-history-of-jaywalking/

  10. Word, thanks pedestrian. I love hearing (on blogs, in person, from friends and not) that pedestrians seem to have some overblown sense of entitlement (whoever started this trend of pointing out people’s sense of entitlement should be water-boarded) as if to say that they are somehow the only ones. We all have a sense of entitlement to public space. From the pedestrian trying to cross the street, the bicyclist hugging the side of the road, and the delivery man trying to park in it, to the driver honking at and tailgating everyone in his/her way that goes even a few miles per hr too slow for them. Seeing as how it is public, providing for everyone must be attempted. Providing people in cars the majority of the street above all else and only giving a safe convenient crossing every 5 blocks just does not cut it. Of course a pedestrian’s sense of entitlement is apparent, the pedestrian is hardly given any rights to their commons while others get unequaled access and domination…and treat it like crap all the while. What would you do if the City locked you out of a public park so that a group of folks could solely benefit from it and they were getting pissed drunk throwing up all over the plants and throwing their beer cans on the ground? You’d be friggin’ pissed.

  11. I frequently drive and cross (as a pedestrian) the intersection at East Olive and Harvard, as I live nearby. A lot of drivers have the sense that there is no need to stop or slow down for a pedestrian who is seeking to cross at that intersection, as there is no marked crosswalk. “Driver”, citing “SMC 11.40.060 Prohibited crossing” seems to demonstrate this view.

    As the other commentators have made clear, a pedestrian also has the right of way where they enter the roadway at an unmarked intersection. This intersection is such an unmarked crosswalk, where the pedestrian has the right of way at the time that they enter the roadway.