Pedestrian safety

Eastlake is not only a vital community of residents and businesses, public parks, a public school, and an official pedestrian and bicycle shoreline loop around Lake Union. Eastlake is also a corridor which tens of thousands of motorists daily pass through, many on their way to or from I-5 or SR-520, the University District, South Lake Union, or downtown. There are pedestrian safety problems on all of Eastlake’s streets. Below are some ways that the Eastlake Community Council is working to improve pedestrian safety in our neighborhood.

Opening on the Seattle School Traffic Safety Committee The Eastlake Community Council encourages neighborhood residents to apply for a position on the Seattle Department of Transportation’s School Traffic Safety Committee, http://www.seattle.gov/school-traffic-safety-committee. The volunteer board, which was created by the Seattle City Council in 1975 to improve traffic safety for all of Seattle’s school children, advises the Mayor and City Council with respect to school traffic safety, including adult crossing guard locations, school traffic signs and signals, school safety patrols, bicycle facilities, sidewalks and student traffic safety education. Board members serve a three-year term, with an opportunity to serve a second term. Members must be Seattle residents and may not be City employees. The board meets the fourth Friday of each month from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. typically at Seattle Public Schools headquarters with occasional field meetings at school sites or school crossings. Ideal committee members may include parents of school children, frequent walkers and bikers, people interested in pedestrian or bicycle encouragement and those with expertise in public health or child injury prevention. Submit a resume and cover letter explaining your interest via email by 5 p.m. on January 29, 2017, to Serena Lehman (206-684-7577) at serena.lehman@seattle.gov. If you apply, please send a copy to ECC at info@eastlakeseattle.org, as we could write a letter of endorsement.

Lakeview Blvd.’s missing sidewalk — a hazard and barrier to pedestrians Between the E. Blaine and E. Howe Street stairs, a sidewalk is missing on the east side of Lakeview Blvd., a principal arterial. (See two photos below.) Its absence is a risk and barrier for the many pedestrians from throughout Seattle who use this area for commuting, exercise, sight-seeing, or to reach homes, businesses, or parks. Lakeview Blvd. is a walking and bicycling route to downtown via Melrose Avenue or the Lakeview overpass and to the University District via either Eastlake Ave. or Harvard and 10th Aves. It offers access to points north, south, east, and west. Yet for this key block, the sidewalk is missing.

The sidewalk is especially needed by the thousands each week who use the E. Blaine and E. Howe Street public staircases that extend east from Lakeview Blvd. up Capitol Hill to 10th Avenue East, and west to Lake Union via the Park Department’s Howe St. public staircase through the I-5 Colonnade Open Space. Many enjoy these stairs as an exercise circuit.

To traverse the east side of this block of Lakeview Blvd., pedestrians must either walk alongside moving traffic in the roadway’s east side, or make two crossings of Lakeview to use the sidewalk on its west side. Either way, they encounter fast-moving arterial traffic, including from the I-5 northbound off-ramp. It’s one of the City’s worse sidewalk gaps, and a tragedy waiting to happen.

SDOT has studied installing 340 feet of 6-foot sidewalk, concrete curb and gutter (planting strips would be omitted in order to minimize costs). With or without the proposed sidewalk, a retaining wall is likely needed, as the hillside has already slumped across the curb into the roadway, forcing pedestrians further into the street. A sidewalk without a retaining wall is unlikely to be sustainable either for landslide safety, for pedestrian safety, or for preserving on-street parking near the steps and Colonnade. Neighborhood Street Funds should pay for a share of the retaining wall, but SDOT’s main budget should pay for most of it.

For questions or to get involved in this effort, contact the Eastlake Community Council at info@eastlakeseattle.org (206-322-5463). ECC is a neighborhood association founded in 1971.

view-south-from-intersection-of-harvard-ave-e-lakeview-blvd-area-of-proposed-sidewalk-is-located-in-the-left-center-frame-south-of-the-e-2.jpg
In the photo above, we are looking south on Lakeview Blvd. The Howe Street stairs are at left, with the block of missing sidewalk also on left

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In the photo above, we are looking north on Lakeview Blvd. The Blaine Street stairs are at right with the block of missing sidewalk also at right.

Bring back the sidewalk on west side of Harvard Ave. E. that was swallowed up by I-5 Once there was a sidewalk (along with homes, and other parts of Eastlake and North Capitol Hill) on the west side of Harvard Avenue E., north from where it intersects with Lakeview Blvd. and E. Howe St. Now as a result of the 1962 I-5 constructon there’s a sidewalk only on the east side of Harvard Avenue E. and for 300 feet to the north this sidewalk is steeply elevated above the street (hence not within reach if you are walking in the street); and to the south this “sidewalk” ends in stairs that are impassable for wheelchairs, strollers, and some others. See the photos below.

harvard-ave-e-missing-sidewalk-facing-north-from-lakeview-blvd-and-e-howe-st.jpg
In the photo above, facing north up Harvard Avenue East, note the steps at the south end of the “sidewalk” on the street’s right (east) side, and the missing sidewalk on its left (west) side

harvard-avenue-e-looking-south-with-missing-sidewalk-on-west.jpg
In the photo above, facing south down Harvard Avenue East, note the absence of a sidewalk on the right (west) side, and the inability of pedestrians in the street to reach the sidewalk on the left (east) side.

There’s still room to bring back the sidewalk on the west side of Harvard Avenue E., and its return is badly needed. Not to do so is terribly unsafe and unfair. Most people with disabilities or with baby strollers cannot use the stairs at the sidewalk’s south end steps and hence they must walk in the street. And others who would like to get to the sidewalk from Harvard Avenue E. just can’t because its southernmost 300 feet are steeply elevated above the street.

Before I-5 was built, the sidewalk that was on the west side of Harvard Avenue E. (unlike the one that remains on the east side) was level with the street (not elevated) and it had no stairs to block wheelchairs or strollers. But this west sidewalk isn’t there any more—and it’s time to bring it back!

A suggested initial priority is that the sidewalk on the west side of Harvard Avenue E. should extend north at least 300 feet, allowing pedestrians to cross Harvard Ave. E. to where the sidewalk on the east side of Harvard Avenue E. comes down to street level. In the long run, the sidewalk on the west side of Harvard Avenue E. should be put back for the full five blocks it used to run north to E. Miller St.—now a spectacular viewing area over I-5 out to Lake Union, Elliott Bay, the Olympic Mountains, and unmatchable sunsets.

Please help! Write (or collect signatures on a petition!) asking the East District Council to support use of the Neighborhood Park and Street Fund for the Harvard Avenue E. west sidewalk. Address your e-mail to the East District Council and send it c/o District Coordinator Tim Durkan, tim.durkan@seattle.gov. Please also cc the ECC at info@eastlakeseattle.org. Even better, click on this link [http://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/Neighborhoods/Districts/East/east-dc-council-member-orgs.pdf] for the list of organizations that have a vote on the East District Council, and ask them to vote for the Harvard Avenue East sidewalk when it comes up before the East District Council. For a one-page flier with much of the above information about the project proposal, click here).

Need for a sidewalk on the south side of E. Allison Street between Eastlake and Fairview avenues In February 2016, the Eastlake Community Council submitted to the City government an application for Neighborhood Park and Street Funds for a sidewalk on the south side of E. Allison Street between Eastlake and Fairview avenues. Your help can make this funding happen (see below).

The block of E. Allison St. between Eastlake and Fairview avenues is among the steepest that lacks sidewalks in any urban village. Those with wheelchair or stroller and many others walk up or down E. Allison St. with difficulty. So do bicyclists, many of whom (because it’s steep to ride up) must walk their bike. Drivers also have difficulty walking to and from parked cars, which are not safely parked being without curbs.

A Neighborhood Park and Street Fund award that ECC obtained in 2014 will soon complete sidewalk/curb/gutter on the block’s north side. But there’s no sidewalk/curb/gutter on the south side. Rainwater gushes down the south side of Allison St., eroding and undermining the edge of the pavement.

Completion of sidewalks on both sides of this block of Allison Street was called for in the 1998 Eastlake Neighborhood Plan (p. XI-10). The Mayor- and City Council-adopted 1999 Approval and Adoption Matrix (p. 41) singled out a sidewalk on the south side of Allison St. between Eastlake and Fairview avenues as being “high priority for the community.” The Matrix listed the project as being “in progress” and stated: “Recommendation will be implemented, pending approval of funding.” Seventeen years later, the south side sidewalk/curb/gutter is not yet in progress and has not yet been funded.

A letter to the Eastlake Community Council from a wheelchair user describes the difficulty of safely going up and down the parts of E. Allison St. that lack sidewalks: “When the street is slick from rain, ice, or snow, the lack of a continuous sidewalk on that block of Allison makes it extremely difficult for pedestrians to get down the hill safely.” A sidewalk would “increase access for all residents whose mobility is limited to services in our neighborhood and to public transportation.”

Pedestrians who attempt to walk up and down the portions of E. Allison Street that lack sidewalks are at risk of falling, and face the further risk of being hit by motor vehicles. Completed sidewalks on both sides of Allison St. would reduce the risk of falling and also the risk of being hit by a motor vehicle. Completed curbs would make it safer to park cars, which otherwise lack a firm wheel stop. Completed gutters would prevent runoff from undermining the pavement.

The decision on funding will be made jointly by the Lake Union District Council (a City advisory body) and the Seattle Department of Transportation. The Eastlake Community Council is collecting letters jointly addressed to SDOT and the Lake Union District council urging the funding of this sidewalk. Even better, ECC would welcome petition signatures; contact us at info@eastlakeseattle.org for a petition. Please help!

Traffic light for crossing of Eastlake Avenue at Howe Street In February 2016, the Eastlake Community Council submitted to the City government an application for Neighborhood Park and Street Funds for a traffic light to cross Eastlake Avenue at E. Howe Street. Your help can make this funding happen (see below).

The heavy, fast traffic on Eastlake Avenue makes it dangerous for pedestrians to try to cross this major arterial where there is no traffic light The Harborview Injury Prevention Program found in a study of unsignalized crossings of Eastlake Avenue that when pedestrians step into the street–when state law requires motorists to stop to allow them to cross–99 out of 100 motorists do not do so. No other street in Seattle has a worse record of driver non-compliance.

Pedestrians and bicyclists find it difficult to cross Eastlake Ave. safely at E. Howe St. Many motor vehicles on sloped Eastlake Ave. move at or above 30 mph. Collisions at this intersection have injured those crossing. Two able-bodied pedestrians we know of have become permanently disabled from being hit by a motor vehicle while trying to safely cross at this location. In a 1994 study, the Harborview Injury Prevention Center found the crossings of Eastlake Avenue to have among Seattle’s highest percentages of motorists not yielding to a pedestrian at a crosswalk who has stepped off the curb.

The proposed solution is a traffic light at the intersection of Eastlake Avenue and E. Howe Street – either a pedestrian countdown signal or a rapid rectangular flashing beacon (RRFB). While the existing median island gives some refuge, a traffic light is needed to protect pedestrians and bicyclists seeking to cross Eastlake Avenue at E. Howe Street in the face of motor vehicles that are speeding up and down the hill at this location.

The E. Howe Street crossing of Eastlake Avenue is an important link to the Parks Department/WSDOT public stairway that crosses under Interstate 5 in the I-5 Colonnade Open Space in line with Howe Street; and further uphill to SDOT’s Howe Street stairs that climb Capitol Hill from Lakeview Blvd. to 10th Avenue East.

Crossings of Eastlake Avenue at E. Howe St. will further increase upon completion of already permitted large mixed-use and laboratory buildings on the west side of this block of Eastlake Avenue; and the E. Howe St. right-of-way stairway/walkway between Eastlake Ave. and Fairview Ave. that will be built with the help of a developer, the Neighborhood Matching Fund and other funding sources.

The current lack of a traffic signal for crossing Eastlake Avenue at E. Howe Street poses a particular danger for people with disabilities, as some have a slower pace that makes them more vulnerable to being hit by the cars that rarely stop even for pedestrians who have begun to step into the roadway. In fact,

The proposed traffic light would directly address safety needs by reducing the current danger to pedestrians and bicyclists who attempt to cross the sloped Eastlake Avenue at E. Howe Street amidst heavy and fast-moving traffic. A traffic light at this location was identified as a safety priority in the 1998 Eastlake Neighborhood Plan and the 1999 Approval and Adoption Matrix that the Mayor and City Council adopted in response to the neighborhood plan.

The decision on funding will be made jointly by the Lake Union District Council (a City advisory body) and the Seattle Department of Transportation. The Eastlake Community Council is collecting letters jointly addressed to SDOT and the Lake Union District council urging the funding of this traffic light. Even better, ECC would welcome petition signatures; contact us at info@eastlakeseattle for a petition. Please help!

Traffic lights needed for other safe crossings of Eastlake Avenue

It is a priority of the 1998 Eastlake Neighborhood Plan (adopted by the Mayor and City Council in 1999–see links at right) to improve pedestrian safety, especially by adding traffic signals (stoplights) on Eastlake Avenue where they are missing. Through the efforts of the Eastlake Community Council in recent years, pedestrian countdown signals have been added for pedestrians crossing Eastlake Avenue at Louisa St., Boston Street, and Allison Street. An example of a pedestrian-actuated beacon along Eastlake Avenue is now in place at Blaine Street.

In 2015, ECC was unsuccessful in convincing SDOT to allow funding from the Neighborhood Park and Street Fund for a pedestrian countdown signal (stop light with walk/wait light) or flashing yellow beacon (without a walk/wait light) for a safer pedestrian crossing of Eastlake Avenue at E. Newton Street. To see the detailed application (including a photo and map), click here. Contributing to the safety problem is that at Newton St., Eastlake Avenue is wide and sloping, with many vehicles in both directions (but especially in the downhill, southbound direction) seriously exceeding the speed limit.

Because of the importance of Newton Street as a pedestrian corridor, SDOT, the Department of Neighborhoods, and the Eastlake Community Council through the Neighborhood Matching Fund recently built sidewalks on the block of E. Newton St. east from Eastlake Avenue to Franklin Avenue East. East Newton Street is the closest wheelchair-accessible and stroller-accessible route for pedestrians east-west between the Capitol Hill/Lakeview Blvd./Colonnade area and the Eastlake/Lake Union area. Wheelchairs and strollers and others who have trouble with stairs cannot use the Howe St. steps that go under I-5. To go in the east-west direction these “wheeled pedestrians” use a pathway that heads through the I-5 Colonnade Open Space (a City park) onto E. Newton Street.

Petition signatures are needed to show City funders that there is community support for installing a stop light or flashing beacon for pedestrians to cross Eastlake Avenue at E. Newton Street. Click here for a copy of the petition, which states: “We the undersigned urge the City of Seattle to make it safer to cross Eastlake Avenue at E. Newton Street by installing either a pedestrian countdown signal (stoplight and walk/wait light) or a pedestrian-actuated flashing beacon (without walk/wait light).” The petition allows each signatory, if they wish, to state a preference between these two options.

Please help enable a safer pedestrian crossing by signing the petition and encouraging others to do so. A petition with even just one signature can help! Please send signed petitions or drop them by to the Eastlake Community Council at 117 E. Louisa St. #1, Seattle, WA 98102. Petitions must have original signatures and contact information for each. For questions or more information, contact ECC at info@eastlakeseattle.org or (206) 322-5463.

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