Ever since Grant and I started taking the bus during our commute to Redmond, I’ve been ranging from irritated to outraged at the way drivers seem to go out of their way to mow us down at a few specific crosswalks – namely, all three crosswalks at the Olive Way on- and off-ramps to I-5 Northbound.
And since I recently started commuting on foot to my office on Olive Way, I find myself in this scenario even more frequently. I tend to be rather ballsy as pedestrians go, opting to set foot in the crosswalk, make eye contact with drivers, and pointedly stare down those who look like they intend not to stop. This tends to work most of the time, but not all, and it’s not effective in the dark. And there are SO many pedestrians who seem to cower on the sidewalk, and await a critical mass of pedestrian energy to overturn the mean vehicles’ self-appointed right-of-way.
Now, make no mistake – I frickin’ hate pedestrians who jaywalk dangerously and inconsiderately, and I don’t go out of my way to help out people on foot who only serve to make traffic worse for all. But that’s just not the case here – in two of the three crosswalks in question, the pedestrians have the right of way ALL THE TIME, and in the third, they have it when the light is green (but traffic that’s turning still presents a real hazard). I know I probably sound like an old granny whining about those darn cars driving so fast, but after making firm eye contact with drivers who looked at me, acknowledged that I was crossing, and sped up and swerved around me or in front of me, I’m just sick of it.
So I wrote to the Seattle Department of Transportation. And to my surprise, they got back to me very quickly, with a very sweet, receptive, thorough, and proactive email, as well as a courtesy phone call! I was so pleased to get such a positive response with such a quick turnaround. They also let me know that since I-5 is an interstate highway, it falls under Washington State’s jurisdiction rather than the city’s, so the two departments will have to liaise to work on a solution. The DOT employee who emailed me back also solicited my feedback about what times of day were the most trafficked, etc. and she let me know that it might take several weeks to set up the appropriate traffic surveys and cameras.
I was just so pleased to get a real response from a real person that it was icing on the delicious transportation cake to be told they were already looking into what action would be taken. The whole interaction really reaffirmed my faith in local government – it might sound a bit corny, but given that my dear mum has worked in similar organizations throughout most of my life, I knew how slow and ineffective local government agencies could potentially be. So thank you, Seattle, for disproving that negative stereotype.
I’m leaving the country tomorrow for a family reunion in England, but I sure hope I see cameras upon my return. For the first time ever, I won’t feel mildly creeped out that they’re recording me, since I know it’s for a good cause that I myself pushed for. Hooray for not getting hit by cars!
ETA — When Grant and I returned from our two-week sojourn in the UK, I saw a crew doing some minor maintenance on the crosswalk area for the Olive Way off-ramp. Namely, scraping the graffiti and stickers off of the “Pedestrians Crossing” sign. They also seemed to be drilling a lot into the ground the following day, but I haven’t seen any marked improvements yet, nor camera crews. But then, I was gone an awful lot, so there may have been crews while I was out of town lately. Eagerly awaiting future improvements…