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“Dear Neighbor” Letter Backfires

Roosevelt Way NE SDOT May 2015Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board (SPAB) member Jacob Struiksma took one look at a May 26 letter from Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and called into question the plan for a Complete Street along a busy retail corridor.

Jacob, who is blind, has strong opinions about what constitutes safe streets for all. He wrote:

This is crazy that curb bulbs not going to happen at all the intersections on Roosevelt Way. Why do people that walk have to be second to everything? Why do people that walk get the short end of things all the time?

Jacob’s quick response alerted fellow SPAB members and the Washington State pedestrian group Feet First about safety improvements as SDOT repaves Roosevelt Way NE. Both groups will review this new twist on Complete Streets and Vision Zero in their policy discussions in the near future.

A robust Complete Streets Policy is one of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways 10 advocacy priorities for 2015

SDOT’s letter read in part:

Dear Neighbor,

SDOT will periodically distribute project updates about the Roosevelt Paving & Safety Improvement Project.

We write today to let you know that the expected start of construction has been moved back from late September until the end of the year.  Perhaps more significant, fiscal constraints have forced SDOT to remove construction of most of the curb bulbs and expanded tree pits, which we’d previously indicated would be included in the project.  (The one positive benefit of dropping these elements from the project is that construction will likely be significantly shorter than the ten months previously expected.)

Curb bulbs extend the sidewalk out, typically into a parking lane at intersections, in part to ensure that curb ramps (wheelchair ramps) meet the federally mandated standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  They have the additional benefit of making pedestrians more visible to motorists, and vehicles more visible to those pedestrians.  They also have the effect of shortening the crossing distance for these pedestrians.  As such, curb bulbs increase safety for pedestrians, and seem to enjoy broad community support.

Sadly, the curb bulbs and enlarged tree pits were determined to be the most logical project elements that could be eliminated and bring the budget back into balance.  The curb bulbs were initially included in part to provide adequate room for standard curb ramps.  However, we were able to accommodate the ramps and meet design standards without the curb bulbs in most locations.

We look forward to using a safe, welcoming Roosevelt Way NE in the coming years.