Give Pedestrians the Green in Seattle
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There's a clear opportunity to improve safety and substantially improve comfort for people walking: do something about those "push to cross" buttons, better known as "beg buttons", all over the city.
Whether you don’t hit the beg button in time or don’t even notice it, you have two options for what to do when you miss your chance for the walk signal:
1) If you want to be an obedient Seattleite, push the button and wait your turn. This means you get to see all those cars go in the same direction that you want to with their green light, while you’re stuck standing there and staring at that red hand. Then, you wait for everyone else to go in all other directions, before finally, minutes later, you get your chance to cross.
2) Eschewing Seattle tradition and risking life and limb, you decide to live boldly and scamper across the street. You then notice those turning drivers that aren’t expecting anyone to be crossing and who suddenly notice you too, in time to avoid making you a hood ornament. Breathless and invigorated, you feel like you’ve avoided the worst until you see that police officer waiting for you on the opposite curb…
Frankly, both options are unacceptable: nobody wants to wait when they “should” have the right of way, but crossing against the signal exacerbates conflict between people driving and walking and is dangerous for everyone. In short, having to push a button to cross makes you inconvenienced at best and vulnerable at worst. And, pedestrians are already the most vulnerable roadway users; people walking who are hit by a car are more likely to die in a collision than bicyclists or drivers.
To put this solution in perspective, there are some problems with our transportation network that will take millions of dollars to fix, or even billions, such as filling in the missing sidewalks across the city. But no change to our transportation network would be as cost effective at transforming the experience for people walking as removing beg buttons. A change in policy and signal programming would revolutionize what it means to be a pedestrian in Seattle.
In a world where Seattle’s political climate is more divergent than ever with national politics, now’s the time to take control of what we can control: our city.
Seattle can do this, and here's how: ban beg buttons in all urban villages and urban centers and lower SDOT's engineering threshold to have the beg button be eliminated for the entire day for any crosswalk signal that is activated 25% of the time for any 6-hour period during the day.
Transform the transportation network by positioning Seattle as a leader in safer streets and active transportation. Don’t discriminate against people walking – let all people cross the street at the same time whether walking, driving, or biking.
Give pedestrians the green.
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