Seattle’s Lake Washington Boulevard crosswalks are a hazard to pedestrians and motorists. Many (but not all, thankfully) drivers have forgotten about that quaint old concept of pedestrian right of way. That’s why crossing that street can be a real crap shoot. And if you, like me, cross with a dog and infant–crap shoot isn’t the ideal or safest way to cross the street.
All of us drive along Lake Washington Boulevard and many of us who hike the Madrona Woods trails also use the Lake Washington Blvd. crosswalks in order to get to the Lake itself. I find using these crosswalks an increasing hazard due to speeding, negligence and just plain rudeness of drivers. I walk my dog almost every day through Madrona Woods and cross at the crosswalk in front of the Madrona Dance Studio. Often, I also have my 2 1/2 year old son, Jonah with me strapped to a backpack. Even standing smack dab in the crosswalk, oncoming traffic doesn’t stop.
I’ve developed a entire repertory of crosswalk techniques:
1. take two steps into the crosswalk and beg them to stop
2. stand at the roadside but point insistently at the painted lines indicating a crosswalk (& hence pedestrian right of way)
3. walk into the middle of the road and dare them to stop
I don’t mean this to sound as if I’m a reckless pedestrian (I most definitely am not). I surely value my own health and that of my family above making a point about driving etiquette. But the driving along Lake Washington is dangerous to pedestrians, period.
The worst driving behavior I’ve seen involves speeding (do any cars drive under 40 mph on Lake Washington Blvd?), inattention (try looking at a map in your front seat while a man, dog and baby are attempting to cross in front of you), or cluelessness (how ’bout the driver who blithely drives by me standing in the middle of the crosswalk with his hands upraised as if to say (“What you want me to do?”). Sometimes, drivers recognize their mistake, slam on their brakes to try to stop, and in the process come very close to initiating a 2 or more car pileup. I’ve heard plenty of screeching tires on the Boulevard!
This hazard presents a serious danger to pedestrians. Our Council members and City agencies (Traffic, Police) should take notice and address it. I sent an e mail to Richard Conlin about this subject and he replied (this was about a year ago) that the City was attempting to address this issue comprehensively in order to encompass all City crosswalks. All well and good–but what was the outcome? Nothing’s changed down on Lake Washington Blvd.!
My strong suggestions:
1. mark crosswalks much more clearly with blinking yellow lights or (short of that) signs without lights (many crosswalks are unmarked except for the actual painted crosswalk)
2. traffic enforcement action to target speeders and those who ignore the right of pedestrians
3. clear all underbrush and debris away from Madrona Woods trails that abut roadside crosswalks
I contacted the Department of Traffic last year about the tall grass and weeds which obscured driver views of pedestrians using the Madrona dance Studio crosswalk. It took them several months of interagency battling before an agency acknowledged responsibility and removed the obstruction. Surely, we can do better.