For years, Seattle City Hall has allowed developers to shut down the sidewalk in front of construction sites—sometimes for weeks or months at a stretch. The incontrovertible truth of human behavior is that pedestrians rarely cross the street. Say what you like about right, wrong, scofflaws, or Darwin Awards, the fact is that pedestrians will walk into traffic around these construction sites. It's guaranteed danger. It's unnecessary. It's easily solved by requiring developers to set up a temporary protected pathway around the construction site. And if we don't require that, someone's eventually gonna get injured or killed.
I've written about this problem again and again. Other writers have written about it. The city issued a report in 2008 saying this was a problem. And even elected officials have acknowledged that this is a problem. But for at least six years now, the Seattle City Council and the mayor's office have said two things: (1) They're working on fixing the issue, and (2) they'd never, ever shut down both sides of the sidewalk.
Here's the scene today on 11th Avenue between Pike and Union Streets—smack in the middle of the Pike/Pine overlay district, which is designed for pedestrians, and on a block that city law designates as a "principal pedestrian street"—where both sidewalks are shut down and walkers must contend with drivers:
There's been a construction project on both sides of this street for weeks. There is no pedestrian passageway right now. Those orange rods aren't for pedestrians, either. There's a truck and other construction equipment behind them. So you're supposed to walk down the middle of the street with traffic—like these people did on a nearby Capitol Hill street—to get through:
This happens all over town, all the time.
Is this the biggest issue in the city? Obviously not. Is it a problem? Yes. It's a problem that former mayors Greg Nickels and Mike McGinn, and the city council, have ducked for years and years, a problem that nobody with the power to fix has does anything meaningful to fix, and a problem that could be easily solved by requiring a temporary pathway be built around construction sites. At the very least, in parts of the city designed for pedestrians. Good development is good for Seattle, and it should be encouraged—while making room for humans to move around on the public property near the development. Other real cities do this. But lawmakers in Seattle don't do a damn thing.
Why not? Because the Seattle City Council hates all pedestrians, obviously, and wants them killed.