This car is about to zip by me at high speed while I’m at the edge of his lane. 

There are several streets in Seattle that function more like highways, or even freeways, than city streets.  If you routinely cross Rainier, Denny, 15th Ave NW, or one of the other dozen or so 4+ lane streets at an uncontrolled intersection, then you know what I mean.  Let’s take my commute as an example.  The pedestrian portion of my commute involves crossing Rainier Ave S. at S. King St., which has no marked crosswalk. 

Legally, the second I step off the curb*, most lanes of traffic** have to stop for me.  It’s an intersection, and therefore it’s an unmarked crosswalk.  But in practice, I’d guess a good half of the cars don’t obey this rule and keep driving.  Not only is this illegal, it can put me in great danger, especially if this starts happening in both directions while I’m in the middle of the road.  I’ve had a bus do this to me (at least he yelled “sorry” out his window, though it was followed by “there was someone behind me”, which fails as a logical excuse).  I’ve had people yell “get out of the road” as they zip by.

I’ve been annoyed enough at this behavior that I thought I’d write up a post about it.  Wanting a picture for my post, I pulled out my cell phone to snap a picture while I crossed.  But everyone stopped.  This happened again the next day.  And the next.  And it feels like my cell phone is causing this politeness – when I  aim my phone at someone that is clearly about to cut me off, and they slam on the brakes.  In the end it’s been around a month before I finally came across a group of drivers that took my right of way even when on camera.

So what’s happening here?  Apparently, earning shame from a single pedestrian isn’t enough to keep some drivers following the law.  And there may be little or no shame coming from the peer group of drivers – and perhaps the opposite.  When one car fails to stop it seems that this encourages others to keep going, yet when one car stops they all do.  But it appears that when your image is about to be recorded for some unknown purpose, this is a strong enough potential source of shame to get drivers to change their behavior.

The real solution to streets like this involve engineering: road diets, curb bulbs, striped crosswalks, and/or crossing signals.  But for now, I recommend crossing with a camera.

* Which I’m not legally allowed to step off if a car can’t stop without hitting me.  That probably changes as much behavior as outlawing hitting yourself in the head with a hammer.

** As has been pointed out to me in the comments, this includes all of the lanes of traffic in a given direction within one lane from me.  As I step out facing West, that’s the two lanes headed North.  As I enter the second North-bound lane, that’s every lane of traffic.  As I enter the final South-bound lane, that’s every lane except the first North-bound lane.

121 Replies to “Using Shame to Cross the Street”

  1. I’ve been complaining about the use of “streets as highways” around here for years, especially as a member of the Kent Bicycle Advisory Board. Kent-Kangley Road, for example, gets higher traffic densities during rush hour than I-5!

    However, I come at the problem from a different angle, which is the reason for this is an inadequate highway infrastructure that is readily accessible and which has severe deficiencies for aspects like East-West travel. If you think about it, despite a 60 percent population increase in the past two decades, the entire state has added no new major limited access highways.

    1. There’s no space for new limited access highways. Seattle still has more highways per capita than plenty of cities. Chicago gets by as the third largest city with the least highways per capita in the country. It gets by surprisingly well. Yeah traffic can suck sometimes, but you can still get around just fine. I think highway management is more important than adding highways. The real problem we have is the lack of alternatives to driving. Chicago has a surprisingly large cycling community and a very good transit system that make up for it.

      Also, for the record, Kent Kangley is designed as a limited access highway in parts, with center medians and all, here and there. You can’t expect people not to use it as designed. Like limited access highways that are designed for speeds around 70-90 why on earth would you design for that then try to tell people to go 60. That’s just asking people to do what they actually do, and speed. If you want to see how to design streets to keep people slow, look at Chicago’s city streets, many of them are designed really well to keep people slow. (Some aren’t, but most are, stop signs unnecessarily at every block, narrow lanes, parked cars everywhere, it works!)

      1. Could it be that Seattle has raw “highway lane miles” because of I-5 plus its express lanes?

        However, that doesn’t translate into a robust and pervasive highway network.

        For example, there are no Crosstown highways to get from one side of North Seattle to the other.

      2. John, limited-access highways *take up too much real estate* to build them in cities.

        This is why Germany doesn’t have ANY urban expressways to speak of.

        When you do fill a city with limited-access expressways, the city center dies; there are several cities in the south which are pedestrian-hostile hellholes because of this.

        Limited-access highways *just don’t scale*. If you want to move a lot of people in a city, build a railroad.

      3. Note that a railroad is a *lot narrower* than a limited-access highway but can move *far more people* per hour.

    2. Let’s see a map of where you would like the right of way to be and we’ll go into the affected neighborhoods and see if there is support for building them.

      In order for “Build more!” to be a viable solution, you have to find a place you can realistically build it.

    3. Yes, first we have to start with where exactly these freeways would be. So we’d put a duplicate of Kent-Kangley Road where? At 154th, 240th, and 300th?

    4. Kent-Kangley needs to be tamed. As a for City of Kent employee, I butted heads on just this issue. I’m not afraid to say it: traffic engineers at Kent are children of a dead era and have no place in the profession today. All of them. The WSDOT actually said they’d be willing to help tame SR-99 and SR-516 if the City were willing to step up. Even mid-block crosswalks. However, Kent staff decided otherwise despite comprehensive planning staff demanding a rational solution for the community. Bailo’s Kent Bike Advisory Board is a joke with zero will and so is City leadership and engineering staff. It’s hopeless.

      1. :-( So how long until the traffic engineers at Kent die off and can be replaced?

        Or could they be replaced if a new city government were elected, on a platform of replacing them?

    5. Limited access freeways do horrible things to local travel in their vicinity. We shouldn’t sacrifice local access that much just to benefit long distance high-speed travel.

      The reason we stopped building new limited-access highways is because we saw what they do to the areas they’re built through. We have our trunk highways and we have arterials to get to and from them, we don’t need to disrupt the sidewalk/bike grid any more than that.

  2. This has become a serious problem on Beacon Avenue in front of the LINK station. Unless you’re in a bunch of people, who sort of force the issue, people don’t stop for pedestrians. If the SPD wanted to make some easy cash, they should post a few unmarked cruisers up there for a few hours.

    1. In the past they have setup a motorcycle officer (or two) on the festival street and they ticket people for not stopping. I think this will be much less of a problem when they make the planned improvements to that crossing (and the whole street). I believe they are replacing some of the center turn lane with a median and making the cross walk much more visible. Unfortunately, what they really needed was a mid-block crossing, but they had some reasons for not doing that.

      I’ll find a link for the plans…

      1. Yep, that median will help big-time. Crossing one traffic lane at a time really isn’t that hard even if drivers are uncooperative.

  3. Years ago, my wife and I were trying to cross 85th street in Crown Hill , four lanes, no marked/signaled crosswalk for blocks. We finally saw a cop cruiser slow and stop for us. When the cars in the other lanes refused to stop, the cop flipped his lights and got on his PA ” YOU WILL STOP FOR PEDESTERIANS. IT IS THE LAW!”. The cars all screeched to a stop. ;)

    1. Wow. That’s an awesome cop.

      Better than the cops in NYC, who have been known to drive across pedestrian bridges in cars. Seriously, Google it.

  4. Two things would help with this….

    A bucket of paint and a box of pens.

    PAINT THE CROSSWALKS – SDOT has a bunch of lame excuses about not painting additional crosswalks, just do it. Drivers still might not stop but at least they would be able to see where the crossing is. And pedestrians would have a place to walk.

    PENS are for SPD — write a lot of tickets for cross walk violations by drivers (and blatant jay walking by pedestrians). Enforce cross walk laws to the max — the word will get around especially on the talk shows where self entitled drives can whine about being picked on by the cops — but tough sh#$.

    Full disclosure – I’m a pedestrian, bike rider, transit user, and driver. I’m affect by this blatant illegality by drivers (and some pedestrians) such as when I got honked at because I did stop for a pedestrian about to cross an unmarked intersection — the clown behind me took exception to me following the law.

    BTW — I’d gladly deliver a box of pens to the SPD.

    1. SDOT’s excuses are not lame, but grounded in data. Marked crosswalks may encourage a few more drivers to stop, but not that many. They give pedestrians a false sense of security and sharply increase the accident (and pedestrian injury/death) rate. Observing that data is why SDOT started pulling all of its marked midblock crosswalks out in the 1990s.

      1. That’s pretty convincing. I would take painted crosswalks off my list. What we really need is to tame these super-arterials down to regular streets. Road diets, curb bulbs, signals, or building up a median would all work. We have enough highways running through our city.

      2. I’ve concluded that streets should have a driving lane each way, a parking lane each way, and just possibly the occasional left turn or right turn pocket lane — but never, EVER more. More just makes people treat them like expressways.

        I was in Denver recently. The streets were hell.

    2. I’m all for more marked crosswalks and more education about what the law is. Too many people believe that a lack of paint on an intersection means that it doesn’t count as a crosswalk, which means drivers don’t need to stop for pedestrians and pedestrians walking across are actually jaywalking.

      Of course, I also wish more people around here were aware of the part of the law stating that there is no requirement to stop for a pedestrian who hasn’t yet entered the crosswalk. I see drivers screeching to a halt all the time for people walking near street corners who may or may not even want to cross. When I’m walking I’m often happy to wait at the corner for a couple of nearby cars to pass if there’s a big empty space behind them.

      1. A lot of drivers come to a screeching halt whenever anybody’s near a crosswalk because so many people will walk out into the street without looking.

      2. +1. I hate having to enter a 30-second negotiation with a driver when I can wait 5 seconds for him to just disappear. And with all the traffic filling into the cross streets, this happens rather more than I’d like, at all hours.

    3. That is a lot of paint and labor even if you are just talking about all of the legal unmarked crosswalks on arterials. If you add all of the unmarked crosswalks where two residential streets meet the costs become astronomical.

      I’m sure you could find much better uses for the same money to improve pedestrian safety.

  5. Take some solace that on balance drivers attitudes and behaviors towards pedestrians here is light years ahead of many other places in the country.

    For example, in the Chicago area, while they have similar laws to Washington’s with respect to pedestrian crossing, most people use “The law of superior tonnage”. Cars don’t generally stop for pedestrians even though they should, and pedestrians routinely Jay walk. I was always annoyed by this as a driver because it created significant tension in having to avoid people who dart into traffic. I witnessed a gruesome pedestrian fatality of a young woman crossing a busy street. Googling the respective traffic laws I was surprised to find that Jay walking is apparently generally legal in Illinois. I was operating on the mistaken assumption from my growing up in Washington state that you don’t do that. In Chicago it was culturally normal.

    The other annoyance as a Chicago driver was pedestrians that ignored don’t walk signs causing huge back up of cars trying to turn right. Chicago now employs traffic cops now to regulate intersection flow in downtown intersections.

    My Chicago friends were in absolute shock when visiting Seattle and discovering that people actually wait for the walk signs even when there isn’t approaching car traffic.

    1. You should not have the expectation that driving through busy urban cores should be a relaxing experience. We want people to avoid this “tense” behavior unless entirely necessary.

      1. I have the expectation that driving in the right of way should not include having to suddenly dodge humans who don’t obey traffic signals. It’s not about relaxing it’s about not arriving adrenalin rushed. That is why we have traffic laws. The fair bargain is that when driving, I will gladly stop at crosswalks and uncontrolled intersections with pedestrians wanting to cross. Pedestrians will cross the road at crosswalks and intersections when traffic is stopped and it is safe for them to proceed.

    2. Absolutely. Seattle is one of the more pedestrian friendly cities I’ve been in. If you think Chicago is bad, try visiting an Asian city. The best strategy I’ve found there is to find a group of people to cross with, and don’t make eye contact with cars – if they see that you see them, they know you’ll jump out of the way as they roar by.

      Despite Seattle being more pedestrian friendly than others, even this level of danger is unacceptable.

      1. This was one of the first things I noticed after moving to South Carolina–NOBODY stops for you. EVER. Even on slow-moving residential streets. It took having to hop back a few times to get the message that it isn’t even worth thinking somebody might stop. Especially when walking the dog, because she may or may not think it would be a good idea to come with you when you want to dart through a hole in traffic…so you wait, and wait, and….

        (Of course, this is a place where apparently nobody has ever heard of the traffic signal out/4-way stop rule–often people will just blow through and assume you will have seen them and stop. They will also honk and flip you off if in the face of that, you think it was actually your turn to go. Seattle has it good, even while not in the least disputing the point of the post.)

      2. EYE CONTACT IS ESSENTIAL TO SAFE ROAD CROSSING!!

        The reason Seattle is so full of terrible drivers and even worse pedestrians is that people are discouraged from making eye contact, and so the “knowing glances” that allow for save sharing of limited space in Boston and New York — very quick, non-verbal, cooperative planning, as close to telepathy as I’ve ever experienced — don’t happen here.

        You are going to get someone killed with this kind of “advice”, Matt!!

      3. What amuses me are pedestrians that start into a crosswalk WITHOUT looking to see that traffic is stopped. And they cross the street with an air of impunity, no eye contact not even looking in your direction. They are candidates for the “Darwin Awards”. When I’m on foot, I always try to get a driver’s attention and I acknowledge that they’ve stopped for my benefit. A simple nod of the head while looking at them is all it takes.

      4. d.p.
        I believe Matt was saying in some Asian cities you don’t want to make eye contact with drivers.

      5. Well, Scott, thanks for confirming for me that South Carolina is even more hellish than the worst places I’ve visited.

    3. Agreed. I just came back home from several years in DC. There, no one will ever stop for you in an unmarked crosswalk, and if they did, they’d be rear-ended. It’s hard enough in DC not to get run over when you are in a signalized crosswalk with the light, since drivers there routinely ignore red lights.

      1. Scott,

        So you got transferred to South Carolina to build non-union aircraft? My heart goes out to you.

        However, I’m surprised that you’re surprised that South Carolinians are scofflaws. These are the great-great-great-great-grandchildren of General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard and his outlaw buddies who fired on Fort Sumter.

      2. Ooops, wrong comment. Sounds like the “Most Democratic City in America” has the same psychosis as the Secesh.

    1. This sounds like the opposite of the situation. The few people here who jaywalk without even looking for cars and force the cars to stop around them are, I assume, New Yorkers or east coasters because that’s where I see people normally doing it. Or they’re just extremely selfish individuals. I wait at the curb longer than most people, until the car has visibly slowed down, because who knows which the driver won’t notice you or has slow drunk reflexes? I don’t worry about whether one or two cars don’t stop because by the third car one will.

      1. Absolutely incorrect.

        Ever been to New York? You do not want to jaywalk there without your wits perfectly intact. Those terrible jaywalkers you see are transplants from the Midwest or from Bumblepluck, Washington. Not from the Northeast.

        Seattleites need to learn how to jaywalk as I described previously. Incompetent jaywalking is far worse than no jaywalking at all.*

        *(And no jaywalking is bad enough. It discourages pedestrianism by allowing you to get less far on a regular basis, and by reinforcing auto-supremacy. And it bunches up pedestrians into a very short portion of the light cycle, which is why turning right or left is terrible in this city and why buses are constantly stuck behind turning vehicles.)

  6. It’s not “all cars within one lane” as you state in your text. It is all cars within the lanes of travel in the half of the roadway into which you step. Read RCW 46.61.235(1) more closely.

    Thus the law is actually more restrictive than you state. As soon as you step off the curb (legally), then all vehicles in that half of the roadway must stop — regardless of how many lanes there actually are.

    But the thing most Seattle drivers don’t get is the “unmarked or marked crosswalk” part. Unmarked crosswalks are just as legally restrictive as marked crosswalks. Yet the typical Seattle driver — who will stop and smile at you at a marked crosswalk — will blow by inches from your knees at an unmarked crosswalk. This is illegal, not to mention very rude and more than a little passive aggressive.

    1. Nothing “passive” about it. It’s just plain aggressive. Throwing your weight around, so to speak.

    2. “Read RCW 46.61.235(1) more closely.”

      Thanks. You’re right about that. I’m not sure there are any 6-lane roads in Seattle, but I’ve updated the text of my post anyway.

      1. It’s more than just the half of the road you’re traveling on. Cars on that half and the next lane over have to stop. So the second you step into the crosswalk on a four-lane road, three of the lanes have to stop. When you cross the center line, the lane next to the curb you’re traveling toward has to stop, and the lane next to the curb you just left can resume driving. The center two lanes must remain stopped for the entire time you’re in the crosswalk.

      2. Thanks again. Man, I suppose I’ve lost my right to criticize those that don’t know this law. I’ve known it instinctively since driver’s ed or before, but it’s taken me three tries read it correctly.

      3. Actually, I think on a 4 lane road initially only 2 lanes need to stop, but once the ped gets to a middle lane then 3 lanes need to stop.

        Basically the law provides a one lane buffer of stopped traffic both in front of and behind the ped.

      4. Incorrect, Lazarus. RCW 46.61.235 states (emphasis mine):

        (1) The operator of an approaching vehicle shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian or bicycle to cross the roadway within an unmarked or marked crosswalk when the pedestrian or bicycle is upon or within one lane of the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning. For purposes of this section “half of the roadway” means all traffic lanes carrying traffic in one direction of travel, and includes the entire width of a one-way roadway.

        So the vehicle has to stop if it’s either:
        1) In the same half of the road that you’re crossing.
        2) In the lane next to the half of the road that you’re crossing.

        Thus there’s a minimum of a one-lane buffer, but more when you’re not in the lane next to the center line.

      5. Wait, I’ve been reading it wrong. It’s about when the pedestrian is within one lane, not the car. Whoops.

  7. It’s not true that there is no crosswalk there- only that the crosswalk is not marked. I think this is an important distinction, as motorists may labor under the delusion that the lack of paint implies a lack of pedestrian rights, and that delusion can be fatal- or worse- for pedestrians. Let’s therefore dispel rather than propagate the idea that a crosswalk needs to be marked to exist.

    1. Exactly. An unmarked crosswalk is still a crosswalk, and a car must still stop for a ped in an unmarked crosswalk.

      Cars must also yield to jaywalkers, but that is a whole different story.

  8. HALF of drivers don’t stop for you when you try to cross at an unmarked crosswalk? For me that number is about 95%.

    1. It feels like 95%, but during the period I tried paying attention to the actual percentage in order to write this story (well, the version of it before the camera) it was about half. This could be due to a small sample size.

  9. All crosswalks should be marked, period. The only reason why a crosswalk would be unmarked is because the DOT wants to save money. Every crosswalk I’ve seen in Europe and Asia have been marked with at least something, be it pavement markings or a sign.

    What is written in law doesn’t always make sense, we should all know that. The law says unmarked crosswalks are still crosswalks, but does it make sense to the driver when they’re doing 40 mph and sees absolutely no traffic control device?

    It’s like the SDOT policy that a road can be multilane if it can fit multiple cars side by side, regardless of whether or not it’s marked that way.

    In the end, we need to encourage DOTs to mark their crosswalks properly and discourage them from cutting corners.

    1. Follow the law, and be a smart driver. Unmarked crosswalks are defined in the law, and every driver should expect crosswalks to exist at almost every intersection — marked or unmarked. When approaching an intersection a driver should act accordingly — if not, then said driver shouldn’t be driving.

      Operating a motor vehicle is an act of personal responsibility – the driver should know the law and operate the motor vehicle in a safe manner. No exceptions.

      1. “Should” doesn’t mean much to the dead pedestrian. I’m in favor of changing the roadway, rather than hoping people start following the law.

      2. Drivers who don’t know the law and don’t operate their motor vehicle in a safe manner should be removed from the road.

      3. There’s that “should” again. I agree, but how do you propose to do this? Above, [alexjonlin] estimates 95% of people drive this way. Even if it’s only half, that’s a whole lot of police hours needed to even make a dent.

    2. To the contrary, SDOT has a policy of actively removing painted crosswalks where they determine that the crossing isn’t safe.

      “It might encourage those pesky peds to use the legal crosswalk.”

      1. When a given crossing is deemed unsafe for a crosswalk the city not only removes it, but it closes the crosswalk and marks it as such for peds. Often this involves physical barriers. But this is a very costly option.

    3. I think marking every single crosswalk in the city would be a major waste of money and have very little impact. Visual cues in the street are something that drivers become accustomed to and start ignoring after a time. Deploying a symbol universally is a quick way to make that symbol irrelevant, which would be completely counter productive. If there is a significant number of pedestrians crossing a street on a regular basis, that’s when a marked crosswalk can be effective. But every crosswalk, every time?

      Also, European and Asian countries do not mark all of their crosswalks, but then I guess that would depend on your definition of crosswalk.

      1. Agreed. It would be very cost prohibitive to mark every legal crosswalk in the US. And it would be a major waste of money/effort to paint crosswalks in places like your typical suburban subdivision. Nobody would stand for such a waste of money.

        But beyond that, the law makes no exception for road surface. As this is a statewide law, it applies to dirt and gravel roads too. How are you going to paint a crosswalk on a gravel road?

        The law makes sense as written, it’s just that most drivers are ignorant of it.

      2. In the UK, I believe I have seen a crosswalks marked on a gravel road with signs.

        Though of course many of their gravel roads are actually intended for pedestrians to share with cars, so the marked crosswalk case would be exceptional…

    4. Marking all crosswalks would require a crosswalk every single block in some places, like parts of Rainier that have closely-spaced small streets, some on both sides and some on one side. That would make all intersections look equal, whereas the current practice emphasizes the major intersections every five or ten blocks. That tends to motivate people to use those intersections if they’re within a block or two, which minimizes the number of people who use the unmarked intersections.

  10. I live in Belltown and do deal with this much, but there are some uncontrolled intersections on First, Third, etc. I’ve banged on dozens of fenders over the years.

    1. Be careful you don’t get charged with felony vandalism.

      And shooting the cars that don’t stop is illegal too, BTW.

      1. I’ve banged on the hood of a car that failed to stop in a cross walk and almost hit me. The driver was non-plussed but got the message when I yelled at her that she didn’t have the right of way in an occupied crosswalk.

  11. I had no idea there was such a thing as unmarked crosswalks, or this law telling drivers to stop at them. Is it common in a lot of states?

      1. I disagree. Not standard and this has always been an issue in places that people are moving to, like Seattle.

    1. I think it’s common for drivers to not know that unmarked intersections are crosswalks. At least that would explain some of the glares thrown at me as I try to cross.

    2. We certainly have it in NY. I believe the way it works here is that if there isn’t a marked crosswalk within some number of feet of an intersection (I forget how many), then the intersection is officially an unmarked crosswalk.

      There is also another rule for rural roads where the intersections are widely spaced, which basically says that everywhere is a crosswalk.

  12. Gee, I wish you had posted this 24 hours earlier; would have been a useful suggestion for when I tried to crosses Bellevue Way at NE 2nd yesterday. A half-dozen cars took left turns off of 2nd onto Bellevue Way even though I was standing in the crosswalk in the middle of the street.

  13. Oddly enough, the situation described has never really crossed my mind. If I’m on a busy arterial and trying to cross where there is no marked crosswalk even at an intersection, I don’t expect drivers to stop for me. If they do, that’s great but I usually just wait for a hole in traffic to cross and start when there’s enough of a gap. On residential streets, I’ve never had a problem with cars slowing down and waiting for me to cross but both drivers and pedestrians have different expectations on residential streets.

    People need to stop acting like they own the street, whether it be in a car, being a pedestrian or a bicyclist and just have some common sense and defer to one another once in awhile.

    1. It’s not about legal ownership, it’s about safety.

      A ped won’t win a fight with a car, so the law is written to protect the ped and avoid injury. Once the ped steps off the curb, all traffic in that part of the roadway is expected to stop. Period.

    2. I think you’ll find this strategy really difficult on some streets during rush hour. I’m fine with yielding my rights to some extent, but in this case it would likely be faster to walk several blocks out of my way uphill to the signalled intersection, wait for the slowest light in Seattle, then walk back rather than wait for such a hole. Giving up 5-10 minutes of my time each day so that cars don’t have to wait 5 seconds is unacceptable.

      1. This may be harder in some places then others, but it can usually be done, especially if you know the topography of a particular intersection really well.

        I cross 15th Ave NW at 51st Street (right at the foot of the Leary overpass) and jaywalk to Ballard Market (between 56th and 57th) on a regular basis. I’m sure many complacent Seattleites would tell me both are “impossible”.

        I guess I really don’t understand your commute, though. Along Rainier, King and Jackson are separated by 375 feet (a 90-second walk). And weren’t the King stops on the 7 deleted in a stop diet, anyway? (They’re no longer on OneBusAway.) Where are you headed that this is your only crossing option.

      2. Past the little Chinese herb shop around King and 12th. I generally buy a few oranges on my way to work, and there’s nothing open on Jackson until at least 9:30. Yes, it’ll only take me an extra 3 minutes to walk to Jackson and back (x 260 days = 13 hours of life gone each year, per direction), though that 5-way intersection really has to be one of the slowest lights in Seattle. I haven’t timed it, but it’s very long.

        Wait. Why exactly are you asking that I throw away several minutes of my day, every day? Because you don’t want to inconvenience drivers to the tune of a few seconds? I hadn’t pictured you as such a strong car advocate ;-)

      3. Hey, I’ve already admitted that I cross 15th NW at Ballard Market all the time, because I don’t want to walk out of my way to Market or 58th, and because crossing my way is often faster there than even jaywalking would be those other two cross streets.

        I think you have every right to want to cross at King. I just also think you need to do it without whipping out your camera and encouraging dangerous brake-slamming behavior.

        One of the problems with the brake-slamming is that you, as the pedestrian, now feel an obligation to go because the first-laner has done you a “favor”. Which means that you are no longer making the soundest judgments about breaks in traffic in either the second lane (somewhat likely to stop for you) or in the other direction (very unlikely to stop for you).

        Even worse is when a bus brake-slams so that you can cross. Bulky and rectangular, they make it essentially impossible to see the lane beyond. And now you feel lots of pressure to go, since you may be holding up dozens of people who have already had really long, slow rides. Buses should never stop for individuals at unsignalized crosswalks. 60 people are more important than one.

      4. I was just trying to imagine your earlier comment from the other side of the windshield. Imagine telling a driver that instead of slowing down a pedestrian at an intersection by a few seconds you should drive 5-10 minutes out of your way.

    3. Like the guy in the pickup on N Pacific a couple of days ago who kept going all the way until he screeched to a halt when I was halfway across the street.

      Did he see me 60 feet earlier? Almost certainly: he wasn’t even on a phone or anything. Was he hoping I’d chicken out and defer to his higher mass and cheaper repair costs? Seems likely, as well.

      Crosswalks also establish a ‘stop line’ at stop signs, etc. At T-intersections, they also make it clear where the crosswalk starts on the side without the cross-street. That’s the most common violation I see, and I’d bet 90% of drivers think that I have the right to cross the street from one side, but not cross back.

      1. At stop signs, there should be a stop line independent of the crosswalk. Not that anyone pays attention to them…

  14. It’s not just on the busy, 4-lane streets. I cross 10th at Blaine every morning and every evening, and generally have to wait for many, many cars to pass before I can cross. Once a month maybe someone will stop for me. Generally, I stand at the edge of the lane and wait for all traffic to cease, because drivers simply do not stop there. Even worse, at the bottom of the Blaine stairclimb, on Lakeview Blvd, there’s a prominently marked crosswalk with big, yellow signs, and still at least half of the drivers never stop. Drivers are not aware that they are obligated to stop for pedestrians. I’ve even been yelled at for crossing at a marked, striped, signaled (with a yellow yield light) by drivers with ample time to stop. One woman once swerved to go around me while I was trying to cross.

    1. A few years ago, was I crossing the Ave at the marked crosswalk between 43rd and 45th. When I reached the other side, the driver who had stopped before the crosswalk sarcastically yelled out his window “You’re welcome!”, apparently because I had failed to effusively thank him for obeying the law and not running me over.

      People are crazy.

      1. Good grief. That lady who swerved around me did so in order to get to a red light 1/10 of a second faster. People really are crazy.

      2. People who act like THAT need to have their drivers’ licenses revoked. We could do with a lot fewer dangerously crazy drivers on the road.

  15. I’ve always wondered if an alley road is considered an intersection, thus a legal crosswalk, or is it jay walking?

    1. I wonder that, too. I’ve tested it a couple of times, crossing John at the alley between 12th and 13th, once in front of a cop. Cars stopped and the cop didn’t yell at me, so I figure that counts as an unofficial “OK.”

  16. Oh, Jesus Christ, Seattle.

    Encouraging people to slam on their brakes the moment you so much as glance at the curb IS DANGEROUS!

    Every good East Coaster knows how do judge the vector and velocity of multiple vehicles, then wait for the appropriate moment to angle their walk so as to safely make it across without interrupting the flow or causing any dangerous behavior. This often requires utterly ignoring any crosswalk signals (if present) or whatever dumb absolutes are written into “the law”.

    But in Seattle, more often then not, I’ll be waiting for my best opportunity when someone in the curb lane will screech to a halt and “hand-wave” for me to go… just as a car in the next lane zips by at full speed.

    If I followed the “generous” hand-wave, I’d be flattened. And yet somehow the hand-waver is annoyed at my lack of appreciation for their “generosity”.

    Even worse is when I’m already mid-jaywalk and clearly aiming to pass behind a moving car, which suddenly sees me and slams on its brakes so that I nearly walk right into its trunk. That is a level of stupidity I have yet to wrap my head around.

    Matt, with your camera out, you’re that much less likely to be able to properly judge vectors and whether that second-lane car will stop or not. This is possibly the most dangerous post I’ve ever seen on STB.

    1. I invite you to join me at this intersection during rush hour. You wait for this perfect hole in traffic, I’ll be waiting at the bar across the street. Maybe you can join me for the third drink.

      I’m not an idiot. I don’t jump into traffic – I wait for a hole of sufficient size that a car can easily slow down and stop for me, and don’t try for the next lane until they’ve stopped too.

      1. I’d take a different approach. Station a police officer there and ticket everyone who doesn’t stop for peds. If the safety situation doesn’t improve, at least the city budget will.

      2. Matt, I will say that talking with either East or South Precinct (I forget which one covers that wonderful intersection) would be worthwhile. I’ve had the occasional bit of success getting police resources into crosswalk operations; it’s a lot easier when you can get a couple people together to make the case, of course.

    2. Depends on the East Coast city.

      Boston is as you describe.

      New York is sort of as you describe, but with an extra helping of asshole attitude (which is not necessarily always a bad thing). People are aware, but they’re very, very aggressive, and may well step out (or drive right in front of you) in a manner requiring you to slam on the brakes or stop mid-step.

      DC is more like Chicago. Car drivers are oblivious and aggressive at the same time, with a startling number doing email as they run red lights. Pedestrians cower in terror.

      1. That’s a pretty good description of the New York modus operandi. But again… eye contact! How vital is eye contact to making New York work. It boggles my mind that Matt tried to discourage vital mutual recognition!

        I haven’t been in DC in a very long time, but I’ve heard that about it.

        Strangely, I’ve never had a problem acting like a Bostonian in Chicago.

      2. For the record, I did not and do not discourage eye contact when crossing the street in Seattle. Jakarta, Bangkok, and Delhi are a different story.

      3. I spent the first 30 years of my life in Chicago, only owned a car for two years when I needed one for work, and generally walked and biked and took the train everywhere since I was around 11 or 12. Never once did I “cower in terror” as a pedestrian.

        Almost always you can do exactly as dp describes, whether crossing midblock or at an intersection without a stop sign or light (worth noting Chicago makes four-way stops out of every residential intersection, instead of using traffic circles).

        Nor have I known Chicago drivers to be aggressive, oblivious, or to regularly blow through reds. To the contrary, they’re generally far better drivers than Seattleites.

      4. Jason, fair enough. My experience in Chicago is limited. But the one time I was there for a few days (inside the Loop), I found it to be like DC, with a lot of oblivious yet extremely aggressive drivers on the very wide streets in that area.

        I can imagine it might be different in the neighborhoods.

        So strike the “like Chicago” part of my statement… it still describes DC, where I lived for five years, accurately.

  17. It’s an education failure, plain and simple… I think a significant number of drivers are not even aware of the law. That could be remedied.

    Far more annoying is this change in recent years where some drivers in the second, “far” lane speed up. How did stupid people start to get that in their heads? When did everyone get so impatient?

    I always learned — and it’s common sense — that I should first pay MORE attention when a car puts on its brake lights because the driver may be seeing something that I’m not. I don’t speed up, or go around, until it’s clear to me that they’re parking, looking to the side of the road for something/one, etc.

    This is more about enforcement… but then we don’t seem to enforce anything in this City any more.

  18. Not the same thing, but there have been countless times when I’m attempting to cross at a crosswalk and a vehicle has pulled up and either completely blocked it or is 3/4 of the way into the crosswalk. I wonder how many drivers would continue to do this knowing that SPD can issue them a $124 ticket for doing it? Also, lots of drivers think it’s OK that if they’re at a stop light (or even a stop sign) it’s perfectly OK to sneak out into the intersection so they can make their “mandatory” right turn. And the funny thing about it is that wherever they’re going they’re only going to be saving thirty seconds at most and all this to put someone else in danger.

      1. I believe The Google “self-driving” cars would then be stopping at virtually every intersection with people on the sidewalk, as there is no way to tell if somebody is on the sidewalk for a leisurely stroll and/or enjoying the view, vs. actually attempting to cross the street.

      2. I’d imagine there could be heuristics like “Was the person walking towards the intersection?”, “Which direction is the person’s body oriented in?”, “Did the person seem to check in each direction?”, “If we slow down, does the person enter the intersection?”.

        Or you could take a lot of video of people at intersections, divide individuals into crossing and not-crossing groups and have a computer learn patterns that tend to characterize each group.

        I haven’t done this myself, so I’m not sure what the false positive and false positive rates are with current algorithms and processing power.

  19. I think shaming drivers is a good idea. Sometimes I take pictures of drivers phoning/texting in traffic. I’m pretty obvious about it, too. It hadn’t occurred to me to do the same thing at a crosswalk, but then I’m usually too busy watching traffic to get my phone out of my bag.

    Another way to address the problem is driver education. Make pedestrian safety part of the driver education program. I learned to drive about ten years ago in Tennessee through their system of learner’s permits and graduated licensing. I don’t recall learning anything about unmarked crosswalks; maybe Tennessee state code is different from Washington’s in that respect. When I got a new license here in Washington, I didn’t have to take any knowledge tests. Maybe we should mandate a brief, carefully focused safety course (something less than the full driver’s ed program) for people moving to Washington with licenses from out of state.

    I’ve toyed with the idea of carrying around one of those miniature souvenir baseball bats as a defense against drivers keen on violating my legally protected space in the crosswalk, but darn it, I shouldn’t have to carry a stick around just to protect myself.

  20. Does anyone else feel like the city makes little effort to enforce the restriction on how close cars can park to an crosswalk/intersection? Even where there are “No parking within 30 feet” signs posted, I’ll sometimes see cars parking right up to the sign. Where there are no signs, I’ll sometimes see parked cars intruding into the crosswalk.

    Having cars parked so close to the intersection blocks the lines of sight for everyone approaching or at the intersection. You have to go to the edge of traffic before you can see if you have room to cross, or make a turn, as well as make yourself visible to approaching vehicles. It’s especially bad when the illegally parked vehicles are taller/bulkier SUVs- I’m fairly short (about 5’5″), so there’s little hope that an approaching car could see me over those SUVs.

    When I’m walking, this definitely makes it more difficult to cross the street. When I’m bicycling, especially on narrower streets, it worries me, because there’s a window where I’m approaching the intersection, but a driver turning onto my street can’t see me because parked cars block their line of sight. I’d imagine drivers also dislike illegally parked cars for similar reasons.

    I know the parking cops can’t be everywhere all the time, but I’ve seen them drive by cars parked illegally close to the intersection without apparently towing or ticketing them.

    1. A few months back a car in my neighborhood had parked completely blocking the crosswalk, the trunk was even past the corner. A cop happened to be driving by, so I made eye contact, pointed, and generally made a “are you going to do anything about this?” face at him. He didn’t appear to do anything about it.

    2. It’s bad for buses too. Buses need that space by the curb to make turns safely.

      A particular trouble spot is the left from westbound Boston St onto southbound Queen Anne Ave on the 4. Way too many people park right at the intersection because “I’m just running into Starbucks for my coffee.” A bus physically can’t make that left turn without either using the curb space or cutting into the left lane. On a few occasions, I had to stop and pull the parking brake at the stop sign on westbound Boston when there was heavy traffic on northbound Queen Anne. I don’t like creating gridlock, but I like crashing into parked cars (or cars waiting in line at the stop sign) even less.

    3. Patrol officers don’t usually give parking tickets. Call it in to SPD and they’ll dispatch parking enforcement.

    4. Call them in. That’s what I’m down to. SPD allocates resources based on 911 calls these days, and while it feels foolish calling 911 to report illegally parked cars, that’s what I do.

  21. I usually see good enforcement in busy neighborhoods… and I love where streets have been designed with fire hydrants near corners, which helps solve that problem.

  22. Stepping off of the curb and onto the side of the lane seems to always work for me. You don’t need to run out into traffic, but putting your feet in the edge of the lane usually gets drivers to stop. Take one step into the lane, making eye contact with drivers. Cross the lane when you have an opening. Repeat one lane at a time until you are across.

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