Archive for September, 2009

A great bike ride…mostly

Thursday, September 24th, 2009
Drivers do a better job sharing the road with cyclists than they used to, but there's room for improvement.

It’s impressive how far we’ve come. Bike trails and bike lanes cross the metro. New lanes have been painted on important routes, particularly inside Seattle.  Drivers are more polite, not only skipping the shouted complaints of the ’80s, but often carefully waiting for bicyclists to pass before turning right. There’s plenty left to do, but still.

I took today off work and went for a ride, enjoying the scenery, the infrastructure (isn’t that an emotive word?), the unusual number of friendly nods from other bicyclists (a weekday thing?), and the clouds and trees that kept things comfortable, at least for the first couple hours before it got hot. A great day.

Except there was an incident at the Fremont Bridge. Probably good people forgetting to use good judgment.

As I headed over the bridge around lunchtime, 90 percent of the bike/pedestrian path was blocked by a City pickup and a pizza delivery car (delivering to the operator’s tower) parked side-by-side, leaving just enough room for a bike to edge through along the curb, and hopefully not fall into traffic in the process. The two drivers and presumably the operator were all outside. I yelled at them, they clearly saw the error, the pickup was moved immediately… and here we are.

How often does this happen?  If it’s more than “never again,” something has to change. It may be too much to expect safe parking by the Domino’s driver. But the City staff… do they really think delivery drivers all think about public access or safety? The solution is that nobody should park on the bridge except City staff that will do it right. As for lunch, if Fremont is too far and nobody will deliver on foot, brown-bag it.

This isn’t the worst incident I’ve had on a drawbridge. About 15 years ago, the Ballard Bridge started to go up while I was walking across. Ever since then I’ve always looked for handholds, just in case.

Today is a good reminder that our City’s well-meaning plans and people who are generally good public servants aren’t enough. Infrastructure isn’t enough. You also have to look at practices, including how the bridge operator gets lunch.

Mad about sidewalks

Sunday, September 20th, 2009
Sandwich boards clutter a sidewalk on First Avenue in downtown Seattle.

We’re starving for good takeout places in Belltown, so the new place on Second should be a prime stop. But I’ve never tried it…because they have sandwich boards (plural) in the middle of the sidewalk, and that annoys me.

It’s odd to fixate on such things. Most people just walk around sandwich boards. But personally I take anything that intrudes on the middle of the sidewalk as an intrusion. Particularly if the sidewalk is narrow, such as passing a sidewalk cafe. So, often, I move the sign. And avoid that business like the plague.

Parking lots are worse than restaurants. At least the businesses are trying to reach pedestrians, but the parking lot signs are for drivers. If a sign is necessary, it should be by the curb, not in the main part of the sidewalk. Those signs are often heavier, but even the big hundred-pound ones can be rolled aside.

Let’s not get started on cars that roll into crosswalks at red lights. (breathe…calm…rippling stream…breathe…)

The City has a spotty record in sidewalk design. Lots of nice work has happened recently on Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth in Belltown, much of it associated with recent street repaves. Love the corner bulbs. But good lord, what’s with the oversized tree wells, particularly on Fourth? Are pedestrians supposed to walk in them? One assumes so, because at night we can hardly see some of them, and they’re inconsistent widths, and sometimes the sidewalks narrow to the width of two people so you walk in them just to pass. Putting gravel in the wells is a good idea in theory, but since we’re walking in the wells they become gravel dispersal systems. Safety issues include escaped gravel on the sidewalk, and the likelihood that at some point the gravel areas won’t be flush with the paved areas.

Then there’s the safety issue of those yellow rubber pads, which are slippery when wet, and are apparently intended to create disabled people.

As for those hanging plants at the Pike Place Market on First…they look great, but do they think we’re all 5 feet tall? Raise them, please.

As you can see, walking to work can bring a zen-like peace to one’s day!