Seattle Sidewalks, Crosswalks and Speed Limits

A group of pedestrians of mixed abilities stand at a crosswalk in the rain.

With the Moving All Seattle Sustainably (MASS) Coalition, we won legislation calling for the City of Seattle to adopt a new comprehensive signals policy that would include more time to cross the street and give pedestrians a head start over turning cars. Also, after our advocacy on the need to slow down cars to prevent pedestrian deaths, Seattle announced 25-mph speed limits city-wide. We are currently participating in the newly created Policy and Operations Advisory Group to develop an equitable and accessible signals policy.

As part of the MASS Coalition, we also pushed for legislation that would require Seattle to fund the construction of missing sidewalks and develop a plan for holding property owners responsible for maintaining their cracked and damaged sidewalks. This resulted in a comprehensive study that documented the extent of sidewalk damage in Seattle, and examined different models for sidewalk maintenance, that was a partnership between the University of Washington and SDOT. As part of the Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board and the Washington StateCooper Jones Active Transportation Council we are working to develop strategies to better fund sidewalk construction and repair that prioritizes redlined and historically disinvested communities.  

We’ve also advocated for collaboration between the City of Seattle and the Washington State Department of transportation to get crosswalks painted, new signage, “rumble” strips and other car-slowing infrastructure installed to allow pedestrians in this area of S. Seattle to traverse Rainier at the I-90 freeway onramps more safely. Short-term improvements, including narrower lanes, rumble strips, crosswalks, signage and flex posts were installed in 2020. We are continuing to advocate for longer-term improvements, including the addition of a stoplight to allow blind and deafblind pedestrians to safely cross. This will become even more critical when the Judkins Park Light Rail station opens at this location in 2023 and King County Metro anticipates this station being a major bus to light rail transfer hub. We are continuing to work with a coalition on neighborhood advocates and community groups to secure the funding for the necessary infrastructure improvements.

Scooters and Bike Share

Initiative Director Anna Zivarts on a conference panel with an images of bike share on the projector.

With the Seattle Department of Transportation and the Portland Bureau of Transportation, we created scooter and bike share etiquette videos. With the MASS coalition we also sponsored a piece of legislation requesting Seattle fund more scooter parking and implement fines against mis-parked bike and scooter share. We continue to communicate with Seattle, King County and other Washington localities that are considering or have implemented scooter or bike share programs to ensure accessibility needs are considered. 

Missing Sidewalk to Pierce County Voting Center

Three wheelchair users on a sidewalk in a large parking lot.

The Disability Mobility Initiative is celebrating as the City of Tacoma and Pierce County have begun construction on the last piece of missing sidewalk to the Pierce County Annex – Pierce County’s accessible voting center. In 2010, Disability Rights Washington reported the missing sidewalks in our 2010 Election Accessibility Report, and we re-focussed attention on the issue last November when we released a video featuring Blake Geyen, a Tacoma resident, navigating the heavily trafficked streets directly surrounding the elections center. Blake’s video gained over 18,000 views on Twitter and was featured in The News Tribune. It took another year of advocacy, but with the support of Downtown on the Go, Tacoma Commission for People with Disabilities, Tacoma Councilmembers Kristina Walker and Marty Campbell, and allies at the City of Tacoma, Pierce County and Pierce Transit, the final piece of sidewalk was completed in time for the November election, ensuring those arriving by bus could safely get to the polls!

Broken Elevators and Escalators at Sound Transit stations

A group of wheelchair users meet with Sound Transit staff.

In winter 2019, we began to organize disabled Sound Transit users to share their stories about the impacts of the constantly-broken elevators and escalators at Sound Transit stations. As a result, Sound Transit has doubled the number of people working on their “vertical conveyance” team, as they recognize that the current state of repairs of the elevators and escalators in their system creates unacceptable access barriers. They have also updated their website to make it much easier to find information about current outages, and has started releasing monthly reports documenting how often elevators and escalators are out of service. Sound Transit has agreed to produce two studies – one on how to deal with the lack of duplicate elevators and escalators at some stations and another about how to resolve power outage safety issues at their Montlake Station, where a wheelchair user was trapped on the platform in the dark after the station lost power. We are continuing to work with Sound Transit to ensure everyone can reliably access their stations.

Sidewalk Snow and Ice Removal

Rooted in Rights staff member Clark Matthews in front of large posters of snow covered sidewalks at Seattle City Hall.

During winter 2019 in Seattle, many disabled folks were trapped in our homes for weeks because property owners weren’t aware they had a responsibility to clear snow and ice off their sidewalks. We knew we wanted to change this, so we started by collecting more than 50 stories from disabled Seattleites trapped by uncleared sidewalks, and produced a video (that ultimately got retweeted by AOC), that highlighted Conrad’s experience. Ultimately, by working with the Mass Coalition, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, and Councilmember Lisa Herbold, we were able to pass legislation that created a public education program about the snow & ice removal responsibilities of private property owners. This resulted in the City of Seattle hiring us to produce a video PSA, and sending a mailer in Seattle utility bills about the importance of sidewalk clearing. In a press conference and on social media, Mayor Jenny Durkan and other Seattle officials emphasized the importance of keeping sidewalks accessible, a marked change from communications about winter weather preparedness the previous winter. We are now collaborating with advocates in Spokane to improve winter pedestrian access.

Other Advocacy Efforts

We participated in the King County Metro Equity Cabinet that met for a year to develop a ground-breaking equity framework for the transit agency. We also worked as part of the Fare Share Coalition to push ride hailing companies to provide wheelchair accessible vehicles, and to increase the number of wheelchair accessible taxis in King County. And we made sure disabled voices were part of the conversation around the impacts of I-976. And finally, as the pandemic began, we pushed Seattle and King County to ensure people without access to cars could still access COVID-19 testing locations. And we created a video to celebrate disabled bikers and how bikes can be an important mobility device for disabled people.