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 headstart 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. 

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. 

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 spring 2020. We are continuing to advocate for longer term improvements, including the addition of a stoplight, which will become even more critical when the Judkins Park Light Rail station opens at this location. 

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, we’re hopeful the sidewalk will be completed in time for the November election, ensuring those arriving by bus can 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 improved their communication about existing outages, and has begun to publicly update data about station outages on a monthly basis. Sound Transit is also working on two reports – one on how to fix their existing vertical conveyance issues, and another about how to resolve power outage safety issues at their Montlake Station, where a wheelchair user was trapped in the dark after the station lost power in 2019. Both reports are due in fall 2020. 

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.

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.