I walk just over a mile to work, from Capitol Hill to Downtown, and have been doing this for the last three and a half years. As much as I would like to vary my route there’s really only one way to do it and that’s a straight shot down Olive. I am so familiar with the timing of the walk lights that I know exactly how fast or slow I have to go to make each one.
I’m a fairly ornery pedestrian even in the best of circumstances, but one intersection makes me particularly crazy: the pedestrian crosswalk on the I-5 offramp right below the intersection of Olive and Melrose. Cars come hurtling off the highway at high speeds and their drivers are much more concerned about merging into several lanes of traffic on Olive than with looking out for pedestrians. (Not too surprisingly, when I googled the cross streets, I discovered that the Seattle Weekly had named this location Best intersection to get hit by a car in their 2000 Best of Seattle issue.)
Historically, this has been a bad place for traffic signs. I’ve seen several generations of pedestrian crossing signs get knocked down, and it’s been quite a long time since the last one disappeared. I had almost gotten used to the daily round of fighting with drivers who, given ample time and distance to stop, still insist on screaming through the intersection in front of me, even though they can clearly see that I am already in the crosswalk.
So, imagine my delight and surprise when a huge new crosswalk sign — in a painfully bright dayglo chartreuse — appeared just a few weeks ago. At the same time, the crosswalk markings and lane indicators were repainted and speed bumps were put on the ramp. (At least, I think the speed bumps are new — the last time we exited on that ramp we noticed the bumps and all the new signage.) My guess is that this is the result of the pedestrian safety campaign announced by the mayor’s office this past May. Those “Think of the Impact You Could Make” signs are pretty goofy, but I’m liking these improvements to a very nasty intersection.
The surprising thing is that the new signs seem to be making a difference. It still requires considerable caution to cross here, but the rush-hour speeders are more likely to stop, perhaps because they are mesmerized by the power and glory of the huge, glowing sign.