SEATTLE - A citizen group calling itself the Seattle Department of Transformation has said it will show how simple fixes can improve street safety, beginning with a move that created a walkway for pedestrians near Roosevelt High School.
On Dec. 18, the abandoned R&R Hardware store, owned by the notorious landlord Hugh Sisley, caught fire. The result was an emergency notice posted on the remaining parts of the building, with a fence put up around the debris.
However, that blocked part of the sidewalk leading to a bus stop. The group using the handle @SEA_DOTr tweeted: “For weeks now, Seattle has had high school kids walking in traffic just tens of feet away from last year’s DUI death.”
“It’s been there for several days without this path. And so I had to go around,” said Aslam Khan, who lives nearby. He said he was happy to see the changes.
The Seattle Department of Transportation said the orange bollards were initially placed up against the fence by the Seattle Fire Department after the fire and that SDOT does not manage sidewalk closures for emergency response purposes.
Another tweet from the group reads: “Shame on the people who thought that this is okay!”
Now, the orange bollards have been moved into the middle of the street, and “walk” signs have been posted to create a makeshift path.
The signs seem to be repurposed from campaign signs for Prop 1B, the city’s universal pre-K initiative.
The group told local blog Publicola that it wanted to stay anonymous for now. Someone with the group responded to a KIRO 7 email, saying someone would agree to talk at a later time.
Jeff Britton, a pedestrian who used the new walkway Monday, said, “Tremendous! Come on, it’s Seattle. People do things to make things better. And these people are doing that.”
His friend, Chuck Ogburn, also supported the efforts, though he said he wouldn’t have done that himself: “Hey, it’s their risk. I’m not stupid enough to do it. They’ll get arrested if they get caught, probably.”
In fact, Norm Mah, an SDOT spokesperson, said it was illegal for individuals to modify street traffic controls.
He also quoted a city manual, saying “the area between the curb and property line, including sidewalks, is the maintenance responsibility of the abutting property owner.”
Mah said SDOT would now reach out to the property owner for a solution.
In this case, the property is owned by Hugh Sisley, who recently paid the city $3 million in fines. The property is in the control of Roosevelt Development Group.
KIRO 7 explained the situation to someone who answered the phone for RDG. He asked for KIRO to call back later, but did not answer the second time.
As far as blocks to parts of sidewalks, Ogburn said, “They’re all over town, there’s construction everywhere. It’s taking up sidewalk space and not allowing you to go, so you have to cross the street, or go around.”
While this particular case is unrelated to construction, the city of Seattle does have new rules regarding walkways by construction sites.
As of Jan. 1, new construction projects are to shut down sidewalks only as a last resort. Crews are also required to maintain walkways at least 4 feet wide.