April 2018

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Seattlle Crosswalks

Soon after I moved to Seattle, Mom was visiting and when the traffic cleared, she headed across the street against the light. When she got to the middle of the crosswalk, she realized she was alone, turned back to the crowd on the corner and asked, “Where is everybody?” Then she returned to the curb to wait for the light to change like the rest of us.

Pedestrians in Seattle wait for the fellow in white lights to tell us it's time to cross. We are patient. Once we get in our cars, however, we're not so good.

A couple of weeks ago, I was walking to the bus stop. I crossed an intersection that is usually busy, but on this day at this time, there were no other pedestrians, and there weren't even many cars. As I waited at the corner for the white man in lights to signal me to cross the street, I thought, "There's not much traffic. Maybe this is good. But the day that the monster Bronco smashed my little Honda Civic was a day of little traffic in an intersection that was usually busy. I must be wary."

When the little man in white lights appeared, I looked around the  corner to my left to make sure that no one was turning right. All clear. No one was turning left into my cross walk, either, so I stepped out. As I got across the first lane and was into the second lane, a white car (white again!), lulled by the unusual lack of traffic, scooted into the intersection and then across my cross walk.

Peripherally, I saw the car, and I screamed, "Holy moly!" them's
strong words) and jumped. (Yes, I jumped. I didn't know I could do that.) I jumped out of  the white car's path, and saw the driver's round eyes, opened large, as I gave the driver my evil eye and continued across the intersection.

The driver looked as surprised as I did. He did not deserve the evil eye. He was trying to get through an intersection where too much is going on and visibility over a hill is difficult. I have heard that a group of parents submitted an appeal for this intersection to be made safer. Their appeal was denied. The board that denied that appeal deserves the evil eye.

I was not hurt, but the near-miss did trigger post-traumatic stress, and I've been jumpy. I'm even more anxious when I ride in a car than I was before. I squelch a screech when I'm afraid that my driver hasn't checked the blind spot or when I see other cars headed for a common space. (I know from high school physics that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time.) One dark early morning, I screamed when Ann was unexpectedly in the living room. She did not like this.

I am settling down, but I will contact the city about this intersection. It's not safe. I can't imagine why the first contact didn't cause enough concern to change the intersection by putting in protected left turns.

I also think that as a city we need to demand more patience at stoplights. There is never a time when a pedestrian can step into the cross walk without worrying that a right-turning driver, who also has the green, won't bash us. Busy lights, especially in the central district, where I live, and the South end, (both areas that are traditionally areas where people of color have lived and perhaps for this reason have not been afforded luxuries like protected lefts) should have protected left turns at busy intersections, like the one at 23rd and Yesler where I yelped.

The city should give a little more generous crossing time, at least 22 seconds, which is the time that a woman testing me for disability services for transportion told me that most lights allow for crossing. I haven't timed this cross walk, but I'm guessing that the light allows at most 10 seconds before the red hand starts to flash. My therapist, who is able-bodied and quite energetic, said that she and a friend struggled to get across this same intersection just a week before I did.

I'm going to write the city about this. They will probably tell me that there is no problem, just like Metro did when I pointed out problems for people with disabilities getting seats at the front of the bus. They'll probably ignore me again, just like they have every time I've called to have a handicapped parking space identified in front of my house. But I'll keep speaking up.

Especially now that I know I can yell and jump at the same time.

1 comment:

  1. Mary, I have to tell you that although you have not gotten attention (yet!) from the City of Seattle, you always get my attention. I have been reminded of several things by reading your blog:
    1) People who have disabilities - even invisible ones - have fewer M&Ms of energy in their jar at any given moment than those people who don't have disabilities and seem to have an unlimited supply.
    2) People who are temporarily abled really can wait until the narrower "able bodied people" bathroom stall is available - just in case Mary E or another differently abled person shows up and has to pee. right. now. And we are only temporarily abled, for sure.
    3) Be patient when driving.
    4) The bus is good for people watching and reflecting. Get my damn nose out of my iPhone and watch more!
    5) Be cautious as a pedestrian.
    And so forth.
    Plus you make me laugh and smile every time I visit here.


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