Given the low-grade controversy the City generated by installing improvements to the crossing at 36th and Madison, it is perhaps a bit surprising to learn that the new “median island” was not constructed because of pedestrian complaints about the crossing; nor were the changes made because of a high level of vehicle/pedestrian collisions there. Moreover, it seems that no petitions were made by any Madison Park group requesting a revision of the traffic pattern at that location.
So what happened? The short answer is that it was just our turn to get upgraded under an on-going City program to make Seattle more walk-able. Some of you may have noticed the Seattle Times article this morning concerning the Pedestrian Master Plan that the City has just released in draft form. The pedestrian crossing at 36th Avenue East and East Madison was specifically mentioned in the story as an example of the kinds of pre-plan implementation projects that are already underway but are consistent with the plan’s overall process and objectives.
I spoke this week with Carol McMahan, who runs the “early implementation” program at the City’s Department of Transportation. She told me that the Broadmoor crossing meets the criteria for an upgrade. When it comes to “uncontrolled marked crossings” (those without traffic lights or stop signs), the priority this year is to make improvements where pedestrians must cross a three-lane road that has average daily traffic in excess of 12,000 vehicles. In 2008 all of the priority four-lane crossings with a high level of traffic were upgraded. This year the City is moving on to the three-lane roads. A Crown Hill crossing preceded ours, and a Georgetown crossing is next on the list, she said.
The primary purpose of placing a crossing island in the middle of the road, according to McMahan, is to eliminate the “multi threat” of having pedestrians worry about cars coming at them from both directions while crossing a wide roadway. After arriving at the median island, a pedestrian can reassess the crossing in a relatively safe way. Additionally, cars are prevented from using the middle lane as a passing lane, further improving pedestrian safety.
So there you have it. As for the motorists who are inconvenienced by these changes, they will clearly have to get over it. The City is officially unsympathetic, and more protruding curbs and median islands are on the way. Public comment on the new Pedestrian Master Plan is being solicited through June 15. (http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/pedestrian_masterplan).