by Glen Buhlman, Kirkland Greenways
October 17, 2014
Should you need to be lit up like an airport runway in order to cross a street without getting hit by a car?
Public Domain Road Safety Authority Ireland
This expectation is becoming common in our region. Rather than focus on the lack of safety on our streets and committing the required funding and staff resources to engineer safer streets, we too often look for cheap ways to make ourselves feel like we have solved the problem, all the while continuing to spend the bulk of our transportation budget (your tax money) "improving" our roads for cars to go faster. It is a vicious cycle that makes many people feel it is too unsafe to walk or ride bicycles or get to transit and instead drive, further exacerbating the traffic problems.
The Northshore Utility District is handing out the exact same safety vests as those pictured with Santa to local school children. The City of Kirkland puts flags at crosswalks for people to wave at cars when they cross the street to try to shame the people driving the cars into stopping.
To be clear, Kirkland Greenways is not opposed to stopgap and immediate solutions to try to save lives while we do the hard work to make our streets safe for people who walk and bike. But the Kirkland flag program has existed for almost 20 years!
How long does Northshore Utility District expect everyone who walks anywhere to wear a reflective vest? How long before we have flags and vests, maybe also with motion activated flashing LEDs and sirens on them, hanging at all crosswalks in our region? How about we engineer our streets to make them safe for people rather than engineering people to make them safe on our streets?
At Community Future Day in Kirkland on Apr 26, 2014, residents were given play money in the amount of the city’s budget and asked how they would spend it. Residents chose to spend 25% / 26% / 27% on pedestrian/bicycling/transit respectively and only 21% on automobile projects.
We all own these streets. It is up to all of us to decide how we want to invest in and use our streets. There has been a big change, at least in Kirkland, Washington and Kenmore, Washington, and the change has been pretty clearly in favor of making our streets safe for people to walk and bicycle.
Let's invest in more than vests and orange flags, shall we?