Urban Politics #347: My Bold New Plan for Pedestrian Safety Downtown


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As Chair of the Seattle City Council’s Finance and Culture Committee, I’ve been receiving numerous complaints from pedestrians, drivers and retail store owners about people who walk downtown unaware of others around them due to excessive texting on their smart phones.

Text LaneEach day, people texting get hit by cars in crosswalks or bump into other pedestrians, street lamps, or telephone poles. The resulting collisions often interfere with the orderly flow of pedestrian traffic into and around retail stores.

To address this situation, I’m sponsoring legislation to initiate a six month pilot program on four of our major down town corridors: First, Second, Third and Fourth Avenues between Pine and Spring streets. Each will be subject to a new set of laws and procedures regulating texting by pedestrians between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.

The following will immediately go into effect in each of the corridors:

First Avenue – since this is identified to be a casual pedestrian friendly corridor, texting will be allowed. However, all poles and objects permanently installed in the sidewalk will be encased in foam padding to reduce physical harm to inattentive pedestrians. A similar system has been used in London with some success. Next week, my Finance and Culture Committee meeting will include a discussion of a $150,000 appropriation through the 1st Quarter Supplemental Budget bill.

Second Avenue – Anyone found texting while walking will be given a warning by a police officer. Anyone with a prior warning will receive a $100 fine.

Third Avenue – The practice on Second Avenue will be augmented by community participation. Anyone seeing another person texting and reporting it to police on the City’s soon available phone app will receive a $10 gift certificate to one of twenty stores in downtown co-sponsoring this pilot program. If a person is able to identify more than three people, the certificate will increase to $50.

Text Lane

Fourth Avenue – All of the practices on Third Avenue will continue, plus anyone holding a phone in the palm of their hand and looking down at it will be assumed to be poised to text, or to be reading text, and will be fined $100 for the first offense. Failure to pay within twenty four hours will result in a warrant for their arrest.

By working together, I believe we can make Seattle a place where pedestrians can feel safe without the fear of being assaulted by inattentive texters.

Oh, and one more thing…have a great April Fool’s day!

Keep in touch…

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Comment from Mark Faried
Time April 8, 2014 at 8:12 pm

“Second Avenue – Anyone found texting while walking will be given a warning by a police officer” This is really great, Well done

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