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Street-crossing time | Intersection right of way
Q: A Sand Point area resident complains that traffic lights at some intersections along busy Sand Point Way Northeast stay red long after...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Q: A Sand Point area resident complains that traffic lights at some intersections along busy Sand Point Way Northeast stay red long after even the slowest pedestrian has crossed the street. An Eastside resident, on the other hand, complains that no one ever makes it across a busy Richards Road crosswalk in Bellevue's Factoria area before the light changes.
So, is there a standard or rule of thumb for timing traffic lights to allow enough time for pedestrians, particularly older or slower ones, to cross? Ten seconds? Sixty seconds? How long is long enough, and how long is so long that it causes problems for vehicle-traffic flow?
After crossing, "most pedestrians are almost half a block away from the end of the crosswalk when the light finally turns green," the Sand Point resident lamented. "With the growing traffic on Sand Point Way Northeast, this blocks traffic up quite a bit during rush hour."
A: Pedestrian crossing times vary, and signal times can be adjusted. But jurisdictions — Seattle and Bellevue included — generally follow Federal Highway Administration guidelines that recommend at least a four-second walk period before a flashing pedestrian don't-walk sign appears, then a period of time, based on the crossing distance, for pedestrians to complete the crossing, even after the don't-walk signal starts flashing.
Mark Poch, Bellevue's traffic-engineering manager, says pedestrian signals generally are timed to allow pedestrians about 4 feet per second during the signal flashing period — in other words, 10 seconds for a 40-foot crossing distance. Cross times aren't usually based on traffic volumes.
And pedestrian signals are not timed to the number of pedestrians waiting to cross or when those pedestrians arrive at the crosswalk, unless there's a pedestrian button to activate the signal.
Seattle's Transportation Department agrees that the pedestrian-signal timing along Sand Point Way may need to be adjusted. And Poch says Bellevue will check the Richards Road crossing signal.
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Q: Madison Park resident Elinor Kriegsmann thinks more attention should be paid to steep intersections that have blind spots for motorists turning or crossing the intersection. She points to 24th Avenue East, between Capitol Hill and Madison Park. "Going south from East Madison Street, one cannot see cars approaching the intersection from the east on East John Street or East Denny Way," she said.
"There have been several near misses, particularly in the morning hours as drivers are going fast towards 23rd Avenue and Madison. Cars rarely yield right of way to cars approaching on the right. Can yield signs be installed on the uphill side of these steep intersections?"
A: When two vehicles approach or enter an unsignaled intersection from different streets at about the same time, the driver on the left should yield to the vehicle on the right, says Wayne Wentz, the Seattle Transportation Department's traffic-management director.
But there is a traffic signal where 24th Avenue East, East Madison Street and East John Street come together. So, Wentz says, yield signs should not be necessary.
A history of few collisions at 24th Avenue and East Denny Way indicates motorists are exercising reasonable caution when traveling through the intersection, he said. "Our experience has shown that yield signs [or stop signs] installed at unwarranted locations tend to have a lower rate of compliance, which may result in an increase in the number or severity of collisions."
Q: In her afternoon commute, Debra Prins of Seattle frequently drives from downtown Seattle north on Elliott Avenue West toward the Magnolia Bridge. Posted signs restrict parking after 4 p.m., but, says Prins: "There is not a night that some car is not blocking the curb lane. In fact, many times cars are still parked in the curb lane even at 5:30 p.m.
"As you would suspect, this causes traffic blockages as drivers need to move over a lane and then back to curbside. Why are these cars not immediately towed as they would be from downtown streets?"
A: It's possible that those vehicles have already been ticketed and are awaiting tow trucks for impound, says Seattle Police Department spokesman Sean Whitcomb. Peak zones are supposed to be cleared of vehicles at 4 p.m., "but it is always possible for a new violator to come along and create traffic havoc for other commuters by parking in the lane meant for traffic flow," he said.
As a rule, parking-enforcement officers, in an effort to keep traffic moving during peak hours, are on the lookout for violators. The citation for such violations is $38, and violators may discover that their vehicle has been impounded to clear the lane.
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.