Walking is the most straightforward form of sustainable transportation. Using your own two feet to move from point A to point B makes use of 100% clean energy: there are no carbon emissions, pollution, or chemical waste. No special equipment is necessary, and it’s good for your physical and mental health too.
However, walking along a bad sidewalk can ruin the entire experience. So, what can you do if you encounter a sidewalk with cracks, trip hazards, or other dangers—besides cross the street?
Here are ten ideas for some sidewalk activism in Seattle.
1. It’s the property owner’s duty to keep that sidewalk safe. According to the City of Seattle: “What some property owners do not realize is that they are responsible for maintaining part of the public right-of-way next to their property, including the sidewalk and planting strip, or the roadway shoulder if unimproved.” So, step one is to let the property owner know that they might have a problem with their sidewalk.
2. If the sidewalk is icy, absolutely report to the property owner or nearby tenants. Many winter injuries are caused by slipping on ice, slush or snow. If the sidewalk is your responsibility, investigate an eco-friendly de-icer.
3. If a sidewalk is dangerous because of overgrown blackberries, shrubs, trees, or there is trash blocking the way, you can report this to the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) by using their online form or calling 206-615-0808.
4. Are curbs likely to cause a trip, or do the ramps at street crossings need fixing up? Seattleites with mobility issues or other disabilities might rely on the city’s curb ramps to safely cross streets. If you need to request a curb ramp installation, you can make an Americans with Disabilities (ADA) request from the City of Seattle.
5. The City of Seattle is also able to take requests for Accessible Pedestrian Signals at crosswalks. An Accessible Pedestrian Signal is pedestrian push button that makes noise and vibrates to allow someone who is visually or hearing impaired to know when it’s safe to cross a street. Requests can be made by phone to 206-684-5124 or through a Request a City Service form.
6. If the traffic signals aren’t working properly, or a stop sign is damaged or missing (making it dangerous to cross the street) that can be reported here.
7. Maybe your favorite intersection doesn’t have a crosswalk at all? You can request one by e-mailing WalkAndBike@Seattle.gov or calling the Pedestrian Program at 206-684-7583.
10. The previous ideas are all very official, but you can also take the path of street artists Juliana Santacraz Herrera, who fills in sidewalk holes and cracks with crochet, Dispatchwork, who repairs cracks in buildings and sidewalks with Legos or your own blend of street art repairwork. Of course, you can also offer to repair a sidewalk yourself. With permission of the property owner, you could be the hero of your block.
Were you able to make your walk safer? We’d love to hear about your results.