August 13, 2015
Today in Seattle City Council, officials from Seattle Police and Seattle Department of Transportation presented a new initiative championed by Councilmember Sally Bagshaw called “Don’t Be a Jerk, Don’t Block the Box“.
Obstructing crosswalks and intersections during signal changes is indeed part of the Municipal Code of Seattle and is against the law (SMC 11.50.070), but traffic violations are rarely enforced unless they are part of a funded initiative.
Because journalists are often delayed as they head out from downtown Seattle by blocked boxes, so media stories about Block the Box have been overwhelmingly supportive.
Seattle Neighborhood Greenways Executive Director Cathy Tuttle presented the following testimony on why to consider Block the Box as part of a Vision Zero / Safe Streets initiative:
My name is Cathy Tuttle. I am the Executive Director of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways. I am here today representing Greenways, a community coalition of more than 20 local groups who chose as their number one priority in 2015 safe streets and Vision Zero.
We are delighted to see this “Block the Box” collaboration between Seattle Police and the Seattle Department of Transportation. It is a data-driven safety initiative we strongly support.
Not only does “Blocking the Box” lead to traffic congestion and delay, car drivers who illegally enter crosswalks and intersections pose a significant safety threat to people who walk and ride bicycles.
“Block the Box” is notable in the downtown core, but I’ve spoken to many of our members who feel threatened as they attempt to cross the street by people driving cars across signalized crosswalks in many urban villages including Greenwood, Lake City, Queen Anne, Rainier, Faunterloy, Ballard, Capitol Hill, and Wallingford. In particular, our most vulnerable elders and children are at risk by people who “Block the Box”.
A father who walks his children daily to preschool, one in a stroller and one in hand, says that he often waits for two signal cycles in Madison Valley until the crosswalk is open for him to walk his family safely across the street. A senior couple in Green Lake told me they wait for gaps in traffic and “scurry like scared rabbits” to get across the street from the Library to the Community Center.
We hope this collaborative pilot project is successful and expands to other neighborhoods. We urge Council to consider dedicating some of the revenue collected in “Block the Box” citations back into Vision Zero safety enforcement AND into Vision Zero safety engineering for safer crosswalks throughout the city.