My urbanist geek friend Don Vehige got all excited about some pedestrian behavior he observed downtown at 1st and University and snapped the photos below. Apparently people lose their ability to read during sunny Saturday afternoons, because the construction area at the front of the new Four Seasons hotel has the biggest and most explicit “sidewalk closed” signage I’ve ever seen. During work week days, there’s almost always a cop at 1st and Union who is constantly yelling at people to go back, and they obey. But on weekends, no cop, and so nothing to stop those wacky pedestrians from stepping out and taking back the street. And the cars put up with it, funneling into a single lane. A beautiful thing.
This section of 1st Ave, connecting Pike Market to Harbor Steps and S.A.M., carries pedestrian volumes that rank among the highest anywhere in the State of Washington (which, by the way, makes it all the more astounding that the Four Seasons was allowed to build such a lame impervious street wall). But still, even in this context, officially closing a vehicular travel lane and using it for a temporary pedestrian route is apparently an option that’s not even on the table. Because in car culture it goes without saying that the pedestrians, not the car drivers, should be the ones to suffer the inconvenience.