Guerrilla Pedestrians Take Over 1st Ave

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.

15 Responses to “Guerrilla Pedestrians Take Over 1st Ave”

  1. Mark

    Seattle is the only city I’ve ever seen that closes off the sidewalk. Any other city would close the traffic/parking lane, or (more likely) put up a covered pedestrian walkway. The obvious conclusion is that those people are all tourists. :)

    Seriously, it takes 2 seconds for a car to change lanes, and 2 minutes for a pedestrian to do the double zig-zag. Everyone knows closing the sidewalk is a retarded policy, and thus this form of protest is unsurprising and appropriate.

    If safety is a concern, the best response would be to just put out the orange pylons and make it official.

  2. Matt the Engineer

    Awesome photos. Hey, 1st is where Nickels should have had his car-free day. Actually, 1st would be a perfect place to make car-free all the time.

  3. joshuadf

    Hooray! This happens fairly regularly in the U-District, I figured it was just students.

  4. gw

    Q: Why DIDN’T the tourist cross the road?
    A: To get to the Lusty Lady!

  5. JesseJB

    I do this all the time on 1st. The drivers in the other lane dont even seem to mind even tho theyre backed up for blocks haha. Sometimes a car does travel down the lane where people walk but theres totally enough room for both.

  6. Bob

    That’s awesome. Someone should just move those orange cones over and shut the lane “officially”. Wonder what the bus drivers would do then?

  7. flipguy206

    That picture with “woman carrying baby” and “man pushing stroller” is my car.

  8. Mickymse

    No… Someone should smack the pedestrians up the side of the head! Especially the parents with babies and strollers.

    Sure, it sucks to have to go around, but YOU’RE at fault if you get hit by a car or bus in this situation. And why the HELL would you put your child at risk?

  9. justin

    ugh I hate closed sidewalks. This one has been closed for along time. I have walked that strip in the road, it was pretty fun to see everyone jumping in.

  10. BrianK

    Yay! We will drive those two-ton machines of death out of our streets one lane at a time, even if it means using our soft bodies (and those of our families) to do so. Eventually They Will Learn.

    For the record, there was a (crappy) covered pedestrian walkway for a year or more. They tore it down to re-build the sidewalk, the better to be properly oppressed by this concrete temple to white-gloved luxury.

    Don’s photo study is great, and could fuel an entire semester’s worth of study. Unless like me you’ve been out of school for years and now just spend your time commenting on blogs.

  11. Brian Bundridge

    Ha! You got a picture of my friend’s Scion xB.

    http://www.scionlife.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=235091

  12. wes

    when blog worlds collide. funny to read the comments in that link brian.

    i had not noticed “pole vaulting” at the lusty lady. thanks to the scion bloggers for pointing it out.

  13. wes

    http://slog.thestranger.com/2008/08/pedestrian_insurgence

  14. Matt the Engineer

    Wow. The bit about flying to DC to see if they block off streets is almost unbelievable.

    Commenters sure swear a lot at the Slog.

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    [...] and how nothing really changed despite that report), as has Dan Bertolet in a post called “Guerrilla pedestrians take over 1st Ave,” but this morning’s example on East Pine Street illustrates the problem well. Here are [...]

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