Seattle is pushing plans to lower speed limits across the city, a bid to make the streets a little safer for pedestrians. The theory is that a pedestrian hit by a car has a better change of surviving if the car is going slower.
Fair enough. But to my thinking, a significant contributing factor is the large number of pedestrians who cross streets without first looking left and right like their mamas told them to. Washington State law says persons on foot have the right of way at intersections whether there is a marked crosswalk or not. That’s fine. But a routine quick glance in both directions would bring the risk of getting hit (or killed) down to just about zero.
I have written about this before, suggesting there might be some kind of anti-car political motivation in liberal Seattle. That remains my view when I see pedestrians put down their heads and almost make an I-dare-you show of staring straight ahead as they march across a busy street.
Nearly four years after becoming New To Seattle, I still think the city has the craziest pedestrians I have seen in this country. I regularly witness examples of what I regard as those on foot simply not watching out for themselves. Among the worst offenders in my experience remain the brainiacs working at the Amazon.com warren of headquarters buildings in South Lake Union. They scurry across Terry Avenue N and other narrow streets seemingly without a worry like the dungeness crabs they like to scarf down after work.
Another contributing factor is widespread pedestrian use of cellphones as the pedestrians cross streets. This is hardly unique to Seattle, except people here are among the country’s most educated. Concentrating on a tiny screen while entering a busy thoroughfare and not looking each way: What possibly could go wrong?
The result of all this is sort of a shooting gallery on the streets of Seattle. Measuring the frequency of car accidents, which presumably include those involving pedestrians, Allstate Insurance says local drivers are among the very worst in the country. On a list of the country’s 200 largest cities, the Good Hands folks rank Seattle No. 177 (No. 1 means the best drivers, No. 200 the worst). From what I can see, in-car cell-phone-holding-and-use bears much of the blame here, too.
With that kind of documented incompetence behind the wheel, Seattle pedestrians should be on notice to keep a sharp look-out. To me, that’s simple common sense. But in famously unchurched Seattle, locals on foot are taking an awful lot on faith.
I’m sorry, but right-of-way or not, some victims need to share the blame. Darwin was on to something.