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Thursday, July 17, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Guest columnist

Pedestrian Summer: the sole of Seattle

Special to The Times

Summer is here, and Seattleites are celebrating the sunny weather and above-60-degree temperatures by donning their shorts and sunglasses and getting outdoors.

Seattle is a great place to experience on your feet and we've been recognized as one of the most walkable cities by several organizations over the years.

The city boasts wonderful parks, trails and shorelines for foot-friendly activities and a top-notch bus system to help walkers get to the far reaches of the city limits.

Despite the numerous reasons for people to walk in Seattle, many people don't take advantage of the opportunity. That's one reason for the "Pedestrian Summer" campaign.

Pedestrian Summer, initiated by the city of Seattle and several cooperating organizations, aims to raise awareness of the benefits of pedestrian activities and the need for greater safety.

Dr. David Grossman, director of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, points out that on average, a pedestrian is injured by a motor vehicle every seven minutes in the U.S.

In Seattle, for the period January 1996 to June 2002, there were 923 pedestrians hospitalized because of motor-vehicle crashes, an average of 142 hospitalizations per year. Five percent of those who were hospitalized died.

When pedestrians and vehicles come into conflict, it is the pedestrian who suffers the damage. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2001 there were 4,882 pedestrian deaths and 78,000 pedestrians hospitalized due to traffic crashes. Most pedestrian deaths (69 percent) occurred in urban areas.

You can avoid being a statistic by walking safely and driving safely.

As a pedestrian, your responsibility is to cross at corners, look before you start to cross, obey traffic signals (a flashing "Don't Walk" means don't start across the intersection, not "run"), and use good judgment to stay safe, no matter who has the right of way.

As a driver, you must keep in mind that every intersection, whether marked or not, is a crosswalk, and pedestrians have the right of way. You should avoid passing other cars stopped at crosswalks, and wait until all pedestrians have cleared the intersection. Obeying the speed limit will leave you the time to stop safely and prevent an accident.

My office conceived Pedestrian Summer as a way to increase safety and promote walking with community events throughout the summer.

We hope to foster more respect and civility between pedestrians and motorists and to improve driver behavior by increasing awareness about pedestrian safety. Our ambition is to transform driving culture in Seattle by making motorists aware of pedestrians, and to help walkers learn how to keep themselves safe.

The long-term goal is to get people more excited about walking by creating a safer and more pedestrian-friendly cityscape.

This campaign also demonstrates the city's commitment to walking as a vital mode of transportation, a healthy form of exercise and a fun way to build community. Having more people walking reduces pollution, cuts traffic congestion and helps promote public safety.

The four components of Pedestrian Summer are:

• Education: providing pedestrian-safety information via the Internet, presentations at public events and mailings from insurance companies;

• Enforcement: targeting enforcement by the Seattle Police Department of motorists who disobey crosswalk laws;

• Engineering: installing new pedestrian-safety devices at troublesome intersections and school crossings; and

• Encouragement: providing guided walking tours and welcoming parade participation by pedestrians of all ages.

Pedestrian Summer officially began in May at the Rainier Valley Runaround fun run with the unveiling of a new pedestrian-safety brochure and the Columbia City map, the fifth neighborhood walking, biking and busing guide produced by the Seattle Department of Transportation. More maps of Seattle neighborhoods are being produced.

The campaign has continued with events ranging from a "crosswalk action" in the Pike-Pine neighborhood, where pedestrians carried signs across intersections to remind drivers to slow down and yield, to a "walking sidewalk debate" in Broadview and Greenwood, where participants shared ideas on how to get sidewalks built in areas of Seattle that are without them. Recently, the "Ped-Heads" made an appearance at the Wallingford Kiddies Parade to promote pedestrian safety to kids.

Other events are scheduled each week throughout the summer until "Walk to School Day" in early October. More information and a listing of events can be found at www.pedsummer.org.

Seattle City Councilman Richard Conlin chairs the council's Transportation Committee and is an avid pedestrian. Pedestrian Summer is a city program co-sponsored by Pemco Insurance, State Farm Insurance, Vulcan, Safeco, Puget Sound Energy, Turner Construction, the Washington Traffic and Safety Commission, and Flexcar. Among the initiating organizations was the pedestrian advocacy group Feet First.

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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