Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sometimes, you just luck out

One of these special moments occurred for me yesterday. After 2 days of being sick and watching Regis and Kelly (oh God, kill me now), I was finally in some shape to return to work. Once there I looked at the window. And to my surprise, SDOT was installing a new flashing crosswalk light at 5th Ave S & S King St

What is neat about this whole event is the fact that, for most of us, these things just happen. You don’t know when they happened; they just simply appeared, like gnomes. Anyways, so now some facts…

SDOT installs yellow flashing lights at a number of crosswalk locations. The one seen here is one of the older versions. It’s kind of a retro-looking device that appears to be made out of someone’s garage (side note: You would be surprised by the number of things traffic engineers make in their garages/basements/etc that end up on roadways). It is likely that this device came from one of the recently removed crosswalk locations and is being reused at this location. The housing itself holds a small incandescent light which provides additional lighting to the crosswalk. A small photocell is on top of the housing turns on the light. The amber flashing light is on 24-hrs a day providing a constant warning to drivers. Overall, this is a very simple device.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

No, you’re not drunk and seeing double…

You’re seeing one of the most recent installations of shared lane use markings, or sharrows, on Yesler Way in downtown Seattle. These markings are meant to indicate to motorists and bicyclists that there is likely to be bike traffic on this road and that both modes should share the road.

Seattle, like other large cities, has curb side parking which converts to a travel lane during the peak hours. Typically, this doesn’t really require anything more than No Parking signs with a time restriction on them for motorists like this.

But, now, how do you mark a roadway with sharrrows with this condition? Do you put a marking in the lane that is always open but becomes the left lane during the peak hours? Do you put a marking in the right lane which is parking for a majority of the day?

Seattle has decided that it will do both options. On one side when parking is allowed, the marking will be covered, so it won’t look like someone got crazy with the thermoplastic. Then, when the right lane is a travel lane, it just gives extra warning that bikes can legally be in either lane. This is an often forgotten rule by motorists.

Overall, this is a difficult situation and one that will doubtlessly come up again as large cities try to incorporate these markings on their streets. It should be interesting to see how this turns out. Now, if they could just repaint that broken white line…