City staff demonstrates the plight of pedestriansNovember 10th, 2013 by travis baker
The in basket: When I gently questioned the wisdom of turning Bremerton’s Washington Avenue into a two-lane street between Sixth Street and the Manette Bridge in a recent column, the city public works department decided it would pay to try to convince me of the value of the project, set for 2015.
So Public Works Director Chal Martin, Managing Street Engineer Gunnar Fridriksson and Administrative Division Manager Milenka Hawkins-Bates of their office took me on a tour of city work sites, ending at Sixth and Washington.
The out basket: Chal evidently had been getting some questions about the capacity of Washington to handle rush hour traffic with only one lane in each direction, though that wasn’t what I had questioned. He spent a lot of time demonstrating how little the second lane northbound is needed even with a ferry arrival and shipyard closing time only minutes apart.
And it certainly looked that day that almost all northbound traffic on Washington in the afternoon uses the outside lane to reach the bridge. Only briefly did traffic back up in the inside lane.
Those are the people who will be impeded by having to wait while the signal at the bridge is red and would-be bridge users are in their way. But I’m sure those people will quickly learn that turning left onto Sixth Street, which will keep its left-turn lane, will shorten any delays.
What impressed me far more on our tour was the case Chal made for wider sidewalks, which will be created in the Washington project.
Our tour began at the northwest corner of 11th Street and Naval Avenue, where we stood as traffic zoomed past. The speed limit is only 30 there, but that close to it, it seems to be zooming.
I’d never walked it, so in my many trips along 11th in my car never noticed how frighteningly slender the sidewalks are there.
Chal said, “I think about all the people I see who walk here. I see women pushing double baby buggies walking here. I see moms and little kids and people in motorized wheelchairs.
“When you’re in your car,” he continued, “you’re surrounded by modern safety conveniences, you have a radio and a heater. You’re not exposed to the elements. So I ask, is it OK to delay someone two or three minutes in their normal commute in a trade-off to get more safety for pedestrians and bicyclists?
“My answer,” said Chal, “is a resounding yes.”
The Road Warrior’s argument has been that the focus on providing for the relatively few bikes and walkers by further frustrating the vastly larger number of drivers is ill-conceived. You might agree with that, as I might still, but we should test that belief by walking from Naval to Callow on the north side of 11th occasionally.
And, as Milenka added, “If the sidewalk is safer, would you have more people using it?”
As for 11th, it can’t be widened, so making it safer for non-motorists would require reducing it to two or three lanes, as they are doing with Pacific Avenue north of Sixth Street right now. Don’t be shocked if that’s not proposed in some future year.