Opinion: Pedestrian crossing at Beacon and Lander demands attention

Since the light rail station opened last summer, the crosswalk at Beacon and Lander has become the busiest on Beacon Hill. The majority of the people exiting the station are headed west to go to the bank, Red Apple, the southbound bus stop, or home. All of these people must cross Beacon, and many get very creative in the process. Because the crossing is way out at the corner and runs diagonally to the corner away from Red Apple and the bus stop, many people choose to just cross through the middle of the street. Because the crosswalk—which now has flashing beacons and signage, but once only had markings on the pavement—is at the intersection with Lander, there is not only north-south traffic moving through but also people turning onto Beacon from Lander. With the long crossing, the multitude of car approaches, and the scurrying light rail riders, it is ripe for an accident.

The other day I camped out at the crosswalk from 5:00-6:00 pm and filmed about 16 pedestrian crossings when cars were around. I put them together and, with very little editing, made this video:

This was not a “best of” video, but simply what you see at every rush hour here. After bemoaning the miserable state of our most popular Beacon crossing, I started to think about how the pedestrian infrastructure at all the other light rail stations in Seattle seemed satisfactory and even exemplary. Yesterday I decided to take a ride on the light rail and check out each station and then do a little compare and contrast with what we have been dealt. The results from this foray are here:

Apparently Sound Transit is only responsible for putting things back the way they found them, and Seattle’s Complete Streets Ordinance—which requires attention to pedestrian safety among other things—does not apply to them when they do their repave this summer. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has been working with Beacon BIKES! to improve this crossing, but they have limited funds. I am suggesting that Sound Transit work with us and SDOT to improve this crossing as part of the repave this summer. If you want to get involved please email me at dsahearn@gmail.com, and attend the next Beacon BIKES! meeting on Monday, June 21, at 6:00 pm at the Beacon Hill Library, 2821 Beacon Avenue South.

Be Safe!

(This is Dylan’s first post for the Beacon Hill Blog. Thanks, Dylan! — Editor.)

20 thoughts on “Opinion: Pedestrian crossing at Beacon and Lander demands attention”

  1. thank you for your time and initiative to draw attention to this-It is an accident waiting to happen.

  2. How about a traffic light at that intersection, with a walk signal where pedestrians can go across in any direction, like down at 1st and Pike?

  3. “How about a traffic light at that intersection, with a walk signal where pedestrians can go across in any direction, like down at 1st and Pike?”

    Or at Beacon and 15th…..Why we still have that four way walk signal at that intersection is beyond me. It made sense when the library was there, but there is no reason to be in a hurry to get to a hair salon or a tax accountant. There’s plenty of those on both sides of the street in our business district 😉

  4. Theoretically that intersection won’t be dead forever. I think that Dylan’s video shows us what would happen if we got rid of the 4 way walk at the junction — people would start jaywalking the diagonal direction. Just as when they cross at Beacon and Lander they don’t follow the crosswalk because it points in the wrong direction, they would jaywalk at the junction because the diagonal cross is shorter.

  5. Just one thing, I have in various forums seen people be irate that cars aren’t stopping for them when they are standing on the curb and that ire is a bit undeserved – vehicles are only obligated to stop once a pedestrian is in the crosswalk, not when they are standing on the sidewalk. I know I was instructed I had to step off to get cars to stop, but it seems to no longer be formally taught.


    I cross at Lander and Beacon frequent and cars particularly on the southbound side of Beacon seem to not have a clear idea where they are supposed to stop for pedestrian traffic.

  6. Thanks for documenting the insanity. Regardless of how many flashing lights they put up at the corners, the desire path straight across to the bus stop will win out. The intersection design would be comical if it weren’t so dangerous.

  7. It doesn’t help that there are 16 inch deep potholes too.

    The easiest thing is to put a barrier to prevent peds from not crossing anywhere bit at the crosswalk, and to teach drivers that they MUST yeild to walkers in a crosswalk.

  8. Couldn’t agree more with above posts about the dangerous and inadequately marked pedestrian crossing…. I think one of the best examples for Beacon Hill to follow of a busy pedestrian crossing done right is on 12th ave (just past the James intersection I believe) where there are flashing reflectors in the road to help alert cars of pedestrian crossing. This helps the multitude of health workers cross a very busy 12th ave on their way to Harborview – maybe this could be brought up at the next BH council meeting?

  9. “The easiest thing is to put a barrier to prevent peds from not crossing anywhere bit at the crosswalk.”

    The problem with that is that you can’t put a barrier along the bus stop. So it won’t prevent people from doing the angled cross there.

  10. Tim,

    SDOT is planning on installing just such a crossing at the Beacon Hill Library this summer using a new sensor technology. The one on Boren at Swedish is activated when you step on the rumble strip, these tend to get stuck and fail. The one at the library will use a motion sensor attached to a post. I think these types of crossing are great, the only drawback being that they can make pedestrians feel too safe in walking out into the street. My plan would be to move the crossing at Beacon and Lander south 30-40 feet, add curb bulbs on both sides and install in-pavement flashers. In addition, I think a speed table crossing (like at Powell Barnett on MLK), would be ideal. It would echo the Lander theme, slow down traffic on Beacon, and make a safer crossing.

  11. A typical pedestrian barrier (short metal fence) would only serve as a slight disincentive to many pedestrians who want to go straight across the street. However, it could be a dangerous hurdle to those who do cross illegally and need to quickly get out of the way of traffic. A four-way walk signal is a great idea, in the absence of an underground walkway across the street, like most cities have at their underground rail stations.

  12. The speed table seems to make sense, but you have to remember that the crossing at Lander was already a natural crossing point, and will continue to be used as such. Now we will have three crossing points within a single, short block. The signalled crossing at McClellan is only about 50 yards from the station, depending on which elevator you get, and Lander is even closer. That is much less than the distance to the nearest crossing or access point at several of the other stations. I’m not sure it is necessary to accomodate a few people who are unwilling to walk an extra 30 seconds to and from the nearest crosswalk. I think a better way to go would be to to put a full or half signal at Lander; something with a pedestrian-actuated red light. I firmly believe that the only safe crosswalk on Beacon Ave is one with a red light. That will solve both the crosswalk issue and the traffic issue at Lander. This should be evaluated and fixed as a prerequisite of the temporary parking variance for the surrounding properties proposed by DPD.

  13. As a Transit and Light rail rider, it makes sense to place a stop light in the middle of Beacon ave in front of the light rail elevators /across from the Red Apple Bus stop. The light, should be pedestrian induced. Touch a button the light changes. This would force the cars to stop. The crosswalk lights are dangerous. Most people will not walk to the crosswalk to cross and the cars will not stop. This would also prevent people from walking in front of or behind buses. I have seen people almost get creamed walking in front of the northbound bus to get to the southbound bus. I watched a girl cross in front of the northbound bus right in front of a car. If the car had been going the speed limit she would be dead today. This is a very serious problem

  14. Not to be mean, but do you really think that the type of person who will jump off a bus and immediately run across Beacon with no regard for safety is going to seek out and push a crosswalk button and wait for the light to turn green before crossing? The problem with this block is that, besides the fact that the busses don’t stop in exactly the same spot each time, if there is more than one bus lined up they will end up blocking this hypothetical third crosswalk or at a minimum stopping far enough away from the crosswalk that the shortest distance across the street is not within the crosswalk, thus defeating the purpose of the third crosswalk. I’m pretty sure that right now a southbound articulated coach stopped at the shelter is already blocking the Lander crosswalk at the back side. You might as well put a light at Lander and time it with the light at McClellan and make the entire block one big crosswalk. I have seen these before, but generally in areas with much greater number of both cars and pedestrians. That would be a better option, though, than having three seperate crossing points at McClellan, the bus stop, and at Lander. Ironically, it would be the presence of the busses within the block that would interfere with this concept.

    Maybe the most efficient way to deal with this would be to put a signalled crosswalk at Lander and stagger the bus stops such that the front of the bus on either side of Beacon falls immediately behind this crosswalk. The crosswalk could be the entire width of Lander, with car traffic leaving Beacon on each side.

    I’m just not convinced that it isn’t reasonable to expect people to walk the short distance to either Lander or McClellan to cross Beacon. Where else in Seattle are there three crosswalks this close together within one block?

  15. How about eliminating the center turn lane on that block of Beacon, and putting a ped. barrier down the middle. Stops mid-block crossings and doesn’t obstruct bus stops.

    Once that’s done, then signalize or put in flashers at the crosswalk. A raised crosswalk would even do a lot, honestly. They’re very effective. Pedestrians feel safer on them, and drivers become very aware of the the crossing.

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