Let’s Talk About Seattle Traffic

Traffic.  It’s ubiquitous.  And it matters to everyone.  The I-5 bridge collapse was hard on traffic – and especially for the people who live on the Skagit River in and around Mount Vernon.  And yesterday’s Fed Ex truck on fire at Seneca Street on I-5 — that was miserable for folks trying to get into our out of Seattle (or just get past downtown).  Heard of the Mercer Mess?  Yeah, it’s a mess — and will be for years.  Of course, people have to have somewhere to live, and most of  ’em can’t live downtown — yet.  So, until those nearly 8,000 new apartments are built and leased, transportation will remain a necessity, but all those solo car drivers add a lot of traffic to already congested city streets, and you know who it irritates the most?  All  you drivers!

That’s one of the BEST things about living downtown — and not driving:  all that traffic can just sit there, and we can walk on by.

Now, I know, living in the Pacific Northwest that’s sometimes not all that convenient.  The weather around here — but for a few summer months — isn’t always conducive to a long walk, but hey, we have fleece!  We are the home of REI!  We’re not all melty, whiny, umbrella-carrying weather wimps, right?!

So we take to the streets and we walk.  If the weather is really bad, we can take the bus.  If that’s not feasible for some reason and we’re lucky enough to be in the downtown core, we can take a cab, or (my personal favorite) we can pick up a Car2Go.  I LOVE Car2Go (but that’s another post).  Still, mostly, I walk, and what do I see?  Angry drivers.  Man, are they mad!  I would not want to be on the road with most of them, but you know, that’s the point of this post.  I AM on the road with them!  Only I’m frequently NOT in a car.  I’m unprotected — in a cross-walk — walking with a “walk” sign, and every day when I make it home safely, I feel lucky and grateful.

Think I’m being dramatic?  Maybe.  The 2011 City of Seattle Traffic Report (released in late 2012) shows a decline in the number of pedestrian accidents (per 100,000 residents), but I’d love to see the number of near-misses!

For example, yesterday, I was walking down from Capitol Hill (grocery shopping) and was crossing at Pike & Boren (in a crosswalk) — with the walk sign — against cars in a left turn lane (trying to funnel onto the ALWAYS backed up Olive Way entrance to I-5 Southbound).  Anyway, as I said, walking with a “walk” sign, in a cross-walk, with two large bags of groceries in a slight rain shower.  But a woman in a black Toyota Camry (safety conscious?) was determined to get through that left turn light (obviously, after it had turned red) and nearly mowed me down in the middle of the crosswalk.  She then proceeded to curse me out quite vociferously for being in her way!  Needless to say, I politely reminded her to have a “nice day.”  Not really, I mostly just scurried out of her way as she went tearing through the intersection and missed me in the crosswalk by about 18 inches.

Not that I’m whining.  I almost never whine.  But I would say this to the angry drivers:  someone or something is going to get hurt.  You’re going to hit someone — or something — or take out your spouse’s forsythia bush, or your kid’s bike or maybe the neighbor’s fence.  Worse yet,  you could hit a bicyclist (that happens A LOT) or a pedestrian.  Or you’re going to have a heart attack or a stroke.  Seriously.  Unless it is literally a life-and-death situation (are you a surgeon or a fireman?), the life you save could be your own.

I always figure I’m not in THAT much of a hurry that I’d shave time off my life.  Maybe we should all think more about the fact that we could be shaving time off of others’ lives, or their lives with us.

I know it’s frustrating.  And our lives are busy busy busy.  But we all need to remember to put things into perspective — and don’t be THAT driver.

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