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Pedestrian Safety is Our Top Priority


Given SDOT’s goals to make walking a strong option for getting around Seattle, it might interest you to know that there are, in fact, rules governing pedestrian accessibility by construction sites.  In fact, the SDOT construction traffic section sets pedestrian safety as its number one priority in consideration of temporary construction routing. 

In general, depending upon an evaluation of the number of pedestrians using a particular street , plus data provided by the Pedestrian Master Plan, SDOT provides guidelines to contractors for preserving the existing path of travel on the public right-of-way during construction activities on the abutting property. Earlier this month SDOT published the Director’s Rule for “Pedestrian Mobility in and around Work Zones.”   The main purpose of the rule is to clarify pedestrian safety measures that must be implemented by contractors when doing construction, demolition, alteration or repair on a building next to existing roadways or walks.   The required conditions change according to the type of work, as work can be harder or easier to safely maintain pedestrian traffic on the construction side.

Construction requirements vary depending upon the work in progress, but the range includes providing walkways with railings; walkways with barricades that have flashing amber lights and boards at the base that will be felt by canes used by blind pedestrians; and sometimes covered walkways and fences to protect pedestrians from flying construction debris.  Walkways must four feet in width, solid and not slippery; and the transition between a temporary walkway surface and the sidewalk should be such that there are no abrupt breaks or stubs in the walking surface.  Covered walkways should be not less than eight feet in height, and they must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act providing for the proper connection from the sidewalk to any operating bus stop, street car stop or bus shelter.

Details can be important to insure pedestrian safety for our diverse population.  For example, SDOT’s construction traffic section discourages the use of yellow caution tape, as it has a tendency to break and flutter in the wind, posing a visual distraction for persons with limited vision.  SDOT encourages the public to notify the department of construction tape usage, or any other hazard within a temporary pedestrian path that impacts pedestrians with disabilities.

The Director may choose not to implement requirements and close the sidewalk if there is pedestrian mobility on a higher priority street nearby; the closure of the sidewalk will not have a significant impact on pedestrian mobility or access to adjacent businesses or amenities;  and the sidewalk closure won’t adversely impact major bus stops.