Category Archives: Seattle

Dangerous by design: highway exists without visibility

What happens every day at this I-5 downtown Seattle highway exit?.
Mostly nothing since the highway gets clogged with cars trying to go to the office so they move slowly.

But outside the peak hours it turns into a trap: an almost empty highway gets you into a short tunnel with a 90 degree turn, no-visibility downtown exit, this is the result:

There are already plenty of signs telling drivers to slow down, but here are some possible solutions that may help: speed bumps to make sure distracted drivers lower their speed, a traffic light before entering the tunnel that stays red and only goes green when it detects the car has actually stopped, permanently closing the exit since it’s almost impossible to give more visibility.

Sprocket man

Back in the 70’s, thousands of university students in USA rode their bicycles, without respecting the basic civility in some cases. Then, a new superhero appeared: Sprocket man. His objective was to show how to ride bikes in a respectful way regarding others actors on the streets, including pedestrians. In those years, Stanford was part of the Great American Bike Boom and their students were activists in social movements such as feminism, racial injustices or homosexual discrimination. Moreover, national problems influenced students like the Watergate or the Vietnam war. As a result, the massive cyclist movement debated on the need of biking infrastructures, and allowed publishing historical documents (Bikeway Planning in 1972, Bikeways: State of the art in 1974). Among those, there was Sprocket man.

Sprocket man was a 28-pages, colored cover and black-and-white pages, fresh magazine. Authors were inspired by the Elton John song Rocket man. As you can imagine, he used massive sprockets as a shield. He transmitted a clear message from the first page: The impressive figures of bikes in Stanford show that days in which bicycles were considered just as toys have ended. Or: The anarchy on streets can not be evaded for longer: Here you have some tips and guidelines for survival. It included advises about mechanics, how to drive, avoid thefts, accessories, etc., which persists today. The magazine was published in 1975 thanks to the support of the Stanford Public Security department. Louis H. Saekow was the cartoonist, Julia Molander coordinated it and Vince Darago headed them. Vince has been a dedicated champion of the sustainable movement for ages. He organized classes to teach riding bikes, and coordinated workshops about electric cars creation 40 years ago.

Unfortunately, Sprocket man only saw the light once. Nevertheless, it appeared again in a Seattle council TV ad, and in merchandise issues.

Seattle’s Bus Lanes

Bus only lanes in Seattle are used daily by cars because there’s no enforcement at all.
But bus riders had enough, so they decided to direct the traffic out of the bus lanes themselves

Provide flags so that other people do it

And since the politicians and the police won’t do it, the Seattle Department of Transportation decided to enforce it as well.