Side Show

The cover story in today's P-I is Evi Sztajno's article on how low a priority sidewalks are in Seattle. My homey Kate Martin is quoted extensively. Pedestrian issues seem to finally be getting some real attention in Seattle.


More spikes in Seattle

Aki was riding her bike in our neighborhood, and had to dodge some odd spikes sticking up out of our street. The spikes turned out to be masonry nails with a head about the size of a nickel, sticking about half an inch out of the pavement. Such a nail could easily cause someone to trip, or cause a flat tire. Not a good thing to have on your street. Aki assumed that the spikes had been accidentally dropped and driven into the pavement, or the like, although she considered the possibility that someone was being very mean.

I asked our next-door neighbor about them, and he told me that the spikes had already caused a flat tire on a car on our street. It's easy to see how these spikes could cause a flat tire on a bike. A flat tire on a car surprises me a little, but that just shows that these spikes definitely don't belong in the street.

My neighbor told me something else interesting: the City of Seattle Transportation Department put the spikes in the street.

That's right: this hazard is not caused by an accident nor antisocial hostility. The spikes were put there on purpose to hold down air hoses for a street traffic study. After the city came back and took away the traffic measuring equipment, they left two spikes along one side of the street. I got out a pry bar and popped out the spikes. They came out very easily, revealing them to be sharp, wicked-looking, hardened spikes. Given that they were set only lightly into the pavement, they would have worked themselves free, and embedded themselves in something: a car or bike tire, a foot, a dog's paw, or something else. These things were a bad enough hazard in the street, but sooner or later, they'll work lose and pose an even more serious threat.

On reflection, it occurred to me that if my neighbor was right about the city putting in the spikes, there should be two more spikes on the other side of the street. After careful inspection, I found that there were spikes on the other side of the street. Or, there was at least a third spike. I looked for a fourth spike, but couldn't find it. Perhaps it had already come loose, leading to who-knows-what trouble.

It just can't be right for the City to leave spikes all over town. First it was spikes in Greenlake, now spikes in the streets. How does an organization charged with the safety of Seattle streets reach the point where they are leaving sharpened spikes in those same streets? The City should clean up better after traffic studies. Maybe they shouldn't be putting these spikes in the road in the first place.



Yet another of the books I find myself reading lately, mostly concerned with identity. (Compare with Amartya Sen's Identity and Violence, for example.) One difference: this is a novel, one of the few novels I've read this year. Alexie's novels are always fictions, but always picking the scab of an unhealed truth. This isn't a breezy summer novel, but it's a quick read and literally a wild ride. Flight is ultimately optimistic about what people are and what they can become.

Earthquake-proof a wine cellar

[Update: I've updated this article and put it on my personal website here.]

At the same time I was looking for somewhere to share my experiences earthquake-proofing a wine cellar, I ran across Wired's How-to Wiki. So I wrote an articles on how to earthquake proof a wine cellar. Of course, there's no such thing as earthquake proof, but our wine cellar is certainly more earthquake resistant than it was before.

Wired's How-to wiki seems to be off to a slow start, but there are some useful articles in there, mixed in with bar bets and other cruft.


Pedestrians take safety in their own hands

Kery Murakami quotes me in an article in today's P-I. The article is about the people, including me, who put up and maintain buckets of pedestrian flags in Seattle.

I prefer the title of the print edition, "Pedestrians take safety in their own hands," to the online title which focuses on flag attrition. Flags disappear over time. That's inevitable but just part of the remarkably small expenses of flagging. And anyway, flag attrition seems to be falling over time, so the online title isn't really news.

Regardless, Kery's article is a good reflection of pedestrian flagging in Seattle, why people do it, and how it's working. People flag intersections because they seem to help, and we felt we needed to do something to make pedestrians safer. Nobody's in charge. Nobody called a meeting and got everyone to agree. People just took action. There is some communication between some of the people putting up flags, but it's sporadic. There is some sharing of technical information. Some flaggers talk to the City of Kirkland, which has been flagging crosswalks for ten years.