Seattle Sparks Outrage After Crews Scrub Away Community-Painted Crosswalk

By Zuri Anderson

November 17, 2022

Man walking across large intersection.
Photo: Getty Images

Residents are calling out Seattle after the city's Department of Transportation (SDOT) crews removed a community-painted crosswalk in the Capitol Hill neighborhood Wednesday morning (November 16).

Workers erased the crosswalk East Olive Way and Harvard Avenue East after officials deemed it "unauthorized," which angered residents who've been asking for a safe walkway there, according to KIRO 7.

A Twitter user posted a photo of crews washing away the crosswalk, writing, "Almost been hit here countless times, too bad it’s already going away." SDOT's official Twitter quote-tweeted the user's post with this message:

"We are always interested in working with residents and businesses on ways to make walking safer and more comfortable and will evaluate the intersection to see how we might replace the unauthorized crosswalk. In the meantime, it will have to be removed. Improperly painted crosswalks give a false sense of safety which puts pedestrians in danger. There are better ways for people to work w/ us to indicate crossing improvement needs & to make sure changes achieve what is intended -- get people to their destinations safely."

This response was met with swift backlash with hundreds of people criticizing the agency's statement.

"How does it give a false sense of safety? Is that intersection not a legal crosswalk? Are cars not required to yield for crossings at both marked and unmarked crosswalks?" one user commented, referring to a Washington state law where motorists have to yield to people crossing on marked and unmarked crosswalks.

"How about educating drivers that they need to yield to pedestrians at ALL intersections, whether the crosswalk is painted or not," another wrote. "This post tells drivers the opposite."

“This is infuriating,” Seattle Councilmember Andrew Lewis said. “We have the time and money, apparently, to expediently remove a crosswalk, but it takes years to get around to actually painting one. No wonder neighbors took it upon themselves to act.”

In a separate statement sent to KIRO 7, SDOT said they're trying to secure funds for "crossing improvements" at Harvard Avenue East and East Olive Way.

"We are committed to increasing safety and working with communities," part of the statement reads. "For example, in September SDOT applied for nearly $50 million in federal grants to improve safety and support our bridges. The grant proposal included crossing improvements at Harvard Ave E and E Olive Way. We’ll learn whether we receive the grant as soon as January 2023.

You can read more about the situation on KIRO 7's website.

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