Opinion

Orderliness not answer to ferry mess

For those who love order, the arrival of an evening commuter ferry on Bainbridge is not a pretty sight. Bicyclists pedal furiously uphill in a losing effort to maintain their slight head-start over the motorcycle armada. The first few foot passengers sprint up the loading trestle for reasons that have never really been clear. Then come 200-plus cars, and as many as 2,000 more foot passengers, all taking whatever they perceive to be the shortest route home.

And pedestrians by the hundreds trudge into Winslow. To do so, they must cross Olympic Drive, the foot of the highway from Winslow Way to the terminal ramp. Some use the crosswalk near Harborview Drive, and head down to the trail through Waterfront Park. Others dutifully proceed to the stoplight and wait for the infrequent appearances of the “walk” signal. But a good many folks – probably most of us at one time or another – wait until traffic thins a bit or is gridlocked, then cross the street wherever we happen to be.

No one seems able to recall the last pedestrian injured on Olympic. But authorities say that’s just been a matter of good luck, which won’t hold. For safety’s sake, they say, the jaywalking has got to stop. After a period of education and warnings, local police and the Washington State Patrol say they are going to start ticketing jaywalkers.

While we appreciate the concern for our safety, we question the remedy of making the pedestrians more orderly. The crosswalk south of Harborview is fine for those taking the trail into town. But anyone wanting to continue on Olympic up to Winslow Way will run into a bottleneck where a telephone pole sits in the middle of the sidewalk, narrowing it to a single-file path. And those trying to cross at the Winslow Way light already have a hard time finding room at the curb.

Jaywalking is so much more convenient than the alternatives, we doubt it can be stopped even with enforcement.

Absent new remedies – wider sidewalks, an elevated walkway across Olympic, an adequate waiting area at the Winslow-Olympic corner – is it any wonder that folks cross wherever they feel safe? Jaywalking is endemic around the corner on Winslow Way, and contributes to that street’s “public square” ambience. It’s clearly an effective traffic-calming device; one reason speeds are low on Winslow Way is that we’re always expecting pedestrians to appear in front of us.

Managing the flow of people to and from the terminal deserves a much broader approach than simply telling pedestrians to keep to the straight and narrow. In the meantime, why not slow the traffic on Olympic? The speed now is 25 mph, and we’re told it’s generally obeyed. Perhaps it should be 15 mph, slow enough to permit almost instantaneous stopping. Maybe a speed hump or two would help.

When pedestrians and motor vehicles come into conflict, why is the guy on foot the one who has to yield?

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