If Seattle did one thing to support livability as we work toward accommodating more growth, it would be prioritizing pedestrian travel. The pedestrian would be at the top of the hierarchy followed in descending order by bicycles, scooters, transit, freight, shared vehicles and at the very, very bottom single passenger cars.
Two examples come to mind of what I mean by pedestrian scale and they are at extreme ends of the continuum. The National Mall in Washington D.C. stands out as an example of being out of scale with pedestrian travel. Although it was designed before the rise of the automobile it represents the kind of Brobdingnagian scale that lends itself to cars rather than people. It’s just too damn big.
At the other end is 12th and Thomas, shown above and at left. A look at these pictures might lead you to think that this is in someone’s back yard or perhaps a park. But the fact that this little oasis is part of a sidewalk near a busy street can teach us something.
Building Seattle as if we had to walk everywhere will make our city more livable. It doesn’t just have to be more sidewalks and gutters.
Instead, humanizing our walkscape means less pavement and more landscaping, less impervious surface and more unpaved amenities. The oasis at 12th and Thomas won’t save the world but you really can’t appreciate it driving by in a car.