The 20th century was ruled by cars. If Spokane City Councilwoman Candace Mumm gets her way, this century will be for walkers, at least in Spokane.
Monday, the council will consider Mumm’s first major piece of legislation since joining the council at the beginning of the year. Her ordinance, she said, aims to revitalize policies in the city’s Comprehensive Plan to make Spokane more walkable.
“We’ve done really well funding one type of transportation,” Mumm said. “And we’ve ignored the one that arguably we all use the most.”
Mumm’s ordinance will require marked crosswalks near schools, parks, hospitals, churches, trail crossings and other locations identified in the as-yet-unfinished Pedestrian Master Plan. Neighborhood councils will be consulted before a crosswalk is installed. New types of crossings, like a raised crosswalk, will be used.
Mumm pointed to the new Centennial Trail crosswalk on Post Street near City Hall as one example of a walkway that can make walking safer. That crosswalk slopes down from the curb and into the street where steel hoops provide additional protection from traffic. The actual crossing is shortened to reduce the distance pedestrians are exposed to oncoming traffic.
Mumm said her ordinance touches on issues of livability and economic revitalization. The South Perry district saw a dramatic resurgence after crosswalks and other sidewalk amenities were improved, Mumm said.
But at the proposed law’s core is safety. Between 2003 and 2012, 28 pedestrians were killed on Spokane city streets, Mumm said. She couldn’t guarantee that her ordinance would decrease the number of deaths, but she said she was bothered by a requirement of crosswalk planning that had engineers identifying the number of pedestrian collisions at an intersection over the course of three years.
“If five people were hit, they had to build a crosswalk,” she said. “We need to make decisions based on where people want to walk the most, not where people are hurt.”
Councilman Mike Fagan said he did not agree with Mumm’s conclusions and would vote against the ordinance.
Fagan said pedestrian collision numbers didn’t call for more marked crosswalks. Between 2004 and 2014, Fagan said, more than 1,400 pedestrians were struck by cars in Spokane. Of those, 467 were in marked crosswalks.
“The statistics do not support the idea that crosswalks provide additional safety,” he said. “A third of crashes, a good third, have occurred in crosswalks. Are we in essence putting a target on the back of pedestrians in marked crosswalks?”
Despite such concerns, the Spokane Regional Health District already has praised Mumm’s effort, and the city’s Plan Commission unanimously supported the measure.
Councilman Jon Snyder, a longtime advocate for pedestrians and cyclists, said the city was good at repainting parking boxes when streets are maintained but often fail to re-draw a crosswalk.
“It drives me bonkers,” he said. “We need to stem the bleeding of losing some of these crosswalks.”
He added that crosswalks provide visual cues for motorists that a pedestrian might be present.
Mumm said if her ordinance passes, Spokanites will see changes quickly.
“You’re going to see more people walking,” she said. “When we rebuild an arterial (street), you’re going to see more crosswalks.”
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