A Quick-and-Dirty Fix for Sidewalkless Streets

Seattle DOT Director Dongho Chang calls this cheap-and-easy sidewalk trick a "protected walking lane." Photo:  Dongho Chang
Seattle DOT Director Dongho Chang calls this cheap-and-easy sidewalk trick a "protected walking lane." Photo: Dongho Chang

The most basic necessity for a walkable street is a sidewalk. But a surprising number of urban streets lack dedicated paths for walking, and cities often struggle with the expense of adding concrete.

Seattle has found a way to get a safe walking space on the ground quickly for a fraction of the price. Seattle DOT Director Dongho Chang snapped the above photo of what he calls a “protected walking lane.” It’s a makeshift sidewalk built using just paint and concrete bumpers.

This particular spot, NE 110th Street, is an important walking route for several local schools, according to Sue Romero, a spokesperson for the Seattle Department of Transportation. The city worked with the surrounding neighborhoods to make safe spaces for kids. In addition to these “protected walking lanes,” the city also installed corner sidewalk extensions and two crosswalks, Romero reports.

Seattle has used painted walkways in other parts of the city, she says: On 8th Ave S in the South Park neighborhood and along the waterfront.

Seattle officials report this “protected walking path” cost $26,000 to construct. The full sidewalk is estimated at $300,000.

Updated February 5th with new information from the city of Seattle. 

  • Bruce

    This looks similar to what SF did along Townsend Street between 4th and 7th. Unfortunately most of the space is taken up by homeless encampments and trash. A real sidewalk would probably improve the situation markedly.

  • heynow

    We need this on Shelley Drive in McLaren Park in San Francisco. The city says they can’t afford sidewalks ….

  • Jacob Wilson

    How can there be so much private wealth in Seattle and yet they can’t find money for sidewalks?

  • Evan D

    Because our state’s tax system is the most regressive in the country (https://itep.org/whopays/) and it isn’t much different at the city and county levels. A decent portion of the city’s wealth is tied up in the houses of middle-earning people, who are technically wealthy because of their houses, but for whom liquidating that wealth would mean leaving their house, most likely their neighborhood, and possibly even the city or the state.

    Our tax base is pretty much just sales and property taxes, so the wealthiest citizens get a pretty good deal. Also, almost all of our famous billionaires live outside of Seattle city limits and pay lower taxes as a result. (https://seattle.curbed.com/maps/washington-state-billionaire-homes-bill-gates-jeff-bezos(

  • That just SCREAMS ‘bike lane’ to me…
    (And with everything being ‘too far to walk’, couldn’t that be more useful???)

  • No, bike lanes are green. This shade of red is bound to cause confusion, though.

  • JonL

    Would love to do this, but due to cross slopes of the road, I don’t think these would be ADA compliant. Cant imagine the streets have less than 2% cross slope.

  • I mean in the USA (this is “Streetsblog USA”). Certainly I’ve seen blue and red bike lanes in other nations.

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