Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Pedestrian Infrastructure

Seattle Study: Pedestrians Linger on Sidewalks, But Rarely Sit Down

Take a seat — no, really.

A new study from the Seattle Department of Transportation shows that the vast majority of sidewalk users do not take advantage of city-provided seating, preferring standing (61 percent) or simply leaning on walls or using makeshift chairs (11 percent).

"Surveyors found that only one-in-four people who hung out on public sidewalks actually sat in seating provided either for the public or restaurant patrons," Seattle DOT noted, adding that the agency is not sure whether pedestrians prefer to stand or simply whether there's just not enough seating available.

That's just the top line in a curious report that shows pedestrian behavior on sidewalks includes much more than merely getting from Point A to Point B. At least in Seattle, walkers engage in a surprisingly varied range behavior — social, commercial, and resting — on the city's sidewalks.

Among the other findings:

    • About 10 percent of sidewalk users linger for a relatively long period of time — either to wait for transit or to check their phones. These are the people who are rarely using street furniture.
    • The sidewalk is a great meeting place. Of the people who stopped and lingered, the largest group — 56 percent — were either in a group or one-on-one conversation.
    • About a quarter of the lingerers were participating in commercial activity, like waiting line at a food vendor or dining in an outdoor cafe setting. It's a reminder to businesses that customers are literally right outside the door, but also a reminder that city DOTs play an important role in stimulating commerce: "This really shows the importance of sidewalks and public spaces that facilitate these types of neighboring businesses," the agency said. "#ShopLocal."

The study is the result of volunteers watching people's behaviors on sidewalks on "108 block faces across 38 Seattle neighborhoods" at all different times of day and week.

Seattle DOT plans to use the information to help make the city's public spaces engaging and help support local businesses, "possibly leading to more seating, larger spaces to congregate, or working with an adjacent landowner to engage with the street more," the agency reports.

Or not.

"We can identify areas where public seating is woefully needed, and yes, we can rule out placing additional seating in places where people just aren’t down for relaxing on public seats," the agency added.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

Tuesday’s Headlines Are Running Hard

More political news: Today's top stories delve into Kamala Harris' record on climate change and Republicans' plans for the Trump administration if he returns to power.

July 23, 2024

State DOTs Could Fuel a Resurgence in Intercity Bus Travel

Private equity firms are killing off intercity bus companies. Will public agencies fill in the gaps?

July 23, 2024

GOP’s ‘Project 2025’ is ‘Based on a Lot of ignorance’

What does Transportation for America's Beth Osborne think of the transportation portion of the Heritage Foundation's playbook for a Trump presidency?

July 23, 2024

What a Surprise! Hochul’s Congestion Pricing Pause Helps Rich Suburban Drivers

Gov. Hochul's "little guys" certainly have big wallets. Meanwhile, the rest of us suffer with declining subway service and buses that are slower than walking. Thanks, Kathy.

July 22, 2024

Philadelphia Demands More Than ‘Flex-Post’ Protected Bike Lanes After Motorist Kills Cyclist

Pediatric oncologist Barbara Friedes was struck while biking on a "protected" path. Now, advocates are arguing that flex posts should be replaced with something far better.

July 22, 2024
See all posts