Don’t be a Jerk.

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San Francisco block the box

San Francisco block the boxThere’s one posted rule at the Seattle Center Skate Board Park. A small sign says simply “Don’t be a Jerk.”

I love this rule.  It’s a rule – if followed by us all — would make our city a much improved place.

My pet peeve of the week is the number of times I have seen drivers “block the box”.  Block the box isn’t new, but it certainly isn’t being enforced in Seattle currently.

You’ve seen it too, probably every time you commute around this city.  First, the guy in front of you gets antsy, and then tries to beat the light.  He pulls his car, or truck, or bus into the pedestrian cross walk or intersection and then gets stuck when the light changes.   Horns blare; the guy won’t make eye contact with you.  And the people trying to go when it’s their turn can’t move.  Now everyone’s peeved.

If you’re a pedestrian trying to cross the walk, it becomes a trial.   You have to go around the car, or between him and the bumper of the car behind him.  I hate this part — the image of having my legs scrunched behind two bumpers is most unpleasant.

This morning on my way to work I saw a woman in her pickup truck stop half-heartedly into the last parking spot on the block, with the tail of her truck completely over the pedestrian walk way.  She had her emergency lights flashing indicating she was waiting for someone, but pedestrians were forced to walk around the tail of her truck, dodging oncoming traffic on Spring.

The police need to enforce these types of violations and I am asking our Seattle Police Department to put this on their priority list starting immediately. I’d focus on Downtown intersections where people are trying to get to the freeway or SR 99 such as 2nd and Spring; 4th and University, 1st and Columbia.


There’s proof from other cities that targeted enforcement works.  For example, more than 1,100 drivers were warned and ticketed during three weeks between late April and early May by the Austin Police Department.  The Austin Police decided  to ease congestion on major downtown roadways.

The public was warned that traffic enforcement officers would be stationed at key intersections at peak travel times from 7-9 a.m. and 4-6:30 p.m.  They were told where the officers would be and when, and STILL people entered intersections in front of the police as the lights turned.

The Austin Police targeted:

  • Red light violations
  • Blocking intersections
  • Failure to yield to pedestrians in crosswalk
  • Failure to yield to pedestrian control devices
  • Driving in bus lanes

And I would add:  blocking the bike lanes

The Seattle Police should enforce these rules. Drivers should be charged significant fines for increasing our already miserable traffic congestion.  If we need more cameras at key intersections, I say put ‘em up.  Just like we’ve done for school zones, more “block the box” cameras should be in place to stop this jerkish driving behavior if enhanced police enforcement doesn’t work.

We get a three-fer here.  Money we get from these tickets could be dedicated toward transit and other street improvements, congestion will be reduced and ped/bike/emergency vehicle movement will improve.

Everyone in every neighborhood complains about Seattle’s traffic.  Enforcing the rules we have and driving kindly will help.  Or as they say at the skate park, Don’t be a Jerk.