Traffic Safety Program
City Hall Hours:
M-F, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Help Keep Sidewalks & Streets Clear
The safe, free, and full use of sidewalks and streets by the public is very important - after all, Kirkland residents and businesses have invested hard-earned dollars building these important elements of our transportation system. It is important to maintain them in a safe and useful condition. Whether you are a new or longstanding Kirkland resident, property owner or business owner, you should be familiar with your responsibility to keep sidewalks and streets clear of debris and vegetation. Your fellow citizens depend upon your commitment to neighborhood safety.
Sidewalk Maintenance Responsibilities
Sidewalks serve many purposes and are a valued asset. There are over 139 miles of sidewalk in Kirkland's City limits. As a resident or property/business owner in Kirkland, you are responsible for keeping sidewalks adjacent to your property clear of any obstructions or debris. This includes vegetation growing from your private property and the plantings in the public right-of-way growing on both sides of the sidewalk. The one exception is that the City is responsible for the trimming of the formally-planted street trees to ensure healthy growth. Snow and ice must be removed as quickly as possible.
Street Maintenance Responsibilities
There are over 310 miles of streets and alleys in Kirkland's City limits. Just as sidewalks must be kept clear of debris and obstruction, so must roadways be kept clear. Property owners are also responsible for vegetation trimming needed to maintain the visibility of traffic signs and clear lines of sight at intersections and driveways. For example, shrubs taller than 36 inches on the corner of an intersection between two streets can block the visibility of cross traffic and of pedestrians approaching a crosswalk.
For more details of these responsibilities, view the Kirkland Municipal Code and search for sections:
- 21.41.302.4 - Removal of overhanging vegetation and fire hazards
- 9.12.040 - Failure to remove
- 11.64.050 - Sweeping litter into gutters prohibited
- 19.04.010 - Obstructions of the right-of-way
- 19.20.020 - Abutting property owners to maintain sidewalks in safe condition (includes obstructions, defects, snow and ice)
Reporting Obstructions Or Sight Distance Problems
If you encounter an obstructed sidewalk or sight distance limitation due to overgrown vegetation, please call Kirkland Public Works at (425) 587-3900 so that the City can determine what, exactly, needs to be trimmed. If it is a safety issue (and not an aesthetics issue), the City will contact the resident or property owner and request the trimming be completed within a responsible time frame. If the work is not complete, (we automatically check) property owner will receive a reminder from the City.
What You Need To Know About Maintenance
All City-owned street trees need to be trimmed by the City Arborist. (But you can volunteer to water these street trees during the dry months - use the same volunteer link above.) If there is any question about whether a street tree is City-owned, please contact us.
Sidewalks should be clear at least to the back edge of the sidewalk and up to provide eight feet of clearance over the sidewalk. On some trees, it is better to trim back to the trunk rather than leave a stub branch.
Shoulders of streets where people walk, but which don't have sidewalks, should be trimmed the same as sidewalks. Just use the painted edge line or the edge of the pavement where motor vehicles travel as a guideline. Trim back 10 feet (if space available) and up to provide eight feet of overhead clearance over the shoulder.
Streets should be clear of vegetation for a height of 14 feet over the traveled roadway.
Street signs should be clear of vegetation so they can be seen from far enough away that drivers can make decisions based on the sign information. The typical signs that can be hidden by vegetation are speed limits, parking restrictions, and street name signs. If a stop sign is hidden, let us know and we will take immediate action.
Notification of the abutting resident is important if you are volunteering to clear sidewalks in front of other people's homes. Some of the vegetative overgrowth can be hedges or shrubs of special significance to these people and it is always wise to get their perspective on the trimming that needs to be done and how the plant(s) will be protected. Some hedges can look terrible when trimmed to the required degree. It's better to have the resident involved before it happens. Plus, you might even gain volunteers by making those contacts. Also, don't get into a confrontation. Call us or give our contact information to the other person if there is a difference of opinion about the clearing that needs to be done.
Note that the public right-of-way typically extends beyond the paved streets and sidewalks. In many cases, adjacent residents have landscaping that is in the undeveloped part of the public right-of-way. That is OK as long as the vegetation does not cause safety issues or block the use of walkways and streets.
Keeping Safe When Performing Maintenance
If you are trimming vegetation next to your home or business or if you are a volunteer cleaning sidewalks along a walking route, the City offers the following safety tips:
- Call Puget Sound Energy (PSE). Don't trim branches that are in the vicinity of overhead power lines. A good rule of thumb is don't trim branches within 10 feet of a power line. If in doubt, call PSE at (888) 2252-5773 or firstname.lastname@example.org. PSE will trim around power lines for free.
- Call the City first if:
- The trimming requires you to stand in a busy street or at a blind curve.
- The trimming of high vegetation can't be done with a pole trimmer. You might have to hire a landscaper to do that safely.
- If there is any question about private or public ownership of the trees, please call us.
- Stay out of moving traffic. Volunteers should be able to work exclusively along sidewalks and the shoulders of streets out of the way of moving traffic.
- Get noticed. When working along sidewalks or in the shoulder area, wear bright colored clothing so you'll be noticed by drivers.
- Use traffic cones. Place traffic cones to designate your work area. If you need to borrow ours, we are happy to loan you some. Do not place cones in the street where they would divert traffic or cause drivers to swerve.