Walking and the pedestrian environment
May 26, 2005
Shopping Carts (Seattle)

Derelict, drifting shopping carts.

Does every neighborhood in the United States have shopping cart problems? I see carts all over the place in Seattle. Sometimes I'll see a clean, empty wheelchair and know there is a sad or sinister story behind it. With shopping carts I'm less sure how they came to their resting place.

Was this cart used by a homeless person? I bet this is most people's first assumption.

Was the parking lot full and someone used the cart to walk to their car a few blocks away?

Was it stolen by someone who was moving, or a business needing cheap rolling storage?

Did a family need to use it to take home a whole bunch of groceries because they were unable to afford a car?

I see all sorts of shopping carts in use in my neighborhood during the course of a day. There are a couple of guys who collect aluminum cans and have huge garbage bags piled in and strapped to their carts. There's a homeless guy with all of his belongings in his cart who moves it and his two dogs around every time he wears out his welcome. There have been other homeless with carts in the past but currently we just have the one. A couple of small Chinese markets store their carts out on the sidewalk. They aren't careful about leaving an unobstructed path, so out of irritation I avoid those spots and choose clear walking paths when I'm headed out. At Uwajimaya you'll see people trying to walk off the property with their cart and stunned when the electric sensor locks down one wheel so that the cart doesn't get stolen.

This morning I found three shopping carts abandoned in my neighborhood.

Safeway shopping cartThis one has been precariously sitting at the intersection of Lane and Maynard for the last week or so. The next time I visited it, there was a Styrofoam cup perched on top. The lot at the corner is a parking lot which is usually mostly empty.

Safeway shopping cartThis one has been sitting behind Children's Park for a few weeks. It rests in a confusing place at the edge of a cluttered back-yard. Is this being used purposefully by the home owner to store the propane tank? Was it discarded by someone in the alley, and later found as a convenient place to dispose of the propane tank?

Safeway shopping cartAcross the street on Lane, a shiny new cart is parked in some grass. The grass surrounds a hedge defining the boundary of an alley and a parking lot.

Orange shopping cartA few days later this one appeared suddenly in the afternoon, was used as a garbage can for a few hours, and then vanished into the ether. The same day, the shopping cart disappeared from the alley by Children's Park, but the propane tank was left behind.

Safeway shopping cartThat day, another cart appeared right in front of my home. I think it came from one of the Chinese markets. It has recently made its way down the block and filled with all kinds of garbage.

shopping cart with Chinese boxesThis really could be an endless shopping cart blog and I need to draw the line somewhere. But a few days later when I saw this odd cart filled with boxes from a Chinese market I knew I had to add it to the page.

shopping cart and mail boxSomehow the blue cart emptied out and made it's way up a few blocks next to a mail box. It's not there anymore.

destroyed shopping cartNow there's a destroyed shopping cart at the bus stop on 4th.

Here's an email (slightly condensed) I sent last year about shopping carts. It was part of a thread discussing a Seattle PI column. In the column, a resident in a dense mixed-use neighborhood complains that there is no loading zone in front of his apartment:

"Walking to stores would require as many as two trips a week, compared with the one big trip every two weeks that he has time for. But he's getting nervous about sneaking into the no-parking zone. Recently he spotted a parking enforcement officer ticketing another car. "

I was dumbfounded that he expected sympathy when he lives just 4 or 5 blocks from a grocery store. I do my shopping every day or two, and I don't know how his food could stay fresh for two weeks.

Anyways, back to the topic of shopping carts:


I was just talking to a friend of mine who lives near White Center. While chatting about the upcoming incorporation of White Center into Seattle or Burien, he mentioned hope that this would mean someone would do something about all of the shopping carts...

Apparently, there are tons of people walking to grocery stores in North Highline (south part of Seattle, White Center, north Burien). But, they are just grabbing shopping carts and taking them home because there is no other way to carry their groceries.

The guy in that PI article needs to be encouraged to walk, possibly a promotion by the grocery stores will solve the problem. People in North Highline need a program that will support their existing walking, so that they aren't eventually tagged for theft of carts, and they don't just ditch carts on the side of the road. There's a big difference between walking 6 blocks to shop for 1-3 people (Capitol Hill single or couple), and walking a mile or two to shop for 4-6 people (White Center family).

Posted by Rob Ketcherside at May 26, 2005 9:24 AM
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