Monthly Archive for February, 2012

Deadly Seattle Street: S Jackson St in the ID

Walking in Seattle is profiling some of Seattle’s deadly roadways that could be candidates for a lane rechannelization, or road diet.

A road diet involves restriping the roadway, often to add a center turn lane and bike lanes. The effect is that vehicles slow down and the roadway is safer for all users. SDOT considers a roadway a good candidate for a road diet if people often speed on the roadway, if there is a history of collisions, and if a road diet wouldn’t significantly impact traffic volumes.

Jackson St at 5th Ave

Jackson St at 5th Ave

Walking in Seattle nominates Jackson St in the International District as a good candidate for a road diet.

From 2001 to 2009 there have been three pedestrian fatalities along Jackson. At 5th and Jackson a 74-year-old woman was killed at 11:30 on a Friday in February. Later that year, an 81-year-old man was killed at Jackson & 10th on a Wednesday morning in June. In 2002, a 69-year-old woman was killed as well.

The roadway currently has four lanes of traffic, with parking lanes on each side, yet only carries 10,200-13,600 vehicles daily, far below SDOT’s maximum limit of 25,000 vehicles for implementing a road diet. While a road diet may not have prevented these fatalities, road diets have been proven to improve safety. Automobile speeds are lower and less variable, and bicycle lanes help make the roads safer for more users. By lowering vehicle speeds, pedestrians are safer as well – a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 40mph is 85% likely to die, however if the vehicle is only going 30 mph, the pedestrian has a 50-60% chance of survival.

Jackson St, like 23rd Ave and 35th Ave SW, is a street that should be made safer and should be considered for a road diet.

Should SDOT implement a road diet on S Jackson St?

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Stairway reconstruction at NE 90th Street and Ravenna Ave NE

The stairway is being reconstructed at NE 90th Street and Ravenna Ave NE, starting this week. From SDOT:

SEATTLE—Seattle Department of Transportation’s Roadway Structures crews will construct a new staircase beginning Monday, February 27, and expect to complete the work before the end of April. The stairway will be closed starting Monday, 24 hours a day, seven days a week until completion. A map of the pedestrian detour will be posted at the top and bottom of the stairway.

The crews will demolish the old staircase, install form work, and then pour concrete for the new stairs and walkway.

The stairway was built in 1940 and does not meet current standards. This project is part of SDOT’s program to upgrade the 507 stairways that SDOT owns and is responsible for maintaining. The funding is provided by the Bridging the Gap transportation initiative.

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Deadly Seattle Street: 23rd Ave

23rd Ave

23rd Ave, another good road diet candidate

Walking in Seattle is looking at deadly streets that may be good road diet candidates. The list included 28 different locations – just a fraction of the 90 locations throughout the city where a pedestrian had been killed between 2001 and 2009.

With four people having been killed in less than one mile of roadway between Yesler St and I-90, Walking in Seattle nominates 23rd Ave as a good road diet candidate. A road diet on 23rd Ave would improve road safety by re-striping the roadway to add a center turn lane and bike lanes, thus slowing vehicle traffic. Pedestrians are much more likely to be killed by a car traveling at 40 mph than by a car traveling at 30 mph.

At 10 pm on January 4, 2008, a 53-year-old female pedestrian was killed at 23rd & Lane in the Judkins Park neighborhood. On May 21, 2009, a 74-year-old man was struck and killed at 23rd & Main at 3 in the afternoon. In 2004, a 57-year-old motorcyclist died at 23rd and S Judkins St. Two years later, in 2006, a 26-year-old police officer was killed at 23rd and Yesler, when a speeding car ran a light.

This particularly deadly section of 23rd has four lanes of vehicle travel, with no sharrows or bicycle lanes and few marked crosswalks. There is also a curve and an incline that limit visibility. The daily traffic volume here is only 13,400 vehicles per day, well below SDOT’s maximum threshold of 25,000 for implementing a lane rechannelization. With the low visibility, low traffic volume, and high number of fatalities, this section of roadway would be an ideal candidate for a road diet that could prevent further death of all roadway users.

Should SDOT implement a road diet on 23rd Ave?

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Deadly Seattle Street: 35th Ave SW in West Seattle

35th Ave SW, a good road diet candidate

One of Seattle’s deadly streets that deserves more attention is 35th Ave SW in West Seattle. This street appeared twice in our list of locations of fatal pedestrian collisions that deserve further study. Walking in Seattle nominates this street for special consideration by SDOT as a road diet candidate.

A lane rechannelization, or road diet, involves re-striping the roadway, and in the case of 35th Ave, would add a center turn lane and bike lanes, and have one lane in each direction for motor vehicle traffic. The effect is that traffic flows more smoothly, thanks to the center turn lane, drivers go more slowly, and all users are able to use the roadway more safely.

The road carries 4 lanes of vehicle traffic in addition to a lane of parking on each side of the street. This makes the road width around 54 feet, which takes someone walking a normal speed more than 13 seconds to cross – a long time to be in the middle of a deadly roadway. In one area, marked crosswalks are half a mile apart.

An 85-year-old man was struck and killed on this street in 2007 at SW Othello St. A 39-year-old man was also killed on this street when he chased after his dog. This incident was covered by West Seattle Blog when it happened. While the speed of the vehicle who hit him isn’t available, road diets do reduce vehicle speeds. A pedestrian hit at 40 mph is about 85 percent likely to die; a pedestrian hit at 30 mph is about 40 percent likely to die.

Between 2001 and 2009 there were also two non-pedestrian fatalities on the roadway as a 27-year-old female cyclist was struck and killed at SW Graham St in 2006 and a 77-year-old driver was killed in a collision at SW Thistle St.

According to SDOT’s traffic volume data, the daily traffic volume on this road ranges from 16,100 to 22,700 vehicles per day. SDOT’s maximum threshold for implementing a road diet is 25,000 vehicles per day.

Right now the road has no bike lanes or sharrows and limited crosswalks. While it’s not certain that a road diet would have prevented these needless deaths, safety improvements are needed and could be provided by a road diet.

What do you think?

Should SDOT implement a road diet on 35th Ave SW?

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Could road diets have saved the lives of 28 pedestrians?

Walking in Seattle analyzed pedestrian fatality data* from 2001 to 2009 and found that 28 of Seattle’s 90 fatal pedestrian collisions occurred on roads that may be eligible for a lane rechannelization.

A lane rechannelization, or road diet, involves re-striping the roadway, often to add bike lanes or reduce the number of lanes for motor vehicles, with the intent of improving safety by slowing vehicle speeds and shortening crosswalk distances.

Through usually controversial when proposed, 26 road diets have been successfully implemented in Seattle since the 1970s. Streets that have recently been rechannelized include Stone Way, Fauntleroy Way, Nickerson Street, and 125th Avenue. According to pro-pedestrian organization Feet First, “When [road diets are] done properly at appropriate locations, all users benefit.”

One benefit of a lane rechannelization is lowered speed. The road diet on Nickerson Street has dropped motor vehicle speeds from 40-44 mph to 34-37 mph. A pedestrian hit at 40 mph is about 85% likely to die; a pedestrian hit at 30 mph is about 40% likely to die.

Since the road diet on Stone Way, Seattle’s Department of Transportation reports that collisions on that street have dropped by 14%, injury collisions have dropped by 33%, and collisions with pedestrians have dropped a full 80%!

SDOT doesn’t have a specific road diet program, but “we have been using rechannelizations as part of our paving program or proactively as part of other work,” says spokesperson Rick Sheridan. A road diet is a relatively inexpensive and reversible way to compensate for shortcomings of the roadway design and “one tool to improve safety through traffic calming.”

SDOT considers a roadway eligible for a road diet if vehicles routinely exceed the speed limit, if there are a history of collisions on the roadway, and if the lanes can be reduced without significantly impacting the current travel volume. SDOT considers 25,000 vehicles per day as a maximum volume for a four-lane roadway to receive a lane rechannelization.

Walking in Seattle has applied the above criteria to the 104 pedestrian fatalities (a result of 90 collisions) that have occured from 2001-2009 to come up with a list of roads that could be eligible for changes to the roadway striping. We feel that 28 of these collision sites deserve further study by SDOT:

Date of Collision Street Name Neighborhood 2010 Traffic Volume** Walkscore at Fatal Collision
9/12/2001 5th Ave Downtown 10800 100
9/23/2001 SW Alaska West Seattle N/A 86
6/7/2002 S Jackson St International District 13600 83
7/31/2002 35th Ave NE Wedgwood 15400 69
11/2/2002 35th Ave NE Wedgwood 15400 77
1/5/2003 S Jackson St International District 13600 86
6/16/2003 5th Ave Belltown 10800 98
7/3/2003 NE 130th St Haller Lake 19900 37
12/21/2003 Rainier Ave S Rainier Beach 18000 68
10/1/2004 15th Ave NE University District 8900 97
1/5/2005 Swift Way Beacon Hill 7400 71
11/10/2005 E Cherry St Central District 8300 86
12/14/2005 Alaskan Way Downtown 12600 82
2/8/2006 Rainier Ave S Brighton 23900 51
11/2/2006 4th Ave Downtown 18600 98
11/14/2006 SW Admiral Wy Admiral N/A 80
4/21/2007 24th Ave E Montlake 20000 62
10/27/2007 35th Ave SW High Point 20200 65
11/20/2007 16th Ave SW 98146 5100 71
12/19/2007 Pinehurst Wy NE Northgate 10900 86
1/4/2008 23rd Ave S Atlantic 13400 85
3/30/2008 1st Ave S Pioneer Square 24700 83
6/25/2008 Des Moines Memorial 98108 N/A 52
8/10/2008 35th Ave SW North Delridge 22700 48
8/23/2008 E Madison St First Hill 21900 98
9/22/2008 California Ave SW West Seattle 12600 85
6/17/2009 S Jackson St International District 13600 83
11/11/2009 NE 50th St University District 21800 98

Click for a map of locations

23rd Ave S

23rd Ave S, a potential road diet candidate

Many of these roads have four lanes of vehicle traffic and could have a center turn lane added, similar to other road diets. Some of these locations only have two lanes of traffic, like California Ave and Adrmiral Way, however the current lanes are wide and encourage higher speeds. By adding bike lanes and striping the parking lane, the main road space would be constrained and drivers would slow down.

While the city has been falsely accused of waging a “war on cars” through implementation of road diets, these statistics suggest that the city’s efforts have not been aggressive enough at reducing roadway fatalities.

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City of Seattle Encore walking resources

The city of Seattle has published a walking resources web page with links to numerous walking resources including groups of walkers around the Sound, various walking tours, and other walking events. The list includes over a dozen different pedestrian activities this year, public and non-profit websites and organizations related to walking, and links to walking tours related to public art, public clocks, and the public market.

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