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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1 Response to “Could road diets have saved the lives of 28 pedestrians?”


  • Do not neglect to consider how road-widening to accommodate more car traffic is a major contributor to pedestrian & bicyclist accidents & fatalities. Seattle’s proposed Mercer West project widens Mercer through high-density “residential” Queen Anne’s busy commercial center. Of the 35,000 vehicles that now access SR99 via the Elliott/Western “commercial” corridor, approx 15,000 will reroute via the ‘dangerously steep’ Mercer Place hill to the DBT (deep bore tunnel) north portal. To avoid tolls or the hill climb or traffic congestion on Alaskan Way, some motorists will take Denny Way and increase hazards for pedestrians there as well. Wsdot studies of surface street options for the AWV (Alaskan Way Viaduct) were “intentionally rigged” to produce predetermined outcomes. The number of stoplights for Wsdot SR99 corridor studies were “27-29″ though as few as “9″ stoplights is possible; none on Aurora, none in Sodo, none in Lower Belltown, and 9 stoplights instead of 13 along Alaskan Way. If the deep bore tunnel is built, not only will traffic be much worse downtown, the tunnel itself will undermine several dozen downtown building foundations and lead to their demolishment. In a major earthquake, buildings could collapse suddenly. Replacement buildings will still be vulnerable to structural damage as the DBT forever continues to alter the unstable subsurface hydrological affects that create tremendous uplifting pressures and voids. Compare a solid-cast cut/cover tunnel to the multi-segmented DBT tube. A cut/cover will not “oscillate” in an earthquake nor separate along bolted seams. A cut/cover minimally alters subsurface hydrological affects, merely moving the seawall east 70′ with remaining surface soils more stabilized. A cut/cover would build a dam-like seawall, use half the concrete and recycle more. The proposed seawall replacement technique is, simply put, cheap & dirty, and will likely fail. A cut/cover would retain the existing traffic corridor rather than displace traffic onto Seattle surface streets. Wsdot studies of cut/cover tunnel options were similarly rigged to predetermined outcomes. In 2000, SDOT director Grace Crunican was ‘fired’ from the position of Oregon ODOT Chief Director for willful violations of ADA Federal and State codes regarding pedestrian safety on the Ross Island Bridge Surface & Ballustrade Rebuild Project. Grace Crunican treasures a surreptiously callous disregard for pedestrian safety.

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