This is a guest post by Phyllis Porter and Gordon Padelford. Phyllis Porter is an educator, advocate for criminal justice reform, and leader with safe streets community group Rainier Valley Greenways. Gordon Padelford is the Policy Director for Seattle Neighborhood Greenways.
Rainier Ave S was infamous for being Seattle’s most dangerous street. With a crash every day on average, 7 businesses hit in the past year, and 630 injuries over the last three years, something had to be done. Business, community groups, and residents had had enough.
Last year the community came together to demand Rainier Ave S be made safer. For instance, a group calling themselves the Rainier Road Diet Supporters held a number of crosswalk protests.
The community group Rainier Valley Greenways rallied around a campaign called Safety Over Speeding to bring more attention to the problem. We collected signatures and photo petitions, created a Get Well Soon Rainier Ave Card for people to sign, posted flyers with the number of crashes next to dangerous intersections, and hosted a big crosswalk protest and rally.
The Department of Transportation responded to the community and overwhelming data by doing a safety corridor “pilot” between S Alaska St and S Kenny St, and planned to study an expansion of it for 2016. The pilot included adding a center turn lane to reduce turning collisions, adding bus priority to keep the popular route 7 on time, and improving crosswalks and signals for people walking.
The results are in and they are great! Aggressive speeding (over 40 MPH) is down 95%, injuries involving people walking are down 41%, a fear of bus delays never materialized (the #7 bus has not been slowed down), traffic still flows, and it is now much more safe and comfortable to be in Columbia City and Hillman City. King 5 did a piece on the results and interviewed the owner of Lottie’s Lounge who said “The road diet has really improved the quality of life. The benefits far outweigh the downside.”
The Department of Transportation said they would expand the safety project north to Letitia Ave S and south to Seward Park Ave S if the initial pilot was a success. Rainier Valley Greenways believes it has been, and that all neighborhoods along this dangerous street (not just Columbia City) deserve to be safe. They are hosting a Safe Streets Celebration on August 17th from 5:30-7:30 at the corner of Rainier Ave S and S Edmunds St to thank the city for the initial safety improvements and ask the city to complete the project. They are asking residents to join them on the 17th, and sign a petition thanking the city and asking them to complete the project.
Read more about what happened last year: