Tag Archive for 'fatality'

Road diet on Nickerson found to improve safety, will other streets get a road diet?

SDOT has released a report on the Nickerson St road diet and found that by reducing the number of lanes for cars, safety has improved. Collisions, overall vehicle speeds, and the number of speeders have been reduced with minimal impact to traffic volumes. The Mayor outlines the good news:

Completed by the City in August 2010, the modifications have produced the following results:

  • Reduced collisions by 23 percent over a one-year period (compared to the previous five-year average)
  • Motorists traveling over the speed limit have declined by more than 60 percent
  • Top-end speeders (people traveling 10 or more miles over the speed limit) have fallen by 90 percent
  • The 85th percentile speed dropped from 40 mph and 44 mph westbound and eastbound to 33 mph and 33 Westbound and Eastbound. This is an 18 and a 24% reduction in speed.
  • Traffic volumes remain roughly the same with no evidence of traffic diversion.

This is the 27th successful road diet implemented by SDOT since 1974. And, with yet another roadway safety measure in place, the question must be asked: why isn’t SDOT implementing more of these safety measures?

We recently pointed out that 28 pedestrians have died in locations that may be eligible for a road diet. Since then, we’ve profiled three streets that may be ideal candidates for SDOT to consider next: 35th Ave SW in West Seattle, 23rd Ave in the Central District / Judkins Park, and S Jackson St in the International District. Let’s compare these three streets with Nickerson St to see whether these other streets may deserve the same successful safety treatment as Nickerson and 26 other Seattle streets.

First, we’ll start by looking at traffic volumes. SDOT looks at the total number of cars that use a roadway before implementing a road diet. Streets with average daily traffic counts above 25,000 are not good candidates, and presumably lower volumes make for better candidates, though road diets have minimal impact on overall volume. Using SDOT’s 2010 traffic volumes, here are the four streets compared, from lowest volume to highest:

  1. Jackson St: ranges from 10,200-13,600
  2. 23rd Ave: 13,400
  3. 35th Ave SW: ranges from 16,100-22,700
  4. Nickerson St: 22,300

Let’s look at another metric. While Walk Score is not an official criteria used by SDOT, it indicates the walkability of a location and is correlated with the number of pedestrians in an area. Streets with more pedestrians may be more deserving of measures that make the pedestrian environment safer and more pleasant. We took a sample Walk Score of 2-3 locations along each of these streets and are ranking them from highest (most walkable) to lowest (least walkable).

  1. Jackson St: 90
  2. 23rd Ave: 86
  3. Nickerson St: 81
  4. 35th Ave SW: 75

While the last two comparisons were interesting, the primary purpose of a lane rechannelization is to improve safety and the most dangerous streets should be looked at the hardest. We looked at this map of nationwide road fatalities, and counted the deaths that have occurred on each of these roadways from 2001-2009 to rank them in terms of urgency for safety improvements:

  1. 35th Ave SW: 4 roadway fatalities (including 2 dead peds)
  2. 23rd Ave: 4 roadway fatalities (2 dead peds)
  3. Jackson St: 3 roadway fatalities (3 dead peds)
  4. Nickerson St: 1 roadway fatality (0 dead peds)

Of our comparison group, Nickerson St has been the safest, is the second least walkable, and has the highest traffic volume. Still, a road diet was implemented and now has been shown to be a success. If a road diet can work there, then surely it can work on these other streets. How many more people will have to die before SDOT implements road diets on 35th Ave SW, 23rd Ave, Jackson St, and other locations where people are killed on Seattle’s roads?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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1/3 of Seattle’s pedestrian deaths occur on State and Federal roads

Walking in Seattle has analyzed pedestrian fatality information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA’s) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) for the years 2001-2009.

Of the 104 pedestrians that were killed in Seattle during that period, 31 were killed on state or federal highways. While these roadways only cover a small portion of the city, nearly one third of Seattle’s pedestrian fatalities occured there.

By far the deadliest roadway in the city is I-5, with 17 fatalities during the studied period. While most people in their right mind would not consider trying to walk along or across I-5, the freeway cuts a deep path through the city and offers pedestrians no way across for long stretches.

SR-99 / Aurora is the worst state highway in the city, with 7 pedestrian deaths to its name. Other deadly roadways include SR-519 and Lake City Way / SR-522.

While the city of Seattle is responsible for these state highways, funding is not available to re-build these streets as complete streets.

The high rate of fatalities on these roadways is indicative of a few things. While these roads don’t cover a lot of area in the city, they do carry a lot of vehicles, increasing the chances of driver-pedestrian encounters. These highways are also the city’s longest, so they are statistically more likely to show up in a list. More importantly, though, these roadways show a disregard for active transportation. Highways and walkers don’t mix well, as these statistics remind us.

Click here for a searchable map of pedestrian fatalities from Transportation for America.

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Seattle ranked one of the safer US cities for pedestrians

Transportation for America has analyzed pedestrian safety data across the country to rank the most dangerous cities in the country for pedestrians and Seattle was ranked 46th out of 52.

The Seattle PI’s Traffic and Transportation News blog has a good writeup:

In a news release from Transportation for Washington, Mayor Mike McGinn credits the city’s pedestrian master plan and Complete Streets ordinance, which requires new roads be designed with bicyclists and pedestrians in mind. The city’s Bridging the Gap levy has helped pay for a number of improvements since it was passed in 2006. At the state level, the Legislature this year passed a “Vulnerable User’s” bill, which boosts penalties for negligent drivers who kill or maim bicyclists, pedestrians and other “vulnerable roadway users.”

Still, the report notes that 398 pedestrians were killed from 2000 to 2009 in Seattle’s Metro area.

While traffic deaths have dropped nationally by 27 percent over the last decade, pedestrian deaths have been reduced by less than half that. “Despite the magnitude of these avoidable tragedies, little public attention – and even less in public resources – has been committed to reducing pedestrian deaths and injuries in the United States,” according to the report. “On the contrary, transportation agencies typically prioritize speeding traffic over the safety of people on foot or other vulnerable road users.”

Transportation for America also has a searchable and interactive map of pedestrian fatalities.

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Pedestrian fatality in Rainier Valley

A pedestrian was struck and killed in the Rainier Valley this morning. It appears that a woman in her late 70s was crossing against the signal and was struck by a vehicle and died at the hospital.

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Pedestrian struck by light rail vehicle

A man walked in front of a moving Link light rail vehicle and was struck and killed earlier today.


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Preliminary investigation indicates that a 49-year-old male pedestrian was crossing the light rail tracks westbound against multiple warning signals, which included flashing lights, traffic closure arms, and the sound of the horn of the approaching northbound light rail vehicle (LRV).

The LRV operator saw the pedestrian and applied the emergency brakes but was unable to stop in time and the pedestrian was subsequently struck. SFD medics responded to the scene and transported the pedestrian to Harborview Medical Center where he later died.

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Central District News suggests road diet for 23rd Ave

In response to the pedestrian “death map” we published, Central District News offers safety suggestions to combat the disproportionately high number of fatalities in their neighborhood:

So what can be done to reduce collisions? On a personal level, try to cross hilly streets either at the top or bottom of the hill. Make eye contact with vehicle drivers when crossing to make sure they see you. When driving, remember that all intersections are crosswalks by default whether there is paint on the ground or not, and pedestrians do have the right of way.

They also suggest a road diet for 23rd Ave, one of the most dangerous streets in the neighborhood:

There are other tools the city has used to increase safety on streets like 23rd Ave (I will now put on my safe roads advocacy hat). Currently, 23rd is a four-lane road with few safe pedestrian crossings other than at stoplights (what I would call a highway design). Four-lane configurations make left tuns onto and off of these roads difficult for drivers. They also prevent the city from being able to install safe crosswalks in sections where there are no stoplights for several blocks.

With only 15,100 vehicles per day south of Madison (according to 2006 data, the most recent readily available for this road) 23rd Ave has similar traffic volumes to roads across the city that have recently been reconfigured to increase safety for all users. These so-called “road diets” often add a center right left turn lane and sometimes bike lanes while removing one travel lane in each direction. Though they have proven to decrease all road collisions dramatically without reducing vehicle capacity, some have been controversial

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