Tag Archive for 'design'

Roadways safer than ever in 2010 but not safe enough

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission reports that there were fewer traffic fatalities in 2010 than any year on record. SDOT Blog shares how the Seattle Department of Transportation works to make streets safer:

SDOT frequently partners with the Washington Traffic Safety Commission to help improve safety on Seattle streets. We are currently working with the Commission on the Aurora Traffic Safety Project which, as previously reported, has been able to reduced collisions on Aurora Avenue North by more than 20 percent in the past year. From 2006 to 2008, SDOT and the Traffic Safety Commission partnered on the Rainier Corridor Traffic Safety Project which improved safety on Rainier Avenue in Southeast Seattle. SDOT also seeks Traffic Safety Commission grants annually to fund school zone flashing beacons. Flashing beacons have been shown to be one of the most effective ways to improve safety in school zones and can currently be found at more than 35 Seattle schools.

There is still a long way to go to reach Target Zero, a goal shared by transportation agencies in Washington state. SDOT encourages everyone to follow traffic laws and try to get around safely, but many roads in the city are still unsafe by design. Of all roadway users, pedestrians are most likely to die in a collision and dozens have been killed in the past five years. Asking drivers to slow down isn’t going to fix everything. To take safety seriously, SDOT needs to focus on designing roadways safer.

One way to do that is to continue implementing road diets where possible and looking at other ways to slow drivers down. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling 40 mph is 85% likely to die, whereas a pedestrian struck at 30 mph has a 45% chance of death. Look at the map of pedestrians killed in the past five years and take note of the streets where pedestrians have been killed. How many of these fatalities happened on a street with at least two lanes of traffic in one direction?


Mayor approves 125th St rechannelization

We’re a few days late to report this, but the mayor has authorized SDOT to move forward with the road diet on 125th St.

The project was originally proposed by SDOT last August, and faced some initial opposition. As a result, SDOT spent additional time reviewing public input and doing further analysis, resulting in a reaffirmation of SDOT’s proposal to change the roadway. SDOT’s recommendation to the mayor re-energized opposition, however the mayor has approved SDOT’s proposal, and the road diet will happen.

The mayor sent a lengthy response to people who had contacted him on the issue, explaining his rationale on the decision. Seattle Bike Blog has reproduced the mayor’s letter in its entirety.


Crossing improvements planned near Beacon Hill Station

A few months ago, Beacon Hill Blog drew attention to the unsafe conditions at the intersection of Beacon Ave S and Lander St. Since then, they have Beacon BIKES has met with SDOT to design a new crossing to allow pedestrians to cross more safely.


Ergo Crosswalk

Check out this cool crosswalk design, which matches much more closely how people actually cross the street. (Hat tip Seattle Transit Blog):

Clever Crosswalk design


Another Pedestrian hit on Aurora

A pedestrian was struck by a vehicle near Green Lake earlier in the week. My Green Lake has good coverage of the incident.

View Larger Map

There is a single crosswalk, however in this case the pedestrian was trying to cross just a block away from it. Apparently jaywalkers across this section of Aurora are pretty common. While others commenting on this incident are quick to blame the pedestrian for jaywalking, the fact that this roadway is such a common location for pedestrian accidents points to flaws in design.

With walking being such an important mode of transportation in Seattle, it’s important that the built environment enables that. There is certainly a lot of motor vehicle traffic that passes along highway 99, but it also interrupts the street grid and and acts as a barricade for anyone trying to get to the walking haven that is Green Lake.

In this specific case, it’s not necessarily clear that there should be more crosswalks across Aurora, but perhaps it would help reduce the incidence of pedestrian accidents.


Mercer West Kick-Off Open House

The city is hosting an Open House next Tuesday on the Mercer West project. This project will provide two-way access for vehicles between Elliott Ave and I-5, among other things:

  • Widening Mercer between Dexter Avenue N and Fifth Avenue N, including the underpass at Aurora to provide three lanes in each direction, left-turn lanes, wider sidewalks, and a bicycle path;
  • Converting Mercer Street to two-way operation with two lanes in each direction and turn pockets between Fifth Avenue N and Queen Anne Avenue N;
  • Converting Roy Street to a two-way street with bicycle lanes between Fifth Avenue N and Queen Anne Avenue N;
  • Creating a new Sixth Avenue N connection between Mercer and Harrison streets; and
  • Closing Broad Street to re-connect the street grid between Ninth Ave N and Fifth Ave N.

This project is largely vehicle-oriented, but wider sidewalks along Mercer, and reconnecting the street grid will be much-needed improvements for getting around the area by foot.

To learn more about the project and offer your feedback, attend the kick-off meeting this Tuesday from 4:30 – 7 pm at Seattle Center. More information can be found on the project page.


SDOT on the offensive about road diets

After some recent opposition to SDOT’s plan to rechannel 125th St, in addition to the heavy opposition to SDOT’s rechannelization of Nickerson, SDOT has gone on the offensive, with the benefits of road diets.

There has been a lot of interest in rechannelizations over the past few months, especially with SDOT’s proposal for NE 125th and the recent work on Nickerson. SDOT makes such changes to a street’s configuration to reduce vehicular speeds and make the road safer, especially for vulnerable users like pedestrians.

Seattle has been successfully installing these “road diets” since the Uhlman Administration and we are not alone in doing so. Cities such as San Francisco, Portland, Orlando, Oakland and New York all utilize them to make their streets safer. Though a rechannelization also allows us to incorporate wider lanes to better serve freight or install bike facilities, these are secondary to our primary goal of enhancing safety.

We often hear that these rechannelizations will increase congestion, diminish roadway capacity or cause more crashes. However, those concerns never actually materialize on roads that have been improved in this way. What one can document here and elsewhere are lower speeds, less crashes and fewer injuries from collisions. These are changes that benefit everyone from pedestrians to motor vehicle operators.

The recent examples of Stone Way N and Fauntleroy Way SW highlight how these inexpensive striping changes improve safety with no additional equipment or personnel costs. In fact, we recently studied how Stone Way performed after the change in lane layout and documented that:

Motor vehicles now travel at speeds nearer the legal limit;
Total collisions dropped 14 percent with injury collisions down 33 percent;
Pedestrian collisions declined significantly;
Bike trips increased 35 percent but collisions per bicycle trip have declined; and
Volumes show the roadway still easily accommodates motor vehicle traffic.
(You can read the full Stone Way report here: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/docs/StoneWaybeforeafterFINAL.pdf.)

Having rechannelized 26 different roads in Seattle over the past several decades, SDOT can confidently state that “road diets” make our roads safer for all. And do so in a way that keeps traffic moving.

SDOT has linked to the Federal Highway Administration’s report on road re-striping, which shows that road diets increase safety with minimal impact to vehicle traffic.

They’ve also publicized some key safety statistics about 125th St – including that the vast majority of drivers speed on the road and that there have been almost 80 collisions with injury on this roadway.

And in response to criticism that SDOT did not publicize the 125th St road diet well enough, SDOT lists all the ways in which they reached out to the community.

Hopefully this communications effort will help refocus the debate – much of the discussion about road diets has been framed in terms of bikes vs cars, and SDOT is getting away from the term ‘road diet’, which may be a little alarming to drivers who fear for reading road capacity. As SDOT points out, road diets are nothing new, but they are still apparently controversial. Being more vocal in advertising these safety facts will surely help future road diets – excuse me, road rechannelizations – to generate less rancorous debate and anger towards bikers.

Not only will drivers and bikers benefit from increased safety, but reconfigured lane striping is welcomed by pedestrians who are able cross streets more safely both at marked and unmarked crosswalks, not be exposed to high-speed traffic right beside them, and overall feel more comfortable walking in their own neighborhoods.


Road Diet opposition in North Seattle

Publicola reports on opposition to a planned redesign of roadway along 125th Ave NE.

Following the familiar routine that has accompanied all of the road diets in Seattle this year, Lake City and Pinehurst community members have raised concerns about the Seattle Department of Transportation’s plans to reconfigure NE 125th St. between Roosevelt Way and 35th Ave NE and making efforts to stop the project.

SDOT’s proposal is to reduce travel lanes from two-lanes in each direction to one lane in each direction with a center turn lane. SDOT says the lane reduction would allow them to install traditional bike lanes in either direction, improve pedestrian crossings, improve “major signalized intersections by creating right turn only lanes for vehicles (excluding transit and bikes),” and reduce vehicle speeds. According to an editorial by Cascade Bicycle Club’s Chris Rule, the 85th percentile of vehicles travel 39 mph on the 30 mph road.

View Lake City road diet in a larger map

As we saw with the Nickerson St road diet a few weeks ago, these road diets can be controversial. A flier has been distributed in the neighborhood calling the redesign a bad idea.

If you support the increased safety for pedestrians that results from road diets decreasing vehicle speed, feel free to contact walkandbike@seattle.gov. The comment period closes tomorrow at 5pm.


Pedestrian improvements in the Rainier Valley

The Rainier Valley Post (via Publicola) reports that SDOT is doing some construction along Rainier Ave. Most of these improvements are transit-oriented, to the benefit of the riders of the popular bus route 7.

Pedestrians will benefit, too, with new pedestrian signals across Rainier at 39th Ave S and at S Fronteac St. Some crosswalks will be repainted and curb ramps will be added in several places along the street.

The project is expected to continue through the end of the year.


McGraw Streetcar Plaza design

SDOT is in the process of developing the McGraw Square area and a portion of Westlake Avenue into a Westlake Transportation Hub at the downtown terminus of the Seattle Streetcar.

McGraw Square Park is currently the site of a historic bronze statue along with a couple park benches, one of which is often occupied overnight for sleeping.

Plans include another streetcar platform to allow boarding on both sides as well as bike parking, natural landscaping, artistic lighting, and a retail kiosk.

Westlake Transportation Hub design

Westlake Transportation Hub design showing uses of McGraw Streetcar Plaza

This was presented at the last meeting of the Seattle Design Commission, however there were some concerns that the design needs to be refined further to be flexible for future uses.

You can download a draft version of the presentation from the Design Commission website. Construction is expected to start this year.