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Collisions drop 23 percent on redesigned Nickerson – UPDATED

From the mayor's Twitter account

Changes to Nickerson St in 2010 have resulted in a 23 percent drop in collisions, the city reported during a press conference today.

Last year, Publicola reported that traffic volumes on Nickerson remained consistent, as the city had predicted. Average speeds dropped from over 40 mph to 34-37 mph, which is still higher than the speed limit.

We’ll have more details soon (UPDATE: See below), but this appears to be yet another example that such road design improvements (AKA “road diets”) work dependably at increasing safety without negatively impacting traffic congestion.


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The Nickerson redesign was fairly controversial, with opponents claiming there would be massive traffic jams and accusing the mayor of being too pro-bike. While the added bike lanes on Nickerson certainly help people access businesses and homes along the Nickerson corridor by bike, the project was hardly about just bikes. The Ship Canal Trail provides a better alternative for people passing through the area on bike (especially now that it has been extended to Fisherman’s Terminal). Rather, the Nickerson project was about road safety for everyone, as it appears to have done.

UPDATE: You can see the full study report below. The study found that the number of people driving more than 10 mph above the speed limit dropped by a staggering 92-96 percent.

Here’s a before-and-after shot. Notice how much more inviting the after image is for people who need to cross the street to access that bus stop.

The study also found that daily traffic volumes on Nickerson remained unchanged. The number of freight trucks of all sizes even increased slightly. The AM peak traffic volumes did drop significantly, but this was not due to people taking alternative routes. 15th Ave W actually saw an even larger decrease in AM traffic, so that decrease may be a sign of a larger traffic trend in the area and not related to the road changes.

SDOT’s official conclusion:

The Nickerson rechannelization enabled SDOT to install two new marked crosswalks. The rechannelization improved all marked and unmarked crosswalks on the corridor by reducing the multiple lane threat where one lane of traffic stops but the second lane does not. The project improved traffic safety overall by dramatically reducing the percent of drivers traveling more than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. The percent of drivers traveling over the speed limit has been reduced by more than 60% and the percent of top-end speeders has been reduced by 90%. Traffic volume remains roughly the same as it was before the rechannelization. There is no evidence that the rechannelization has resulted in traffic diversions.

SDOT’s report:

120301PR-NickersonBeforeAndAfterStudy

UPDATE: Here’s the mayor’s statement on the changes.


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17 responses to “Collisions drop 23 percent on redesigned Nickerson – UPDATED”

  1. Shane Phillips

    Surprise, surprise! There’ll always going to be plenty of people who predict armageddon when these type of changes are proposed–regardless of evidence to the contrary–but it’s still nice to see more and more examples of the successes of road redesigns for all user modes. I’m certain there are still reasonable people out there, somewhere.

  2. Matthew

    Great news!

    It would be great if they could do the same thing on Leary in southeast Ballard, from 3rd Ave NW to 15th Ave and beyond. What a nightmare that street can be. There are so few safe places to cross the street as a pedestrian or a cyclist, and drivers treat it like a drag strip. Having to walk six blocks out of your way to just to reach a legal crosswalk provokes unsafe jaywalking. Sometimes at night there are cops that patrol the strip, but it doesn’t seem to do much to change the behavior. Some kind of traffic calming could really help matters.

    1. LWC

      I fully agree. I often have found myself as a pedestrian at the NW corner of 20th and Leary, wanting to head south or east. There’s a crosswalk at the intersection, but even crossing 20th to get to it leaves you feeling very vulnerable in a huge swath of asphalt. The oblique street angle makes it so that drivers are comfortable zipping around that corner at 30+ MPH. This is a clear case of unsafe road design in an area that sees an increasing number of pedestrians. Leary would be ideal for a redesign.

  3. RTK

    Until the Ship Canal Trail was extended I was riding this road all the time. It seemed like a much better place to be for bikes, pedestrians and drivers. Never saw any traffic jams due to the revisions.

  4. Breadbaker

    Matthew, there is a legal crosswalk on every corner on Leary. What you mean, I presume, is a marked crosswalk. And I do agree with your implication about the danger of trying to get a Seattle driver to stop for a pedestrian on Leary. I live on Leary’s cognate east of Aurora, No. 40th Street, one of the narrowest arterials in the city and I take my life in my hands trying to cross it. Cars act like it’s a sin to go under 45.

    1. merlin

      And the city has been REMOVING marked crosswalks on 4-lane arterials because they are MORE dangerous: people try to cross the street, one lane stops, but drivers in the other lanes keep going. What has not happened as far as I’m aware is any attempt to remind/educate/enforce the law giving pedestrians the right to cross arterials. So drivers are left with the impression that they don’t need to look for people trying to cross the road. Maddening if an arterial lies in your path.

  5. Alan Locklear

    Another way to interpret some of these results is that slowing down the speeders, especially the fastest ones has improved congestion — as well as safety for cyclists and pedestrians.

  6. Doug Bostrom

    Hooray for -road design improvements-!

    Isn’t it great when we stop acting as though we don’t know things we actually do know?

  7. jitterbalm

    I ride and drive Nickerson. It is much improved. I’d surely like to see some sort of road diet for Leary. Talked about it the other day in passing with Rob Mattson, Dept of Neighborhoods rep. I believe from that conversation there is some sort of buzz about it. The ped crossings are many and loads of near-misses. Bikes are invisible on arterials where cars and trucks go too fast. People desparate for parking don’t pay attention to much. It’s time.

    To the person who lives off 40th in Wford, my condolences. It is scary-fast on that street.

  8. dave

    Accidents are down on Nickerson because intellegent cyclists use the Ship Canal Trail and stay off the road.

    1. me

      Your troll fu is weak, hater.

      1. dave

        Sorry but the fact is I am a daily commuter on the Ship Canal Trail. No hate from me.

        Lighten up, and make sure your 700 lumen light is pointed at the ground and not my eyes while you are at it.

  9. […] collisions by 23 percent without significantly impacting traffic flow, according to an SDOT report I wrote about on Seattle Bike Blog. For a local comparison, MLK see only a couple thousand fewer vehicles per day than 23rd (about […]

  10. […] collisions by 23 percent without significantly impacting traffic flow, according to an SDOT report I wrote about on Seattle Bike Blog. For a local comparison, MLK see only a couple thousand fewer vehicles per day than 23rd (about […]

  11. […] He has taken big political hits for standing behind controversial projects (and, we should add, has been proven to be right about almost all of them, though his vindication earned him fewer […]

  12. […] As mayor, McGinn has spent a lot of political capital on safe streets issues. He backed extremely unpopular road safety projects and faced a media firestorm and outraged citizen and industry groups. He received a lot of bad headlines for those projects, followed by a scant few good ones when follow-up traffic studies proved the projects were successful by every measure. […]

  13. […] and successful road diets with bike lanes on Nickerson, NE 125th St, NE 75th […]

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