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Columbia City shaken after person drives into building + Community walk Friday

Photo from Seattle Fire
Photo from Seattle Fire

Columbia City residents and workers are still shaken up after someone drove into a hair salon last week and broke through the inside wall before coming to a rest inside the deli next door. Seven people were injured, including several children. Somehow, nobody was killed.

The building’s structure was damaged and at risk of collapsing, but that didn’t stop people nearby from rushing into the building to help free people trapped by the collision. Anthony Robinson wrote a good first-person account over at Crosscut (ignore the misleading headline).

Community members are organizing a “walk-in” for safe streets from 4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Friday at the intersection where the collision occurred (unfortunately, it is at the same time as the 2nd Ave memorial ride for Sher Kung. There is too much traffic violence on our streets). So if you find yourself continually worried about traffic danger on Rainier, this is a chance to meet others with the same concerns and start taking action.

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WALK_IN Poster.FinalThe collision happened less than a block from Bike Works, and staff were among those who took action to help with the rescue effort. Phyllis Porter, who works on outreach efforts for the organization’s neighborhood greenway efforts, was hit by debris as the car sped into the building.

Deb Salls, Executive Director of Bike Works, sent a letter to the Seattle Department of Transportation requesting that the city take action to make the street safer:

Scott and SDOT staff

I am sure you may have already heard but we had a very tragic accident today at Rainier Ave S and Ferdinand St in the heart of Columbia City.  Luckily no one was killed, but it is the second time in a matter of months that a car has plowed into a storefront on Rainier Ave in Columbia City.  The first incident destroyed the front of the nail salon at Rainier Ave S. and Edmonds St.

In today’s incident, the car nearly missed Bike Works employee and Rainier Valley Greenways Outreach Coordinator, Phyllis Porter, who was walking across the street and was struck on the thigh by flying debris.  Three bollards were ripped from the ground and poles and shrapnel went flying as the car sped thru the intersection.    A bicyclist had just passed through the intersection, and a gentleman on a bench in front of the hair salon had just gone inside for his appointment.  The car plowed through the salon and then went into the Greek restaurant next door.  Luckily no one was killed in either location,  but three patrons of the restaurant and the woman and child in the car went to the hospital.  As soon as the crash happened two employees of Bike Works and people from other businesses ran into the smoking building to help the trapped people.  The front of the building has a large and heavy historic awning that is currently being held up by a temporary post.  All in all it was a lucky day for everyone’s life but still a tragic day for the concept of safe streets.

I cannot tell you how very, very busy each of the corners  and sidewalks in Columbia City are every day. It is a very busy commercial corridor and a very busy walkable neighborhood.  But unfortunately, it is also a very busy street and cars often go way too fast and I feel everyone is in danger until we put in some kind of road diet and restricted speed zone through the heart of Columbia City.

From the Ito map of traffic deaths
From the Ito map of traffic deaths

That’s right, this is the second time a person has driven into a building in downtown Columbia City in just a few months. If the buildings aren’t safe from fast-moving traffic, how do you think people walking and biking feel?

We argued several times for Rainier to be included in the updated Bike Master Plan. Unfortunately, only the northernmost and southernmost segments were slated for protected bike lanes in the final version of the plan. This does not include Columbia City, but it should. At the very least, a road diet could be completed within the next month for relatively little money and would have big traffic safety benefits.

Rainier is one of the most dangerous streets in Seattle for all road users, and it is probably the single most dangerous neighborhood commercial street that is not designated as a state highway. Seattle and Washington State share the blame for traffic danger on Aurora and Lake City Way, but Seattle alone is to blame for Rainier. People older than 60 are killed are killed at a disproportionate rate on the street. It just has too many lanes and people can too easily drive too fast.

So let’s fix it.

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4 responses to “Columbia City shaken after person drives into building + Community walk Friday”

  1. Tom Fucoloro

    I went ahead and threw together some quick armchair street design ideas for Rainier through Columbia city. First, here are the approximate existing conditions (you can use this as a starting point if you want to try to Streetmix it yourself):


    Here are some ideas for how protected bike lanes could work:




    Here is a low-budget idea for a quick and easy road diet with buffered bike lane (not an all-ages and abilities facility, but it could be an improvement and could be wide enough to avoid the door zone):


    And here is a potentially low-budget idea for a road diet that includes expanded public space on one side of the street:


  2. Kimberly Kinchen

    I never spent much time in Columbia City when I lived in Seattle, but we’d heard great things so we spent some time walking and riding around CC on our trip last month. We’re jaded New Yorkers and were appalled by Rainier Ave near this restaurant (which I recall because I’d never heard of ‘Chicago-style’ Greek food and we paused to look over the menu) — both the speed of drivers and how unfriendly to pedestrians the area was. Ugh. Seattle needs a Complete Streets Extreme Makeover for this road, IMO.

  3. […] highways). Just weeks ago, neighbors organized a protest after a person lost control of a car and plowed through a hair salon into the restaurant next door at Rainier and Ferdinand, injuring many […]

  4. […] In recent months, Rainier Ave has been the scene of some particularly terrifying collisions. In late August, a person driving down Rainier in Columbia City lost control and ran up on the sidewalk and sped through Carol Cobb Salon, then through the interior wall into a restaurant next door. Seven people were injured. […]

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