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Listen: KUOW on Rainier Ave’s speeding problem + Meeting tonight

Screenshot from KUOW. Click to listen.
Screenshot from KUOW. Click to listen.

Rainier Ave has a serious speeding problem.

But, of course, that speeding problem is actually a symptom caused by the street’s dangerous, highway-style design problem. Four lanes of traffic splitting through bustling neighborhood centers and business districts is inherently dangerous. In fact, it’s the most dangerous city-owned street in Seattle.

You can help change that by getting involved with the city’s Rainier Ave Road Safety Corridor Project, which is holding its second community meeting tonight (Tuesday) from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Ethiopian Community Center (8323 Rainier Ave S).

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How dangerous is it? In just the last three years, there have been at least 1,243 collisions between Columbia City and Seward Park, causing 630 injuries and killing two people. KUOW reports that 11 people have died on Rainier in the past decade.

But you’ve already heard about this from Seattle Bike Blog. But check out this excellent story by KUOW featuring the wonderful Phyllis Porter, who works for Bike Works and helps run Rainier Valley Greenways. It’s only a couple minutes long, but it gets straight to the point:

“The things that are happening in Rainier Valley, Columbia City, Hillman City,” [Porter] said, naming the neighborhoods off Rainier Avenue, “these things are unacceptable. And something needs to be done now.”

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6 responses to “Listen: KUOW on Rainier Ave’s speeding problem + Meeting tonight”

  1. Peri Hartman

    Well, as SDOT starts to address Rainier, they let down their guard in another area. Now that Mercer street has three lanes open, traffic speed has increased to 40mph. What possible methods are there to address this?

  2. Peri Hartman

    Not rhetorical. Unless you seriously think SDOT is going to remove a traffic lane from the new Mercer street to add a bike lane.

    In fact, the design does call for an extra wide sidewalk which is supposed to double as a bike lane. That’s fine if you want to ride 10 mph.

    For those of us who like to go a reasonable speed, we need to use a traffic lane. However 40mph is a bit intimidating. The speed limit is 30, by the way.

    The traffic used to go slower because, during constructon, the lanes were a bit narrower and had sharper curves. Maybe my question is rhetorical. If I had my way, I’d say they should narrow the lanes and make it harder to go fast.

    My original point is that SDOT seems to want to address hazards on Rainier ave but they are talking out of both sides of the mouth. They can’t keep designing urban highways if they also want peds and bikes to be able to move safely!

    1. Andy

      What part of Mercer are you talking about? I think the final design for the underpass still includes a two-way protected bike lane on the north side of Mercer?

      I agree that east and west of the underpass are both pretty gnarly, but diverting to Roy isn’t that onerous, and is much more comfortable than Mercer. Whether that is a big inconvenience I guess depends on where you’re going to/coming from.

  3. Peri Hartman

    I’m referring to the segment between 5th n and i5. Yes, you are correct that the underpass will have a bike lane, shared with peds.

    If you are tsking a ride for pleasure, i think the underpass bike lanes will work fine. Probably even taking the jog to valley.

    The real issue is riding at a reasonabke speed. Jogging to valley means a slew of traffuc lights, which can add 5-10 minutes for these 10 blocjs. Riding through on mercer takes 1-2 minutes.

    However, riding in 40mph traffic is intimidating.

  4. Neel Blair

    People just ignore speed limits. 5 over is the standard, higher if it feels like you can get away with it. The minority of people drive the speed limit. Most drive 30mph or less only if forced to by traffic.

    Either take major steps to reduce the culture of entitlement among drivers (I get to go where I want, how I want, and all traffic laws are just advisory), or this will continue to be a problem. Speeding violations, yielding violations, signaling violation, turning violations, and more are the norm. So much so that people aren’t even sure what the rules mean anymore. That’s the core of the problem.

  5. Pragmatic Dan

    I don’t think that Rainier Ave can be directly compared to Lake City Way. Where it counts, LCW is a 5 lane rode with a turning median. It is used as a highway with speeds up to 45 mph. Traffic does slow down on LCW through the 125th St NE area due to congestion and traffic lights, but that happens in Columbia City on Rainier Ave too.

    Accidents obviously happen in Columbia City, but drivers generally go slower through there than the rest of Rainier ave when uninhibited by traffic. The traffic slows down because the lanes in Columbia City are narrower, there are parked cars filling up either side of the roadway and the lights limit the flow.

    An easy solution to reduce the speed of traffic through Columbia City would be install a timed light between Hillman City and Columbia City at one of the crosswalk intersections like 42nd ave S and Rainier. That would just be limiting the flow of traffic and the top speed that cars would accelerate to before the next light. It would feel more like MLK along the lightrail, restrained.

    If you want people to drive slower on Rainier, then the street has to be changed. It would defiantly benefit from a middle turn lane if space could be found by removing parking or reducing the width of the lanes. (the lanes on Rainer through Columbia City do feel much more narrow) Other than that we’re looking at a road diet a la 125st NE. I’m skeptical that additional traffic cameras or speed readers will reduces speeds, as they have already been installed at Orcas St and 42nd ave respectively.

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