Seattle will announce Vision Zero campaign to end traffic violence – UPDATED

Seattle leaders will announce Vision Zero today in Lake City, calling for an end to traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030.

Mayor Ed Murray, Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, and folks from SDOT and SPD will be at Lake City Library at 3:15 Thursday afternoon to make the announcement.

Technically, this is the second time city leaders have gathered press and called for an end to traffic violence. We wrote this story back in 2012:

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 11.10.44 AM

Click to read the full story.

The city’s Road Safety Action Plan did not use the phrase “Vision Zero,” but it clearly called for an end to traffic deaths and serious injuries. It was the product of a series of community meetings (the “Road Safety Summit”) and was the work of people from many Seattle departments. It makes the case for ending traffic violence as a public health scourge, framing traffic collisions preventable causes of death and serious injuries. It also includes known solutions.

Since that plan, the city has launched a brilliant and successful school zone speed camera program, which slows down traffic and helps to fund safety projects like Safe Routes to School. The city also crafted a new Bicycle Master Plan.

But more must be done. Will the new Vision Zero plan be bolder? Will there be serious funding? Stay tuned for details.

UPDATE: The Vision Zero website is now live, including this document. Below are some quick highlights. More coverage coming soon.


Lowering speed limits on problem busy streets is one strategy that we’ll see first. The city will also start creating 20mph zones in select residential areas. Here’s a map of where you’ll see action in 2015:

VisionZeroPlan-speedlimitsSome background:


Safer street design can be implemented quickly. We know because we’ve done it.


The Vision Zero plan will come with a serious downtown and urban center focus:

Most pedestrian collisions occur downtown. In fact, more than 600 people have been hit while walking downtown in the last three years. While we’ve seen positive safety gains outside of the city center, we’ve seen an increase in the severity of collisions in the central business district – specifically collisions involving speeding.

Prevent collisions through low-cost, quick changes including:

  • Reduce speed limits to 25 mph throughout downtown, starting with Pike, Pine and James streets
  • Data-driven pedestrian safety enhancements may include leading or lagging pedestrian intervals, protected turn phases, elimination of dual turn lanes, signal improvements, and no turns on red. 2015 locations include:
    • 5th Ave at Union, University, Spring, and Seneca Streets
    • 6th Ave at Pike, Spring, Cherry, James, and University Streets
    • 7th Ave and Olive Way

Urban Center safety

Bring a higher level of safety to Seattle’s Urban Centers, where high volumes of vehicular traffic, transit, pedestrians, and bicyclists merge. Data-driven improvements may include modified signal phasing, traffic calming, protected turn phases and leading or lagging pedestrian intervals at the following locations:

  • Lake City at NE 125th Street and Lake City Way NE
  • White Center/Westwood at SW Roxbury Street and Delridge Way/16th Ave SW
  • Columbia City and Hillman City on Rainier Ave S

About Tom Fucoloro

Founder and Editor of Seattle Bike Blog.
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22 Responses to Seattle will announce Vision Zero campaign to end traffic violence – UPDATED

  1. Ints says:

    If they are truly going for a Vision Zero approach, it might just be the end of my posting links to vision zero related articles.


  2. Reality Broker says:

    Good that we are moving past more of McGinn’s many bad decisions, including failing to join the worldwide Vision Zero movement and related frameworks, in favor of his homegrown super-hero “Be Super Safe” campaign (did that ever demonstrably accomplish anything measurable?)

    Mayor McGinn, if you did not know, rejected formally embracing Vision Zero:

    “We came up with our road safety action plan and called it Be Super Safe. We thought about naming it something like Vision Zero, but I didn’t like that. But it was the same goal: Let’s get to zero fatalities.”

  3. Andres Salomon says:

    A bunch of folks formed Seattle Neighbors For Vision Zero to push the city to truly commit to Vision Zero, to encourage the city’s efforts, and to hold the city accountable for shortcomings.

  4. Kirk says:

    “We’ll also ensure that enforcement efforts focus on behaviors that endanger our most vulnerable roadway users. And we’ll couple corridor safety improvements with enforcement to reduce speed, impairment, and distraction.”
    This sounds encouraging, but I’m sceptical. The speed limit on 15th NW and Elliott NW was reduced from 40 MPH and 35 MPH to 30 MPH last fall, but drivers continue to travel well over the speed limit, often by 20 MPH, and I have never seen any SPD enforcement of this new limit during my daily travels. Lowering speed limits does nothing if there is no enforcement. SPD will really have to ramp it up and start enforcing traffic infractions for this plan to work.

    • Andres Salomon says:

      The SeaStat thing that’s mentioned in Seattle’s Vision Zero Plan will contain speeding citation data from SPD. If we can get access to the data, we can tell for sure whether SPD’s speeding (and other moving violations) citation rate goes up significantly or not. I was assured that the data would become available, but we’ll need to make sure that happens and that it’s available to the public.

  5. Rob says:

    If there is such a splash about Vision Zero, why is the city being so meek in the designation of 20 mph speed limits on residential streets? Why not immediately declare the speed limit on ALL neighborhood streets in the city to be 20 mph?

    Kirk is right that speed limits themselves don’t do much. I don’t think enforcement does either, unless you want to park a string of cops along Lake City Way 24 hours per day (and I guess 15th Avenue NW, too). The permanent solution is a change in speed limit followed by a change in road design to match the speed limit.

    • Breadbaker says:

      That may be true, but if, as an interim step, it became widely known (and it would be) that a flying squadron of cops focused just on speeding and running red lights could show up at any of about 100 intersections and would be somewhere every single rush hour, you’d probably see some improvement in behavior.

      I’d start with the illegal right turn at Dexter and Mercer, southbound. Interestingly, the Bus 26 and 28 drivers have all taken to blasting their horns loudly at any driver with a right turn signal on at that intersection.

  6. Stan says:

    20 mph is still way to fast for every one to feel safe..
    When citywide speed limits are 5-10 mph as they should be
    then Seattle can then be declared a safe city..
    If even one person is hurt by some one going 20 mph then I
    would consider 20 mph a crazy fast speed…

    • doug says:

      I wouldn’t want to be restricted to 10mph on my bike. Are you serious?

    • jay says:

      If one hits one’s head, one can die at 10mph too. If they are serious about reducing deaths they should require helmets for anyone walking on or near the street (or eating in street side cafes, or anywhere else a car is likely to be driven) . While requiring drivers to wear helmets while driving would probably not be a good idea because some would feel like race car drives and drive accordingly ( I have a vague recollection of reading somewhere that in some places wearing a helmet while driving was illegal, presumably for that reason), but if said driver exits their car on the street side, or crosses a crosswalk to get to/from their parking space, then they too will need a helmet.
      Once everyone had a helmet with them at all times, the disincentive for biking that a mandatory helmet law incurs would be nullified, so we “people riding bicycles” would get the “safety in numbers” benefit and since I wear a helmet anyway, it would be no skin off my nose (well, actually, I don’t wear a full face helmet, but the idiom is not meant literally) .
      Also, Pronto would no longer need to provide helmets, somewhat reducing the red ink on their bottom line.
      Not only would the helmets directly reduce some pedestrian injuries, the fact that drivers would also have to carry a helmet around with then may help point out how dangerous cars are.

  7. daihard says:

    They might as well ban turning-on-red citywide, not just at certain intersections in the downtown area, unless they can strictly enforce the “make a complete stop before turning on red” law and educate the “people driving” that turning-on-red is an option, not a requirement.

    • Josh says:

      I believe that a city-wide ban would require a legislative solution — current law says right-on-red is the default unless there’s a no-right-on-red sign at each signal.

      • Lisa says:

        Maybe people will stop honking at me when I don’t immediately turn right on red when I don’t feel like it’s safe.

  8. Law Abider says:

    Some people have already touched on this above, but to meet this goal, SPD will need to start doing active enforcement and ticketing.

    Preventing speeding is one small piece of the pie and will reduce the more serious collisions. However, the majority of my collisions and close calls are related to people not stopping at stop signs (either stopping after or rolling through), failure to signal (turning into me with no warning) and of course driving while distracted.

    Whatever reason SPD has for not having more traffic enforcement, it’s clear that they need more. It seems that the terrible drivers have gotten used to having no consequences for their moving violations and that only makes it worse for cyclists and pedestrians.

    • Kirk says:

      It would be a major cultural shift for SPD to begin enforcing traffic laws. I had an exchange last fall with an SPD officer who had stopped next to me in his cruiser at a stop light behind the driver of a car that was completely over the stop line blocking the crosswalk. When I pointed out to him what the driver of the car right in front of him was doing, he said “so what?” SPD doesn’t care.
      Good luck to Kathleen O’Toole, the new Chief of the Seattle Police Department. My hat will be off to her if she can focus the SPD on enforcing traffic infractions that endanger vulnerable road users.

    • jay says:

      ” It seems that the terrible drivers have gotten used to having no consequences for their moving violations”

      I think it is more a disconnect between the violations and the consequences, than there not being consequences. After all, bad driving is punishable by Death! and the punishment is not infrequently applied (albeit by Karma, not the law).
      On the other hand, until it is too late, most drivers think they will not be one of the ones who die, but if they actually personally receive tickets, that may get their attention more than some minor story on the news, but it would probably take a lot of tickets to make a real impression.

    • Mouse says:

      I would much rather get speeds down through road design than by waiting for enforcement to show up. Road design is more effective, yeah, but mostly I feel pretty concerned about SPD’s rough track record on racism. Dear SPD, remember you shouldn’t just pull people over for driving while black.

    • biliruben says:

      I agree. Unless there is a vast shift in culture within SPD, we can’t rely on enforcement.

      Going to event specifically to promote traffic safety in Lake City, I was talking to a motorcycle cop with my little boy, and all the cop did was whine and swear about what a waste of time all this public safety nonsense was. This, from a public officer in front of a 6 year old.

      I was actually hit right in front of a cop with her window down, watching the whole thing. When I complained that the cap had just run into me, she just rolled up her window. When I started pounding on the cab’s hood, I thought she was going to arrest me.

  9. Virchow says:

    Can someone help me come to terms with a little internal conflict I have? I support all the initiatives and ideals behind “Vision Zero” but I find that the slogan rings a little hollow… like calling for an End to Homelessness or Drug Abuse or (insert deep and complex psychosocial problem here).

    Anyway, I don’t mean to be a wet blanket and I think the measures the city is planning on taking in pursuit of this are probably mostly fantastic, I just think when we frame issues in hyperbole it just doesn’t serve well.

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