Business leaders, community leaders, residents, safe streets advocates, Councilmember Bruce Harrell and Zeytuna Edo’s family gathered in Columbia City Wednesday to protest dangerous conditions on Rainier Ave and pressure the city to take action to make the street safer.
“What I have in back of me is basically a freeway,” Councilmember Bruce Harrell told the crowd gathered at Edmunds and Rainier. Hundreds of people have been injured within just a couple blocks of this intersection in the past ten years. “This is the beginning of what we’re gonna do with Rainier Avenue. We’re gonna take our street back.”
Harrell — who is running for City Council District 2 covering Rainier Valley — was fired up about a safer Rainier Ave and in strong support for city plans to redesign the street this summer. Those plans would calm traffic speeds and reduce collisions by adding a center turn lane. The current four-lane, highway-style design will go to one through-lane in each direction. Plans could also include adding bike lanes, though that may require more funding than currently budgeted. SDOT will present their proposed design soon, so stay tuned.
“It will be a beautiful and safer street, and we’re all gonna be better for it,” said Harrell, noting that slowing speeds will help make the community stronger. “You only get to know your neighbors if you can slow things down.”
He called for everyone to remember the lives lost on Rainier Ave and other streets in the neighborhood, as well as those who were terribly injured. Zeytuna Edo and family joined the protest, and Harrell handed the mic to Zeytuna’s brother Nurow who called on everyone to help make streets safer.
The diverse crowd of advocates, business owners and community leaders shows that the tide has turned overwhelmingly in favor of taking bold action to make Rainier Ave safer. This is a street where safe streets advocates have long felt resistance. It takes a big shift in mindset for communities to realize busy, scary streets can and should be made safer for everyone. It’s beautiful to realize that shift has happened, and this dangerous street’s days are numbered.
In addition to the rally, advocates at Cascade Bicycle Club and Rainier Valley Greenways also made a series of posters informing people of how many collisions and injuries have happened right there at that very spot in the past ten years. And it’s astounding. Corner after corner, the numbers of injured become a blur. So many lives changed, and just because we have been afraid of making changes to one street’s dangerous design.
Here’s just one example (UPDATE: Swapped out the poster image with a newer version):
More coverage from the protest: