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Downtown traffic violence is a public health emergency we haven’t been treating


It’s not news that downtown streets are the scene of a huge number of serious traffic injuries and deaths. But this map at a recent open house still caught me completely off-guard. At first, I thought it was a map of the past ten years. How awful, so many lives ended or dramatically altered.

Then I read the title more carefully: Three years.

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This is a public health emergency, and it’s been left largely untreated for decades. Every little asterisk, walking outline and cross represents a real person, someone’s friend or sister or grandfather. And as soon as I posted this map on Twitter, people started telling me how close they came to being a point on the map:

SDOT's Dawn Schellenberg presents at a well-attended open house
SDOT’s Dawn Schellenberg presents at a well-attended open house

The map was on display and presented at an open house to discuss building a network of protected bike lanes downtown, which we wrote about previously.

The good news is that over 100 people showed up to the open house, and the crowd was overwhelmingly positive and supportive. I barely even heard murmurs of disapproval. In fact, the biggest complaint I heard over and over was: Why isn’t this moving faster?

Protected bike lanes, when done well, dramatically improve safety for all road users: People walking, people driving and, of course, people biking. So when we talk about creating a connected network of protected bike lanes downtown, we’re also talking about keeping a lot of crosses, asterisks and people outlines from making it on the next version of the map above. And that means keeping families together and friends alive.

An oft-cited case study from New York City (PDF), which has far more chaotic and busy streets than downtown Seattle, shows that two different Manhattan streets saw dramatic safety improvements after protected bike lanes were installed. Not only that, but businesses along those bike lanes saw big increases in retail sales far outpacing the area average:

2012-10-measuring-the-streetWhich is why so many people at the open house were asking: No, really, I mean it, why aren’t we moving faster?

ccb2015_July_Factsheet-mapThe City Center Bike Network routes will be narrowed down over the next couple months, and design on the 2016 routes will begin shortly. The rest of the network, will be built out by 2020, pending funding (in other words: Let’s pass the hell out of Move Seattle this November).

Critical links — like Pike/Pine to Capitol Hill but especially in the downtown core — aren’t slated for improvements until at least 2017. That’s a year later than was suggested in the most recent Bike Plan Plan update. We can’t wait two years for such a vital connection and safety gap (look at the cluster of injuries and deaths in the Pine-Pike-Union area west of I-5).

Of course, the bike network is not the only tool Seattle has for preventing serious injuries and deaths on downtown streets. As outlined in Mayor Ed Murray’s Vision Zero plan, the city will begin rolling out safety improvements downtown like a downtown-wide 25 mph speed limit, getting rid of dual turn lanes (deadly for people walking in crosswalks) and restrictions on turning right on a red light.

Meanwhile, a signal retiming project is an opportunity to calm the effective top speeds of people driving (green lights can be timed for, say, 15 or 20 mph), add time to the crosswalks (a big help to people who move slowly, either due to a mobility issue or age), and implement smart and easy biking and walking safety changes like Leading Pedestrian Intervals (an unsexy but very effective and easy change, see this video to learn why).

All this work, added together, should lead to a big decrease in how many neighbors and loved ones are sent to the hospital or the morgue just for walking, biking or driving downtown. And for the next little yellow person outline, it can’t happen soon enough.

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59 responses to “Downtown traffic violence is a public health emergency we haven’t been treating”

  1. Augsburg

    Although I agree with the basic premise of the headline for this posting, I do have a couple of comments.

    1) Traffic accident statistics in Seattle significantly underestimate the actual number of accidents – especially for the less sever accidents. Many accidents go unreported and anyone that has tried to call in an accident knows they will be told to an officer won’t come. Unless you can convince them it is life or death, the city will rely on people filling out online accident reports. Many simply do not bother.
    2) The precept that New York has “far more chaotic and busy streets” than Seattle – I will have to disagree. Even though I am native to the NW and have lived in Seattle and worked Downtown for years I have to say this assertion is not true. I work in NYC regularly and travel there frequently. Pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists are way more acutely aware of their surroundings and street-savvy than the same in sleepy Seattle. Try texting and crossing the street in NYC. Only a Seattleite would try that – never a New Yorker.

    Until Seattleites grow up and becomes a little more street-aware will we begin to address the “threat to public health”, so to speak. This goes for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists. Education is part of the answer. Ask and grade school teacher in the U.S. about what they should teach young school children about crossing the street and they could all at least come up with Stop, Look and Listen. Ask them the same question about riding a bicycle on the road and the vast majority would not be able to come up with three basic rules to follow. This needs to change. Our education system needs to become updated from Eisenhower’s America focused on a national transportation priority of building an Interstate Highway System.

    1. Matt

      Respectfully, I have to disagree with you about NYC. I’m from Philly and lived in NYC for a while. The difference is that people there do not EXPECT cars to stop for them in the same way people do here. If that makes them more savvy, then fine. Having said that, the stunts pedestrians and cyclists pull in that city, including texting while biking/walking, is incredible and even embarrassing. Seattle is far from perfect, but I am impressed with how rule abiding most people are compared to my experience on the East Coast.

    2. Richard

      “Try texting and crossing the street in NYC. Only a Seattleite would try that – never a New Yorker”

      This supports the *opposite* of your point. If I’m legally crossing a street in a crosswalk, who cares if I’m looking at my phone? If New Yorkers are less able to rely on other road users to comply with the law, it gives pretty major support to Tom’s original assertion (that NYC streets are more chaotic).

      1. sean

        No, actually, the “no texting while crossing the street” AFFIRMS Augsburg’s point: only brain dead fools who live here and assume that drivers and bikers are paying attention to what they are doing would cross the street while updating their fb status.

        Seattle has, hands-down-by-far-it-ain’t-even-CLOSE, the worst drivers I’ve ever been around in my life (For the record: Born and raised in West Baltimore, moved to the Bay Area in Northern CA when I was 17, and have been pretty much everywhere in between since then). My daily commute is from Pine and East Broadway down to 3rd and Marion and back. All of a mile and a half, but I also ride everywhere else in town, from Ballard to Columbia City, and am cautious has hell when I do it. I trust NO ONE behind the wheel of an automobile in this town.

      2. Larry

        Part of what NYC has going for it is sheer size. If you’re walking in Midtown, odds are there are going to be at least 20-30 crossing the intersection with you. Cars pretty much can’t be unaware of herds of people that large.

        My latest strategy is if I’m crossing the street, and a car comes within arms reach (usually if they’re turning) I will reach out and knock on their window as they drive by. I don’t know how effective it is, but I hope it gets their attention that they came close to hitting a pedestrian.

        Oh, and my experience in living in many cities is that people everywhere complain about how drivers are. Personally, I’d put my money on Buffalo, NY for worst drivers…

      3. Richard

        No, Sean, it does not. I’m talking about expecting others to follow a law that is little more than “don’t kill pedestrians in a crosswalk”. You’re absolutely correct that doing so is unsafe. But as you and he both state, it is more common here, and yet we still have lower per capita pedestrian injuries. It is objectively true that NYC traffic is therefore more dangerous.

        I’m a bit saddened by the fact that you attribute blame in these cases to the pedestrians (calling them “braindead fools”) rather than those who break the law and commit the harm, but I suppose that’s just the reality we’re in. Cars’ place in our society is unassailable, even among some of us with the information to know how wrong that societal truth is.

    3. AW

      I was born and raised right in NYC and commuted by bicycle everywhere in Manhattan. Augsberg is right on about everyone always being aware of the cars and people around. No one takes any traffic law for granted. It doesn’t matter if the light is red or green – the calculation is if I can make it to the other side without getting hit. You always need to be thinking what is the other guy going to do next ? Be assured that everyone is paying attention to other traffic but the key is to not let on that you’ve recognized it. Once the other guy knows you are paying attention it allows them to go ahead. In other words, it is playing road chicken.

      Seattle is very different from NYC as people here expect that if they walk in the crosswalk that drivers will always stop. It makes me think of a lesson I learned at age 6 or something. I insisted I had the right of way and was right. The adult explained that yes, I was right, I would have been dead right.

  2. Augsburg is correct– crashes are under-reported. I’ve seen some statistics where I’ve personally represented more people than have been shown to have crashed in a location.

    Education is good. Especially of those with the power to seriously injure or kill others so easily. We also need to educate our police, too many of whom don’t understand the rules of the road for bicycling.

    I’m very pleased the City’s plans to improve the downtown bike infrastructure. Better infrastructure helps everyone… except perhaps lawyers who earn their livings representing injured bicyclists! But as a lawyer who rides our streets (and as a human being), I want certainly want them made safer. Put me out of business the safe way!

  3. Josh

    Looking at that map, I assume they’re only capturing bicycle deaths and injuries that were reported as multi-vehicle collisions.

    Otherwise, there would be a solid string of serious bicycle injuries caused by the infrastructure itself — not a single serious injury shown on Westlake? Really?


  4. Taylor

    Tom, I don’t see some bike injuries on there that I know have happened in the last three years. Friend of mine got hit on Second between Pike and Pine; or is going to the ER and being in physical rehab for months not a serious injury if it’s a cyclist?

  5. Dave Shaw

    “Protected bike lanes, when done well, dramatically improve safety for all road users: People walking, people driving and, of course, people biking. ”

    Note that the protected bike lane in the picture under this comment is one-way, on the correct side of the street. A two-way bike lane such as 2nd Ave downtown and 65th near Magnuson Park is not a bike lane done well. Running bike traffic opposite motor vehicle traffic increases the confusion in every intersection. Second Ave is no longer a one-way street but you still see people making left turns on a red as if it were.

    1. Andy

      Moreover, having ridden on those NY bike lanes, they work because they have no uncontrolled conflicts – no mid-block parking lot entrances, no driveways, etc. Every intersection has separate light signals.
      That’s more than can be said of any of our implementations. And if we lack the political will to implement these safely, we shouldn’t be doing it.

    2. Andres Salomon

      Here’s the thing: if it’s a one-way street and you put in a one-way PBL, people will use it like a two-way PBL. You can already see this happening for the 2-3 blocks on the Roosevelt PBL. It’s more comfortable than the sidewalk for biking, even going the wrong way, so people bike the wrong way in it.

      1. This part of Roosevelt is particularly tough because the cross streets don’t line up. If you’re traveling generally northeast and have to cross Roosevelt it throws a wrench in your route… for example, if you’re going east on the Burke and want to go north on 11th. I don’t “salmon”, and I don’t think people should generally do it, but it’s not surprising they do it there. I’ve seen people do this on Dexter south of Mercer (in either direction for a block or less), where opportunities to turn left are constrained by the parking — again, annoying, but not really surprising.

    3. kptrease

      You’re critiquing the one block stretch on 65th near Magnusson? Huh?

      That crosses no intersections, and two driveways. And it’s bombproof, unlike the plastic bollards we’re putting up everywhere else. Bike traffic on that stretch of road is up dramatically since it went in. I love riding that thing, in both directions.

      Me, I’d pick a better example to illustrate my point. Maybe on 2nd I can see why you’re upset. But picking on that one block? That’s just weird.

  6. Alexander

    I’m concerned that this headline gives the impression that Downtown Seattle is a deathtrap (and by implication, not-Downtown Seattle is much more safe). Do we want to perpetuate the myth that walking and cycling is urban areas is extremely dangerous, when in fact driving is statistically far worse? More fear = less walking and riding. Just like the fear-mongering about helmets.

    Vision Zero is never going to de-risk real life 100%. Banning cars downtown would increase safety, but cars are only the largest risk factor, not the only risk factor. Do we ban trucks and buses too? Motorcycles? What about bike-pedestrian conflicts?

    1. Eli

      If calculated on a per mile basis, driving is far safer than walking or bicycling in the US. It’s not a myth. (you can google for data if you’d like to validate for yourself)

      1. koanhead

        If you’re making the claim, it’s not on others to ‘google it’ for you. With that said, I _did_ google it and found nothing to support your claim. Perhaps you could at least suggest some search terms?

      2. Eli

        Dude, I’m just a commenter on a web site. I don’t owe you _any_ research time.

        That said, it took me all of 30 seconds to find the data for the UK:


        Relative risk of different forms of transport, Great Britain: 2011
        Casualty rate per billion vehicle miles

        Killed Killed or seriously injured

        Car driver 3 26
        Pedestrian * 42 542
        Pedal cyclist 35 1,035
        Motorcycle rider 122 1,868

    2. Harrison Davignon

      When I bicycle ride I stop for all pedestrians that have the right away and I don’t stop if they waiting to jaywalk across the street. I don’t text walking in cross walks or bicycle riding. In crosswalks I need to be ready to too run out of the way if someone is speeding through the crosswalk when i’m the middle of it and not while bicycle riding, so I can be on high alert. I have had a lot of people ignore me in cross walks with the right away and I want to safe bicycle riding.

  7. Peri Hartman

    As for safety on the 2nd ave bikeway, I’d like to see SDOT make a simple improvement. Put the stop lines for vehicles further back from the intersection. That would make possible to see if someone is about to turn, illegally or not, into the bike lane.

    The way it is now, you are taking a suicide chance at every second intersection going downhill.

    This would make a huge safety difference. Do it!

    1. jay

      Really? it seems to me, most (well, at least many) drivers who are preparing to turn currently stop (or, in lieu of a full stop, slow to a crawl) in the crosswalk, do you really think they’ll pay any attention to a stop line?

    2. Josh

      One step further: when you set back the stop line, use the space in front of the stop line for NO TURN ON RED pavement markings.

      Many drivers glance at the signals when they first arrive at an intersection, then their eyes drop to street level for conflicting traffic, and they don’t always remember that they’re at a no-turn-on-red signal, or that the first light that goes green is going to be the bike signal.

      Put a reminder down where they’re actually looking.

      And, of course, get SPD to actually enforce the stop line and no turn on red.

  8. Elias Ross

    I don’t like speculative reasoning, like: There is a problem X, and thus we obviously need Y to solve it.

    I know Y is all about putting in protective bike lanes. I don’t see the implementation of protected bike lanes working out well, for whatever reason they seem badly designed.

    But why not Y be about:
    1) Enforcing the law. Red light cameras, speed cameras, officer enforcement.
    2) Restricting or eliminating right-turn-on-red, possibly city-wide.
    3) Putting stop lines further back from the signal and enforcing stopping distance.
    4) Better pedestrian signaling and prioritization.
    5) Reducing or eliminating on street parking.
    6) Reducing the width of streets to make pedestrians crossings easier.

    1. JRD

      All of these are excellent ideas that would make bicycling and walking far safer (and more pleasant!) in downtown.

      Drivers stopping at stop lines is something that is often disobeyed. I’ve never seen it enforced. And it certainly has large safety implications for pedestrians.

  9. Jim

    Do the statistics capture dangerous choices by bicyclists? For example, I was crossing Roosevelt in a crosswalk with my family on the hill just south of 45th the other day. About 1/4 of the way across I heard woman screaming “Coming through!”, and looked up to see her bearing down on us on a bike at about 30 MPH, even though it is illegal for ANY vehicle to enter a crosswalk when there is a pedestrian in it. If we hadn’t jumped out of way, one or more us would have wound up in the ER.

    The bicycling community’s push here for safer street design is terrific, but there is in Seattle a bicycling subculture of macho risk-taking and self-righteous bullying that cannot be ignored if you want to approach this issue honestly. How about a mandatory education and licensing requirement for bicyclists, just like for automobiles?

    1. Andy

      To be fair, if she literally was unable to stop in time (while travelling at the legally allowable speed) then it was you who was in the wrong for entering the crosswalk unsafely. 30mph is legal on Roosevelt.
      (RCW 46.61.235 (2) No pedestrian or bicycle shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk, run, or otherwise move into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to stop.)

      1. Jonathan Mark

        Seems to me that even if she couldn’t stop in time, she still might have been at fault for not reducing her speed sooner. Assuming the pedestrians were visible trying to cross and did not “suddenly” appear.

      2. Andy

        That’s true – I wasn’t there and don’t know what happened – was just pointing out that being “in the intersection” does not give you the full force of law in all cases. You must still be reasonable about entering the intersection safely, and a bike going 30mph has a significantly longer safe stopping distance than a car.

    2. Andres Salomon

      A subculture of macho risk-taking and bullying is going to happen when the infrastructure itself requires risk-taking and bullying. Folks who are not risk-takers are unlikely to ride a bicycle right now because of our lack of safe infrastructure. By pushing for safer street design and allowing people to feel safe while biking, our streets are no longer the sole domain of risk-takers and bullies (and I’m lumping car drivers in there as self-righteous bullies).

      1. Jim

        So you’re saying that the infrastructure on that downhill, one way stretch of Roosevelt with a brightly painted bike lane and very little cross traffic required the cyclist scream and try to bully us out of the crosswalk that we were already 1/4 of the way across?

      2. Andres Salomon

        No, I’m saying that the people who bike on Roosevelt (including that 2-3block stretch of PBL) are people who are used to biking aggressively, taking the lane, vehicular cycling, getting screamed at by people in cars, etc. People that want to go slower are going to be on an alternate route like The Ave, the 12th Ave Greenway, etc. So your interaction is not surprising.

        Once a full PBL is implemented on Roosevelt, and assuming it’s done well and connections are created, you will begin to see slower, calmer biking on Roosevelt.

      3. ODB

        Andres, Speaking as someone who is pretty comfortable with biking in traffic, I’m not sure I agree that this level of comfort can be associated with being rude and aggressive to pedestrians. Is comfort with traffic actually associated with a “macho,” “aggressive” or “bullying” culture? I can see that this argument has some intuitive appeal, but I’m not sure it’s actually true.

        I can see that you are using this unfortunate incident to argue for more cycling infrastructure, i.e., to attract more timid, presumably polite cyclists, such that the bad, aggressive cyclists will at least constitute a smaller percentage of the overall cycling population. That’s fine, I guess, provided that the new infrastructure is actually safer than what it replaces.

        But I take exception to the rhetorical tactic of dividing cyclists into two camps and linking rudeness and aggressiveness toward pedestrians to vehicular cycling, including “taking the lane.”

        Safe cycling practices should not be denigrated as part of a “macho,” “aggressive” or “bullying” culture. These practices are required in order to stay alive.

        A woman in B.C. was killed last week when she was doored:

        Cyclists must be educated to take the lane as a simple matter of survival. I see people riding too close to doors who are oblivious to the terrible risk they are taking.

        In other words, I guess I see no necessary connection between the assertiveness required in order to ride safely in traffic and being rude and aggressive to pedestrians. I also see a serious downside in attempting to make this connection.

      4. Josh

        I’d actually take it a step further — years ago, when I was a testosterone-poisoned young man who rode aggressively in traffic, controlling my lane was the last thing on my mind — I’d zip through the suicide slot between moving and parked cars, I’d run crosswalks, I’d occasionally roll stop signs and make rights on red without stopping.

        Now that I’m older, slower, and things break when I fall, I plot along in the center of my lane, watching for hazards, staying out of the door zone, yielding to pedestrians, etc. (I also get treated far better by drivers than when I was an aggressive gutter-bunny. It’s been years since anyone yelled at me in traffic.)

        I would say, at least in my experience, that aggressive, macho risk-taking is a characteristic of cyclists who reject controlling their lane, following the rules, and behaving like a legitimate part of city traffic.

      5. Andres Salomon

        @ODB, I don’t really want to get into a VC argument, but I will respond to your points.

        ” Is comfort with traffic actually associated with a “macho,” “aggressive” or “bullying” culture?”

        Yes and no. One can be “macho” without being aggressive or a bully. I wasn’t lumping them all together, I was saying that subsets of each show up largely where people are forced to bike with cars. My rationale? a) Overwhelmingly, people biking here are male; “macho” and “aggression” are associated with masculinity and testosterone. b) I’ve never seen a “sidewalk rage” incident. I’ve never seen road rage on a protected bike lane or bike trail (though I have seen frustration, but that’s different). But car drivers display road rage on a regular basis. If you’re biking like a car, it follows that your thinking patterns would be similar, right now to the rage.

        I’m not passing judgement. I was once an aggressive biker. I never said that they were bad. And often, someone might bike aggressively in one situation (late to work), and calmly in another (coming home from work). I was simply describing the current situation with our existing bike infrastructure. It is what it is. I’d certainly much rather someone drive a bike aggressively than a car!

        “I can see that you are using this unfortunate incident to argue for more cycling infrastructure, ”

        No, I’m not. I’m describing the existing situation and the future. PBLs *are* coming to Roosevelt; I’ve seen the design plans. SDOT has done all the outreach. The funding is there. Based on what I’ve seen elsewhere, I believe it will change the behavior of people using Roosevelt.

        “Safe cycling practices should not be denigrated as part of a “macho,” “aggressive” or “bullying” culture. These practices are required in order to stay alive.”

        That’s a problem. If those practices are required in order to stay alive, how am I going to bike on our streets with my kid when he’s 6? Am I going to tell him to take the lane, stick out his left arm, merge (bully) across two lanes of traffic, and whatever you do DON’T MAKE A MISTAKE BECAUSE YOU WILL DIE? That doesn’t sound like much fun.

        “I guess I see no necessary connection between the assertiveness required in order to ride safely in traffic and being rude and aggressive to pedestrians”

        assertive – having or showing a confident and forceful personality.
        aggresive – pursuing one’s aims and interests forcefully, sometimes unduly so.

        Sure, we can mince words. And I get it, #notallbikers. I’m not trying to label all VC’ers (or current bikers) as big meanies. But you pick up the habits of those around you. When I’m biking calmly in a bike lane, I stop for people crossing the street. When I’m going 25mph on a busy arterial, taking the lane, with cars behind me, I do the same exact thing all the other cars do – I pretend I don’t see those creatures just trying to get across the street. I’m trying not to die, given the limits of our existing (lacking) infrastructure.

        @Josh, my entire family was recently yelled at on NE 65th. We were taking the lane (my wife and I riding side by side with my kid in the bakfiet). I consider the very act of riding in that lane on NE 65th an act of macho risk-taking. I do it, because the alternative is worse (a sedentary lifestyle). But I hope folks can see the huge difference in “assertive” riding on a roadway full of cars, and having a safe, separated space carved out for you – and the difference in mentality that it brings with it.

    3. Matt

      Licensing cyclists? I think you’re on the wrong site. Did any of the cars stop for you at the crosswalk or is it just expected that they don’t need to? I’m sorry but I’m sick and tired of this argument that somehow cyclists are dangerous to pedestrians. Safer bike infrastructure and more people cycling translates into more safety for pedestrians. Until bikes kill pedestrians in the same number as cars do, I am standing by this notion. Cycling education is absolute must in school but the licensing is wasteful and discourages something that is nothing but a positive benefit, directly and indirectly, to all of society.

    4. JRD

      While your interaction sounds like it was certainly unpleasant and potentially dangerous, the reason we don’t mandate (or want to mandate) education and licensing for cyclists is that cyclists don’t pose enough danger to justify more education or regulation.

      Cars kill over 4,500 pedestrians in the US each year. Cyclists cause 2 to 3 pedestrian deaths a decade.

      While any pedestrian deaths caused by any mode are too many, diverting any of our limited resources away from protecting pedestrians from cars would only serve to endanger more pedestrians.

      Hopefully in the future we’ll be able to address our epidemic of law-breaking and reckless driving and move on to addressing the reckless cycling issues you brought up – but for the moment, we need to focus on the much higher danger posed by cars.

  10. Harrison Davignon

    In Burien recently I was walking home for the transit center, crossing a crosswalk with right away on the left side if street, with a reflective vest on and someone made a left turn and raced through the crosswalk as I was in it. Thankfully they were in the other lane and they only had to go 100 feet to a parking lot! I feel like instant gratification and and busy rush everywhere society on top of big oil paying politicians to get more cars on the road are way streets are unsafe. You combine those two and the obsession with cell phones and it makes a very unsafe situation for bicycle riders and pedestrians. In my parents generation, the automobile was a lot more popular than today, yet walking and bicycle riding were safer . We need to give politicians a wake up call. Maybe give less of our tax dollar subsidies to oil companies and more into safe infrastructure.

  11. Matt Mizoo

    I love the bike vs car vs pedestrians discussions. Being someone who is working on my second half of a century, I have seen many changes, I’ve spent considerable time walking, running, biking, motorcycle riding, car, and commercial truck driving. Car drivers complain about the peds, the bikes, the motorcycles, taxis, buses, and trucks. The bike riders complain about, peds, cars, motorcycles, taxis, buses, and trucks. The peds, …. change the order,…… etc, etc. OK, now regardless of who gets the right of way, certain undeniable elements exist, “Mass and Velocity”, and as a tangent, maneuverability. These are the most important things about movement. You were in the right, but now you are squished. And on the other end, we need trains, and trucks, vans and cars, to deliver goods and services. Many years ago, school zones were only for elementary and middles schools. because by the time you were in high school, you were supposed to be smart enough to know how to safely cross the street. Now school zones are back at high schools, go figure :) The problem will not be solved by regulation, the only good hope is that we all slow down, and watch our steps, feet, and miles. And to that I say, good luck to us all!

  12. […] Unmedicated traffic: Seattle Bike Blog reported this week that Seattle has a serious traffic safety emergency that needs immediate attention. […]

  13. Eli

    The most staggering part of this illustration would be a visualization of which intersections have received corrective treatment to prevent further major fatalities/injuries. I’m guessing that’s in the single-digit percentages.

    Even when we have act on lagging rather than leading data, we still don’t even act anyway.

  14. ProCivitas

    I am a walker, biker and driver. As a pedestrian, I am actually more scared of bicyclists than cars. That’s because I know where I have to be careful and the watch out for drivers. With bikes, on the other hand, I have no clue. That’s because there is sizeable subset of the biking community who seem to think that they deserve all kinds of dedicated infrastructure, yet at the same time, can’t be bothered to treat others with the same respect they demand for themselves. Bikes on the sidewalk are supposed to give peds the right of way, announce themselves, and give them 3 feet. Maybe one in 20 does all of the above. Extremely bright LED flashers are the norm despite the fact that they are illegal. Have you ever walked towards a bike with the flash on on a sidewalk? You’ll get blinded. That’s not safe, that’s dangerous and discourteous.

    Yes, we need better infrastructure. But it has to work for everyone. And it is everyone’s–and that includes bicyclists–responsibility to behave in a safe, courteous and responsible manner. This isn’t Animal Farm, where the pigs are more equal than all the other animals. Or is it?

    1. Andres Salomon

      Some people* biking use bright flashers because they believe it makes them more visible to cars. That is a byproduct of constantly being in the path of cars. People generally don’t bike on sidewalks because they want to, they do it because they feel it is safer than biking in the path of cars. In both cases, dedicated infrastructure actually improves the pedestrian experience. Case studies of PBLs show that sidewalk biking decreases dramatically (http://usa.streetsblog.org/2015/05/07/honolulus-first-protected-bike-lane-cuts-sidewalk-biking-65-percent/)

      People can be jerks, but often our infrastructure encourages it.

      Regarding your Animal Farm comment: over 95% of Seattle roads support 20+ mph car driving. Around 77% of our roads support people walking (the other 23% lack sidewalks). Less than 10% of roads support people biking, with even basic bicycle infrastructure; much less GOOD infrastructure (safe, separated bike infrastructure or lots of traffic calming). Who exactly is “more equal” here?

      * I don’t, and I think many here share your hatred of them.

      1. ProCivitas

        As I said, I wholeheartedly agree that there is a need for better infrastructure. But I don’t buy the argument that, because only 10 % of streets have bike facilities for the 2% who bike, it is ok for the lycra ninjas to impose their own law on the “rest” of us. Safe, predictable and courteous behavior should be the norm. In my book, that actually includes taking lane when that is the only way to be safe, but then I make a point to move over and let the faster folks pass. I try to treat humans the way I want them to treat me. That does not include speeding downhill on the sidewalk and passing peds so close that the cyclist actually brushes against them or pretending the Burke Gilman Trail is part of the Tour de France while riding peleton. And crowning that by yelling at the ped or giving them the finger because they have audacity to say something. That kind of behavior stimulates literary analogies because, unfortunately, it is all too frequent. Sorry if I offended.

      2. Andres Salomon

        Sounds like we agree. I didn’t say that behavior was okay. I was just pointing out why we see that behavior.

        I wish we could make safe, predictable, courteous behavior the norm, but that’s not the way our streets are engineered right now. :(

      3. ODB

        Andres, I just have to call this out. Above you denied that you were “you [were] using this unfortunate incident to argue for more cycling infrastructure.” Now you’re saying that “I wish we could make safe, predictable, courteous behavior the norm, but that’s not the way our streets are engineered right now. :(” Why would you deny what you are clearly doing? You are saying that when cycling is risky, only risk-takers cycle (sort of like when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns). Then you are making a logical leap from risk-tolerance to rudeness. I fully expect you to deny this and I don’t anticipate replying again, so go ahead and have the last word.

        Ok, one more point, have you ever seen anyone bicycle in a rude manner on a bike path where risks to cyclists are minimized? I’m just saying there are probably better arguments for improved bicycle infrastructure than positing (1) the general rudeness of the existing cycling population and (2) the hope that better infrastructure will have a civilizing influence.

      4. Andres Salomon

        Wow, way to cherry-pick my statements with two completely different threads and issues. I stand by my earlier statement; that does not waive my right to advocate for known values in a completely different context.

      5. Harrison Davignon

        I think sidewalks are just as bad as roads. There is curbs, bumps, pedestrians to deal with. If I have a large load on my luggage rack, my bicycle starts wobbling on on flat ground, let alone all those dips in the sidewalk. Cars do not anticipate you being on the side walk, and shoot out of drive ways at high speeds sometimes, so either way is dangerous, especially riding at nigh all back, no helmet.

    2. JRD

      I encourage you to rethink your non-fear of cars. While reckless cyclists are annoying, and do pose a threat of possible injury, cars are a serious and real mortal danger to all pedestrians. Every day I have to stop before entering a crosswalk because a car runs through it when I am supposed to have the right-of-way.

      The behaviors you describe by cyclists are illegal, obnoxious, and I don’t encourage them in any way. But in all likelyhood, getting hit by a cyclist is unlikely to cause more than minor injuries, while getting hit by a car can easily cause death or life-long disability.

      Stay safe!

      1. ProCivitas


        Sorry but I have to disagree with you there. Think about that gentleman in San Francisco who got killed by a cyclist who broke the law. I have friend who was hit by a bicylist on the Burke and had to be in an induced coma for several weeks. Braking a collar bone, arm or leg because someone swipes you on the sidewalk (happened to a colleague of mine right in front of our building) is not a minor injury. Those are injuries that can hurt for years, waking you up at night, and cause problems like osteoarthritis later on. The issue is precisely that almost everyone says that getting hit by a bike isn’t as bad as getting hit by a car. That makes the less-than-cavalier behavior of all to many cyclists somehow less bad than that of bad drivers, yet it isn’t. Hurting someone because of ignorance, arrogance, stupidity or a superiority complex is NOT acceptable, no matter what vehicle you are “driving”, period. Combine that with the recent front-page a story about a traffic officer who impartially applies the law to both motorists and cyclists. He actually got publicly tarred and feathered for his balanced approach, when he should have been thanked. From my point of view, the discussion here is another clear indication that something is seriously out of wack with our collective perception of right and wrong when it comes to cyclist behavior. Over and out…

  15. JRD

    I won’t say that cyclists pose no danger, but they pose no where near the danger of automobiles.

    Cars kill about 4700 pedestrians a year. At 1% mode share, bikes would need to be killing 47 people a year to be equally dangerous.

    Reckless behavior by cyclists is not ok. But the statistics unquestionably show that cars are orders of magnitude more dangerous.

  16. Phil206

    “This present study, based on every hospital in New York State, has found that in New York State alone, there were approximately 1000 pedestrians struck by cyclists each year necessitating medical treatment at a hospital.”

    via gothamist.com/2011/09/19/pedestrians_are_hit_by_more_bicycli.php

    1. jay

      For another example of selective quoting:

      “Further, TA notes that it is important “to put this in context. Motor vehicles are responsible for over 70,000 injuries every year in New York City, and hundreds of annual deaths. We can ignore that number and bash bikes, or we can get serious about safety and work to stop all traffic casualties.””

      That also from: http://gothamist.com/2011/09/19/pedestrians_are_hit_by_more_bicycli.php

  17. JRD

    Thanks Jay!

    Again, not saying that reckless bicycling isn’t a problem. Just pointing out that we should first focus on the more serious threat which comes from cars. Cars hit pedestrians more often than bikes, and the outcomes of such collisions are much worse.

    1. Harrison Davignon

      You are correct. I unlike most others I stop for pedestrians on my bicycle, I don’t stop if they are trying jay walk, unless they have too. We need to slow our society down a notch and put cell phones down. Almost everyone races everywhere, with no regards to bicycles or pedestrians and bicycles seem almost the same way. I think we are still in a war of drivers vs non drivers. If drivers would respect cyclists and pedestrians, slow down and put cell phones down that would help a lot. Infrastructure can only do so much.

  18. […] News invited me on their morning news show today to talk about traffic violence downtown, which I described a few weeks ago as “a public health emergency we haven’t been […]

  19. […] turns-on-red is just a common sense and low-cost way to increase safety and start trying to address downtown’s traffic violence public health emergency. But in another way, it’s one step towards taking back the walk signal for people who are […]

  20. […] resulting from traffic collisions have been going down citywide over the years, downtown is still a hub for such incidents. Bike advocates point to the lack of a comprehensive bike network throughout downtown and […]

  21. […] hosted an open house last July showing the concept and timeline for a network of downtown bike lanes they called the […]

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