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Fixing Seattle’s Most Dangerous Street

Seattle Bike Blog Editor Tom Fucoloro has Gone Bikin’ until Labor Day. In the meantime, here’s a post from Phyllis Porter and Gordon Padelford. Phyllis Porter is an educator, advocate for criminal justice reform, and leader with safe streets community group Rainier Valley Greenways. Gordon Padelford is the Policy Director for Seattle Neighborhood Greenways.

Join the safe streets celebration and rally this Wednesday to thank the city for making part of Rainier Ave S safer and asking them to complete the project.

Rainier Ave S was infamous for being Seattle’s most dangerous street. With a crash every day on average, 7 businesses hit in the past year, and 630 injuries over the last three years, something had to be done. Business, community groups, and residents had had enough.

Last year the community came together to demand Rainier Ave S be made safer. For instance, a group calling themselves the Rainier Road Diet Supporters held a number of crosswalk protests.

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The community group Rainier Valley Greenways rallied around a campaign called Safety Over Speeding to bring more attention to the problem. We collected signatures and photo petitions, created a Get Well Soon Rainier Ave Card for people to sign, posted flyers with the number of crashes next to dangerous intersections, and hosted a big crosswalk protest and rally.

Feet First provided a well loved chicken costume

Phyllis Porter and Gordon Padelford in action

Cascade Bicycle Club helped organize the rally

The Department of Transportation responded to the community and overwhelming data by doing a safety corridor “pilot” between S Alaska St and S Kenny St, and planned to study an expansion of it for 2016. The pilot included adding a center turn lane to reduce turning collisions, adding bus priority to keep the popular route 7 on time, and improving crosswalks and signals for people walking.

The results are in and they are great! In the part that got improvements, aggressive speeding (over 40 MPH) is down 95%, injuries involving people walking and biking are down 41%, the fear of bus delays never materialized (the #7 bus has not been slowed down), traffic still flows, and it is now much more safe and comfortable to be in Columbia City and Hillman City. King 5 did a piece on the results and interviewed the owner of Lottie’s Lounge who said “The road diet has really improved the quality of life. The benefits far outweigh the downside.”

The Department of Transportation said they would expand the safety project north to Letitia Ave S and south to Seward Park Ave S if the initial pilot was a success. Rainier Valley Greenways believes it has been, and that all neighborhoods along this dangerous street (not just Columbia City) deserve to be safe. We are hosting a Safe Streets Celebration on August 17th from 5:30-7:30 at the corner of Rainier Ave S and S Edmunds St to thank the city for the initial safety improvements and ask the city to complete the project. They are asking residents to join them on the 17th, and sign a petition thanking the city and asking them to complete the project.

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10 responses to “Fixing Seattle’s Most Dangerous Street”

  1. […] “Crosswalk protests” helped make the case for a safer Rainier Avenue. Photo: Seattle Bike Blog […]

  2. Law Abider

    Of course, the #1 proven way we could make streets safer, starting tomorrow, is to actually have SPD enforce traffic laws. People drive like complete asswads because there’s little or no monetary consequence.

  3. […] “Crosswalk protests” helped make the case for a safer Rainier Avenue. Photo: Seattle Bike Blog […]

  4. […] “Crosswalk protests” helped make the case for a safer Rainier Avenue. Photo: Seattle Bike Blog […]

  5. Dana

    I live on 42nd Ave S. One of the unintended consequences of this road diet is that people use 42nd Ave to bypass this area of Rainier where it slows down through Columbia City. If they are going to do this to all of Rainier (which I fully support) they need to make it inconvenient to use side streets and bypasses where cars drive 30-40 mph by residential houses. A couple of bike only passages would deter most people.

    Also I agree with Law Abider above. I ride every day to and from work. People speeding, running red lights, blocking the box, and passing too close (on Lake WA Blvd, Dearborn, 4th Ave) are all huge problems that cops do very little to enforce.

  6. Slow Commuter

    I live in Rainier Beach and commute every day to the Madrona neighborhood. The road diet has added 10 minutes to my trip both ways (up from 20 minutes to 30 now each direction), no matter what route I take. I would be okay with this since it means less accidents, but the new plan on Rainier STILL DOESN’T INCLUDE BIKE LANES. I used to ride my bike to work, but with increased traffic along the lake, this feels even less safe than it did before. And the bus system has also become slower. While the #7 bus hasn’t slowed down, the #8 no longer connects to my neighborhood, so I have two buses to take instead of one. Congratulations to those who can afford to live in Colombia City and walk wherever they need to go. The rest of us who have to commute for a living are dealing with a city that is getting increasingly difficult to navigate.

    1. Michael H

      Have you tried MLK?

  7. RainierResident

    I have also given up on Rainier as it approaches Columbia City and now use the side streets to avoid the ever present traffic jam. Lake Washington Blvd is still a pretty good way to get into the city, but there is certainly more traffic than in the past. That of course is the consequence of road diets. It’s not like there are less cars, we just push them to side streets.

  8. Paul Boivin

    I live on 50th ave s. in Rainier Beach and I can’t wait until the road diet makes it this far south. It is really discouraging to see cars racing down Rainier avenue in speeds above 50mph (No exaggeration). I see this most every day driving, riding and walking to my different jobs. There is an accident where S. Elmgrove bisects Rainier ave it seems every other week. Cross walk lights are not favorable to pedestrians and are far and few between on that stretch. A road diet is a good start, and the increased safety factor far outweighs any amount of time it might increase my commute.

  9. Morgan

    I used to drive this section of Rainier about once a week. I think I’ve driven it two or three times since the diet was finished.
    Some of the data is indeed positive. For the most part, though, the post-construction analysis is very, very incomplete.
    As a corollary, the street I live on, which is in N Seattle, is now used as a high-speed bypass to the 50th road diet.
    Secondary & tertiary effects matter and should be measured.

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