Pedestrian deaths disproportionately high in Central District

In the past five years, the Central District has had more pedestrian fatalities than any other residential neighborhood in the city, according to a map put together by SDOT. Walking in Seattle — a pedestrian advocacy blog — published the map and pointed out the CD’s “unfair” number of deaths. With six deaths in five years, only the downtown Central Business District had more deaths.

23rd Ave, with fatal collisions at Jackson and Dearborn, is particularly dangerous. There were also deaths on Cherry near 21st, Jefferson near 15th, 14th south of Yesler and Rainier at Massachusetts. Just out of the neighborhood, there were deaths at Broadway at Madison and 12th at Jackson.

So what can be done to reduce collisions? On a personal level, try to cross hilly streets either at the top or bottom of the hill. Make eye contact with vehicle drivers when crossing to make sure they see you. When driving, remember that all intersections are crosswalks by default whether there is paint on the ground or not, and pedestrians do have the right of way.

As part of their recent pedestrian safety campaign, SDOT gives the following advice for people walking and driving:

When you’re driving: 

  • Never pass a vehicle that is stopped at a crosswalk
  • Don’t use cell phones
  • Yield to pedestrians
  • Make eye contact with a pedestrian before proceeding through a crosswalk

When you’re walking:

  • Use the sidewalk
  • Wear bright clothing at night
  • Use marked crosswalks
  • Make eye contact with drivers who are approaching
  • Turn off headphones

There are other tools the city has used to increase safety on streets like 23rd Ave (I will now put on my safe roads advocacy hat). Currently, 23rd is a four-lane road with few safe pedestrian crossings other than at stoplights (what I would call a highway design). Four-lane configurations make left tuns onto and off of these roads difficult for drivers. They also prevent the city from being able to install safe crosswalks in sections where there are no stoplights for several blocks.

With only 15,100 vehicles per day south of Madison (according to 2006 data, the most recent readily available for this road) 23rd Ave has similar traffic volumes to roads across the city that have recently been reconfigured to increase safety for all users. These so-called “road diets” often add a center right left turn lane and sometimes bike lanes while removing one travel lane in each direction. Though they have proven to decrease all road collisions dramatically without reducing vehicle capacity, some have been controversial (Full Disclosure: I have written at length in support of changes to Nickerson, NE 125th and Greenwood Ave over at Seattle Bike Blog).

0 thoughts on “Pedestrian deaths disproportionately high in Central District

  1. Unfortunately, the people who have traditionally lived in the CD have a reputation for jaywalking. Why? Is it rebelliousness? Spite? A power trip? Honestly, I don’t give a shit and I don’t slow down for them.

  2. When I am driving in this area, I frequently stop for pedestrians who are on their cell phones and cross the street at non-light-protected intersections without looking right or left, even when cars are approaching. It looks as if they are totally oblivious that the street is even there – they seem to think it is just part of the sidewalk.

    This is probably most frequent just east of 12th and E. Madison where eastbound vehicles make a half-right turn from Madison onto E. Union; the walkers are on the south side of Madison, traveling east or west, and crossing the entrance to Union. They are usually adults, not students at the academy.

    A vehicle that has to suddenly stop just a dozen feet from crossing 12th on a green light is then in danger of being rear-ended by the car behind it that may not be able to see the pedestrian around the corner.

  3. I frequently cross at the intersection just east of 12th & E. Madison where the half-right turn is. That IS a painted crosswalk with no hand signal and pedestrians do have the right of way. I have almost been hit there several times even after making eye contact with the drivers. Most of the drivers turning there do not even signal and try to fly into the turn like a race car driver. That whole intersection is nuts, but the drivers really need to pay more attention to pedestrians trying to make eye contact when crossing in a painted crosswalk.

  4. Where can I find more information about the proposed “road diet” – not info about the safety or non-safety of it. But info about where it is in the city planning and how can I follow it’s progress?

  5. crosswalks installed on jackson between redapple and wallgreens also seem to be “optional” for drivers to stop. I cannot make eye contact with drivers in the central district, no wonder the pedestrians have just given up and proceed as if only divine intervention can help them. I find myself shouting at drivers who make left hand turns through the crosswalk on 23rd and yesler by the library, the next step will be to throw things at them to get their attention. Cars win in a contest with human bodies over who owns the road, when you are maneuvering a 1600 pound steel coffin through dense urban environments it is your responsibility to watch out for people, no excuses!

  6. I also have nearly been hit at that intersection just past 12th Ave and E. Madison and wish that drivers would pay more attention going through there. I tried to make eye contact with one driver and then had to run out of the way as she came barreling through the intersection. Most of the times I’ve almost been hit as a pedestrian, it is because the driver has been yammering away on a cell phone.

    As a driver, I heartily second SDOT’s recommendation to pedestrians to wear bright clothing at night. I’ve had a few close calls with pedestrians who are wearing all dark clothing (in the dark, in the rain) and it’s nearly impossible to see them until they are a few feet away from my vehicle. I realize it’s not convenient to carry around a dayglo vest at all times, but if you are wearing dark clothing (or it’s night and/or raining), please be aware that it is very difficult for drivers to see you.

  7. I agree. That intersection IS insane. When I’ve driven west on Madison, I’ve seen the dangerous left-turn problems at that light. If nothing else, why hasn’t the city put green-light left turn signals both north-south AND east-west there? Particularly since it’s a 5-way intersection where Union crosses both 12th Avenue & Madison. Twelfth (12th Avenue) can be a nasty street for pedestrians all the way north to East Aloha.

  8. We try to avoid driving on Yesler at night due to the number of jaywalkers all dressed in black between MLK and 23rd. It is true that these young people seem to just walk right out and it is terrifying. Sometimes all you can see from a distance are the white sneakers. It seems especially prevalent near that small market on the south side of Yesler. I know I’m old fashioned but what happened to stop, look, listen?

  9. I live just north of Union and crossing it at the crosswalk at 20th or 19th is basically taking your life into your hands. Almost no one stops for pedestrians, I’ve had metro buses, mothers with kids in their cars, you name it NONE of them stop. So far the most reliably law abiding drivers are city/county maintenance trucks.
    It’s scary, day or night.

  10. 19th is worse – I don’t cross there. I cross at 20th or at 21st (though there was a pedestrian hit there lat week), depending on what time of day it is, and of course 18th has that lovely light so that’s a good one.

    The irritating thing about 19th is that flashing red light and center left turn lane on Union. Drivers on Union have started stopping at 19th when there is a line of cars there, and being that driver trying to turn east onto Union from 19th is so frustrating! DON’T STOP FOR ME! IT IS NOT A FOUR WAY STOP! This is going to cause accidents. And so yes, when cars finally get a break in traffic they go for it – and unfortunately it’s hard to see the pedestrians by the time you finally get to turn.

    Why the cross walk and light is at 18th, which is a narrow road at that point, and not at 19th, which is an arterial between Union and Interlaken Park, is beyond me. It’s probably because TT Minor is at 18th, but it makes little sense from a traffic standpoint. A stop light at 19th and a cross walk light at 18th that is pedestrian initiated would probably be safer.

  11. The intersection in question has half a dozen painted pedestrian crosswalks as well as vehicular and pedestrian traffic lights. In the situation you describe, you (the turning vehicle) are the one changing lanes and cutting across a lane of (pedestrian) traffic. By signaling your intention to turn you alert drivers around you that you will be changing direction and slowing down to do so safely. If you do not look for pedestrians and signal, you are in the wrong.

    I shall now commence with throwing [several of] the book[s]:

    Department of Licensing’s Washington Driver Guide:
    Before turning right, turn on your right turn signal at
    least 100 feet ahead and make sure that there is no
    traffic approaching from your left and no oncoming traffic
    turning left into your path. Do not begin your turn without
    checking for pedestrians crossing where you will be turning.
    Use your turn signals before you change lanes, turn right
    or left, merge into traffic, or park.

    Revised Code of Washington
    RCW 46.61.305
    1) No person shall turn a vehicle or move right or left upon a roadway unless and until such movement can be made with reasonable safety nor without giving an appropriate signal in the manner hereinafter provided.
    (2) A signal of intention to turn or move right or left when required shall be given continuously during not less than the last one hundred feet traveled by the vehicle before turning.

    Seattle Municipal Code
    SMC 11.50.040
    Circular green signal.
    Vehicle operators facing a circular green signal may proceed straight through or turn right or left unless a sign at such place prohibits either such turn; provided, that vehicle operators turning right or left shall stop to allow other vehicles or pedestrians lawfully within the intersection control area to complete their movements.
    (Ord. 115323 Section 6, 1990: Ord. 108200 Section 2(11.50.040), 1979.)

  12. I think the light on 18th is there because it’s so crazy blind + the elementary school …

    I was rear ended 3 1/2 years ago while stopping for pedestrians crossing Union at 19th .. driver who hit me didn’t even brake per the police skid mark guy. People just fly up and down Union and the bad driving crosses all demographics

  13. Interesting comments on the 12th and Madison intersection. Capitol Hill Housing has started some discussions recently with some folks from the 12th Avenue and Capitol Hill community groups to look at that intersection. We all know it is a problem for pedestrians, scary for drivers trying to take a left from 12th, and practically impossible for bikes to safely take a left. We’ll be talking with SDOT in the near future to explore some options for making it a safer intersection.

  14. Since I drive that area a lot, I would suggest that the issue is pedestrians who are careless or jaywalking. The street itself isn’t an issue.

  15. Thank you, Connor – this is all good information, but it does not apply very much in this case. To note just a few points:

    There’s not 100 feet available, as the turn is about 12 twelve feet from 12th Avenue. Signaling the right turn earlier than the middle of the 12th and Madison intersection would indicate that I would be turning in that intersection, not the half-right just east of the big intersection.

    When I am leaving the big intersection eastbound, I am signaling the right turn, I am traveling slowly, and I am watching for pedestrians. But I’m not required to stop and wait and hold up traffic, perhaps causing an accident in the big intersection, while I determine which direction someone walking on the sidewalk several feet from the crosswalk is going to go (they may also bear right on E. Union). Some of the pedestrians I described are so oblivious that they don’t look left or right or straight ahead; they just walk straight into the crosswalk while my car is already there and would walk into the side of my car if I didn’t speed up a little at that point.

    Pedestrian right-of-way at a marked or unmarked crosswalk at an unprotected intersection does not apply until the pedestrian steps off the curb while there is still time for a vehicle to stop safely.

  16. I’m a frequent pedestrian and bicyclist in the CD (23/Madison, now MLK/Jackson) since 1981. As a bicyclist I learned that what is promoted as safety is often emotional, illogical and even dangerous and contrary to the rules of the road.
    First, I often do NOT want motorists (large vehicles unlike bicyclists/motorcyclists) to stop for me when walking. Why? Because their vehicle blocks the very sight lines I need for my safety. I walk across MLK at an unmarked/no signal location and sometimes motorists from my left stop for me. Now I just turn on my heel and walk away, until they go and I can cross when the sight-lines are clear. If a motorist from my right stops, that’s okay, because I can be seen crossing the road.
    Road Diets are the worst for bicycle/motor vehicles. Why? Because they discriminate against the bicyclist and segregate them into the drivers blind spot when they turn, which is the most frequent movement involved in bike/ car crashes. 23 is the best for bicycling just take the center of the slow lane and the faster traffic passes in the faster lane, no turning/blindspot hazards and no roadside hazards either. But almost all bicyclists are oblivious of this because they were never trained to DRIVE their bikes after learning to ride as a child. They are unable to see their responsibilities and opportunities for all the emotional politics & pork of having “my own space” regardless of how it violates the rules of the road.

  17. We live near this area, and have noticed the same problem of trusting younger people just walking out into traffic from between parked cars. Saddly they don’t seem to be aware of the problem a driver may have in both seeing them, and in stopping in time. Another consern is with pedestrian use of the bike lanes. Yesterday I was walking near the noted area, and observed three younge ladies walking side by side down the bike lane ( not nearly enough room ). The sidewalk seemed open enough for my use ( walking and pushing the child stroller ). Lets hope this issue can adequately be addressed to prevent additional injuries and deaths, but adding yet another sign seems ineffectual.

  18. I appreciate the vehicles that stop for pedestrians and pay attention at intersections. Thank you to those that do.

  19. Taking a “slow lane” on 23rd ave with your bicycle is a death sentence, I know, I commuted to the UW all summer and chose life by taking 19th ave instead. Cars are not used to sharing the road with bikes and pedestrians, they will maim or kill anything preventing them from traveling as fast as possible.
    The “road diet” has as least put some visible markers on the road that indicate to car drivers that bikes have a legitimate place in traffic. I don’t think most car drivers understand their responsibility to yield to slower moving bikes or check their blind side when turning, maby a Kryptonite lock through the window would be a good wake up. If this sounds like road rage, it is.

  20. The East Union Street problem continues as it goes west from there. Has anyone ever made sense of the intersection at E. Union and Harvard Avenue (a few feet uphill from the E. Union entrance to the parking lot at Harvard Martket)? Each reconfiguration seems to make it worse.

    Try continuing west on Union there – you have to bear a left a little bit, then do a sharp right across the green paving that looks like a bike stop area but predates those by a couple of years, then dodge eastbound and southbound cars to continue left (west) on Union, then discover you have no place to go because a car is coming eastbound and parked cars take up the whole westbound lane. And heaven help you if you are a pedestrian there.

  21. I think, no matter HOW much traffic backs up, some intersections that are complicated need a time out when all walk signals are on to support pedestrians. I am thinking particularly of 12th/Madison/Union and Madison/MLK with the jog to 28th.

    As far as road diets, the southern part of 23rd up until the traffic is lined up for Montlake, is ideal. Parked cars help shield pedestrians, a bike lane, and one lane of traffic each way with left turn lanes at the major intersections would significantly improve 23rd.

    Frankly, the topography does make it difficult for pedestrians. Drive slowly and assume each intersection is a de facto crosswalk is about all I can do.

  22. Drivers fly down 23rd toward UW. It seems like a terribly dangerous place for bicyclists.

    Also, between Rainier and the CD on 23rd we saw a cyclist last weekend in the middle of the lane, tying up traffic, and my husband remarked that just a couple of blocks over on MLK was a bike lane. Hm, good point.

    Honestly, I don’t ride bikes. I have a phobia from too many accidents as a child, and now that I live in a city with steep hills and slick streets the idea of climbing on a bike seems impossible to me. And when I see cyclists hit it makes me very glad for that fear. And as a driver, it makes me really cautious around bikes on the road – I always give plenty of room and slow down, probably enough to annoy other drivers.

  23. Agreed about MLK/28th at Madison. Coming W on Madison, it’s nearly impossible to see anything until you’ve turned onto 28th. A friend and her kids were almost killed on their bikes when they went on the walk signal there – the intersection is simply too long and awkward to make it safe.

    All this talk about 12th/Union/Madison is making me paranoid. I’ve seen a cyclist hit there but not a pedestrian. I’m there a lot, and now I’m going to be a lot more cautious.

  24. Very interesting comments.

    23 is a death sentence? I’ve travelled well over 100,000 miles crash free-after taking responsibility for learning how to get the rules to work and riding with the traffic mostly on the major streets.

    But, I’ve learned something else about bicycling: Always depend on those who don’t learn to handle traffic successfully while bicycling (and have never been TRAINED to ride with traffic) to spread fear and dread of bicycling while lecturing those who do ride competently with traffic.

    Who do you listen to? Those who don’t know how to handle traffic and have trouble, or those who do learn and have crash-free records most motorists would envy?

  25. David- I have been a bike commuter in Seattle for over 25 years, believe me, I know how to ride in traffic. I also know when to spot a bad route and choose an alternative when cars compete for space and have no tolerance for distractions. 23rd is a place where children die when they walk on streets feeding into that road, look at the map and count the fatalities on 23rd in the last 5 years, do you see a pattern?
    Even if you follow the rules and ride confidently you are still dead or busted up when a car brushes past you without yielding the right of way. The density and speed of traffic especially during morning commute time creates a mindset where drivers are focused on moving forward not multitasking for bikes.
    Add 10 minutes to your ride and go through interlaken, take the shortcut under the 520 interstate, live to ride another day rather than be “right” and an organ donor.

  26. Do you know the law regarding bike lanes? If you drive a car it is your RESPONSIBILITY to know the law!

    Bike lanes are OPTIONAL! Why? Because they are generally more hazardous to competent, lawful bicyclists. (Making them optional allows their advocates to build more of them while lowering the chance of lawsuits) And they pose special hazards under several circumstances. The national training program instructs bicyclists to leave a bike lane when the BICYCLIST NOT THE MOTORIST feels they could be safer riding with traffic. Two examples are intersections (approaching and thru) and next to parked cars. That’s a lot of bike lanes!

    How do you feel about bike lanes now?
    And aren’t almost all significant traffic delays caused by people driving cars (large vehicles into congested areas). Do motorists feel that when their car is causing traffic delays that they should leave that road? Why do the compulsively lecture bicyclists for a second’s delay to them when bicycle use can alleviate the significant delays of congestion?

  27. pdonah – I respect your experience and opinion. Have had any TRAINING from certified instructors in how to ride with traffic? All the experience you can have is proven so often inadequate to learn the counterintuitive traffic skills.

    Why are their more crashes on roads with traffic? Think about it please! If their is no traffic how can their be any crashes!! Mile / mile busy freeways, and major streets prove over and over to be safer than side streets. Sorry that’s just the fact of traffic studies.

    I respect your opinion about spotting a route you prefer, please go ahead and enjoy your ride. Do you respect my choice to spot the best traffic skills I can find, to practice and learn them and share them with any responsible bicyclist who wants to learn and any motorist open to having more respect for responsible bicyclists, and encouragement (not fear and loathing) for people to consider the bicycle as a fully capable and viable vehicle?

  28. I admit I am replying to my own post. I give a rave for those who do stop for pedestrians at intersections. On the other hand that is what they are suppose to do. I have two rants: 1.This morning at 21st and Union long lines of vehicles traveling along E. Union showed no thought to stop. Usually at some point one vehicle will set a higher standard and rather shame others into doing the right thing. 2. Vehicles constantly block the sidewalk on the northwest corner of 21st and E. Union making crossing and being seen even more difficult. Are you are parking there for the bicycle shop or for the Pilates studio? In either case appreciating the fact that there are pedestrians who use that sidewalk and finding another place to park even if you have to walk a few feet more should be in line with your values of exercise and environmental awareness.

  29. just like a lot of things in life, riding a bicycle in traffic requires judgment and skill. You can’t teach this in driving school for car drivers, why could professional training be any different for bicycles? I respect your attempt to train other drivers and bicyclists, I just think people locked behind the windshield of a car couldn’t be bothered to care.

  30. It might be useful to add a little context here re: bikes and bike lanes. There’s a big argument in the bike world about the role separate bike facilities should play in street use. David falls squarely on one side of the argument, favoring a “vehicular” approach, where bikes mix in responsibly with other traffic; other equally qualified and passionate people disagree and favor bike lanes, separated bike routes, etc. There are smart, experienced, and thoughtful people on each side, and everywhere in between. David’s arguments are fine, but they’re made in the context of something approaching a *religious war* in the cycling world. While his passion is real, please understand that plenty of cyclists think David is wrong.

    If you can feel some of the heat in his words, that’s why. (And PS-trying to solve this argument here just won’t work–it’s been hashed out 1,000 times over in bike forums, for years.)

  31. Have you observed the difference between bicyclists with a positive attitude about their responsibility to learn the rules and those with a negative attitude?
    If you have a negative attitude- blame the drivers and excuse yourself. Then segregate. If you have a positive attitude, see what you can do next time to get better results, and look for bicyclists that know more than you. With my positive attitude I,m learning at a faster rate than ever, and I had my first class in 95 and became an instructor in 2000. I’m still looking eagerly for more good examples, because learning from them is just so much fun!

    Have you observed the difference after training bicyclists? I’ve trained beginners to ride the streets you avoid,and do it better than almost all the commuters I see today. And I’ve had a student with a more negative attitude. You’re right you can’t train them all to be their best. Attitude determines your learning, that’s why I start there.

    Next month is Matin Luther King day. Have you ever wondered where our country would be today if he had the attitude and direction of our bike advocates today: we can’t get along – let’s segregate! Colored bike lanes!
    But you are right, MLK was killed, he’s dead. That’s worth a mountain of negativity. But he inspired and changed America more than any other, with the help of those with the courage to work together on a positive vision in a sea of negativity. That”s worth a lot of positives. The question is, which do you hold the closest and value the most? What’s your attitude about other people?

  32. way too much attention paid to the power of positive thinking when dealing with things like physics and laws of thermal dynamics. Cars are bigger and heaver than bikes, they move faster and are less maneuverable, their operators are more removed from their surroundings. Roads are built for cars, almost no planing is made to accommodate other forms of transportation. In this environment all the training and equipment in the world won’t save you from a speedway with no shoulders, blind corners, and hostile/indifferent/inattentive drivers.
    If you are training new bicyclists to use routs that more experienced riders avoid based on principle and a sunny disposition, then you are leading lambs to slaughter. Yes, segregation is perfectly reasonable given these circumstances; would you integrate wolves and rabbits? Use these principles at a SDOT planning meeting, not on 23rd ave.

  33. Great! Its obvious that larger vehicles pose a danger to bicyclists,
    Now, where is the study that shows bicyclists riding regularly on major streets have higher crash rates?
    That should go a long way to settling the issue, right? And it should be so simple to do and so critical to getting more bike facilities, with those obvious results. I could really use some help here as i’ve been looking for that study, and asking facilities advocates for it for over 20 years. Where is it? The more we go without that critical study, the more i’m going to suspect emotion and politics. It’s the only responsible way to respond, regadless of the subject, tobacco, exercise, drugs, they all have been studied to see their effect, those who smoke compared to those who don’t, for example. Just where is that science study of bicyclists riding with traffic on major streets?

  34. I don’t need to see a study to know my life is worthless to drivers on heavily congested through-ways in seattle, all it takes is a couple of close calls and I’m convinced to try something else. Are you trying to tell me you are safer traveling in heavy traffic rather than on a less used side street? You are depending on each driver to co-operate and look out for eachother to perform this lane changing move, I can’t even get people to merge on the freeway in a car much less make way for a bike. In theory you are correct, rules of the road apply to all users of the roadway; in practice you get the hell out of the way of larger vehicles. Pedestrians scurry across legal crosswalks, bikes get run off the road by trucks that are prevented from making a lane change by the driver next to them; none of these things have happened to you in the 100,000 hours of crash free travel?

  35. I stopped for pedestrians at that intersection one rainy early evening several weeks ago and was rear-ended (no injuries just major damage to my car). The other driver, middle-aged from Enumclaw, admitted he was looking down in his truck and didn’t slow down even though he had seen my car stopped blocks ahead. The concept of stopping for pedestrians was new to him, apparently in East King County they never have to. According to him, I was at fault(his insurance company disagreed) and “retarded” for not running down the family that were already crossing in front of me.

    Now that my car is repaired, I was driving west on Union early last night, slick wet streets, a yuppie couple in a Land Rover was tailgating me the whole way. Finally with a red light at 14th and Union, I could get out their way. Were they going to chase me all the way downtown? I’ll probably avoid Union for the near future.

    Yes, pedestrians and bicyclists do some boneheaded moves; but its the bullies and idiots in cars or trucks that are the real problem.

  36. I never meant to say that I thought bike lanes were mandatory, I was just saying that, if I were a bicyclist, I would probably feel safer on the road with a bike lane, especially one that has already had a ‘road diet’ and seems to be less busy and has less stop and go traffic (MLK vs. 23rd). But, as I’ve admitted on here, I don’t ride bikes and probably never will get over my phobia of them while living in this city.

  37. pdonahue: I know you’re feeling that I’m lying about my bicycling, and that I’m just the worst jerk around. So, I don’t expect a response from you but I’m curious, well really interested, as I would like to know something you can help me with.

    I think I have some understanding of your bicycling experience, if you agree. When I first began bicycling as an adult, I never commuted so I always avoided traffic, rain, riding at night. But I had 3 minor injury crashes with cars in my first 20,000 miles and each time I redoubled my traffic avoidance. I seriously thought of giving up bicycling out of fear.

    Yes, my bicycling experience for 20 years now, and over 100,000 miles has been the exact opposite. It’s my safest outdoor activity and the way I get along with drivers while going around their difficulties has become a model I use to improve my life. I’ve had injuries, one a major trauma injury while going for a walk in Frink Park, but I’m now injury free and confident in just about any traffic on any street while bicycling. I got there by systematically exposing myself to more, and more difficult traffic as my technique improved. Funny, exposure to traffic is a danger but learning how to handle traffic makes me safer overall — and that takes traffic exposure!

    I thought that I could help others with this transition, while making it much easier and quicker than I did with all the mistakes I made because I didn’t have an example to follow.

    Instead I frequently find that many people, particularly those politically active, are very hostile in response to me. I get along with drivers far better.

    So, I’m wondering what you think I could do to change and improve my behavior and communications so you, and others could perhaps just become curious about my bicycling experiences, and other confident traffic bicyclists, without rejecting them as too loony to even consider possible?

  38. David- I’m going to say right now that I am a self taught urban bicycle commuter. Where I grew up, rural Kitsap county, drivers are even more unused to bicycles than in the city. Then I became a bike messenger when I was a young man a learned horrible habits of death obsessed speed junkies who deliver packages downtown. Because of this history I have a respecthate relationship with cars when I ride, they are not your friend on the road. I don’t think anything you would say would make me change my attitude, I think anyone who would ride through dangerous traffic expecting to be treated as an equal is a fool. I respect your crusade to change the minds of drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians as one big family of people moving together, however misguided, and wish you luck. I will not be one of those people as I intend to live a long, healthy life staying out of trouble rather than seeking it.

  39. This thread is rather long…. and I’ll admit I’ve just skimmed a lot of it. I have to agree with David.. I commute from the CD to the Sandpoint area every day. I used to take 19th in the morning, but for the last year or two I’ve been taking 23rd in the morning. I find 23rd to not only be quicker, but also much safer… on 23rd I take the right lane and I do not curb hug. Cars are just fine with going around – for the most part they don’t want to be in the right lane more because of buses than because of me (I travel faster than the buses….) I’ve never been threatened by a motorist on 23rd – I’ve had plenty do it on both 19th and MLK…

    I do not like bike lanes – they give the impression of safety to cyclists and appease motorists, but really they force cyclists into an unsafe road position (especially if there is parking to the right, which most Seattle bike lanes have), where they are less visible and less noticeable. I would not support a road diet on 23rd if it meant parking would be allowed… the fact that there is no parking is what makes it safer!

  40. There are also plenty who agree with David… count me as one. And no, it won’t be solved on any forum.

    I dislike on street parking as a motorist and pedestrian and a cyclist… I think it makes it hard to see period. I don’t think any non-neighborhood road should have on street parking and the no parking within 30 feet of an intersection/crosswalk really need to be heavily enforced.

  41. Pdonahue is spot on regarding this debate. 23rd is a dangerous travel road by bike for many reasons. This, we can all get along approach doesn’t take into consideration that 80-90% of people driving are not paying attention to what they are doing a large chunk of the time they are behind the wheel. Being safer on the road by taking more risk is just moronic. If one wants drivers to be more considerate of bikes than bikes need to do the same. Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s the right or sensible route to take. 23rd is a major transit route for cars, the right lane gets beat to hell by buses and has tons on potholes and a lot of left hand turning vehicles- it’s not safe. 19th is a great safe ride and I can’t imagine why this street would not be used. The only reason people survive riding 23rd is because Seattle drivers are fairly considerate. Deliberately making the commute more difficult for car drivers will just make them more pissed off at cyclists. I guess since I have people in my life I need to look out for I can’t can’t take the chance someone is looking out for me.

  42. Same thing is true in the pedestrian world regarding CD Biker’s comments on parked cars. Close to intersections, certainly, they are often a hindrance, but in general parked cars are often seen as a buffer, particularly in cities with fairly narrow sidewalks, as seen in much of Seattle. There are definitely multiple schools of thought on the issue, of course, much like in the cycling world with vehicular/separated facilities conversations.

  43. Roads like 23rd may be more dangerous to bicyclists who do not take a personal responsibility to learn how to make the rules work (and who choose to remain “self trained” in spite of better performance reported by other bicyclists.)

    But… All the research done on facilities has never shown a significant difference between various facilities while some behaviors of the bicyclist have shown an extreme difference by comparison. That’s why I believe it is essential to follow up the studies in more detail, the differences in behavior show far greater potential to improve bicycling and get more people to see bicycling favorably.

  44. BK…. some of your comments make no sense… Have you ever ridden a bicycle on 19th or on 23rd? Have you ridden a bike quickly with transportation as your goal?

    19th is fairly narrow and only one lane in each direction. It has a lot of insidious small potholes (the width of a bicycle tire) that mean a safe cyclist has to be relatively far to the left to be out of the door zone of parked cars and away from potholes that can catch your tire and send you flying. 19th has a lot of left hand and right hand turning traffic as well as many uncontrolled intersections….

    23rd has 4 lanes, 2 in each direction and no on street parking. The outer lanes are fairly wide There are a few places that regularly form pot holes, but the city tends to fix them as they get large quickly…. Left hand turning motorists obviously don’t occupy the right hand lane… Motorists for the most part avoid the right hand lane precisely because it is often occupied by bus traffic. There are more red light controlled intersections, which helps to control traffic flow.

    I’ve commuted on both. I feel much safer using 23rd. I’ve only had one incident where a motorist did something stupid and that was down in Montlake – a van driver had no realization at all that I could possibly be going the speed limit… he attempted to pass then merge without fully passing… I was able to alert him and was not hit. On 19th I used to fairly regularly have folks intentionally and just stupidly pass way too close. I’ve been threatened and bullied many times on 19th. I was even run off the road by a school bus driver..(twice! that…
    read more
    s the last straw and why I began using 23rd). Drivers also tend to pass and then stop on 19th… something which never happens on 23rd. I once put my hand through a guy’s taillight (not intentionally) when he passed me then promptly slammed on his brakes on 19th (he failed to look up the road before passing – there was a car parallel parking as well as oncoming traffic…) I find 19th to be by far a less safe and less friendly place to ride than 23rd….

    Sometimes it can be counter intuitive. Yes, 23rd is a busier street. Yes traffic is moving faster, but the sight lines are better, the road is wider and more controlled. Motorists are less likely to be frustrated because they have 2 lanes and are already accustomed to slow bus traffic on the right. In any case they rarely have to actually wait to pass – remember it is 2 lanes, if they need to pass at all… much of the way I have no problems keeping up with traffic. I’m more visible, traffic is more visible, I have more options should there be a hazard in the road or should a motorist do something dumb. In all 23rd is very much preferable to 19th – and about 10min faster to boot.

  45. I have to say it is pretty difficult (or impossible) to make eye contact with a driver through dark tinted windows. I see more and more of them every day. Why is it legal to have them?


  46. While I try to make eye contact and feel that it should make crossing as a pedestrian safer. Nonetheless, I have often felt that when I made eye contact with a drive the driver thinks, “Good she saw me; so I can just keep going. I don’t have to stop.” Is there any research on this?

    Truly they look right at you and keep going.

  47. There actually is a study regarding bicycle accidents, comparing portland and other N American urban areas.
    I’m not going say the evidence is conclusive to anything we have been debating here, but it is worthwhile to read it and get some hard data rather than anecdotal evidence like I tend to use. The bottom line, if you ride every day, you have a one in five chance of some kind of accident regardless of age, gender, skill level with in the year. Road conditions played a factor in most incidents, most incidents occurred in designated bike zones, and I’m gonna say that’s because more people use bikes there.
    If you ride the burke-gilman trail, (and I don’t) you’ll notice it seems to be a stupid magnet for bikes and peds. I spoke to a fire fighter in Bothell who told me more bike fatalities occurred on that open stretch of the trail than anywhere else in the state, that’s because elderly walkers, dogs, children and gangs of cross training maniacs in spandex are all trying to use the same lane. I’m gonna agree with cd biker that options are the key to safe commute, when you get stuck in a spot where you don’t have an escape route, you can get into trouble, weather in a bike zone or not.

  48. This has been my experience too, Joanna. I’ve been trying to assess the situation and if it looks positive, I cautiously step forward and maintain eye contact with the driver and smile and wave a “thank you.” If it still looks safe, I carefully continue forward (sorry, it takes longer to write about it than to do it!).

    So far it seems like a fairly promising tactic.

  49. About the dark tinted windows – it’s not legal for the front windows, but I’ve been told by SPD that to cite someone for it, they have to use special equipment that measures the opacity (or transparency, whichever way it goes), and it’s too expensive. Sort of like a decibel meter used for noise measurement, I suppose.