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).