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104 pedestrians killed in 8 years; more Seattle streets should be on a diet, advocates say

Cyclist riding in Stone Way's bicycle lane created when that Seattle street was put on a diet.
Cyclist riding in Stone Way's bicycle lane created when that Seattle street was put on a diet.

Cars and pedestrians collided fatally in Seattle 90 times between 2001 and 2009 – killing 104 pedestrians. The advocacy group Walking in Seattle reports that 28 of the fatal incidents could have been prevented by rechannelization or road diets.

The pedestrian-friendly group says Seattle should consider putting the streets where these 28 collisions occurred on a road diet. The city of Seattle has one street on the books.

Though usually controversial when proposed, reports Walking in Seattle, 26 road diets have been successfully implemented in Seattle since the 1970s. Streets that have recently been rechannelized include Stone Way, Fauntleroy Way, Nickerson Street, and 125th Avenue. According to pro-pedestrian organization Feet First, “When [road diets are] done properly at appropriate locations, all users benefit.”
One benefit of a lane rechannelization is lowered speed. The road diet on Nickerson Street has dropped motor vehicle speeds from 40-44 mph to 34-37 mph. A pedestrian hit at 40 mph is about 85% likely to die; a pedestrian hit at 30 mph is about 40% likely to die.

Pedestrian deaths

Seattle, Tacoma and Bellevue rank 46th for pedestrian deaths for these years with 398 deaths in metro areas of more than a million people. Major cities in Florida took the top four spots onTransportation for America'apedestrian danger index with combined pedestrian deaths hitting 3,359. The group is a national policy coalition for improving the nation's roadways.

How it works

Rechannelization, or road diet, is the process of relining roads to decrease the number of lanes.Road diets usually start with four lanes (two lanes each direction) and are condensed into three lanes—one lane each direction and a center turn lane. Often bike lanes are also added.

Seattle implements road diets to appease aggressive traffic, improving the safety for all road users – drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.

Criteria to consider before rechannelizing:

  • Drivers routinely exceed the speed limit
  • History of excessive collisions
  • Traffic commute time won’t increase

One street on the books

“Right now we have one location planned for rechannelization,” said SDOT’s PR supervisor Marybeth Turner. “It will take place on S. Myrtle Street running from Beacon Ave to MLK Way.”

Seattle’s Department of Transportation reports that collisions following the road diet on Stone Way have dropped by 14%, injury collisions have dropped by 33% and collisions with pedestrians have dropped 80%.

Junior Communication major at Pacific Lutheran University.