Category Archive: Editorial

Construction Zone Mobility: Room For Improvement

May 2015
Cross-posted with The UrbanistConstruction Zone Signs

Seattle is a boom town. Until recently, traffic plans during new building construction disregarded the mobility of people walking and biking beside building sites. This disregard is a safety issue, not just an inconvenience.

Last year, Seattle created a Construction Hub Coordination Program with dedicated staff who work to improve access for all during construction in high growth areas designated by the City as “Construction Hubs.”. Construction sites in South Lake Union, Ballard, Alaska Way, Capitol Hill, and West Seattle Junction are getting better for people walking and biking near them, but problems still remain, in these locations and throughout the city.

In Seattle, we still place a higher value on preserving street parking around construction sites at the expense of providing safe access for people who walk or bike. Sidewalks are routinely blocked, and safe intersection crossings removed for extended periods. Read the rest of this entry »

Move Seattle For Our Kids

Cathy Tuttle, Executive Director, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways
April 24, 2015
The $930 million Levy puts just $7 million toward Safe Routes to School. We can do better. Let’s use this opportunity for significant investments for our kids.
Safe Routes for Kids

If you own a house, you need to clean the gutters and occasionally replace the roof or the whole place falls down. That’s what 67% of the Move Seattle Levy is doing — basic and needed maintenance on our roads.

It’s the other 33% that gets me excited though — the greenways and safe intersections, the parklets and streateries, the Sunday Parkways and Walking School Buses, and especially the connected safe streets for our most vulnerable — our children walking to school.

 

Sign a petition to support A Transportation Levy To Move Seattle For Our Kids

 

Safe Routes for Kids Equity Map

Click map for cost estimates for Move Seattle for Kids projects

What we want to see in the Move Seattle Levy is real and complete Safe Routes to School. With a total of $7 million over nine years, there is barely enough to put a few crosswalks around each Seattle school.

We don’t have the money or the votes to invest in robust safety improvements in all School Walk Zones, but we would like the Levy to invest more in the places where families don’t have cars, where traffic violence is endemic, where many young children often have no choice but to walk alone to school.

The Move Seattle Levy proposed by Mayor Murray provides limited Safe Routes features at every Seattle school. We want to make sure these safety dollars for all schools are kept in the Levy. Our Move Seattle For Our Kids proposal seeks to add more traffic safety improvements throughout School Walk Zones in elementary schools where 50% or more students receive free or reduced cost lunch. Depending on the location of the school, extra improvements might include a package of stop signs, crosswalks, stairways, sidewalks, speed bumps, Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons, traffic signals, and other intersection and road improvements. How much will all of this cost? $38.41 million. Click here to see the details. Read the rest of this entry »

Ryan’s Roosevelt Story

Gordon Padelford
April 23, 2015

Click here to send a message to make Roosevelt Way NE Safer

What I thought was: “Ugh – this is going to be unpleasant.”

It was. I just sat in the roadway for a few minutes, stunned, bleeding all over myself.

I live in Seattle’s University District because I go to school at the University of Washington – I’m in the final year of a Ph.D. program in environmental policy. I’ve always believed in making the world a better place. Bicycling is a part of that, and it’s almost always how I get around. On this particular night I was on my way to see the premiere of a play in Capitol Hill’s Annex Theatre.

Instead I found myself bleeding in an intersection. Read the rest of this entry »

We Are All People Who Walk

April 3, 2015
Glen Buhlman serves on the Kirkland Transportation Commission and is co-founder of Kirkland Greenways

 

Mark Twain Elementary School is across the street. This is the start of the Rose Hill Greenway. Facing sign warns people walking, biking, and driving that cars do not stop.

Mark Twain Elementary School is across the street. This is the start of the Rose Hill Greenway. Facing sign warns people walking, biking, and driving that cars do not stop.

We all become “pedestrians” for a portion of most of our trips once we get out of our car, step off the bus or lock up our bicycle. I don’t think anyone would suggest that we should outlaw dark-toned clothing after sundown. Requiring people walking to wear high-viz clothing is sidestepping a bigger problem.

The responsibility for safety lies with the person who is operating the multi-ton vehicle that can easily injure or kill others. Yes, people walking should be as aware as possible and we drill this into our children, but people walking are ultimately at the mercy of the person driving the car.

As people who drive cars/trucks/buses and even more importantly as parents of children who are getting their drivers’ licenses, we must also teach both our children and ourselves that every time we get into our vehicle we are operating a device that can easily injure or kill — and we are usually doing it on roads that were designed to prioritize speed and throughput of vehicular traffic at the expense of the safety of the people who use the roadway (including the people driving the cars). Read the rest of this entry »

Is Rainier Ave S Off-Scale Dangerous? Yes.

Cathy Tuttle
March 4, 2015

Open larger view in Tableau.

Open larger view in Tableau.

During a recent Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) evening meeting to talk about Rainier Ave S safety improvements, a driver crashed into a nearby local business on Rainier Ave South.

Ironic, yes? Unusual? Unfortunately no. This was car number EIGHT driven into a Rainier Ave S business in the past year, and in 2014 alone, Rainier Ave S was hit with 1,243 crashes.

SDOT’s slide deck for their safety meeting included a table illustrating the number of crashes on Rainier Ave S, relative to other high capacity corridors around Seattle. It showed Rainier Ave S does indeed have a crashing problem.

What the SDOT table didn’t illustrate was that Rainier Ave S doesn’t carry nearly as many vehicles per day as other local high capacity corridors. When you factor in the fact Rainier Ave S carries far fewer vehicles, the carnage on Rainier Ave S spikes dramatically.

Kenneth Trease @kptrease put together a Tableau viz chart to illustrate the utter chaos on Rainier Ave South. Per vehicle mile, Rainier Ave S has THREE times as many crashes as Lake City Way NE, and FOUR times as many as Aurora Avenue North.

Yes, we need #VisionZeroRainier now! Sign the petition!

City Plans To Make Roosevelt Way NE Safer For All

 January 13, 2015

Congratulations to Mayor Ed Murray, Seattle Department of Transportation Director Scott Kubly, Seattle City Council Transportation Committee members Tom Rasmussen (Chair), Jean Godden, and Mike O’Brien for their bold leadership and vision that will soon make Roosevelt Way NE safer for everyone.

You can thank them all on this letter! 

How does this project make Roosevelt Way NE safer? Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Talk About Safe Streets

Click to open in full screen

Click to open in full screen

January 6, 2015

Language is powerful.

The language we use everyday has the ability to change how people think about the world. Our ideas about reframing the language of traffic violence are starting to take root nationally!

Still, many news media outlets and even cities still call preventable crashes “accidents.” By doing so, it frames traffic deaths as unavoidable byproducts of our transportation system. In reality, these deaths are unnecessary, and often the result of 1950s era car-oriented engineering and/or unacceptable driver behavior. When media outlets label traffic collisions “accidents” before the causes have been studied, it is biased and journalistically reckless – and we encourage you to join us in calling them out.

By working to change our society’s language to neutral language that describes “collisions” where “a person driving a car hit three people walking” we can undo the false idea that traffic deaths are a normal part of our transportation system.

And that’s just one example.

Our coalition of thoughtful local leaders and advocates have learned through thousands of conversations what language cuts through engineering gobbledegook and connects to our shared humanity.

This handy cheat sheet distills the our knowledge of what language resonates and what doesn’t.

Public meetings are often when things can get heated. At these meetings, our leaders have learned that it is critical to talk about hyperlocal issues using your neighborhood’s language, and to focus on people and their needs (quiet street to raise a family, walking to the bus stop, being safe dropping off their kids at school, etc), rather than on modes of transportation.

Language constantly evolves. If you’ve got other suggestions for how we can all mind our language, drop us a line at info@seattlegreenways.org, or tweet us @SNGreenways

Year in Review: A Safe Streets Takeover, Born Out of Love

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 2.55.50 PM

A glorious summer day in Wallingford. (And my front yard!)

I love Seattle. I love touching the water, seeing our mountains, our year-round growing season. My parsley and kale are still tenaciously holding on. I love how people identify their neighborhoods with a fierce pride—Alki, Licton Springs, Ballard, Beacon Hill.

We live in a beautiful place where we can sense how we belong to the earth. In three years, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways has transformed that sense of belonging into a deep conversation about how we can use the 30% of our landscape currently devoted to storing and moving cars into more positive places for people.

As an organization, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways has grown from a scrappy group of six neighbors who met in a church basement in 2011, to an advocacy powerhouse with 20 groups and hundreds of volunteers that influence how millions of dollars are invested in safe street improvements.

We work for you. With just a few dedicated staff, we effectively mobilize and support your movement for a safer, healthier, more equitable, more beautiful Seattle.

In 2014, we worked with you, and with the families of Zeytuna, Sandhya, and James St. Clair, to produce seven Memorial Walks and Rides. Together we honored the victims of traffic violence and looked for practical solutions, and we put pressure on the city to adopt Vision Zero—a future free from traffic violence.

We worked with hundreds of you to get nearly 250 miles of safer streets into Seattle’s Bicycle Master Plan.

By speaking up during budget hearings and policy events, we worked with you to ensure millions of dollars went into safe, family-friendly street infrastructure.

Most significantly, we worked with you to change the conversation in Seattle—to get your neighbors, elected officials, and transportation officials behind the idea that streets are for all people, not just for cars.

In 2015 we’ll use your generous, tax-deductible gift to Seattle Neighborhood Greenways to keep working with you as we hold Seattle accountable for 20 mph safe speed limits, Vision Zero, and equitable healthy transportation systems in 2015.

It’s a family-friendly, local way to invest in a healthier Seattle. Please give generously and Thank You!

 

With gratitude,

Cathy

 

Cathy Tuttle

Executive Director

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways

 

Vision Zero Tops List Of 2015 Greenway Priorities

vision zero seattleBy Cathy Tuttle
November 24, 2014

In November 2014, SNG leaders representing 16 different local groups gathered for their 4th annual fall Prioritization discussion. We’ve had huge success every year as we collectively choose 10 priorities for SNG leaders to support in the following year. Vision Zero easily topped our 2015 list.

We’ll be dedicated this year to making sure all of these priorities are supported and implemented. Our 2015 Priorities are as follows:

    • Vision Zero. Advocate for strong local and city support for engineered speed reduction, enforcement, education, and more. See the New York’s Transportation Alternatives Vision Zero Principles. Join the Vision Zero Seattle Facebook community.
    • Seattle Transportation Levy. Improve funding for active transportation and get out the votes for a citywide funding package as Bridging the Gap expires in 2015.
    • Complete Streets. Make sure our own Complete Streets Ordinance is enforced. Make sure SDOT improvement projects are funded and tied to walk/bike safety improvements. (we’ll also be closely following the development of the Pedestrian Master Plan as it is updated this year.)

Council District Priorities

  • District 1: 35th Ave SW safe intersections  and parallel greenways
  • District 2: Speed reduction and traffic calming on Rainier Ave S and MLK Way S
  • District 3: SR520. Make walk/bike access work for local neighborhoods around SR520.
  • District 4: Wallingford Greenway. Make this “greenway” corridor functional and meet current City standards from Stone Way N & N 43rd, along N 44th . Plan connection to future light rail station on 43rd & Brooklyn NE.
  • District 5: Fund design and early implementation of a N/NW 92nd St. greenway as it crosses both Aurora and I-5 with direct links to Wilson Pacific, North Seattle College, and future Northgate light rail.
  • District 6: 6th Ave NW corridor N-S with particular focus on  6th & NW 65th intersection and BGT connection.
    • District 7: TBD with discussion between Queen Anne Greenways and First Hill Improvement Association.

I lived in Sweden for a whole year with my family, in 2006-2007, studying sustainable city design. I was fortunate to be a part of the discussion of Vision Zero, officially adopted as a national Swedish transportation policy in 2007.

I like this description of Vision Zero by a Swedish expert: “People make mistakes.. so let’s create a system for the humans instead of trying to adjust the humans to the system.” Safe streets are a real possibility when we collectively decide safe street engineering, enforcement, and education are worth spending time and resources on. We at Seattle Neighborhood Greenways (SNG) support the culture of Vision Zero and are thrilled this is now becoming embedded in our City, other active transportation advocacy organizations, and in the public at large.

Leaders of many SNG groups meet to discuss priorities for 2015

Leaders of many SNG groups meet to discuss priorities for 2015

 

Jake Makes the Case for Vision Zero

Jake Vanderplas. Madison Vigil Walk August 2013

Jake Vanderplas. Madison Vigil Walk August 2013

November 22, 2014
By Cathy Tuttle

This is a story of how community activism, police, courts, the press, and engineering have worked together to make our streets safer.

Jake Vanderplas is an sweet, caring man. He lives in West Seattle, and as a student decided the best thing for his health, wallet, community, and environment would be to bike commute daily between West Seattle and the UW. (He’s smart too — he really is an astrophysicist.)

A few years ago Jake realized he could make his commute and his community a lot safer if greenways came to West Seattle.

Jake and Stu Hennessey (another sweet, caring man who owns Alki Bike and Board), formed West Seattle Greenways and started leading scouting and policy bike rides around neighborhood streets trying to map out the most connected, least hilly routes through some pretty challenging geography.

I had the pleasure of going on some of these slow rides: with Stu on a Spokespeople Ride and Jake on a policy ride showing potential greenway routes to City Councilmembers, SDOT, and local business people.

As part of our Seattle Neighborhood Greenways coalition, Jake was able to advocate for the Delridge Greenway. Jake also joined his North Delridge Neighborhood Council to be a good citizen and to help smooth the way for a greenway through the community. In many ways Jake’s path to greenways followed that of other local leaders of our 20+ local groups.

Jake also is a regular participant and organizer of Memorial Walks and Bike Rides and was a lead organizer of the Memorial Ride for Sher Kung. Jake’s photo here is from our Vigil Walk he attended in Madison Park.

So it was particularly ironic when Jake was attacked by a woman speeding on the Delridge Greenway. His actual assault happened later, on SW Andover & 26th SW. The West Seattle Blog describes the crime:

“The investigation indicated that Soerensen had first passed Vanderplas “at a high rate of speed” while northbound on 26th SW, a neighborhood-greenway street; he then passed her, and after following him at 20 mph for several blocks, repeatedly honking her horn, she swerved into Vanderplas, who suffered a hand injury, and then she drove away; police tracked her down about a week later. As noted in charging documents, her 2002 Nissan Sentra “has a curb weight of 2,519 pounds” while Vanderplas’s 2007 Schwinn LeTour bicycle weighs about 30 pounds.”

Because it was a hit and run assault, Jake used a letter to the Seattle Bike Blog as one way to help the police identify and track down his assailant. The police found and charged the assailant, King County Superior Court took the case to trial, and yesterday, the jury upheld the charges of second-degree assault. Sentencing will happen early next year.

What is extraordinary about this case, in addition to Jake being a safe streets advocate with Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, is the outcome. Jake is back on his bike when many who’ve been struck face a lifetime of rehabilitation. Many hit-and-runs remain unsolved, while the police were able to solve this crime. In this case, police charged the assailant, while in too many cases, even people who have killed with their cars receive only a small ticket. And the King County Superior Court was willing to take and successfully prosecute this case.

We need the police and courts to reliably do their jobs and to be a deterrent to traffic violence as they have in Jake’s case.

We also need our streets engineered to not allow deadly mistakes. Intersections where “the sun was in my eyes”, “it was too dark”, and “it was confusing and I didn’t see her” are places where different modes must be separated, slowed, and signaled.

All of our systems, police, courts, engineering, health and education, and the press need to work together with the community to make our streets safer. In short, we need Vision Zero.

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