Category Archive: Research

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 »

Safe Crossings for Kids

Kids CrossingEditors Note: University Of Washington students Qiren Lu & Ranju Uezono studied four  intersections in Seattle School Walk Zones to see if drivers stopped for people crossing at  crosswalks.

Their findings were alarming. Motorist  compliance rate ranged from 15% to 34%, low figures compared to the national average.

In other words, in marked crosswalks in school zones, only 3 in 10 people driving cars fully stopped for people walking during school arrival & departure hours.

Read the full report. Read the Lake City Library supplementary report.

The percentage of children actively commuting to school by walking or biking in the United States has significantly decreased within the past 50 years (National Household Transportation Survey, 2001). Busy street crossings are barriers to students walking and biking to school in cities around the nation. The purpose of this on-site data collection study titled Safe Crossings for Kids is to analyze motorist compliance rates with pedestrian-motorist encounters at three marked crosswalks near schools in Seattle. The observed crosswalks are located at Wallingford Ave & 43rd St in Wallingford (near Hamilton International Middle School), 15th Ave S & S Hill St in Beacon Hill (near Beacon Hill International School), and 58th St &14th Ave in Ballard (near St. Alphonsus Parish Elementary School). Observations of general public pedestrians crossing were collected, in addition to staged pedestrians crossing these marked crosswalks, modeled after TCRP 112/NCHRP 562 (Transit Cooperative Research Program/National Cooperative Highway Research Program). Results show a majority of non-compliance, as defined by Revised Code of Washington, Rules of the Road (RCW 46.61.235), where full-stops are considered a complete compliance to pedestrians. Subsequent future studies would provide further insight into the current trends of motorist compliance rates around schools in Seattle. The results from this study show that the motorist compliance rate for Wallingford Ave & 43rd St. is 34%, for 15th Ave S & S Hill St., 21%, and for 58th St. & 14th Ave, 15%, which are relatively low figures compared to the national compliance rates. Read the rest of this entry »

LGBTQ Street Safety in Seattle

March 12, 2015

LGBTQ Safe Streets Infographic

View infographic on LGBTQ Street Safety in full screen

University of Washington School of Public Health student Christie Santos­‐Livengood approached Seattle Neighborhood Greenways to do her practicum because of SNG’s positive reputation in her community and with built environment scholars. Her study researched the relationship between neighborhoods and the health and safety of LGBT people in respect to hate crimes and other public health concerns.

Christie’s report makes recommendations to prevent and address anti-LGBT hate crimes in Seattle.  She worked with members of Central Seattle Greenways as well as interviewing  stakeholders in the LGBT community.

Her findings indicate that the LGBT community stakeholders are concerned with Gentrification and Newcomers, Mistrust of Police, Nightlife Culture and Hate Crimes.  Recommendations are provided and include action items for the City, Business and Non-Profit Organizations and the LGBT Community.

Stakeholders were blunt in their assessment of living in the Central-Capitol Hill area:

“With Capitol Hill becoming a center of nightlife, I think there’s just more people and not everyone is used to being around different segments of the population… [Outsiders] don’t see themselves as anti-gay but don’t necessarily see what they are doing when they are drunk.”

“A member of ours 2 summers ago was chased down the street and beaten with a skateboard.  He wasn’t aware of his surroundings, wasn’t in a good state, you don’t know [if it was a hate crime] but he had just come out of a gay bar. Those are the things that terrify people…Pike and Pine are well lit and well traveled, but a few blocks north and south are very dark, lots of places to hide… Four stabbings in front of my door in two weeks at 2 [o’clock] in the morning.”

Christie concludes that hate crimes against LGBT people in Seattle are a public health and urban planning issue that must be addressed.  It is imperative that the City of Seattle, businesses and the LGBTQ community study these recommendations because they have the potential to truly impact the health and well being of LGBTQ people, and the entire Seattle community. Full report here. 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!

Save Lives & Keep Moving: Seattle’s Successful Safety Redesigns

Road Diet Save Lives & Keep Moving

Open graphic in full screen

Cathy Tuttle
February 15, 2015

If you think a “road diet,” or safety redesign, will slow you down, think again.

Walking in Seattle blogger Troy Heerwagen poured through data from a half dozen Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) evaluation reports and found huge benefits for everyone using our shared public right-of-way.

SDOT engineers have learned smart new techniques to make high-capacity streets safer and more efficient. After a safety redesign, streets still carry as many vehicles as they did prior to their road diet. If fact, our streets are in better shape and can take on even more vehicle volume after a safety redesign. Another benefit? Aggressive speeding, the kind of behavior that kills people, falls dramatically. And not surprisingly, collisions and crashes of all sorts drop precipitously too.

Since safety redesigns are often a matter of mainly repainting travel lanes, they are also one of the quickest and least expensive road safety improvements around.

We call that a great investment in our future!

Check out Troy’s work in this Tableau-generated infographic.

UW Class Studies How to Market Walking & Biking For Transportation

click on image to read full student report on Walking & Biking for Transportation

click on image to read full student report on Walking and Biking for Transportation

Every year, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways staff meets with UW faculty and students to set up guided research projects and classes.

In the fall of 2014, we worked with Urban Design & Planning Instructor Megan Horst to help develop a UW Studio class focused on behavior change that would lead to more walking and biking at UW. Students worked on how best to market active transportation choices to students.

We were especially taken with the project called “Secret Shopping at Bike Shops”.

The student team  analyzed three bike shops near campus and ranked them on customer friendliness to students who are new bike users. Their survey’s included “Quality of Employee Questions” and “Addressed Misconceptions”. They made recommendations on what needs to be done to improve the shopping experience for students who are looking to buy a  bicycle.

The student group found bike shop employees are not trained in marketing to people who need a bicycle for everyday transportation and that students don’t understand what to look for in a basic commuter bike.

Their report concludes, “If the University Transportation Services can connect more fully with the shops in the area, they can help promote them and foster more bicycling among the student body.”



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, or tweet us @SNGreenways

Lake City Greenways Directly Benefits from UW Student Work

So much student work is about theories and bold ideas that unfortunately never leave the printed page.

Click here to learn more about ALL UW student projects for the Lake City class.

Click here to learn more the UW student class projects for Lake City.

So it is satisfying for students, and a win for everyone when bold ideas are put into practice. The newly opened Olympic Hills Greenway pulled design ideas directly from a 2013 UW class that Seattle Neighborhood Greenways helped to develop. Future traffic safety and design work along Lake City Way N and in the Lake City neighborhood is sure to use this extensive research as well.

With the Lake City Greenways group as the initiating stakeholder for UW Landscape Architecture’s Neighborhood Design Studio studio, 16 students (from landscape architecture, urban design and planning, and architecture) learned about Lake City and envisioned its potentials as a healthier neighborhood.

Landscape Architecture Associate Professor Julie Johnson led the students through a participatory design process, such that the students gained insights about the varied places and needs of this neighborhood, as well as their own design responses, through community interactions.

Lake City Greenways leaders gave students an overview and led walking tours. Students facilitated small group discussions, did youth workshops, and surveys.

All of this student work is collected in this on-line book.




Speed Bumps to the Rescue!

by Cathy Tuttle
October 28, 2014

Speed bumps work

What’s black and white and gray all over?

Lake City Greenways volunteer Monica Sweet was impressed with the speed bumps she’d seen in other neighborhoods. She wanted slower, safer streets where she lived on NE 123rd in Lake City. With no sidewalks and drivers that seemed to rip through her neighborhood at high speeds, speed bumps seemed to offer a simple, inexpensive yet effective safety solution.

After a great deal of back and forth with the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), whose staff tried to convince Monica to put in small traffic circles, Monica and her local greenways group prevailed and soon speed bumps will make another Seattle residential street safer for people who walk and bike.

In related news, SDOT just completed the before and after study of vehicle speed on nearby NE 130th Street where speed bumps were installed in the summer of 2014.

According to Brian Dougherty, SDOT Senior Transportation Planner:

“The study shows that the speed humps have had a big impact, reducing the number of drivers traveling above the speed limit. The biggest change is the reduction in the number of ‘top end speeders’ which as you know are the most dangerous for people walking and biking. We show a 90% reduction in these aggressive drivers traveling more than 10 mph over the speed limit… Before and after speeds were measured for one full week using pneumatic tubes.”

* P.S. You may hear the terms speed humps and speed bumps used interchangeably by traffic safety professionals. Speed “humps” are actually the official term but according to our friends in Portland traffic engineering, the signs that said “Humps Ahead” were frequently stolen by the public but “Bumps Ahead” were left to perform their traffic calming duty.


The Great Ballard Pumpkin Count

photo courtesy Madi Carlson @familyride

photo courtesy Madi Carlson @familyride

The theory to test: Pumpkins per block dramatically increase after greenways are added to Seattle streets.

Pumpkins may potentially be a good (and fun!) indicator of community connections, family-friendliness, walkability, and health.

Ballard Greenways pumpkin counters want to carve out a head start on pumpkin counting. Here’s their invite.

  • Meet at 5:30 p.m. at 17th & Leary on bikes for preliminary count of 17th Ave NW
  • Stop at 6:30 p.m. at Chuck’s Hop Shop 656 NW 85th St. for a glass of pumpkin beer
  • Return south via 6th Ave NW and West via the wonderful NW 58th St Greenway for a fun ride to another prospective greenway
  • Folks should bring lights!

Ballard and several other local greenway groups will to do pumpkin counting on Halloween night as well. They’ll look at existing greenways and proposed greenways. Ideally, they’ll collect data and save it so they can compare pumpkin counts in the same locations next Halloween.

Parents and kids will count, Halloween partygoers will count. Pumpkin counters need to create an on-line spreadsheet to collect reports.

Meanwhile, debate is raging about pumpkin counting criteria. Should counters count all pumpkins or houses with any number of pumpkins as a single entity? Should we count smashed pumpkins? And what about those small pumpkins?  Gourds? Fake (plastic or fabric) pumpkins vs real pumpkins?

Anyone up for the count?

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