City Hall

What's So Controversial About Safety?

By Renee Staton August 30, 2010

Renee Staton, a resident of Northeast Seattle's Pinehurst neighborhood, argues in a PubliCola guest editorial that a proposed "road diet" on 125th Ave. NE is a badly needed safety improvements for cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers.

Anyone confused about the “NE 125th St. rechannelization controversy” should come walk the street from Roosevelt Way NE to 35th Ave. NE. You will quickly develop an understanding of why so many of us in the neighborhood support a rechannelization of the street—also called a “road diet”—from two travel lanes in each direction to one travel lane in each direction plus a center turn lane and bike lanes. Despite what some may want you to believe, the reason for this project is simple: Increased safety for pedestrians, drivers and cyclists.

My family and I have lived just off NE 125th in the Pinehurst neighborhood for 12 years and I have walked, driven or used transit on NE 125th nearly every day during those years. Each day, 16,200 vehicles use this four-lane minor arterial---two-thirds of the road's actual capacity of 25,000 vehicles. The posted speed limit is 30 mph, but the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) found that most vehicles travel between 40 and 42 m.p.h.

Between January 2007 and April 2010, there were 153 collisions on NE 125th. Of those, 13 involved pedestrians and three involved cyclists. One of the pedestrians was in a wheelchair. This corridor has nearly double the rate of injuries than the citywide average of similarly sized corridors. Drivers making left turns between NE 125th and residential streets are largely responsible for the collisions, some of which have resulted in serious injuries.

The route 41 bus, which runs on 125th, is one of the most popular bus routes in the city, providing the main transit service between the neighborhood and downtown Seattle. Unfortunately, 125th sorely lacks pedestrian amenities, with only one crosswalk serving 11 bus stops along nearly a mile of roadway between Roosevelt Way NE and 25th Ave. NE. The city routinely denies neighborhood requests for more unsignaled crosswalks because the four-lane road is too dangerous.

Rechannelizing 125th will make the road safer for all users by slowing traffic closer to the legal speed limit, making it possible to install crosswalks. And adding protected left turn lanes will make it faster and safer for everyone to turn on and off of NE 125th.

And, yes, this project will create a safer space for those brave souls who ride their bikes on the street. I don’t bike, but many of my friends and neighbors do, and they tell me repeatedly that the city needs to come up with a better east-west route to the Burke-Gilman Trail and install true bike lanes on the road. At 8.5 percent, NE 125th is a steep grade for more casual bike commuters, but it's actually a lower grade than many other well-used east-west bike routes in Seattle.

Don’t take my word for it, though. Come see for yourself. The best time to come is during evening rush hour. Take the bus and try to cross NE 125th on foot. But watch your step.
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