City Hall

Pedestrian Death Map

By Erica C. Barnett December 16, 2010

On the same day that a horrific accident at Pike Place Market injured three pedestrians, the Seattle Department of Transportation has released a map showing pedestrian fatalities across the city for the past five years. While a large number of them cluster, as you might imagine, downtown (where people walk the most, and where an inexplicably controversial pedestrian-safety campaign was focused), an interesting trend emerges when you start looking at Southeast Seattle.

In five years---despite dire warnings from groups like Save Our Valley that surface-level light rail construction and operations would lead to a rash of pedestrian fatalities---there have been zero deaths in the past five years along Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave., where surface-level light rail opened in July 2009. In the same period, there have been seven deaths on or near MLK's parallel street, Rainier Ave.

The correlation is no coincidence: As I've written before, Rainier Ave. is a pedestrian nightmare, a five-lane arterial where drivers speed along at 50 mph and where stoplights are as far as a mile apart. MLK, in contrast, has more stop lights, fewer lanes, and frequent pedestrian crossings, especially at light rail stations. According to the, Rainier is the most dangerous street in the city, with 61 reported car-pedestrian collisions between 2002 and 2006. The intersection of Rainier and 39th Ave. S. tied a several-block-long stretch of Aurora for the most jaywalking incidents (six) in the city.

The solution (as I've also written before) is to add more stoplights and lighted, marked crosswalks all along Rainier. As long as people have to walk a half-mile in each direction to get to the nearest stop light and back, people are going to keep jaywalking across Rainier, and people are going to keep getting hit. The pedestrian death map highlights what's already obvious to anyone who walks, rides the bus, drives, or bikes along Rainier: The city hasn't taken pedestrian safety in the Rainier Valley seriously, and it's time for them to step up and do so.
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