UPDATE: Mayor McGinn responds to a neighbors question about safety on NE 75th Street during the March “Ask the Mayor” show on the Seattle Channel.
NOTE: We hope you won’t interpret this post as us placing blame or accusing SDOT. The Police clearly appear to have the person responsible in custody. SDOT has standards and codes that need to be followed and statistics that characterize street use. But we hope today’s tragedy is a call to action to address the safety and the morning/evening horse race along NE 75th Street.
In the wake of today’s tragedy in front of Eckstein Middle School we’re continuing to learn more on what happened (Ravenna Blog | Seattle PI | Seattle PD Blotter). It’s hard not to jump to conclusions, but the facts remain: 4 people were hit, 2 of whom died, by a man driving a truck westbound about 50 mph at around 4:10PM on NE 75th Street. A couple weeks ago, Seattle Police stationed an automated speed sign on NE 75th Street near where the accident occurred in the eastbound lane. Eckstein Middle School has an enrollment of about 1,300 students and one of the largest number of bike-to-school programs.
With this in mind, a lot of drivers have commented on just how fast and dangerous NE 75th Street is during commute hours. Is NE 75th Street a 2 lane road or a 4 lane road? We’ve been given permission to share this email exchange about such concerns at NE 75th Street and 28th Ave NE from a nearby resident (Erin Kennedy) with SDOT staff, which is exceptionally sad in hindsight. Unfortunately, Ms. Kennedy’s concerns were all too true.
To: Erin Kennedy
CC: Reiner Blanco; William Burns
Subject: Responding t your workflow message (Intranet Quorum IMA00434967)
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 2010 13:31:44 -0800
Dear Ms. Kennedy:
Thank you for writing to the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) regarding your concerns with NE 75th Street. We appreciate you bringing this to our attention, as SDOT shares your concerns with wanting our street system to operate safely and efficiently for all users.
“Multiple lane street” means any street the roadway of which is of sufficient width to accommodate reasonably two (2) or more separate lanes of vehicular traffic in the same direction, each lane of which shall be no less than eight (8) feet in width, and whether or no such lanes are marked”
NE 75th Street in and around Wedgewood is of sufficient width on both eastbound and westbound t be considered a multiple lane street and able to accommodate two lanes in the same direction. However, the city does no typically mark two travel lanes when the traffic volumes along the street are relatively low. In this case, the traffic volumes along NE 75th are relatively low.
Some of the main factors that go into a decision about whether or no to mark a crosswalk are the characteristics of the roadway itself: features such as visibility, the number of lanes that pedestrians must cross, the proximity of the location in question to existing traffic signals, and the number of pedestrians who cross the street consistently at that location.
When marking a crosswalk, visibility is a crucial factor. If a driver cannot see a pedestrian because there is a curve in the road, a marked crosswalk will do little t improve the situation. In the case of 28th Avenue NE and NE 75th Street, the intersection is located in the middle of a hill which prevents drivers from seeing pedestrians and pedestrians who are crossing from seeing oncoming vehicles.
We generally find that on multi-lane roads with three or more lanes, a marked crosswalk alone without an accompanying traffic signal will do little to improve driver compliance or pedestrian safety. One of the main reasons is the risk of a multiple threat collision, a situation in which a driver in one lane stops for a pedestrian, but the driver in the next lane does not. We find that on busy streets the most beneficial improvements are either a reduction in the number of vehicle lanes or the installation of a traffic signal.
The location at 28th Avenue NE and NE 75th Street is located only a few blocks from the full traffic signal at 31st Avenue NE and NE 75th Street. The nearby presence of a traffic signal and the lack of strong pedestrian generators that would help provide consistent pedestrian traffic, suggest that this location is the preferred place to cross.
In summary, at this time we cannot recommend marking a crosswalk at this intersection. Although the legal responsibility of a driver is the same whether or no a crosswalk is marked or unmarked, the features at this particular intersection suggest that a marked crosswalk will no provide the benefit that pedestrians require in order to cross in comfort.
If you have any further questions or additional comments, please feel free t contact SDOT’s William Burns, Associate Civil Engineering Specialist, directly at (206) 684-5114 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Mr. Burns will be happy to assist you further.
Reiner Blanco, P.E.
Senior Civil Engineer
Seattle Department of Transportation
Subject: RE: Responding to your workflow message (Intranet Quorum IMA00434967)
From: Ms. Kennedy
CC: Reiner Blanco; William Burns
Thank you very much for your response. I appreciate the thought and consideration you put forth. I can understand why a cross walk would be dangerous being mid-hill. However, I think the bigger pedestrian and driver danger is that very few cars abide by the speed limit. Sooner or later, someone trying to cross the street is going to get hit by a car flying down the hill at 50mph. Is there anything to be done about speeders?