While Seattle is one of the country’s safest major cities for pedestrians, we’re not yet at the city’s goal of eliminating pedestrian deaths and major injuries. Where are bike and pedestrian injuries happening? Here are some of the hot spots around the city.
Seattle is one of the safest cities in the country for pedestrians.
A study released earlier this year by Smart Growth America, a national advocacy organization, found Seattle to be the eighth-safest metro area for pedestrians in the country — out of the 104 largest — based on pedestrian fatalities and adjusted for population and how likely people are to walk to work.
Still, Seattle’s not at its goal announced in 2015 of zero pedestrian deaths or serious injuries. The city had five pedestrian and three bicyclist deaths last year, a significant decline from years past, but “eight more than the city and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) wants to see,” spokeswoman Mafara Hobson said.
By comparison, Nashville, which has a similar population to Seattle and has adopted a similar “Vision Zero” campaign to eliminate pedestrian deaths, had 50 pedestrian and bicyclist deaths in 2016. Washington, D.C., and Portland, both with slightly smaller populations than Seattle, had 26 and 13 deaths, respectively, in 2016.
Over the past 10 years, about 4,500 pedestrians were hit by cars in Seattle, according to a Seattle Times analysis of city data. The overwhelming majority resulted in injuries.
There were nearly 3,800 collisions between cars and bicycles over the same period.
Traffic Lab is a Seattle Times project that digs into the region’s thorny transportation issues, spotlights promising approaches to easing gridlock, and helps readers find the best ways to get around. It is funded with the help of community sponsors Alaska Airlines, CenturyLink, Kemper Development Co., Sabey Corp., Seattle Children’s hospital and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. Seattle Times editors and reporters operate independently of our funders and maintain editorial control over Traffic Lab content.
Collisions happen all over the city, but there are hot spots where they happen most often. Sometimes they’re obvious: Collisions happen where the most people are. Pike Street, one of the city’s most foot-trafficked streets, has been a frequent site of pedestrian collisions.
But sometimes it seems that street design, rather than just the number of people, can contribute to collisions. The area just south of the University Bridge, a busy intersection but not one of the city’s most trafficked, has more bike-car collisions than any other place in the city.
Here are the intersections that have tallied the most injuries and deaths from collisions involving pedestrians and bicyclists from 2008 through May 2017, according to SDOT data.
• Fifth Avenue and Spring Street — 20 injuries since 2008.
Right next to the Seattle Public Library, this intersection has had some improvements in recent years, with a couple more planned. The city has installed a red-light camera and has moved the traffic lights on Fifth from the sidewalk to overhead, where they are more visible.
There are long-term plans to do the same with the lights on Spring.
• Fifth and Pike Street— 18 injuries.
A hot spot of pedestrian activity, at the heart of downtown.
• Third Avenue and Pike — 15 injuries.
This pedestrian and transit hub is just a couple of blocks from Pike Place Market. Twenty-eight bus routes stop at this intersection, meaning a constant flow of passengers.
• Broadway East and East Olive Way— 14 injuries.
Several weeks ago SDOT upgraded the signal here so the walk sign comes on before drivers get a green light. This gives pedestrians a chance to get out in the middle of the intersection, where they’re more visible to turning drivers.
• 12th Avenue and East Madison Street — 14 injuries.
This is somewhere between a five- and six-way intersection, with 12th, Madison and Union streets all converging at a Ferrari dealership.
It will get an overhaul by late 2019 when Madison becomes a Bus Rapid Transit route. SDOT got more than 350 public comments on how to improve the intersection for bikes and pedestrians, Capitol Hill Seattle Blog reported.
Proposed changes include curb bulbs to make crossings shorter, extended bike lanes and more restrictions on turning vehicles.
• Boren Avenue and Pike— 13 injuries.
An intersection with steep hills in all directions, right at the nexus of downtown and Capitol Hill. The intersection has a newly installed red-light camera and will see changes as part of the upcoming Convention Center expansion project.
• Roosevelt Way Northeast and Northeast 45th Street— 12 injuries.
The city added a protected bike lane to this intersection in early 2015, and more changes are coming before the Roosevelt RapidRide bus line is scheduled to open in 2021.
Gordon Padelford, executive director for Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, which advocates for safe streets: “Really suburban land use on three corners, lots of driveways. You just have a lot of people turning and people turning into driveways and coming out of driveways. That’s a really intimidating intersection to walk across and a really important one, especially once light rail comes to the U District. You’re going to have a lot of folks walking over to get to the light-rail station.”
• University Way Northeast and Northeast 50th Street — 12 injuries.
Padelford: “You either have a yellow blinking arrow or you’re allowed to turn left as long as no one else is coming. Permissive left turns are often problematic for pedestrian safety.”
• Denny Way and Stewart Street — 12 injuries.
This one’s been a problem for a while. It had the most pedestrians struck of any Seattle intersection back in 1970 and it remains largely the same. In an unscientific survey, the website The Urbanist recently named it Seattle’s worst intersection. SDOT recently ended traffic on a short block of Yale Avenue North, which previously fed into the intersection.
Andres Salomon, safe-streets advocate: “Stewart is four lanes in one direction. If you were to ask me, ‘What’s the most efficient way to kill a bunch of pedestrians?’ I would tell you to create a bunch of one-way arterials with four-plus lanes in a densely populated area. Unfortunately, these are a lot of our downtown streets.”
Ahmed Darrat, SDOT traffic-signal manager: “We closed one of the legs of Yale and we added a protected turn, and we’ve seen a reduction in collisions since 2014.”
Eight people were injured here from 2008 through mid-2014; there have been four since.
• Fifth Avenue South and South Jackson Street — 10 injuries, one fatality.
Right across from a light-rail stop, this transit hub also functions as the unofficial gateway to the Chinatown International District.
The intersection was reviewed last spring and SDOT found that 60 percent of car-pedestrian incidents were a result of pedestrians crossing against the light. Turning restrictions were added several years ago during construction of the First Hill Streetcar.
• Eastlake Avenue East and Fuhrman Avenue East — 14 injuries from collisions since 2008.
The most dangerous spot for cyclists in Seattle is the southern end of the University Bridge.
Salomon: “Eastlake is terrible, whether by bike or foot I go out of my way to avoid it. This crossing in particular is a 75-foot crossing with five lanes to cross. Traffic volumes are high, turning radii is bad and Fuhrman is at an angle. The 4-foot-wide bike lanes are a joke and its easy for turning drivers to not see people in those bike lanes.”
Kelsey Mesher, policy manager Cascade Bicycle Club, rounded up comments from her colleagues: “People biking are at risk of right hooks, left hooks and people taking free right runs off Fuhrman … That’s a lot of potential conflicts.”
Darrat: “We’ve installed a green crosswalk for bikes to attract more attention, we’re looking to see if that has helped.”
• Second and University Street — 12 injuries, one fatality.
One of several Second Avenue intersections clustered on this list, SDOT completed a two-way protected bike lane on Second in September 2014.
Just weeks before the bike lane was finished, a 31-year-old attorney and new mother was killed here while riding to work. There have been two injuries here since the bike lane was completed.
• Troll Avenue and North 34th Street — 12 injuries.
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Cyclists coming off the Fremont Bridge and heading east on the Burke-Gilman Trail spend a couple blocks on North 34th Street before linking up with the trail. Nearby development has had an impact here and there were two car-bike collisions in 2016.
Salomon: “The bike lane is currently closed for construction … There have been an awful lot of sidewalk closures here as well, with people just walking in the bike lane or in the road.”
SDOT is currently installing a traffic signal here, Darrat said.
• Northeast 45th Street near First Avenue Northeast — 12 injuries.
Bicyclists headed east are cruising as they come to the bottom of a hill and cross in front of Dick’s Drive-in, with lots of cars turning in and out.
Cascade Bicycle Club: “Westbound bikers have a sharrow [a road marking with arrows and a picture of a bike, much disdained by bike advocates as insufficient], and no shoulder room at all: only room for parked cars and traffic.”
SDOT made some signage changes in the area in 2014 but doesn’t have enough data to know if it’s made a difference yet. It’s been the site of two bike-car collisions here since mid-2014.
• Melrose Avenue and Pine Street — 12 injuries.
Cascade Bicycle Club: “Drivers getting on and off Interstate 5 at Olive Way create a very clogged intersection. No protected lefts plus downhill grade for westbound Pine, plus Pine bends south right after the intersection. Making a left from Melrose onto Pine here is very dicey as a cyclist.”
SDOT added a green bicycle crosswalk here in 2015; two car-bike collisions have happened since.
• Boylston Avenue and East Pine — 12 injuries.
Cascade Bicycle Club: “Heavy traffic of all types, this is the preferred Capitol Hill to downtown route for bikers.”
SDOT installed an overhead crosswalk sign here in 2012 and a green crosswalk for bikes in 2014.
• Second between Union and Pike — 12 injuries.
There have been six injuries here since the 2nd Avenue bike lane was completed in September 2014, almost all of them at a driveway where a parking garage intersects with the bike lane.
• 15th Avenue Northeast and Northeast Pacific Street— 12 injuries.
Just a half block south of the Burke-Gilman Trail, on the University of Washington campus.
Salomon: “Sight lines are terrible and speeds are fast … a raised crosswalk would help immensely here.”
Cascade Bicycle Club: “High volumes of pedestrians, student bicyclists, commuters and car traffic — lots of mixing … no restricted right turns across the crosswalk.”
• Dexter Avenue North near Ward Street— 10 injuries.
Before the construction of the protected bike path on Westlake Avenue North, Dexter was (and to some extent still remains) a major route for bike commuters heading toward downtown from neighborhoods north of the Ship Canal, like Ballard, Fremont and Wallingford.
Cascade Bicycle Club: “People crossing into bike lanes without checking for people on bicycles. Parked cars … opening car doors into bike lanes without checking. Heavy commuter and car traffic.”
• Second between University and Union — 10 injuries.
Three injuries have occurred here since the protected bike lane on Second Avenue was completed in September 2014, all of them at a driveway where the parking garage under Benaroya Hall intersects with the bike lane.