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Friday, May 9, 2008

Getting Around Southeast Seattle

posted by on May 9 at 17:24 PM

Here’s a little light reading for your weekend: The Southeast (Seattle) Transportation Study (SETS), just released by the Seattle Department of Transportation for public review. I haven’t had time to read the 200-plus-page document thoroughly, but jumping ahead to the parts of most personal interest to me, I see a lot that’s encouraging and a few places where’s there’s room for improvement.

The city, it seems, has gotten the message that Rainier Ave. South is a death trap for bikers and pedestrians. With more than 600 collisions per year along a seven-and-a-half mile stretch of roadway, it’s one of the more dangerous streets in the city. (That’s despite the fact that it includes several supposedly pedestrian-friendly “urban villages”!) Fortunately, according to the report, traffic isn’t expected to get much heavier in the next 25 years.

Some exciting things in the plan:

Lots of new pedestrian signals along Rainier, where pedestrians frequently dart into traffic rather than walk several blocks to a signaled intersection.

New sidewalks, improved pedestrian overpasses, and realigned streets that should slow traffic.

If the recommendations are put in place as written in the plan, Rainier south of Edmunds will be reduced from four lanes to three, giving more room to cyclists and slowing cars that frequently tear at up to 50 mph through the neighborhood.

Now, the disappointments.

The plan doesn’t include proposals for any bike lanes or even sharrows on Rainier except south of Othello, at the north end of Rainier Beach—despite the fact that all the intersections with the highest rates bike and pedestrian/vehicle collisions are north of Othello (excluding the intersection of Othello and Rainier itself). The plan also recommends a “firm commitment to establishing “bike facilities” along Rainier south of Alaska Street, where Columbia City begins; but it proposes only “further study,” the same recommendation that’s in the city’s bike master plan. Given that the study repeatedly mentions the fact that “Many bicyclists use Rainier as it provides a nearly level grade and a direct route through the valley,” I would have liked to see something a little more ambitious than “further study needed.”

The plan does recommend some bike lanes leading up to Lake Washington Blvd., but no major new improvements on Lake Washington Blvd., a very heavily traveled bike corridor, itself. The city closes down Lake Washington Blvd. to cars from 9 to 6 six days during the summer, allowing bikers to ride free of threats from cars. Here’s a modest proposal: Why not close it to traffic year-round? If Lake Washington Blvd. were closed to cars (except, of course, emergency vehicles), it could serve more people, at less risk of accidents—and get the city out of having to build bike lanes on Rainier in the process.

RSS icon Comments


While most of us with cars don't mind LWB being closed for a few days each summer, closing it fulltime is just plain un-American.

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 9, 2008 5:31 PM

Yes, close Lake Washington Blvd. to traffic year-round. The city can install teleporters for access to houses/ businesses/ &etc.

Posted by umvue | May 9, 2008 6:04 PM

I was on the Rainier Valley Neighborhood Planning Committee when we asked for bike lanes the full length of Rainier, in 1995.

Can I get you something for that bloody forehead?

Posted by Grant Cogswell | May 9, 2008 6:20 PM

Does the plan account for dudes who simply walk out into traffic, slowly crossing the street while looking no-one in the eye and acting like they own the motherfucking road? Because that happens every time I drive down Rainier.

Posted by Argh | May 9, 2008 6:41 PM

Argh @4: dude, I hear you. But at least some of that could be fixed by adding more stops where pedestrians could cross. Half the time it's high school students darting across the road - and no, they're not the best at looking. I don't know that there's any way to deal with Drunken Staggering Guy, though.

Posted by ECB | May 9, 2008 7:05 PM

I would hardly call closing an entire road to motor vehicles a "modest" proposal.

Posted by joykiller | May 9, 2008 8:00 PM

Yeah good luck with closing LWB.

Posted by Dave Coffman | May 9, 2008 9:30 PM

there are over 600 collisions between peds and bikes a year - wow.

Posted by bob | May 10, 2008 7:38 AM

Lake Washington Blvd through the Arboretum is the only way to get from 520 to Capitol Hill without getting on the already overcrowded I-5 or waiting behind the horrendously slow traffic light at Montlake. I would rather not have to drive to work, but until this area gets a better public transportation system I have no other choice.

Posted by RainMan | May 10, 2008 8:31 AM

wow, the brave white folks migrating south with their bicycles find the hard realities of south seattle... at least think of the bright side: those thugs strolling across rainier (w/out looking both ways!!) and the teenagers cruising at 50 mph will be priced out of the urban villages soon enough!

Posted by oscar's mad | May 10, 2008 10:29 AM

It is great that SDOT is actulally doing something. Normally they just talk about how there just isn't enough money. Well, except to do improvements in wealthy politically connected neighborhoods.

Posted by Pedestrian | May 10, 2008 10:23 PM

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