Despite regular incidents at the intersection and complaints from people who live in the area, the City of Seattle says it isn’t making any changes to the crossing on E Pine at Boylston.
Earlier this month, CHS reported on another car vs. pedestrian incident on E Pine at Boylston. Last we heard, the elderly man who was struck survived the collision — the incidents we’ve reported over the years at the intersection haven’t, yet, involved a fatality. But along with 12th Ave near E Denny, there isn’t an area where we’ve reported more car vs. pedestrian incidents on the Hill.
It shouldn’t be news to the City of Seattle. A CHS reader provided us an email sent to the city last spring asking for the Seattle Department of Transportation to do something about the intersection. Here is the SDOT response:
Thank you for writing to the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) with your request for a traffic signal at the intersection of Pine Street and Boylston Avenue. I share your concern that our streets remain both safe and efficient environments for all modes of travel, whether that is vehicles, bicyclists, or pedestrians.
I visited this site and observed enough traffic that I feel a deeper investigation is merited. I have requested traffic and pedestrian data so that I may conduct an official traffic signal warrant study.
You may be interested to know how a signal request is evaluated. Consistent with federal guidelines, SDOT traffic engineers determine whether or not a location meets the established criteria for the installation of a signal based upon a number of characteristics. Essentially, the characteristics of the study include the physical features of the particular location, collision records, gaps in traffic, volumes of vehicles and pedestrians, as well as the proximity of other traffic signals.
Please keep in mind that it may take six weeks to collect the data as our crews are very busy right now. I will contact you with the results of the study when it is complete. If you would like to contact me in the meantime, I may be reached at or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Again, thank you for taking the time to write. I appreciate you bringing to my attention your concerns for this intersection.
Valerie Lee, P. E., Senior Traffic Signal Engineer
Seattle Department of Transportation
We sent the mail from SDOT’s Lee and information about the latest incident to SDOT to find out if plans had changed for Pine/Boylston. An SDOT rep tells us that the intersection just isn’t a good candidate for a traffic signal:
SDOT studied the intersection of Pine and Boylston for a possible traffic signal and found that it does not meet the criteria specified in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, federal guidance that we, and most jurisdictions, follow. For our study we reviewed the physical features of this location, volumes of vehicles and pedestrians, vehicle speeds, the collision history and proximity to other traffic signals. Installing a signal where one is not warranted can prevent the intersection from functioning efficiently, causing congestion and unnecessary delays as well as potentially increasing rear-end collisions.
SDOT’s Rick Sheridan goes on to say that the city is going to study the intersection for the potential of implementing an alternative plan to cut down on the number of incidents. “Although this location did not meet the criteria for a signal, SDOT will study the types and causes of the collisions that have occurred at this location and determine what other traffic devices or methods could improve safety here,” Sheridan writes.
He also reminds that the main cause of crashing into one another is, well, crashing into one another:
It should be noted that the main cause of collisions in Seattle is behavioral – failing to yield the right of way. Everyone who uses the roadway – motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians – can help prevent collisions by slowing down and appropriately yielding the right of way.
Meanwhile, on 12th Ave, progress is being made on a plan to study and create a safer street for pedestrians and bikers. The Capitol Hill Community Council has formed a committee to organize use of a grant to improve the street.
Mike Kent, who heads up the committee for the community council, says the 12th Ave effort could expand to include other trouble spots like Pine/Boylston.
“The 12th Avenue Initiative can certainly be an impetus for change in other parts of our neighborhood,” Kent said. “We have been working closely with officials from SDOT and the Department of Neighborhoods to make traveling on 12th Avenue safer for all — pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists — and I hope this project will help create a ‘road map’ for improving other parts of Capitol Hill.”
But, for now, the focus remains on 12th. It might take the efforts of anther organized group of citizens to bring change to E Pine. “It is definitely possible for a group of dedicated community members to come together to make a positive impact on their neighborhood and city at large,” Kent writes. “I would recommend that those who are concerned with dangerous crossings engage their neighbors, government agencies, and elected officials in a positive, forward-looking dialogue to identify practical solutions. There are several existing tools, such as Seattle’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plans and a variety of funding opportunities, available to those who want to improve the city around them.”