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City says signal light can’t help Capitol Hill intersection where yet another person hit

Crossing Pine at Boylston (Image: CHS)

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   

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

CHS has reported on incidents at the same location in January, in June of this year and multiple times in the past including this 2009 incident.

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.”


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43 thoughts on “City says signal light can’t help Capitol Hill intersection where yet another person hit

  1. I used to live a block from there (RIP Olive Crest Apartments) and I agree they need a light there. It’s crazy how people fly down that hill.

    And not to get anyone worked up, but the cyclists are the worst offenders. (full disclosure: I don’t have a bike OR a car. I have no dog in that ridiculous fight. I just know that I’ve been screamed at by some hotshot cyclist too many times when crossing Pine)

  2. SDOT is by far the most unresponsive/unhelpful City department. They seem to try hard to find bogus reasons NOT to solve a problem.

    This is a great example of how recalcitrant SDOT can be. From their statement, it seems they are more concerned about a little extra traffic congestion and rear-end collisions than they are about human life. I guess someone will have to be killed at the intersection to get them to act. Pathetic!

  3. I’m primarily a pedestrian and biker, and I agree a traffic light isn’t the solution. Putting a traffic light there doesn’t mean pedestrian collisions would go down. You can have just as many bad drivers running a light or failing to observe a jaywalker as you can have without the light. There are other better solutions. Like get the police to actually enforce the requirement that cars yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk. Or, if SDOT wants to spend some money, install some of those flashing dots in the crosswalk that light up when a walker presses a button at the side of the road. That’d be better than a traffic light.

  4. agreed! i can’t tell you the number of times i try and cross at pine and belmont, having stepped off the curb, inching my way toward traffic, with drivers looking right at me, and a line of three to five motorists not bothering to stop. the answer is education and enforcement. have spd sit some motorcycle cops along that route two or three days a month for a couple of months and i guarantee motorists will start yielding the right of way.

    oh, and motorists, hang up the phone. that’s against the law as well and i hear the fines are going up for that offense. maybe then you can pay attention to your duty as a licensed pilot of a potential killing machine.

  5. i think what we need is a community letter to the mayor’s office. if laura stockwell can get the mayor off his rear to discuss the condition of cal anderson park, maybe we pedestrians of the hill can get him to walk pike/pine and realize sdot has some work to do in the neighborhood.

  6. Both on Capitol Hill:
    Just this weekend I got honked at for stopping for a pedestrian, who happened to be a uniformed police officer crossing to another police car. They were responding to a call, so they couldn’t do anything about the other driver.

    Almost a year ago, I was rear-ended by a driver when I stopped for a family already in the street. The other driver, from Auburn, didn’t believe it was a law to stop and was pissed I didn’t run the little kids and mom down. The cops wouldn’t come to the accident since no one was hurt.

    There needs to be much more traffic calming on the Hill. Few of its arterial streets are engineered and designed for a car to safely drive over 30 if they were completely empty. Obviously there are pedestrians, bicyclists, and parked cars on every block. But try driving under 35-40…

  7. Disagree!

    Having SPD stake that area out for awhile would only help for awhile. There will always be drivers moving through there who don’t know about any SPD sting in the past and will continue to fail to yield. And, while we are waiting for all drivers to be “educated,” injury and death will occur there. Anyone who drives a vehicle already knows you’re supposed to stop for a pedestrian at a marked crosswalk (or any intersection, for that matter), but a certain percentage will continue to be selfish and blow past without a care.

    What we need is a stoplight. Yes, occasionally, a motorist will drive through the light, but that happens alot less frequently than ignoring a pedestrian at a crosswalk or intersection.

  8. Amen.

    Correction to the title of this post: Signal light would most likely help dangerous intersection, but SDOT cares more about serving volumes of cars.

    I stopped sending SDOT messages about intersections that need some fix (for pedestrians and cyclists) since they always respond with some BS about MUTCD standards not allowing them to do so. As if their hands are tied by those standards.

    City DOTs have the ability to ignore MUTCD recommendations; these guys just choose not to because the recommendations, written by traffic engineers, serve car traffic well. When all the rules are written to benefit car traffic, it is no surprise that pedestrians and bicyclists take matters into their own hands. Unfortunately, to most, that makes us at fault when a car runs into us…

  9. I completely agree, but drivers who fail to yield is a national problem, not just on the hill. I drive AND walk across that intersection daily, and it makes me nervous as hell to do both. I think the key for everyone, drivers and peds alike, is to just slow down and really observe what’s going on when you approach. If you’re driving, for the love of God, slow down. People will be coming out from behind parked cars, how else do you expect them to get to the corner?

  10. I was hit on a bike in this interestection. From a guy that worked at Mama’s pizza. He didin’t even stop at the stop line then the manger at the restaurant came out and started to yell at me because he has a “job” to do. I will never eat at Mama’s again, after that. It’s sad that this intersection is so unsafe. There are so many pedestrians crossing there, a light may help. Maybe they could hire full time crossing guards.

  11. I live on Thomas Street and often cross Broadway in my car. That intersection has a traffic light and crosswalk signals. I can’t tell you how many times…actually the majority of the time when I have a green light pedestrians are mindlessly walking in front of me against the light, usually not even bothering to look up to notice the walk/don’t walk sign. I’m not talking about those who are trying to beat the light or think it’s clear and take the chance, I mean people who blindly step into the street texting on their phones or chatting with friends. Safety is a shared responsibility, not just on the driver.

  12. Don’t want to get run over? Then don’t step out in traffic expecting them yield. Wait for it to clear, take your time and be safe. If you were really in a hurry, you’d own a car.

  13. Just one block over, at Boylston and Pike, is a great example of how to fix this. It is a very clearly marked pedestrian crossing, with signs on both sides of the road, and most importantly, a lighted sign hanging over the road that says Cross Walk. When you’re driving through this intersection, it clearly says you need to slow down and watch for peds. I prefer this to a regular traffic signal, which also slows down peds.

  14. The Pine/Pike corridor is scary even as a driver. I only use it maybe once or twice a month at most, but during the day its a chaos of city life. But, the worst times are going east in the morning. The sun is shining right in your eyes and you can’t see jack squat leaving you to drive at 10mph. Combine with Cap Hill’s patented “crosswalk means don’t look” pedestrians, and the mix of polite and “I’m on a bike asshole, so you better watch out for me” cyclists and you have a volatile mix that I’m surprised isn’t lethal already.

    A light at Boylston would probably help a lot. But, only if the pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers actually acknowledge and obey it.

  15. This may seem somewhat counter-intuitive, but traffic calming doesn’t help much in a congested area with low speed limits and lots of pedestrian traffic. What Capitol Hill needs is better visibility of pedestrians at intersections and more efficient traffic flow.

    Curb bulbs are a big help, since they remove a couple cars right at the edge of the intersection and make the space to walk across shorter. Pull ins for buses (I think this is the main issue at this intersection) so other frustrated drivers don’t whip out from behind the buses at high speed also help.

    There are a handful of intersections, mostly along Pike and Broadway, where all-way walk might be a reasonable approach.

  16. First of all, the latest accident was the result of the driver being blinded by the setting sun and simply not seeing the pedestrian. There’s no indication the driver simply decided to ignore the traffic laws and intentionally mow someone down.

    Second, any pedestrian who is run over in the street is just being careless, plain and simple. Forget about right of way – one should never ever ever ever step in front of moving traffic, or at least never step in front of a driver who hasn’t given you clear indication that he sees you. Follow that simple rule, and you won’t get hit.

    As a pedestrian, I’ve watched more than a few cars go by without yielding. Honestly, I’m happy to let them go by, and I have no problem waiting a few seconds to safely cross when the street is clear.

  17. If the cops and the city won’t slow drivers down, I suggest big orange waking sticks with flags on them for crossing the street. Why a big orange stick instead of a standard little flag? I feel the big stick might help put a dent in the unyielding / speeding problem in Seattle. This town is getting more and more rude and obnoxious with every new yuppy that moves in and a lot of this unfortunate bad behavior happens when they are driving.
    Nothing looks better than a dented, scratched or broken BMW.

  18. So, people are getting hurt here. People are speeding here. Drivers are aggressive or unattentive here. There is a great amount of pedestrian traffic here. Eastide drivers drunkenly drive through here every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday – and inevetiably end up either trying to essentially push pedestrians out of the crosswalk or just plain old speed around then while they are in the roadway (in direct violation of RCW and SMC statutes). Don’t even get me started about the idiots that park in the bike lanes too…..

    The city’s response? “We don’t care. Not in a car? Deal with it.”

    I am so disappointed with SDOT right now, and with SPD for not trying to, you know, enforce the laws around this stretch of Pine.

  19. unless of course, if you are under the poverty level, or you know, live in the most densely populated area in three states.

    It’s okay for drivers to rush and kill or assault people because they have to make it to Taco Bell for “fourth meal.” Give me a break. If you feel so entitled that you need to break two laws (speeding and not yeilding to people who are usually already in the roadway), then you are clearly not responsible enough to drive and should have your license revoked.

    By the way, I know it’s fun to exaggerate, but most pedestrians are smart enough to try not to get killed. I live right near this intersection and have actually sat on multiple occasions and watched as drivers who are crossing Harvard as pedestrians are stepping into the Boylston/Pine intersection still somehow manage to not even think of slowing down as they approach this intersection/human lives in this intersection. The problem? Entitlement and this made up feeling that drivers are having their rights taken away by people who aren’t in cars that want to live just a little bit longer.

    First thing that needs to be done in this area would be to reduce the speed limit. Second, education. Third, enforcement (tickets for everyone breaking the law. Even the pedestrians that actually do ((pedestrians that are probably drunkly stumbling back to their suburban bound cars)) ).

  20. First of all: thanks to CHS for bringing this to the City’s attention, and for getting more folks talking about it!

    I agree with many of the other posters that there are solutions which may work better than a traffic signal. Flashing lights, warning signs, bumps in the road, etc. would probably do the trick. The intersection does need some sort of a safety improvement, and it’s up to us to work with the good folks at the City to get it done.

  21. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an area with so many people lacking in common sense.

    You want to cross a street with a cross walk. Do you:

    A. Walk out in that cross walk without looking to see if any cars are coming. Because.

    B. Look both ways, and if clear, then cross the street

    Obviously a lot of people in Seattle choose A.

  22. I was hit by a Hot Mama’s delivery guy too … he rear ended me at an intersection on Union as I was stopped for pedestrians crossing a marked crosswalk. He was going so fast he pushed my car through the intersection and totalled my car. Physically, I’ve not recovered and it’s been 4 years now.

  23. Jo, It is not only common sense for an automobile driver to always stop for a human being (anywhere!) it is the law that cars must stop for pedestrians at all intersections with or without crosswalks. The burden is on drivers to operate their car safely and to yield to all non-auto traffic. I implore you and all other folks who are aggravated by non-auto presences in the roadway to ask yourself where it is that you are going so quickly that warrants you potentially hitting another human with your car?

  24. @TheMisanthrope

    “Cap Hill’s patented “crosswalk means don’t look” pedestrians” and “the mix of polite and “I’m on a bike asshole, so you better watch out for me” cyclists”

    i like how you have a stereotype for everyone but motorists. so let me help you out: the typical “i’m not from the hill but need to get through it (or to a bar on it) in a hurry and i pay taxes to own this road so my private, single-passenger-self car has the right of way as i say this to my buddy via the cell phone i’m using while driving 5-10 mph above the speed limit” motorist.

  25. Ahh, the infamous Seattle Self-Righteous Attitude

    I’m at a cross walk. I can cross the street and make a car stop and wait for me, costing the driver 30 seconds. Or I can wait another five seconds for the car to pass.

    Is it not common sense for the pedestrian to let the car go?

  26. @jo

    let me fix your reply:

    “Ahh, the infamous Seattle Self-Righteous Attitude

    I’m driving in my car. I can drive wherever I want because I own the road and don’t know the law that says I’m supposed to stop for pedestrians at an intersection because I can’t be bothered with educating myself and why would I want to cost myself 10 seconds while I allow the pedestrian, with the legal right to the intersetion, the chance to cross?

    Is it not common sense for the motorists to obey the rules of the road?”

    there you go!

  27. “I’m driving in my car. I can drive wherever I want because I own the road and don’t know the law that says I’m supposed to stop for pedestrians at an intersection because I can’t be bothered with educating myself and why would I want to cost myself 10 seconds while I allow the pedestrian, with the legal right to the intersetion, the chance to cross?”

    Actually…walk with the attitude that you can cross wherever and whenever you want and you’ll get a jaywalking ticket in about a week.

    The problem with Seattle is that there are too many cross walks and nimwits lacking common sense. Go to any other major city in this country and you’d get run down by a car. Believe it or not Seattle drivers are about as polite as you’ll find in this country.

    For as much as people want Seattle to be a big city or think they’re “living in the city” there’s an awful amount of small city mentality here. Expecting cars to stop “because it’s the law” is just part of the mentality.

  28. @zeebleoop

    Oh, sorry, didn’t mean to leave out the drivers. I would put them as “I can’t be bothered to wait for your ass to cross the street, so you better not be there when I go by” drivers.

    Also, I’m a Cap Hill resident who only drives for his commute (due to no bus being around my place of work). I’m otherwise a pedestrian (though, not a cyclist), and these are observations mainly made while walking.

    What category do you fall into? I can guess.

  29. I am a pedestrian & I use public transit. I hate drivers & am often endangered by unruly cyclists – tho I know many who are not – & I agree that SDOT is useless. WE the people need to make those buckets & get the florescent orange flags & make it a bit more visible. The flashing lights activated by a pad you step on need to be installed at this & several other sites on Capitol hill. Stop cramming more condos full of SUV drivers onto the Hill & killing/injuring those of us who have adapted to urban life!

  30. Orange flags? Yea, those would last about 30 minutes before someone walks off with them.

    Let me get this straight:

    If you’re a pedestrian you hate drivers and cyclists

    If you’re a driver you hate pedestrians and cyclists

    If you’re a cyclist you hate drivers and pedestrians

    Adapting to urban life = learning how to cross the street by looking both ways before crossing

  31. One thing I’ve found to work is pushing a shopping cart full of rocks, most drivers know that there won’t be any significant charges if they hit a pedestrian and they don’t tend to stop for pedestrians in the cross walk. I had this happen daily when I was in San Jose on business and got a bit irritated, but once I started pushing the shopping cart with the boulders in it, people stopped and if they didn’t they hit the cart.

  32. @TheMisanthrope

    “What category do you fall into? I can guess.”

    you’d likely be wrong. i too am a cap hill resident and i drive only when i need to do a lot of shopping at fred meyer or target (when’s that downtown target opening again?).

    my category is, “guy from a large city who walks fast, keeps looking around for what others are doing, be they car, bike or other ped, who knows when to bend a law but isn’t stupid enough to walk in front of a car, even in a marked intersection, when it’s clear that car has no intention of stopping – which is increasingly becoming most of the time.”

  33. Misha-

    Just for your information, the crosswalk at Pike and Boylston did have flags provided by SDOT. As you can now see, those didn’t last too long and now the buckets which held them are being used as garbage cans (except that they’re not emptied by the city). Also, regarding the pressure activated pad: the ones that SDOT installed around downtown and the waterfront proved to be a maintenance headache so that option is likely a no-go.

    Remember as we are screaming for more pedestrian safety that our government is being hit hard in this economic times. Improvements are going to be few and far between and we as a community we need to step up and look out for one another-motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists alike.

  34. This really cracks me up! I have a vision of many pedestrians pushing shopping carts filled with rocks all over the streets of Capitol Hill. Seems kind of inconvenient, to say the least.

    And, where did you get your cart? Stolen from the local QFC?

    P.S. Perhaps your comment is a little joke?

  35. Tell that to all of the Eastsiders that come here every weekend and drunk drive all over the place or yell/assault gay couples/park their hummers in no parking zones/throw up on my stoop/cram themselves into Linda’s and think it’s cool or “urban.” They also enjoy just yelling. Literally, they just yell. No words, just noises.

    Appreciate that this is a neighborhood. It’s not drunken Disneyland.

    Also, you obviously know absolutely nothing about this neighborhood. Not everyone is a hipster. In fact, most of us are just normal people who have jobs or go to school or even have families. None of us appreciate being woken up at 3 am on a Tuesday to screams of “Where’s the carrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr?????!!!!! I love to danceeeeee!!!!! I need a bathroooooooomm!!!! EEEEEEE AHHHH”

  36. See, this is a useful version of the bucket-of-flags plan. We could paint the cart of rocks orange and merely push them across the intersection, leaving them for the next person to cross the other way.