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Part of SDOT’s Broadway safety fix will also roll out across Seattle: a head start for walk signals

We gave the coming Broadway “all way walk” the headline but one of the safety improvements coming to the busy area around Capitol Hill Station will be part of a simple but hopefully effective change to pedestrian crossing signals across Seattle:

At intersections where the city knows accidents are likely, SDOT will preemptively add what Murray called “pedestrian-friendly signals” — walk signs that allow pedestrians into an intersection before drivers’ light turns green, giving walkers greater visibility — and traffic lights with left turn signals, which reduces conflicts between left-turning cars and pedestrians (or trucks) heading straight through an intersection. By adding leading pedestrian signals at 40 intersections citywide, Kubly said, the city expected to reduce crashes by 50 percent at those intersections.

After SDOT analysis, the re-timed signaling will be deployed at the busy Broadway/John/E Olive Way intersection to give pedestrians an advance walk signal before drivers get a green light. SDOT is also planning to add left turn lanes on John and E Olive Way to help better control vehicular traffic flow.

Dongho Chang, city traffic engineer, said pedestrian collision reports including near misses contributed to the decision. “Pedestrian-wise we hear about a lot of close misses,” Chang said.

The department found the majority of collisions were left-turn related from east and westbound drivers on Olive and John. Drivers heading north or south on Broadway didn’t experience many left turn collisions but did have a few rear-ending incidents.

SDOT is planning to implement the changes before summer.

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16 thoughts on “Part of SDOT’s Broadway safety fix will also roll out across Seattle: a head start for walk signals

  1. Maybe if the street one block south of John was opened to two way east/west traffic rather than being just one way east bound drivers might avoid this intersection more? I know I would.

  2. This crosswalk timing was put in at 14th and Madison a little while ago – it does not stop people from 1) running the red light, which they do with a surprising amount of regularity 2) getting impatient and honking when they see the walk signals turn and the person in front of them who is paying attention hasn’t moved… they aren’t looking at the light…

    It does help to and extent with drivers trying to crowd into the crosswalks when turning left and right as pedestrians have a bit of an opportunity to actually get out there before drivers.

    • Because we were taught to use the crosswalk symbol as an indicator when the light was going to change! For a system to work you actually need to teach people, constantly, about how the system works.

  3. Is anyone considering the environmental impact of this? One of the reasons for allowing right turn on red years ago was to reduce the amount of idling using gasoline powered engines – back in the 70’s the issue was fuel cost but of course burning extra fuel causes pollution. The extra idling time from this measure would have an impact, especially on delivery trucks. Most cars are still gasoline powered as well. Has the environmental impact been considered?

    Also, if we have right turn on red, will this actually be effective? Pedestrians already have right of way legally with the light at a controlled intersection, and we have a problem.

    I hope there’s actually evidence that this will indeed improve safety, not more wishful thinking by SDOT managers.

    • Good point. Right turn on red must be banned in conjunction with leading pedestrian intervals. The fuel savings have long since been made minuscule by advances in fuel efficiency, and the gains in pedestrian safety are much greater.

    • Pedestrians have the right of way whither it is a controlled intersection or not.

      Stop for pedestrians at intersections – Vehicles shall stop at intersections to allow pedestrians and bicycles to cross the road within a marked or unmarked crosswalk (RCW 46.61.235). See Washington’s Crosswalk Law for more information.

    • @Tim: I’m very pro-pedestrian, but you are very incorrect. RCW 46.61.230, the code directly proceeding RCW 46.61.235, specifically states that pedestrians are subject to a different set of rules in a controlled intersection and then specifically directs you to RCW 46.61.060, which deals with pedestrian right-of-way within controlled intersections/crosswalks. Marked and unmarked crosswalks/intersections are a whole different animal than controlled crosswalks/intersections.

      The tech crowd in SLU may act like they have right-of-way when crossing against a “don’t walk” signal, but they really don’t.

  4. I am all for no right on red at all intersections within the city limits.

    Right on red makes sense in suburban and rural areas, especially when lights were are still on timers and a driver might sit at a red with no other traffic in evidence for long periods.

    In the city there’s more often than not, not really even much opportunity to make a true legal right on red -First you have to stop – all the way and behind the crosswalk… then the intersection is supposed to be free of *any* traffic, even approaching it from *any* direction… how often does that actually happen… most times when you see someone make a right on red it is probably illegal anyway, but we just ignore that…

    Also, these days the systems that change the lights are usually way more sophisticated and change when they sense traffic, so sitting for very long periods of time at a timed light waiting for no one is mostly a thing of the past.

    • I disagree. “Right on red” significantly improves traffic flow. Without it, our already bad traffic would be a lot worse.

    • As I nearly always walk or cycle or bus in town – I don’t really care – in fact good…

      If you want to drive in the city traffic and having to wait for people who are not in cars, is one of the prices you pay. An average car trip on city streets gets you to where you are going at around 14 mph – speeding between stop signs and red lights and being impatient at turns doesn’t do anything but endanger people who are not in cars.

      I’m all for putting in all walks with absolutely no right on red in as many places as possible. Then people can turn and people can cross the street without putting pedestrians and drivers into conflict.

    • Bob K, I guarantee you that traffic in NYC (no ROR allowed) is not significantly worse (or worse at all, actually) than in central DC (ROR allowed). It is a lot more comfortable as a pedestrian and cyclist to walk/ride in NYC than DC because of this. It does not make things wonderful and much more than banning ROR is needed, but it would be a vast improvement.

    • A “no right on red” law makes a lot more sense in places like NYC, because the number of pedestrians crossing is much greater than in Seattle.

      Car/pedestrian accidents (and near misses) would be greatly reduced if only pedestrians would respect the “don’t walk” signal, and not enter the intersection if the red hand flashes. This law is widely ignored, especially on Capitol Hill where many people think their oh-so-valuable time is more important than safety.

  5. It’s not necessary to put no right hand turns on red in most of the city. But there are obviously some high pedestrian areas where they would aid safety–downtown and Capitol Hill for instance. If you are going to do that though… the all walks would be helpful. I something think people who live in the congested parts of town forget that all that stuff they order on Amazon, the people who repair and maintain the places where they live and so on can get downtown magically. Truth is they have to drive and so it behooves everyone to try to keep all traffic running as efficiently as possible.

    • I think it’s better to go all or nothing – I see tons of people make right on reds at the intersections that are signed NO right on red, because they aren’t paying any attention – not to the usually 3 or 4 signs that tell them… If all intersections were to be no then there wouldn’t be any excuse.

  6. I’m a little confused how this was considered a better option than just having an all-walk signal for pedestrian crossing, especially at busy intersections like John/Broadway. All-walk is safer for pedestrians, better for traffic flow, and relies less on driver attentiveness to differences like this delayed system.