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Rest of Seattle set to join Capitol Hill with 25 MPH speed limits as traffic deaths rise

The rest of the city is about to join Capitol Hill’s core and downtown with 25 MPH speed limits on arterial streets. The lower speeds were implemented here in 2016. They have not done enough.

Citing a troublesome rise in dangerous collisions, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced plans Tuesday for the expanded citywide limits plus more crossings that give pedestrians a head start, more red light traffic cameras, and a new Major Crash Review Task Force “which will convene a panel of experts to analyze every serious and fatal collision” in Seattle.

“We must make our sidewalks and roads safe for everyone – too many of our residents have lost their lives in traffic incidents, often the most vulnerable. That is unacceptable,” Durkan said. “We are rolling out a series of investments and changes we know will work to improve safety in our City and help all our residents feel safe getting where they need to go.”

In addition to the new speed limits and more signs added over the next 18 months, SDOT will also double the number of intersections with “leading pedestrian interval safety enhancements” to 250 by the end of 2020. “These intersections give pedestrians a few seconds head start before cars get a green light, making pedestrians in crosswalks more visible,” the announcement reads. The city says the head starts can reduce the number of people hit by cars by 60%.

SDOT also plans to add cameras to five school zones and double the city’s red light cameras. SPD will provide “1,200 additional hours of enforcement on high-injury streets focused on giving warnings and driver education.”

“Patrols will monitor intersections and bike lanes to discourage unsafe practices by drivers,” the city promises.

Seattle’s 2020 budget includes $20 million for Vision Zero projects on Highland Park Way, Boren Ave, Rainier Ave S, and MLK Jr Way.

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways called the efforts “excellent and long overdue.”

“We see today’s announcement as a tremendous step in the right direction,” executive director Gordon Padelford said. We will continue our work until every neighborhood is a great place to walk, bike and live — where no one loses their life or is seriously injured trying to get to where they need to go.”

The Seattle Times reports 25 traffic related deaths in 2019 — one of the worst years in the city this decade as annual totals for crashes and injuries remains stubbornly steady despite increase safety spending.


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15 thoughts on “Rest of Seattle set to join Capitol Hill with 25 MPH speed limits as traffic deaths rise

  1. The money spent on replacing all the signs might be better spent in getting SPD to enforce the laws that are already present. As with the existing laws that aren’t enforced and therefore are ineffective, these too will suffer the same fate: drivers (primarily) and cyclists will operate with no fear of law enforcement on the roads.

  2. AbleDanger is right. Every day I see cars blow through red lights, and often I have to thread narrow spaces between cars as I go through the crosswalk as so many have chosen to pull into it because they are in such a hurry, blocking pedestrians. And while I wait for the bus on Broadway almost everyone in a car is looking down at a phone or doing something with it. Laws that aren’t vigorously enforced are vigorously disregarded.

  3. As others wrote, enforcement is the main thing that matters. I don’t know if doubling red light cameras and 1,200 hours of additional traffic enforcement (equivalent to one person for six months for the entire city) will make any difference. That seems small compared to the scope of the problem.

    The problem isn’t the people who obey the existing speed limits and try hard to obey traffic laws. The problem is the 20% or so of drivers who ignore the traffic laws routinely. It doesn’t help that people see the lack of enforcement, which encourages more people to disregard traffic laws too.

    • I agree that enforcement is what matters most here, but changing the speed limit sets a new precedent, making speeding tickets more expensive and allowing SDOT to design roads for 25mph instead of 35mph. I hope that this will enable narrower lanes and smaller intersections, which, in turn, would allow for more bike facilities, wider sidewalks, curb bulbs, etc.

      Imagine if SDOT had redesigned 23rd and 24th ave for 25 mph. We might have actually ended up with a safe result with good pedestrian crossings and roads that don’t need extra-grippy treatment so that cars don’t go flying off of them.

  4. This is pointless without enforcement and continuing enforcement. The issue is not that drivers cannot safely navigate arterials at 30 or even 35 mph, but that it is rare that anyone is even going that slow, much less 25…… 45 even 50 isn’t uncommon and until/unless those folks start getting ticketed that won’t change just because new signs are put up.

  5. “Patrols will monitor intersections and bike lanes to discourage unsafe practices by drivers,” the city promises.

    Hahahaha…there is no enforcement. Maybe the Mayor or Sawant will read this and get a reality check. We live near TT Minor/International School and getting across Union from the CD to go to Trader Joe’s or Madison Market is scary. We have asked for a lighted crosswalk numerous times, but get nothing. People fly up this hill at well over 40 MPH with no consequence and we will have to simply sit and wait until someone gets hit and hurt or killed. The signs are a waste of money. Seriously!…when was the last time you saw traffic enforcement in Seattle. With the rise of the TNCs, it has gotten even worse.

    • seriously – I’ve lived N of Union for over 20 years and can count on one hand the # of times I’ve seen a cop pull anyone over for speeding. Just tonight I was almost hit while walking my dog through the interesction at 19th and Union w the blinking light crosswalk. Speed, poorly lit streets, inattentive drivers – walking in the Central Area is often so stressful and dangerous.

  6. My favorite part: ‘SDOT will also double the number of intersections with “leading pedestrian interval safety enhancements” to 250 by the end of 2020.’ I’d love to thank the mind that originally came up with this idea. So simple, yet so effective.

    • This I can agree with. The intersection up by Trader Joes is much safer now that left turning cars aren’t able to try to race pedestrians. People can still be morons though. Just last night I had someone pass me on my left because I dared wait until the people crossing were actually in the furthest lane. People that impatient just need to stop driving…..

  7. Seattle has always been lazy and cheap when it comes to determining proper speed limits. The previous blanket policy of 30 on arterials and 25 on non-arterials didn’t make any more senses than the new policy (BTW, what differentials an arterial from a non-arterial?) Each street, or at least each arterial, should be evaluated to determine the appropriate top speed, based on road design, condition, and surroundings.

    The other problem with a blanket lowering of speed limits is that the safe, attentive, accident-free drivers who formerly followed the speed limit will be just as safe, attentive, and accident-free as the follow the new, lower limit. The speeders, texters, and drunks will continue to speed, text, and drink.

    Some speed limits should probably be lowered. A few could probably be higher. If speed limits in Seattle made sense based on street design and surroundings, drivers might be more likely to obey them.

  8. It’s a multifaceted issue. Uber, Lyft and delivery drivers stopping in the middle of the street. A lack of protected lefthand turn lanes for cars leads to exceedingly long waits for those stuck being the turning car. Pedestrians crossing everywhere with no consideration for drivers. Cyclist doing whatever the hell they want.

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