Seattle recently reported its new and improved proactive approach to pedestrian safety (to use FHWA’s language. Below are excerpts of a 2020 City of Seattle Dept. of Transportation (SDOT) report:
…the number of overall traffic-related fatalities continues to trend downward. However, pedestrian and cyclist crashes have remained relatively steady. To meet
the growing demand while improving safety, the City developed the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Analysis (BPSA), a robust approach to modeling pedestrian and
bicyclist safety. [Emphasis added.]
BACKGROUND ON SEATTLE’S BPSA
The City of Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) first implemented the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Analysis (BPSA) in 2016 as a data-driven approach for understanding where, how, and why crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists happen. [Citation omitted.]
Phase 1 laid the foundation for conducting the statistical analysis. It included pedestrian and bicycle crash data from 2007 to 2014, as well as roadway, demographics, transit, lighting, traffic signal presence, and pedestrian and bicyclist volume data.
Note, however, a 2020 SDOT study includes the below graph, which seems to challenge its conclusion about pedestrian accidents remaining “relatively steady”.
Does SDOT’s graph here really show that Seattle is “holding steady” with pedestrian accidents? Hint: The orange line is spiking up.
Here’s what we are seeing at Fleming Law: Pedestrian injuries are growing at a rapid pace, even with the pandemic. Clients have come to us to represent them against negligent drivers, bicyclists, and cities. Cities and all Washington municipalities have a
…well-established duty to maintain their roadways in a condition safe for ordinary travel. This duty is not limited to the roadways themselves, and does not exempt municipalities from responsibility where the unsafe condition is caused by a roadside condition like vegetation or other sight obstructions. See e.g., Wuthrich v. King County, 91555-5 (Jan. 28, 2016).*
Municipalities are negligent when they fail to meet their duty to design, construct, and maintain roadways that are reasonably safe for all travelers in Washington State.
Important takeaway: When SDOT knows that major hazards for travelers arising from its design and construction of a road, an injured pedestrian (or bicyclist or driver) has a legal claim for damages against SDOT. As our own pedestrian/bicycle injury attorney Catherine Fleming has seen with her clients, recent designs have have led to catastrophic injuries, In particular, clients we represent have suffered as the result of unsafe road design and maintenance that include protected bike lanes, bus stops, and marked crosswalks.
While people continued to get hurt or killed because of unsafe roads in Seattle, we need SDOT to quicken its pace and intensify its focus to provide adequate means for all of us to get around this city.
* I am proud of my colleagues at my former firm, Keith Kessler and Ray Kahler, both in Hoquiam, WA, who helped cement the law on behalf of Mt. Wuthrich.