Dear SDOT: Please walk the walk! Don’t just talk about your commitment to safety!

Rapid Ride problem areas image

Only a year ago, SDOT’s head transportation engineer, Dongho Chang, cited City’s designs as harmful to people. While still at SDOT, Chang provided his perspective about the spike in pedestrian injuries on our roads. The explanation wasn’t just about the increase in population and heavier vehicles.

He understood that Seattle’s road design issues were leading to serious pedestrian injuries, “Our street design is harming people …conforming to the rules is hurting and killing people outside the vehicle in urban cities where people are the priority.”

The now WSDOT engineer has a similar wish as I and virtually every road safety advocate in Seattle. We want the City to walk the walk and execute on its promises. Don’t just tell people that the City prioritizes pedestrian safety. Show us by taking more traffic calming measures.  As Chang mentioned: “The alarming trend [in Washington] really highlights the fact that we need to think about how we ensure that if someone does make a mistake that it’s survivable.”

SDOT has talked a lot about the Seattle Transportation Plan, which now supersedes the Bike Master Plan (BMP) and other SDOT plans. Yet, its focus seems heavily shifted towards moving freight and cars. This is a red flag. Engineers should focus on what best protects pedestrian and bicyclists, along with drivers. “Excess traffic lanes” that encourage speeding, does not need to exist as “conditions dictated by engineering” (per Chang).

Washington law requires the City and every municipality in this state  to design, plan, construct and maintain roads that are reasonably safe for all travelers. Keller v. City of Spokane, 146 Wn.2d 237 (2002). SDOT owes a duty to provide well designed streets that prioritize pedestrian and bicyclist safety.  It is not for us to carry the burden of SDOT’s persistent application of outdated transportation engineering rules. Walk the walk, SDOT. More to come. #SDOT #WalkTheWalk #SaferSeattle #FlemingLawSeattle