Neighbors Tired of South-End Speedways, Want Safer Streets

Neighbors Tired of South-End Speedways, Want Safer Streets

“He Said/She Said” highlights some of the most vigorous civil debates that take place in the Go: South Seattle Comment section. The dialogue that occurs here between friends, neighbors and engaged citizens is one of the features that makes GSS such a valuable community resource. GSS does not necessarily endorse the opinions expressed.

Last week, seven people were injured when an out-of-control SUV that witnesses say had been traveling upwards of 50 mph plowed into a Columbia City hair salon.

The incident came just six months after another Columbia City business was damaged in a similar incident. In that case, there were no injuries when a nail salon was hit after two cars collided in the intersection at Rainier Avenue South and South Edmunds Street — exactly one block north of last Thursday’s incident, which left the Carol Cobb Salon and Grecian Delight restaurant at Rainier and South Ferdinand Street severely damaged.

The latest crash has many local residents eager to tame the speedways that are Rainier Avenue South and MLK, Jr. Way through the Rainier Valley. To that end, neighbors have organized a “Cross ‘Walk-In’ for safe streets” planned for this Fri., Sept. 5, from 4:30 to 5:30 pm at Rainier Avenue South and South Ferdinand Street.

“It’s time to show public support for slowing traffic on Rainier Avenue,” said Columbia City resident and business owner Shelley Morrison. “This accident will fade like all of the others, but not if we show SDOT we want changes.”

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) also has a neighborhood traffic safety meeting planned for Wed., Sept. 17, at 6:30 pm at the Rainier Community Center (4600 38th Ave. S.) in Columbia City.

Traffic and pedestrian safety along the area’s most heavily traveled thoroughfares have long been an issue of concern for readers, as evidenced by this sampling of comments dating back more than five years:

SE Res: I live on Willow and travel Rainier most days, either to I-90 to work or to the store. It’s frustrating that at 6 or 6:30am there are cops patrolling for speed and handing out tickets but any other time, you don’t see them. Even in Columbia City where there are lots of pedestrians, and lots of stop lights you see drivers acting like Rainier is a freeway, speeding and running red lights. As a pedestrian it’s frustrating that crossing at the light takes sooooo long because the lights are timed to allow traffic on Rainier. I don’t know what the answer is but I don’t want to be a victim and I sure don’t want to run anyone down. (2009)

your mama: Personally I wish they would put a median all the way down Rainier and allow U-Turns at the lights – too many shitty ass drivers either trying to cross all 5 lanes of traffic or making crappy-ass decisions when making a left off Rainier trying to beat oncoming traffic. (2010)

Anon: If SDOT could really pay attention and put in more traffic solutions to calm traffic down Rainier, this area would be so much safer for drivers, pedestrians, commuters… (2010)

luigia: It’s time for drivers to take red lights as something more than mere suggestions that it might be prudent to stop. (2010)

laurel: Why would any sane person ride a bike or even walk on Rainier Ave South. Really the worst of the worst drivers traverse this stretch. (2010)

middle-aged guy: Rainier Ave. S. is another matter (death trap) entirely. Narrow the f*&% out of that street, I say. Put in wide, well-lit sidewalks that meander with plants and trees and COMFORTABLE BUS STOPS. Make it freaking beautiful (similar to Lake WA Blvd), and make it so cars can never get above 20 MPH. Then it will be safe for cyclists, peds, and even other cars. Maybe put in a small street car while we’re at it. And then people might actually want to patronize the businesses located there. When you build a street designed solely for cars, that’s what you get: a car-dominated wasteland. (2010)

The Lower 48: I’m always amazed to see people biking on Rainier, especially at night. I know bikers have just as much of a right to the road as cars do, but dang…I would never ride my bike on Rainier because of all the crazy drivers out there. It’s too bad because it’s the best route to downtown. I usually bike up to Beacon Ave and head downtown that way. It’s a little tougher, but I feel safer on Beacon than Rainier. (2010)

Carol: Rainier is engineered for disaster. It’s the main thoroughfare that you have to cross to reach bus access. It’s packed with businesses that attract foot traffic. It’s long and wide and straight which encourages fast driving. It has huge gaps between lights. The entire street would have to be reworked to remove the incentive for pedestrians to jaywalk. I’m sure the city knows it too, but lacks the funding or manpower or political pull to get it done. (2012)

Tasha: I see drivers and pedestrians at fault. Too many people are talking on their cell phones and texting while doing 45 on Rainier. I also think there’s an underground rule where if you are over 60 or under 21 it’s ok to dart out in streets and make drivers stop for you. (2010)

CBO: Too many people getting hit, more traffic calming measures needed for the Rainier Valley Speedway. Also doesn’t help that us non speeders are constantly dodging jaywalkers all the time. A mess for peds AND drivers. Extend the Bowtie to Rainier Beach! (2014)

Power2Heal: Given the aggressive drivers on Rainier Ave at the location of the new [PCC] store, I hope PCC will use its influence to motivate the city to instill traffic calming measures, crosswalks, and pocket parks next to the store to promote safety and connection in this neighborhood. (2014)

Tally: We need more cameras in the southend to picture and ticket cars that blow red lights. I hesitate when walking or driving across Rainier & MLK since it is an Indy 500 and the mayor is not addressing the real issues in our part of town. (2013)

Whitney: We have some crazy driving down Rainier on a regular basis. In addition to all of the other priorities, SPD is needed for enforcement. We were on 50th and then Wilson the other day, and two cars were speeding and weaving through traffic. They even acted like they were shooting us as they sped by. Imagine what could have happened this afternoon…imagine if it happened during yesterday’s farmer’s market with the sidewalks full of people. 50 mph through Columbia City is frightening. (2014)

Belfire: The Rainier Avenue roadway itself needs active attention and investment to make it safer and more attractive to both drivers and pedestrians (straightening, lighting, more crosswalks, broader sidewalks, etc). We always avoid driving on Rainier Avenue and instead use Seward Park Avenue and Lake Washington Blvd. (2014)

dayna: One of the most dangerous places to drive in Seattle, for sure. I have had to slam on my breaks many, many times to avoid hitting jaywalkers, crossing illegally under the pedestrian bridge or within a block of it. Folks have complained about the police trying to stop jaywalkers there (this is very near where an officer was accused of assulting a teenager who was jaywalking), but really, we need more of a police presence there I think. Or just more responsible pedestrians. (2012)

Justin Kalm: The intersection [at Martin Luther King, Jr. Way at S. Myrtle Street] is notorious for favoring autos and trains over pedestrians. Pedestrians often find that they get skipped, i.e., get no walk signal, even though they have pressed the crossing button. If a train is present, or was recently present, the traffic can switch from N-S to E-W and back again without any E-W walk signal. This has led many to ignore the signals and cross when they think it is safe. (2012)

trudy206: Jaywalkers are THE problem on Rainier Ave. S. and cars speeding up at intersections trying to beat the red light. (2010)

SolvayGirl: I am so tired of jaywalkers; driving on Rainier and MLK is just too stressful since I feel like I’m playing a video game with obstacles popping up every few feet. (2012)

Rainier Valley Native: As nice as we all are, it is super dangerous to stop your car and allow a pedestrian to cross on Rainier outside of a stoplight or well marked, lit intersection. There are too many times when the driver in the second lane doesn’t know why the other driver has stopped. I have seen drivers go around a stopped vehicle in a two-lane street and almost hit the crossing pedestrian or cyclist in a center turn lane. Not excusing the hit and run, of course, but we could all drive Rainier more carefully. (2012)

RV Dude: My own experience driving on both Rainier and MLK in recent weeks tells me that jaywalking pedestrians are becoming a chronic problem. Rainier, in particular, is starting to remind me of the streets of Taipei and Manila, where drivers constantly must play “dodge ‘em” with people popping into the street at random points, heedless of what vehicles may be bearing down on them. (2012)

Greener Grad: All along Rainier Avenue and ML King Way South, the lights are timed to slow people down. The lights turn red when no one is waiting to cross the arterial. Rather than address speeders, we must all be punished for driving. Supposedly the lights were to be timed so buses would get through the lights, but I don’t know if that has happened. Has the #7 gotten any faster, or are they all bunched up and sluggish as usual? (2013)

MarkA: I drive Rainier and MLK everyday. I really don’t see what the problem is that the “Bow-Tie” is out to fix. The only issue I ever see is people driving too fast. There are many simple ways to control this. I assume none of them have been applied because that would reduce the need for the city to go ahead with the “bow-tie”. (2013)

mary t: There are many places on Rainier where there should be crosswalks (like the Food Bank area?), or where they are quite far away IF YOU’RE WALKING. Perhaps all the drivers should have to walk Rainier and see how hard it is to get across. It’s very difficult to get out of your parked car, let alone cross the street. There should be more lighted crosswalks, maybe those lovely little brightly colored flags that are prevalent in Mt, Baker, or flashing yellows to say “Hey, Watch it!” Rainier is the major through-street for the SE corridor and drivers act like it belongs to them. The city pays little attention to the pedestrian. I mean, walkers have the right to cross at any corner (which is a crosswalk), whether marked or not, but I’ve had people yell at me to “go to a crosswalk.” The traffic is fast, often furious. If someone is 10-feet from a crosswalk, by the way, they are close enough. Calling them –did you really say “lazy” while you are sitting on your butt in a car?–is just another way of saying you don’t feel like stopping. Anytime a pedestrian is on the street, legally or not, the driver stops for him or her. That is the law. (2012)

G: that corner [MLK, Jr. Way and Rainier Avenue South] is notorious for jaywalkers. they should monitor that daily for a while to deter some of the stupidity i see day in and out. stupid teens racing across 5 lanes of traffic. (2010)

driver: As someone who drives up and down MLK and Rainier several times each day, I’m very familiar with the people who just randomly walk out into the street at that intersection. I think they should throw the book at those stupid jaywalkers. If they are too lazy to use the overpass, they deserve a ticket. (2010)

limes: I tell people that Light Rail has turned me into a jaywalker. Waiting to cross the street is the worst, at times having to wait through two cycles before being given go ahead. Bah! (2010)

darinbrill: as a UPS driver who goes up and down Rainier all during the day, Rainier has a TERRIBLE amount of jaywalking! And while the road could definitely be improved, the real issue is the jaywalkers, not the roads (kinda like it’s the shooters, not the guns). There’s an unfounded sense of entitlement with many people I see jaywalking, where it’s not someone trying to bolt across the road, but rather saunter at their leisure. This is SO much more dangerous! I’ve seen people walking backwards onto Rainier as they finish up a conversation with someone on the sidewalk. Idiocy. I understand that the cops are very busy, but there are very few citations given out for jaywalking (when police started citing violators years ago in Belltown, there was a large decrease during that season). Excusing isn’t a good answer, cracking down is. (2012)

Must be nice: Anybody who travels along RAS or MLK sees jaywalking committed on an ongoing basis. I’ve seen people walk in the middle of street at dusk or night with no regard to oncoming traffic. I’ve seen people who don’t want to be inconvenienced jaywalk when there is a crosswalk and traffic light 100 feet away. And like the eyewitness said, I’ve seen people cross against the light to catch a bus. It’s really a miracle that more people aren’t involved in pedestrian-vehicle accidents. We could address the issue of jaywalking and crossing against the traffic flow, and find ways to discourage people from engaging in the practice. Or we can point fingers, achieve nothing, and let the issue fester. (2012)

Brighton E: Drivers don’t need to be “impaired — DUI, on the phone — or speeding” to be at fault. They can fail to yield to pedestrians in intersections–which almost every driver on Rainier Ave. fails to do. Pedestrians have the right of way at unsigned, unsignaled intersections; they’re legal crosswalks, whether marked or not. But you take your life in your hands claiming that right, and might as well jaywalk when the opportunity arises. And with streetlights so widely spaced on most of Rainier (outside Columbia City and downtown R Beach) you all but have to.

Suicidal pedestrian behavior has been a “chronic problem” here for decades. But so has homicidal motorist behavior. The responsibility ultimately falls on the city; it needs to educate both parties, and clearly sign and stripe more pedestrian crossings (or, ideally, install pushbutton crosswalk signals even where not needed for traffic). SPD should indeed bust jaywalkers. But it also bust drivers who won’t yield. (2012)

Chas H W Talbot: When the Rainier Valley was settled, there was no real control over the platting. That resulted in a highly-irregular & confusing pattern of intersections. The City’s department of transportation has not risen to this challenge. So, we have drivers who don’t seem to realize that there is a legal (though unmarked) crosswalk at a particular location, & they fail to yield, though they should.

Drivers fail to follow common sense, & the law, by passing vehicles that are stopped for pedestrians in crosswalks — my experience is the same as Lakeridge Lady’s (#21). Passing a stopped vehicle to its right, at an intersection, is hazardous. When I first studying for my driver’s license, the booklet told us that passing under those circumstances was illegal.

Too many pedestrians jaywalk — no question. Too many pedestrians wear dark clothing at night. Too many drivers speed. The City has set the traffic lights in a way that encourages speeding & running of yellow & red lights. Perhaps the best (worst?) example is the light at Letitia, which seemingly is set to stop traffic from running smoothly, an unnecessary frustration. Set the lights so that traffic can flow right along at 35 m.p.h. (as it does on Second Ave., downtown), & some of our problems would disappear.

The City’s notion that crosswalks are dangerous is irrational. True , the City can produce statistics that show that more pedestrians are hit in marked crosswalks. Statistics will also show that pedestrians wearing shoes are more likely to be hit. The safest way (by the City’s logic) to cross the street would be to somersault, not an an intersection, while nude. Or maybe to call a cab?

The City is not taking pedestrian safety seriously along Rainier Avenue, & never has — at least not in my 40-plus years of experience. New thinking is needed downtown. (2011)

Last fall, more than 100 Rainier Valley residents turned out in support of safer streets. The event was organized by local business owners just days after a car accident that left seven people injured, two businesses severely damaged and an SUV sitting inside the waiting area of the Carol Cobb Salon. Photo/Charlie Mohn



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