Seattleites overwhelmingly want to make our streets safer and more convenient for people walking, rolling, biking, and taking transit. Yet that public support can easily be ignored in favor of the status quo. That’s why our proven strategy of organizing supporters in neighborhoods around the city is more vital than ever.
As 2023 comes to a close, we are celebrating every victory, big and small, we’ve achieved with our volunteer-led coalition, partners, staff, and allies. Here we’re excited to highlight key wins below.
We’re incredibly grateful to everyone who has spoken up for safe streets and all who have donated their time or financial support for our growing movement. Together, we’ve helped advocate for real change in neighborhoods across Seattle making it safer to walk, bike, and roll.
Signs of Progress Alongside Renewed Call for Vision Zero
Everyone deserves to get home safely to their loved ones. Yet too many people are being killed and seriously injured on our streets. The last few years have been some of the deadliest on record. We continue to work to hold the city accountable and get Seattle’s Vision Zero commitment to eliminate serious injuries and fatalities in traffic by the end of this decade back on track.
- Safer Intersections: We are celebrating the implementation of two recommendations in our manifesto to get Vision Zero back on track. The first is SDOT’s new policy of making no right turns at red lights more prevalent in the city. The second recommendation we’re excited about is that signals at 100 more intersections around Seattle will now give pedestrians a head start. These allow people to walk/roll on a green light a few seconds before cars and are shown to reduce crashes by 50%.
- More Kids Using Safe Routes to School: New data shows the number of kids in Seattle walking and biking to school has doubled in the last generation! Over the years we have championed increasing funding to add crosswalks, sidewalks, and bike lanes to make sure every student can get to school safely. This year, our local group Central Seattle Greenways has been working with Bailey Gatzert Elementary parents to lead a walking school bus.
- Aurora Reimagined: With the Aurora Reimagined Coalition, we are building support to kickstart a transformation of Aurora Ave N, Seattle’s most deadliest street, into a people-focused “main street.” We expect SDOT to release design options to redesign Aurora next year
- Volunteers Mobilizing Citywide for Safe Streets Memorial: In November, in honor of World Day of Remembrance for victims of traffic violence, volunteers came together to honor over 200 of our neighbors who were killed in car crashes around Seattle.
Volunteers placed silhouettes at crash sites around the city and held memorial walks along 4th Ave S, Aurora Avenue North (led by the Aurora Reimagined Coalition), and MLK Way S to bring attention to Seattle’s most dangerous streets.
Coverage included the front page of The Seattle Times, as well as stories in GeekWire, King 5, KOMO, Seattle Bike Blog, and The Urbanist.
Hard-Fought Wins: New Safe Streets Infrastructure Comes to South Seattle
Though home to only one in seven Seattle residents, half of the deaths from car crashes occur in South Seattle, in District 2. It’s no coincidence that this part of the city is where the largest share of residents are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, whose neighborhoods have been historically disinvested. After a decade of community advocacy to make it safer and easier to get to schools, transit, and business districts, we’re seeing signs of hard-won progress.
- MLK Jr Way S Groundbreaking: This fall SDOT broke ground on the MLK Jr Way S Safety Project to create a safe connection for people walking and biking between Mount Baker and the new Judkins Park Station. MLK Way S is one of the top five most dangerous streets in Seattle, and needs to be made safer to Rainier Beach. That’s why we are thrilled to be bringing on a new grant-funded community organizer to push the city to continue this investment all the way south.
- Rainier Valley Greenway I-90 Trail Connection Complete: In September, following more than a decade of advocacy, SDOT completed construction of the north end of the Rainier Valley North-South Neighborhood Greenway that connects people to the I-90 trail and points beyond. The short trail connects the only north-south bike route for people of all ages and abilities that runs through the Rainier Valley to the rest of Seattle’s bicycle network for the first time.
- 15th Ave S Spot Improvements: Beacon Hill Safe Streets has been working hard to create a safe and comfortable bike route down the spine of Beacon Hill, and this year got to celebrate new interim safety improvements — an important milestone of a hard-fought campaign.
- Georgetown to South Park Groundbreaking: The long-awaited Georgetown to South Park connection began construction in late 2023 after a year of delay. Together with the Georgetown to downtown bike connection expected to be constructed in 2024, biking in the Duwamish Valley will be massively improved over the next year.
- More Safe Streets Projects Advancing: We won funding in the city budget for Accessible Mt. Baker after 8 years of delays! This will create a multi-use trail/school street connecting Franklin High School and Mount Baker Station. We also won $2 million to reconfigure S Henderson St in Rainier Beach to make it safer and more comfortable for people walking, rolling, and biking.
Building Momentum: Places for People
After our big win last year to make Cafe Streets permanent in Seattle, we are pushing forward to create streets for people around the city. This year we launched our campaign to bring pedestrian streets to the heart of every neighborhood and are celebrating new permanent Healthy Streets.
- Part of Pike St Pedestrianized: In June, the Mayor pedestrianized half a block of Pike St, next to Pike Place Market. This exciting development came just two months after our momentum-building Pedestrianize This! event.
- Permanent Healthy Streets: Six Healthy Streets across the city, from Lake City to South Park, are becoming permanent, ensuring this temporary program we advocated for during the pandemic will have lasting benefits for more neighborhoods.
- Downtown Waterfront Trail Moving Forward: Seattle’s waterfront is undergoing a major transformation, yet the still-under-construction waterfront trail wasn’t designed to meet the needs of people who will use it every day. Crucially, the initial plan had a major gap between the Seattle Aquarium and Olympic Sculpture Park. In response, we mobilized 1,300 people to demand something better. We successfully pushed back against the Port’s opposition to closing the gap in favor of prioritizing cruise traffic. And in December, SDOT announced details for an improved design that is wider and better protected from cars.
- Public Space for People: Our advocacy helped win funds in the city budget for the Ballard Ave Café Street ($150k) and for street activation at Mount Baker Station and in Rainier Beach ($300k).
Whose Streets? Our Streets! BIPOC Community Outreach Informs Calls to Prioritize Equity
Whose Streets? Our Streets! (WSOS) is a Black, Indigenous, and People of Color-led and focused workgroup convened in 2020 by Seattle Neighborhood Greenways that continues to be a critical policy voice about what it means for communities of color to feel safe while traveling in Seattle.
- BIPOC Community Engagement: This year, WSOS offered workshops at the Seattle MLK Coalition annual MLK Day event, hosted a successful town hall on automated enforcement in March, held listening sessions reaching elders and other community members, and continued its extensive outreach at BIPOC community events throughout the year.
- Automated Traffic Enforcement Recommendations: In May, WSOS published a preliminary report with community feedback and recommendations on automated enforcement, uplifting equity concerns about the city’s planned expansion of the school zone speed camera program. As a result of successful advocacy by WSOS and SNG, two key equity provisions — warnings for first-time violators and a requirement to invest funds back into safe streets projects — will be included in the program rollout.
While we've made great progress, there's more to do to truly make every neighborhood a great place to walk, bike, and live.
Early next year, policymakers will finalize the Seattle Transportation Plan and supporting funding levy that will shape the next decade of projects and policies for city streets.
To ensure we continue to make meaningful progress towards safer streets for all we need to continue to build the movement: neighbors advocating for the needs of their communities, people rallying for safe, equitable solutions — and resources to fund our organizing and advocacy citywide.
Together we can convene allies, provide thought leadership, and build political pressure to shape Seattle’s transportation future.