So far in 2021, 30 people have been killed on our streets and another 125 people have received serious, life-altering injuries, including 5 people killed in just the last month.This is already the highest number in recent years, and we still have a month and a half of the darkest, wettest time of year. Memorials commemorating and honoring people killed by traffic violence on our streets.
This Sunday, November 21, 2021, is the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.We remember the millions of people killed and seriously injured on our streets as well as their families, friends, and communities. We also give thanks to the first responders and other people in emergency services who are faced with tragedy every day. This tremendous burden and loss is often seen as unavoidable -- that each incident is a completely accidental aberration, but that’s not the case. Many of our city streets are designed for speed, rather than safety. But our city was intentionally designed this way, and we can make the choice to design it differently. For World Day of Remembrance, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways is collaborating with Cascade Bicycle Club, Seattle Department of Transportation, and other safe streets advocates to commemorate and honor those killed by traffic violence over the last two years (2020-2021), 53 people in total. In the last two years (2020-2021), 53 people have been killed on our streets and another 272 people have received serious, life-altering injuries.
Traffic violence, like so much else in our city, is disproportionately killing and harming people of color, people with disabilities, elders, low-income people, and unhoused people.They're also geographically concentrated: of 53 deaths, 30 occurred in District 2, which includes Rainier Valley, Beacon Hill, SODO, and parts of Chinatown / International District. Southeast Seattle is home to many communities of color, and has historically received significantly less infrastructure and safety investment. Each number is a person, and each death has rippling effects on their family, friends, and community. This map shows the locations in Seattle where 53 people were killed by traffic violence in 2020 and 2021. Locations are densest in Southeast Seattle and along Aurora Ave.
Victims of traffic violence are disproportionately people walking, rolling, and biking.In the last two years, 37 people have been hit by cars and killed while walking, rolling, or biking, including 22 just this year. This includes 31 people walking, 4 people riding bikes, one person rolling in a wheelchair, and one person riding an e-scooter. People walking, rolling, biking, and accessing transit are disproportionately low-income people, people with disabilities, elders, kids, and people of color. We must do better to protect the most vulnerable people on our streets.
In 2015, the City of Seattle committed to Vision Zero -- the goal to have zero traffic deaths or serious injuries on city streets by 2030.But our pedestrian safety crisis has continued to get worse. In the last two years, traffic volumes dipped dramatically due to the pandemic and work-from-home measures, but deaths continued to rise. The Vision Zero team at SDOT knows what and where the biggest safety issues are -- 50% of fatal and serious injury crashes occur on just 11% of our street network (multi-lane, high speed, high volume arterial streets). The four most dangerous streets in Seattle are Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Way, Aurora Ave N, Rainier Ave S, and Airport Way in SODO.
On MLK Jr Way alone, there were 8 people killed in the last two years.Long-term planning projects require massive amounts of funding, community engagement, and political support, but improve safety in a way that nothing else can. But in addition to large-scale projects that re-design streets, small safety infrastructure can go a long way. New sidewalks and crossings, traffic signals that give pedestrians a head start at intersections, protected left turns for vehicles, pedestrian refuge islands, and protected bike lanes can make our streets significantly safer for a fraction of the cost. We also recognize that safety on our streets doesn’t just mean safety from speeding vehicles, and that people are being killed on our streets by systemic racist policing, by gun violence, and because they are currently experiencing homelessness. In addressing this pedestrian safety crisis, we have to work together to find solutions that house people, give people safe, convenient mobility options, and support community needs so that we can all thrive.
What’s Next?The Seattle City Council is currently poised to triple the Vision Zero budget in the 2022 City of Seattle Budget. We thank Councilmembers Morales and Lewis in particular for championing Vision Zero investments through this year’s budget deliberations. This funding is also a greater acknowledgement from our City Council that they are committed to Vision Zero and to improving safety on our streets. Mayor-elect Harrell showed strong leadership championing safety improvements for Rainier Ave S when he served as the City Councilmember for District 2. Let him know that he has people who will support his decision to champion Vision Zero during his tenure as Mayor.
Care about ending traffic violence? Here are three ways you can help keep everyone safe on our streets:
If you drive, maintain a safe speed and be alert for people walking, rolling, and biking.
Send an email to Mayor-elect Harrell to ask him to support street safety during his tenure as Mayor.
Get involved in advocating for traffic safety in your neighborhood.
Thank you to the volunteers across Seattle who contributed to this photo collection to commemorate each individual who has been killed on our streets. It is sobering to compilation and a heavy reminder of why we do this advocacy.. Together, we will continue to push for #VisionZero and improving safety on our streets.