Road Diets, Part 2: NE 125th, a Case Study

The road diet consideration for NE 125th in Seattle is quite the discussion. Hear Feet First’s stance on the construction of a road diet in that area, and how it will benefit the surrounding community.

As we’ve seen road diets, though they must be taken on a case-by-case basis, can benefit transportation users of all kinds, and the division between people on foot and people behind the wheel need not persist.

Posted by Megan RisleyApril 13, 2011

The stretch of NE 125th between Roosevelt Way and 35th Avenue NE is an especially hot topic as of late as it relates to road diets.  NE 125th is a heavily used arterial road where two major Metro bus lines run and many retailers are established.  In other words, the area has a great need for pedestrian safety throughout – with the foot traffic of shoppers, people walking to and from bus stops, and those just out walking the dog or visiting friends. Yet some community members believe that decreasing this Lake City route from 4 lanes to 3 would just cause traffic jams and people to wear out their brakes constantly stopping for the buses.  Some think NE 125th Street is too steep for bikers to regularly use and so the bike lanes a road diet would put in would go to waste anyway. Pedestrians and cyclists indeed have their work cut out for them when traveling NE 125th.  As Feet First documented in a letter to Mayor McGinn and Seattle City Councilmembers, there are many examples of safety issues along NE 125th:  

1) Thirteen pedestrian collisions along this road section between January 2007 and April 2010.

2) Of the 16,000 trips this route carries, most drivers travel ten miles or more over the posted speed limit (a common safety hazard of four-lane roads as opposed to three-lane roads).

3) A half-mile segment without controlled intersections (between 15th Avenue NE and 25th Avenue NE).  

Road diets consider all modes of transportation, striving to create a safe place for all who wish to use the road – that is, road diets help create “complete streets.” Of course, construction has a cost, and road diets are no exception. It is, however, a myth that “complete streets” are more expensive to build than “incomplete streets” – that is, streets that are designed with primarily (or only) motorized vehicles in mind. Complete streets are actually less expensive! One example is that, because there is less area for the most expensive elements, such as road bed and asphalt to support trucks and other heavy vehicles, and more surface area for less expensive sidewalks, a road diet actually saves money. As previously discussed road diets also improve traffic flow and provide safer places for motor vehicles by allowing for left-hand turns, providing more directions (painted, posted signs, lights) out of necessity to handle the various kinds of traffic, and cut down on noise and pollution.  A tried and true case study of road diet success is Stone Way, in Wallingford.  While residents and business owners feared the decreased space for cars would clog traffic and make things more dangerous for pedestrians, an SDOT study found that exactly the opposite happened: 1) Pedestrian collisions declined from five in the two years prior to conversion to only one during the two-year period afterwards. 2. A 75 percent decrease in drivers exceeding the 20mph speed limit. 3) A 6 percent decrease in vehicle traffic, and a 35 percent increase in bike traffic.

NE 125th would benefit from similar improvements in safety for all road users. A road diet is one way to help accomplish that.

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