Background: The Chief Sealth Trail Improves Mobility Across Southeast Seattle
The Chief Sealth Trail has been serving communities across the City of Seattle for more than a decade. Created at the community’s request, the four-mile trail provides bicycle and pedestrian access to neighborhoods, businesses, shopping, and schools along the southeast side of the city.
The trail has been extremely popular since it opened in 2007, winning three awards in the first year and sustaining heavy traffic from casual pedestrians, commuters, school children, and runners. The agency has plans to eventually connect the Chief Sealth Trail to a local greenway, light rail stations, and downtown Seattle.
The Challenge: Surging Trail Traffic Increases Risk at Mid-Block Crossings
Seattle was already welcoming an increase in foot and bicycle traffic in 2019, reporting, for example, the highest pedestrian count ever recorded. All of those additional pedestrians and bicycles, of course, introduce new safety concerns. Collision rates including both pedestrians and cyclists had already started to rise again in recent years.
Then, like most of the country, Seattle also experienced changes in traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a dramatic increase in pedestrians and cyclists across the city. Pieces of the Chief Sealth Trail became early concerns, especially where the trail connects with and cuts across city streets, increasing foot traffic at intersections and along roadways.
Mid-block crossings were the first concern. Mid-block crossings are the most dangerous in any agency. Roughly 68% of fatal pedestrian and cyclist collisions happen at unmarked, non-intersections. Some of the mid-block crossings along the Chief Sealth Trail in Seattle are also located in areas of high priority in regard to equity and the City of Seattle’s Race and Social Justice Initiative.
The agency needed a proven solution to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety at mid-block crossings along the trail.