Road Safety Summit draws crowd, focuses on solutions

Monday night was the debut of the Road Safety Summit, the first of three public meetings to discuss how to keep all of us safer on our roadways.  Bicyclists, drivers, pedestrians, transit riders all packed City Hall’s Bertha Landes room.  It was a good continuation of the conversation we began in September—and what we believe should be a sustained community conversation about how we can all do better.

Mayor McGinn kicked off the summit, with Council Transportation Chair Tom Rasmussen and Public Health’s Dr. David Fleming sharing some insights and remarks.  Three other City Councilmembers-- Sally Bagshaw, Sally Clark, and Richard Conlin-- were present.  Then the small group conversations began, framed around three main questions, which I’ll paraphrase as:

1)      What are the main safety problems?

2)      What should we do about them?

3)      What can groups and individuals do?

It was great to see such diversity of perspective around many of the dozens of tables.  My table had a pedestrian activist, freight and port interests, city traffic management staff, a firefighter and citizens who walk, bike and ride transit.  It was a lively discussion.  The groups then reported out.

What’d we come up with?

Much of the input reiterated and built upon the points we made at our press conference in September.  I took this as an encouraging sign given the variety of interests at the table.  But it’s not surprising.  A show of hands illustrated that a solid majority of those in attendance had a close friend or family member who was seriously injured or killed in a traffic collision.  In many ways and at a fundamental level, we were all on the same page.

Main themes that I heard repeated by many groups:

  • It’s time to end the divisive and inflammatory rhetoric. The call was to everyone—with some particular emphasis to the media.
  • Speed is a major concern. Reducing collision speed from 30 mph to 20 mph reduces chances of death by 9 fold.  Traffic calming, better roadway design and better separation of modes were called out.
  • Distracted driving—and walking and biking—were big concerns.  Hang up and drive/walk/bike!  Did you know that the number of road fatalities (124 each year, on average, in King County) can be multiplied by 10 to approximate the number of people affected with serious and life-altering injuries that resulted from a crash?
  • Groups called out the need to educate of all road users to ensure we all know the rules and we all know what’s at stake.  Safety campaigns, PSAs, communication at the workplace, and involving neighbors and neighborhoods were all named.
  • Heard of the 5 E’s?  (Education, engineering, enforcement, encouragement and evaluation) We added a sixth “E”: Empathy.  We all need to realize that the five seconds you save by speeding could be someone’s life (or your own if you’re a cyclist or pedestrian) and that we’re all trying to get where we’re going safely.  Let’s be good to each other.

While much more was discussed, I also found it interesting that Cascade Bicycle Club was called out by name as part of the solution at least four times.  Clearly we all need to step up and be great ambassadors on the road and in the community.  So join us in deepening our empathy, building better and safer streets for all road users, and help us get to our vision of zero traffic fatalities.

Thanks to all of those who participated.  And to others: perhaps we’ll see you at the next forum.

There are two more identical meetings: one Nov. 15 at the Northgate Community Center, and one Nov. 21 at the Southwest Community Center. RSVP for one of these public forums.