The Seattle Times has just posted my op-ed on speed limits, commenting on a tragic hit and run that killed Michael Wang, a Seattle photographer and father of two. I argue that it’s time for Washington to trust localities to set lower speed limits, as do British Columbia, Idaho, and—increasingly—Oregon.
Later this week, I will post here a more complete version of the Seattle Times piece, with links to sources and the numbers explained.
Not really sure how it would help in this case, because the person was already speeding when he rushed to make his turn before the oncoming (car) traffic occurred.
However, as a bike rider, what would really help is if some of the motorists around here learned how to use a turn signal. At least with a turn signal a bike — even if he has the right of way — can adjust for a fast on coming car. And not using a turn signal as much as it should be used, can be enforced by cops (who, since crime has fallen by 75 percent, should have the time to crack down on lax driving habits.
I use my signal with each and every turn, even if its going into a parking space in a lot. It helps pedestrians know your intentions. Yet I see few cars that follow my lead. I think it would save lives.
Matt the Engineer
I agree that speed limits are far too easy to ignore. Proper street design is the best way to slow down drivers. Seattle’s come a long way in this effort, but has a very long way to go. Looking at Dexter, it’s a very wide road. I’m not sure what we can do with a road that wide – we already have sidewalks, parking, and bike lanes to narrow the driving lanes, but it still visually looks like a highway (compare Dexter and Thomas to Highway 99, one block west). One idea I’ve heard for wide streets like this is to sell ROW to private landholders. Move the sidewalks in and allow storefronts to extend an extra 10′ on either side of the road. That or (protected, signallized) cycle tracks or even an elevated bicycle freeway.
I was ready to agree with you that localities should have more control over traffic safety in their jurisdictions, including speed limit controls. However, I did not find that you ended up making that argument at all. It felt more like a rant about the fact that cars are on the road at all. But after finding this site your op-ed certainly makes more sense. It makes thankful that the state still has some control. Still, I’d love to see the source data and your additional thoughts on the stated goal; that localities should have more control to set speed limits.
Alan, I read your article in the seattle PI and did not comment there. I’m totally in agreement with lower speed limits… over in Bellevue / Redmond I’d estimate the average speed on arterials is 45-50 mph. At least in Seattle the average traffic speed is lower because of congestion. haha!
HOWEVER, have you considered the possibility that texting was a factor in either this accident on Denny or the fatality that occurred on Juanita drive ? The bike lane is 10 feet wide there, and the driver was not drunk, just “drifted into the bike lane”.
I ride the bus frequently and when I look down into cars, man, EVERYBODY has a device in their hands. It’s an epidemic. And the current “secondary offense” does nothing to address it.
I’ve been on the bike for over 35 years, drivers are generally much friendlier and assent to the cyclist’s place on the road then they were in the 70s… but mobile devices are a whole new dimension of danger and there’s not much being done about it.
Bainbridge Island, WA
Hi Mark —
I haven’t heard anything about texting being involved in either of the Washington fatalities, but it was the cause of a fatality in Bend last week. Very sad.