Washington State Biking, Pedestrian Deaths on the Rise

By: Bridget Clerkin June 22, 2018
The rate of deaths for pedestrians and cyclists doubled over the last four years in Washington State, according to a recent report.
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More cyclists, more problems?

Those may be the terms Washington State is looking at.

The number of bicyclist and pedestrian deaths doubled across the Evergreen State over the course of four years. That’s according to a new report released by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).

In 2013, there were 60 such deaths, while in 2017, 122 pedestrians and cyclists were killed on the road.

And the number of walkers and bikers getting seriously injured was also on the rise, jumping by 31% over the same time period.

Last year marked a particularly grisly high point, with cyclist and pedestrian deaths making up 22% of Washington’s total traffic fatalities, WSDOT reported.

The grim statistics come despite the state’s best efforts to keep non-motorists safe on the streets. In 2000, officials launched a campaign called Target Zero, with the intention of eliminating traffic fatalities by 2030.

While the efforts seemed to work initially, the downward trend in roadway deaths was halted by the new statistics.

Officials at WSDOT didn’t comment on the possible cause of the increase, though the report mentions that 85% of the crashes occurred on roads with speed limits of 30 MPH or higher.

Drugs and alcohol may have also played a part. Forty-eight percent of pedestrians and 43% of all bicyclists killed tested positive for a controlled substance, according to the report.

Still, Washington may also be suffering under the law of averages. Seattle alone has seen a rise in the number of residents walking and biking to work between 2010 and 2017. Numbers in a different report revealed a 0.3% increase in the amount of cycling commuters in the city and a 1.8% jump in those who walk to work over that period. (All told, biking and walking comprise 12.4% of all trips to and from work in Seattle.)

Regardless of what’s causing the problem, the state may already be on the way toward solving it.

Last year, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced a $22 million initiative to build 50 blocks’ worth of sidewalks and add other pedestrian and cyclist safety features around the city. The funding comes from a voter-approved levy worth more than $900 million, meant to support similar sidewalk safety projects over the next few years.

At least Seattleites aren’t waiting for a rainy day to start addressing the issue.

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