Tuesday, September 25, 2012


   Just blocks from where bicyclist Michael Wang was killed by a hit-and-run-driver a year ago, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn Wednesday launched a campaign to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries in the city by 2030.
   Speaking at a news conference across the street from PATH, the global-health organization where Wang worked as a photographer and commuted by bike from his Shoreline home, McGinn said the city would step up education and enforcement of traffic rules.
   The mayor, who is himself a bicycle commuter, said a key to making the roads safer was empathy among users of the road.
   "We need to think about each other. We need to look out for each other," McGinn told a lunchtime gathering that featured city employees with T-shirts and a banner with the campaign slogan: Be Super Safe: Eliminate Fatalities on Seattle Roads.
   About 26 people die each year in traffic crashes in the city. Typically, 11 of those are pedestrians and two are bicyclists. Last year, four bicyclists were killed. Ten times as many people are seriously injured in crashes, said Dr. David Fleming, director of Public Health-Seattle & King County.
   Fleming said he deliberately used the word "crashes," not "accidents," because "most are entirely preventable."
   The leading causes of traffic crashes are impaired driving, distracted driving and speeding, said Fleming, co-chair of the Road Safety Summit convened by McGinn last fall after several biking fatalities.
   The Seattle Department of Transportation will spend about $100,000 on the road-safety campaign. An additional $410,00 the city has secured in grants will go toward education and enforcement through 2014.
   The Seattle Police Department plans four safe-driving patrols in September and October on Capitol Hill and in Rainier Valley in areas with speeding problems.
   The city also will install four new traffic cameras to enforce speed zones around schools.
   Jamie Cheney, executive director of Commute Seattle and another co-chair of the Road Safety Summit, said that while much has been made in Seattle of the "war" between bikes and cars, the real war should be against impaired and distracted driving, the leading causes of death and injuries.
   She said empathy alone won't prevent those accidents. But she called it the glue that allows drivers to recognize that at different times they also might be pedestrians or bicyclists.
   Doug Palm, director of global facilities for PATH, said that after the shock of Wang's death, his former colleagues asked what they could do about road safety. After reaching out to other health organizations and South Lake Union employers, Palm said, they joined the city initiative, recognizing that government could bring more coordination and investment to the effort.
   Palm, the third co-chair of the Safety Summit, called for everyone to slow down, pay attention and set a high standard for following the rules of the road.
   "Whether we drive, walk or bike, we all deserve to arrive alive," he said.