Calling for a ‘paradigm shift,’ mayor announces new emphasis on pedestrian safety

In a Wednesday morning speech, Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson pledged increased emphasis on making streets safe for pedestrians. With the mayor (L to R) were Assistant Police Chief Rod Sniffen, Acting Public Works Director Rob English and Development Services Director Susan McLaughlin.

In a speech delivered Wednesday morning at Sherwood Elementary School, Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson pledged to increase the city’s spending on pedestrian safety, using the funds to pay for a multi-faceted approach that leverages speed-limit setting, road design and other infrastructure interventions with enhanced education and enforcement.

In announcing the initiative, Nelson pointed to the recent car/pedestrian accident on 220th Street Southwest, where a 2-year-old and a teenager crossing the street were hit by a car and sent “flying through the air.” The mayor pointed out that while drivers now have a plethora of safety features such as back-up cameras, blind-spot detectors and collision-avoidance systems, pedestrians have none.

“People are being killed and maimed every day in our country because people are driving too fast, late for softball game, distracted because their newborn demands their attention or talking on their cell phone,” Nelson said. “We are inundated with things occupying our attention while we travel down the road in a 4,000-pound vehicle, half of that weight coming from steel. It is no wonder that compared to those in vehicles, people walking and biking suffer disproportionately from serious injuries and fatalities when a crash occurs.”

Pointing out that historically the priority for traffic design has been ensuring the smooth and efficient flow of traffic, he stressed that this mindset needs to shift from merely reaching our destination to reaching our destination unharmed.

“In Edmonds. our streets make up 77% of our public space,” he pointed out. “We rely on streets not just to get us to where we need to go, but as a public space to socialize, play and eat. Edmonds streets should not function as highways; they are an integral part of our neighborhoods and provide inclusive spaces which enable us to come together as a community.

“Our streets need to be designed to balance needs for all users and prioritize the most vulnerable ones,” he continued. “We have a long way to go with about half of our streets lacking sidewalks, and many — like 220th — with long stretches without a safe pedestrian crossing. We must do more to protect the most vulnerable, those who are outside these vehicles.”

The mayor went on to pledge a multi-pronged approach to improving pedestrian safety in Edmonds, including the following: driver education campaigns; a new Complete Streets Steering Committee to review capital projects for opportunities to enhance pedestrian safety, review collision reports and make recommendations; expanding the use of transportation impact fees to include sidewalks and other multi-use enhancements rather than just to increase vehicle capacity; and implementing a safe streets dashboard on a City of Edmonds webpage to track progress.

To help meet these goals, Nelson proposes quadrupling the city’s annual pedestrian safety budget. In addition to addressing the above priorities, this would help fund measures that include building more sidewalks and implementing school zone speed cameras.

To boost sidewalk construction, the mayor also pledged to work to create a city sidewalk code that would require private developers to construct sidewalks as part of their projects, and where this is not feasible to establish an in-lieu program to fund sidewalk installation elsewhere.

“We fully intend to track our progress,” he stressed. “One measure of success will be more people walking in our neighborhoods and downtown. Our goal is to see a 20% increase in pedestrian activity by 2030, as shown in our annual public life surveys. Another goal is a decrease in fatalities or severe injuries due to traffic collisions as recorded in police department data.”

Nelson was followed to the podium by Development Services Director Susan McLaughlin, who echoed the need to design streets to protect all users.

Development Services Director Susan McLaughlin emphasized the need to prioritize and customize safe streets improvements based on adjacent land use.

“Specific actions and funding will be determined based on the type of street,” she explained. “Residential streets should of course have sidewalks and should be prioritized, but based on adjacent land use others may be lower priority. We’ll need to analyze based on people movement, not just vehicle movement.”

Assistant Police Chief Rod Sniffen acknowledged that enforcement is a critical part of the pedestrian safety equation, citing the good results from neighboring jurisdictions, which have used school zone speed cameras.

Assistant Police Chief Rod Sniffen highlighted the importance of enforcement as the safe streets effort moves forward.

In conclusion, Nelson stressed that he’s looking for nothing less than a paradigm shift.

“We need to shift from thinking of streets as just places for cars, and start thinking about them as public spaces with multiple uses,” he said.  “I am committed to making sure that our residents – be they pedestrians, cyclists or drivers – reach their destination unharmed. And we need to act now and not wait for the next near miss.”

– Story and photos by Larry Vogel

  1. I would like to think the Mayor is stepping up but his re-election is approaching. Peoples are outraged because Nelson has been preoccupied with Political affirmations instead of being the Mayor for Edmonds.

    We need sidewalks, we are a school street on 96th Ave West. I was told by a city employee it would cost to much. How much do you value your kids life? Apparently, Edmonds thinks sidewalks for your littles are too much. Show us Mayor Nelson how much you truly care.

  2. It’s not a matter of forcing people to slow down or creating sidewalks. You need to create streets that people want to go slow down. The key there is want to. This is not a rules thing or law enforcement thing. It is a design issue. This is, also, not about spending hundreds of millions of dollars (reminding everyone about Mayor Mikes Connector project that he started and killed as a council member) on constructions projects that don’t do anything (get ready for it… it is coming next). I recommend the city change code when it comes to building specific to the front of buildings and homes to follow some of the principles of new urbanism. Following page point #1:

    1. Mr. OBrien, I think you’re onto something here. It’s the question nobody wants to answer. Does Edmonds want to retain a neighborhood suburban environment or become a dense urban environment? We need to address this with community input and not with backroom politics.

  3. Jim – I really like all of those principles of new urbanism and would like to see Edmonds follow as many as possible as the city continues it’s evolution. I disagree to a point with you though regarding the need to create sidewalks. Edmonds has far too few in the city and it’s created many dangerous situations for pedestrians and those with disabilities (such as wheelchairs) to navigate our street. I don’t see it on the same level as the failed connector project – adding sidewalks throughout the city will improve both the safety and livability in Edmonds. I welcome this move.

    And while I support all of the proposed measures in Mayor Nelson’s speech, I don’t see how any of these would help prevent the tragic accident on 220nd that was referenced. That was a clear case of a distracted driver unfortunately – and only increased enforcement of laws already on the books will change driver behavior.

  4. It’s time to acknowledge DANGEROUS DAYTON STREET, Mr. Mayor and staff!! The kids at The Frances Anderson Center deserve to be safe!
    Last February 2021 a group of over 35 residents with a signed petition, living on Dayton Street between 6th Ave. South to 9th Ave. South, worked tirelessly expressing “Critical Safety Issues” and a Call to Action for safety on Dayton Street, in front of The Frances Anderson Center which is a mecca for young children coming and going on Dayton Street.
    Mayor Nelson, Public Works Department, Michelle Bennett Police Chief, city council and Angie Feser-parks director, denied our request for adding any stops or speed reducing devices on our street. They chose to add blinking cross walk signs and a blinking speed notification, no stop signs or speed devices!!!
    Dayton Street is the only street out of 6 city streets in the bowl in Edmonds running East to West, without any stop signs from 6th Ave. South to 9th Ave. South! No other street in all of Edmonds, has the critical safety needs for stop signs or speed humps to keep children safe in front of the largest hub in our community for Children!! It is only a matter of time before a child is injured or hit by a speeding car or truck. There is also a designated Truck route in Edmonds, Dayton Street restricting all large commercial trucks from using Dayton Street, although the city refuses to enforce this existing law! Trucks and children are dangerous.
    We continue to watch near miss accidents with children in and around The Frances Anderson Center as cars and trucks treat Dayton Street as a Freeway designed by the city without stop signs, it’s one big thoroughfare for those wanting to zip in and out of Edmonds with the least amount of stops or speed reduction needed, and the city has designed it this way, and refuses to add any stop signs to protect the children.
    Add a 4 way stop at 8th and 7th for the sake of the kids, please!!

  5. Thank you, Mayor Nelson.
    This is a huge step for pedestrian safety in Edmonds, much needed.
    Your emphasis on this critical progarm shows true leadership.
    This morning I sent a message to Bernard Hauss of the Transportation Dept, following up on our earlier request for a lighted crosswalk or RRFB at the intersection of 3rd and Walnut. If any intersection needs safety improvements for pedestrians, it’s this one.
    Thanks again for helping to make that happen.

  6. I would also encourage better protection for pedestrians at 3rd South and Walnut. Traffic is very fast on 3rd South and the close-by parked cars make it a dangerous crossing.

  7. I hope this also means that we get rid of the ridiculous petition process currently in place. I do not feel it is my responsibility as a resident to petition my neighbors to care about an issue that the city really needs to spend the time doing. So the issue at hand is 76th Ave. W. between HWY104 and 228th cutting through the Lake Ballinger neighborhood. Speeding is a constant issue, but it gets as bad as people passing each other into oncoming traffic… on a city street. This happens fairly regularly on a street that is lined with residential homes, mainly families with kids like myself. This has been made clear to the city for the 7 years I have lived here. Do I expect them to dedicate money they do not have immediately to fix this issue when they have a whole city to worry about? Of course not. But I also expect them to not say, “here, fill out this form and we will see.”

  8. When will the street sign be replaced at 3rd and Walnut? It’s probably about 2 years since it was taken down. A few years ago I was rear ended on 3rd there by distracted driver trying to figure out where Walnut was.

  9. Drivers in Edmonds be very cautious! Many Edmonds pedestrians are extremely entitled, indestructible, and oblivious to their surroundings. They confidently stride into the crosswalks with their heads down, completely absorbed in their phones.

  10. I agree with Cliff and Edmonds ped walkers .. there isn’t STOP LOOK LISTEN common sense anymore – peds just charge onto the crosswalk and don’t stop at the corner …even when a car has entered the intersection before they got to the corner. This is a huge issue with walkers not stopping at the corner and waiting their turn!

    Speeders on Sunset Ave … speed limit is 20 but nobody notices the signs … paint speed limit sign on street asphalt … cheap and effective. This is a neighborhood street Not an arterial!!

  11. Glad to hear the new ++++++++

    Glad to hear the”paradigm shift” towards pedestrian safety. Naturally that would mean taking money away from Green Streets and Rain Gardens proposals and directing the money towards more practical things like sidewalks and lighting, if the city is actually sincere. Curiously, I didn’t see any mention of improving ADA access? Is that part of the new paradigm too?

    1. At the glacial pace things get decided and done in this town, I won’t be holding my breath on how quick this will all happen. Hopefully Mike doesn’t get blindsided by his Ultra Progressive pals, accusing him of discrimination against “poor” bad drivers who can’t afford the fines. Not a bad idea to take a hard look at speeding and distracted drivers and “entitled” pedestrians and two wheelers though. Sidewalks always play well in city elections, which I think might be some of the thought process behind this sudden concern. Promoting traffic cameras is not a great way to get reelected, however, so maybe my comments about Mike’s motivation are unfounded.

  12. Take care of the exiting sidewalks.
    Many are overgrown which forces people to single file or into the street.

  13. This is very politically interesting of Mayor Nelson. It’s an easy gesture for him to advocate for pedestrian safety. Who’s going to argue with it? Now when it comes to safety in our parks and other public spaces, he’s silent. I haven’t seen him haul out his lieutenants and hold a public press conference advocating for the ordinance for the unlawful use of public spaces. He’s just grandstanding and testing the political winds. Right now, I would suggest that the wind is in his face.

    1. No doubt, Jim. I definitely want safer streets, but I’m not sure why we are even talking about this yet before the ordinance has been resolved. I of course think the accident was tragic, and thankfully nobody died. Something that dramatic is a pretty rare circumstance. That said, I see issues related to the ordinance on a daily basis driving around town.

  14. Thank you for making pedestrian safety a priority!

    The busiest road without a sidewalk is Maplewood Drive. Children, dog walkers, seniors, runners, and walkers, regularly are forced into this busy road. The most dangerous time is in the winter months when darkness covers commuters, deliveries, and children walking to school or their bus stop.

    Please put SIDEWALKS on Maplewood Drive at the TOP of your list!

  15. Do we need to increase enforcement of speed limits more than currently done? Yes!! Can the current police dept manning do this?? What other priority would “pay” for this? I think these questions need to be answered. I observe way to many vehicles running red lights. The automated speed radar trailer is not enough. Sorry to say I think speed limit enforcement needs to drastically increase.

    1. The EPD is short staffed as is and Edmonds has found itself with real “big city” problems in the last few years. I agree we definitely need to enforce speed limits, but I’d rather have our uniformed officers responding to real crime issues particularly along HWY99. I do however want to see a massive increase in permanent speed sign readers. They do have an effect.

      1. Tom …concerning speed sign readers I have seen to many vehicles slow down when they see the reader and then resume the speeding once past. They are better than nothing.

        I am aware of the PD staffing issue, and as you say BCity problems are of higher importance, and crime …..I was not saying to write tickets ILO crime events. but lets make a GREATER “prescence” slowing speeders down AND running lights. I think the PD “knows” where the lights/cross sections are where vehicles run lights..and where a lot of speeding takes place. We need more police visibility for a while at these locations.

  16. This is definitely an issue that is important for the citizens, but we need action on this.

    Flashing crossing signs have definitely made the most positive impact. Especially the ones near college place elementary. Instead of a general ‘warning’ sign, they flash only when pedestrians are actually crossing, and are much more effective.

  17. I wish some attention were going to be paid to the very uneven sidewalks. It is all-to-easy to trip on the sidewalks because they have so many levels (due to tree roots or whatever).

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