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Spokane City Council calls for new traffic-calming measures after recent deaths

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(The Center Square) – Spokane’s City Council adopted a resolution on Monday, formally requesting Mayor Lisa Brown reallocate street space amid a recent increase in traffic deaths.

The “Safe Streets Now!” resolution intends to pave the way for adaptive design strategies throughout Spokane. According to council briefing documents, the devices are considered “temporary” but “cost-effective” improvements to redistribute street space for pedestrian use.

The request follows a report from the state’s Traffic Safety Commission, noting that Washington experienced 810 traffic deaths in 2023, a 10% increase from 2022 and the most recorded over a single year since 1990. According to WTSC’s fatality dashboard, 60 of those deaths occurred in Spokane County, with a third taking place within Spokane’s city limits.

Several community members testified in support of the resolution on Monday, calling on Brown’s administration to lead the charge; however, others perceived it as another unnecessary expense.

“I share some sentiments about a lot of these things not doing enough to actually make our streets safer,” said a resident who goes by the name Dream, “but I also acknowledge that these are changes that we can make right now.”

Adaptive design strategies are an extension of traffic-calming, which deploys physical obstacles to prevent speeding and encourage safe driving. The difference is that adaptive design strategies are usually temporary and reconfigurable.

Examples of adaptive design strategies include Spokane’s Post Street Bridge, which was recently reconstructed to reduce it to a single lane of traffic. On each side of that lane now sits a protected bike lane and a pedestrian walkway, separated from vehicles with large planters.

Other examples include delineators, curb bump-outs, wheel stops, candlestick cones, speed cushions and painted crosswalks.

“I live in one of the most walkable neighborhoods in the city. I’m a ten-minute walk away from a grocery store, two schools, athletic fields, restaurants, pubs and a coffee shop,” said Ben Hargreaves, a member of Spokane Reimagined, “but every time I walk down Grand to get to these businesses, it feels like I’m walking on a tightrope.”

The approved resolution requests that Brown direct the Public Works Department to implement the designs using money from the Traffic Calming Measures Fund; that money is generated through the city’s automated traffic safety cameras that fine drivers around town.

Spokane has identified 138 traffic-calming projects that it hopes to construct by 2027; however, given the passing of this resolution, that number could expand.

Data also included in the resolution noted that from 2015 to 2023, a total of 1,251 pedestrians were struck by vehicles in Spokane, with 51 resulting in fatalities. Additionally, between 2016 and 2020, 45 bicyclists were hit by a car or other vehicle within city limits.

Two weeks ago, Janet Mann, a 78-year-old resident and cyclist, was killed in a hit-and-run, prompting the council to honor her during Monday’s meeting. They pointed to her case as an example for passing the “Safe Streets Now!” resolution.

“Janet’s death has really ripped a lot of the community apart, quite frankly,” said Councilmember Paul Dillon. “She’s someone who invested so much in the community; she biked 20 miles a day, she walked everywhere, and she had the signal when she was crossing.”

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