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Washington Bicycle Accident Hotspots 2013-2017 [Interactive Map]

Colburn Law

Washington has a reputation for embracing bicycles – a national study has even ranked Washington as the most bicycle-friendly state in the United States for eight years in a row.

Although fatalities and serious injury collisions among bicyclists have decreased in recent years, the fact remains that bicycle collisions still occur throughout the state on a regular basis.

At Colburn Law, we wanted to determine whether or not there were areas in Washington where bicyclists are at a higher risk of being struck by vehicles. With the help of data visualization firm 1Point21 Interactive, we analyzed five years of crash data from the Washington State Patrol to pinpoint any areas where bicycle collisions occur at a high rate.

Through our analysis, we found 35 specific zones across the state where five or more bicycle collisions occurred and ranked them using the Bicycle Danger Index (BDI), that accounts for collision volume and cyclist injury severity.

In all, these zones accounted for 388 crashes, leading to 304 minor injuries and 31 serious injuries.

Interactive Map

*Zoom out to view zones in other cities.  Hover over each zone or map point to reveal more information.  Rotate device for best mobile experience.

The 35 Most Dangerous Places for Cyclists in Washington

*The intersection listed for each zone represents the center point so that it can be identified easily on a map.  In nearly every case, the zone is much larger than just one intersection.

Rank Zone Center Point City Crashes Minor Injury Serious Injury BDI
1 4th Ave & Pike St Seattle 54 43 2 193
2 12th Ave & E Pike St Seattle 30 21 8 133
3 2nd Ave & Columbia St Seattle 31 26 2 119
4 Roosevelt Way NE & NE 42nd St Seattle 26 23 0 95
5 12th Ave Seattle 22 19 0 79
6 Dexter Ave N & Aloha St Seattle 17 13 1 61
7 5th Ave S & S Main St Seattle 16 13 1 60
8 E Magnolia St & Cornwall Ave Bellingham 16 13 0 55
9 Pine St & Summit Ave Seattle 12 8 2 46
10 E. Olive Way & E Denny Way Seattle 10 8 1 39
10 Pike St & Boren Ave Seattle 10 6 2 38
12 Eastlake Ave E & Fuhrman Ave E Seattle 10 6 2 38
12 Northwest Ave & Maplewood Ave Bellingham 6 4 2 28
14 S Dearborn St & 7th Ave S Seattle 8 5 1 28
15 Alaskan Way S & Marion St Seattle 8 5 1 28
16 NE Pacific St & University Way NE Seattle 7 7 0 28
17 N 34th Street & Stone Way N Seattle 6 5 1 26
17 W Main Ave & S Lincoln St Spokane 6 5 1 26
19 N 34th St & Wallingford Ave N Seattle 7 6 0 25
20 N 34th St & Fremont Ave N Seattle 6 6 0 24
20 Eastlake Ave E & E Hamlin St Seattle 6 6 0 24
22 NW Dayton Ave & NW 85th St Seattle 5 4 1 22
23 NE 45th St & 1st Ave NE Seattle 6 5 0 21
24 State Ave NE & East Bay Dr NE Olympia 5 5 0 20
24 12th Ave S & S Weller St Seattle 5 5 0 20
24 N 34th St & Aurora Bridge Seattle 5 5 0 20
24 Evergreen Way & 112th St SW Everett 5 5 0 20
28 Westlake Ave & Mercer St Seattle 5 3 1 19
29 Capitol Way SE & Legion Way SW Olympia 7 4 0 19
30 Valley Hwy S & W Meeker St Kent 5 1 2 18
31 4th Ave & Bell St Seattle 6 4 0 18
32 Pacific Ave SE & Ruddell Rd SE Lacey 5 4 0 17
32 8th Ave NW & NW 57th St Seattle 5 4 0 17
32 E Champion St & N Forest St Bellingham 5 4 0 17
35 Mercer St & Taylor Ave N Seattle 5 3 0 14

 

Seattle Had the Most Bicycle Collisions and Zones by Far

The city of Seattle was the site of approximately 85 percent of all bicycle crashes in this study, accounting for 26 of the 35 ranked zones. Although Seattle is widely considered one of the most bicycle-friendly major cities in the nation, there are numerous sections of its sprawling city streets that still require major improvements in bicycle-friendly infrastructure and safety.

The most notable zones in Seattle occur downtown. These are the most dangerous hot spots for bicyclists not just in Seattle, but in the entire state.

Seattle – 4th Avenue & Pike Street

Accounting for 54 crashes with 43 minor injuries and 2 serious injuries, this zone had a BDI of 193 – the most dangerous zone for bicyclists in Washington. A central location for both tourists and residents alike, this area sees heavy foot, bike, and motor vehicle traffic daily. One-way streets, congested lanes, and inconsistent bicycle infrastructure are contributing factors to its danger for cyclists.

To combat these issues, in September 2017 the city installed protected bike lanes on Pike and Pine Streets from 2nd to 8th Avenue – right in the epicenter of this zone. A barrier of pylons and planters create a dedicated, protected lane solely reserved for bicyclists. Looking forward, it will be interesting to see if these safety measures improve bicycle safety in this area of the city.

Seattle – 12th Avenue & Pike Street

Bordering Seattle University to the north, this zone had significantly less bicycle crashes than our first ranking zone but had four times as many serious injuries. 30 crashes led to 21 minor injuries and 8 major injuries – by far the most serious injuries of any other zone, and more than a quarter of all serious injuries found in our analysis.

It’s worth noting that Union Street and Pine Street, the roads with a high incidence of bicycle accidents in our zone, also seem to have dedicated bike lanes – but not the protected lanes installed in the aforementioned zone. Whether or not this is a contributing factor to bicycle safety may warrant further investigation.

Seattle – Roosevelt Way NE & NE 42nd Street

Ranking 4th, this zone contained 26 total crashes leading to 23 minor injuries. Within close proximity to the University of Washington, this zone had the majority of crash activity on Roosevelt Way NE and 45th Street.

In November of 2016, a protected bike lane was unveiled on Roosevelt Way spanning the entire zone, which may help remedy the issue. However, as of this analysis, 45th Street has no dedicated bike lane, but rather “sharrows” indicating that cyclists must share the road with motorists.

Seattle – 12th Avenue & E Fir Street

Ranking 5th, this zone had 22 total crashes leading to 19 minor injuries. This hot spot was peculiar in that it was centralized down a singular street: 12th Avenue directly south of Seattle University. Spanning approximately 8 blocks, this zone spans from Jefferson Street to Jackson Street. Interestingly, the portion of this north of Yesler Way does contain a dedicated bike lane, while south of Yesler no bike lane is present.

Other Notable Bicycle Crash Hot Spots in Washington State

Bellingham – E Magnolia St & Cornwall Ave

The city of Bellingham had three zones in our analysis, totaling 27 crashes, 21 minor injuries, and 2 serious injuries. The largest one, ranked 8th overall, is situated in downtown Bellingham, containing 16 bicycle crashes resulting in 13 minor injuries.

According to the city’s bike route map, Magnolia Street has properly marked bike lanes, while some of the other streets in this zone, such as Cornwall Avenue and Holly Street have “Other Bike Routes,” which includes less dedicated solutions such as “sharrows.”

Spokane – W Main Ave & S Lincoln St

Bordering downtown Spokane’s River Park Square, this zone contained 6 total crashes leading to 5 minor injuries and 1 serious injury.

Other Risk Factors: Intersections, Helmet Use and Gender

Our study examined nearly 3,000 bicycle collisions throughout the state of Washington.  Based on these records, cyclists are much more likely to be struck at intersections than they are at non-intersection locations. In fact, 1,647 bicycle collisions occurred at intersections, while 1,254 occurred elsewhere on the roadway.

Bicycle Accidents at Intersections by City

However, fatal collisions (31) were much more frequent at non-intersection locations, versus 18 fatal collisions at intersections.

Additionally, nearly four and a half times as many male cyclists (2,262) were struck by motor vehicles than were female cyclists (518).  Men were also much more likely to be killed, 42 fatal bicycle collisions involved male cyclists compared to only 6 with female cyclists.

Helmet use may play a role in the disparity.  Overall, 58 percent of cyclists involved in crashes used a helmet.  However, 68 percent of female cyclists wore helmets compared to only 54.5 percent of male cyclists.  Additionally, less than half of cyclists in fatal collisions were wearing helmets.

Maintaining Proper Bicycle Safety on Washington’s Roads

With cities like Seattle embracing bicycling as a valid commuting alternative to automobiles, the number of bicycles on Washington’s roads is sure to rise. An increase in bicyclists means that both motorists and cyclists must do their part to ensure the roads stay safe.

Motorists should follow these tips:

  • Stay alert for pedestrians and cyclists on the road at all times. Distracted driving is one of the most common causes of accidents. Be constantly on the look-out for bicyclists and other commuters – especially in heavily populated city blocks such as those in Seattle.
  • Share the road with bicyclists when appropriate. Much of Washington still does not have dedicated bike lanes, but rather “sharrows” – a measure that denotes motorists and cyclists must share the road together.
  • Treat every bicyclist as if they were a motor vehicle and maintain proper etiquette when sharing the road with them. If they are changing lanes or making a turn, be patient and do not attempt to overtake them. Other drivers may not notice the cyclist and increase their speed accordingly.
  • Do not drive while drowsy or intoxicated. Beyond being against the law, driving intoxicated can impair your judgment – and therefore your driving skills. In the same vein, avoid getting behind the wheel if you are severely sleep-deprived. In some cases, driving while drowsy can be just as debilitating and driving while drunk.

Bicyclists should abide by these rules:

  • Wear a helmet. A helmet is the most important protection a bicyclist can have. It not only prevents serious injuries but is required by law for cyclists in Washington.
  • Always ride in designated bike lanes. If there is no dedicated bike lane, ride on the rightmost side of the road. Ensure you are riding with traffic.
  • When sharing the road, frequently make eye contact with drivers. This can be one of the most effective ways to make sure you have the attention of other commuters.
  • Obey all road signs, signals, and traffic laws. Cyclists have the same rules and responsibilities to abide by as motorists. Do not ride through signals, stop signs, and other measures intended to promote proper traffic safety.
  • Improve your visibility at night. Install reflectors and lights on your bicycle, and wear bright clothing if you frequently commute during the early morning and evening hours.

About the Data

The source data comes from the Washington State Patrol and includes all collisions reported to them from law enforcement officers from 2013-2017.  However, not all records included location information.  Therefore, our zone data only reflects crashes that were geocoded.

Our danger zones are areas where at least 5 bicycle crashes occurred within 1000 feet on one another.