POULSBO — Last December, when one pedestrian was killed and another was seriously injured after being struck by vehicles in Poulsbo, all within a week of one another, locals called upon city officials to develop a plan to address pedestrian safety in the city. During an April 4 city council meeting, that plan was presented to those in attendance.
Phil Struck, project manager for the Pedestrian Safety Plan, explained to the audience at the meeting that a committee consisting of city engineers, public works officials, police and members of the public all worked to sift through various accident data in order to come to a conclusion about what will be done to keep Poulsbo’s streets safe.
Based on the data gathered by the Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee, Struck said speeding didn’t appear to be a serious problem in Poulsbo.
“Overall the data shows that we don’t seem to have a big problem with speeding in the city, that’s not to say it doesn’t happen but it doesn’t seem to be a primary risk factor,” he said.
In further explaining the crash data assessment, Struck said between 2012 and 2017, there were seven serious injury accidents in Poulsbo, and 22 over the last 10 years.
“We sorted the impairment accidents out so that we were trying to get into the ones that could be associated with engineering or street design issues,” Struck said. “There weren’t many sites where there was more than one accident. There was several on Iverson and there were a couple at the Viking, Edvard intersection. Other than that it was one accident per location.”
Without recurring problem areas, Struck said it was difficult to infer where safety improvements would be most effective. He did however note that distracted driving was one of the biggest contributing factors in accidents around Poulsbo.
“We all know that distractions, devices and cellphone use are just a huge part of our society now,” he said. “The various studies suggest that using these while you’re driving can increase your crash risk maybe three to eight times.”
During a February meeting of the Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee, Charlie Roberts, an engineering technician for the city of Poulsbo, explained just how serious of an issue distracted driving had become.
“Looking just at Poulsbo, between 2007 and 2011, distracted driving was a factor in about 18.5 percent of crashes,” Roberts explained. “Between 2012 and 2017, it’s more than doubled — 46.1 percent of crashes were caused by distracted driving.”
Poulsbo Police Officer David Gesell added to Roberts’ comments by saying he believed this number to actually be much higher.
“Those numbers are going to come off of our collision reports and if you’re playing on your phone and you crash into someone, you’re not terribly likely to tell me you were doing that,” Gesell explained.
During the April 4 meeting, Struck outlined 10 projects to be pursued by the city in order to improve pedestrian safety along Iverson Street, Viking Avenue, Forest Rock Lane, Hostmark Street, Front Street, Olhava Way and Lincoln Road.
The Iverson Street project is set to be the most costly, requiring $250,000. The project will seek to:
• Extend curbs and add curb ramps at the Jensen Way, Iverson Street intersection;
• Replace a segment of sidewalk on Iverson Street between Jensen Way and Bjermeland Place; and
• Build new sidewalks on Iverson Street between Bjermeland Place and Fourth Avenue.
Another $175,000 will be spent to include systemic safety improvements like striping improvements, Leading Pedestrian Intervals, curb extension, mid-block crossings, improved signage and better illumination at the following locations:
• The Viking Avenue and Edvard Street intersection;
• The Viking Avenue and Finn Hill Road intersection;
• The Forest Rock Lane and 10th Avenue intersection;
• Along Hostmark Street between State Route 305 and Caldart Avenue; and
• Along Front Street between Jensen Way and Peterson Street.
In addition to these projects, four others were identified for incorporation into existing future city projects:
• At the Front Street and Torval Canyon Road intersection — the location for last December’s fatal pedestrian collision — improvements like curb extensions, lane narrowing and a pedestrian refuge island will be made as part of the Liberty Bay Trail Project (set to take place between 2020 and 2022).
• Wider sidewalks along a segment of Front Street between Jenson Way and Hostmark Street, as well as a reconfiguration of the Jenson Way and Front Street intersection will be included as part of a future complete street project and grant application (set to take place between 2018 and 2020).
• At the 8th Avenue and Lincoln Road intersection, curb extensions, re-striping, improved signs and the addition of a dead end will be included as part of the Dogfish Creek Basin retrofit (set to take place sometime between 2018 and 2019).
• An evaluation and traffic study of the Olhava Way and Market Place intersection will be part of future development proposals.
Poulsbo City Council voted unanimously at the meeting (with the exception of Council Member Garland who was absent) to give the engineering department the go ahead to move forward with a grant application for the projects.
Before giving their nod of approval, some of those seated at the council dais offered their own experiences with pedestrians while driving in the city.
“I noticed that when I was driving down here this afternoon, people in the crosswalk, they don’t even see my car,” said Council Member Jeff McGinty. “They’re doing their thing and walking across and I was totally amazed, they weren’t sure the cars were stopping, they just assumed they would.”
Even Mayor Becky Erickson said she had recently seen firsthand how reckless some pedestrians can be.
“This weekend, I was coming down here and there was a person walking right up Jensen, up the middle of the road. What the heck?” Erickson said.
“You can’t engineer that,” Struck said between laughs.
— Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter with Kitsap News Group. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.