On March 9th, 2016, a young man named Parker Lang was struck by a car while walking home from work. Lang was walking along the shoulder of US Highway 527, also called the Bothell-Everett Highway, in an area without sidewalks or other pedestrian safety features. Lang suffered severe head injuries and died several days later.
Kelly Chelin, the Mill Creek Director of Public Information, told reporters that the driver who struck Lang was not believed to be at fault, and that “… pedestrian actions combined with the inclement weather contributed to the crash. There is nothing at this point to indicate that the driver will face any sanctions.” Detectives who investigated the accident said that the stretch of road was dark, with heavy rain and wind obstructing visibility. The 16-year-old driver who struck Lang did not appear to be intoxicated and did not face criminal charges.
Another casualty of a little-known hazard
In most situations, police take reports of pedestrians walking on the shoulders of highways seriously. But in Mill Creek, seeing pedestrians on the shoulder of a busy road was so common that no one thought there was a problem until Lang was struck by a car that drifted onto the shoulder. The issue: a two-block stretch of busy roadway between 180th Street and 16th Street in Mill Creek was built without pedestrian access, forcing walkers and bikers onto the shoulder of the highway. Recent development in the area has increased the numbers of apartments and buildings on both sides of the dangerous divide, but the city’s infrastructure has not kept up with the increasing number of residents who need pedestrian access in that area.
Vicki Moore, Lang’s mother, has become a crusader against pedestrian safety hazards in the area. “I see people jogging. I see moms with children in their strollers, and I cringe at the thought,” she said, describing the stretch of road where Parker died. In a petition that Moore plans to deliver to the Mill Creek City Council, she asks that the area be made safer by building sidewalks.
Just four blocks south of the spot where Lang was struck, another pedestrian died in September of 2016. 22-year-old Quincy P. Tigner was walking on the shoulder, on another stretch of road without sidewalks, when a vehicle drifted out of its lane onto the shoulder. Once again, investigators found no signs of impairment in the driver.
When many of the cities around the Puget Sound were first connected by highways, car culture reigned supreme. City planners were so excited about cars that they bisected busy neighborhoods full of pedestrians with highways. Instead of creating highways that looped around urban centers, they reasoned that city dwellers would appreciate the convenience of having a highway so close to home.
Now, traffic patterns are shifting, and a new generation of urban planners is pushing back against the idea that pedestrians and highways should be allowed to mingle. Close to Seattle’s downtown core, a campaign to put a lid over a stretch of Interstate 5 that cuts through a pedestrian-friendly part of the city is gaining traction. On Seattle’s waterfront, an enclosed tunnel will replace the raised viaduct that was built so close to a residential center that apartment dwellers have had their windows cracked by stones flying off the structure.
But outside of Seattle, urban planners have been slow to catch up with the increase in demand for pedestrian-friendly cities. Mill Creek’s Walk Score is a mere 28 out of 100; the score is calculated based on the number of errands that would require a car to complete safely. Nearby, Bothell has a score of 29, and Lynnwood has a score of 50. In contrast, Seattle has a Walk Score of 73, a Transit Score of 57, and a Bike Score of 63; all three are expected to go up as planned improvements are completed in the area.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of an accident caused by an unsafe road, it’s time to speak with a personal injury attorney about your rights as a pedestrian.