This is the third post in a series analyzing Seattle’s draft Bicycle Master Plan update, which is currently taking public comments. This post will focus on the northwest neighborhoods, north of the Ship Canal and west of Aurora. Stay tuned for future posts looking at other parts of the city.
Following our post last week about Central Seattle and Downtown, we move north to the northwest section of the city (for the sake of this post, this includes NW and some N avenues), which features some of the bikiest neighborhoods in the city as well as neighborhoods with some of the biggest cycling potential.
Fremont may be the capitol of cycling in Seattle. With its prime location at the nexus of the Interurban North bike route and the Burke-Gilman Trail, as many people bike to shop in Fremont as drive alone.
Shoppers in Ballard who live nearby cycle as often as Fremont residents (about 7 percent of total resident shoppers). But 11 percent of non-resident shoppers in Fremont got there by bike, compared to just five percent in Ballard. This suggests that Ballard has equal if not greater potential for cycling as Fremont, but something is preventing the bicycle economy from flourishing. And I think we all know what some of those barriers are.
The two biggest barriers to cycling to Ballard—The Burke-Gilman Missing Link and the Ballard Bridge—are included in the draft Bicycle Master Plan map. But the plan also includes a connected network of neighborhood greenways to help grow the number of Ballard residents who use bikes as an easy and fast way to get around within the neighborhood. I sat down with Jennifer Litowski and Chris Saleeba of Ballard Neighborhood Greenways recently to discuss their hopes for the future of cycling and walking in their neighborhood.
Many of the group’s proposed neighborhood greenway routes are more or less included in the plan, and they say this is a good thing since the routes are the result of a lot of community outreach and local knowledge.
“The work of neighborhood groups can jump in on those decisions, because they have been discussing it with neighbors,” said Litowski. “You know your own neighborhood.”
With money in the 2013-14 budget set aside specifically for Ballard neighborhood greenway projects, the group is hopeful a lot of headway can be made on on connected “box” of greenway routes reaching many key neighborhood destinations.
But while it could be relatively easy to create a network of connected residential routes, the “last block” is still an issue in many places, especially for destinations on commercial drags.
Market Street is marked on the draft map as a candidate for a cycle track, which would be a huge boon for walking and biking safety and access in Ballard’s commercial center.
Conspicuously missing from the northwest area of the map are bike facilities on Leary Way (and N 36th St in Fremont), 15th Ave NW and the Aurora Bridge.
Leary/N 36th desperately needs a redesign for the sake of safety and business access for people on foot and bike. The Burke-Gilman Trail is a better route for people passing through the area, but anyone who has ever tried to cross the very wide Leary Way on foot in the otherwise walking-friendly Old Ballard area knows, the street is dangerous and uncomfortable. And accessing businesses on N 36th (like Roxy’s Diner or Hub and Bespoke or Fremont Coffee) is difficult on a bike. I strongly suggest this street be added as a cycle track candidate.
15th Ave NW is a terrible barrier for life in Ballard and Crown Hill, where traffic turns onto the awful Holman Rd. For example, when trying to find Grumpy D’s Coffee Shop to meet Litowski and Saleeba, I forgot the cross street for the shop. To bike up and down 15th looking for the shop, I had two unappealing options: Bike uphill in heavy, fast traffic or bike on the sidewalk. For someone trying to cross the road on foot, safe crosswalks sometimes require walking many blocks out of the way just to get to the other side.
A safe Holman Rd is perhaps even more important than 15th, however, because it cuts across the street grid on an angle. Not only are there no parallel roads to use, but the road is very wide and difficult to cross on foot or bike. Its width also makes it a great candidate for a redesign.
Which brings us to Aurora. Unlike 15th/Holman, Aurora is a state highway. But it is also lined with destinations, and it is one of the most dangerous streets in the city no matter the transportation mode you use. While the Interurban North bike route is only a few blocks west of Aurora, many people bike down the sidewalks on Aurora. And yes, it is legal to bike on Aurora.
There is tremendous potential for a bike route on Aurora (at least from the Bridge north). For one, it is the only road that cuts between Woodland Park and the Zoo. The Aurora Bridge is also a much faster and less hilly way to get from upper Fremont to the top of the hill on Dexter. A safe bike facility on Aurora could be a boon to businesses that line the road. In many places, Aurora does not even feel like a part of the neighborhood. A little work to bring a bit of non-motorized transportation to the street could go a long way to healing the rift caused by the road.
Oh, and can we get the Ballard Locks to stay open 24/7?
What do you see in the plan that you like? Anything missing?
UPDATE: The Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board released its NW Bikeability Report today: