City plans to extend Stone Way bike lanes to Green Lake

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At the urging of the Wallingford and Green Lake Community Councils, the city is planning road design changes on Green Lake Way N between N 50th Street and Green Lake. The safety-oriented plan would redesign the street to more closely match the sections of road on its north and south ends (Stone Way and E Green Lake Way).

The city is hosting an open house about the project tomorrow (Tuesday) from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m. at the Green Lake Branch Library.

Eric Fisk of the Wallingford Community Council called the section the “missing link” in the Stone Way road diet, and said the community has been urging the city to complete the project and reinstall crosswalks since at least 2010 when several members wrote a letter to the city about it (posted to Wallyhood here as a PDF).

“It just seemed it was pretty obvious to extend the road diet on Green Lake Way,” said Fisk. “Neighbors will be able cross into the park again,” he said, noting that the city removed some crosswalks because they were too dangerous due to the four-lane road design.

I really hope this miniscule bike lane was intended to be some kind of traffic engineering joke. Image via Google Street View

I really hope this miniscule bike lane was intended to be some kind of traffic engineering joke. Image via Google Street View

Currently the only bike “facility” in the stretch are some sharrows in the curb lanes, which Fisk said “served no benefit.” There are also two of the world’s shortest bike lanes just north of 50th

The city’s plan would finally connect the bike lanes on Stone Way to the bike lanes around Green Lake and beyond. It would also allow for much safer access from Wallingford homes to Woodland Park along what today is an unnecessarily dangerous stretch of highway-style four-lane roadway.

Since the streets to the north and south of this section have one through lane in each direction, there is absolutely no reason for this section to have two in each direction. The extra lanes lead to speeding and make it way more dangerous for people trying to cross on foot or bike (or car, for that matter).

Difficult intersections at 50th and at the Pitch & Putt

A very rough idea sketch for making the intersection simpler and safer.

A very rough idea sketch for making the intersection simpler and safer.

The road design near the Pitch & Putt is dangerous and outdated, with “channelized” right turns to allow people to make turns at high speed with highway-style merge lanes that are completely inappropriate for a neighborhood. While this awful design was installed not very long ago, it does not work. It’s likely that much of the open house discussion will be about what to do here.

SDOT is aware of the issues caused by the frustrating triangle design, though budgetary concerns will be the constraining factor for how extreme their solutions can be. One low-budget solution would be to square off the turns like the one recently installed on Dexter Ave. At least then people would have to stop and cross the bike lane at an angle with more visibility.

But for the sake of discussion (and to push for the city consider increasing the budget if necessary to do it right), I made the quick sketch above in Google Maps to demonstrate how closing the unnecessary on-ramp design could work. In a world with unlimited budgets, this green box area could be made into additional sidewalk space or even a small park. A low-budget version could consist of simply installing some planter boxes or bollards to close the road portion to motor vehicles, making it de facto pedestrian space (or, as a compromise, close just one of the two lanes and still allow the left turns from northbound traffic).

In the example above, imagine you are driving and trying to make a right turn from West Green Lake Way onto southbound East Green Lake Way. Today, you would enter the channelized right turn and would likely even be looking over your shoulder for a hole in the oncoming traffic as you drive across the crosswalk and especially as you cross the bike lane. This is extremely dangerous and uncomfortable for everyone, including the person driving. A far more simple option would be to close that channelized area. You would then arrive at East Green Lake Way at a standard T intersection that we are all much more familiar with.

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 2.21.18 PMThe intersection of Stone Way, Green Lake Way N, and N 50th Street is a complete mess. It is awful for absolutely everybody. The best solution is way beyond me, but I am sure that it must create a more comfortable place for people on foot. Right now, this vital connection between Wallingford homes and Woodland Park is openly hostile to anyone outside a motor vehicle (on top of the messy design, walk signal wait times can be quite long), and a huge headache to everyone in a motor vehicle.

It is unlikely the city will look at any dramatic changes to the intersection. If I knew what to suggest, I would do so (assuming we can’t build a time machine and throw tomatoes at whoever planned this mess or stop the state from turning Aurora into a freeway. If only…). The full solution is probably painful and expensive, and won’t be part of this project.

However, one good opportunity for a small-but-significant change could be to close the channelized right turn from northbound Green Lake Way N onto Stone Way, as pictured above. I’m not even sure how many people would even make this maneuver (it’s backtracking for anyone coming from Aurora), but those who want to can make their turn using the tiny N 49th St (which could perhaps use some traffic calming to make sure people who do so are moving at a safe speed).

The sidewalk could then be extended all the way from Kidd Valley to the crosswalks across Green Lake Way N and Stone Way. Maybe the city/Kidd Valley could even put a little parklet there with tables and chairs where people can eat a burger outside. Could be a way to create a better walking environment, more space to live and cause essentially no impact on traffic.

Green Lake Way N between Aurora and N 50th Street is a huge problem for traffic and road safety in and through the neighborhood. Addressing its issues is also not in the scope of this project, but fixing it should be on the city’s to-do list. It cuts an awkward angle across the street grid, creating many very dangerous intersections that are nearly impossible to safely cross on foot or bike.

Fisk says the Wallingford Community Council is well aware of the problem and has long urged a solution. But that’s a post for another day…

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48 Responses to City plans to extend Stone Way bike lanes to Green Lake

  1. Fnarf says:

    I ride this twice a day, and drive it often as well. I have been doing so for fifteen years.

    Adding bike lanes is a no-brainer; the street is ludicrously wide, which encourages speeding; especially southbound, it’s difficult to stay under 40 MPH in a car — the road just pulls you along. And for cyclists, the gutter is horrible, chopped up and full of debris. Northbound, the ten-foot cycle lane is worse than a joke.

    But for the rest, I’m not so sure. The single biggest problem with that stretch is the criss-cross: for some reason most of the southbound traffic coming from east of the lake is heading up the hill towards Ballard, while most of it coming from west of the lake (like me) is heading south on Stone towards Wallingford (or turning left at 50th). This results in a little dance, which endangers cyclists. I don’t know how to solve that problem.

    The soft curve of the left turn at the Pitch and Putt isn’t really a huge problem, though. A cyclist has to get across two lanes, of course, but you’ve usually already taken the right one, and the traffic is usually pretty forgiving in the left, as long as you signal with your arm. It helps that it’s a slight downhill so your speed is usually good.

    The biggest problem is the cars turning LEFT, onto East Green Lake Way. They have a very short left-turn lane there, which is big enough for two cars — but a third is always trying to horn in, which blocks the bike lane. And yes, I will slap your car if you do it to me. Ultimately, though, the problem here is terrible visibility for cars turning left, and awful traffic timing (no gaps), so they wait and wait and wait.

    Another laugh: this intersection has at least a dozen signs, which is confusing as hell for drivers. Confused drivers = distracted drivers = bicycle danger.

    The other problem on the west side that I wish they’d fix is that the street drains aren’t at the low points, so a half-inch of rain covers the already abysmal “bike lanes” in this park area, to a depth of up to six inches, and frequently the roadway too. Fixing that is probably not in the plan. But maybe, if the construction project is big enough, it’ll extend that way.

    I think the obvious solution to the problems of both bikes and cars at this intersection is a big ol’ roundabout or rotary — not a weenie little neighborhood traffic calmer, but a proper roundabout, that distributes traffic in each direction, and gives every car and every bike a chance. This is an important intersection because there are so few alternate routes, given the horrific conjuction of lake+park+zoo+Aurora.

    • Eric fisk says:

      The current idea for the triangle is to add 1 stop sign for each direction of traffic. This should help with the left turn backup you mention and also with crossing lanes of traffic. The implementation is tricky though, as there’s no funds to tear up the triangle and redo it. Everyone regrets the triangle it seems.

      • Roger Dodger says:

        So if I follow you, you’re thinking of installing two more stop signs at the triangle? One for northbound and one for southbound traffic on East Green Lake Way N? That would at least give drivers a shot at making the northbound left turn safely, but it would also back up cars and cyclists in the northbound and southbound lanes. That could be problematic during times of heavy traffic, especially if you reduce northbound to a single lane and eliminate the gradual turn to West Green Lake Way N. You’d force every northbound car to back up at the stop sign, including those who’d want to turn left. Not so good. And I’m not sure the neighbors on the east side of East Green Lake Way N would appreciate a constant line of stop-and-go traffic outside their homes all day long.

        Also, reducing East Greenlake Way N to two lanes instead of four fails to take into account the road is the only major north/south arterial east of Aurora and west of Latona. That’s a long way apart. The result will be, as it always is when this tactic is employed, drivers diverting through narrower neighborhood streets looking for alternatives to being stacked up on the “dieted” arterial. Why is that a good option? It isn’t for drivers, and it certainly isn’t for the neighborhood.

        All you have to do to see the result of two-laning a four lane is go to the north end of Green Lake. Everything between Duke’s and Starbucks is a complete clusterf***. That will get worse as more high-rise buildings are completed in the neighborhood.

      • Fnarf says:

        This is exactly the response I was anticipating in my comment #1: drivers getting agitated about lane reduction, without taking into account the left turn lane. The left turn lane is not there for cyclists or traffic calming: it is there for cars. It is a benefit for cars. One of the biggest of those benefits is no longer having to perform, or wait behind, the classic North Seattle swerve, behind cars that are turning left — or are they? — without signaling. Now you know: if they’re in the left turn lane, they’re turning (well, most of the time; these are Seattle drivers we’re talking about).

        Roger’s other point, about the north-bound and south-bound stop signs on East Green Lake Way North, is a better one. There’s a TON of traffic pouring through there, and I can see it backing up for miles behind a stop sign. Especially considering that no one in Seattle knows how to give way at a stop sign; a third are giving way to the left, a third to the right, and a third are just looking for a sign of weakness to go. But this is going to back up down as far as 50th and maybe 45th on the very first day, and around the lake as far as the 65th turn or beyond, with very little gain for anyone. Certainly not bicycles.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        Roger, your analysis of the situation leaves out a couple key points.

        1) There is now a turn lane. Left turn backup = solved.

        2) You say “as it always is when this tactic is employed” people will take other routes. I think by “always” you mean “never.” Here’s very nearby evidence that that won’t happen (as in, the same street with the same plan, just a few blocks south):

        http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/docs/Stone%20before%20and%20after.pdf

        Also: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/docs/Nickerson%20before%20and%20after%20study_FINAL.pdf

      • Eric fisk says:

        Also, sdot did extensive traffic studies on the intersections and side streets prior to coming up with the design. So the design is based on supporting existing traffic loads, not wishful thinking.

      • Roger Dodger says:

        Tom,

        You write: “1) There is now a turn lane. Left turn backup = solved.”

        Not exactly. Hopefully, the lane will extend back far enough to accommodate those who want to turn left, but that effectively keeps northbound Green Lake Way a two-lane. If the left turn lane isn’t long enough, traffic will back up on the only remaining through lane. Even with the dedicated left turn it will still be a three-way stop, correct? So, if you happen to be eastbound at the triangle stop sign, and you want to turn left heading north (which everyone at that sign presently does), you’ll have to negotiate across a bike lane, at least one crosswalk, southbound traffic, northbound traffic and anyone turning left in front of you to head west. Doesn’t sound “solved” to me.

        As it is (and granted, it sure isn’t perfect), at least most eastbound drivers at the triangle stop know to form a defacto left turn lane on southbound West Green Lake Way N, and let the southbound drivers by. If you remove the gradual turn lane, ALL eastbound and westbound traffic will be forced through the new three-way stop. That will create extended back-ups, especially during events and rush hour, past all the lake’s southwest crosswalks and parking lot accesses. I wouldn’t be surprised to see back-ups extend back to the Aurora overpass/off ramp. And you know what that means. Drivers will get impatient and probably more aggressive. I’m not seeing an increase in safety here for anyone.

        You write: “I think by “always” you mean “never.” Why don’t we compromise and call it “frequently?” I don’t care how many studies SDOT puts out for public consumption, I see what drivers actually do. One reason we have so many traffic circles in the neighborhoods is to slow down the cars that cut through when an arterial is “dumbed down.” ‘Twas ever thus in Seattle.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        “I don’t care how many studies SDOT puts out for public consumption, I see what drivers actually do.”

        Hmm… should we trust actual measured and compiled data or anecdote and assumption… hmm…

      • Eric fisk says:

        Roger- The plan as I last saw it called for keeping the triangle, meaning traffic going south on west glw will fork before stopping. That plan should maintain throughput and fix the left turn backup.

        Tom’s suggestion of closing the sw edge of the triangle would restrict traffic too much, since traffic turning right and left would be 1 lane at the stop, so it is not being proposed. If sdot could rip out the stupid triangle and put in a proper T with enough lanes they would, but the funds aren’t there.

      • Fnarf says:

        Another thing about reducing the lanes: they’re already reduced just to the south. One of the things that makes Stone so irritating now is the endless merge-split-merge-split. In particular, that merge southbound just south of 50th is going to cause a ton of accidents if they don’t fix it, and the slowdown because of it is ridiculous.

        And dangerous for cyclists, who are coming from the relatively wide sharrow and special green triangle to a looming choke point full of distracted mergers and blocked by the pedestrian island in front of Kidd Valley, because the bike lane doesn’t start up for another hundred yards.

        Get rid of that and you’ll make everybody happy.

  2. Ellie P says:

    Great news. I both bike and drive this stretch regularly and it is awful in both positions. Aside from the triangle park entry you mentioned, it especially sucks as a safety-conscious driver to merge at an awkward angle with a disappearing bike lane when approaching 50th from Northbound Stone Way (the frustration and danger for cyclists is obvious.)

  3. Eric Fisk says:

    Thanks Tom! Well written. I hope there will be a good turnout for the meeting tomorrow night. Resources for this project are tight and it is important for people to show enthusiasm for it. It’ll take some push to get the best solution in place at the pitch and putt triangle.

    Tom anticipated the possibility of blocking the channelized right turn from Green Lake Way N to Stone Way N- that is under consideration and I think in the current plan. The current traffic island is very small and dangerous for pedestrians, particularly the school groups that frequently cross there.

    The WCC sees the big opportunity going forward being to turn Woodland Park Ave turned into a regional green way, connecting the Burke Gillman to Green Lake through Lower Woodland Park and to the zoo over the pedestrian bridges across Aurora. This would involve adding several arterial crossings, including one across Green Lake Way between Aurora and 50th. We have a broad proposal into the city on that plan and will look to share that in a future posting with Tom.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Thanks for chatting with me, Eric.

      And in case it wasn’t clear, I’m glad that the city is doing this. Wish it were done back 2008!

  4. Jake says:

    Regarding the Stone Way/50th/Green Lake Way intersection… The best solution I’ve heard would be…

    …stay with me now…

    …close the diagonal section of Green Lake Way!

    It sounds crazy, but I can’t take credit for the idea — see this blog post for the (excellent) historical reasoning behind the notion:
    http://butnottoohard.blogspot.com/2011/12/stories-i-dont-know-yet-history-of.html

    It’s a long-shot, sure, but it makes so much sense: there are no properties accessed off this section of road, and it really serves no purpose except to muck-up the local traffic patterns. Remove this stretch, and the five way intersection at Stone/50th (with each direction benefiting from ~1/5 of the signal time) becomes a normal four-way intersection (with each direction benefiting from ~1/2 the signal time) That’s a 150% increase in traffic throughput in the main neighborhood choke-point, and all it would take is converting a useless piece of road back to its natural state. With the increased intersection throughput at Stone and 50th, the local street grid could easily absorb the diverted traffic.

    It’s a visionary idea, marred only by the slight weakness that it will never happen.

    Ah well, I can dream…

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      I was looking for that post but couldn’t find it! So interesting. Good post by SBB commenter, Al!

      Unfortunately, in order to do that I think we would need to rewind Aurora back into a neighborhood arterial street without the center median and with stop lights and crossings at all or many of the side streets. If you want to start that campaign, sign me up! Reconnect Seattle!

      As it is today, I want to believe it could work. Maybe someone could do the math about how many more cars could get through the 50th/Stone light or the crazy 46th/GLW intersection without Green Lake Way (and the added signal cycles that come with it) and see if that number is anywhere close to the number carried today on GLW. If so, we might have something…

      • Jake says:

        I don’t think any changes would need to be made to Aurora (though that would be nice as well). The problematic diagonal stretch could be closed off and the street grid restored (perhaps with the addition of a linear park), and traffic diverted to Green lake via Aurora and 50th. With the more sane traffic flow along 50th, it could easily absorb the diverted traffic.

        I brought this idea up with councilmembers Bagshaw and Rasmussen a couple months ago, but I imagine it struck them as too unlikely a project. With enough momentum and advocacy behind it, though, it might gain some popular support.

        Numbers would be important to show the case. Does anyone know of a source of traffic counts on 45th, 50th, and Green Lake Way? It would also be nice to have hard numbers for the intersection throughput capacity at the 50th/Stone intersection compared to, say, the 45th/Stone intersection.

      • Morgan Wick says:

        How many people would get off at Bridge Way and take Stone Way instead?

      • Jake says:

        My guess is Aurora->Green Lake traffic would split between 45th->Stone and Aurora->50th. The bonus would be that the 50th/Stone intersection would have around twice the throughput as a 4-way intersection as it currently does as a 5-way. My conjecture is that with this increased throughput, the additional traffic load would be easily absorbed by the street grid. I don’t have hard data to back that up, but I’d like the city to at least consider the option and gather the relevant data.

    • Mark says:

      You’re right. I was thinking this just looking at the photo and before reading your comment. Just close the lesser third street (Green Lake Way), and force traffic to enter 50th a different way. Because it’s fairly obvious, maybe it will happen.

      • Fnarf says:

        While I think this is a great idea, people are going to argue, correctly, that it’s an important way to get to or from Ballard. This city has such a paucity of E-W routes, and if you’re moving diagonally at all this street is a whole lot better than the alternatives.

        I also know from personal experience that retroactively vacating an inch of right of way just doesn’t happen. It’s hard enough when it’s an alley; it’s impossible when it’s a street.

      • Jake says:

        I understand your concern Fnarf, but the point is the very existence of this diagonal street makes it harder to get east/west. Imagine if the 50th/Stone intersection could let through more than twice the number of cars per cycle. Wouldn’t that do great things to increase East/West mobility? Changing a 5-way intersection into a 4-way intersection would do precisely that. The bottleneck here is not due to a lack of East/West lanes; the bottleneck is due to inefficient 5-way intersections: one at either end of this stretch.

      • Fnarf says:

        Mmm, maybe. I would argue, though, that the problem with E-W is not enough OPTIONS, not enough lanes. You have a very limited number of choices no matter where you are in the city.

        The real tragedy is the way it was implemented. Diagonal streets can be excellent city features, if they are fitted with triangular buildings at all the cross streets. I know this isn’t the “urban design blog” but in general the problem with Seattle is too few buildings and too few streets, not too many. See the pedestrian diagrams in Jane Jacobs’s “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” for details. This street was constructed strictly as a car amenity, like so many others — the top section of Boren, for instance. Cross intersections calm traffic. And triangular ones create life and interest (parks don’t).

      • Jake says:

        I’ve read Jacobs, and fully agree with that point. That’s why I first mentioned restoring the street grid, which is an important piece of her idea of healthy urban design. By the metric Jacobs is concerned with, we’d have more streets in this neighborhood after removing this diagonal scar than we do with it in place. Walk the stretch: this is not a quaint, organic old-world diagonal street, adding interest to the neighborhood. On the contrary, this is the exact type of early 20th century “grand boulevard” that Jacobs spoke so compellingly against. If you’re worried about east-west options: notice that restoring the street grid would quadruple the number of these options between 45th and 50th (at least until you hit the Aurora barrier), while doubling the throughput of the adjoining arterials. So what’s the argument against removal?

      • Fnarf says:

        Good point, except that in Seattle residents freak out if you suggest that people might use their streets to get through. In fact, I fully expect one of the protests raised at the meeting to be people in the area north of 50th, towards Tangletown, objecting to the left turn lane, on the grounds that it will help people enter their neighborhood. That’s the kind of town we live in.

      • Jake says:

        Which is why I brought up the “linear park”, even though you and I both know it’s horrible urban policy. The fact is, people just think they like parks ;)

      • Morgan Wick says:

        It’s kind of hard to get to Ballard on 50th, because it effectively turns right and becomes Phinney Ave headed towards Greenwood; either you cut through Phinney Ridge or you head south on Phinney or Fremont to 46th/Market.

      • Jake says:

        It’s kind of hard to get anywhere on 50th for much of the day, and that is primarily due to half-mile backups caused by this 5-way intersection. I think I’ve made the case that Ballard-bound drivers would be much better served by a sane intersections and a restored street grid than by the current configuration. While we can’t fix geographical constraints, we can push for sane, safe, and effective traffic engineering

    • Roger Dodger says:

      “With the increased intersection throughput at Stone and 50th, the local street grid could easily absorb the diverted traffic.”

      Seriously? Based on what data? I guess you don’t live in the neighborhood. What’s your plan for getting westbound cars to Aurora and Ballard, send them all up N 5oth? To where, the single lane south entrance to the Zoo? To Phinney and Fremont Aves, then back to 46th?? How about the eastbound and northbound traffic that use Green Lake Way? What’s your plan, force them off at 50th, and stack them up down the hill?

      Sheesh.

      • Jake says:

        Roger,
        I lived near 45th/Stone for three years, and I still bike through this neighborhood on a regular basis. I feel I know the traffic patterns pretty intimately.

        Regarding traffic diversion: yes to all the options you mentioned, plus N/S on Stone, E/W on 45th, plus E/W on the newly-created 46th-49th streets, plus N/S on the newly created avenues between Stone and Aurora. I don’t have any data on this (as I’ve mentioned), but, as I also mentioned above, I do think it would be interesting to find this data to see if the idea is feasible.

        Diagonal road or no, all Ballard-bound traffic is still going through on 46th or 50th: I’m just conjecturing that it would be more effective to have two four-way intersections than two 5-way intersections, based on some simple back-of-the-envelope math.

        It sounds like you’re willing to dismiss the road removal idea completely without any data whatsoever for or against it: may I now take my turn to say “Sheesh”?

      • Roger Dodger says:

        Well, I dunno, Jake. Since neither of us have any data, we’re gonna need more envelopes. :)

        I honestly don’t think diverting that much traffic to Fremont and Phinney would be an effective way of solving the problem. And as Fnarf observed, “Seattle residents freak out if you suggest that people might use their streets to get through.” That’d probably be those people on Fremont and Phinney, who would experience a massive increase in traffic.

        Regarding it being “hard to get anywhere on 50th for much of the day, and that is primarily due to half-mile backups caused by this 5-way intersection.” I’d counter that 50th is an all day pigpile precisely because of what SDOT did to it. When it was two lanes in each direction between Stone/GLW and I-5, traffic moved pretty well until it hit that 5-way light. Cutting 50th back to one lane westbound reduced the westbound capacity by 50 percent and gummed up the works. (Not that I expect Tom to believe this: http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2011/11/10/sdot-compares-road-diets-to-copernicus-struggle-for-heliocentric-acceptance/ ).

        Now, add in the thousands of new residential units constructed between I-5 and Ballard since the street capacity was reduced, the reality that most of those new residents drive cars, and the fact your east-west choices are the terminally gunny-sacked NE 45th or the narrowed 50th. You’re darned right, “It’s kind of hard to get anywhere on 50th for much of the day,” but you can’t lay it all at the feet of the 5-way.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        Moving cars at the expense of safety, comfort and accessibility for anyone walking or biking in a neighborhood is not an acceptable solution.

      • Fnarf says:

        “traffic moved pretty well”

        I dispute this. Traffic on 50th has always, always, always been terrible. Before the left-turn lane, all it took was one left-turner to shut down the whole length of the street, or threaten everybody’s health and safety by encouraging people to swing out recklessly into the right lane to get around them. 50th is a bitch during rush hours, and always has been; at other times, even now, it can be relatively quiet — but I would never ride my bike there. Which means that bikes have one less available option for getting across I-5, which goes to my other point about E-W being always a nightmare, and about few options.

      • Jake says:

        Roger, let’s be clear: I’m not talking about diverting all the traffic to Phinny/Fremont. My point is that traffic is already constrained by Aurora, Woodland Park, and Greenlake — changing the way people get to the choke points will not affect that fact, but I contend that removing this road will undoubtedly streamline the 50th/Stone and 45th/Aroura chokepoints. My prediction is that with that change, neighborhood traffic safety and flow will improve. No, I don’t yet have hard data to back that up, but I’m still waiting for you to address any of the substantive points I’ve made.

        When faced with a (hypothetical) alternative such as this, I find it often helps to think about it in reverse: if the street grid had never been hacked open by the diagonal scar we now call Green Lake Way, would it be a good idea to create this road today? I’d say the answer is a resounding no (if the answer was yes, we’d be talking about creating the mirror-image road on the other side of Aurora!). With that in mind, we should at least consider the possibility of restoring this neighborhood back to its original layout. And, if recent history is any indication, traffic Armageddon predictions like the ones you’re making rarely pan out after SDOT engineers have vetted, reviewed, and implemented a project.

  5. Emily K. says:

    Can’t wait for these safety changes! I ride this multiple times each week. Let’s make sure we show support at the open house tomorrow night!

  6. Ballard Biker says:

    I would almost prefer they keep two lanes and just do “sharrows” because all of the bike lanes around there have parking to the right and with our lax parking enforcement this means that you will just have more time in the door zone.

    I fear that their solution is to “bike lanes on Stone Way to the bike lanes around Green Lake and beyond” But MUP’s in general and the paths around Green Lake in particular is useless if you are using a bike for transportation. But I understand the interest and the neighborhood drive is to make people feel safe vs actually improving safety.

    Serious Kudos for simplifying the intersections though and the bike boxes I keep seeing more and more are just awesome. It is just a pity that MUP’s and door zone “bike lanes” are so ingrained into the dominate recreational modal concept of “safe” bike infrastructure.

  7. Ballard Biker says:

    Also, to not sound like a downer…outside of the fact that the city forgets they are transportation arterials and shuts them down for things like SPD one night out the bike boulevards are pretty awesome.

    So many segments of Fremont Ave. N were close for the SPD night out that I was forced to climb up 80th Ave. to get to Ballard that night. With a bunch of aggro drivers from the same closures this meant I was cut off multiple times. I applaud the SPD’s night out but it would be nice if the city would keep bike arterials open like they do car arterials.

    Thanks City of Seattle, I know you are trying!

  8. Mark says:

    Tom,

    This is your best post all year. More like this.

  9. Brian in Seattle says:

    There’s probably not enough room for this , but I’ve always thought a roundabout at Stone Way, 50th, Green Lake Way would be a good idea as well as that crazy 5 way intersection by the Starbucks on the east side of Green Lake. You could probably even fit a roundabout at this intersection as well if you took out some of the parking to the left of the green triangle on the map.

  10. elbe says:

    Another idea that won’ty fly because of money:

    50th on each side of the infamous green lake way / 50th intersection is a hill dipping down to the intersection. 50th could be levelled out a bit by bridging over the intersection. It would require a vastly improved 50th/Aurora intersection and continuation of 50th as an arterial to NW Market.

    I would expect howls from many. But given the amount of traffic that Green Lake Way carries between 50th and Aurora, I think it would the “bridge” would be by far preferable to closing that diagonal.

    But neither is likely to occur.

    • Al Dimond says:

      The bridge would require Big Ass Ramps leading off in all the directions traffic has to turn onto. So that’s some land acquisition and major highway construction resulting in degredation of pedestrian and bike conditions in the whole area. And then more land acquisition and major highway construction down the really steep hill into Ballard (there’s a reason 50th doesn’t continue as an arterial, and it’s the same reason Market Street curves, and that Leary curves for that matter).

      Sounds “far preferable” to vintage 1960 highway planners, and a really bad idea for everyone else.

  11. Al Dimond says:

    Just got home from the meeting. The idea of removing one of the legs of the 50th/Green Lake intersection was brought up and it seems to be one of the options SDOT is considering to improve general traffic conditions there. They seemed to mention a vague possibility of closing one of the legs of 50th, and I assume that would be the western leg because it’s the one that carries the least traffic. But this is way off in the future, probably when there’s money and after lots of input and studies and stuff, so when the time comes I’ll make a case that it’s the southwest spur that deserves to go.

    Responding to some comments above: thanks for reading my odd blog, y’all! Green Lake Way between 46th and 50th is neither a diagonal commercial street nor a grand boulevard. I’ve read Jane Jacobs, too, and what I really picked up from her writing is to use observation over theory. The only intersections on the road that are even crossable on foot (or reasonable to turn left at in a car) are at its two ends; in both cases nearby land use is dominated by interchanges and parking lots. It just doesn’t have the sorts of intersections where active street life flourishes, so it is not and will never be a commercial street.

    As for a grand boulevard, it lacks every element of a grand boulevard but the width. Grand boulevards typically connect public works like parks, monuments, and museums and have recreational, aesthetic, and civic purposes beyond transportation. Naturally their blind spot is commerce, but even when they fail to draw general activity due to their intentional seclusion from mundane stuff like commerce and also become overrun by car traffic they often remain iconic or scenic streets, popular with tourists, joggers, and the like. This road does a fraction of this — it goes to the corner of the park, and obliquely at that. Compare notable, highly flawed boulevards like The Mall in Westminster, which takes you between the palace gates and Trafalgar Square, Chicago’s Olmstead system, which connects a ring of Olmstead parks and little else. This road, which connects one miserable intersection to another, is equally a failure of urbanism without even an attempt at the beauty or civic purpose of these boulevards.

    That makes the road a pair of sewer pipes. If they’re necessary to achieve our broad civic goals then they’re necessary, but if they stand in the way they should be removed and forgotten. The land can be sold! To people! That will build stuff on it!

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Imagine a TIF project where the development of the new lots pays off city investments to mitigate loss of the street, reconnect the grid, etc. The city could fix the problem without spending a penny if they did it right. And, of course, Wallingford would get some new residents and a far more walkable neighborhood out of the deal.

    • Jake says:

      Thanks Al, and great blog post! I really think you’re on to something with that idea, despite Roger’s protests ;)

      Does anybody know of any viable way to nudge the city toward even considering the possibility of this solution?

  12. John Pepys says:

    I’ve been riding this area on a semi-daily basis for about two years now, when school is in session. (Student at NSCC.) For me, it’s never been too harrowing. Going to campus is pretty straightforward: north on stone from fremont/wallingford, continuing on up on the east side of the lake. even though this is about 1.5 miles longer than my old route (crossing aurora at 90th,) i find it’s much less nerve-racking–pretty smooth, all told.

    However, if i were trying to go to the other side of the lake, or to woodland park, etc., I can see it becoming a real bear, real fast! That area inside the green triangle in the picture above is a real headache. I do kind of hold my breath and hope for the best when i approach this area on my way home from campus when i’m headed southbound.

    and even when you get past the green triangle area, as another poster pointed out, the bike lane dissolves–leaving you in a shared lane, with traffic potentially merging from your right/rear without a stop sign. Then you have to cover the distance from greenlake up to the big 5-way cluster-fu** at 50th with cars determined to do 40+ mph! honestly, on my entire 15-mile school commute–from Magnolia to NSCC and back–that stretch from the mini-golf up to 50th is the only place where i really feel like my saftey is “up for grabs.” Due to the high volume of cars there during the daytime, the speed at which traffic moves through there, and the lane hopping that is inherent when approaching a friggin’ 5-way, it takes nerves of steel to do that stretch day in and day out. (It also asks you to have quite a bit of faith in the competence and attentiveness of your fellow roadway users!)

    I’ve been in that situation when cars want to turn left onto E Greenlake Way (right near the mini-golf,) and had their front end sticking out into the bike lane. Definitely treacherous, and I am glad SDOT is looking at ways to simplify/improve this entire area for both cars & bikes.

    PS. for the record, i avoid this area at all costs when i’m on four wheels. one of the first driving lessons i learned when i came to seattle: F*@! driving to Greenlake.
    :-)

  13. Pingback: A closer look at the city’s plans for Green Lake Way | Seattle Bike Blog

  14. Barb says:

    Ever since this re-route, the traffic on Greenlake Way has been backed up from 50th all the way to the golf course every single morning between 8-9:30 a.m. at least (haven’t tried earlier or later as yet.. who knows how many hours are being snarled up!). What a cluster!

    This is the WORST idea for my neighborhood since I’ve moved here. I’d like to petition the city to change it back to the way it was ASAP. Is anyone with me?

    • Eric says:

      I’m seeing the same thing. The problem is that throughput at 50th was reduced by the SDOT design. The community ask was to maintain throughput at the intersection while doing other needed changes to restore lost pedestrian access to the park and to make the road safer. That is possible, most trivially by keeping the intersection unchanged while keeping the new changes between 52nd and the lake, but SDOT got a bit too aggressive with the design unfortunately. They see the backup issues and are looking to make design adjustments.

    • Fnarf says:

      Yup. It’s even backed up along the lake to the light under Aurora.

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