A closer look at the city’s plans for Green Lake Way

082013 Green Lake Presentation_FINAL

Traffic volumes on Green Lake Way are lower than they have been in half a century.

We wrote a couple weeks ago about plans to redesign Green Lake Way between 50th and the lake.

Below are more details on the city’s plans, from an open house presentation. Beyond just the merits for this project, it also seems like SDOT is getting a lot better at making a clear case for road safety projects in these presentations. For example, here’s a diagram explaining why four-lane streets are dangerous to cross on foot:

082013 Green Lake Presentation_FINALcrashThe city actually removed crosswalks from the street because they were not safe (or comfortable) for this reason. So now, as part of this project, the city will be making the road safer and adding the crosswalks back.

SDOT also crunched traffic numbers and determined that, based on the city’s studies on similar streets in the city and extensive traffic counts all around the project area, a reconfigured street with bike lanes and a center turn lane would work much better. That would look like this:

082013 Green Lake Presentation_FINALbfafIn our previous post, we discussed the crazy intersections near the Pitch & Putt and at 50th. Here are the city’s plans for dealing with those:

Green Lake Open House Boards_LOW-triangleGreen Lake Open House Boards_LOWIn general, the plans are solid. The northbound bike lane, however, could be a lot better. It’s square in the door zone and will likely not be very comfortable or inviting. The city should try to give it some more space or maybe even some separation. A two-way cycle track wouldn’t really work here unless it were built along the entire Stone Way/Green Lake corridor (a good idea, but obviously beyond the scope of this project), but a little help for the northbound lane would go a long way.

Here’s the full presentation:

082013 Green Lake Presentation_FINAL by tfooq

Here are the open house boards:

Green Lake Open House Boards_LOW by tfooq

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12 Responses to A closer look at the city’s plans for Green Lake Way

  1. Fnarf says:

    Overall I am supportive, but I’m confused about that southbound stop sign, as there is no cross traffic of any kind there, and coming to a stop makes the merge there more difficult, not less, as you’re trying to merge from zero with traffic moving very fast (though one hopes less fast than before). I know as a cyclist I will be running that sign flat out every time, as bikes don’t need or want to merge there, and again there is literally zero cross traffic of any kind. What exactly are you supposed to be stopping FOR?

    They could make the bike lane a little wider by shrinking those traffic lanes another foot. Ten feet is plenty, especially since no buses travel this route. Jeff Speck in his fantastic book “Walkable City” goes on at length about the incorrect assumptions made by traffic engineers that have led to all these super-wide lanes across the country. In short, engineering for higher speeds doesn’t increase safety, it increases speed.

    If they had the money they could solve the space problem in a huge way by getting rid of the stupid grass strip between the parking lot and the street. In reality, if you stop looking at pavement markings and just count the distance between buildings on either side, that stretch of Green Lake Way is the widest street in the entire city (but half of it is parking).

    • Al Dimond says:

      As a cyclist at that precise location you’re stopping for the same thing drivers are stopping for: pedestrians in the crosswalk and that’s it.

      This is a lot like the Nickerson/Dexter intersection. SDOT built a highway-style merge in concrete, and now they’re trying to make it more hospitable with signs and paint.

    • RJB says:

      My guess is that the stop is mainly for the benefit of southbound bicyclists coming down East Greenlake Way, that is, going straight S through that intersection, not merging in from the West. The cars from the W turning N onto E Greenlake already have a stop sign, but without the new stop where proposed, cars coming from the W turning S will be merging right across the bike lane. Presently, cars can whip around that corner because they go into their own lane – no merge required, but with just a single S-bound lane, a true merge into the single lane will be necessary, and that merge point will be right on top the bicycle lane. Just a guess, but I’d think the worry is that drivers will be primarily watching for cars, and there would be too many “but I didn’t see him” collisions with bicyclists there.

      • Al Dimond says:

        If that’s the intent, I seriously doubt the effectiveness. If cars from the west are going to stop for bikes from the south they need to stop at the point their paths cross, not stop before it and then accelerate to the point where they cross, and at a funny angle to boot!

  2. Breadbaker says:

    While I like the Stone/Interlake/N.49th Street change (sometimes it feels like one is biking in no man’s land there, particularly when traffic heading north on Stone is backed up for the light), I don’t think the change at the corner of the strangely named intersection of West Green Lake Way N. and East Green Lake Way N. deals adequately with the challenge faced by southbound cyclists coming down East Green Lake Way N. The problem there is a long merge across the traffic from the side of Green Lake past the pitch and putt to the side of Woodland Park. The problem is not for the cyclist who was on the side of the soccer field. Like Fnarf says, that cyclist will just ignore the stop sign (it might even say “except bikes”) and continue into the separated bike lane. But the southbound cyclist coming from the pitch and putt now doesn’t hit the new bike lane until way south of that stop sign, when the angry motorist has decided it’s the perfect time to “patch out” after having lost speed at the stop sign (or treated it as a yield sign anyway). I don’t necessarily have a solution, but at least based on my experience biking through this intersection for 3 years, that’s the place where the problem is. You basically have to turn your head about 150 degrees to see the traffic coming past the soccer field while moving over two lanes.

    • Al Dimond says:

      Yeah… at-speed merges across bike lanes are no fun for anyone. If they want to preserve the capacity advantage of the at-speed merge but have a reasonable path for people biking south then they should get the people biking south across at the stop sign (along with people walking in the crosswalk there). But the fact that the left turn from NB to WB is also channelized there complicates things.

      Maybe this is one of those intersections where a low-speed traffic circle would work.

      • Breadbaker says:

        I think the idea of a low-speed traffic circle right there makes a lot of sense. And I’ve thought a traffic circle at the five-way intersection by Kidd Valley made more sense than anything I’ve ever seen proposed.

      • Al Dimond says:

        SDOT reps at the Green Lake Way meeting said a traffic circle near Kidd Valley (Green Lake/50th/Stone) performed very poorly in simulations because traffic tends to arrive at the intersection in bunches from most directions (because of other really long light cycles in the area), and traffic circles perform very poorly in that case.

        East Green Lake/West Green Lake probably gets traffic in bunches from the south (though once the road diet is finished perhaps less so), somewhat from the north (there’s a light at 64th but with a shorter cycle so traffic doesn’t stack up there too much), and not really from the west. It has a lot less volume and fewer spokes than the intersection at 50th, so the bunching it has surely is less of a problem. There are a bunch of not-super-high-volume intersections around Green Lake with funny shapes… I used to be more skeptical of the idea that circles would serve the large volumes of walking and biking traffic there well now, but I’ve read more about one-lane traffic circles and apparently they work well for this sort of thing.

  3. S says:

    I agree that stop sign is problematic.

  4. Doug Bostrom says:

    Delighted to see that the northbound pinch from two lanes to one (at intersection of E and W Greenlake) will be eliminated, along with the opportunity for folks in the right lane to punch it so as to get the jump on other traffic. It’s horribly dangerous to everybody in the vicinity, whether on foot or on two or four wheels.

    Someday, traffic engineers will once and for all acknowledge human nature and understand that a vanishing lane is a irresistible temptation to the infant living more or less deeply in us all.

  5. Don Brubeck says:

    The pitch and putt can be a hazard in itself. My nephew, while learning to play golf there at age 16, hit a hole in one — right into the open driver’s window of a passing car. Missed the driver.

  6. Pingback: Mostly-finished Green Lake Way project reconnects neighbors with their parks | Seattle Bike Blog

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