The mayor sent an email to neighbors of NE 65th Street to give them an update on the city’s research into which option should be included in the Bicycle Master Plan. SDOT came up with four options and created an online survey so people can vote on their preferred option.
You can see these options and my thoughts below. But first, let’s take a look at current conditions and give some background.
A surprisingly strong opposition formed this summer, angry about the concept of a protected NE 65th Street bikeway being included in the city’s in-process city-wide Bicycle Master Plan. This opposition prompted a series of public meetings that are ongoing. The next meeting is an open house October 16, 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Ravenna-Eckstein Community Center.
On a community walk during rush hour in mid-August, city officials, concerned business owners and cycle track supporters got together to take a look at the current state of NE 65th Street and to discuss options for compromises. One thing became very clear: The street is very different west of 20th Ave NE than it is to the east. So let’s divide discussion about the street at 20th.
West of 20th Ave
One thing Traffic Engineer Dongho Chang pointed out was the fact that people driving on NE 65th Street west of 20th Ave NE already choose to travel single-file down the street despite the fact that during commute times there is space for two lanes. Traffic volumes on the street are relatively low (16,000 which for comparison is about 5,000 fewer than on NE 75th Street), and the number of people driving through the area already move smoothly using one lane in each direction (see video above, shot during rush hour).
But because of the poor road design, there is a ton of wasted space on the street. Meanwhile, there are many people walking and biking who are relegated to the edges of this popular commercial drag. With the light rail station coming in the next decade and big development projects in the works, the number of people biking and walking in the area is set to grow dramatically.
Sidewalk cycling is fairly common, and street crossings are wide and uncomfortable for people on foot, especially people who move more slowly.
There is no question that protected bike lanes of some kind are not only possible, but would be a big improvement for people walking, biking, driving and running a business. Though the city is not doing any actual design work on their plans for the street (it’s a high-level master plan), there is likely enough space to create safe bike lanes and preserve parking and emergency/drop-off access just by utilizing the wasted space more wisely.
East of 20th Ave
One of the concerned business owners on the walk, David Katz, owns the carpet store shown in the photo above. As you can see, a cycle track concerns him because it absolutely means removing parking in this small commercial corner at Ravenna Ave NE. While we can debate on-street parking policies all day long, it’s not an entirely unreasonable concern.
So now, let’s look at the options.
A: Cycle track from Green Lake to Magnuson Park
In the city’s survey, you will find four options. The first is essentially the original Bike Master Plan proposal. This option — based on needs for network connectivity and on the goal of building a high-quality bike route close to every home in Seattle — envisions a protected bike lane of some kind from Green Lake to Magnuson Park.
In a part of the city where east-west bike routes are extremely rare, this is a very attractive option especially on paper. It is simple, direct and safe.
B: End the cycle track at 35th
I don’t yet understand this option. Basically, it would keep the cycle track in all the controversial parts, but delete it entirely (with no replacement bike facility) for the hilly parts. I don’t remember hearing many people asking for an option like this.
C: The compromise option
This option is the compromise option. Instead of routing the cycle track through the skinnier and hillier parts of 65th, the bike route would transition at 20th Ave (one of my favorite streets to bike in all of northeast Seattle). A neighborhood greenway on NE 68th St would serve as the main east-west route west of 20th Ave, connecting to a proposed cycle track on 35th and the existing neighborhood greenway on 39th.
As we discussed above, 20th could be a good spot for a transition if there is going to be one, since the road configuration changes significantly. Katz, the carpet store owner concerned about the cycle track at 65th and Ravenna Ave, said during the community walk that he would rather work to support a neighborhood greenway than to fight a cycle track. He is likely not alone, and perhaps this compromise could help forge new community alliances behind the goal of road safety in Ravenna.
I don’t understand why this option deletes the planned cycle track between Ravenna Boulevard and Green Lake, which has rarely come up in discussions and seems unrelated to the concerns voiced by people mostly focused on the Ravenna neighborhood.
The big question is whether this option still achieves the connectivity, usability and safety goals of the bike plan. I am headed to Ravenna soon to do a little biking and observation and will have more thoughts on this in a future post. I would love if some of you would do to the same and leave your thoughts in the comments below. Is this a reasonable compromise?
D: No changes to 65th
Needless to say, this option is unacceptable. It does not improve connectivity to businesses and future transit on 65th, it doesn’t improve safety on the key crossing under I-5, and the proposed neighborhood greenway goes so far out of the way that many people will likely still use the direct, relatively flat and still dangerous 65th instead.
This option does emphasize a promising crossing of I-5 at 63rd that is a lesser note but also included in the other options. We will have more on this in our follow-up story.
It also does nothing to improve the walking environment on NE 65th Street, a goal identified by many community members.
What are your thoughts on the options? Please let us know in the comments below and, of course, in the city’s online survey.
Here’s the mayor’s full email to neighbors:
Thank you for attending the August 12th Town Hall or providing comments on the Draft Bicycle Master Plan (BMP) update. Because of the level of interest in your neighborhood, I’d like to provide an update on the developing plan and give you another opportunity to provide comment. After receiving all of the comments and reviewing them, we will finalize the plan and send it to the City Council for review and adoption.
Based on public input received to date the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has developed four alternatives for you to consider for the final draft bicycle network map for the Northeast 65th Street corridor and surrounding streets. These alternatives include different combinations of neighborhood greenways (bicycle facilities on residential streets) and cycle tracks (bicycle facilities on arterials that are separated and protected from adjoining traffic).
It is important to emphasize that the final recommendation would only be part of the BMP’s long-range network plan map. The actual construction for any kind of project along the Northeast 65th Street corridor or other adjacent streets is a separate project development process to look at corridor needs and constraints in greater detail, and may be several years out.
You can rank your preferences for an alternative (or suggest another option) by responding to the online survey below, or it can also be taken in person at the open house. That open house will be:
October 16th, 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm
Ravenna-Eckstein Community Center
6535 Ravenna Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98115
To comment online on which of the four alternatives you prefer, please see http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PBDKX6B. This online survey will be available until 5:30 pm, October 17th.
After review of survey responses and comments received during the open house, the mayor’s office and SDOT will finalize our final draft Bicycle Master Plan, which will be transmitted to City Council for review later this fall. Council will then hold a public hearing, and will ultimately adopt an updated Bicycle Master Plan. Again, any plans for constructing bicycle improvements in this area may be some time out since this is a long-range plan. Actual construction of any subsequent would have a separate outreach and design process.
Considerations in developing these alternatives and making a final recommendation for the corridor will be based on:
Safety for all modes
Ensuring a citywide bicycle network that serves people of all ages and abilities
Integration of transit needs
Access to the new Roosevelt light rail station
Access and loading to Ida Culver House, other properties, and businesses
Thank you for your help in completing this survey. If you have any follow-up questions, please contact Kevin O’Neill, Planning Manager at SDOT at Kevin.firstname.lastname@example.org. To see what the City is doing citywide on road safety, see seattle.gov/besupersafe.