As promised in our previous post (see also for background), here is a more in-depth and ground-tested look at the options SDOT is considering for NE 65th Street in the city-wide Bike Master Plan.
I went on a bike tour of the area with former Cascade Communications Director M.J. Kelly last week to explore the options suggested in the city’s online survey. As a reminder, there is an open house Tomorrow (October 16), 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Ravenna-Eckstein Community Center.
We will change up the order a bit below to help illustrate why Option C is looking more and more like a promising compromise.
Option D is the least understood option, so it is the one I most focused my explorations around. There are some very interesting elements in the option, though many of them are also noted in the other plans (but under this option, they would get higher priority).
For example, note the red trail crossing under I-5 and Ravenna Boulevard to meet up with a proposed neighborhood greenway heading west on NE 63rd Street. That connection would require improving an existing (very skinny) path between the freeway and a house, pictured here:
It would also require somehow routing a trail under I-5 and the existing Park & Ride lot to meet up with NE 64th Street. Again, not an impossible feat:
Once across (heading east), a neighborhood greenway would wind all the way down to NE 62nd Street, a beautiful park-side street that currently dead-ends around Ravenna Ave NE into a walking bridge with stairs on each end:
Since no street south of NE 65th and north of Ravenna Park goes all the way through, building a new bikeable and ADA accessible bridge here is the only way to make Option D a working bike route (though it is lovely if you’re on foot). Again, not impossible.
Option D’s route then continues on NE 60th Street to meet up with the 39th Ave NE greenway and its connection to the Burke-Gilman Trail and Wedgwood’s neighborhood center.
But this is five blocks (really, two long blocks) away from NE 65th Street, which is too far to be considered an adequate alternative for a bike facility on 65th itself. It is also long and winding. But the lovely connections to the park and new options for crossing I-5 do make it attractive as a project of its own. It’s just not an acceptable “alternative” to a NE 65th Street bikeway.
This is the route as it appears in the current draft of the bike plan. It is simple, safe and direct. If you are going to go up the hill east of 35th to get to the Burke-Gilman or another destination there, this would provide a safe and comfortable way to get there. North of 65th, routes get even more steep.
This is the most bike-friendly option.
Option C is a ground-truthed and solid bike route. As we discussed in our previous post, the route shifts at 20th Ave NE with a cycle track to the west on 65th Street and a neighborhood greenway to the east on NE 68th Street (which is really one long block north of 65th).
NE 68th Street is already a very popular street for people on foot and on bikes. Sure, it is awful hilly (especially between 25th and 31st), but every street is hilly and grades are comparable to NE 65th.
The connection on 20th Ave NE is also promising, since that street is a fantastic option for a neighborhood greenway. After all, the 20th Ave bike and walk bridge through Ravenna Park might be my favorite bridge in the whole city (also, it’s a very useful transportation connection).
The cycle track west of 20th will provide a safe and direct connection under I-5 and through the main commercial segment of NE 65th Street, including the future light rail station. It would also be a chance to make the commercial area safer and easier for people on foot and, yes, people driving.
And despite some false information being spread anonymously on telephone poles in the area (seriously), such a cycle track can be constructed in a way that preserves all emergency vehicle stops and even on-street parking. These are design details that would be worked out later when the project receives funding and staff for planning and/or construction. They are not reasons to oppose placement of the project on the high-level Bike Master Plan.
This cycle track plan should be extended all the way to Green Lake as in Options A and B.
A “turn” in the route at 20th Ave NE would certainly be more confusing than simply continuing a protected bikeway on the whole street. But installing a bikeway on NE 65th Street east of 20th will be much more difficult, and some businesses in the small commercial area at Ravenna Avenue strongly oppose a project that would remove parking.
This is the compromise. It would be great to have neighborhood support behind the cycle track where it is most needed and can do the most good, even if they are a bit wary of it’s potential for success (again, the details will be hashed out later, perhaps even years later). On the other hand, while I am not convinced that losing parking would be devastating to businesses in the area, some neighborhood residents and business owners are genuinely concerned about it. So through this option (or something like it), perhaps there’s a chance to partner for safety instead of fighting for road space.
So that’s your decision when completing the online survey and engaging in discussions at the open house. Are there neighbors who are willing to rally behind compromise Option C? Or is it unwise to compromise on safety and, therefore, Option A is the only acceptable path for the plan?
UPDATE: Cascade posted their take on the options on their blog. They strongly support Option A. And they make a good point that Option C does not actually connect to Magnuson Park. There are also likely options for safety improvements of some kind on sections of 65th that would not have a cycle track in Option C.
So, here’s some thing I whipped up, which I’ll call Option C+. The dotted line is for “on street, minor separation.” Think, perhaps, a climbing lane for uphill segments. This would also better connect the PCC market with the neighborhoods around it.
And to clarify, Option A is clearly the best option. But if there seems to be room to compromise and form a neighborhood alliance behind something like Option C, let’s see where those discussions go.