Open house to discuss Westlake cycle track Monday

2013_1003_WCT_BaseMAThe city is holding an open house Monday to discuss plans for a cycle track on Westlake Ave N between the Fremont Bridge and South Lake Union.

Backed by grant funding, the project is entering the early design phase, and they need your input on what you’d like to see.

The open house runs from 5–7 p.m. Monday at B.F. Day Elementary School in Fremont. The presentation starts at 5:30.

If everything goes according to schedule, a safe bikeway could be installed in 2015.

Even with a recently redesigned Dexter Ave nearby, the Westlake parking lot remains a very popular cycling route. Unfortunately, because there is no cycling specific infrastructure, traversing the parking lots can lead to dangerous situations and frustrating conflicts.

Others choose to ride on the street instead, but that can also prove to be dangerous.

The city has made a commitment to retain four lanes on the street at least until the completion of the Alaskan Way tunnel. Westlake is a designated Major Truck Street that carries nearly 24,000 vehicles per day.

Therefore, it is likely that the city will be mostly focused on redesigning the giant city-owned parking lot that runs the full length of the lake. Because parking in the lot is free, it is often used as an unofficial park-and-ride for savvy commuters looking to avoid paying downtown rates.

So is there room in the parking lot for a safe bikeway? Yes. Quite a bit:

UPDATED graphic from SDOT

UPDATED graphic from SDOT

To put 150 feet of right-of-way into perspective, that’s as wide as a runway at a major international airport. The city could pave the whole thing and land a 737 there. There is plenty of room for freight mobility, parking and a safe bikeway.

Westlake is also a possible future streetcar corridor as part of the Ballard to Downtown High Capacity Transit Planning Study, so work on the bikeway will need keep that in mind during design.

The problems of biking through the parking lot are well known to anyone who has ever biked through it. Because there is no clear good option, people choose all sorts of different strategies to navigate through. Some use the sidewalks near storefronts, some ride in the middle of the parking lot, and some take the busy street. None of these options is safe, and the unpredictability is annoying to everyone, on or off a bike.

There is a group of people who have organized to oppose the bikeway plans, going as far as holding a fundraiser for Ed Murray. One business even posted an electronic sign on the road that reads: “Wake Up America. Murray for Mayor. Save Westlake Parking.” Really.

Ed Murray has said that he supports the Westlake cycle track project, telling Publicola, “I support cycle tracks. I used them in Europe. If they think I am opposed, then they’ll be surprised.”

I hope that project opponents change their stance of “no way, no how” and instead come to the table. This is the kind of investment in the corridor that could be a huge boon for businesses and residences along the lake. And if parking concerns are heard, there are very likely options for addressing those needs without maintaining a dangerous situation for people on bikes.

More details on the meeting from SDOT:

The first public open house to kick off design of the Westlake Cycle Track is set for October 28, 2013. Come learn about the process and meet the project team. Share your comments and concerns to help develop a cycle track concept and route alternatives. There will be a formal presentation at 5:30 p.m. and an open house format for the duration of the public meeting, offering multiple opportunities to share your feedback.

Public Open House: Monday, October 28, 2013
B.F. Day Elementary School
Gym & Multi-Purpose Room
3921 Linden Ave N, Seattle 98103
5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. (formal presentation at 5:30p.m.)

If you are unable to attend, share your comments via E-mail or phone: WCT@Seattle.gov or 206-909-8578

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24 Responses to Open house to discuss Westlake cycle track Monday

  1. Charles B says:

    Its absurd how much room is devoted to parking here on this right of way. That’s like a 6 lane road there just used for parking…. We need to get both a cycle track and a devoted transit corridor out of this I think.

    Even if we take enough from for both of those there is still room for street parking, just not a whole parking lot.

    Is there going to be any talk about how to use the corridor for both transit and bikes, or will this be a bicycle only discussion?

  2. Peri Hartman says:

    I’d like to propose an even grander vision, Except for a few bits and pieces, this is the only stretch around Lake Union that isn’t amenable to walking, jogging, or riding around the lake.

    With a proper solution, Lake Union could be a similar attraction to Green Lake. Sure, it doesn’t have the same park setting. But it does have nice views and could easily be a destination for those who are tired of Green Lake or want a longer route. It also connects with Gasworks and SLU park plus several pocket parks.

    Is there space for a bike way? Yes. Is there space for a bike way, transit, jogging loop, sidewalk? I hope so!

    • Mondoman says:

      Peri, I’m not sure what you mean. From SLU northward, there are nice wide sidewalks, open routes through the parking lots, and direct connections with the South Ship Canal Trail and Fremont Bridge to the BG Trail. Perhaps you’re thinking of the east side of Lake Union, which is very spotty once you get north of the Zymogenetics building?

      • Peri Hartman says:

        Yes, parts of it are fine. But it is inconsistent and not a welcoming route for joggers and people out for a stroll. There are too many deviations and obstacles. Obviously one can’t turn it into Green Lake but it could be made more seamless.

  3. Zach Shaner says:

    Suggested talking points:

    “We’re only asking for 10′ out of 150″
    “You can accommodate every single person bicycling on just 7% of the ROW.”
    “93% of the ROW can remain for cars and transit, and in return you’ll never be stuck behind a bicycle again.”

    Seriously, build this and everybody wins.

    • Charles B says:

      If we just made the parking spaces diagonal and made the access to the parking spots one way (South to North.. like we have in some areas around Green Lake). There would be more than enough room for a superb cycle track with no massive loss of parking.

      I still think we need to talk about transit though. This is an important corridor to the city and I would prefer the transit be in a different lane from the cars and freight. It would improve mobility for both.

      I redesign of this corridor could accommodate everyone’s needs (including some parking! Given how huge this space is everyone can still win if it were more efficiently designed!).

      • Zach Shaner says:

        Here’s a mockup via Streetsmix, just to show how enormous the ROW is. http://streetmix.net/zachshan/1/westlake-avenue-north

      • Charles B says:

        @Zach

        Yep its huge. Thanks for the illustration. Unfortunately its not quite that wide for the whole corridor.

        Not a fan of the parallel parking though. It is more space efficient, but also more accident prone. I think going for diagonal slots would be better (on one side) with perhaps a bit less sidewalk to make up for it. Parking on arterial streets is not a good idea in general I think.

  4. Mike says:

    “The city could pave the whole thing and land a 737 there.”

    Can I vote for that? I’d love to have non-stops between Lake Union and LAX.

  5. sean says:

    Tom, I have to respectfully disagree that taking the lane on Westlake is unsafe. Yes, even a cycle track can be a deathtrap should a drunk driver cross paths with you at an intersection…. And yes for sure a cycle track would be useful here for those cyclists that ride in the parking lot. I have to emphasize that 15 mph and below are fine on a track, but I sure hope those going faster (like me…sometimes) will still get to take the lane on Westlake without being heckled (“get on the bike trail” and the like).

    Taking the lane when visible, ie. well lit and paying attention to speed differential (eg not riding in the road doing 8 mph) can be perfectly safe.

    Taking the lane is not one size fits all…but neither are cycle tracks. Would definitely use a cycle track though when riding with my kids and I do support its construction….short of an ors type culture (see Maus Ashland article) where its use is mandatory.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      I’m a confident rider, and the speeds people can get up to on Westlake scares me. I’ve done it when in a hurry, but would certainly describe it as dangerous.

      That said, no, we do not have any laws that would mandate use of the cycle track. If you really want to bike in the street, you can. Will someone be a jerk to you about it? Well, possibly. But such a jerk would probably be a jerk to you today, too, so no real change there…

      I think it’s important to put our bike improvements aimed at people who would never bike in traffic on Westlake. I understand that people who bike really fast might not like cycle tracks, but y’all are already awesome and don’t need help from cycle infrastructure as much as others. If we can make it feel safe and comfortable for an 8-year-old, then we’ve made it comfortable to everybody, and that’s the major goal.

      • sean says:

        Tom, I’m down with making things work for the average 8 yo’s(and my 10 and 12 yo’s), you’ll get no argument from me there..or for myself on a recovery day from an epic ride– a cycle track is just the ticket. We do need a range of solutions… I do have to say I’ve experienced 97% (swag) courtesy on westlake proper, and a wide berth from passing motorists. But then again I’m lit up like an Xmas tree unlike many cyclists I’ve encountered in the last couple hours (Johnny cash black hoodie costumes not cool on two wheels people, Halloween or not!!!)

      • Forrest says:

        I have to agree with Tom. I bike *everywhere* in Seattle… and I have an 8-year-old. I don’t ride on Westlake between Fremont Bridge and SLU, and I def wouldn’t take my son. Can’t wait for a cycle track!

  6. Mondoman says:

    Maybe I’m missing something here. I ride the parking lots as my preferred route between the Fremont Bridge or South Ship Canal Trail and SLU and never have any problems/danger. If Dexter is there for the speedy folks, then the parking lots are there for the less speedy folks. In my experience, cars in the parking lot area are looking for other vehicles/peds and moving slowly, so are not a threat to bikes as they would be on a through road.
    Thus, why the need to spend scarce bike funds on a bikeway *here* as opposed to e.g. connect SLU w/Univ Bridge along Eastlake, or connect SLU with the waterfront trail via a crosstown bikeway through lower Queene Anne, now that there’s an awesome new bridge across Elliott Ave? Duplicating existing functionality (and spending political capital to do it) seems like a waste when then are major connecting routes nearby that aren’t even served by one path, let alone the two already in place here.

    • Mondoman says:

      PS – I usually ride about 10-12mph on the flats

      • Al Dimond says:

        So much of that parking is used for things other than resident and business access, things the city has no great interest in providing free parking for on public land; it’s a status quo that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. This isn’t a Ravenna-Bryant (NE 65th between 20th and 25th) situation where there really is a limited amount of parking that’s heavily used for business access — here there’s an overabundance of public parking that’s barely managed by the city. The ROW is wide and cycletracks are not that wide — I’m very confident that one could be added without removing a critical amount of parking.

      • Al Dimond says:

        Oops, responded to the wrong comment. Sorry.

    • Peri Hartman says:

      I went to the meeting last night. Boy, was it crowded! I talked to several of the city hosts but also listened to what various other stakeholders had to say. A few pointed out what you say – Dexter already exists and, for commuters, what’s wrong with it, especially after the city spent so much money there. Others pointed out how heavily the parking is currently used for residents and businesses and they fear that reducing the parking would be a hardship considering there isn’t any alternatives near by.

      On the other hand, one of the city’s charts showed that, during peak hours, 150-200 bikes per hour (total of both directions) go through the Westlake route. In my opinion, that shows that regardless of how adequate Dexter is, there is high demand for Westlake. However, unless you go 5-10 mph, riding the parking lots is dangerous; at least one person has been killed and many struck by cars. So even if Dexter is there for higher speed riding (and it gets high ridership, too) many people will continue to choose Westlake.

      It’s really a tough problem with a huge number of varied-interest stakeholders.

    • adot says:

      It’s safe til it’s not. I also ride ~10 mph through the Westlake lot regularly and have definitely been hit by a clueless girl talking on her phone while driving through the lot. The only thing that would have changed that is a separated facility for bikes, away from pedestrians and auto / truck traffic.

  7. Karl says:

    All I have to say is that looks like a huge investment for a track next to what might be the greatest bike superhighway in the city, Dexter. I know some people may have an aversion to breaking a sweat and need a route that’s a few minutes shorter, but being from the Southend I’m biased toward believing there are plenty of other projects that will do more to serve the greater good of the city as a whole. Just try to visit me via Rainier Ave, probably the most dangerous street in the city and see how you feel after riding in the gutter with cars and trucks darting aggressively around you.

    I know the lower rider numbers may not justify funding of projects in the Rainier Valley, but the citizens here are also much less likely to afford the coin for rides that can flatten hills like Dexter with ease. And they are also the ones who need cheap transportation the most, just to get to work or school, let alone trying to be healthier and having a better quality of life.

    I mostly ride up the Chief Sealth to Beacon to get to work, which is actually a nice path (Dexter is still a magic carpet in comparison), but the void in Rainier Valley is much greater than the void next to Dexter, I think. I know we may eventually get more infrastructure down here, but I’m just sayin… Westlake sounds beautiful, yet, where are our priorities?

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