Mostly-finished Green Lake Way project reconnects neighbors with their parks

IMG_2127-2While we here at Seattle Bike Blog spend a lot of time urging the city to invest in protected bike lanes, it’s important to remember that simply redesigning a street using paint can completely revolutionize a street.

The city’s in-process remake of Green Lake Way between N 50th Street and Green Lake is a perfect example of this.

What was until very recently a highway-style barrier separating the neighborhoods from Woodland Park and a six-block high-stress missing link in a key bike route is now much calmer and much more in-scale with the neighborhood.

I swung by at the start of rush hour Thursday to check it out, and was completely blown away by how much safer the street feels. Even though elements near 50th and near the Pitch & Putt are still under construction as of this writing, the project is already a huge success.

A little quick background (see our previous posts for more): Green Lake Way was a short missing link between stretches of road that were previously upgraded to have two general lanes, bike lanes and sometimes a center turn lane. Stone Way to its south was updated in 2007, and follow-up study showed that the project was a huge success by every measure. This project simply extended that project to meet with Green Lake.

Until this month, Green Lake Way looked like this:

Image from Google Street View

Image from Google Street View

Now, it looks like this:

IMG_21342This redesign does not only help people on foot or on bikes. I saw multiple cars safely make left turns in and out of the Woodland Park parking lot (on right in photo above). This maneuver was stressful and dangerous before the changes, but now is as routine as any other turn. After all, a street that is designed for a neighborhood scale works better for everyone, people driving included.

The project was pushed by neighborhood groups — including the Wallingford and Green Lake Community Councils — in large part because the old road made it unsafe to cross the street between Wallingford/Tangletown homes and Woodland Park. In fact, it was so unsafe that the city removed two crosswalks, and the residents wanted them back.

And that’s the larger point of complete streets projects. If you can’t walk or bike along and across a street, then it doesn’t belong in a neighborhood. Green Lake Way, like so many dangerous streets in Seattle, was designed during an era when moving cars quickly was put above all other priorities. We now know that designing city streets through neighborhoods as though they were rural highways is deadly, devastates the ability for residents to walk and bike and leads to far too many car crashes.

Anyway, back to Green Lake Way. Another advantage of the remake is that it corrects some of the strangest and most poorly-designed bits of bike lanes in the city. Remember this bizarre tiny bike lane that stretched about 1/3 of a block just north of 50th?

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 3.05.45 PMNow the bike lane there is much more safe and usable:

IMG_2141Oh, and that strange green triangle bike sliver southbound at the 50th St stop light? The city is still working on this intersection, but you can see that it is being replaced with an actual bike lane:

IMG_2148The crazy intersection at 50th will not be completely fixed by this project, unfortunately. To fix it right would require some high-budget remakes. And it still takes forever to cross catty-corner from Woodland Park if you are are on foot. But the city does have plans to close off this dangerous right-turn near Kidd Valley, effectively extending the sidewalk all the way to the intersection:

IMG_2138So, there’s still work to be done both to finish this project and also at some point in the future when the city fully invests to fix this frustrating-to-everyone intersection. But for a fairly low-budget project, this redesign has accomplished a lot.

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18 Responses to Mostly-finished Green Lake Way project reconnects neighbors with their parks

  1. Fnarf says:

    I don’t know what kind of crappy paint they used in this project, but on a rainy day with the sun low in the sky all those nice new white lines disappear in the reflection. At the turn where Green Lake Way joins at the golf course (your first photo, but looking the other direction), I’ve seen numerous vehicles weaving over the bike lane and back, looking for the traffic lane. There’s still an ocean of pavement there, and even if most of it is now off-limits, it’s really hard to see.

    Maybe they could fill the bike lane with green paint the whole way, so it’s a little more visible.

    One thing they definitely need to do is take down one of the stoplights both north- and south-bound at 50th. The two lights side by side indicate two lanes of cars, but there’s only one now. And you can’t see the paint. Problem.

  2. Eric Fisk says:

    Thanks Tom! It’s exciting to see this change go into our neighborhood, but the improvements have so far has been overshadowed by the fact that Green Lake Way Southbound has been backing up to the lake and around it, particularly on weekday mornings.

    The problem was created when SDOT chose to make the right turn lane on Green Lake Way Southbound at 50th way too short. The Community Councils’ ask had that turn lane extending to nearly 52nd street, but SDOT chose to make it only about 1/4th that length. The result is that cars that want to go straight onto Stone block the bulk of traffic turning right onto Green Lake Way. The situation is frustrating for everyone. SDOT is planning to fix the issue by extending the right turn lane on Green Lake Way Southbound, but I don’t know when.

    Once that fix is in place I hope the reconfiguration will be regarded as a general improvement for everyone. Note that even after the change, there will plenty of room for good sized bike lanes going all the way through.

  3. bill says:

    I rode through this area on Tuesday, and like Tom was blown away by how nice it is now.

    About the paint, I recall reading somewhere that the city uses less-durable paint when a street is redesigned so that the striping is easy to change if it turns out changes are needed. Maybe that is what is going on with the visibility, although lane markings becoming invisible in the rain is hardly a new thing around here.

  4. Charles B says:

    This newly painted route hooks up fairly well with the newly painted section on the south end of Linden (just West of Aurora near Green Lake). The tunnel under Aurora is a bit of a bottleneck, and it forces you into traffic for a bit near the end of Green Lake Way, but beyond that the combined bike lanes on Linden, Green Lake way and Stone make for a reasonable ride up from Burke Gilman.

    I have taken this a few times, and besides the bottleneck at the little tunnel under Aurora, the only place I have to be on regular streets when going to the Fremont Greenway is a short segment of Linden where the bike lanes turn onto Winona N until I find a convenient street to cut back over to Fremont.

  5. kommish says:

    I too rode through this intersection and was very happy. It felt much safer.

    And I agree about getting across that intersection as a pedestrian. My kid calls it the “punishment corner” because the wait at each turn is so. freaking. long.

    • Jessica says:

      I agree also, and as a runner going from 45th & Stone to Greenlake Park, I admit that I often zigzag through the neighborhood and jaywalk across Greenlake Way south of this intersection and across 50th west of this intersection just to skip the light. Probably not the intended result, but it is a really crappy wait.

      • Eric Fisk says:

        For pedestrian access, there’s new crosswalks put in at 50th and Woodland Park Ave (put in last year), plus at Green Lake Way and 52nd (going live any day now as part of reconfiguration). With the exception of Green Lake Way south of the intersection, there are now crosswalks within 2 blocks of the intersection for each roadway. The idea is to offer a circle of crosswalks around the intersection to help people cross the streets without jay walking. A crossing over Green Lake Way south of the intersection has been proposed a couple times but didn’t make it through funding rounds.

      • Al Dimond says:

        It’s not jaywalking to cross an arterial road at an intersection or driveway. It’s totally legal, and even though it isn’t very pleasant in a lot of cases I think it’s important that we stop thinking of crossing the street as something we do hoping nobody in a car sees us.

        When you say “crossing over Green Lake Way” do you mean a bridge? I think that would be really silly… Green Lake Way south of 50th could really just be removed entirely. It would reduce vehicle capacity, but maybe not by as much as people think; capacity on it and all surrounding roads is squandered at the complicated intersections at 50th and 46th. And this reduction in vehicle capacity would be balanced against major improvements in pedestrian and biking mobility in all cardinal directions and the restoration of functionality of the original local street grid.

      • LWC says:

        At the intersections, it’s not only legal to cross Green Lake Way, but drivers are required by law to yield to pedestrians. Mid-block between these intersections, it’s still legal to cross (i.e. it’s not jay-walking) as long as the pedestrian yields to vehicles. I think laws concerning when/where pedestrians have the right-of-way are some of the least understood in the city. There’s a listing of the relevant laws here.

  6. John Otakie says:

    This type of remake would be perfect for SW 7th Street in Renton, between Rainier Ave and Oaksdale. That street is marked as “bicycle friendly” on Google Maps and it is even used for STP. Yet there is no bike lane or shoulder. And the absence of a left turn lane makes it dangerous even for cars.

  7. Breadbaker says:

    My first experience of this was driving in the dark coming southeast past Green Lake. The new stop sign, which makes sense, is still just a temporary stop. The real problem is that the left hand turning traffic right at the pitch and putt does not seem to have been rechanneled while the right hand turning traffic heading south at the stop sign has been moved. Essentially, the left hand turning traffic was coming straight at us. I assume this is going to be fixed, but it was a bit of a fright.

    Also, I didn’t see signage warning of the change. Funny how they have a million signs on the Linden cycle track (all directed at cyclists, none at cars) telling us who we should stop at every driveway, but there’s nothing here telling people who have lived all their lives that there’s a new stop sign. I may have missed it in the dark, however.

  8. No traffic lights says:

    The hard right at Kidd-Valley is now closed with a concrete curb and some traffic cones. I just came through there a few minutes ago.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      They also put up some concrete barriers to help direct traffic near the Pitch & Putt. Already works much better than when I was there.

  9. lunatiki says:

    This whole section of road is so much more pleasant to ride now. It works great going southbound if you’re coming around the lake from Fremont/Linden. Trying to do the reverse still sucks, as you have to get over from the far right to the left turn lane to turn onto West Green Lake Way, while trying not to get squashed by cars.

  10. Pingback: A Mom Rediscovers Her Bike | Sightline Daily

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