Safety is top concern voiced at Westlake open house

From the open house display boards

From the open house display boards

People who attended an October open house overwhelmingly responded that safety for people biking and walking should be the top concern for planners of the Westlake bikeway project, a city report shows.

The project has drawn the ire of some people and maritime businesses afraid of losing parking in the giant city-owned parking lot running from Lake Union Park to the Fremont Bridge. But the promise of a truly safe way to bike through the corridor and to Westlake businesses and homes has garnered big support.

But more importantly, the open house feedback shows that almost everyone, whether they are concerned about parking or not, is concerned about the safety of people biking and walking in the area.

Westlake_Cycle_Track_October28_Summary_FINAL

The city is conducting more studies and outreach, which is good since there are a lot of people who are confused about what a “cycle track” is. The organized crew of opponents to the cycle track say they want a “slow” bike route through the area, but seem to be confused into thinking that a cycle track is some kind of high speed bike lane. Hopefully more outreach can break through some of the knee-jerk fears that have been stoked about the plan. After all, we all want a safe space for people to bike through the area, and this project is the chance to make that happen.

Stay tuned in early 2014 for more. From the project team:

Our design team is completing studies of existing conditions that began this fall, including traffic and parking studies. The information gathered will be available in early 2014 and will be posted to the project website and shared with our email list.

To continue learning more about the uses of the Westlake Avenue North roadway and parking areas, we will be visiting with local businesses and residences in January. Firsthand information about access, loading and unloading areas, delivery truck sizes and more will help inform our design work moving forward.

Below is the report from the open house:

Westlake Cycle Track October28 Summary FINAL

Here are the presentation slides from the open house:

October2013 WestlakeCycleTrack OpenHouse Presentation

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5 Responses to Safety is top concern voiced at Westlake open house

  1. Al Dimond says:

    I just rode the existing parking lot route for the first time a few days ago (my parents were in town, staying at a hotel near Lake Union Park; I’d run the route several times but never biked it), and while I didn’t experience typical weekday traffic volumes (of cyclists, pedestrians, or cars) I think I got a decent feel for the merits and challenges of the existing route.

    The existing route is clearly not a safe place to ride 20 MPH, or even 10-15 in many spots, but there are clear enough visual cues of this than no sensible person would try to speed through. There are lots of vehicle crossings, but they mostly look like ones that would be navigated at low speed by everyone, and should be fairly safe for that reason.

    Of course, a sidewalk can’t accommodate both heavy bike and pedestrian traffic all that well; the existing route at its busiest combines the traffic volumes of the U-District sections of the BGT with a business/parking access function that makes things even less orderly, pushing many cyclists into the parking lot aisles.

    A cycletrack along the east edge of Westlake Ave would separate people biking from people running and walking and especially from people walking between businesses and parking — the latter would make the corridor more comfortable for everyone. It would probably have slightly fewer road crossings than the existing route. But much of the traffic crossing it would be coming directly from Westlake, much of it in the middle of making uncontrolled left turns from Westlake — these drivers are likely going faster than those that cross today’s route, and have other things to pay attention to, like oncoming car traffic. For a moment of sympathy for these drivers, if you’re making an uncontrolled left turn, two lanes of oncoming car traffic plus potentially fast bike traffic from two different directions is a lot of different stuff to pay attention to. From a cyclists’ perspective, it’s a recipe for the sort of mistakes that result in serious injury. The existing route isn’t safe at speed — an east-side cycletrack may not really be safe at any speed.

    The most successful cycletracks around the world, the ones that have made the term synonymous with safe and thoughtful cycling facilities, don’t cross lots of driveways and uncontrolled turning movements. Along Westlake, a cycletrack should either be along the west side of the Westlake (with appropriate crosswalks for business access) or between the parking and the businesses (with a sidewalk adjacent).

    • RossB says:

      I agree completely. The point of a cycletrack is safety. Your last sentence is a great summary of the situation.

      The only problem with a cycletrack between the parking and businesses is that businesses would complain. Well, that and you are mixing pedestrian traffic (because of the businesses) and bicycle traffic, which is less than ideal (but fairly common).

      Personally, I would put the cycletrack on the west side even though there are problems with that approach. First you have to figure out how to get over there. If you are heading southbound over the Fremont Bridge (on the west side of it) you can merge into it just like the Dexter cycletrack. For everyone else, it would require waiting for a crosswalk. I don’t think this is too bad, really (although it isn’t as easy as using the existing paths). There is already a set of crosswalks across Westlake at Dexter. It would have to be modified a bit to handle more bike traffic. I don’t know if crossing here takes two light cycles or one — if two, then this would be a definite problem. Bikers who went under Fremont (from the west) would have to do a hairpin turn, which is less than ideal, but not a huge problem.

      Better yet, you could add a crosswalk right where the existing trail leaves Westlake, and goes towards the businesses. Instead of taking a left (if heading southbound) you would take a right, via a crosswalk, across Westlake to the cycletrack. This would be really safe (in my estimation). The nice thing is that a crosswalk here would be far enough away from the Fremont Bridge to be of no consequence. If you put an additional crosswalk too close to the bridge, you could backup up southbound traffic into the main intersection.

      The only problem I see with that approach comes towards the south end of the cycle track. For the most part, there are traffic lights at every intersection, so a cycletrack would be just fine. The first spot of concern is 8th. North bound cars are no problem, but southbound ones are. I’m not sure the best way to solve that problem, but I can think of a few ideas. Complicating things is what happens further south. But it doesn’t look too bad, especially if a cycletrack is added on 9th, as this article suggests: http://seattletransitblog.com/2013/12/26/westlake-needs-a-queue-jump/.

  2. Michael says:

    Proponents of a safe, separated bicycle facility along Westlake need to keep up the pressure on City Hall. Rumor has it that Murray may delay the project in favor of further studying its impacts (he’s gotta give a nod to those project opponents who threw a fundraiser for him!). While the project is very likely to move forward regardless of what further studies show given its significant support and the city’s unlikely desire to give back the funding it received from PSRC, delaying it will serve no one and will just end up costing the city more money.

  3. Todd says:

    Prior to moving further South in the city, I used to ride through Westlake all the time (now I typically navigate around Queen Anne and onto Ship Canal Trail) a lot for about 2 years Surprisingly, during this 2 to 3 times a week travelling, I never had one close encounter with any danger. I always thought it’d be nice to have an area designated for us riders and if they can do it — great! Still, I can think of worst places that need improvement. But since this is coming up for discussions — I hope we can secure a ‘safety’ area through this passage.

  4. Pingback: People upset about Westlake bikeway file appeal to delay entire Bike Master Plan, hire Missing Link lawyer | Seattle Bike Blog

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