Some updates on the Westlake bikeway design

2014_0825_DACMeeting7Slides_web-conceptThe city revealed a few more details about the developing plans for the Westlake bikeway. In documents presented to the Design Advisory Committee in August, planners appear to be primarily focused on the so-called “sidewalk concept,” which would route a two-way bikeway on the east side of the giant parking lot.

As we reported previously, the city was looking at two concepts, one that would travel in the middle of the parking area and one that would stick closer to Lake Union. The “center concept” was interesting, but it presented more comfort challenges and parking removal than the more obvious “sidewalk concept.”

The committee and project designers are working to figure out how best to handle a couple tricky spots toward the north end of the endless parking lot.

2014_0825_DACMeeting7Slides_web-rrFor example, what should happen near that awesome little railroad park? Today, if you continue straight on the sidewalk, you enter a wooded area with the old railroad tracks still in place (so it’s not ADA accessible, but it is kind of cool). There is access to some floating homes and a truly wonderful little bench where you can sit and feel like you’re a million miles away from the city.

The easiest option would be to route the bikeway in the parking lot area around the park and existing sidewalk (left option). This would eat into the number of parking spaces a little, but it would preserve the tracks in the park.

Another option would be to remove the tracks and pave a sidewalk through the park. Then the bikeway could use the space currently occupied by the sidewalk (plus a little more, since the sidewalk is not wide enough). A third option would be essentially like the second one, but would actually cut into the green space in order to squeeze a few more parking spaces into the area.

2014_0825_DACMeeting7Slides_web-northAnother question is to figure out the best way for the project to connect to the shared-use path leading to the Fremont Bridge. Routing the bikeway on the west side of the parking lot would create a conflict point with anyone turning into the parking lot, designers determined, so that is probably not a good option.

But they do have two options for the parking layout: Keep the parking lot drive lane two-way and use parallel parking on one side or turn the parking drive into a one-way and have back-in angled parking. From a bikeway perspective, both options would work, so this is really an area where neighbors should have the majority of the say.

It is important to remember that while the Fremont connection is definitely going to be more heavily-used, there is also an awesome connection to the Ship Canal Trail if users continue north under the bridges. I don’t think many people know about this connection today, and it essentially involves biking on an access road.

The Bike Master Plan shows a continuous trail connection from the Ship Canal Trail to the new Westlake bikeway. Obviously, that would be a great solution. Another option might be to give the area the neighborhood greenway treatment with clear signage and traffic calming. What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

2014_0825_DACMeeting7Slides_web-speed bumpsOne of the more interesting notes in the August presentation was a prompt to discuss ideas for how to discourage people from continuing to bike through the parking lot once the bikeway is open. One interesting idea was to use speed bumps in the parking area. Not only would this slow down cars — making the parking area safer for everyone — but it would also be one extra reason for someone on a bike to use the bikeway or the street instead. That seems like a pretty smart idea that addresses a lot of different concerns all at once.

Below is the full presentation. You can learn more about the Design Advisory Committee and how to attend their meetings via the city’s website.

2014 0825 DACMeeting7Slides Web by tfooq

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22 Responses to Some updates on the Westlake bikeway design

  1. bill says:

    The best way to keep bicyclists on the cycle track is a 15 mph design speed plus strong measures to keep pedestrians on the sidewalk.

    • Kirk says:

      Exactly. This is really starting to look like a massive failure for bicycling as transportation. If this turns out to be the case, it will just have to be redone again in the future to accomodate the large increases in people using bicycles as transportation. I had hope that Scott Kubly wanted to things right the first time. Scott, now is the time to act.

  2. Cheif says:

    Yeah if it’s designed for low speed (10 mph is the number I’ve heard batted around) and there isn’t much delineation between the sidewalk and bikeway it’s just going to end up full of joggers and folks on bikes will still be riding the parking lot.

  3. aj says:

    I agree regarding the design speed of the path. As a resident of the north end of Westlake, if I drive through the parking lot at 10mph I’m being passsed by cyclist on both the left and the right. 10mph is just too slow a pace.

    I’m in favor of speed bumps and changing surfaces throught the parking lot, a lower speed is just safer for everyone and will discourage all from using the lot as an unregulated street.

    Angeled parking and ripping out the tracks seem like the best options

  4. Josh says:

    The best way to keep bikes out of the parking lot would be to build a bicycle facility that at least meets the minimum requirements of the City’s adopted safety and design standards.

    Cyclists shouldn’t have to ask for that — it’s required by law, it was a clear mandate from the City Council in the adoption of the 2014 Bicycle Master Plan update, but it’s something SDOT apparently considers optional and undesirable.

    The occasional speed bump won’t be nearly as undesirable as a 10 mph sidepath design speed. No pavement suitable for motorists will keep cyclists out of the parking lot.

    Impaired parking lot circulation might work, as long as it’s enforced with real barriers, not just painted stripes, but it would still appear to leave SDOT inviting liability for injuries on an intentionally-substandard sidepath.

  5. LWC says:

    I haven’t been following this extremely closely, but has anyone brought up the idea of making the parking lot traffic 1-way, with angled parking to make more efficient use of space? If the parking lot 1-way is southbound, then drivers could make easy right turns onto westlake to circle around. It seems like a no-brainer.

    • Ballard Biker says:

      It was brought up, but the concern was that a delivery truck making a delivery to any of the number of businesses along there would back everything up.

  6. LeeSeattle says:

    The best way to keep cyclists on the cycle path and out of pedestrian and vehicle areas is to vary the surface treatment as many European cities have long done. The cycle path should be smooth asphalt and both parking lot and sidewalk should have a rough texture/cobble. This makes it much more pleasant to stay on the cycle path, and cyclists will gravitate to where they are supposed to be. The best way to keep pedestrians out of the cycle path is to have clear designation (often color) and to have a sufficient # of bicyclists to remind pedestrians of where they should be. This city has done this poorly in a number of settings (e.g. Alki, Broadway cycle track, Greenlake). However, this costs money.

    • Josh says:

      Would smooth pavement on a substandard path really be more attractive to commuters than a cobbled parking lot that’s safer at 15 mph than the sidepath? At least in my experience, utility cyclists prioritize safety and speed over comfort.

  7. ODB says:

    The best way to keep cyclists on the cycle path is the “center concept.” Put the path where people are riding anyway and the problem disappears. Cobble/texture the rest of the parking lot and make the center smooth, if that helps. I’m happy to be corrected on this, but it seems to me that “center concept” is the only possibility of having an acceptable “design speed.” To me, that vastly outweighs its “comfort challenges” relative to the alternative. If people are so timid that they can’t ride on the center concept, how are they going to negotiate the streets necessary to get there? Drive there, park and ride? Let’s recall that we’re talking about a long strip of pavement bounded by a major arterial and marine-oriented businesses that for the most part look like an extended strip mall. There is no water view. Even the most costly treatment of the sidewalk concept is not going to make this into a destination-worthy scenic boulevard. With that in mind, let’s make it work for commuters, not tourists.

    • Kirk says:

      I think the best spot for the path is on the western edge of the parking lot. It should be fully signalized, for cars and bikes, similar to the new 2nd Avenue bike path. It should be wide and safe for all users, fast or slow. Whatever amount of parking is lost is irrelevant. This is city land and it needs to be put to the best use for all of the citizens, not used to preserve parking for the yachting community.

    • jay says:

      ” I’m happy to be corrected on this, but it seems to me that “center concept” is the only possibility of having an acceptable “design speed.””

      Okeydoke, the “center concept” would have both cars and pedestrians crossing the cycle track. Therefore there will still be a desire to limit bike speed, and the simplest/cheapest way to do that would be stop signs on the cycle track at every driveway. I don’t know how fast you can accelerate to, say, 20mph (14 times in say 8 minutes), or how hard you like to brake, but I’m guessing most riders would be hard pressed to average a whole lot more than 10mph if they have to stop every 500ft or so.
      Same problem would apply to the West side, except instead of stop signs there would be lights timed for 35mph, and if they have to no turn on red arrow like 2’nd Ave, the green for the cycle track is likely to have very low duty cycle. (it will be interesting to see what 2’nd is like tomorrow)

      My guess is the “10mph design speed” is;
      1: a sop to the “stakeholders”
      2: the worst case condition.
      Take for example the “that awesome little railroad park” with the “truly wonderful little bench where you can sit and feel like you’re a million miles away from the city.” That Tom mentions above.
      A number of factors go into determining “design speed”, sight distance and curve radius are a couple, having an 18mph “design speed” past that parklet would either require losing quite a few parking spaces to triple the curve radius (unlikely to happen) or virtually removing the park ( very bad option in my opinion)
      The parklet looks to be about 300′ long, the difference in riding past that at 10mph instead of 20mph is less than 8 seconds. For the whole 1.3 miles of the parking lot, the difference between 10 and 20 mph is less than four minutes, perhaps 2 traffic light cycles.
      Just because some sections of the cycle track would require slowing down, doesn’t necessarily mean one is limited to the worst case “design speed” for the entire facility.

      If they don’t want bicycles in the parking lot, how about a 10mph speed limit in the parking lot? that would make it a bit safer when cars/trucks are parked on the cycletrack and the cyclists have little choice but to ride the parking lot. Actually, that option should probably be kept in reserve incase anyone starts talking about a 10mph speed limit on the cycle track.

      • ODB says:

        Interesting points. Personally, I accelerate so hard that I burn rubber. I was actually hoping to be corrected by someone who knows SDOT’s design speed for the center concept. But I agree that it would be a huge bummer if the center concept came with stop signs at every crossing. (I also agree with you that the need for stop signs or lights at every crossing is a major downside of a west-side placement. ) However, you seem to be speculating that a center concept burdened with numerous stop signs would come about based on “a desire to limit bike speed” and the “the simplest/cheapest way to do that.” It would be nice to know if that is in fact the plan. Although I guess there is no “plan” at this point, since the center concept has apparently been abandoned. Personally, if I’m trying to maximize speed, I would rather be in the middle of an open space with good sight lines than in a confined area where pedestrians are likely to be either on the path or crossing it. For what it’s worth, my concept for the “center concept” (which admittedly may differ from SDOT’s) is basically just a long strip of green paint down the middle of the parking lot–call it a “woonerf” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woonerf.

      • Al Dimond says:

        Sure, putting a strip of green paint down the parking lot will make drivers more likely to see you when backing out of parking spaces. Better to consolidate the conflict points.

      • Al Dimond says:

        … and a woonerf cannot be superimposed on a parking lot aisle. A woonerf is a street where traffic volumes and speeds are low enough for the space to really be shared effectively — really, there have to be enough pedestrians to set the pace, as on Pike Place. The parking aisle has too much vehicle traffic for that, and really too many through-going cyclists, too.

        It’s similar to some alleys with parking garage access. An architect might draw them up as parking garage access in addition to pedestrian access or a walking cut-through of a large lot. These uses are at odds with eachother, and only can coexist if at least one of the two is very little-used.

      • ODB says:

        “These uses are at odds with each other.” Ok. I don’t think anyone doubted that. It’s equally obvious that none of the available options is free of compromises and potential conflicts. (Unless you have such an idea that you are not sharing.) I see painting a green stripe and calling it the Westlake Woonerf as a face-saving way for SDOT to improve the status quo and avoid making a mistake on a slow, often-bypassed and conflict-ridden sidewalk option.

      • Josh says:

        The question isn’t whether slowing to 10 mph would really cost people on bikes much time on their commute. It wouldn’t.

        But it also won’t happen. Casual adult cyclists, the type of riders who don’t have speedometers or spandex and aren’t going to be racing, naturally ride faster than 10 mph on flat ground.

        If we know that the facility is unsafe over 10 mph, and that it will be used at 15 – 18 mph, can we in good conscience promote the facility as an 8-80 facility that’s safe for vulnerable users?

      • Jay says:

        Josh;
        There is a simple an obvious solution to that problem.
        Perhaps we could lobby for the speeding ticket revenues to be dedicated to neighborhood greenway projects (rather like the school zone cameras are for school area improvements)

        Actually, implementing and enforcing (for both cars and bicycles) a 10mph speed limit in the parking lot and doing nothing else at all would probably improve safety a bit, and, depending on what enforcement costs vs. ticket revenue, might have a net cost less than doing nothing at all. (or maybe make it 20kph/12.4mph like a Copenhagen “green wave”)
        Since there would be no change to parking the “stakeholders” would have a hard time complaining about it. (of course if it was enforced for cars, they wouldn’t like it one bit, but they could hardly publicly complain) While Bicyclists will complain, since the “10mph design speed” has been mentioned a number of times already I doubt the decision makers will pay much attention.

        There is still the question of where that 10mph came from. It seems likely that it is from the “Existing Conditions and Design Criteria” memorandum prepared by the Toole Design Group. (I don’t remember where I found it, I have the PDF saved. ) Even if that is where the 10mph came from it is still a bit of a mystery, in the “Design Speed” section they mention the AASHTO recommendation of 18mph, CROW 18.5, the lower London at 15, but in the summary of the memo they just state a design speed of 10mph without specific explanation. Granted in the “Design Speed” section they do mention the rather large number of drive way crossings and the need of people to walk to/from their cars, dumpsters and bus stops, still, they don’t specifically say why they went from ~18 down to 10.
        Note that that document says virtually nothing about where the cycle track might be positioned, I see no indication that they thought that a West location might be faster that an East, in fact they say: “Research has documented that reductions in bicyclist design speeds and motorists’ turning speeds approaching intersections can improve safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.” So if there were a West option (but there won’t be) it would not be too surprising if one had to stop and push a beg button at every intersection. Sure, if there were only two intersections that wouldn’t be so bad, but “I never promised you a rose garden”. OMG, I just read the lyrics to that: “I could sing you a tune and promise you the moon, But if that’s what it takes to hold you I’d just as soon let you go”
        Bicyclists are just not that big of constituency that they can’t be thrown under the bus (no pun intended, but considering the billions spent on mass transit…)

        TDG does say that rider preference for Westlake over Dexter suggests to them that “the anticipated design user will continue to be those bicyclists who are seeking a trail‐like facility that is lower stress.”
        Catch 22, if you don’t ride Dexter, you are presumably a less capable rider, so we’ll build a facility for the less capable rider, if you ride Dexter, you don’t need a fast path on Westlake.

        So I figure the argument that Westlake should be a high speed corridor for bicycle commuters will remain, as always, a loosing position. Not to mention the Bicycle Master Plan specifically mentions all ages all abilities as a goal.

        BTW, TDG also said: “The design speed for a cycle track does not have to be uniform throughout its length” So just because they tell the “stakeholders’ the design speed is 10mph, doesn’t necessarily mean one has to go 10mph the whole way.

      • Josh says:

        Design speed and speed limits are different issues, though.

        Bicycles are not required to have speedometers, and many don’t.

        Seattle Municipal Code doesn’t establish posted speed limits for parking lots or bicycle paths, only for streets and alleys. So that throws you back to basic “reasonable and proper” speed law, not a speed limit you could enforce with radar — each case would be the officer’s opinion of “reasonable and proper” vs. the driver’s/cyclist’s opinion of “reasonable and proper.”

    • Kirk says:

      I still see the west side as the best option. I didn’t menion my full vision, there would be few access points to the parking lot, like at large shopping malls. Make only one or two accesses, and make them fully signaled for all users. Then the bike path would function as an actual tranpsportation path. Because that is what is needed for this corridor.

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  9. smc123 says:

    Westlake is a designated a Major Truck Street and 40 transit route that is heavily used all day, 7 days a week. It connects Downtown to Fremont to Ballard to Northgate and runs every 15 minutes with a steady stream of diverse riders. A proposal to put bicyclists onto Westlake where they will share the roadway will not displace either the transit or trucks (they have nowhere else to go) so that implies a level of skill exceeding Dexter–not less stress. Conversely, if this is intended as a transportation corridor then it benefits only a few skilled commuter cyclists who can safely ride alongside trucks and transit. No pedestrian is going to use it. Vision Zero (which the Mayor has committed to) advocates for prevention of traffic injury and death but this is investing in a project that will result in traffic injury and death, who is first–the Pronto Bike Share user? What about making improvements to the Ship Canal Trail?

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