I attended the open house Tuesday to take a look at the plans for 15th Ave S and Columbian Way S, and response to the projects seemed mostly positive.
The proposed changes for these sections are not all that similar to the so-called “road diets” we’ve seen on streets like Nickerson and NE 125th. For example, on 15th Ave S, SDOT heard from residents who were annoyed by the current peak-time parking restrictions on the street. So the changes involve removing parking completely from one side of the street and allowing the other side to have 24-hour parking. In the process, general traffic lanes are preserved, there is room for bike lanes on the uphill sections and residents get the 24-hour parking they would prefer. That seems like a win-win-win.
I would, of course, prefer more room for bikes, since the sharrows are not going to be very inviting to new or timid bikers. But if the city has the chance to make improvements that make everyone happier, that’s probably a good place to start.
The changes to S Columbian Way/S Alaska St look great so far. This stretch of road is currently four general traffic lanes. By removing one traffic lane and installing a center two-way left turn lane, SDOT will be able to install bike lanes in each direction and easily maintain vehicle capacity.
This segment of Columbian Way is an important bicycle connector not just between Columbia City and Beacon Hill, but it is also a great route to take from much of South Seattle to downtown, Cap Hill and North Seattle (in my experience). It also improves the connection to the Columbia City light rail stop (and Bike Works!).
The road only handles about 8,000 vehicles per weekday, so I would like to see something even more drastic being proposed. It seems like this stretch could handle having one lane in each direction and still maintain needed capacity. That would allow for large, buffered bike lanes instead of the standard 5′ ones.
Brian Dougherty from SDOT sent me the following email when I asked him about the possibility of having larger bike lanes:
We originally looked at a configuration that did not have a two-way left turn lane but when we were making field observations we noticed a fair number of turn movements into and out of driveways and side streets – especially in the area just east of Beacon Avenue. So that influenced our decision to propose a two-way left turn lane. However at the meeting last night we also heard that there aren’t many turn movements east of S Americus St. That’s something we can re-examine.
A new community group is getting in the bike game with a strong neighborhood focus. Beacon BIKES! wants the bicycle master plan to reflect not just the needs of commuters, but also the needs of inter-neighborhood bicycle trips. From Publicola:
According to Beacon BIKES! representative Dylan Ahearn, the group thinks the bike master plan is too focused on creating a neighborhood-to-neighborhood bike network that caters primarily to the commuter crowd. His group wants to create an intra-neighborhood network that helps people (especially children) ride safely between Beacon Hill destinations.
“When I’m biking around the neighborhood, I try and imagine whether it’d be safe my five-year-old daughter to ride on the road,” said Ahearn. “If we can [create facilities that] accomplish that, we’ll have succeeded.”
The group plans to hire a consultant to help come up with ideas that could be included in the next draft of the bicycle master plan.