The Neighborhood Projects Fund has announced support for the Wallingford Bicycle Boulevard Project, which aims to turn N 44th or 43rd Avenues into a much-needed bike friendly east-west route through northern Wallingford. Bicycle boulevards are streets where bicycle travel has priority over motor vehicle travel. Typically, stop signs are installed at each intersection and are turned away from the boulevard. This allows continuous, fast, safe and easy bicycle movement through neighborhoods.
Cathy Tuttle of Sustainable Wallingford and Spokespeople has been pursuing a bicycle boulevard in Wallingford for at least two years. Details of the project are very far from final, and a project manager should be assigned early this year.
It seems there are a handful of options for the boulevard alignment. One would put the boulevard mostly on 43rd, and the other would keep it on 44th. It is also possible to sort of go back and forth between the two.
The trickiest part of installing bicycle boulevards is how to cross busy intersections. For a Wallingford boulevard, Stone Way is the hardest crossing. Currently, signalized crossings only exist at 40th and 45th. Routing cyclists to crosswalks on these streets are not likely good enough options.
At this early point in the process, I think it would be useful for us, as a community, to outline what our priorities are in a “bike boulevard” project. Really, I wonder if we shouldn’t follow Portland’s lead and call it a “neighborhood greenway” instead of focusing on the bicycle aspect of it alone. Biking is a centerpiece of these projects, but the positive effects on pedestrian safety and quality of life for residents reach far beyond bicyclists.
Here are the biggest priorities, as I see them. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments:
- A safe and easy crossing of Stone Way (and Wallingford Ave) that does not involve going blocks out of the way to cross at existing signals at 40th and 45th.
- Access to the Aurora crossing at 46th should be considered important as well as access to the 41st pedestrian overpass and other points south.
- Existing traffic circles should be improved. A stop sign for cross traffic is an option (Portland’s greenway stop signs have bright flags to alert drivers that the street is a neighborhood greenway). Some creative paint enhancements aimed at making drivers aware of people on bicycles could also help. Most of all, too many drivers make lefts by cutting the turn instead of going around the circle, which is unacceptably dangerous for a prioritized bicycle street. Street markings that guide drivers to the right of the circle could help. Street parking could also be pushed back further from the curb to increase sight lines.
- Easy access to the 45th St commercial corridor.
- Easy access to John Stanford Elementary (N 42nd and 4th Ave NE) and Hamilton Middle School (N 41st and Woodlawn)
- Geographical simplicity
- Residential street traffic calming
Crossing Wallingford Ave should be a piece of cake. It’s two lanes, and there is not too much traffic to put in stop signs or in some way prioritize greenway crossings, perhaps with some added signage or paint to signify that the street is a neighborhood greenway.
Crossing Stone Way, however, might be little more difficult (though not impossible). One good option would be some kind of traffic signal. But signals are very expensive, and I wonder if one would even be needed here. The Going St neighborhood greenway in Portland uses small concrete barriers in the median at it’s crossing of MLK. These concrete barriers have cutaways to allow bicyclists through, giving both pedestrians and bicyclists a “refuge” point in the middle of the street. Since Stone Way is two travel lanes with a center turn lane, I wonder if we could install a similar concrete barrier system in the center turn lane. People would only need to cross one lane of traffic at a time, which seems acceptably safe and easy.
The concrete barriers also have the added bonus of forcing motor vehicle traffic to turn right onto Stone Way from the boulevard and preventing Stone Way motor vehicle traffic from turning left onto the boulevard. Local traffic will simply have to drive a block out of the way and loop back around, which is a reasonable trade-off for living on a quieter and safer street with less cut-through traffic. Since a major goal of a neighborhood greenway project should be the creation of a calm and quiet street, this sort of crossing could be a relatively cheap way to solve several problems at once.
I am not majorly concerned about north-south options off of the new boulevard, since many slow residential streets exist that would be fine. On the east side, 4th Ave NE would be a good option for a future boulevard or spot improvements. It provides good access between the Burke-Gilman and 45th. The 45th St I-5 crossing is terrible and desperately needs pedestrian and bicycle changes (though that is clearly a different project). On the west, there are several options for heading south. Taking Woodland Park Ave north to 46th, then crossing on the sidewalk under Aurora (this crossing also desperately needs help from a future project) is probably the easiest option currently for reaching north Fremont, the zoo and Phinney Ridge. I would love to see the Wallingford bike boulevard make access to Woodland Park Ave easy.
I am very excited (as you can see by this much-too-long post) about the potential in this project. When I lived in Fremont, the lack of a stress-free east-west route through north Wallingford was super annoying, and I had far too many close calls trying to ride on 45th (especially near Dicks). There are many directions this project could go that would work well, and I can’t wait to see how the plans shape up as they move forward.