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Meeting tonight to discuss Latona bike lane in Wallingford

I am super late on this project, but SDOT has proposed installing a bike lane on Latona Ave N in Wallingford to connect the Burke-Gilman Trail to NE 45th St. SDOT staff will be at the Wallingford Community Council meeting tonight (May 4) from 7:15-7:45 p.m. at the Good Sheperd Center at 4649 Sunnyside Ave N, room 202.

The project will install an uphill bike lane on the east side of Latona, which is a one-way street. Currently, Latona is one very wide lane with bus service. There is street parking on the west side, but not the east.

The project will also install sharrows on Thackary, which is the downhill arterial counterpart to Latona.

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One tricky part of this project is the intersection of Latona, NE 40th St and NE 40th St (no, that’s not a typo, there are two NE 40th Streets here). The intersection is a wide, multiple-way stop intersection with a funky, changing grade. SDOT’s plans include a bike cutout next to the median separating the south NE 40th St from the north NE 40th St. This should give bicycles a place in the stop sign turn order.

Once completed, this bike lane will hopefully provide a more obvious way to cross 40th St, which is the biggest challenge for any north-south street in this part of Wallingford. 40th is a busy two-lane road with few signals or good crossing options. This project will also meet up with the planned neighborhood greenway on 44th/43rd later this year.

Burke-Gilman at Pacific and Latona. From Google Street View

The plans do not seem to make any changes to the crossing from the Burke to Latona across NE Pacific St. Cars drive quickly on Pacific, and the geography and curvature of the road can sometimes make it difficult to see oncoming vehicles. It would be great to see an improved crossing there and maybe a more logical waiting space for bicycles attempting to exit the trail. Perhaps this would be a good place to try out Seattle’s first “cross-bike.”

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21 responses to “Meeting tonight to discuss Latona bike lane in Wallingford”

  1. Why not a neighborhood greenway on Corliss instead? SDOT needs to get out of the bike lane building business and get into the greenway building business. Who wants to climb up Latona with large belching buses and speeding cars when you could take a leisurely roll up Corliss with barely any cars and lots of chirping birds and rainbows.

    1. Bruce

      Because they’re far more expensive and the city’s broke?

      1. More expensive how? You’ve already got an expensive intersection treatment here with the bike lane/sharrow approach.

        A neighborhood greenway might involve more thermoplastic for on-street signage, turning a few stop signs, or speed bumps/tables, but that doesn’t seem hugely more expensive than more of the same old lanes/sharrows that won’t change the riding experience much on those streets.

      2. Tom Fucoloro

        I am not sure how expensive the intersection treatment is here, since the median and stop signs are already there. It likely would be more expensive to create a whole new arterial crossing, I would bet. But that is something we will learn as the city starts making greenways: The cost of a worthy facility. Even if it is a little more expensive, the next question could be: Does that matter?

        Latona right now has something like a 17-foot lane, which is just silly. Having lanes too wide has proven to encourage speeding and create a more dangerous pedestrian environment, though I am not sure of the data on Thackary/Latona speeding. The bike lane will be 6 feet and against a curb, which is far better than the 5-foot in the door zone lanes we get a lot of the time.

        Traffic on Latona is also pretty light for an arterial street, and it really feels more like a neighborhood street than an arterial (except for the diesel buses). Many of the neighborhood streets in Wallingford are so skinny that with parking on either side, it’s not all that comfortable to squeeze past a car headed the other direction.

        In this case, SDOT seems to be using some of the massive excess space on Latona to make a good climbing route that I think will feel safer than having a car follow you up a hill without enough room to pass (or worse, passing you anyway). In many cases, creating a truly safe neighborhood greenway might require the removal of parking on one side. In those cases, you can kiss the whole “uncontroversial” dream goodbye.

        So overall, I might defend this plan for the uphill direction. Having a safer route for going downhill may still be necessary, since sharrows on Thackary ain’t all that encouraging. And Corliss could be a great street for a greenway someday. It’s far enough away from Latona that they are not mutually exclusive projects.

      3. I rode the residential streets in this area for 3 years when I lived there. On Wallingford residential streets cars are accustomed to waiting for other cars, bike, and peds, because the lanes are so narrow. So there is no pressure to get out of the way, most frequently cars just turn and go up the next block if they are impatient. With all the traffic circles and narrow lanes people know to use Latona, Thakery, Wallingford, Stone instead of the residential streets if they are in a hurry.

        I think narrow lanes improve greenway safety, wide lanes are the problem because they attract cars and encourage the passing of weaving little 8-year old bikers.

  2. David

    I haven’t ridden Latona but will try it out on the way over to the open house. Looking at Latona and Thackery on Street View, my first thought was, why would you put a bike lane on Latona? It looks like a quiet residential street, more along the lines of where you’d sign and mark a boulevard/neighborhood greenway than a bike lane.

    Also, from the drawing it looks like people on bikes will be able to continue north through the intersection of 40th/40th & Latona. I’m assuming that means they’ll add an “Except bicycles” to the “Right Turn Only” sign that’s there.


  3. That is interesting that SDOT is presenting the Latona plan as well as the Neighborhood Greenway plan tonight. I thought we were just getting an update on the Neighborhood Greenway which is complex enough for a 1/2 hour discussion. I’ll be there and let you all know.

    At our last meeting with SDOT, they seemed pretty determined on sharrow striping the Latona/Thackaray couplet (these are one-way bus arterials). The bikey folks at this SDOT/community meeting brought up the same ideas that you all have proposed — forget the Latona sharrows and work out a North-South Neighborhood Greenway connection on either Corliss (least grade) or Sunnyside (Sunnyside already has ped signals on 45th and 50th so could be the one-shot route from Gasworks to 56th).

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      That is a lot to talk about at one meeting. I am going to the bicycle advisory board meeting, so I won’t be able to make. If you get a chance to report back afterwards, I would love to know how it goes.

      Another thing to point out is that Latona meets the Burke practically at 39th, while corliss/Sunnyside meet it at 36th/37th. So for people headed up the hill, that’s something like six blocks less to ride (three south, three back north).

      What about Meridian? That could connect Gas Works all the way to Green Lake if we want to spend the money. It is also a very central route and gets people closest to the heart of Wallingford’s retail. Plus the grade is pretty nice compared to some other streets in the neighborhood.

      1. Tom Fucoloro

        While we’re throwing out dream ideas for greenway routes, how about 36th from the burke in wallingford into Fremont via the troll? It’s a way to cut out several blocks and get into Fremont without dealing with 34th (which sucks). Would be both a handy commuter route and a good neighborhood connector. The Burke is filling up. If too many people start riding, we’re going to need an alternative (which is a good thing)…

      2. Brian

        A couple of months ago I put in an application to SDOT to use neighborhood funds to turn Meridian into a Greenway! I did it on my own but it’s nice to know that someone else came to the same idea independently. I think Meridian is great for it; the slope is reasonable and there are excellent destinations at either end. The crossing at 34th st and 40th st are issues but I think we could deal with those with fairly inexpensive traffic calming measures. I guess I like this idea as well because it connects to the 43/44th st greenway to create the beginnings of a greenway network.

        I haven’t heard back from SDOT yet; still keeping my fingers crossed.

      3. Tom Fucoloro

        Meridian does seem like the most obvious route to me, especially if they can muster the political strength and money to get it all the way to Greenlake. However, I bet SDOT tries to spread greenway efforts around the city instead of concentrating them all in Wallingford.

        In my opinion, southeast Seattle needs a safe route the most. There is already a meandering signed route that acts as something of a bike alternative for Rainier Ave, but if the city can invest to make something safer, less windy and more visible, there is immense potential for ridership.

        They could also go for it and put in separated facilities on Rainier Ave, which is one of the most dangerous streets for people walking in the city…

  4. Dylan

    Though Thakery may look like a residential street from space it does not feel like one when you ride in it. The cross streets have stop signs, it is wide, and it is a feeder to the I-5 on ramp. This equals fast cars and cut through traffic. So good, the project will make the street a little safer, but that is a bad reason for using SDOT bike and ped resources and budget. Should bike and ped money go to more speed traps, they obstensibly improve bike and ped safety? No, the focus of the resources should be put toward projects that serve the widest swath of the bike and ped community, and news flash, that is not the vehicular cyclists, it is the ‘willing but worried’ who are looking for a safe route to a close local destination.

    Who will use this bike lane? Kids and parents headed to John Standford will take a parallel residential street. Local residents will take the streets they live on (Wallingford is full of quiet bikeable streets). That leaves commuters and long distance bikers, the small but vocal group of mostly dudes that SDOT hooks up again and again with facilities that ‘serve the few and piss of the many’.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Unfortunately, Thackary is only getting sharrows, so I’m not sure if much safety improvement is happening there at all. It is still a 17-foot lane most the way. As a downhill option, it definitely leaves something to be desired as currently planned. Not sure why no bike lane is being planned there. Anyone go to the meeting? Did this come up?

      1. right. sorry, written with iphone in a dark closet. thus typos and street misidentification.

        The reason Sam gave for the sharrows on Thackeray (this was at a previous meeting, not tonight) was that there are chicanes already on the street that the bike lane would lead directly into. Sharrows would keep bikes away from the chicanes and the parked cars on the downhill.

      2. David Amiton

        The rationale for not including a bike lane on Thackery was that people on bikes prefer the freedom of a bike lane-free experience in a steep downhill corridor.

        In some situations I think that’s valid, but on Thackery all of the parking is on the east side of the street (and the bike lane would be on the west side, so there’s really no dooring potential) and there’s not a ton of cross-traffic entering from side streets.

        In these circumstances, I think SDOT should stripe a bike lane…AND put in sharrows in the travel lane for folks who don’t feel comfortable riding in a curbside bike lane.

      3. Actually there is parking on the west side of the street for one block after the chicane south of 44th http://goo.gl/maps/0JXX

        doesn’t mean it could not be moved to the east and the chicane removed…

  5. Wallingford Community Council hosted Virginia Coffman from SDOT last night to say
    *the Wallingford Neighborhood Greenway was being planned
    *to inform the community that sharrows were coming to Latona and Thackeray this summer.

    Not much discussion about the Wallingford Greenway because it is not Gina’s project (the SDOT Greenway PM is Thérése Casper).

    Re Latona neighbors asked:
    1) Q: Is there any safety data or statistics SDOT has that sharrows make biking safer? A: No. We feel sharrows alert motorists to expect cyclists on the street.

    2) Q: Latona & Thackeray are bus routes. I always feel like buses are about to run me off the road. Is there a memo for Metro bus drivers to tell them how to relate to cyclists? A: Interesting idea.

    3) Q: The crossing area at 40th & Latona is tricky. How will you deal with getting bikes across several lanes of traffic at this 6-way intersection? A: We’ll use a combination of an island, bike-only turning, and paint.

    4) Q: Will this route be signed? A: That will be a later phase of this project.

    5) Q: How are you getting the word out? A: We’ll inform the blogs, and, since the community requests, we’ll inform neighbors along these streets before the project starts, as well as the nearby John Stanford Elementary School.

    6) Q: This L&T route is on the Bike Master Plan yet some neighborhood bike activists believe a north-south route along a residential street such as Sunnyside or Corliss would work better. Is there any chance of revisiting the decision to use this as the north-south bike connection in Wallingford? A: No.

    project info at http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/bikeprojects/thackeryLatona.htm.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Thanks for the report, Cathy!

      Interesting they noted they would “alert the blogs” because I only found out about last night’s meeting at the last minute yesterday by complete accident (looking for something else). Communication could be a little better about this stuff. At the same time, I don’t think SDOT needs to open every single project up to a big debate (time consuming and expensive, as we all have witnessed). It’s all a balancing act, I suppose.

    2. Cathy,

      Just to clarify, Latona would get a bike lane, not sharrows…correct?

      Also, I didn’t mention it at last night’s meeting and really I don’t know if there’s a formal Memo for Metro drivers, but KCM does a lot of outreach – and is currently developing more – to both drivers and bicyclists about proper bike/bus etiquette. In fact, just last month we were filming a series of video shorts to illustrate how both bikes and buses should behave in different scenarios (leapfrogging, approaching an intersection with bike lanes, etc.). I think the person to contact at Metro about bike/bus etiquette is Eileen Kadesh ([email protected]).

  6. […] Seattle Bike Blog is apparently more clever about these things than we, having attended Wednesday’s Wallingford […]

  7. […] SDOT’s been busy out there as we hit the peak of the 2011 paving season (the greatest season of all). Here are a few updates from Ballard. I also noticed spray paint markings on N 65th St near Green Lake getting ready for changes there, as well as markings on Latona and Thackary in Wallingford. […]

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