Wallingford neighborhood greenway details revealed

Stone Way at 43rd (Image from SDOT presentation)

Plans for the first segment of the Wallingford neighborhood greenway are the beginnings of something exciting. At an open house December 8, SDOT unveiled some more details, including plans for making the crossings safer and helping people find their way.

First, a factoid that might ease some of your Portland envy: Average speeds on N 44th St are already 20.6 mph without any new neighborhood greenway enhancements. 44th (and many Seattle residential streets) are much narrower than Portland’s residential streets. With parking on both sides of the street and traffic circles at every intersection, natural driving behavior is to go a relatively safe (especially by American standards) 20 mph.

Portland has installed scores of speed humps on their greenway routes in an attempt to get speeds down, so it’s potentially encouraging news that many of Seattle’s future greenway routes will already have more desirable average speeds.

The downside to having super skinny streets, of course, is that it sometimes feels a little less safe than wide-open road (even if, in reality, it is less deadly). Especially when someone want to pass or an oncoming car does not slow down or give you space to get by, skinny streets can feel a little, well, skinny.

Encouraging people driving to give people biking more space is one way I hope the neighborhood greenway treatment can help make roads safer for biking. Sharrows will be painted in the center of the roadway with chevrons pointing in both directions (slightly off-center, representing the desired biking distance from the curb).

People driving on the greenway should only be doing so for short distances (to get the last block or two to their destinations), and people driving should not expect to pass people biking, as the safest place to bike is fairly close to the center of the road. I am eager to see how this works once everything is in place.

Sharrows will also be used as wayfinding and to help direct people (both driving and biking) around traffic circles in the correct direction.

SDOT also has unveiled plans for how it intends to handle smaller arterial crossings (like Latona and Thackary). Small boxes for bikes will encourage people biking to pull up far enough that arterial traffic can see them. The box will also act as a way for people driving to know where to expect a person on a bike. It’s not a crossbikes, but I am eager to see it in action.

It’s exciting to see some of these features about to go into use in Seattle. While this original segment of greenway is not going to immediately reinvent biking and walking in Wallingford (connectivity to the U-District and Fremont, which is outside the scope of this project, is still a challenge), it will change the ease of walking and biking for intra-neighborhood trips, such as getting to school, the library, or the grocery store.

It will also give the city first-hand experience with some promising road treatments, such as the enhanced crossing at Stone Way (see image at top).

Also, did you know that it is illegal to park 20 feet from any crosswalk (AKA street corner)? Nobody follows that law (scofflaws!), but it would make our intersections far safer by increasing sight lines. As part of this project, SDOT installed new signage marking the legal parking distance. They also recognized that in practice those parking spots were real, so they created more parking elsewhere to offset the “loss” (again, not actually a legal loss).

Below is SDOT’s presentation. You can comment on the plans online:

Walling Ford Greenway Presentation

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10 Responses to Wallingford neighborhood greenway details revealed

  1. Al Dimond says:

    Whoa, they’re actually getting parked cars away from the corners! Now that is exciting! Let’s do that all over the city!

    On the other hand, I think I saw the first thing I don’t like about this project, which is the arterial crossing. Why should cyclists split out to the right here? It encourages drivers to pull up beside and pass cyclists; arterial crossings are the last place this should happen, the most important place for bike and car traffic to be serialized. Cyclists should stop at the stop line, yield to the crosswalk and cross traffic, and proceed across the intersection, maintaining a straight path, no matter what wacky lane markings the city paints.

    I don’t know if y’all have seen the ridiculous, counterproductive bike lane in front of Dick’s in Wallingford that, like most of the sharrows on 45th, indicates about the most dangerous action a cyclist could possibly take… anyway, that project is not the solution to the Dick’s problem, the Wallingford Greenway is the solution. And we don’t have to wait for anything, we can ride it today!

  2. Andres says:

    It’s hard to tell from the mock-up they’ve provided of the small bike box, but I wonder how much risk there is of left-turning cars swiping people in the box? Hopefully in practice the risk should be minimal, as few cars would be turning onto the greenway streets (and/or the box isn’t as far out into the intersection as it appears on that drawing).

  3. Jesse says:

    All I know is that as an occasional Wallingford trans-pedeler (is that even a word?) – this is going to be a most welcome addition. On my last trip East-West I ended up weaving around in the upper 40’s until the cross street my meeting was on then walking down the sidewalk for that last partial block.

    When I’m driving (not often these days) I try to avoid 45th, why on earth would I want to ride it?

    Anyway, thanks Tom for the updates as always!

  4. Cathy says:

    Thanks Tom! For people who live, work, play or move through Wallingford, you can follow us as we complete this one mile greenway link and work on a complete six to seven mile Wallingford Greenway system (Plan at http://bit.ly/r6yQu5)

    *http://www.facebook.com/WallingfordGreenways
    *http://www.twitter.com/WallGreenways
    *http://groups.google.com/group/wallingford-greenways

  5. Pedals Don't Peddle says:

    The median island picture reminds me of what’s currently in place at the intersection of Ravenna Ave NE and NE 95th St (a median that blocks through traffic along Ravenna across 95th for cars but with gaps so that bikes can get through). It’s a pretty nice feature that’s spoiled by one thing during heavy traffic hours of the day: when cars aren’t hurrying to catch the green light at the next intersection, most of the time they end up lined up along 95th completely blocking the intersection with Ravenna, and almost always blocking the gaps in the median. Because of the median and the fact that there’s no cross car traffic, it doesn’t feel like a real intersection that you shouldn’t block since its only users are people on bikes, and there aren’t all that many of them. More than once, I’ve found myself waiting for quite a while (several light cycles) for that one nice person who will stop without blocking the gaps in the median. More often than that I’ve had someone yield to me when they saw me patiently waiting, but the problem with that is that usually there’s no such “yielder” in the line of traffic moving the opposite direction and so it’s still pretty much impossible to cross (leading to awkwardness for all, and likely annoyance for the driver who wanted to yield to me). Maybe I’ve just been that unlucky to end up in this situation so often, but I really do dread going through that intersection during rush hour on a bike.

    Hopefully, these nice median islands like in the picture won’t suffer from the same affliction.

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  7. Scott Batson says:

    here’s another view of a forward bike stop line (scroll down the page a bit):
    http://www.portlandonline.com/bes/index.cfm?c=47012&a=203152

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