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Plans for key Wallingford neighborhood greenway crossing scaled back


Plans for a key crossing for the Wallingford neighborhood greenway has been scaled back in response to concerns from residents. The crossing at N 43rd St and Stone Way is the biggest component of the project, giving people on foot or bike a safe and more comfortable way to cross the busy street.

Originally, plans called for a median island that would have prevented people driving from turning left both from 43rd onto Stone Way and from Stone to 43rd. New plans would remove the center sections of the median to allow left-turning movements (see above). Here’s how plans looked at a December open house:

From a December community open house

SDOT says the change came after some community members expressed concerns about the diverting traffic when a 90-unit building opens with driveway access only on 43rd. They say traffic volumes are already low enough that the median was not seen as a key to the greenway’s success.

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From Sam Woods at SDOT:

The current design provides pedestrians and bicyclists with a significant safety improvement.   Left turn movements will be taken more slowly and with more awareness of crossing pedestrians and bicyclists.  The islands on the approaches to the crosswalks allow pedestrians and bicyclists the opportunity to cross half the roadway, with a stopping area.  This generally results in very good compliance with motorists stopping from the other direction because the pedestrians and bicyclists are very visible.

We did hear pushback with the original design (with some people suggesting a traffic signal – which would have drawn more traffic to the greenway route) with the new development of 90 units on the corner with driveway access only on N 43rd St and residents having to reroute to other residential streets.  The alternate routes were on narrow streets that we would have had to improve for the diverted traffic with parking restrictions at the intersections.

Consistent with many of the streets in this neighborhood, the traffic speeds and volumes on N 43rd ST,  are below the thresholds for neighborhood greenways, so diversion of the left turning traffic is not critical to the success of the greenway.  Finally, we also heard some questioning of the N 43rd Street route for bicyclists due to the grade.  In the end, the improvement of the full median did not outweigh the impacts to the surrounding neighborhood due to the diversion.

The cost of the full median versus the partial median was not a consideration in the decision process.

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16 responses to “Plans for key Wallingford neighborhood greenway crossing scaled back”

  1. Chuck Erickson

    So, the design is now a glorified uncontrolled crosswalk?

    With this new layout left-turing cars will block motor traffic and cause cars to pass on the right with obstructed views of the crosswalk ahead.

    I don’t really see the point of the islands now, as the user crossing the street is only protected from one side.

    Sad to see.

    1. Bruce Nourish

      Yeah, not quite sure what the point of this is now. Only fractionally better than current conditions.

    2. AndrewN

      Curb bulbs could help with the passing on the right issue (while also shortening ped/bike crossing distance), but that’s not part of the design.

  2. Andres

    Hopefully this is an iterative process; it looks like there is room for the rest of the diverter to be built at a later date. I don’t know why SDOT insists upon doing the crosswalk-next-to-the-median business, though. The newly reworked intersection at NE 54th St & Ravenna Ave NE has a similar problem, with two crosswalks being interrupted by a median divider that’s off to the side. Cars get awfully close to you if actually stand in the crosswalk there..

  3. pqbuffington

    I am not sure why the developers of the 90-unit building should not be burdened with the “…impacts to the surrounding neighborhood…”

    However, I am sure that that the revised plan’s claim that “…left turn movements will be taken more slowly and with more awareness…” is wishful thinking.

    It would seem that if the 90-unit building is only accessible via automobile from 43rd (whatever side of Stone Way), then the last thing they would want is for automobile traffic to be able to turn left off of Stone Way (from either direction) at that particular intersection if it is to be a Greenway intersection.

    Also, will not the new medians on Stone Way block the left-turn lane at this intersection and “force” even more north bound traffic into the Stone Way bicycle lane, or south bound far to the right, as the soon-to-be-accommodated 90-unit traffic waits to turn left? I believe this is Mr. Erickson’s point as well.

    If the new building is West of Stone, they have a very wide access/egress rout via Woodland Park Ave N that could be a solution; if it is east of Stone Way, they could allow south bound left turns at 42nd and have the automobiles loop back North around the block on Interlake Ave N.

    Permitting left turns at this intersection seems a very bad idea for the Greenway and the latest proposal may even make this intersection worse if in fact many people take to it…

  4. With left turns allowed off of Stone Way, a two-stage crossing here is absolutely out of the question for cyclists (unless they walk through in the crosswalk), because left-turning cars will regularly cut their turns too close across 43rd’s through lane (picture yourself waiting in the median, westbound, and a southbound car coming down Stone from your right, making a left turn onto 43rd) — cars can’t make that 90-degree turn on a dime! Pedestrians probably avoid the worst of it, but it won’t be comfortable in there.

    As far as I know this is a unique design, and I don’t think it’s well thought-through. As drawn, the details of the design will be challenging. The median has to be hefty and visible to prevent it from being driven over, but you also have to be able to see over/through it to make a safe left turn. You have to be able to see the median, and see people (including children) within it.

    Woods’ “impact on the neighborhood” excuse is asinine. The Wallingford Greenway is a neighborhood project that starts and ends in Wallingford and doesn’t connect to the major regional cycling through-routes. The pedestrians and cyclists affected by this *are* the neighborhood, and they’re being run over by a narrow interest.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      I think the median will still be very visible, and will probably have a reflective sign or something on it (see diagram). However, I think your other points are valid.

      To put it another way: Is this still an 8-80 facility? Does it pass the “I would comfortably let my 8-year-old ride on her own” test? The old design seemed like it did, since you only had to pay attention to one direction of traffic at a time. I’m not sure about this one, since you could start crossing, then have a car try to make a left off Stone at the same time.

      Traffic diversion was not the only benefit of the full median. Simplifying the crossing and removing variables was a huge benefit that’s now largely (though not completely) lost.

      1. It’s easy to make a median that’s visible; it’s easy to make a median that’s transparent (so that you can see people waiting within it, oncoming, and cross traffic, etc, from all angles of approach). It’s hard to make a median that’s both visible and transparent. We usually don’t have to think about the median being transparent, because usually when there’s a median you can’t drive through the middle of it — usually when there’s a median it simplifies traffic patterns by disallowing some movements.

        Overall, as someone that lives a half-mile from 43rd and Stone: if the only thing SDOT will build build is a bulb that doesn’t allow a two-stage bike crossing and has questionable benefit for pedestrians, they might as well use the money somewhere else, on a project that will actually benefit cyclists somewhere in Seattle. That is the point of Greenways, right?

  5. Stephanie Shelton

    Is this a done deal? It’s madness that this key crossing isn’t being pushed for pedestrian and bike safety by SDOT. I think *the neighborhood* has spoken, and the need is critical. This is Seattle, and complete consensus is never going to happen, but the majority of us want to see a safe crossing at Stone Ave become a reality. Let’s push back on this.

  6. Mike Lindblom

    Certainly not an 8-80. This design still would still qualify as a “49-14-9,” if my family lived in Wallingford, but it’s no longer a 14-9 like our unofficial “greenway” my kids ride to the grocery store in W. Seattle. (Just one subjective opinion.)

  7. Adam Parast

    Yeah I think this design is horrible. It will just make left turn movements, both on stone and 43rd, more unpredictable than it currently is. Its funny what an agency starts to do something for a reason and then guts the idea to the point where it’s pointless to make the change in the first place.

    Also I hate it when SDOT “sharrows” a design. Sharrows are not a facility, don’t use them as a replacement for physical facilities.

  8. Dana Rasmussen

    Looking at what has been built, I have to say it makes no since at all. The design forces traffic turning left onto 43rd into the through traffic on Stone Way, which in turn will force the through traffic into the bicycle lane. This seems like another poorly thought out example of Seattle traffic planning.

  9. Simon

    Why are the islands so tiny? Not much of a barrier or visual presence. They also allow left turns from Stone Way to go on EITHER side of the medians.

    Would green bike lanes crossing Stone be appropriate even though Stone is uncontrolled?

    1. pqbuffington


      just saw someone today turn left off of stone onto 43rd (north bound, turning west) and take both medians down the wrong side of the car, instead of splitting them…this seems akin to shortcutting a traffic-island / round-about when turing left and even more dangerous here as speeds on stone way are high

  10. […] Way N at N 43rd Street, including cut-through access for bicyclists;” but according to the Seattle Bike Blog, those plans have been scaled back in response to concerns from nearby residents. So now, once the […]

  11. Trent

    Seems like the point of this is to spend taxpayer dollars on a localized beautification project to benefit a developer. It makes the intersection look nicer in pictures for the new apartment building. Isn’t that the point of greenways? Make the street look nicer for developers? Draw a line on a map and call an existing road a “greenway”, yet do nothing but put up a sign, so that the walking and transit score is increased and nearby property is more valuable. Plant some new flowers in the islands. Replace damaged road seconds, damaged by cars and trucks, not pedestrians and cyclists, with new pretty ones so apartment units will sell faster.

    If there is any money to be spent, it goes to cars and developers, not bicyclists.
    “Plans for a key crossing for the Wallingford neighborhood greenway has been scaled back in response to concerns from residents.” Translation: “A developer told us to spend the money in a way that would allow them to profit more from their property.” And how about this from Sam Wood, “Finally, we also heard some questioning of the N 43rd Street route for bicyclists due to the grade. ” Shouldn’t there be another sentence after that? You know, a response? Something like, “It does not matter that the grade of 43rd prevents bicyclists from using it, as this project was never about providing any benefit to bicyclists in the first place.”

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