The revised plans for a neighborhood greenway on NW 58th Street in Ballard will be on display at an open house Thursday, likely the final public meeting on the project before expected installation later this spring and summer.
The meeting will be held in the Ballard High School Lunchroom from 6 – 7:30 p.m. (presentation at 6:30 p.m. followed by Q&A).
The project was supposed to be part of the city’s 2012 goal to install seven miles of neighborhood greenways, but was delayed in the fall following some opposition to elements of the plan.
Disappointingly, the revised plans do not include a traffic diverter and median island at the busy 24th Ave NW. Intended to keep traffic levels low on the street, the Ballard Chamber of Commerce (which has also inexplicably opposed completion of the Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link) and owners of the “On the Park” apartment building voiced opposition to it. Instead, the city will install push-button flashing beacons.
Details from an SDOT fact sheet:
SDOT is no longer proposing a median at 24th Avenue NW after discussing the idea with the Ballard Chamber of Commerce and Security Properties, which is the company that owns the ‘On the Park’ apartment building on the southeast corner. Access to the parking garage serving as the primary access point for over two hundred apartments would be hindered by the median island.
SDOT is now planning to install a ‘Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon’ to alert motorists to people crossing 24th Avenue NW. Push buttons will be placed both on the sidewalk and next to the curb so people walking and biking can both easily activate the beacon. This solution will improve safety for people using the greenway while not limiting access to the large apartment complex.
However, news is not all bad for the second version of the project. The city is now planning to install a traffic signal at 8th Ave NW.
More details on the project from SDOT:
The “On the Park” apartment building has two access points to its residential garage, one on 58th Street and one on 57th Street. The entrance/exit on 57th is an order of magnitude busier than the one on 58th, and to call the access on 58th as “primary” is disingenuous.
57th Street is wider, has several commercial businesses, and has a traffic signal at 24th Avenue. 58th Street, on the other hand, is a 25’ wide residential street. There is no reason why the Ballard Chamber or the apartment building should take an active stance against the median at 24th.
Let ’em know how you feel!
The Ballard Chamber of Commerce also opposes the construction of the missing link, which makes taking this position not terribly surprising on their part.
What are the traffic volumes on 58th? Perhaps they are low enough that the Neighborhood Greenway will still be nice and calm?
The rapid flash beacons are awesome, and will work wonders. There is even a chance that they will be *more* effective at helping people cross than the median diverter would.
I am eager to see them in action.
The busiest block of 58th Street is between 22nd and 24th Avenues (989 daily vehicles), and 85th-percentile speeds are 22mph, as shown in SDOT’s presentation from last summer:
With SDOT installing stop signs for northbound and southbound 22nd Avenue as part of the greenway , it seems like a possibility that auto volumes along 58th Street could increase, especially when 24th Avenue or Market Street are fairly congested. SDOT is aiming for greenway auto volumes of <1,000 per day and speeds of 20 or lower.
Additionally, I feel that the flashing beacons would be great for encouraging cars to yield to pedestrians. However, they don’t provide the same level of “comfort” as a median for a pedestrian crossing two driving lanes, two parking lanes, and a two-way left turn lane; I feel that it’s important for a greenway to not just be safe but also comfortable and encouraging to non-motorized users.
Finally, for bicycles the flashing beacons are ambiguous. If a bicycle on 58th Street activates the light, cars traveling north-south on 24th Avenue aren’t required to stop. Some will, some won’t. Plus, bicycles still have a stop sign. My fear is that this intersection could become confusing, similar to where the Burke-Gilman crosses Brooklyn Avenue in the U District.
If a bicycle on 58th Street activates the light, and uses the crosswalk, cars traveling north-south on 24th Avenue are required to stop.
After a friend witnessed a resident of “On The Park” get hit by a speeding car on 24th, the opposition to a median island by “On The Park” is baffling.
I would bet money that 99% of the “On The Park” residents would back a median island despite what the owners of the building are suggesting.
I would suggest SDOT survey the people (voters) who actually live in the building instead of an out of touch investment firm.
My reply to Ballard Chamber of Commerce:
I was disappointed to hear about your opposition to the pedestrian and bicycle refuge island at 58th St and 24th Ave NW. I do not believe that the Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon will provide the safety, nor user consistency as a median refuge island.
My family rides into downtown Ballard from Crown Hill several times per week, and let me tell you that this is *despite* the fact that there is currently no clear, safe way to do so. Ballard needs a network of clear, connected paths for pedestrians and cyclists. The more of us who use our feet and bikes for short, local trips, the more parking will be available for those of us who are unwilling or unable to do so. Changing a critical piece of pedestrian and cycling infrastructure because it affects one intersection out of dozens for cars is unfair and unwise.
Please reconsider your position. If you are unable to change your position, please include an explanation of why exactly zero intersections in Ballard ought to give priority to active transport users over cars. Also, please identify a single intersection in Ballard that would make sense to prioritize for active transport users that would meet your criteria of not being near any businesses or residences in which some people want to park.
Thank you for your consideration,
As expected, the reaction from the public at the meeting last night was overwhelmingly positive. Some of the plans have changed since the last public meeting to mollify the more vocal opponents of the Ballard Greenway, and I think most of these changes are net negatives for the project as a whole, but overall I’m looking forward to using this route on a regular basis.
The proposed intersection treatment at 24th and 58th will be a complete failure, though, and will be changed within a year.
As far as I could tell, there were only two or three people at the meeting who were still outspoken about their opposition. One of the objectors was an elderly woman who was just clearly confused about what the project meant; even the SDOT moderators had a hard time understanding her complaints and replying to them. Another complaint was from a very upset woman who was also at the last public meeting and who again worried about the “endless parade of bikes” that would endanger the safety of her children. I’m not sure what you can say to someone with that mindset other than, sorry you don’t like it, but we’re doing it anyway.
I’m assuming that a good start would be explaining to her the statistics showing the number of children killed by cyclists compared to the number of children killed by cars.
There’s a similar lack of understanding among some people here in Vancouver where close to a proposed greenway, there is an elementary school and a daycare. One would assume that the parents would be delighted to have a traffic calmed street that their children could bike or walk to school on but instead some parents hold a belief that their children are going to be “plowed down” by cyclists.
I think some people just aren’t very logical.
My bike commute route includes a trail crossing of a faster, busier street than this intersection. It had a median island for years, but motorists still routinely violated pedestrian and cyclist right-of-way in the crosswalk. Installation of an RRFB has compliance over 90%, nearly as good as a true stoplight, without imposing a signal delay on those using the crosswalk. RRFB goes live the moment you push the button, cars stop fast enough you can hear their tires. It works. And it costs less. And it doesn’t impair visibility like a landscaped island. And it doesn’t block snow plows or street sweepers.
Some concerns regarding bicyclists hurting pedestrians come from seniors who cannot move quickly. I’ve heard seniors comment about nearly being hit by bikes whizzing by without slowing at all for pedestrians. It’s my guess that better public education about cyclists having to follow the same road rules as cars would help to put all at ease, ensuring bikes stop for pedestrians entering the roadway and that they keep speeds slow (not build up down a hill).
I think this is a much more constructive way to engage with people’s concerns. Thanks, Lee.
Instead of opposing such a project completely, people with such fears should push for education and signage encouraging everyone (including people on bikes) to take things easy and yield to people on foot. Even though I don’t think that would be necessary, it’s the kind of thing I think many project supporters would consider as a compromise.
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