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Bike Master Plan Draft 2: NE Seattle, Wallingford, Green Lake and Northgate

The last day to comment on the second draft of the Bicycle Master Plan is Friday. Email your comments to [email protected].

This post is a continuation of a series investigating some of changes in the newest draft of the Bike Master Plan.

In general, the updated Bike Master Plan includes a lot of bold and smart projects. We noted many in our analysis of the first draft. This post focuses mainly on the changes between drafts.

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Seattle BMP Master Map-neNE 65th Street

The most controversial aspect of the NE Seattle plan is very likely the proposal for a protected bike lane on NE 65th Street from the Burke-Gilman Trail to Green Lake.

But with the planned light rail station coming in the next decade to 65th and Roosevelt and the relatively few quality nearby options and I-5 crossings, it could also be one of the more bold and smart elements of the plan.

A group of neighbors have started to organize against protected bike lanes on 65th, and I had the chance to have a great chat with one organizer, Mark Briant, who explained some of the concerns.

The biggest problem seems to be with outreach. Some neighbors saw the line on the map and assumed that the city had a plan ready to go and never planned to ask them for input. They are concerned about losing parking and emergency vehicle access on the street, and they clearly don’t trust that the city intends to have a proper outreach process for the project.

However, there is no design or funding for the project. Currently, it is just a line on a map. The 20-year Bike Master Plan, while an important tool for organizing and prioritizing city investments, does not include developed street design concepts. Rather, it simply states the amount of separation a bike facility should have on a street, based on the traffic levels and speeds of that street. For example, the plan calls for some kind of “in-street, major separation” bike facility on NE 65th because the traffic levels are too high for just a plain painted bike lane to be enough for all people to feel safe.

The plan also notes which streets are high priority bike network connections, based on a complicated series of factors including geography (such as less steep hills), equity (all homes should have a nearby safe bike facility) and network connectivity.

While I am hopeful that truly safe bike lanes on 65th could be a great addition to the neighborhood some day, it’s important that everyone understands that big future projects like this will go through a public input and design process if/when they are selected and funded.

I-5 Crossings

In our analysis of the first draft plan, we noted that the biggest impediment to biking in Northeast Seattle/Wallingford is, by far, the lack of safe crossings of I-5. We praised the plan for including improved crossings at 45th, 50th, 65th, 80th, 130th and the new Northgate Station bike/walk bridge.

Unfortunately, both 45th and 50th have both been removed from the plan in lieu of what will likely be a hugely expensive new crossing at NE 47th Street.

While the crossing at 47th would be awesome, there is no momentum to fund such a capital project yet and would likely fall below other projects — such as the Ballard Bridge — on the capital projects list. Meanwhile, there are affordable and non-intrusive options on the existing 45th and 50th Street crossings that should be considered immediately, let alone considered in a 20-year plan. We strongly suggest restoring these crossings (or at the very least NE 45th) to the plan.

The plan does not include a connection from the Burke-Gilman Trail to University Village, which is especially needed near the University District somewhere around NE 45th St. It could also note support for the UW’s Burke-Gilman Trail update plans.

Anything else we missed in our analysis of the NE Seattle plans? Let us know in the comments below.

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15 responses to “Bike Master Plan Draft 2: NE Seattle, Wallingford, Green Lake and Northgate”

  1. Nathan

    The Burke already connects to the University Village, just not where you would expect. Ride the Burke to 30th Ave NE, take a right and you’re there.

    1. On the west side you can get there by turning off at Pend Orielle, making a left onto 25th, and then the exit ramp to the right. Some scary looking roads but you’re unlikely to encounter much actual traffic while doing it.

      U Village has a bit of a general access problem — instead of having straightforward access via nearby neighborhood streets it limits access to limited points along highway-like roads around the perimeter. That combined with the Burke’s general access problem stemming from its history as a freight rail corridor means the two seem to be hidden from eachother even where they’re really close.

  2. Andres Salomon

    I actually agree with the decision to drop the I-5 crossing at 45th, if (and that’s a big IF) 47th can actually be funded relatively quickly. Even with major separation, I would not want to bike along 45th.

    65th is another matter entirely. We can rechannelize and calm 65th, given the lower traffic volumes and fewer traffic lanes. I have a hard time envisioning a calmer 45th within a 20 year timeframe, however.

  3. Brian

    This is small potatoes compared to the I-5 crossings, but I’m mystified why Wallingford Avenue is frequently designated as a preferred bike corridor. It’s an arterial with sharrows in the door zone. I much prefer to cycle on any of the other reasonably quiet non-arterial N-S streets through Wallingford and I know that I’m not alone in that.

    Also, it would be great to connect Laurelhurst with the UW more directly. A lot of people bike through the big UW parking lot which is sort of ok but not awesome, especially because the current bridges over Montlake suck, pretty much. The bridge issue will hopefully be fixed when the Husky stadium light rail construction finishes. But it’s worth including in the bike master plan anyway. I know a lot of students bike down to the gym from upper campus too and it would be worth designating routes for them.

    1. I actually prefer to ride down Wallingford Ave. instead of taking one of the side streets. Which is a shame, really, because I’d love to use the Wallingford Greenway more often for the E-W part of my trips. But as long as 40th St. is treated like a major arterial with no signaled crossings, I don’t feel safe getting south of 40th anywhere *but* Wallingford. And so I ignore the sharrow placements, take the lane, and hold my breath.

      1. Breadbaker

        I totally agree with Julie. Wallingford is a pretty wide street and cars are generally used to bikes, even coming on cross streets (or they’re simply being careful of the 26), so you can bike past the door zone pretty safely. The other north-south streets are generally all parked up on both sides and completely uncontrolled at all intersections. I’ve seen cars trying to do 40 on 35th street at Burke, going around a traffic circle. I’ve had to pull off when a car was coming the other direction because there was no room and no desire to give some courtesy to a biker going uphill. So I pretty much bike up and down Wallingford every day.

  4. Sean

    Why is there a gap on 20th Ave NE between the north end of Ravenna Park at 65th and NE 80th St on the draft BMP? The existing infrastructure is there (bike lane on 20th near UW, ped/bike bridge over Ravenna Park) and the traffic volumes are low enough that it’s already a de facto bike route, so why not put it on the map formally?

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      That’s a good suggestion. Worth emailing them about.

  5. Kevin Shively

    Another notable gap in the NE Seattle network, which I’ve just commented to SDOT on is the missing link between the bikeway with major separation (cycle track) proposed for Ravenna Blvd and the Burke Gilman Trail. This gap could easily be closed by paving an existing gravel trail through part of Ravenna Park to the intersection of NE 55th/Blakeley, then south along Ravenna Place two blocks to the BGT. It seems this would be a logical connection to extend the all ages/abilities network from the BGT to Ravenna Park, Ravenna (and points north, via the 20th Street bike/ped bridge), Greenlake and destination to the west.

    1. biliruben

      Yeah, they chose to designate the hill for a cycle-track instead. That makes no sense, but perhaps coordinating with the parks department for a way through the ravine was too daunting?

      I’m not terribly daunted by hills, but I never choose the hard way here.

  6. biliruben

    My sent comments. I’d love to hear other people’s opinions. Agree, or am I totally off-base?

    Thanks very much for your hard work on putting together the latest iteration of the BMP. In general, very inspiring and exciting ideas.

    A few comments, as someone who lives in Lake City, has a 6 year old who rides, and who works in the u-district.

    First, it doesn’t seem as if you have been coordinating very well with the Greenways groups. They have done a lot of the work for you, and you do seem to have incorporated some of what they are proposing, but then have chosen other, less intuitive routes in other places. I suggest you weigh what the feet on the ground have suggested for Greenways a bit more than you have. The topographical considerations are paramount, and if you don’t ride the area regularly, it’s difficult for you to know what the issues are.

    For instance, you seem to have chosen another Greenway route, 40th and Alton, for the area south of 125th, between 35th Ave and Sandpoint. While this is a pretty good way to get to and from the Burke, 38th would be more heavily used by the kids trying to get to Nathan Hale, Jane Addams and John Rogers, as there is a significant hill below Alton that few would climb. What you need is a safe crossing to connect to the proposed 37th Ave Greenway on the other side of 125th. 35th Ave and 125th is a very dangerous intersection for bikes and peds, with many turning cars and is poorly designed. A mid-block crossing, though difficult to design, would be much safer if done right.

    Also, the cycle-track on the winding hill climb to connect to the Ravenna buffered bike lane is misguided. You need to do the needed coordination with the parks department to get a reasonably flat route through the ravine itself. Few except those in training climb that hill on purpose, because there is a much easier way through. You should, whenever possible, look at how people are riding now to guide you. Flat routes are far preferable when we are lucky enough to have them, and that ravine could be a fantastic gateway through a really tough East-West route to Greenlake, if you built it right.

    On the subject of coordination, you need to coordinate with both UW and the University Village to improve access to the mall. There is a massive missed opportunity by not connecting tens of thousand of healthy folks to retail a mile away.

    You have also chosen to ignore the gradual climbs afforded you by Thornton Creek. There is a reasonably moderate climb up the bluff from Lake City Way into Victory Heights starting on 100th, but you chose instead to draw a straight line right up 98th, which is not a pleasant climb. Use your topography to your advantage when it presents itself. Straight lines look good on the map, but they often don’t work well in practice, particularly when there are lot’s of ravines and bluffs.

    Thanks again for all your hard work!

  7. JohnS

    The opportunity that I see, specifically in the east/west corridor from Lake Washington to Greenlake, is also in drawing Ravenna Park into the path. It also brings the Greenway proposals into a higher role.
    The northern boundary of Ravenna Park has always been a wasteland and is designated as a Greenway. At the intersection of Brooklyn and 62nd (NW corner of Cowan Park) one can go west to Ravenna Boulevard and under I-5, north to the light rail station or south down Brooklyn, a highly underused, safe bikeway. Imagine the south side of 62nd (the side within the Park, being improved for bicycles and pedestrians (12′ wide) all the way east to 21st Ave NE. Use some of the jersey barrier money to span the 2 side ravines above the current footbridges and continue east along 60th to to 39th Ave NE. Follow 39th Ave NE to the BG trail. This is currently described as a Greenway, why not simply elevate the use?
    It sounds as though most everyone wins on this one without spending a lot of time and money on the number of traffic overlays (pedestrian, cycle, public transport, commercial freight, emergency, private vehicles and cross-traffic) that would need to be engineered on 65th.

    1. Becka

      I’ve always thought Brooklyn Ave is a huge missed opportunity. Traffic is extremely light, cars are outnumbered by both bikes and pedestrians, and it’s a very wide street. It would cause a massive uproar, but honestly with its low traffic volume Brooklyn could become two-way yielding (i.e. one travel lane for cars) with parking on one side, with buffered bike lanes or a cycletrack.

      Cars wanting to get somewhere quickly can (and mostly already do) use 11th or Roosevelt. The only problem would be the “war on cars” folks, who would feel threatened even though every other street in Seattle is designed for them. I can only assume they’ve never traveled outside the US or even to the East Coast, where the majority of city streets are one or two lanes.

  8. […] about the city’s plans and some misunderstanding about what the Bicycle Master Plan is. We covered this briefly in our analysis of plans for NE Seattle […]

  9. […] business owners are concerned that the protected bike lanes called for in the current draft of the Bike Master Plan could result in a reduction in parking. Since there is no design plan (or even a budget to create […]

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