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Tuesday open house will kick off plans for second Ballard neighborhood greenway

From SDOT's 2014 neighborhood greenway work plan (the exact route could change during the design process)
From SDOT’s 2014 neighborhood greenway work plan. Route 3 exists, Route 13 will be studied this year (the exact route could change during the design process)

The city will host its first open house to get community input on a second neighborhood greenway in Ballard, this time a north-south route.

The meeting is 6 – 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Ballard High School Commons Room. The presentation starts at 6:30.

The city is considering a route somewhere in the 16th, 17th or 18th Ave NW area that will connect all the way from the Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link (someday hopefully an actual trail) all the way up to Soundview Playfield near Whitman Middle School in Crown Hill.

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The route should clock in just over two miles and will be a milestone for Seattle neighborhood greenway building: It will be the first route to intersect a pre-existing neighborhood greenway.

The NW 58th Street neighborhood greenway opened last year, and a bicycle counting machine measured nearly 15,000 trips in January alone, almost a quarter as many bike trips as the busy Fremont Bridge.

The 17th Ave NW neighborhood greenway will also be a chance for SDOT to get some feedback about what did and did not work on the 58th route so they can make sure the new route is even better.

City leaders and Ballard residents tour some potential Ballard neighborhood greenways in 2012
City leaders and Ballard residents tour some potential Ballard neighborhood greenways in 2012

The biggest complaints I have heard about the 58th St route is that the speed humps are not big enough to significantly slow people driving and that the crossings of busy streets like 24th Ave NW and 20th Ave NW do not go far enough to create a truly comfortable experience for people walking and biking the route.

Since the 17th Ave NW route will connect a ton of parks and schools, it should be built with the comfort and safety of children in mind. If a Ballard parent feels comfortable letting their eight-year-old bike on their own along 17th Ave to get to school, then the city will know they have succeeded.

One big unknown is how to best connect to the under construction Burke-Gilman Missing Link Band-Aid route. North of Market, 17th Ave NW (the likely leading route candidate) is pretty calm. But south of Market there is a bit more traffic and some very confusing intersections. And, of course, there is the intersection at Leary Way, which is horrendous and badly in need of a remake:

Looking north on 17th Ave NW at Leary Way. Image from Google Street View
Looking north on 17th Ave NW at Leary Way. Image from Google Street View

More details from SDOT:

Last summer one was completed on NW 58th Street. This year we’re evaluating a north-south route in the area of 16th, 17th or 18th Avenues NW from Salmon Bay to Soundview Playfield. We will hold two public meetings to learn more from the people who live, work, shop and play in the area. The first meeting will share traffic data and help us understand where people want to walk and bike and barriers to doing so. At the second meeting we’ll share the results of technical analysis and public comment and the most promising route.

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26 responses to “Tuesday open house will kick off plans for second Ballard neighborhood greenway”

  1. Law Abider

    I ride or run down 17th every day on my way to work. The improvements that will come from a greenway will be much welcomed, especially smoothing out some of the jarring bumps around Market Street, plus the crappiness of crossing Leary (as mentioned). I only wonder how they will handle the intersection at Shilshole (and the future BGT) and the existing 58th greenway. Also, cross traffic stop signs between Market and Leary will help slow down cars that speed across 17th on their way to/from 15th.

    And I can attest to the complaints of speeding cars on 58th. I don’t think they should have put stop signs on 17th and 22nd, when they already had traffic circles. As it mentions above, the speed bumps do nothing to slow cars down and with cross traffic now having a stop at 17th and 22nd, some cars treat it as a through route, where they go dangerously fast on. On foot, I’ve almost been hit quite a few times by cars that think they now have the right-of-way at those intersections, even against pedestrians. On bike, especially going uphill on 17th, it’s hard to see around parked cars until you are pretty much in the intersection.

    The frustrating thing about 58th/17th and 58th/22nd is that the intersections seemed to work fine before and I just don’t think anyone thought that throwing up a stop sign would create as much havoc. I’ve been petitioning the city to either remove the stop signs or make them all way stops, because it’s only a matter of time before someone gets run over.

    1. Southeasterner

      ” I don’t think they should have put stop signs on 17th and 22nd, when they already had traffic circles.”

      A-men! They turned an intersection that was previously safe for bikes and peds into the most dangerous part of my bike commute. Nobody understands it and they have to be some of the only round-abouts in the world with stop signs on only one of the cross streets.

      In the near future when someone is killed we will be able to go back to these posts and say “I told you so” but unfortunately the victim will probably be one of us.

      1. Kirk

        Sorry, I just don’t get the complaint about these intersections. I ride on 22nd and cross 58th daily. There are stop signs on 22nd. Stop at the sign. Traffic on 58th doesn’t stop; traffic crossing the the greenway stops. What exactly is the issue? Are you saying people don’t understand what the stop sign means?

      2. There are a bunch of mini-roundabouts with stop signs facing one direction in Seattle. There are some along N 40th St just east of Aurora (e.g. at Woodland Park Ave). And there are a few in Kirkland, giving priority to 7th Ave west of 6th St.

        I generally think they work well — because you can generally count on cross traffic coming pretty close to stopping at stop signs you don’t have to slow down so much at every intersection, which is nice when it’s the only route short of some really fast arterial. The difference is really noticeable on the 39th Ave (Wedgwood) greenway, and along Fremont Ave, especially at 90th (drivers used to just blow through the roundabouts on 90th without even slowing down; with the stop sign there they actually stop at Fremont).

        On the other hand, I find that drivers are totally inconsistent about how to handle roundabouts on side streets. Some seem to blow through without looking at all, some will stop for you even if they were in the roundabout first, and a few make left turns the wrong way around them (this seriously pisses me off — if you can’t make it around the right way, turn some other place or learn to drive better, no excuses).

      3. Law Abider

        @Al I bike Fremont once a week and will definitely agree that the stop sign at 90th is awesome. While I wouldn’t say it causes all drives to completely stop, it at least causes them to slow way down and definitely made that intersection safer.

        But you can’t compare 90th/Fremont to 58th/17th. 90th was the cut-through street from Greenwood to Aurora (there’s lights at both) and beyond, so it was logical to stop them for right of way of the greenway. But in the case of 58th, the greenway WAS the cut through, and the stop signs only reinforced that. If the speed bumps actually worked, there probably wouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately, intersections like this were an oversight, and hopefully something SDOT will take into consideration moving forward.

        And while I’m happy about the potential of stop signs on 17th, I’m a little apprehensive, because people already use it as a bypass of 15th, and I’m worried that the stop signs will just make them feel that they can go faster. Although, between Market and Leary, all the 17th intersections are technically three-ways, so 17th already has right of way.

      4. david amiton

        it’s interesting to me that folks in seattle find stop signs at residential street intersections (roundabout or no, greenway or not) so confusing. in the city where i grew up, every residential street intersection was stop-controlled for a particular direction, and on greenways, every cross-street was stop-controlled. every single one. it leant a beautiful consistency to driving and biking on residential streets, because you always knew exactly what the correct behavior should be as you and others approached the intersection.

        the other lovely difference between the city where i grew up and seattle is that there, the signs in the roundabouts actually had a diagram of the roundabout with arrows directing traffic to move through the intersection in a counterclockwise fashion. i find that a lot of folks don’t even realize that they are supposed to travel counterclockwise, and instead make the immediate left (or use the left side of the roundabout as a passing lane…that one really bothers me!). the signs remove any ambiguity.

      5. Law Abider

        @david I don’t think anyone finds the stop signs confusing. Just not necessary in all cases and occasionally makes the intersection more dangerous. All doubters should come visit the 58th/17th intersection at about 5:30 pm on a weekday. Be sure you are on the downhill side.

      6. Kirk

        Law Abider, please explain why you think the stop signs on the cross streets make the intersections more dangerous. I understand that there are traffic circles at some of them. I don’t understand why you think it is more dangerous than without a stop sign. All the cross streets on greenways must be stop signed, and there really needs to be traffic diverters along the stretch to keep auto drivers from using the greenways as cut throughs. I also wish they would put up the signs like on Lake Washington Boulevard, Autos Yield To Bikes.

      7. Josh

        SDOT used to say Seattle’s traffic “circles” weren’t roundabouts, just traffic calming devices, and that it was actually legal to turn left before the island.

        They’ve changed their tune in recent years, and say that everyone should go around the island, but that they understand some people won’t.

        From http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/sdotfaqs.htm

        How do I turn left at a traffic circle?

        State Law does not distinguish between a traffic circle and a larger roundabout. Consequently, a driver turning left at a neighborhood traffic circle must proceed counterclockwise around the traffic circle. However, we recognize that there are instances when drivers may need to turn left before a traffic circle, such as when cars park too closely to the right side of a circle or when a driver can’t maneuver a larger vehicle around to the right. Turning left in front of a traffic circle in those instances can be safely performed if the driver exercises reasonable care and yields to pedestrians, bicyclists, and oncoming traffic.

      8. Law Abider

        @Kirk I don’t know how much more I can explain that my first post, but I’ll do a another post, just for you:

        58th/17th used to be a unmarked intersection with a traffic circle. Traffic would slow down to negotiate rights-of-way. As a pedestrian, cyclist and accasional driver, it just worked and there were never any issues with speeding drivers or people not yielding rights-of-way.

        Now, 17th has a stop sign, which gives 58th, a through street connecting to a light at 15th, full right-of-way at the intersection, except (in theory) to pedestrians crossing. Now, people use 58th as a through route, utilizing the stop signs to know they won’t have to yield, in a significant amount of cases, going well above the 20 mph speed limit, sometimes in excess of 30. With the cars parked on 58th, it’s difficult to see cars coming until the last second. As a cyclist, this is dangerous, going uphill on 17th, as it’s difficult to see crossing cars and negotiate the intersection until you are pretty much in the intersection. As a pedestrian, I have had to jump out of the way of cars that come flying through the intersection.

        Again, I understand that stop signs are necessary in some cases to protect the greenway users, as can be seen on some of the Fremont Ave cross streets. But is it necessary to blanket the greenway’s minor intersections with stop signs? What does it gain?

        tl;dr: Drivers have learned they can use the greenway as a faster through route without having to yield to crossing traffic.

      9. Kirk

        Yeah, I get it that speeding on the greenway due to stop signs on cross streets is an issue, especially due to the new 20 MPH speed limits. But I have been reading these comments that the stop signs in conjunction with the traffic circles is confusing and dangerous, which I don’t understand. And the stop signs on the cross streets has made the entire greenway safer for the bicycle drivers travelling along the greenway.
        Traffic diverters are needed to curb the speeding. I think forcing the auto traffic to make a right turn at the end of each block of the greenway in each direction would be an effective solution, essintially making each segment of the greenway local access only for autos. This would be awesome at 17th and 58th, due to the very long blocks in this subdivision, lacking a crossing at 16th and 17th.

  2. Kirk

    I think 17th is really the most logical route for the new greenway, especially considering that there isn’t a 16th Ave. or 18th Ave. south of Market. But the city really needs to figure out the speeding of automobiles on the greenways. Auto drivers fly down 17th southbound, as well as on the 58th greenway. The greenways need auto barriers at the end of every (or every other) block to make it work.
    A stop light is all that’s needed to fix the 17th and Leary intersection, as well as the intersections on the 58th street greenway at 24th and 20th. As I mentioned on a previous post, if SDOT could put these signals in with the speed and ease that they did when signalling every single intersection under the viaduct, bicycle, pedestrian and auto safety would be immensly improved.
    I would have to disagree with Law Abider; I think cross street stop signs are mandatory for all intersections on the greenway. And when greenways intersect, a four way intersection would work perfectly.

    1. Southeasterner

      “I would have to disagree with Law Abider; I think cross street stop signs are mandatory for all intersections on the greenway. And when greenways intersect, a four way intersection would work perfectly.”

      I think you’re missing the point. These are stop signs on the cross streets of a roundabout which makes absolutely no sense at all.

      1. Kirk

        As I asked before, why doesn’t a stop sign make sense? It’s a stop sign. Traffic stops at the sign. I go through this intersection daily, and it works fine. And I stop at the sign before crossing 58th.

      2. Kirk

        And I should add, while riding along the greenway, all cross traffic should be made to stop. Removing these stop signs fromt the greenway would make it less of a greenway and more dangerous.

      3. Josh

        The problem is that Seattle used to treat its small traffic islands as standard uncontrolled intersections, rather than roundabouts.

        If it’s an uncontrolled intersection, then adding a stop sign on one or more legs is no big deal.

        But if it’s a roundabout, roundabouts have their own standardized rules of operation, and those rules don’t include stop signs.

        If you’re a long-time Seattle driver who grew up here when traffic islands were simply uncontrolled intersections, and there weren’t any real roundabouts in the state, then stop signs at traffic circles make perfect sense.

        If you’re moving here from somewhere that follows U.S. traffic standards, you expect roundabouts to be roundabouts, and the stop signs are in conflict with the rules of the road for roundabouts.

      4. Andres Salomon

        Thanks. This brings a bit of clarity to the confusion/oddities around Seattle’s traffic circles, as someone who moved here from a place with standard U.S. roundabouts.

  3. JB

    There must be a more nuanced way of prioritizing these streets for non-motorized transportation than just slapping down some speed bumps. I was on Bell Street today, and it was truly a joy to stroll along – wish I could say the same for 58th. Call me cynical, but so far the greenway program seems like little more than a way for city officials to pat themselves on the back for being progressive without inconveniencing more than about ten cars a day. Actively reassigning road space takes leadership and vision, but that’s what we need – and for god’s sake start with the viscerally terrifying and violent Ballard Bridge instead of this green window dressing.

  4. Andres Salomon

    We need to start having a conversation about dead-end parks on greenways. These could work and function a number of ways, but the main idea would be a dead-end street for cars, a through route for bikes and pedestrians, and returning pavement back to the people that live on that block. It could be a basketball court, a garden, whatever (the phrase “What would YOU like in YOUR park?” could be something that SDOT/Parks asks the neighbors). Doing some dead-ends with bollards could be a cheap, easy way to get started.

    1. Ball


      A nice (and probably expensive) one:

      Or a simpler version requiring less space and money:

      Local residents get less cut-through traffic, and drivers will not get a stop-sign-free parallel route to 15th. This is the only way a 16th/17th/18th greenway will be successful.

      1. BallardCommuter

        I should add, Seattle has already added a diverter at NW 16th Ave and 85th St, presumably to keep drivers from using 16th to avoid the traffic signal on 15th.


        This one is made of portable yellow curbs that appear to be attached to the pavement with bolts. So if we’re told that poured-in-place curbs are too expensive, here’s the counter argument. The city already knows how to do it cheaply and effectively. Let’s do it at every major crossing.

      2. Andres Salomon

        Sure, though I was thinking more along the lines of this:


        And this:


        And this:


        Start with some cheap delineators/bollards and portable planters, and let it grow from there.

      3. BallardCommuter

        I agree that those look great, but keep in mind that 16th, 17th, and 18th are all lined with existing homes (and driveways). We need to find a way to make the greenway successful while working within the existing constraints.

      4. Andres Salomon

        I’m not sure why you think that wouldn’t work here. Those are residential streets in Vancouver that are lined with existing homes and driveways.

        We have room for traffic circles, but not mini parks?

      5. BallardCommuter

        I’d love to be wrong. See you at Ballard High on Tuesday!

  5. RJ

    One solution might be to dead-end a road to cars, but leave a pass-through for cyclists. That would virtually eliminate through-traffic.

    Also, I live (and ride) in this neighborhood– and often get on/off 58th without ever going across the bike counter. Though now that I’ve found the counter, maybe I’ll alter my route. :)

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