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Plans developing for protected bike lanes on Fauntleroy, meeting Tuesday


From the city's Bike Master Plan, this stretch of Fauntleroy is a key connection.
From the city’s Bike Master Plan, this stretch of Fauntleroy is a key connection.

Plans for a very-much-needed remake of a key section of Fauntleroy Way SW in West Seattle are moving forward, and the city is looking for input.

There will be a community meeting to discuss the project Tuesday, 5 – 7 p.m. at the Senior Center of West Seattle (4217 SW Oregon Street). If you cannot attend, send your thoughts to [email protected].

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The project is less than a half-mile long and stretches from SW Alaska Street to 35th Ave SW (AKA I-35), but it’s a key stretch in a fast-growing part of the neighborhood. The route would connect nearly to the Junction from Avalon Way, a well-used bike commute route. The Bike Master Plan calls for protected bike lanes on Fauntleroy, Alaska, Avalon and 35th, so this stretch could be the first and a key central piece in the neighborhood’s future low-stress bike network.

Project design has also come a long way since 2012, when early design did not include any bike lanes, let alone the type of protected bike lanes needed to make the street comfortable for people of all ages and abilities to use to get around the neighborhood to or to regional and commuter bike routes.

Though the project is short, the street essentially feels like an entrance to the neighborhood. While today it is extremely wide and feels hostile to anyone outside a car, the project hopes to create a more welcoming atmosphere while still moving all the different people using different modes to get around. This includes building a new planted median (where left turn lane is not needed) and new planting strips separating the bike lane and sidewalk from motor vehicle traffic.

The project has long been pushed my City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who lives in West Seattle and is chair of the Transportation Committee. Design is on schedule to reach the 60 percent design point by the end of the year, but additional funding will be needed to finalize design and build it. (UPDATE: Mayor Ed Murray’s proposed budget includes $500,000 to complete design work). You can learn more the project website or, as always, by following coverage at West Seattle Blog.


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19 responses to “Plans developing for protected bike lanes on Fauntleroy, meeting Tuesday”

  1. Augsburg

    I’ve lived and biked in West Seattle for 17 years. Although I surly do like to see the city make improvements for cyclists, bike lanes on Fauntleroy would be at the bottom of my list of needs. We already have a new bike corral at the Junction that goes unused much of the time.

    I’m not sure what kind of thought process is going into these bike plans, but they are missing the mark from my standpoint. I’d much rather see some “bike boulevards” go in (similar to other cities) on traffic-free streets to facilitate travel north south and east west at important locations.

    I’d also rather see more done by the City on bicycle education. Education for bicyclists and drivers – and city engineering staff – the planned signal design at Admiral and 47th is not bike friendly. Anyone that rides a bike regularly knows that very few people out there on the road understand the basic “rules of the road”, or why savvy cyclists do what they do to survive.

    1. I think the problem this solves is creating a better route between the bridge and Alaska Junction. Today (heading west, for example) you can take Avalon much of the way, but what do you do after Avalon/35th? An awkward left onto 36th across a stream of traffic turning right from Fauntleroy onto Avalon? Climb in the lane on 35th until Snoqualmie?

      When Fauntleroy was built (if you look at the old Baist Map tiles you see it wasn’t in the original street network) it really broke up all the potential “bike boulevard” routes that cross it. Unlike my favorite target for deletion (Green Lake Way N between 46th and 50th) it’s still a car arterial that would be hard to replace even though it’s largely unused by transit and is a scourge for pedestrians and cyclists.

      I don’t actually know about 47th/Admiral — what’s the deal there?

      1. Augsburg

        I appreciate the good intentions behind bike projects like Fauntleroy, but completely disagree with many of the premises behind that kind of project. I think we too often have our bike viewpoints tainted by the hardcore commuters – I was one for many years.

        In more recent years, I have spent time observing what others are doing outside of Seattle and the US. I’m a let’s crawl before we can walk type of guy – or we might better put it as let’s ride for fitness and pleasure before we start trying to get everyone to commute. 50 years ago, every child in America learned to ride a bike and spent countless hours doing so. Today, no responsible parent lets their young children ride anywhere without adult supervision. Somehow things went very far awry.

        I don’t believe separate bike lanes on arterials will solve this fundamental problem. Instead, I think we need to encourage the majority of people that do not rides bikes to learn how – by giving them safe, small scale projects where they can learn cycling skills. Throwing in separate bike lanes on little used commuter routes is a formula for accidents, when unskilled cyclists think they can ride in traffic major distances safely. Once cycling is truly mainstream again, once people understand how to ride safely and motorists are cyclists too, then some of the bicycle “super highway” projects like Fauntleroy might begin to make sense.

        Regarding the signal at SW Admiral and 47th Ave SW, the City has a new traffic light at that location in the works. The light was brought about by a pedestrian death a few years ago. However, the road approach from the neighborhood off 47th Ave SW and SW Waite St. is extremely steep, and some thought needs to be given more thought by the designers on how cyclists will trigger the light.

      2. bill

        What to do after Avalon & 35th: When traffic is light move to the center turn lane, ride up the lane until you have a clear view of the slip lane from Fauntleroy, then left onto 36th when safe.

        In heavy traffic ride all the way to Fauntleroy then cross left in the crosswalk over to 36th. This works quite well.

      3. David Whiting

        The Admiral Neighborhood Association has advocated for the traffic signal at 47th Ave SW and Admiral for many years. At our meeting earlier this month SDOT informed us that the design includes a detector specifically for cyclists.

        David Whiting
        ANA President

      4. Augsburg

        @Dave Whiting. It is a little more complicated than that. I e-mailed the city’s project contact on the signal at 47th and Admiral two weeks ago and got no response. Unfortunately, I was out of town on a business trip when they held the meeting you attended. Based on the info on the flyer that was posted and the city’s website, it is not clear anyone knew to ask the designers the right questions about the signal design in regards to bicycles. The problem is where and what kind of sensor they use for bicycles. If they install sensors like they have at other lights in West Seattle, it will be unworkable for cyclists at this particular intersection because of the steep road approach from 47th Ave. SW/SW Waite St. Getting the small details right at 47th and Admiral is an example of something much more important in my mind to encourage cycling than the planned Fauntleroy bicycle super highway.

      5. David Whiting

        If a street’s gradient has some influence on the ability of a loop detector to recognize the presence of a bicycle, that’s a phenomenon I’m not familiar with. Please elaborate.

        In any event, for a cyclist as you describe approaching the intersection uphill on SW Waite, the planned traffic signal would offer a green light so they can proceed through the intersection with arterial traffic on Admiral stopped in both directions. Even if that requires activating a pedestrian push button that’s a vast improvement from current conditions.

        As for the Fauntleroy Way project, the Seattle BMP was created to serve novice and advanced cyclists alike, it is not an “either/or” policy document. But it’s not just up to SDOT, West Seattle Bike Connections and others are advocating for neighborhood greenways and conducting their own education and riding activities for the youngest riders amongst us.

        The Fauntleroy/Alaska triangle area has a daily bike count ranging from about 240 to 450, and was identified by WSBC members as the second most important area needing improvement (ranked after the 5 way intersection at the western base of the lower bridge). From a safety stand point it would be difficult to identify a greenway project that would provide a greater overall benefit than a protected bike lane on Fauntleroy Way.

      6. Augsburg

        @Dave Whiting: In answer to your question, if the city places the traffic sensor in the road behind the stop line, like they normally do, it will be in a location most cyclists will not stop – because the road is too steep. I’m basing this statement on the stop line as shown in the flyer and on the city’s website. If the cyclist does not stop on the sensor, the light will not change. Per Washington State Law, the cyclist can then proceed agains the red light. Hardly a safe outcome, and certainly worse than today – when motorists on Admiral are at least on the lookout for bikes and pedestrians at the crosswalk. With a signal, they will not be looking for anyone to cross against the light.

        As someone that uses the Admiral/47th intersection daily, I would not find it a “vast improvement” to use push buttons over on the sidewalk, because that area is difficult to access with a bike in tow due to the sidewalk being even steeper than the road. That may sound great to people that drive cars, lugging a bike on the incline over to a push button would be even worse than the situation today – which is actually not that bad 99.9% of the time. All of this dismounting from the bike on the hill the signal would create if not properly designed is even worse for the cyclists that use bike shoes for clipless pedals. Bike shoes are slippery on pavement, especially a steep incline when it is raining and wet.

        There are solutions to these problems, but they do require some thought. As you will notice, all, not some, all cyclists riding on the steep hills in Downtown Seattle stop at the top of the hill on the flat in the crosswalks. They don’t need sensors for bikes Downtown because the lights run off a computer and not sensors at every intersection. Since the Admiral and 47th signal will run off sensors, a properly marked sensor in the crosswalk on the flat would solve the problem. As an alternative, other cities use push buttons at the curb for bikes, although in this case, it would need to be somewhat around the corner at the top of the hill on the flat – where a push button for cyclists would not be very visible or obvious.

        Again, I’d rather see SDOT utilizing resources to solve the many problems like the design of Admiral/47th than pursuing Eisenhower-esque Interstate Bike Lanes.

    2. Tom Fucoloro

      Augsburg, you can learn more about the work that went into the West Seattle sections of the Bike Master Plan via our previous reporting:

      Draft One: http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2012/12/18/bike-master-plan-west-seattle-sodo-and-south-park/

      Draft Two: http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2013/07/26/bike-master-plan-draft-2-west-seattle-duwamish-valley-queen-anne-interbay-and-magnolia/

      Essentially, West Seattle does not have a ton of connected, viable neighborhood greenway routes, at least compared to other parts of the city. There are a handful of neighborhood greenways, and they are noted in the plan, but West Seattle is going to need protected bike lanes on streets like Fauntleroy to do a lot of the heavy lifting. The arterials are the only reasonable options for a usable and connected bike network in many parts of the neighborhood.

      1. The project has the potential to make 36th a nice, low traffic route from the neighborhood north of Fauntleroy south across Fauntleroy to SW Alaska St. The block north of SW Alaska includes the YMCA and large new residential buildings so it is a bike and walking destination in itself, and it will continue to be a good route to the Junction and shopping along Alaska east of the Junction. The design of the crossing as currently proposed is extremely convoluted. It would require a 4-step (!) crossing of Fauntleroy to continue on 36th. Completely against human nature to do that, and not necessary if signals, stop signs, stop bars, islands are designed to prioritize 36th and treat bikes as bikes and pedestrians as pedestrians. Comments and drawings submitted at tonight’s open house.

  2. Between this and the 116th thing… two projects that will close important gaps for those inter-neighborhood and inter-city cyclists comfortable with riding in a bit of traffic near intersections. Without improvements on Avalon it won’t quite reach those that aren’t, but it will at least create a decent option for adult commuter types between the bridge and Alaska Junction (I don’t go there all that often… every time I do I try a different route, and I haven’t found one I’d want to take every day).

  3. bill

    A problem I see with this plan is there are no measures to keep pedestrians out of the bike paths.

    1. Josh

      The devil is in the details. This doesn’t show pedestrian controls, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be any. Certainly at bus stops, Copenhagen experience would say pedestrian controls would be necessary to avoid a massive increase in bike/ped injury accidents.

    2. Bill: Agreed. The plan currently has bike lane and sidewalk at same elevation. That just does not work. Need a grade separation with bikes at roadway elevation, and maybe planting between bikes and sidewalk instead of between bike lanes and traffic lanes. They are trying to avoid moving the curb. The result would be a useless bike lane, so some bikes and peds in bike lane, lots of bikes in traffic lanes and everyone mad at each other. The good part is that these are one-way, not two-way.

    3. I’d worry a lot more about turning traffic at uncontrolled intersections (especially as the bike lane is obscured behind trees!) than pedestrians and bus stops — this isn’t a heavily walked street, and few bus routes even use it.

      1. Al,
        Turning traffic at intersections, controlled or not, and at driveways, is certainly more important. Sightlines are important too. One of our group’s comments is to keep shrub planting lower than 2′ and trees limbed up to over 8′ — the boards last night showed that kind of treatment, and Freight Advisory Board noted that trees must be limbed up over the height of truck and bus mirrors so they can see. Street tree trunks do not obscure view and would not be allowed in the normal sight triangles at drives and intersections. But we are concerned about keeping pedestrians out of bike lanes because if not, the whole effort is a waste of money and right-of-way.

      2. Al,
        It is not a heavily walked street now, or heavily biked, because it is so unfriendly to pedestrians and bikes. It is built for cars only, and most of the curb is curb cuts for auto-0riented businesses. Kind of hard to imagine it otherwise. But redevelopment is happening that will bring many more people living and shopping there. If the street is made a “complete street”, with good engineering design for all users, it could become heavily and happily walked and biked.

  4. Kirk

    “…we might better put it as let’s ride for fitness and pleasure before we start trying to get everyone to commute.”

    I would rather think that the goal, especially as far as Seattle Department of Transportation is concerned, is best put as “Let’s make riding a bike a transportation option.” A bicycle can be used for fitness, pleasure, commuting, running errands, going to a sporting event, going out for dinner, getting a coffee.

  5. Nathan Todd

    Hi SBB. I commute on this stretch of Fauntleroy every day. I understand that there are other sections of West Seattle that deserve greater attention and focus. Nevertheless, I am thrilled that the city is considering a protected bike lane on Fauntleroy. I can handle Fauntleroy as is or take 36 but I have talked to other residents who find WS too dauntingly unfriendly to bikes. This improvement would be visible to the vast majority of WSeattleites and help them to feel confident that they can do it. Hurray!

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