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Final Westlake Bikeway open house is Wednesday + A look at updated plans

From a September 30 presentation to the Design Advisory Committee (see all documents here)
From a September 30 presentation to the Design Advisory Committee (see all documents here)

The city is just about ready to show off its design for the Westlake Bikeway after many community meetings big and small and more than a year and a half of debates about the plan to provide a safe space for people to travel between South Lake Union and the Fremont Bridge through the giant, endless parking lot along the edge of the lake.

It’s been a long and messy road, and the city has brought a whole lot of people to the table to express concerns, propose alternative ideas and guide the design. The result is a safer, protected bikeway along the eastern edge of the parking lot and a redesigned and more efficient parking area tuned to the success of businesses rather than acting as free all-day parking for city center employees trying to get around paid parking at their workplaces.

You can check out the plans and give SDOT feedback during an open house from 5:30 – 8 p.m. Wednesday at Fremont Studios (35th and Phinney). The presentation starts at 6:15. There will be activities for kids, so bring ’em with you.

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And despite all the meetings the city has already held, people still need to show up and support a safer Westlake for everyone. The exact design the city plans to unveil Wednesday is not yet clear, but a recent presentation to the Design Advisory Committee gives a hint of what to expect:

SDOT_SidewalkAlignmentMaps3 SDOT_SidewalkAlignmentMaps2 SDOT_SidewalkAlignmentMaps1

The project includes bike lanes in each direction (often next to each other like a trail) that are separate from the sidewalk and the car parking area. A redesigned parking area includes a lot of back-in angle parking, which makes more efficient use of the space to squeeze as many parking spots as possible into the area. As a result, the city expects that 80–85 percent of the spots will be preserved. A new circulation pattern in the drive area will prevent people from driving or biking from end-to-end of the parking area by having some sections one-way northbound and others one-way southbound.

In my opinion, the project includes too much concern for parking preservation and misses chances to create new creative public spaces and wider sidewalks. But I suppose that’s what compromise looks like. The city has done a much more extensive effort to reach out to everyone impacted and get their concerns on the table, and the result is a project that’s shaping up to be a win for everyone.

Unfortunately, despite all the compromises and design efforts to preserve the vast majority of parking spaces in the city-owned lot, there are still people who are against any parking loss of any kind even if it improves safety for all users. The so-called Westlake Stakeholders recently put out a call to get a bunch of people to show up, trying to scare people by making outlandish claims like that the project will lead to “1,000’s of pedestrian/bicycle conflicts daily where 100% of all pedestrians will have to cross over the east sidewalk cycle track to access their business, residence and marinas.”

Thousands! Judging by that description, you might think the city were proposing a moat of lava rather than a space for people to ride a bike. But, of course, the claim is not true at all, unless you define every instance of a person walking across a bike lane to be a “conflict.” To recap: People walking across a parking lot drive lane is not a problem. But people waking across a bike lane? “Conflict.” This is just the latest attempt by this group to mislead people into getting riled up about what is really a very common sense solution to a safety problem.

The official project schedule notes that Wednesday is supposed to be the final open house on the project. After this, SDOT will finalize the design and get it ready for construction starting in the fall of 2015. The city already has $3.6 million from a mix of city and Federal grant funds to make the project happen, but more funding will likely be necessary.


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72 responses to “Final Westlake Bikeway open house is Wednesday + A look at updated plans”

  1. Charles B

    So they finally are settling around angled parking and a one way driveway? I thought this had been eliminated for truck loading reasons.

    I am glad they reconsidered it. Its the lowest impact way to go and makes the lot safer anyway. Fewer active lanes for pedestrians to cross and fewer needs for cars to swerve around each other.

    Its also a much more effective use of the space.

    I am pretty happy with this solution. My main remaining concern is how we intend to connect the downtown portion of the trail.

  2. Rich

    I heard recently that the design speed on this trail is 10 mph. Many Seattle cyclists routinely ride faster than this on a level route. If the city makes this design speed into a 10 mph speed limit, then this trail becomes unappealing to faster cyclists.

    1. dave

      I don’t think of cycletracks as being for faster cyclists. Similar to the 2nd Ave bike lane. If you want to got car speed, then stay in the street with the cars. If you want protected bike lanes that are designed for people of all ages (e.g., 8-80), then 10 mph is reasonable.

      1. Brian

        I agree with dave, and I’m surprised at and frustrated by the persistence of this concern. I’ve commented on it here before in the context of Westlake. We’re trying to create a facility for all users, not an autobahn for commuters trying to get from points A to B as fast as possible. I understand the desire to ride quickly where your fitness and the facility permits it, but I don’t understand the desire to push the design of our dedicated bicycle facilities to accommodate that speed. Isn’t that half the problem with the facilities designed for cars? The portion of Westlake alongside this parking lot can accommodate people driving their cars at 50 mph. That’s a problem.
        If this facility gets designed for cyclists who want to be able to ride 20+ mph, that’s a failure for the many, many people out there who aren’t going to ride at that speed and will feel uncomfortable with people bombing past them while ringing a bell or shouting a curt, but well-intentioned, “On your left!”
        A 10mph design speed seems consistent with the overall goals of this project and how I want my city to develop its infrastructure.

      2. Stuart

        There is a very wide gulf between car speed (officially: 35mph; actually: 40mph) and 10mph. Pretty much every cyclist is going to be riding faster than 10mph but slower than 35/40, and it isn’t reasonable to expect them to risk their lives riding in the street.

      3. bill

        I wish I could crank it up to car speed, but 15-18 mph is what I can sustain. I am hardly fast. Go try riding on Westlake and let us know if the friendly drivers think those are “car speeds.” 10 mph, with the necessity of slowing even more for clueless pedestrians, makes the path pretty useless. I predict there will still be lots of cyclists riding through the parking lot, regardless of measures to direct traffic.

      4. Brian

        I’m not suggesting that they ride on Westlake. That’s crazy-talk. If drivers limited themselves to 40mph on that street, it would be an enormous improvement. Sadly, it’s no place for a bicycle.
        Rather, I’m suggesting that cyclists just maybe slow down a little and temper their expectations about what top-end speed they’re going to achieve on this route. I don’t know exactly how “design speed” is defined, but it’s not a speed limit, and it doesn’t appear to include physical obstacles that are impossible to navigate at speeds greater than 10 mph. So, folks will still be able to push the pace through this area. All I ask is that they be respectful of the other users, because I’m not going to happy if someone goes bombing past my six-year-old as we try to ride down to South Lake Union. And neither of us is going to be happy if, while you’re bombing past, my six-year-old sees a squirrel to his left. His wheels follow his eyeballs. Just sayin’…

      5. Lulea

        I wish I could hit “like” to Stuart’s comment as I completely agreed. Design standards that the city adopted specify a higher design speed than the 10mph that this project is planning for. It is easy to go 10 mph without trying on flat ground even with a heavy steel bike with groceries. My 4 year old niece has done 8mph on a balance bike Fred Flinstoning it. It needs to be a more reasonable top speed design of at least 15mph.

      6. Kirk

        I think the Seattle Department of Transportation should build bike facilities that accommodate those that ride a bike for transportation. A 10 MPH trail isn’t accommodating people that use bicycles for transportation. It’s like saying we will dig a big tunnel under the city for cars, but there are going to be some older, slower cars using it, and some drivers that don’t like faster cars passing them, so the tunnel will be designed to accommodate 20 MPH.

      7. ChefJoe

        It’s a bike lane that’s sandwiched between storefronts of people walking perpendicular to the lane, people walking on the sidewalk at 2 mph (or even less, with leashed dogs in tow), and automobiles are parking but generally not driving over the bike lanes. Designing for 10 mph seems pretty reasonable, even a bike speed limit of 10 mph for safety of all involved would be defendable.

        A bike autobahn it is not designed to be.

      8. bill

        Westlake is the easiest, most direct route between Fremont and downtown. A bike autobahn is precisely what it ought to be.

      9. ODB

        A bullet point in one of the DAC presentations expresses the concern that faster cyclists will continue to ride in the parking lot after the path is built. It’s a real conundrum. Having come up with this wonderful plan, how do we make the alternative so terrible that people will be forced to use it?

      10. Lulea

        How about instead of making the alternative terrible we make the trail usable as a transportation option that’s it’s intended to be. For heavens sake the Burke Gilman, that is an all ages facility, has a speed limit of 15mph so a design speed of at least that.

        The comments of pedestrians on the sidewalk nearby and then businesses on the other side, how is that any different from a road with cars going much faster abutting a sidewalk and businesses? I don’t get it.

      11. ChefJoe

        how do we make the alternative so terrible that people will be forced to use it?

        Official signage from SDOT that bikes are prohibited from being off-path in the parking lot. It might not end up a high enforcement priority by the SPD but it could mean that any bicyclist injured riding in the lot is SOL when it comes to insurance claims/medical expenses from a bike-car collision. You know, the same signage that prohibits bikes from sections of I5.

      12. Josh

        Brian is correct that “design speed” is not a speed limit.

        It’s the speed at which the facility is safe for the majority of intended users, given sight distances, turning radii, hills, etc.

        The physical differences between 10 mph and 15 mph design speeds aren’t huge, it’s not a freeway vs. a footpath. It’s just that riders going even 12 mph won’t have quite enough time and distance to avoid hitting other users.

        Nothing requires riders to ride at that design speed, there is no legal speed limit on trails in Seattle. But the hazards are not obvious, and the majority of adults on bicycles routinely exceed 10 mph. So what happens is exactly what we saw this month on Second Avenue, people ride, entirely legally, faster than the safe speed of the facility, and accidents are the inevitable result.

        SDOT could, in theory, convince the City Council to adopt an official speed limit for the Westlake path, but there’s no requirement that bicycles have speedometers, and the average Pronto rider isn’t going to feel like they’re racing at 12 mph instead of 10 mph. But they’ll be going faster than the facility is designed for.

      13. Josh

        ChefJoe – What provisions of the Seattle Municipal Code would support SDOT prohibiting bicycles in a public parking lot?

        SDOT has to abide by the law as it’s written, unless they can convince the City Council to change the law.

      14. ac

        As a resident of Westlake, signage to discourage use of the parking lot could include a “No through traffic”, or “Local Access Only…lots of speed bumps to keep cars at 10mph.

        As an out of shape cyclist, I easily get to 15mph on level ground, so the design distance does need to be greater. Public pressure to push the autobahn speed to Dexter would be another idea.

        The fear of many is that this track will be built and we willstill have the same issue of cyclist in the parking lot, but with less spaces. It’s one thing for smart changes, quite another to spend money for something that will not be used

    2. biliruben`

      10 is plenty for this environment.

      The Super-Freds and Fredirickas still have Dexter for their cross-fit supplements.

      1. Kristina

        15 is not a superfred or fredricka. It is reasonable. Don’t use derogatory hyperbole to try to make your case.

      2. biliruben

        You are right.

        My point is that if you are able to go 15, you are able to climb the hill that starts and ends and nearly the same spot, and parallels Westlake. 15 is fast.

        I am looking forward to finally being able to get my 7 year old downtown with a safe route. and I will feel far less comfortable taking him on this if people are whizzing by at 15 mph. Especially when there is a fantastic facility which easily affords those speeds right parallel.

      3. bill

        Why the disdain for stronger cyclists? This is like requiring owners of luxury cars to only drive on potholed roads because their cars’ suspensions can take it.

      4. Joe

        Bill – I don’t think there is disdain here for stronger cyclists and your analogy doesn’t quite work. Given the specifics of the Westlake trail (with lots of pedestrian and other stuff going on), it is not at all like requiring owners of luxury cars to only take pot-holed streets. A better analogy would be requiring owners of luxury cars to respect the same 25 mph speed limit as other cars in residential neighborhoods, and suggesting they find alternate routes if they want to go faster.

      5. My other comment on this is below … wanted to jump in up here though.

        This is getting SO unreasonable, and I say this with full sympathy for biking parents, being one myself.

        “All ages and abilities” does not mean “only useful for my 7 year old because sometimes cyclists are inconsiderate when passing.” Reasonable design speeds for people using bikes as transportation is necessary for this infrastructure to be broadly useful and successful.

        Parents can teach their kids to ride as predictably as they can, and adults can slow when passing munchkins, and we can all get along tolerably well on facilities like this without an artificially low 10MPH design speed, (which after all, won’t keep people from being asshats at times and terrorizing the children).

        In Copenhagen and Amsterdam they don’t design exclusively for 7 year olds, they design safe infrastructure with reasonable separation from traffic, and the older kids learn to ride with everyone else.

        Please, if you’re out here (or at the open house) advocating for 10 MPH design speeds, please spend a day biking around town using that as your speed limit. It will change your mind, I promise.

    3. Josh

      We’ve seen already with the increased accident rate on Second Ave what happens when you just close your eyes and pretend cyclists all go slower than they really do.

      A 10 mph design speed is clearly not an all-ages facility, it’s designed not to be safe for the typical non-athletic adult on an upright bike, let alone a typical daily commuter. It’s also not a design that complies with the requirements of the 2014 Bicycle Master Plan, a dangerous precedent to set so soon after the BMP Update was adopted.

      We can hope that, as with Second Ave, a dangerously low design speed will be recognized as a failure after only a few non-fatal accidents, but wouldn’t it be better not to knowingly build a facility designed to be hazardous for the average adult?

  3. Cheif

    Sad that city planners still feel the need to kowtow to the almighty god of using public space for private vehicle storage at below market rate. If they insist on keeping all that automobile parking they should at least charge rates comparable to what a private lot would.

    1. bill

      I researched parking rates at the beginning of this debate. From what I could find online, the private lots nearby charge about the same as the city. This is not downtown core parking, so it’s pretty cheap.

      1. jay

        My understanding is that a significant fraction of the spaces are free, free has got to be below market rate. Also, while it may not be downtown core, if one got there early one might snag one of the free spots, then ride a Pronto bike into the downtown core.

        Considering all the constant disagreement, I’d suggest metering ALL the currently free spaces, and then just abandoning the whole idea of a cycle track. The commuters can ride on Dexter (if you can go 20 on the flat, that hill won’t kill you), the families out for a weekend ride can use the sidewalk and the “stake holders” can enjoy their victory (like that Greek king did ;-).

        Same thing for Shilshole Ave NW. When they put in that greenway (next year?) on 17th in Ballard, riding up that, to the greenway on 58th could be an option of sorts around the “missing link”. Granted, due to the elevation difference it may not be a great option, but maybe better than we’ve had the last 20 years or so.

        If driving (or more specifically, parking) a SOV automobile becomes too expensive there will be more people demanding alternatives. While only a limited number may take up bicycling, sometimes bicycle infrastructure piggybacks on mass transit (e.g. Broadway) And streets safe for people to walk to transit stops are not a bad thing for bicyclists either. Plus, if one can figure how to fund it, bike share for the “last mile” would create a demand for bike infrastructure.

    2. poncho


      This right of way would be better suited to being added to the existing street right of way and creating a quality calm tree lined-boulevard with dedicated transit lanes and even still have on-street parallel parking and then having a full high quality off-street waterfront trail. That or sell off the land for development that would enhance and populate this area.

  4. Ballard Biker

    I was pretty opposed to the first few incarnations of this, but like Tom says, if it is going to happen anyway, better it be a thought out compromise. I think we could learn something from this process regarding the Missing Link.

    1. ac

      As someone who live on Westlake, I feel the same and wish both sides would be more willing to work together. It’s going to happen, be willing to give up some things, but insist on it getting done right.

  5. Brian

    I noticed for the first time the treatment at the Fremont Bridge end of this. There seems to be an angled green “bicycle circulation” arrow heading up to the sidewalk along Westlake. Are they proposing some sort of ramp-y thing to bypass the zig-zag that is currently needed to access that sidewalk from the parking lot? Or is that just design shorthand?

    1. Jeik

      From the presentation, it looks like they will be improving the connection, but there aren’t any specifics.

  6. Kirk

    If this project isn’t built to accomodate transportational cyclists, it will be another massive failure for Westlake, and will need to be redone yet again in the future. I was hoping Scott Kubly would get it right the first time. It’s not too late…

  7. Julian

    Pretty sure everyone who thinks 10MPH is a reasonable design speed doesn’t really know what 10 MPH on a bike is. That’s understandable, most of us don’t have speedometers on our bikes. It’s not Fred speed. Not at all. 10 MPH is painfully slow for most of us to ride, even the Sit Up and Ride euro-toodlers.

    And a cycle track *should* accommodate commuters. Especially on a North of the Canal to SLU and downtown route. The Northern European countries that have led the way in separate bicycle infrastructure put cycle tracks next to sidewalks all the time, and don’t mandate silly design speeds.

    Seems really silly to have cyclist infighting about this based on misconceptions of what 10 MPH is, and how cycle tracks typically work in cities that actually use them for more than demonstration projects. I write this as a dad that rides this route with his kids, so please no Fred-baiting.

    1. Ints

      It sounds like there are many concerns being voiced about an overall design speed in the comments. What seems to be the issue is that with a higher design speed (say 15 like the BGT) this facility will not be safe as an all ages and abilities route into the city. Having a 15 mph design speed shouldn’t be a problem as long as faster riders can ride responsibly, slow to a safe speed for the conditions and only pass when not endangering themselves or others.
      Sadly, this rarely seems to be the case on the 15 mph spped BGT, as noted in many of the previous comments, there are individuals who do not adjust their speed or wait to pass at a safe location.
      The bigger question is how to get cyclists to understand that not everybody rides the same, has the same level of comfort, speed or experience and that we all need to adjust how we ride to the context/conditions we find ourselves in.
      Professional and amateur race car drivers seems to know and understand this, why don’t cyclists?

      1. It seems that mature, connected bicycle infrastructure tends to inspire more mature behavior, in other cities that have outgrown the more adolescent cycling phase we’re in, weighted towards aggressive/urban/sporty cycling habits.

        If we want a European cycling network, don’t hobble it by over-correcting for bad riding behaviors exhibited by some.

        And FWIW the scary Freds on the BGT are doing more like 18-20.

      2. Josh

        Unless I’m misremembering, the design speed of the BGT is actually 20 mph — an intentional margin of safety above the 15 mph speed limit. I seem to recall LFP fought to have that design speed reduced, and King County absolutely refused because it would be hazardous for cyclists and slower than allowed by their safety standards.

        If you want bicycles to travel at the speed limit, where there is a speed limit, the answer is the same as it is for drivers — enforcement. Under-designing the road or trail just leads to crashes.

    2. Gary

      I agree with Julian here, 10 MPH is cycle on a boardwalk with artists, wandering tourists, icecream store speed. 15 MPH is thourghfare speed, it’s not fast, 18 -> 22mph is fast, it’s fast enough to actually get somewhere with a slight amount of effort. If they design it for 10mph it’s really a walking pace trail not a cycle track.

      And as has been noted, 40mph cars are going too fast for most bicyclists to ride on the same street. At a 20 MPH overtaking speed it doesn’t give a car driver enough time to react to a cyclist on the road. If they want us to not ride in the street and slow down traffic more, then the cycle part of the path needs to be rated at a higher than 10 MPH speed. Else folks are going to use the parking lot to avoid the strolling peds, or risk hitting them for the same reason, not enough time to react.

      1. Capitol Hillian

        The CROW Dutch Design Manual for Bicycle Traffic from 2007 recommends 20 km/h (12 mph) design speeds for “cycle connections that form part of the basic network” and 30 km/h (18mph) for “cycle routes and main cycle routes.”

        So to people saying that 10 MPH is somehow unreasonably slow for any AAA cycle facility, it’s not. But, since this is going to be a main route perhaps we should be looking at closer to 15 MPH designed speed.

    3. Brian

      I agree with all of this, and don’t want my comments above to be misconstrued. The design should be practical and safe for cyclists that aren’t moving at a crawl, and I agree that 10mph is a crawl on a bike. I can move that fast on foot.
      I think the whole discussion could be improved by someone giving a clear explanation of what a 10mph “design speed” entails. I don’t know. It’s probably not a speed limit, but maybe it is? Is the whole route given that designation because of a couple of curves or limited sight lines on it, or because of the frequency of pedestrian crossings? Again, I don’t know. An SDOT engineer’s explanation would be helpful.
      What I do know is that people will ride on it at a speed that “feels safe” to them, regardless of the speed limit or “design speed.” One need only look over at Westlake to see evidence of that. Of course, the “design speed” of that road is probably around 45-50 mph, with the posted limit of 35. The road design makes drivers “feel” like 35 is a crawl, so they drive faster.
      I said above that designing it for use at 20 mph will be a failure. That was probably an overstatement. It’s not an overstatement to say the real failure would be designing it so that the path is difficult to navigate at speeds greater than 10 mph.

      1. jay

        ” or because of the frequency of pedestrian crossings? ”
        Pretty sure that is what it is.

        The Toole Design Group did a report (which I can’t find at the moment) where they mention various standards for design speeds, generally in the 15-18mph range, but as low as 10 in special situation such as high pedestrian conflict. Then in the summary they specify the 10mph design speed without further explanation, but they are well aware of the normally higher recommendations, so they must have had their reasons for 10, also bike and pedestrian infrastructure design IS their business, so I’m sure they didn’t pick 10 just to be anti-bicycle.

        “the real failure would be designing it so that the path is difficult to navigate at speeds greater than 10 mph”
        Again, the pedestrians, they don’t “design” those, while they might try to control the crossings, you know the saying: “If you make something idiot proof, someone will just make a better idiot.”

        If you want to go fast, consider what your average speed would be with a stop sign at every crosswalk.

        My hypothesis is that the people claiming to want a bicycle super highway are a false flag operation by the “stakeholders”. They get two birds with one stone, first;
        “look, the bicyclists don’t even want this”
        “if you do build anyway, then pedestrians will be getting mowed down right and left”

        I was surprised to see posts by “Julian”, that has me reconsidering my hypothesis, but I wonder if that really is totcycle Julian? , or you know, “false flag”
        BTW, the Copenhagen “Green wave” is timed for 20 Kilometers per hour, about 12.4 mph, within spitting distance of 10mph.

        I wasn’t joking when I suggested metering ALL the parking, riding away and letting the “stakeholders” join King Pyrrhus’ club. (BTW, free parking is probably depressing the “market rate” for parking, so not only would the spots be metered, the price might increase, though the higher vacancy rate would probably tend to counter that. On the other hand, a high vacancy rate would make it easier to take the unused parking for a cycle track some time in the future)

        We will always have Dexter.
        “it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of a handful of bicyclists don’t amount to a hill of beans in this car crazy world”

      2. Julian

        Jay – it’s really me. Sekret family biking password is “slaaprol.”

        This is kind of my point. If the stakeholders really were on here, you’d hear calls for 20+MPH design speed. That’s your spandex strava boogeyman speed.

        12-15mph is normal people on normal bikes biking normally on the flat. I’d settle for a a copenhagen 12.5.

        I just want a workable cycle track on this topographically crucial flat, central north to downtown route. If the design consultants think anything above 10mph is unsafe then they’re bungling the design, whether due to political pressures or concerns about pedestrian crossings (use raised crosswalks for peds to show priority and slow cyclists, give adequate sightlines, they’ll be fine without stop signs).

        I’d love to hear their explanation. Maybe tonight? Bummer to be having internecine debates about reasonable cycling speeds when we’ve got the so-called “stakeholders” to contend with as well.

      3. jay

        While I don’t know the official reason for the 10mph, I feel reasonably confident about my speculation that is entirely due to pedestrians. If one looks at the drawings there doesn’t seem to be much restriction on sight lines or curve radius. There are a few jogs, but only a few, removing them would require taking perhaps many more parking spaces (a battle I don’t think is really worth fighting) . In one spot they could remove the jog and preserve parking by removing the “railroad park” but that obviously is not an acceptable option.
        Another conjecture I have is that the published 10mph is just a sop to the stakeholders and TDG will actually design a proper bikeway without telling anyone ;-) (this blog isn’t public is it?, not that anyone listens to what I say)

        Above, Josh wrote:
        “It’s the speed at which the facility is safe for the majority of intended users, given sight distances, turning radii, hills, etc.”
        That little “etc.” looks kind of insignificant there, but I believe in this case it is THE controlling factor.

        “use raised crosswalks for peds to show priority and slow cyclists”
        Slow, to what?, 10mph maybe? Sure they could say that the design speed is, say, 15-18, BUT the cyclists will all slow down at the pedestrian crossings!, However I suspect that about as many people would believe that as: Drivers who are otherwise speeding do however, always yield to pedestrians at cross walks.
        (of course a lot of people probably want to believe that last one, but still, those people won’t believe it about bicyclists)

        I say let SDOT say whatever they have to, and let the project go ahead. (or the alternative I’ve proposed before, I’m just trying to be a bit more positive this time)

    4. Josh

      10 mph is not a safe all-ages speed. It’s not an 8-to-80 speed. It’s 8-to-80, excluding 16-to-60.

      10 mph is below the minimum design speed allowed for safety in Danish and Dutch standards. They know that adults in business clothes on upright cruiser bikes go faster than that, and that putting those riders on an underdesigned facility is a recipe for accidents.

      This isn’t about spandex warriors, it’s about making a safe all-ages facility where children aren’t constantly at risk of being hit by riders who don’t have the time and sight distances to avoid accidents at 12-14 mph.

  8. Jonathan

    There’s a posted 15-mph speed limit on the Sammamish River Trail I believe, but half the users don’t follow it. Unless SPD is going to stand out there and ticket once a week does it really matter what the posted speed limit is? Business owners may complain if they feel people are going too fast but they are going to complain about anybody invading their space. I’m not convinced this is worth all the hand-wringing.

    1. ChefJoe

      Exceeding the posted speeds and plowing into a group of kids exiting a China Harbor birthday party could cause some problems. Better hope you have some form of umbrella insurance.

    2. Josh

      The issue isn’t a speed limit, there’s no speed limit on trails within Seattle city limits. It’s about design speed, the speed at which the facility is safe to use.

      When you go faster than the design speed, you see conflicts too late to avoid them, resulting in crashes that could have been avoided with a safer design.

      1. ChefJoe

        the only reason there’s no speed limit is due to some legal tiffs between King County and Seattle on authority. There’s legal County signs in Seattle suggesting there is a speed limit.

        But there are signs for a 15 mph speed limit on some sections of the Burke Gilman Trial. That’s regulated by section 7.12.295 of the King County Code, which Hammerstad said doesn’t apply in Seattle, according to the City Attorney’s Office

      2. Josh

        There’s no trail speed limit in Seattle because the Seattle City Council hasn’t chosen to adopt one.

        There’s no question who has authority to regulate the operation of bicycles within city limits, it’s clearly assigned to the City by the Legislature.

  9. biliruben

    I am frankly surprised that we haven’t learned anything from road design.

    When you design a road for 40-50 mph driving, a certain percentage of people drive 40-50, even if you post 35.

    If you design a cycle-track for 15-20, a certain percentage of people on bikes are going to ride 15-20, even if you post it as 10.

    Yes, we can expect a certain number of folks on bikes, perhaps the majority to “mature” and treat fellow users with respect, but if we design this for users to go fast, some will go always go fast.

    Perhaps 10 mph is too slow, but I assume, just like with auto traffic, if you post 10 and design for 10, 12 (which is what I tend to average on the Burke, and I’m not painfully slow) is still going to happen.

    Don’t just assume bikers are going to mature. Design the infrastructure for what you intend it’s use to be.

    I might feel differently if Dexter didn’t exist, but it does. That is where I really would like to see the faster riders. I rode it nearly every day for 9 years, before the redesign, and it’s a good road for those who want to work up a sweat. With the new design, it’s far safer and an even better road for faster riders.

    I can imagine riders making a decision as the cross the Fremont bridge – do I want a work out and a shower when I get to work, or do I want to toodle to work and go straight to my desk in my slacks and button down. If the former, head up the hill, if the later, take the low road.

    Design makes a big difference, and frankly we have made a lot of huge mistakes in the car, bike and ped world, trying to please everyone. That we have a terrific opportunity to provide great facilities for two types of bikers is an embarrassment of riches on the corridor. This coming from someone living in a part of the city where we don’t even have sidewalks, and my boy can’t even safely ride to the neighorhood park.

    1. Julian

      Agree with many of the points above. I feel like we’re so close on this … but failing to appreciate the significant differences there are between 10, 12, and 15mph design speeds (and by extension, the posted limit, which matters). I haven’t heard anyone asking for >15 MPH.

      In the months since the Westlake kerfuffle has been going on, I’ve ridden through the lot keeping my speed to 5 MPH (the technical limit currently if I’m not mistaken), 10MPH, 12MPH, and 15MPH. It’s instructive. I could live with 12-15. But not 10 MPH.

      I know it sounds like hand-wringing and quibbling. But SDOT doesn’t have a history of getting things right the first (or second) time. Some good intentions, but a lot of bungled implementation. They unfortunately seem to need our help.

      1. Andy

        Actually the current speed limit in the parking g lot is 25mph, per SDOT at the September SBAB meeting, because the parking lot is officially an unsigned non-arterial street.

    2. biliruben

      I understand your concern, Julian. And to some extent share it.

      I remember when the first trail (i.e. sidewalk with boats parked on it) went in, and SDOT was patting themselves on the back for doing worse than nothing, I was disgusted. I can see the fear of a repeat here. And that would be a massive opportunity lost.

      At the same time, I am imagining 10,000 bikes a day, or more, riding this cycle-track. That kind of bike traffic won’t allow for safe riding at 15 mph. The Burke between Fremont and UW can’t support 15 mph, but you see idiots weaving through joggers and tots on that stretch at 15 and higher. Those idiots currently have a way downtown. It’s everyone else who doesn’t, and I want to make sure that the “everyone else” feels like this is their cycle track.

      I fear that more than SDOT screwing this up again. But maybe I will be wrong. SDOT has some good managers, and it has some bad ones. If Dangho or someone with his mindset is on this project we will be fine. If an old-schooler gets it, we are screwed no matter what.

      1. Jeff

        I often ride for transportation at a useful speed of about 15mph. Since I am an “idiot” and the cycle track is for “everyone else” why should I get involved to support it?

        As a longtime cyclist in this city I feel like I am being pushed aside by the new generation of bike advocates pushing for these two way cycle paths. They are dangerous to ride on at useful speeds due to intersection conflicts, and once they exist, those of us in the road will get even more grief from the drivers for not being in our “proper place” out of their way.

      2. biliruben

        Are you really saying you only support things that are ideal suited just for you?

        I was calling those folks idiots who ride at unsafe speeds for conditions, such as weaving at high speeds through congested areas with kids and joggers. That included me not too many years ago. I learned the hard way, through collisions and near misses, and now I like to think I am a good example for other bicyclists. At least I now at least recognize when I’m not, and whisper to myself “idiot”.

        If description didn’t include you, then don’t take offense. There are certainly many places where riding at high speed is perfectly fine. Ride as fast as you want up the Dexter hill, for instance.

      3. Josh

        If this facility gets even 1,000 bikes a day with a 10 mph design speed, collisions will be frequent, usually minor but occasionally severe.

        If you tried to cram 10,000 bikes a day onto a path with a 10 mph design speed, collisions would be routine. Long before that sort of traffic volume, the Dutch and Danes would mandate at least 18-20 mph design speed.

  10. Kristina

    I agree with Julian and don’t appreciate Jay discounting our comments as “stakeholder” detractors just because he doesn’t agree with the comments. If it is not designed right either people will ride in the parking lot or ride too fast for the design conditions (designed for 10) on the trail. Also the assumption of a desire for 15mph designed sight distance and design speed is for those who want to get their sweat on is ridicules. I ride on the waterfront multiple times a week in work clothes trying not to get sweaty on the way to work. My flat speed is between 13-15mph without putting in hard effort. My average speed is often around 11mph due acceleration/deceleration at stop signs/lights/intersections. Average trip speed and continuous flat land speed are not the same thing.

    Just like driving your car near Pikes place market the presence of large amounts of pedestrians will slow speeds down regardless of what the original design speed was. However driving at 5 mph is not necessary when crowds are lower. At times there will be festivals or activities down near Westlake that will mean large amounts of pedestrians which means bikers will have to slow down if not only to save their own neck.

    1. jay

      Perhaps you missed this bit in my previous post:
      [quoting Brian]“the real failure would be designing it so that the path is difficult to navigate at speeds greater than 10 mph”
      [me] “Again, the pedestrians, they don’t “design” those”
      Well, you might say, they should design the bikeway to accommodate the pedestrians! I believe I addressed that too:
      “If you want to go fast, consider what your average speed would be with a stop sign at every crosswalk.”
      Actually, I’m very concerned about the above drawings showing “Formal pedestrian crossing”, I fear stop signs might already be in the plan.

      A other few points:
      The BMP specifically mentions “all ages and abilities”. Yes, “all” would include those who want to ride at 15mph, but not at the expense of those who can’t/don’t want to go that fast.

      The “stakeholders” did for a time hold the entire BMP hostage with a lawsuit, I would imagine they could do it again if they wanted to. Of course that would only work for a while, the “missing link” has only been missing for what? 20 years?

      The Mayor got them to back down by promising their participation in the process. I’d guess that one of their inputs might be; “don’t let those crazy bicyclist kill our customers, remember that woman in New York a while back”.
      Above Tom wrote:
      The so-called Westlake Stakeholders recently put out a call to get a bunch of people to show up, trying to scare people by making outlandish claims like that the project will lead to “1,000’s of pedestrian/bicycle conflicts daily where 100% of all pedestrians will have to cross over the east sidewalk cycle track to access their business, residence and marinas.”
      Giving them more ammunition seems counter productive, unless….(baseless speculation about unknown persons’ motives)

      The Toole group is in the business of designing bike infrastructure, I imagine they will do the best they can to make the bikeway useful while working within the political realities. That is, if the project ever proceeds at all.

      The way I see it the choice is; something that is politically possible or nothing. It’s not that I disagree your desire to ride at “commuter speeds” (cough, Dexter) it’s just that you’re not going to get it on Westlake.

  11. Josh

    While I doubt SDOT would really do it, technically, a 10 mph design speed should require City Council action.

    The adoption of the 2014 Bicycle Master Plan requires that BMP facilities meet or exceed minimum local, state, and national design standards. National standards for this sort of route would require an 18 mph design speed; WSDOT standards would require a 20 mph design speed.

    Fishing for some justification of the 10 mph speed, Toole cites a very limited exception in London standards, but those aren’t the City’s adopted design standards and London’s routes have been repeatedly criticized for dangerous under-design.

    Should Seattle cherry-pick the lowest international safety standards it can find?

    Or should it comply with its own adopted design standards and the requirements of the Bicycle Master Plan?

  12. David Amiton

    So, does anyone have examples of existing facilities that have a 10 MPH design speed? Those that have a 15 MPH design speed? I think it would be pretty useful to see just what we’re debating here.

    1. Gary

      The city of Renton adopted a 10mph on the portion of the Cedar River Trail that is within the city bounds. IMO it’s too slow but they felt they had to do something after a cyclist killed a pedestrian. But when I’ve commuted on it, there was no enforcement.

      1. Josh

        But again, that’s a speed limit, not a design speed.

        If I remember correctly, the Cedar River Trail design speed is 18 or 20 mph except in a few very constrained locations.

      2. Brian

        Renton reacts the same way with injuries and deaths from motor vehicles, right? Declares an arbitrarily low speed limit on all city streets. They do that, right?

      3. bill

        They might if it were normal for pedestrians to wander in the roads.

  13. Oh man, they’re finally going to fix those right-angle bits at the northern end!

  14. Julian

    Learned some things at the open house last night. The lead guy from the design firm explained to me that 10 MPH was the design speed for the busier bike/car intersections, to try to slow cyclists down when there were potential vehicle/bike conflicts (not that common on this route). He expects the cycle track to work well for 8-15MPH elsewhere on the track.

    I also learned that an entire way of life and millions and millions of dollars will be lost because of the potential loss of 15-20% of the parking spaces, even with increase in parking availability through smarter management.

    And that scuba guy thinks that because *his* customers won’t show up by bike that we should scuttle the whole project.

    And that there’s this amazing street call Dexter just 1 block away that all cyclists should use because otherwise they’re just lazy.

    And that free unlimited parking on the public right of way for business owners and employees and customers but not anyone else is very very important.

    Which led me to wonder (not out loud in the Q&A, I’m classier than that) a few things:

    Why don’t the owners and employees just park on Dexter, which is only a block away?

    I pay for parking at my work, and I now realize that my way of life and millions of dollars are at risk. When is SDOT going to give me and my colleagues free unlimited parking to preserve this? Do I need to hire Josh Brower or can I just reference the Westlake project?


    Happy to see SDOT confidently promoting this design though. I don’t think the stakeholders came off as coherent or convincing. But then they can always sue again to block all bike projects, I suppose.

    1. Josh

      If the 10 mph design speed is limited to a few constrained locations, and if there are sufficient warnings before the hazards, that would be much better than a general 10 mph design speed.

      If the path is visually narrowed, has warning stripes and signs, stop or yield bars at the intersections, etc., there could be a reasonable level of compliance with brief slow sections. That would require designing it as a transportation facility, not a park — many trails try too hard to look “pretty” and don’t give adequate attention to basic safety.

    2. Kristina

      I also talked to the engineer afterward about the 10 mph max design speed that I saw listed in their design criteria report that they had available to peruse there. He said he would talk to the team about making the design documents clearer on the true design speed for the facility and that they expect cyclists will be able to go comfortably 15mph along most of the trail. They indicated that there would not be stop signs on the trail as they want to encourage cyclist to use the path and not the parking lot. They do plan different colored path treatment and crosswalks and other conflict zones. I don’t recall if they said it would be raised as well. Signs and what not I imagine will be determined during the detailed design phase.

  15. Becky

    I was surprised to learn last night that the current layout for Westlake was designed as a mixed use bike facility in the mid 2000’s. I find that hard to believe, but given the “Seattle Process” perhaps I shouldn’t.

    I was also interested to hear that the prospect of employees and customers paying for parking was going to be the death of Westlake businesses. The last time I had free parking at work I was working in an outer-ring suburb. I’m not sure why there is an expectation of free parking so close to the city center. I certainly don’t have free parking at my office, and would imagine that few who work south of the ship canal do.

  16. Josh

    Looking at the presentation boards, the southern alignment has a 5-foot path each direction, with a landscaped median.

    That’s not enough room for safe passing, minimum legal operating width for a single bicycle is 40 inches, so this essentially mandates single-file riding, with the pace set by the slowest rider.

    Not for a huge distance, but what’s the chance faster riders will reliably remain behind slower riders for several blocks, rather than squeezing through with inadequate passing clearance?

    The separated paths recombine at the driveway/pedestrian crossings, so most overtaking by those unwilling to squeeze through in 5 feet would probably be concentrated in high-conflict areas.

    Or, of course, faster riders will use the parking lot. No speed bump that’s safe for a car will stop a bicyclist from going 15 mph.

    1. Andres Salomon

      The adjacent 8′ wide sidewalk is the same level as the cycletrack, so there will probably be the opportunity for faster bicyclists heading north to pass using the sidewalk.

      For people heading south, there appears to be some kind of 2′ buffer; it’s unclear from the fact sheet what that buffer will actually look like.

      It would be nice if there was a larger buffer. I’d be somewhat concerned about stopping. Passing is one thing, but when you’re pulling off to the right for a flat tire/to adjust something/to wait for a slower friend/because your kid is throwing a tantrum, that’s not going to be a very comfortable space to be in. Parked (and actively parking) cars on one side, and people on bikes trying to get by you whilst also avoiding trees on the other side of you.

  17. […] a huge number of comments, several very large open houses and a series of Design Advisory Committee meetings spanning most of 2014, the city feels like they […]

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