After an extensive and essentially unprecedented community planning process (at least for a bikeway project), the city is moving into more detailed final design work for the Westlake Bikeway, which will connect the Fremont Bridge and Lake Union Park.
After 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 have a good grasp on the various needs this unique corridor has. The status quo is not working well for anyone, and it is unnecessarily dangerous and uncomfortable for people on bikes. Below is a look at some ways the city hopes to make the corridor work better for everyone.
Westlake’s endless parking lot is no place for biking, but nearly everyone prefers it to biking in the fast, four-lane roadway. So the project will aim to create a two-way bikeway separated from general traffic, cars cruising for parking and people walking. After looking at ten concepts, planners settled on a bikeway mostly aligned along the east edge of the parking lot between parked cars and the sidewalk.
Care has been given to improve interactions between people walking and biking. The city will also install stop signs and speed humps in the drive lanes to encourage people on bikes to stick to the bikeway and to calm car speeds, hopefully making the whole area safer for everyone.
In the first map, notice that there is a new traffic signal on Westlake to allow people to get to 8th Ave N. That can be a stressful maneuver today. In the third map, you can see that the tracks through Railroad Park will be turned into a sidewalk.
In the most recent presentation to the Design Advisory Committee, project planners included a map of where people who attended the project open houses came from. There has been a lot of talk throughout the process about who should or should not count as a member of the Westlake community. I think this map is a pretty good look at the community’s reach, and a good reminder that one stretch of public space can impact a much larger area.
The design for a safe biking space also comes with a smart redesign of the parking area to make sure it is better focused on businesses and residents in the area. This means expanding paid parking and hour restrictions to more of the lot so that the spaces are available for customers who need them.
The only real “losers” here are people who have gotten used to using the lot as a free all-day park-and-ride for getting to work downtown or in South Lake Union without paying city center parking prices.
And as for concerns about parking loss, the design preserves almost all parking spaces, from 85 percent in some sections to as much as 95 percent in others.
More details from SDOT:
As the New Year begins, so does a new phase of the Westlake Cycle Track Project. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) spent 2014 on the planning phase of the project and in 2015 we will complete the design and begin construction. Throughout the planning process we got to know the people who work, live and commute along the corridor and gained a better understanding of the unique needs of water-dependent businesses. We’ve also confirmed there is a growing need for dedicated spaces for people who walk, people who bike, and people who drive. We are grateful for the time the community has donated to working with us.
Here is a rundown of 2014’s public involvement:
- Convened the Mayor-appointed Design Advisory Committee with members representing businesses, residents, bicyclists, pedestrians, maritime industry and Lake Union Park users
- Hosted 10 Design Advisory Committee meetings plus one on-the-ground tour
- Held 2 project open houses (each with more than 450 attendees!)
- Organized 5 community and parking roundtables
- Attended dozens of briefings and one-on-one meetings with local community groups and businesses
As a result, we explored 10 community-based proposals and several alignment options. While not all of them were feasible, they gave us good insight into the priorities of stakeholders and helped form the alignment presented at the October 2014 Open House.
We have moved from the planning phase to the design phase and are proud to share the cycle track alignment that best meets the project goal to increase safety for all users, and project objectives to increase the connectivity, economic vitality and accessibility of the corridor.
The alignment locates the cycle track on the east side of the Westlake parking area adjacent to the sidewalk. It includes treatments based on research and context that best fit the needs of the corridor. It is an exciting time as we move forward into design, working to incorporate public feedback and create a more comfortable experience for all users.
Check out Design Advisory Committee meeting materials for more details on the evolution of this alignment, including the multiple options we considered over the past year. So far the project has met all of its key milestones and is on schedule for construction to begin fall 2015.
What we’ve been hearing
Here are the top five questions and concerns we heard in 2014:
1. How will pedestrians cross the cycle track?
Making sure people can move safely next to and across the cycle track is a top priority. Pedestrians will be able to cross the cycle track at any location and a buffer will help separate people walking from people biking. The design also includes formal crosswalks with the following calming elements:
- Rumble strips alerting people biking that a change is coming
- Pavement markings such as green paint and the word “SLOW”
- Stop bars to alert people riding bikes to yield to pedestrians
- Detection that turns on flashing lights to indicate when people are moving through the area in high-use zones such as Highland Drive
2. Will there be a speed limit for bicyclists?
No, there will not be a speed limit for bicyclists. Slowing treatments like the examples described above will make the cycle track attractive to all ages and abilities and are intended to manage bicycle speeds. Pedestrian crossings, curves in the design, and education on the rules of the road will also support a calm facility. Once the cycle track is installed, we will monitor it to see if additional refinements are needed.
3. How will SDOT ensure bicyclists stay on the cycle track?
Speed humps and stop signs will be installed in the drive aisle of the parking area to make bicycling in the parking area undesirable, as well as to help manage vehicle speeds. To help separate bicyclists and pedestrians, a “tactile warning strip” will serve as a buffer between the cycle track and the sidewalk. Overall, the cycle track will also be intuitive and obvious to encourage people to use it rather than ride in the parking area.
4. How is SDOT incorporating moorage tenants into the parking management changes?
We know Westlake is a unique maritime community, with a tradition of providing access for boaters and the industries that support boating. We’re working hard to accommodate boater use.
We’ve heard from some members of the community that the City of Seattle should establish a new “Lake Union Maritime District” and create a permit system to support maritime activities, such as allowing moorage tenants to park for longer than 72 hours and for free. However, the citywide 72-hour rule does not allow a vehicle to be parked in the public right-of-way for longer than 72 hours. This policy prevents long-term vehicle storage in the public right-of-way; ensures that people check their cars and move them should road construction or maintenance be required; and provides an important enforcement tool for the Seattle Police Department to address complaints about abandoned vehicles.
Implementing a new maritime district would require changes to the Seattle Municipal Code. The City would need to review the goals the policy was set up to achieve and it would ultimately require City Council action. The scope and timeframe is beyond the range of the Westlake Cycle Track Project.
We are making sure the Westlake Cycle Track project does not change current options available to boaters, including the ability to park their cars for up to 72 hours, and free parking in the evenings after 4 PM and all day on weekends. The design team is also working to incorporate short-term loading zones to give boaters space to load/unload then park elsewhere. Just as today, boaters who expect to be out for more than 72 hours need to continue exploring the option of parking their vehicles in nearby parking garages or finding alternative transportation options.
5. How will SDOT preserve and manage parking to support economic vitality?
Before developing our preferred design, our goal was to preserve up to 80% of the public parking spaces within the corridor. After listening to corridor users and residents, and holding a series of parking management roundtables, we worked hard to modify the design to preserve more parking. We currently estimate the cycle track alignment will preserve up to 95% of the existing parking spaces in some segments and 85% in other segments.
We’ve heard from many businesses and residents that parking is essential to the economic vitality of the corridor. To help us fully understand the use of available parking spaces, we conducted a parking management survey with corridor businesses and residents in December 2014. You can view a map of proposed parking management changes that we shared in December here. Based on the findings of that survey and the feedback we’ve received throughout the year, SDOT’s parking management team will begin implementing parking rate and time limit changes by the end of March. Stay tuned for more details about the final parking rate and time limit changes. Once the changes are implemented, we will continue to monitor the corridor to determine if additional changes need to be made.
Thank you to everyone who joined an open house, attended a Design Advisory Committee meeting, participated in a roundtable, called or emailed us. We appreciate your interest in the Westlake Cycle Track Project, and your feedback has helped us design a cycle track that works best for all users.
For the latest project information, please visit our project website, or submit comments via email or phone:
Was there any talk about how to keep pedestrians out of the cycletrack? I’m thinking of Alki.
Alki has a cycle track? :-) In the winter it seems okay to ride the shared use path but in the summer it’s ridiculous for cyclists. I take to the street and hope I don’t get run down by the sightseers. Cyclists are usually faster that the car traffic in the summer.
This isn’t a dig or shade thrown at you specifically, but this statement echoes the anti-cycling arguments of keeping bicycles off of streets or out of traffic lanes. Just replace “pedestrian” with “Cyclist” and “cycletrack” with “roadway” and this is no different than their arguments.
My perspective comes from riding the BGT which is a mixed use trail but while on a bicycle I try to give pedestrians the same consideration I give a cyclist when I am driving a car.
This is definitely an improvement for all transportation modes in this corridor, it is a fantastic improvement to the Chesiahud Loop Trail and hopefully it becomes another example of how mobility modes do not need to be exclusive.
Cycle tracks are completely different beasts from mixed use trails like the BGT. There, cyclists and pedestrians need to share. But not on cycle tracks with signage/markings indicating bikes only. I’ve seen pedestrians walking four abreast on the 2nd Ave cycle track, and that’s simply not acceptable.
Pedestrians walking four abreast on the 2nd Ave cycletrack is certainly not the design intent of the path, but does anything actually make it illegal? Cycletracks aren’t recognized in city code or the RCW, SDOT has said they’re not lanes of the street…
Legal infrastructure definitely does not match physical infrastructure in many ways.
I’d say the “illegality” of pedestrians in the 2nd Ave track is based on laws prohibiting jaywalking. The track is still part of the street, which is reserved for vehicles (such as bicycles). It would be the same laws that prohibit people from walking down the middle of the street.
Where is it established that cycletracks are part of the street?
That’s contrary to SDOT’s past statements, and the state Supreme Court’s findings in Pudmaroff suggest that a right-of-way maintained for non-motorized transportation is not a street for legal/right of way purposes.
If you look on Broadway, SDOT’s signage clearly calls the cycletrack a “path,” which is an off-street facility separate from the roadway.
SDOT’s prior commentary on right-of-way rules for motorists crossing the 2nd Ave cycletrack also appear to consider it a separate, off-street facility, not a part of the street.
But the municipal code and the RCW are both silent on cycletracks, they’re not defined anywhere, there are no right of way rules for them, so all of the existing guidance is an attempt to shoehorn cycletracks into rules for other, quite different, types of facilities.
Based on the way the “separated” lanes of the alki trail are treated (baby strollers / dogs / joggers apparently all classify as bikes on alki), and the way people constantly just obliviously bumble out into the bikeway on 2nd ave, there will be nothing done about keeping pedestrians out of the bikeway on westlake. No, it has nothing to do with concern trolls comparing it to the way people in autos threaten people on bikes in the street.
Same with the bikeway on Interurban in the north part of the city. All manner of non-bicycles are found in it, blocking it, at which point you are trapped.
8th ave? 9th ave is the main through route that is in the bicycle master plan. How does this new design (which looks great overall!) get people safely onto/off of 9th ave? Thanks!
The first map shows a dotted green line for bicycle crossing of Westlake to 9th, I assume within the crosswalk for that signal at 9th & Westlake.
What follows is mostly about southbound routes… northbound you can just take 9th until it meets up with the trail fairly easily, though it’s far from AAA…
There’s already a crosswalk where 9th breaks off of Westlake. The southbound blocks of 9th from Westlake to Mercer are either a parking lot (rush hour) or nearly empty and super-fast (other hours), and the signal cycle there is super long because of the way 9th and Westlake come together, so it’s not a great way to head toward downtown.
Alternately you can continue through the park to Valley, but then you have to wait for lights at Westlake and 9th to get to southbound 9th, and not have the benefit of a bike lane to bypass the Mercer queue on 9th.
Or you can depart the bikeway early and head down 8th from that crosswalk, which is pretty quiet and I think also has shorter wait times than the light at 9th (because it isn’t a merge of two giant arterials). Then take Roy to Dexter, bypass the queue in the bike lane, and be in the huge pack of cyclists on Dexter. Maybe in the future the situation between the park and Mercer will be better along 9th or Westlake, but for now I think 8th is actually the way to go.
Huge cheers to you Tom for helping to steer this dialogue towards the constructive and a win-win. I know its not perfect but man, it looks like its going to be a lot nicer to bike through there once this gets built. I think the experience driving and walking will be much improved as well.
This is certainly a much better facility than some of the earlier proposals.
I do wonder how long a minimum-width path will be adequate for the volumes this route should develop as the city continues to densify and develop in South Lake Union. Counts used in the design process showed volumes over 150/hour through the existing middle parking lot if I remember correctly. If the path is done well, it should draw in existing sidewalk riders and perhaps some of those who ride on Westlake itself under current conditions.
Of course, as problems go, having a bike path above capacity is better than spending a lot of money on a path that doesn’t get used.
One possible addition to the design: wouldn’t this be the perfect time to add permanent bicycle and pedestrian counters to the route, while the pavement is being laid and new signals are being wired?
This is a really good design and ultimately was a good process of consultation with everyone. I like a lot about this. The raised pedestrian crossing are great. The use of green only at crossing shows an understanding of what it’s for. (The series of green squares I’ve never seen before though.)
The only design flaw I see (I predict will be a problem) is that the cycle path and the sidewalk are the same height. My experience here in Vancouver on Carrall St. and on parts of the Seawall where there is only a tactile or visual separation and not a grade difference is that people when they walk will not notice that they’re walking into the bike path. It happens all the time. They could easily put a 2 inch curb between the sidewalk and the cycle path here and prevent what will be a constant problem. People respond to the design of a place more than the signage.
One other issue I have is in SDOT’s wording… they say “for people who walk, people who bike, and people who drive.” The problem with this is that it implies that each of those types of people are permanently mono-modal. The wording it should use is “for people when they walk or bike or drive”. A minor thing I know and forgivable since so much else about this is so good.
Any sort of curb or grade separation between the bike path and the sidewalk would require additional width to provide shy distance to the curb. I suspect they’re too constrained on space to do that without taking away more parking.
It shows a one foot curb between the cycle path and the parking lot. They could make that 10 or 11 inches instead and then make the cycle path an inch or two lower than the sidewalk.
Since it’s mostly a tactile psychological thing, it doesn’t take much to become an indicator to someone walking that they’ve crossed into another area.
Another way, is to have the cycle path at the same level as the parking lot and have the buffer be at a higher height. The pedestrian crossing could be raised to be level with the sidewalk. This would indicate to slow down and yield.
Hornby Street in Vancouver is done that way and it works well. People when they walk are very aware that they’re stepping into another area.
I agree this looks much better than many of the proposals. With a little luck there will be enough bicycle traffic that peds will be deterred from walking on the trail. Unlike Alki I think most of the ped traffic will be across the trail. This facility is basically a parking lot, so it is not an attractive place to saunter with friends.
I think one of the northerly entrances should be signalized to help drivers turning left and also slow down traffic on Westlake.
It alarms me that the designers are thinking of ways to keep the bikes on the bike path. It suggests that perhaps the bike path may not be the best place to ride. The best way to keep the bikes on the bike path is to make it the best place to ride. This path must serve transportational cyclists, or it will be yet another fail for SDOT at Westlake. The proof is in the pudding. I will be excited to try this route out once it is done. With construction not starting until fall of this year, I’m guessing a completion date is spring or summer of 2016?
Sigh, yet again, Dexter is for “transportational cyclists” (at least until they tear down the viaduct, unless they also close Halladay st. and Dexter Way N). At least Dexter is a street, except at the bus stops and cross walks pedestrians are not “allowed” in the bike lane.
If one just looks at the pictures, this plan looks like there are just a limited number of well defined pedestrian crossings which would be great, but if one reads the text: “Pedestrians will be able to cross the cycle track at any location ” With much of the parking metered, they will be crossing a lot: go to the kiosk to get sticker, go back to car, go to final destination, depending on where the kiosks are (that first rendering has a rectangular something on the curb), it might be cross cycle track at point closest to car, walk down side walk, cross cycle track to kiosk, repeat in reverse (or just walk down the cycle track all the way) That would probably only really be a problem in the morning, I imagine there is limited turnover during the day, and people leaving in the evening only need to cross the cycle track once, and there are just a few hundred of them.
I don’t really understand that first rendering, a marked cross walk into the end of a car? I get that the cross walk with the ramp it is for wheelchair users, but why rumble strips if pedestrians can cross anywhere? if bicyclists can avoid running over every other pedestrian every where else, I’m sure they can avoid the occasional wheelchair, suggesting that there are specific places to expect pedestrians but then allowing pedestrians to cross anywhere seems like it would just add confusion.
This looks like a great design for cyclist, and I’m very impressed that the needs of a great number of users has been taken into careful consideration. The process alone should be a shining model for similar efforts in the future. However, I have a couple of concerns:
1. Is this even necessary? The very nice, and pretty much parallel, bike line on Dexter is two blocks away; do we really need two totally awesome bike routes right next to one another, when other parts of Seattle have nothing?
2. People who drive to the businesses next to the bikeway will need to walk across the bikeway to get from their parking spaces to the businesses. I may have missed this, but what’s to prevent a boat brokerage client from parking his car in the parking lot, making his way to the office, obliviously walking across the bikeway, unaware that it’s there, and getting hit by a bicyclist who’s not expecting a person to step in front of her?
Alright, I’ll bite. Regarding #1: Highway 99 is also parallel to Westlake, just a few blocks away. Does that mean we shouldn’t be concerned about the safety of people driving on Westlake, because they could just use 99 if they wanted to be safe?
Silly question, right? But take any valid response to my version of the question, make the obvious substitutions, and you’ll have the answer to your own question #1.
My concern isn’t silly. I use Dexter all the time, and it works very well. But I ride in a lot of areas besides Fremont-Downtown, places that have no infrastructure at all, and it seems like a waste of limited resources to put two parallel bike lanes two blocks apart when other areas are totally unserved. (Drawing comparisons to car traffic along 99 and Dexter to the bicycle situation is totally bizarre, BTW.) The Westlake bike lane design is a poor one. If you’re going to stick with the endless parking lot along Westlake, which is apparently what a lot of people want, it makes a lot more sense to put the bike lane between the parking lot and Westlake than to put the bike lane between the parking lot and the businesses that use the parking lot.
I ride all over town as well. But that doesn’t make your concern any less of a red herring.
1. I hate Dexter. You get stuck in long conga lines of slower bikes and it doesn’t go where I need to go. Plus, it has a big hill and I’m a lazy fuck while commuting.
2. People need to be aware of their surroundings, whether you’re a pedestrian, cyclist or car driver. Even the best designs can’t take out the oblivious moron factor.
Why is the anachronistic preservation of private automobile storage on public land such a priority in this project?
I think the answer is at the end of this very good, but quite long post (perhaps you didn’t read it to the end). Basically there are two parking interests — the businesses and the people who spend days on their boat. They are conflicting interests, and I think the dynamic between them is interesting and unusual. Almost all businesses want short term parking. They want their customers to be able to drive up, visit them, and then move their car so someone else can do the same. Depending on the business, some want lengthier limits than others. Some want them to charge money for parking, because they know that is the best way to enforce the limit (two hours for free is a lot harder to enforce than two paid hours). Other businesses assume that charging for parking will discourage customers. Either way, the moorage tenants conflict with this, which is why it probably wasn’t easy to forge a happy compromise. Substantially reducing the number of parking spots would have really pissed them off.
In general this place is a long way from pedestrian traffic. This isn’t Fremont, where one can argue that worrying parking is out of date (although if you know anything about Fremont, you know that changing the parking rules is very difficult). A few people will ride up in their bikes, but my guess is most will continue to drive to these businesses. In other words, they are getting very little (if anything) out of this. Keeping lots of parking kept the businesses happy. Unless the area becomes a lot more populated, I would expect businesses here to stay committed to parking. That could happen (look at the area around Gasworks as an example) but I wouldn’t expect it to happen soon.
I think the real issue is with so much of this being free parking, this creates a situation where many people park here even though their destination is not adjacent to the parking lot. Market based parking rates would help.
I think it is great, but man I wish some progress could be made on Eastlake Avenue E. No idea how it will pan out given the apparent desire to extend the SLU trolley to the U — http://www.seattlestreetcar.org/network.htm
It still seems bit unclear on how/where the cycle track will integrate with the Freemont Bridge (assuming the sidewalk) and the Ship Canal Trail. The map shows a dotted arrow, instead of a solid arrow, which in my mind represents a potential future improvement?
A specific issue will be how cyclists crossing the Freemont Bridge on the “correct” side aka the West Side will cross over to join the Southbound cycle track lane. My guess is a lot of that traffic is going to jump over to the East Side of the Freemont Bridge causing even more chaos then already exists and a lot of extremely angry and annoyed pedestrians.
I’m a bit worried we will end up with the same situation we have at the other end of the Ship Canal Trail, the BGT end in Ballard, and the Elliot Bay trail ends where you are just dumped into heavy traffic (or train yards), with no real logical integration with other existing cycle infrastructure.
I generally support the idea that people biking should mostly go the “right” way on the Fremont Bridge sidewalks; we may not need to enforce it at this point (though we might with somewhat higher traffic volumes) but we should at least eliminate the barriers to doing it.
There’s something of a northbound barrier, that it’s more awkward than it should be to turn left from NB Fremont onto WB 34th. That could be fixed with a turn box for that turn in front of the crosswalk.
I don’t think the two southbound routes from the “right side” (west side) of the bridge to Westlake will change much, but some minor changes could help support them more. One way is the “cloverleaf” left, turning right by the funeral home and down the ramp to the trail, then crossing under the bridge again. The other is using the north crosswalk of the intersection with Nickerson/Westlake. Probably some sort of pavement marking is enough to suggest it.
(The worst part about the cloverleaf route southbound, as it is, is that you get stuck in traffic on Florentia and the street is too narrow to bypass it except on the narrow and fairly busy sidewalk, which is borderline rude. The crosswalk route works now but if it became more popular there wouldn’t be a good place for people to wait for the walk signal. This isn’t much of a problem in a lot of other places where bike routes use crosswalks because bike traffic is less peaky. I think the typical bike box-type solutions don’t work because they’d all be right in the way of some other traffic movement. About the only place a lot of people on bikes could wait for the signal is in the corner of the Nickerson Street Saloon parking lot.)
I’m pretty sure the dotted arrow shows the existing route, I don’t think there is any real change in the connection to the bridge There is a road under the bridge that joins the ship canal trail. One can get from the West side of the bridge to the the ship canal trail via Florentia St., 3rd Ave. N. and a ramp to the trail. It is and will remain shorter to take the East side of the bridge, but the cycle track doesn’t change that except possibly adding more riders. However there may be no realistic way to make any improvement, I don’t know if the right of way could allow a ramp to 3rd Ave. N. from the East (which would only save a little distance). For a total non-starter, the Belietz property could be condemned and a nice sweeping loop built from the trail to the bridge ;)
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Regardless of this being an older post, I feel compelled to add a bit of information regarding the Westlake design that’s new to me.
I’ve been spending this Sunday morning poring over documentation concerning cycleway design guidelines. While reading over various design documents I remembered the controversy over the Westlake Cycle Track being given a design speed of only 10 MPH, and I decided to go in search of where they actually pulled that number from.
After a bit of digging I came across an April 2014 memo from Toole Design Group (the consultants designing the project) to SDOT. In it they state:
So all of these manuals recommend a speed much higher than 10 MPH except for Transport for London in the specific use case of “high pedestrian use”? Now I personally don’t really trust Transport for London’s cycleway designs to begin with, but nevertheless let’s go look at TfL’s guidelines (section 4.5.8) and see where this 10 mph number came from.
For commuter routes TfL recommends 20 mph, and for local access they recommend 12 mph. But where’s this 10 mph? Ah, here it is:
They explicitly point out that their 12 mph number is for shared paths where pedestrian and cyclist numbers are both high and/or space is constrained. If you read through more of their documentation you’ll see that their definition of “shared path” is exactly that–a path shared by people both walking and biking. The whole point of the Westlake project is that they are building something that is not a shared path.
But instead of going with the 12 mph recommended for shared paths, Toole decided to take it one step further and use the speed designated for “shared paths” in “constrained space” in “busy parks and canal towpaths”. If we’re using British English, this is what “space-constrained shared canal towpath with high pedestrian usage” means. 8-10 mph here? Sure, go for it. But if we’re using Seattle English, this is what “space-constrained shared path with high pedestrian usage” means.
Citing TfL’s guidelines for the 10 mph design speed is either a display of a gross lack of reading comprehension or a political choice in which they decided on a number first then made up a citation to “support” the number after the fact.