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New signal to help Ballard buses could also create a new bike/walk connection

160429_Ballard_NGW_Exhibit_Boards-mapTaking advantage of a new traffic signal planned as part of an effort to speed up buses on 15th Ave NW, SDOT is planning a short neighborhood greenway to help connect homes and destinations long divided by the freeway-like 15th.

The mega-street is a fossil of the mid-century freeway craze and currently has no safe crossings between the bridge underpass at Leary Way and NW Market Street, so this new signal could be a big deal for neighbors and for walking and biking travel.

The greenway route would also connect the brand new 17th Ave NW neighborhood greenway to the Burke-Gilman Trail through an out-of-the-way route via Gilman Playground. For people heading north , this could be a good way to avoid the notorious Missing Link. But for people heading to the historic downtown, the Missing Link will still be the most direct (and therefore most popular) route.

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At this early stage, SDOT staff is looking at a variety of route options, though they only noted NW 53rd Street for the new signal (several open house attendees said it would be even better if it were a block or two further south).

Of the options presented, 11th Ave NW is the most direct option to the Burke-Gilman Trail and also the least steep:

160429_Ballard_NGW_Exhibit_Boards-gradesThis is a key point because most people simply will not choose a route that is out of the way and climbs an unnecessary hill or two. No matter where SDOT chooses to put the greenway route, 11th and/or 14th Avenues NW will likely see increased biking and walking when the new signal is installed. So the city has a duty to make either or both of them safer.

The challenge with 11th as a neighborhood greenway, however, is that it travels through an industrial area, and one section has traffic levels high enough that the city may need to look into installing bike lanes:

Note: Don’t be fooled by the big red blob, 5,700 vehicles per day is high for a neighborhood greenway, but it’s still only a fraction of busy streets like Leary Way’s 29,000 vehicles per day

You can email comments (or even this comment form) to [email protected].

A new Ballard Bridge connection

160429_Ballard_NGW_Exhibit_Boards-pathThe city is also looking to improve connectivity to the west sidewalk across the Ballard Bridge by paving an existing access road and installing an bike lane connection to the sidewalk entrance at Ballard Way. This is also a great chance to improve safety at that wide Ballard Way intersection and to install some safer crossings of NW 46th Street.

Maybe they can also refresh and improve the train track crossing under the Ballard Bridge, which claimed yet another victim Monday. The person who crashed posted a comment saying she is “doing alright” and is healing up from a bad crash.

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31 responses to “New signal to help Ballard buses could also create a new bike/walk connection”

  1. Damon

    This is a great opportunity, and it also acknowledges a reality: if there’s a signal between the Bridge and Market, lots of people will use it for biking (and walking), whether it’s a greenway or not. I hope the signal responds to bike/ped requests faster than the one at 70th and 15th. That one frankly encourages jaywalking.

    I also hope the city doesn’t treat these plans as either/or, at least in the long term. Hopefully, there will eventually be a greenway on 6th Ave NW, and this is an opportunity to connect Old Ballard both to that greenway and to the Burke-Gilman.

    I’m looking forward to my whole family feeling safe about riding in the street when we bike to the breweries.

    1. Ballard Resident

      The light at 15th and 75th also takes up to 3 minutes to change. If a bus approaches the light won’t change and pedestrians on the opposite side either miss the bus or risk crossing against the light.

    2. Kirk

      The new light crossing Leary on the 17th greenway takes over two minutes to change. This long wait time does not make crossing the street any safer, as people now become impatient and jaywalk.

      1. Bob Hall

        SDOT will defend the long wait times by arguing that they need to optimize for transit. Last Summer, they changed the timing @ 5th Ave & Market St., where there is a Pedestrian Half Signal. Back in the day, the light would change *instantly* when you hit the beg button. Then SDOT changed the timing to optimize for the travel time of the 44 bus. Now the light takes 80-90 seconds to change! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hzj-x8_7HnA)

        I see people jaywalking and taking high-risk crossings there all the time now.

        Sometimes transit improvements hurt biking & walking, sometimes they help (as in the new crossing @ 53rd).

      2. Kirk

        I can only imagine the new crossing on 15th at 53rd will take as long or longer than any of these other pedestrian crossings.

  2. Jessi

    It sounds great, but I’m skeptical of how this will work. Getting across 46th is a pain no matter where. People are always speeding through there.

    On my way back to the Marina, I’ve started taking a right on 17th, then left on Ballard, crossing Market at the crosswalk and going left. If there was a decent connection, I might take 17th up to 58th, but I’m not sure the added stress of car drivers not getting the greenway is worth it.

  3. Ballard Resident

    There will be a bus stop there? Perhaps they should drop “rapid” from the name.

    1. M

      To Ballard Resident: These are the existing bus stops.

    2. If you’re talking about the stop indicated on the detail map, south of Leary, that’s an existing stop. I don’t know of any plan to add a stop.

      1. mongo

        I was at the meeting, they are planning on adding a stop and a stoplight to 53th. For us cyclists and for the safety of the kids using Gilman park it would be better to use 52nd or 51st but SDOT didn’t believe that they could add a pedestrian island on those blocks. They want that refuge in the center of 15th for less able bodied persons if they cannot cross in one cycle.

        We will see what they change, and hopefully they can figure a way to service foot and bike traffic but just having a protected crossing in that area will be a great improvement.

  4. Ballard Resident

    A pedestrian light should be installed at 11th and Market. It’s always difficult to cross Market when walking south.

  5. Law Abider

    Slightly off-topic: Did anyone else notice that they finally installed the 4-way stop at 46th and 14th that was supposed to have been installed as part of this:

    I didn’t see it Monday morning, but it was there Tuesday morning. The effect on 46th traffic volumes was immediately noticed.

    1. Matthew Snyder

      Yes! I noticed this on Tuesday when I was trying to cross 46th heading north on 14th Ave NW, which suddenly became a million times easier than it had been the week before. It’s amazing how transformative two octagonal pieces of metal can be.

      It was out of my way so I couldn’t check first hand, but I had a glimmer of hope that they’d also installed an all-way stop a few blocks west, at the intersection of Shilshole/45th/46th, where the bike lanes unceremoniously dead end. Anyone know?

      1. Damon

        Not as of yesterday evening, Matthew. It was the same game of Frogger as always.

    2. Ted S.

      I was riding south on 14th just as workers were installing the signs the other day. At first I wondered why the truck headed east was stopped for me. Then I saw the signs. This is a huge positive change, and seems to be having a positive downstream effect on the missing link crossing of Shilshole – the gaps in traffic from the east are noticeable and welcome.

    3. Kirk

      Just two and a half years after they announced they would do this due to “longstanding safety issues”! Way to go SDOT, safety is your top priority!

    4. Damon

      I wonder if this might actually make 46th the new de facto Missing Link route, westbound, starting at 14th.

      There’s still the Trader Joe’s driveway to contend with, and that’s a big deal. But I’m willing to spend lots of energy being careful about a driveway to avoid that awful left turn from the bike lane onto 46th/Shilshole.

      1. Damon

        (of course, this would require people to navigate an *even worse* rail crossing than the one lots of people are currently falling on)

    5. Kevin Carrabine

      Fabulous!! It will be interesting to see if this shifts many of the folks coming from west of 22nd to consider
      – if they live far enough north — use 65th to get to 15th NW to Ballard Bridge or to 8th NW then down to Leary
      – if they live further south — use 24th NW, then the short stretch of Market, then to Leary and onward
      – or they continue to use Shilshole, then have to choose 20 mph (NOT so much) and a stop sign at 14th and 11th OR NW 46th with a stop sign at 14th and possible light at 11th.

      Except for the bummer stretch between 24th NW and 22nd NW, this makes Leary a more free flowing route I would think….

  6. J

    “Note: Don’t be fooled by the big red blob, 5,700 vehicles per day is high for a neighborhood greenway, but it’s still only a fraction of busy streets like Leary Way’s 29,000 vehicles per day”

    Daily counts are misleading; what really matter is usage during peak times as that’s when the most trouble will occur. 5,700 over 24 hours seems low-traffic, but what if 2,500 of those vehicles (hypothetical) traverse that road over a period of 2 hours? High volume during peak times will defeat the purpose of a greenway.

    1. Mike H

      You are correct that daily counts can be misleading. A general rule of thumb is that the peak hour motor vehicle volumes is about 10% of the total daily traffic. This number fluctuates though and as the city gets larger, the percentage drops. Based on some recent counts, around 8% of the daily traffic counts in Seattle are during the peak hour. It can also vary if you have something like a major employer on the roadway and that’s the only access.

      Portland’s greenway assessment report included a table to show what that volume means to people using the greenway. In a 10-minute period, a person bicycling would be passed around 7 times on roads with 1,000 vehicles per day. When it gets to 5,000, that same bicyclist is passed 35 times in the same 10 minutes.

      1. J

        Interesting, thanks. I wish the city published the raw data of counts per hour; that would be interesting. I checked https://data.seattle.gov/ and https://performance.seattle.gov but didn’t see anything like that, just aggregates. Maybe the car counters don’t have that level of tracking, unlike the bike counters.

    2. Drew

      That’s an interesting question to raise. Anecdotally, I used to ride this section daily (I think 11th is a great bike route) and i don’t think this stretch is peak heavy. I think there is consistent traffic generated by the businesses here between 8 and 5 or so. The only other aspects of 11th that are less than ideal is the car traffic around Gilman park and crossing Market.

      North of market, 11th is a dream as it is far enough from the arterials to avoid cut through short cut crazy drivers.

      I think 11th

      1. Drew

        … would be a great addition to the greenway network.

  7. Gordon

    Build for the long term. When the Missing Link is completed a 53rd to 11th route would not provide as much additional neighborhood utility as a 53rd to 6th link, because 6th is strongly desired by the West Woodland and Greenwood folks to be a N-S greenway route.

    1. Drew

      I don’t think it should be either/or. There is a nice spacing between 17th, 11th and 6th.

  8. Kirk

    It would be awesome if they developed 14th Ave. NW into a separated bicycle facility. There is so much room there it could be done really well.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      I agree! I wonder how much it would cost. The road is in terrible condition, so there’s a lot of repaving to do.

      One fairly simple option: Install bike lanes on 14th. There’s space for it, assuming consistent pavement conditions throughout the road width (I know that’s not reality).

      Another option would be to make one side bike/walk only (could be a wide trail or a bikeway with separate walking path) and make that other side into two-way motor vehicle traffic. The center median could become park space or car parking depending on the needs of each block. Then the intersection with the Burke-Gilman could be like a Y, with one branch heading towards Shilshole and Golden Gardens and that other heading towards Ballard High School.

      1. Yes, transforming 14th Ave NW into a mile long linear park with a walking path/bikeway on the east side and side by side vehicle traffic on the west side is what the East Ballard Ballard Community Association has been promoting for over 10 years. The City has given the go ahead to create 2 blocks of this linear park along 14th Ave NW between NW 59 and 61st. If all goes well, they could be breaking ground by the end of this year. If all goes REALLY well, then maybe we can get the City to extend this design along the full mile! Check out go14thavenw.org for more background and follow our progress.

  9. Bob Hall

    I’m super excited about the possibility of an East-West Greenway south of Market. Getting from Ballard Ave to Fremont should be easy, but instead it’s a pain in the butt.

    I’ve spent a lot of years thinking about Greenways (having advocated for 58th & 17th in Ballard over the last few years). What I’ve come to realize, and what I think this 53rd St project underscores, is that the challenge of becoming walking+bicycling friendly rests mostly on the large arterials. In other words, if Market St, 15th Ave, & Leary Way did not exist in their current form, we wouldn’t need to implement Greenways in the first place. For all of these projects, the vast majority of funds and political wrangling is aimed at the intersections of these wide arterials. In my mind, 15th Ave in particular simply needs to be re-designed. It’s a big ugly wall that splits Ballard in half (as Tom pointed out). As was mentioned above, crossing at 15th at 75th or 70th takes forever. Walking from my house to Grumpy D’s after dinner should be a lovely way to spend an evening — but 15th Ave makes the trip an unpleasant chore.

    Obviously any plans to re-channelize 15th, Market, or Leary would meet intense opposition from freight, cranks, & others. But I know there are many of us who want the city to be different. The open house last Tuesday had lots of folks who would like to walk places with their kids but can’t. I hope we can change 15th someday to allow buses to move quickly while also being pleasant to walk + bike.

    1. Kevin Carrabine

      Hey Bob

      The logical way to get from Ballard Ave to Fremont is to head down Ballard Ave to 17th NW, then navigate the terror of 17th NW/Shilshole/ NW 46th protected Bike Lane. Missing from SDOT’s presentation the other night was discussion of potential ways to make this route safer and their promise to connect “historic Ballard to the Burke-Gilman Trail.” (deferred for further study initially and now just sort of ignored)
      Agree that we should have another crossing of 15th NW at 53rd to make it easy – but we are only 1150 feet (2/10ths of a mile!) from connecting Ballard Ave/Dock street and the crosswalk at NW 46th that leads to the PBL on NW 46th – let’s make that safety improvement (whether or not we call it a Greenway) AND add the light at NW 53rd. A win-win.

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