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Support more safety changes to calm West Seattle’s ‘I-35’

35th_Ave_SW_MapBetween 2011 and 2014, people driving on West Seattle’s 35th Ave SW (AKA “I-35”) crashed 294 times, injuring 128 people and killing two. That’s an average of two crashes and one injury nearly every week.

This high rate of collisions and injuries will not stop until we do something to stop it. And that’s exactly what Seattle’s highly-successful Road Safety Corridor program aims to do.

You can support the city’s street safety plan at a public meeting 7 – 9 p.m. Thursday at Neighborhood House High Point.

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The southern section of the street already received safety improvements last year. Let’s finish the job.

Unfortunately, the plan does not include bike lanes on the street. Instead, the city has committed to build a “parallel” neighborhood greenway. As usual, it’s important to push back on this idea that a parallel greenway meets the safety and access needs of people on bikes, especially when the options are less direct and more hilly than the arterial street near it.

In this case, calming the street to reduce injuries is the primary goal, and bike lanes are not on the table. It’s important to support the safety changes and not let perfect be the enemy of good (this is a compromise). And there are some people in the neighborhood who don’t want any changes at all, which would maintain the unacceptable collision and injury rate on the street.

But the city also needs to know that a nearby neighborhood greenway very often does not fully serve the needs of people trying to get around by bike. It’s also important to make sure the neighborhood greenway is high quality, including all needed connections and traffic diverters to reduce cut-through traffic. And most importantly, it needs to be as direct as possible, unlike the nearby Delridge greenway, which has six turns and crosses the same busy street twice over the course of just six blocks as you can see in the map above.

Neighbors in favor of the safety changes including West Seattle Greenways updated supporters with this message:

What can you do? Let the city know safety is a priority for you, and that you want them to expand the safety redesign, build safer crosswalks across 35th Ave SW and a parallel neighborhood greenway for people walking and biking.

Where/When: This Thursday, August 4th 7-9 PM at Neighborhood House High Point, Room 207, 6400 Sylvan Way SW.

Why? We know there will be many opponents at the meeting trying to turn back the clock to recreate the infamously dangerous “I-35.” But if people who care about safety, like you, show up we can make a better street for everyone.

If you can’t make it, please email your comments to [email protected] and [email protected].

Thank you for caring and taking action! It’s people like you who make our city a great place to live.

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16 responses to “Support more safety changes to calm West Seattle’s ‘I-35’”

  1. Matthew Snyder

    Does Seattle have any “high quality” greenways? I haven’t been to all of them, but the ones I use (mostly on the north side) are not something I’d consider a reasonable alternative to actual bike infrastructure. I agree with Tom that diverters seem to be the key missing piece: a greenway without frequent diverters just becomes a cut-through street for cars, which (at least partially) defeats the purpose of having built the greenway in the first place. SDOT obviously knows this, but for whatever reason (political pushback, lack of strong leadership, inflated SDOT costs, etc), they choose not to design them properly.

    I’d be very wary of a compromise that involves only adjacent greenways until SDOT shows its willingness to build them well — for example, by fixing the ones it’s already built.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      I’ve ridden a bunch of them, and the best ones are 17th Ave NW in Ballard (docked big points for not connecting to the Burke), 39th Ave NE (needs speed humps and diverters, but very usable and has a good Burke connection) and the Beacon Hill Greenway (Beacon Ave and 15th Ave crossings could be better, but overall a great route).

      The Beacon greenway is the most useful, in my opinion, because it does not try to parallel a busy road. Rather, it creates a whole “new” connection from the I-90 Trail to Jefferson Park to Georgetown. To me, this is the true value of neighborhood greenways (well, that and Safe Routes to School).

      1. Tom Fucoloro

        Central Seattle Greenways has long been pushing a “ridge route” from Judkins Park to Volunteer Park that performs a similar function to the Beacon greenway. There is no busy arterial that makes this connection, but there is potential for a very high quality greenway there that follows low-grade inclines by staying on top of the hill. It creates a new connection rather than trying to mitigate a lacking connection on a busy street that really just needs bike lanes.

    2. Law Abider

      Diverters are only good if there’s thought put into them. The 17th Ave NW diverter is a good example of SDOT closing their eyes, pointing to an intersection and direction and that’s where the diverter shall be. Once they’ve picked, there’s no commenting nor reasoning that will get them to change their mind.

      Now we’re left with a diverter on 17th Ave NW that doesn’t actually divert the direction of through travel and is more of an annoying obstacle to cyclists.

  2. Max

    I ride in that area frequently on my way to and from shopping and for other reasons. I don’t disagree with the argument that there should be more attention to bike infrastructure in that area, but I do question the logic that 35th is the best route for cyclists, regardless of where they are headed between Morgan and Avalon. There is a killer hill heading south from Avalon on 35th, and there are much better routes for cyclists who are traveling north-south in this area. Usually, I cross 35th at Morgan or Graham, and I mostly ride north-south on 30th or 31st between Morgan and Barton because it is the best, least hilly route, not just because there is less traffic. Heading north-south between Morgan and Avalon, I usually ride down some combination of 37th Raymond and 38th to Fairmount Park Elementary and then over to Fauntleroy into the Junction at Avalon and Fauntleroy. Again, I do this because it is the best route, not because of the lack of infrastructure on 35th. As a resident and daily bicycle commuter in this area (mostly car-free), I’m not sure this argument is really the one we should be pushing when it comes to bicycle infrastructure in West Seattle. More importantly would be improving East-West routes connecting the 35th corridor to the Delridge, Fauntleroy, and Alki areas, and building a safer bikeway for people who need to travel from Roxbury to the South Park areas.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Sure, priorities are important. But someone needs to point out that this is a road safety project without bike lanes. I’m sure there are people who need to get places on 35th who won’t be helped by this project. Doesn’t mean this is the cause people should throw all their effort into, but it’s a bad precedent to leave out bike lanes. Then again, maybe I’m just a stick in the mud.

      1. meanie

        Its hyperbolic to compare it to queen anne ave, but its the easiest way to get the point going.

        Even if 35th had a 2nd ave style bike lane, few would use it because the road is a mix of having poor access and shocking abrupt grades.

        Tom you should consider riding over to west seattle and getting a look at it sometime.

  3. To be sure, there’s a real grade both on 35th and on parallel greenway routes to the west, and there isn’t really a parallel route to the east because of Camp Long. About the only time I’ve had to go anywhere right on 35th was the TdWT — it’s not a big destination street (granted I don’t spend a ton of time in West Seattle but I have biked to endpoints along most of its other major corridors). Being neither a big destination street nor a big through-route for cyclists today it’s hard for us to make a big deal of it…

    I’ve found myself on 35th just south of Avalon a few times, and I’ve run and walked in that area, too. West Seattle Stadium is in this area; that’s something of a destination, and as a HS sports venue should receive some specific attention for bike access. Camp Long is just south of that, and there’s this odd little grassy park strip along the ridge between the woods and 35th. It might be possible to build a hill-climb bike route on that strip; there’s a little room to tack around and ease the grade, which would work OK at climbing speeds, but unfortunately it’s on the “descending” side of the street. I don’t assume building anything in that strip would be physically easy (due to the terrain), and connecting through to 34th is probably a non-starter, so it would end up back on the 35th Ave ROW around Edmunds or Hudson. Getting to Edmunds would be sort of useful because south of there side streets have reasonable grades; getting to Hudson more so because south of there 36th goes through; getting to Dawson more so still, because south of there 34th goes through (assuming 24-hour access through the parking lot could be secured).

    1. Max

      Traffic calming and safety issues definitely need to be addressed in that section of 35th. It would be better if that were not linked to, or perceived as caused by, demands for bicycle infrastructure. As someone who rides virtually every day in that area, I will say that I would not use 35th for any reason even if it had bike lanes. Other routes are much better for grade and access issues. I also do not drive my car on 35th due to safety issues, and that needs to be fixed. Two narrow lanes each way is insane and drivers are too prone to speeding. I agree that improvements should focus on access to Camp Long and the stadiums the hospital. But bike routes should direct cyclists to more appropriate grades and routes. There are easy grades and access routes to all of these areas but it took years to figure them out. New residents and visitors need better bike route markings so that those better grades and routes are more obvious to casual users.

      1. Right, a bike access project with non-street-ROW elements would be way out of scope for current work, and current work is definitely worth doing without considering bike access, which the current project is not set up to do. The current project is a safety project, centered around 35th because that’s where the danger is. Bike access requires both a wider (geographically) and narrower (mode-wise) view (i.e. bike access needs to be addressed through bike network plans that the city actually bothers to implement, but we always talk about bike access when anything happens on any street because the city isn’t actually implementing its bike network plans).

        AFAIK there’s only one way into WS Stadium, and bike access to it is not easy from any direction. Greenway candidates like 37th are about as steep as 35th if you want to stay east of Fauntleroy; Fauntleroy is hardly better than 35th (especially southbound), and is not particularly easy to cross. If “easy grades and access routes” means going several blocks out of the way, that’s exactly what justifies a bike access project that goes beyond wayfinding.

        When I’ve been on the east sidewalk of 35th (walking several times, running a couple times), I’ve often shared the sidewalk with people biking, particularly in the stretch next to Camp Long that goes several blocks without driveways. I think they’re there for the same reason I am, basically: they need to get somewhere and find that route to be direct with few traffic interactions. It’s probably not a popular enough route that sidewalk-riding is a problem for pedestrians yet (everyone I’ve encountered has been polite and slow enough). If we’re planning for a sustainable transportation future it will probably get there, but I guess that’s a way off?

      2. Max

        I mostly agree, except the part about Fauntleroy, which is eminently bikeable in both directions without any serious grades at all–at least not until you get down near the Vashon ferry. In fact, I regularly use Fauntleroy as a primary route into Alaska junction. Heading north on Fauntleroy, if you turn right on Alaska, you will intersect with 35th, and a left turn with the light puts you in the right lane near the entrance to the stadium, or else you can cross the street in the crosswalk and take the sidewalk that short distance. It is not at all out of the way, and in fact is the most obvious and safest route. Camp Long, I will confess, is not a place I have ever gone, so before I suggested a route there, I would scout it out, but I doubt it would be difficult. Heading south from Avalon, however, I do agree that the most logical route to the stadium would be up the sidewalk on the east side of 35th, and it may be possible to work in that sort of a feature in this safety overhaul. I’m not sure what the solution might be to providing access to Camp Long, but I also agree that would be a worthwhile feature to include in this safety revision.

      3. Fauntleroy’s grade is fine, but the traffic isn’t. It’s usually the best route for going through (it’s probably the WS arterial where serious bike facility improvements would be most useful) but if your destination is up on a hill it may leave you with a very steep climb.

  4. JW

    Unfortunately, the plan does not include bike lanes on the street. Instead, the city has committed to build a “parallel” neighborhood greenway. As usual, it’s important to push back on this idea that a parallel greenway meets the safety and access needs of people on bikes, especially when the options are less direct and more hilly than the arterial street near it.

    Personally, I’m willing to accept tradeoffs. Bike lanes can be just as or more dangerous than street riding on arterials. I’m fine with adding a reasonable amount of distance to my route if it will be safer and less-trafficked than a street with bike lanes. For example: I prefer 9th to Dexter in SLU because it has lower traffic volume and I am not completely comfortable with the bike lane design on Dexter. Hilly’s another matter, but again it might be a reasonable trade-off on a case-by-case basis.

    It’s also worth considering that a greenway could be designed to better meet the needs of cyclists than a compromise design on an arterial.

  5. I agree with Max. It would be foolish for us in West Seattle to spend our PBL chips on 35th Ave SW, because it actually has good parallel routes that require minimal improvements to make them safe and efficient. The route on 34th connects 3 schools, two libraries, two shopping districts, playfields, and is part of a good commute route at reasonable grades. We need PBL’s on Avalon, Fauntleroy, the top of Admiral Way’s east side, maybe Delridge. Those are the routes that are easy grade on busy streets that really need protected lanes and have no good alternatives for getting up and over the ridges. The city is hardly funding anything in West Seattle between now and 2020, and just the rechannelization without bike lanes is a political firestorm. Why in the world would we make bike lanes on 35th SW as a top priority? What we’d like to concentrate on is creating really good greenway routes and design for this corridor, connecting down to Delridge and over to Morgan Junction and West Seattle Junction.

  6. Payden

    How about people just stop riding their bikes on 35th…

    1. Payden, very few people ride on 35th. But many people need to cross 35th on foot or on a bike. The fatalities and serious injuries occur at intersections when people are trying to cross the street.

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