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Wilson Ave S bike lanes will fill key gap in SE Seattle, meeting Thursday

Wilson Ave S is a true rarity in the hilly neighborhood above Seward Park: It is relatively flat and direct.

Well, OK, the whole street isn’t flat. But the 0.8 miles of the street that the Seattle Department of Transportation is repaving this year are surprisingly flat, connecting the very popular Lake Washington Loop bike route to the business district at S Dawson Street (Third Place Books) and the existing painted bike lanes on 50th Ave S that connect to the bike lanes on S Genesee St into Columbia City.

Workers have already started work to repave this stretch, and plans call for a northbound bike lane protected by parked cars and a southbound painted bike lane as well as new curb ramps all along the route. This meets the criteria in the Bicycle Master Plan, which calls for “in-street, minor separation” bike lanes here. In fact, this is one of the few new protected bike lanes planned in all of SE Seattle.

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Though it is quite rare for designs to change once construction has begun, SDOT is holding a public meeting to get feedback about a change in the parking plan Thursday. People who bike are encouraged to attend to weigh in, but the proposed changes still include bike lanes. Details from the project page:

You’re probably wondering, “what’s up with the protected bike lane?” Well, we hope you will join us on Thursday, August 16 from 6 to 8 PM at the Lakewood Seward Park Community Club for a public meeting. We will be sharing an updated design for the planned protected bike lane. We heard the community’s concerns about the protected bike lanes and pedestrian and neighborhood safety.

The current plans would consolidate on-street parking to one side of the street (protecting the northbound bike lane). But SDOT’s communications lead for the project Adonis Duckworth said the team heard from neighbors on the west side of the street that steep driveways lead many of them to park on the street instead. And an SDOT parking count found that parking was higher on the west side than the east side. There were also concerns about parked car sideswipes on the east side of the street, which is on the outside of the curve (though it’s not like people in the bike lane want to be sideswiped, either).

The addition of the bike lanes should calm traffic a bit by narrowing the very wide lanes. Studies have consistently shown that wide lanes encourage speeding. That alone will hopefully help calm the sideswipe problem.

SDOT’s proposed change would have parking switch from the east side to the west side between Orcas and Morgan Streets. That means part of each bike lane would be protected some of the time and paint-only some of the time under this compromise plan.

SDOT also says it will monitor crossings along the stretch to see if marked crosswalks are needed.

A parking utilization study found such low utilization rates along the project area that all the parking could fit on one side of the street and still have a lot of open spaces.

The cost to repave the street is $2.55 million, paid for largely by the Move Seattle Levy. Paving projects are the most cost-effective way to build out stretches of the bike network. They have to put the street back together somehow, so putting it back with bike lanes doesn’t add much to the bottom line.

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9 responses to “Wilson Ave S bike lanes will fill key gap in SE Seattle, meeting Thursday”

  1. Andrew Squirrel

    Speaking of the Lake Washington Loop in that area. Did anyone notice that they scrubbed the lines south of Othello on Seward Park Ave S and put in parking on the east side of the street where there wasn’t parking prior? It’s made it significantly less comfortable to ride on Seward Park Ave S since there is no longer enough room for cars to pass without crossing the center line. Did that road work slip under the radar without the cycling community being aware? I am tempted to attend this meeting to make sure there isn’t any more unnecessary vehicle storage added to this already narrow corridor.

    1. tonrix

      Andrew Squirrel, please attend. Pro-parking folks at the April meeting were using that exact lane scrubbing as an example of why there shouldn’t be bike lanes at all on this route.

    2. NickS

      I’m excited about the new bike facilities on Wilson Ave S., but very disappointed that SDOT continues to ignore Seward Park Ave S. The stretch between Wilson and Rainier Ave S. is an important part of the Lake Washington Loop, unlike Wilson, and totally without any bike facility whatsoever.

      RE: Andrew Squirrel’s comment, I’m fairly sure this “scrubbing” and re-addition of 24×7 parking was at the request of the Kline Galland Home, a rehab facility on Lake Washington between Kenyon and Othello. We’ve lived on Seward Park Ave S south of this stretch for 12 years, and this is the third change since we moved in. Believe it or not, the original design was even worse — parking was allowed 24×7 on both sides of the street, and riding or driving through there was like threading a needle, with either direction having to take turns at times. It got so ridiculous that a few years ago, SDOT eliminated parking on both sides of the street, except for non-peak parking on the Kline Galland Home side (east side) between Kenyon and Othello. This seemed like a fair compromise and immediately improved the usable width of the road during busy commute hours.

      Most recently as you’ve noticed, SDOT have re-striped Seward Park Ave S between Kenyon and Othello (with no notice to neighbors), shifting the center line further west, and allowing parking 24×7 on the east side of the street where the Kline Galland home is located. Riding southbound in a narrow lane with no shoulder is much less pleasant. As a cyclist, you feel the pressure of impatient, tailgating drivers until you hit Kenyon and the street broadens and slopes down a slight hill. The restriping also makes for a surprisingly sharp right hand turn from Othello eastbound onto Seward Park Ave S southbound, so it’s not ideal for drivers either.

      Seward Park Ave S in this stretch is busy, and seems to have gotten more so following the rechannelization of Rainier Ave S. in Hillman City and Columbia City (SDOT disputed this when I asked about it). Much of the traffic on Seward Park Ave continues south on to Rainier and flow south towards Renton. Evening time commutes now bring multi-block long backups on Seward Park Ave S at the 4 way stop sign at Othello. The S Henderson St 3 way stop at Rainier Beach HS backs up past Cloverdale almost all the way to S Grattan Pl. These backups didn’t occur prior to the Rainier Ave S. changes outside of special events like SeaFair.

      SDOT has shown no interest in traffic calming measures on Seward Park Ave S. The curve north of the high school could use speed cushions and a RRFB would also make a lot of sense in this stretch, given the long distance between any marked crosswalk. The speed limit on this narrow arterial remains higher, at 30 mph, than the 25mph speed limit on the rechannelized Rainier Ave S, THE major north south thoroughfare through Rainier Valley. Given the lack of traffic lights and traffic calming measures, it’s easy to see why non-residents use this street as a Rainier Ave S bypass.

      It’ll be interesting (and likely painful) to see what happens to our street when SDOT extends the new design down Rainier Ave S from Graham to Henderson. I expect traffic volume on Seward Park Ave S. will get worse. I was hoping to at get bike lanes out of it, but sadly, SDOT ignored the results of the 33,000 surveys they mailed out (the majority asked for bike lanes), stuck a table with no notice at a bus stop and a grocery store, pitted bikes against transit, and used the feedback from the few people they reached to decide against putting bike lanes on Rainier Ave S and instead go with a one way transit lane.

      1. Dan Kingsbury

        I live near Othello and Seward Park Ave, and I second what NickS says about SDOT’s strategy and the history of this route. SDOT has neglected this corridor and Lake Washington Blvd S for year, whether it’s improvements for bikes or paving. This is an important link between Lake Washington Blvd or Genesee and Rainier Ave S at Rainier Beach, and there should be better bike infrastructure.

  2. Kyle Rubin

    What if they built a bike lane, far away from Rainier Valley population centers, and nobody cared?

    1. NickS

      Why make the perfect the enemy of the good? People do care, I care. I don’t live in this very wealthy neighborhood, I live south of it, but it’s a through arterial and I’m excited that part of my commute to downtown will benefit from partial protected bike lanes, as well as access to the little business district which houses Third Place Books, Cafe Lladro, and a few other businesses.

      I think this project is awesome, and I look forward to more in SE Seattle. As one of the poorest and least politically organized neighborhoods, it’s great to see ANYTHING go in. First the Rainier Valley Greenways, and now this, I hope there’s momentum building to tackle more improvements.

      I’d love to see speed limit reductions, traffic calming (speed cushions seem like the best bet; SDOT will not put speed bumps on this road due to emergency vehicle routes), and sharrows on the Rainier to Wilson part of the Lake Washington Loop would be a terrific next project, and one that would cost next to nothing.

  3. Adam

    I went to the meeting. Both of the anti-bike interviewees in that Fox News video in this post https://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2018/07/26/bike-news-roundup-fox-news-wishes-i-would-apologize-for-seattles-jihad-on-cars/ were there and vocal supporters of the NIMBY parking anti-bike stance. Ari vaguely threatened to sue SDOT and Marty shushed the female moderator at one point.

    It was a heated Q&A session that was mostly focused on the impact of the new design on safety, parking availability, property values, and less on the value of providing safe multi-modal transportation solutions for the whole city.

    Wilson is indeed impacted by the Rainier Ave Traffic calming, traffic has been redistributed to this area during rush hour , but the residents that attended were less than convinced that it was a positive change to the safety of one of the most dangerous streets in the city.

    I’m a little worried this may be a repeat of the Save 35th fiasco as there didn’t seem to be a sense that the residents felt heard, and they are vehemently opposed to having bike infrastructure on their street.

    1. Rainier Rider

      How many people have been hurt riding on Wilson?

  4. Jessica

    that meeting was more than a little frustrating. I live on Wilson. I’m not a bike rider, but I’m 100% pro bike lanes. It’s scary to ride a bike in Seattle! maybe the addition of lanes will get people out of their cars and finally making healthier choices. Some of the people at last week’s meeting made good points (like business concerns or visibility issues), but most of them were just whining and talking over each other like children. They weren’t listening to the research results and data the presenters were giving us. They just seemed hellbent to get their way and were not open to listening. It sucked.

    I hope the city goes forward with the bike lanes and doesn’t let the complainers win. If you support the lanes, email [email protected] and let them know!

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