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Port says it supports waterfront trail if it can be detoured during cruise loading

In response to the surge of letters they received from people concerned about Seattle’s plan to permanently route the waterfront bike path across Alaskan Way and back again near the Pier 66 cruise terminal, the Port of Seattle said it supports a trail on the west side of Alaskan Way so long as it can be detoured during busy cruise loading hours.

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways put out an action alert earlier this month calling on people to write the Seattle Port Commission and urge them to support a “seamless” waterfront trail. All five Seattle Port Commissioners signed a response letter saying “the Port supports a continuous, dedicated, west side bike trail. The key element of this design for the Port is a temporary detour for cyclists to an east side bike trail while cruise ships are loading and unloading.” The Commissioners also state that they support the city’s plan for a larger traffic safety redesign of the street. “The Port also supports the city’s lane reductions in this corridor beyond the cruise terminal activity center to reduce vehicle traffic volumes and speed, which will also increase safety for all.”

So far, the city has yet to release a trail design that meets the Port’s and trail advocates’ requests. The most recent design available on the project website still shows the trail crossing the street twice within a couple blocks, which would add significant delay for trail users and make the experience less intuitive. It would likely also lead many trail users to simply ride on the sidewalk or in the street instead of using the trail, defeating the purpose of the project.


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Map of the proposed bike lane crossing Alaskan Way twice near Pier 66.
SDOT’s current trail design from the project website.

Seattle does not currently have any trails designed to be detoured on a regular basis like this (if any readers can think of an example anywhere, please let us know in the comments below). One possible option would be to have a detour plan handy, but then just wait and see if it is even needed. Bike paths can work in crowded areas, so maybe this is all for nothing. And if a detour really is needed during busy hours, then that’s a perfectly reasonable compromise so long as it is designed well and the crossings are safe. Now the ball is in SDOT’s court to come up with a design that works. The one thing that definitely doesn’t work is to detour the trail 24 hours a day all year just because of concerns about sporadic cruise ship loading times.

Here’s the letter, signed by all five Port Commissioners:

Alaskan Way Bike Advocate

Thank you so much for taking time to write about the Alaskan Way bike lane design in front of Pier 66. We appreciate hearing about your experiences as a biker and resident, hearing directly from you was helpful. We appreciate the engagement in this conversation.

The Port has been discussing an Alaskan Way bike trail strategy that supports safety for cyclists and pedestrians during cruise operations with the City of Seattle, ILWU, cruise lines, and the cycling community. It is obvious to us that everyone’s priority is safety. 

We want you to know that the Port supports a continuous, dedicated, west side bike trail. The key element of this design for the Port is a temporary detour for cyclists to an east side bike trail while cruise ships are loading and unloading. We believe this approach will ensure the highest level of safety for everyone including pedestrians and bicyclists during heavy cruise ship loading and unloading times.

The Port also supports the city’s lane reductions in this corridor beyond the cruise terminal activity center to reduce vehicle traffic volumes and speed, which will also increase safety for all. 

We will continue to work with everyone to reach a safe and practical solution that the City of Seattle can implement and welcome your input as we work through the design.

Port Commissioner signatures from Sam Cho, President, Fred Felleman, Ryan Calkins, Toshiko Hasegawa, and Hamdi Mohamed.

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Comments

14 responses to “Port says it supports waterfront trail if it can be detoured during cruise loading”

  1. Gary Yngve

    Why cannot they just require the cruise ship companies to hire a part-time flagger to stop car traffic once a minute for peds/bikes to detour on the roadway during cruise ship loading/unloading? The Seattle Symphony hires a flagger to let cars out of their parking garage and stop cars so that peds/bikes can go through on 2nd Ave cycletrack/sidewalk.

    1. Peri Hartman

      Great idea. But, could we take that one step further ?

      I think mostly they have a caravan of buses that load or unload scads of people. If those buses has a load zone that is on the west side of the bike lanes, that set of people (I’m guessing virtually all of them) wouldn’t have to cross the bike lanes. Of course, the buses would. And that’s where the flaggers would come in handy.

      Make sense ?

    2. Jeff Fisher

      They are already doing a bunch of stuff like that, but it’s pretty crazy down there when they are loading. I happened to walk by once there were lines all over the place, on both sides of the street, tons of cabs unloading, etc. Lots of people who don’t know where they are going. Lots of elderly people. It slowed my walking down, heh.

      I’m not sure freely cycling through at normal speed is a realistic goal.

      It’s almost on the scale of a sports stadium emptying out. Just can’t expect it to be like nothing is happening.

      Might be best to try it out and see how it works, then adjust.

  2. bill

    I may be wrong, but my impression is cruise ships generally dock on weekends, which is when the greatest number of recreational cyclists will use the trail. These are folks least likely to be familiar with how the trail works. The trail will need to be exceptionally well designed to lead those cyclists through the area.

  3. Ballard Biker

    I’m glad their priority is to reroute the very deadly bicyclists and not the Alaskan Way highway.

  4. Beth Callentine

    Why can’t the newly opened (south bound and under construction north bound) bike lanes on Western south of Broad be the official detour when the ships are in? They already exist and spit us back out on Alaskan down past the pier. Then we can have a seamless trail all the rest of the hr year.

    1. bill

      Not a bad idea. Broad would need bike lanes too, to connect to the Elliot Bay trail.

    2. Tim

      Why can’t the newly opened bike lanes on Western be the official detour?

      1) Hill
      2) I’d rather detour to the other side of the street than detour 10 blocks

  5. newmanrs

    If the goal is to not have the trail impact busy surge traffic to the port, could they not just make an underpass for the trail like the Burke Gilman trail does in Kenmore, or the 520 trail at 84th (or 92nd). I’d think it would be a lot safer than having an on-grade 2-way bike lane (and the resulting intersectional nightmare those can produce), or having cyclists cross twice and not use the lane.

    1. Tim

      An underpass is probably not feasible due to the seawall

  6. Don Brubeck

    Temporary detour while ships are boarding/deboarding would be good. Riding though all that on a west side sidewalk/bike path with crowds of passengers on their cellphones with piles of luggage and buses, taxis and rideshare cars stopped and jockeying in the traffic lanes is just not practical. Imaging riding through the SeaTac arrival lanes at peak hours. But it is not that many hours per week and not all year long.

  7. MP

    I am just now catching up with this. Is there a reason (besides what I am sure is a massive amount of planning time and $ spent on the west side plan) why using the east side of the road for all of the trail isn’t being discussed? I know it needs to connect at the north end with the trail on the west side of the trail but a single crossover there seems easier than a complicated conditional detour.

  8. Alden

    Build both routes. Detour to east side during load/unload. Both/and.

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