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Last day to comment on Highland Park Way SW bike lane/trail concepts

Cross-section road diagram with two general travel lanes uphill, one downhill, a downhill protected bike lane and a sidewalk.
Option 1
Cross-section road diagram with two general travel lanes uphill, one downhill, and a wide multi-use path.
Option 2

SDOT is considering plans to improve bike access up and down Highland Park Way SW, a long and fairly steep section of roadway that serves as the only viable bike route option between the Duwamish Trail/1st Ave Bridge and Highland Park. Complete their online survey by June 15 (tomorrow!).

Building this connection is one of West Seattle Bike Connections’ top priorities, and the current design concepts would either widen the sidewalk significantly to create a walking and biking trail or install a downhill protected bike lane while directing uphill riders to take the sidewalk. A third option would be to build the bike lane in the interim with the intention of building the trail when funding is available. There is not a “no build” option.

All options would repurpose one of the two downhill general traffic lanes to create space for either the bike lane or the wider path, but both options maintain two uphill general traffic lanes. We know from Vision Zero data that the majority of traffic deaths occur on streets with multiple lanes in the same direction. It would be great to see SDOT consider a design with one general traffic lane in each direction as well as bike lanes in each direction. Perhaps the bikeway could be on the northwest side of the street to better connect to the Duwamish Trail. This would also reserve the existing sidewalk as pedestrian space.


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But the good news is that all options would be an improvement over the current conditions. No bike lane can level this hill, but having a protected space were you can safely take your time makes a big difference.

Map of the project area on Highland Park Way SW from W Marginal Way SW and SW Holden Street.

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5 responses to “Last day to comment on Highland Park Way SW bike lane/trail concepts”

  1. Gary Yngve

    Too steep of a hill for 2-way cycling traffic to be safe. I’ve had no problems climbing the hill on the sidewalk and descending on the roadway. A protected climbing lane would be fine, though frankly the sidewalk is low enough traffic that a slow-moving bicycle should be able to share the space fine with a pedestrian.
    I’ve also ridden my road bike up through the Greenbelt Trails instead of taking the road, and it was relaxing.

    1. Gary Yngve

      Silly me, there isn’t a sidewalk on the uphill side. Cannot recall how I’ve gone up it aside from the Greenbelt.
      All I could find in my strava history is
      https://www.strava.com/activities/3762675461
      and
      https://www.strava.com/activities/5755266852

      The one thing I do like about the cycletrack proposal is it comes with a diagonal crossing at the bottom. That’s one thing I despise about bike infra: when they require extra waiting at multiple lights.

      1. Al Dimond

        It’s possible you took the lane on the climb. That’s what I did back when I had a road bike and did that kind of ride. It was pretty chill. There’s almost no traffic the vast majority of the time so drivers just pass in the left lane with no drama. A few even shouted things at me — nice, encouraging things! Remember when everyone wasn’t mad at each other all the time? Just today while I was running errands someone in a Subaru nearly doored me and was so mad about it (?!?) that she dropped an f-bomb at me! I was so confused I stopped a block down the road to check the script and make sure we hadn’t mixed up our lines!

        More recently I took the sidewalk when riding to a disc golf course down that way. I passed by one person on foot, at that slow of a speed there was no real conflict there, either.

        Downhill is the hard part because if the road or bike lane doesn’t look and feel safe people will divert to the sidewalk, which is bad if they’re going to carry much speed at all. With two lanes on the downhill I’d still just take the lane. With just one I’d be a bit wary about the passing pressure. Drivers have no patience for that anymore! Just today while I was running errands someone in a Subaru nearly hit another car head-on passing me on a downhill a couple seconds from a stop sign! I remembered that thing I read about acting, that the audience can’t see your facial expressions, you have to act with your whole head, so I shook my whole head very broadly for the oncoming driver and any others in attendance.

      2. Al Dimond

        (Anyway I wouldn’t recommend taking the lane in either direction to anyone that isn’t inclined toward that sort of riding. SDOT certainly should do something here but I’m not really sure what. Don’s options below seem to address the issues more thoroughly than the SDOT proposals.)

  2. Don Brubeck

    Highland Park Way SW is a key segment of a mid-peninsula east-west bike route over the ridges and valleys connecting Morgan Junction, High Point, Delridge, Highland Park and the Duwamish Trail and South Park. E-bikes make riding up Highland Park Way feasible for many more people, but the existing street and path are not safe and comfortable. Unfortunately, none of SDOT’s options are optimal. An uphill off-street path on the north side is infeasible due to frequent landslides and grades. West Seattle Bike Connections and the community group for Highland Park and Riverview are suggesting other options.

    Option 4: Replace the existing narrow asphalt sidewalk with a wide multi-use path on south side, outside of existing roadway, with curb separating downhill bike from uphill bike/ped traffic. Unlike the SDOT concepts, put the downhill bike lane on the right of uphill lane as is the custom in the US. Avoid the dangers of bus pullouts into a downhill bike lane as in SDOT concepts. There is plenty of right-of-way width for a good design. Toward the top, some retaining walls will be needed. It is worth funding a project that meets safety standards and is intuitive, comfortable, and predicable for all users.

    Option 5: Narrow the roadway to one vehicle lane at the top of the hill as vehicles start downhill from the Highland Holden intersection. Use the right-hand traffic lane for a downhill bike lane and replace the existing sidewalk for uphill and pedestrian use.
    As downhill traffic reaches Othello St, move all bike traffic off road to the right onto a widened and improved off-road bike/pedestrian path. This allows the bus coaches to pull over to serve the Othello bus stop while letting vehicle drivers pass them to the left.
    This approach avoids the need for retaining walls. This would save money, but is less intuitive for bike riders requiring a bike crossover or riding on the “wrong side” on the lower section as in SDOT’s options.

    SDOT has presented this project as a “traffic calming” project to reduce vehicle speeding and crashes by vehicle drivers going downhill by reducing to a single traffic lane. That might work during heavy traffic volume times, but doesn’t really help when volumes are light. Automated traffic camera enforcement would be much more effective. Perhaps automated enforcement would be more acceptable to a community that is not over the trauma and lessons of having to use this street as a major vehicle route to the remaining bridges during extended closure of the West Seattle Bridge.

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