— Advertisement —

In last-minute effort, Strauss successfully adds $20M for Burke-Gilman Trail via Leary/Market to the transportation levy proposal + The current design needs to get better

I was all set to write up a story about the uncertain future of the Ballard Missing Link of the Burke-Gilman Trail when, in a last-minute Hail Mary minutes before official adoption, Councilmember Dan Strauss reintroduced his previously-failed amendment to fund his trail connection plan via Leary Way and Market Street and found the votes to get it passed. Councilmembers Cathy Moore and Rob Saka switched their stances from a week ago to join Joy Hollingsworth, Tammy Morales, Tanya Woo and Strauss in voting yes. The funds were shifted out of the significantly-increased paving budget line.

The Burke-Gilman amendment (PDF) was the only change made Tuesday to the $1.55 billion transportation levy proposal (PDF), and it brought the total spending line for bicycle safety to $133.5 million. It may also have signaled a city policy change to shift focus from the fully-designed Shilshole trail route, which remains held up in court, to the Leary/Market route. The Leary/Market design has received lukewarm support from bicycle advocates, though Cascade Bicycle Club did put out an advocacy action alert in June supporting the Strauss amendment among others.

Josh Brower, attorney for the appellant group that has successfully trapped the trail in an endless series of court battles, sent out a press release celebrating the news.


— Advertisement —

“After 20 years of successfully protecting working-class Ballard, we are on the way to  a real solution to the Missing Link, together with a strong group of common-sense supporters who are truly dedicated to real transit equity and safety,” said Brower in the press release.

While bike orgs have not been overly supportive of the Leary/Market idea, they also have not been fighting it. Cascade Bicycle Club’s stance has so far been that they support bike safety on Leary and Market, but not at the expense of the preferred and designed Shilshole trail route. Seattle Bike Blog praised parts of the very early design, especially the traffic calming elements on Leary Way, but the recently-released 30% designs show that many major issues have not been addressed.

The biggest concern is that the trail route constantly mixes with busy commercial sidewalks in downtown Ballard rather than keeping people biking and walking separated. This design would make the pedestrian experience worse and would lead to constant conflicts between people biking and walking. Protected bike lane design best practices exist for a reason, but the current design largely ignores them. Yes, they keep calling it a “multi-use trail,” but to actual users on the ground that distinction is purely academic. In busy commercial areas, you gotta keep the modes separated, including at intersections, and the biking route needs to be continuous.

Top-down diagram showing the trail on Leary ending beofre reaching Market and then not starting against until after it crosses 22nd Ave NW.
The 30% design shows the trail disappearing entirely before it reaches Market Street, routing people on bikes to share the busy sidewalk with people shopping, hanging out and waiting for the walk signal so they can cross the street. Everyone will hate this if they build it.

If done well, this trail could see large numbers of people on bikes daily, but those numbers will balloon dramatically on those peak Golden Gardens days. The project needs to be designed to handle high volumes of people on bikes without negatively impacting the sidewalk environment, otherwise it will fail. People should be able to hang out on the sidewalk on Market Street without worrying someone might come through on a bike, and people biking should be able to ride this route without having to constantly deal with people wandering into the path.

Photo of a group of families biking on the trail next to a sidewalk full of people.
Biking on the Market Street not-a-trail looking east near 28th Ave NW.

CM Strauss’s argument is that they are just extending a design that already exists just west of 24th Ave NW on a stretch that for legal reasons the city is not allowed to call a trail (it is not even included on the official Seattle bike map). He’s right that it seems to work well enough now. It is also far less busy than the downtown core of Ballard, and the mixing zones near the intersections are all smaller and less complicated than what is planned near Leary and Market. Still, the best sections of the not-a-trail are separated from the sidewalk, and it all fits because the roadway has a traffic-calming design with one through lane in each direction rather than two.

The good news is that, as these existing segments demonstrate, there is enough space on Market Street to create high-quality, safe and comfortable biking and walking spaces simply by repurposing one of the four traffic lanes. Since we know Seattle streets with multiple lanes in the same direction are more deadly, reducing the number of lanes in this extremely walkable part of the neighborhood is a good idea on its own merits. SDOT can create a street with separate and comfortable sidewalk and biking spaces while also improving the safety for everyone using or crossing Market Street. A safer and higher-quality design could go a long way to convincing safe streets advocates to get on board, and it might also allow the city to keep the existing trees (I’m not entirely against cutting down trees if it is truly necessary to make a street better and safer, but SDOT should try not to if possible). Below is a quick and dirty sketch of what I mean.

Three images of the same view looking east on Market Street. The top is the current, the middle is SDOT's version and the bottom is Seattle Bike Blog's concept.
Top two images from SDOT’s early designs. Bottom is Seattle Bike Blog’s concept. Imagine there’s a curb between the bike path and sidewalk. This path should also remain separated at the intersections.

As we noted in our previous deep dive into the early design, traffic volumes on Market Street drop dramatically west of 15th Ave NW. This street only carries 10,300 vehicles per day, which is about a third of what it carries east of 15th. In urban traffic volume terms, 10,000 is nothing. However, it is very important to keep the buses on time and reliable. The current design has bus lanes in each direction that disappear at many intersections. Using in-lane bus stops may be as good or better for bus reliability than bus lanes that transform into car-clogged turn lanes, though I am not a traffic engineer and I know this area is really weird and complicated. Still, I trust in SDOT’s traffic engineering team to come up with a solution that keeps busses moving reliably using the space of three traffic lanes.

I look forward to enthusiastically supporting a high-quality biking and walking connection on Market and Leary. But it’s going to require a significant rework of the 30% design to get there. Will SDOT go back and nail the design? Will it open without anyone once again going back on their word by suing it into oblivion? If it gets built and works well, I’ll happily take the L on the fight for a trail on Shilshole. Well, at least until Seattle some day gets the opportunity to tear out the rails and build the trail on the rail bed.


About the author:


Related posts:

Comments

14 responses to “In last-minute effort, Strauss successfully adds $20M for Burke-Gilman Trail via Leary/Market to the transportation levy proposal + The current design needs to get better”

  1. Gary Yngve

    So gross! I don’t know how they are going to manage the double crossing of Leary and 22nd, unless the MUP is on the SW side of Leary, which would put it in direct conflict with bus stops and the Carter Subaru traffic. having contraflow cyclists on a road with so many intersections and driveways is a recipe for disaster.

  2. Roberto

    Agreed! Take over a lane, separate the bike lanes, and let people USE the street. Just build the damn thing already. Despite what that shill Josh Brower claims, the “working-class Ballard” he claims to be protecting long ago got replaced by “tech bro Ballard”, and the tech bros do much more walking, shopping and biking than driving. Brower may still prefer the old Ballard stereotype of the beater car driving the wrong way down the street, its boomer driver oblivious to the left-turn signal still blinking, with its seat belt hanging out under the door – but that Ballard is long gone. And soon, thankfully, so will Brower’s financial backing.

  3. edward

    Very disappointing, now I can not support this levy. The Shilshole alternative is so much better, and has been studied for decades. The Shilshole route was the overwhelming favorite at numerous public meetings. Leary/Market will be a mess and that should be a bus priority corridor. Unfortunately politicians, money and lawyers lead us to bad decisions. I am very disappointed in Dan. But, try calling his office and he will not return a call. as long as this BS is part of the levy I will be voting no, and that is very unfortunate as there is a lot of good in there. I have always supported these levies in the past but this option is sickening.

  4. JB

    $20 million for a shiny-but-underwhelming bike project, and how many hundreds of millions for further reinforcing the ghastly car-dominated streetscape? $900 million? More?

    Also, I’m still not convinced that there’s not another Amoral Durkan lurking in the shadows, waiting to swoop in and steal all the bike money for cars again, after leading us down the primrose path about what a brilliant progressive piece of bike legislation we’re voting for.

    Not one more dollar of general taxes for car infrastructure, fund car projects through user fees only.

  5. Jenna

    I find it interesting that people would vote no on the levy because of this amendment. Seattle and SDOT would be so fu*ked is we didn’t pass this levy. So many awesome projects that support walking, rolling and riding would be canceled. I hope people understand what the consequences are of voting no on a levy before they make their final decision in November.

    1. JB

      What good are a thousand amazing walking and riding projects, if we have to buy ten thousand violent car projects with the same check? Those should be funded exclusively with user fees, and stop forcing the gentle walkers and cyclists among us to fund traffic violence with our hard-earned rent and mortgage dollars. SDOT can and should devise appropriate user fee funding mechanisms, and I certainly hope they are forced to, when we send this subpar bike path and the rest of the ill-conceived levy to the resounding defeat it deserves.

  6. Kevin in Ballard

    Yes- let’s see how much SDOT spends to design this way less than perfect option, let alone the cost to build it, assuming no lawsuits are filed.

    As someone who, with my Ballard compatriots, initiated the effort to push the City to take some action on the Missing Link back in 1999, this is bitter, not sweet. The fact that the city gave a no cost 30 year RR franchise to the man who has spent, by his own account, at least $11 million to fund litigation, a la Donald Trump, to delay/delay/delay is infuriating. And that same man, Paul Nerdrum (aka The Man Behind the Curtain) and his company, have used, for free, the 100 foot wide swath of publicly owned right of way that is Shilshole, and metaphorically given the middle finger to the City and the rest of us – you own it and want a 20 feet of it for a trail? – too bad! I’ve got Josh Brower and a team of lobbyists and lawyers says that ain’t gonna happen.
    Sheesh. ‘Protecting working class Ballard’ Give me a break, Josh. Money talks. Let’s hope some day the full story of the conniving and bad faith of trail opponents will be written.

  7. James Scarlett Lyon

    Please, please, please do not build this. Everyone who actually is unfortunate enough to use it will hate it. You’re forcing bikes onto the sidewalk in the busiest section of Market. It will lead to endless conflicts. Terrrible idea. I ride right through the Missing Link multiple times a week and I will never use it. I will continue to use Shilshole.

  8. Al Dimond

    The section west of 24th doesn’t “work well enough now”. It turns into a mess when surprisingly small numbers of people try to use it.

    But I’m going to keep saying the worst part of the Leary/Market proposal is that it cements the idea that Ballard Ave and the streets connecting to it are glorified parking aisles. Bikes are small and nimble. To design the street network so there’s no straightforward way to bike to Ballard Ave destinations you have to really devote a monstrous amount of space to parking, and that’s the plan. It’s a plan for a big parking lot, not a plan for good life in a city. A city neighborhood with local destinations that you can access casually by bike is the simplest thing in the world and we can’t do it in Seattle, gotta optimize the parking.

  9. Billy

    I’m curious if there’s a legal path to holding lawmakers accountable for when people inevitably get injured on this path? If lawmakers knowingly create a situation where people are likely to get hurt, after years of studies and research shows that one option significantly decreases the risk of injury and we choose not to pursue it- why can’t they be held accountable?

    Thinking about the recent crash between a bicyclist and pedestrian on the East Sammamish Trail where the bicyclist received a lot of blame. I’m sure the bicyclist will be blamed just as quickly on this awful piece of infrastructure.

  10. Jack Whisner

    I hope SDOT decides against the Strauss plan after further review. It seems bad for all modes due to conflicts and congestion. A 10-foot two-way multi-use trail will be overwhelmed at busy times; there will be friction between trail users going to two directions and bus patrons going between the sidewalks and buses; eastbound NW Market Street will be reduced to a single lane west of Ballard Avenue NW; that will lead to congestion and slower transit; buses and traffic could be left back in the 24th Avenue NW intersection. SDOT continues to use the term bus lane for northbound Leary when it clearly needs to be BAT lane as it will serve garages and parallel parking. The original SDOT plan of 25 years ago was also too narrow and did not provide sidewalks on the north side of Shishole. SDOT should install an all-way stop at 17th Avenue NW and Shishole today.

    1. RossB

      Agreed. This is a very stupid idea. Look around and you will notice something happening in Seattle. Slowly but surely we are transitioning from a car-focused city to one with more bike and and bus lanes. Areas that I never thought would lose a lane are in the process of losing them. Rainier Avenue. Westlake. They took a lane of Aurora (for the bike lanes around Green Lake) and are considering taking so many that it will have one general-purpose lane each direction. Aurora! Complain all you want about SDOT, but these are changes that McGinn never came close to delivering.

      There are only two big obstacles: money and lack of space. Quite often, we just don’t have the money to do the job right. But space is one of those intractable problems. Quite often we just don’t have the space for bus lanes and bike lanes. At least not without getting rid of cars altogether (something there is no willingness to do, even now).

      Which makes this plan so profoundly stupid. The buses run on Leary. The obvious bike route is on Shilshole. So why in the hell does anyone want to run a bike path on Leary?!! There are some areas of the city where bikes and buses naturally compete (e. g. Rainier Valley). Why the hell are they pitting them against each other here?!! That, and of course you have the possibility of another lawsuit. The businesses dragging this out in court will keep dragging this out, especially if we change things. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

      1. Jack Whisner

        SDOT just had costly projects to improve the flow of routes 40 and 44; they both serve NW Market Street; now, the Strauss plan takes an eastbound lane between 24th and Ballard avenues NW and adds conflicts between bus patrons and BGT users of two directions, several modes, and varying speed.

  11. RossB

    “CM Strauss’s argument is that they are just extending a design that already exists just west of 24th Ave NW on a stretch that for legal reasons the city is not allowed to call a trail (it is not even included on the official Seattle bike map). ”

    Well this begs the question. How much work can they do without triggering a potential lawsuit. In other words, if they add a stop sign, can someone sue? What if they convert a paved parking area into a path for one block? I assume they can’t — a project has to be big enough to warrant an EIS. If so, why don’t they just do this, bit by bit, block by block, until it is done. Create a “not-a-trail” along Shilshole, instead of Leary?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


— Advertisement —

Join the Seattle Bike Blog Supporters

As a supporter, you help power independent bike news in the Seattle area. Please consider supporting the site financially starting at $5 per month:


Latest stories

Bike Events Calendar

Jul
20
Sat
9:30 pm World Naked Bike Ride: Full Moon… @ Seattle Rep Parking Lot
World Naked Bike Ride: Full Moon… @ Seattle Rep Parking Lot
Jul 20 @ 9:30 pm
World Naked Bike Ride: Full Moon Ride @ Seattle Rep Parking Lot | Seattle | Washington | United States
Celebrate the Buck Moon by adorning your bicycle with blinky & twinkly lights. It’s the height of summer – warm nights and easy riding with friends. Saturday July 20 Parking Lot at Mercer St &[…]
Jul
25
Thu
7:15 pm Point83 @ Westlake Park
Point83 @ Westlake Park
Jul 25 @ 7:15 pm
Point83 @ Westlake Park
Meet up in the center of the park at 7ish. Leave at 730. Every Thursday from now until forever rain or shine. Bikes, beers, illegal firepits, nachos, bottlerockets, timetraveling, lollygagging, mechanicals, good times.ShareMastodonTwitterFacebookRedditEmail
Jul
27
Sat
all-day Bicycle Weekends on Lake Washing…
Bicycle Weekends on Lake Washing…
Jul 27 – Jul 28 all-day
Bicycle Weekends on Lake Washington Blvd
Details from Seattle Parks: On scheduled weekends from May to September, a portion of Lake Washington Boulevard will be closed to motorized vehicles from 10 a.m. Saturday to 6 p.m. Sunday. “Seattle Parks and Recreation[…]
Jul
28
Sun
all-day Bicycle Weekends on Lake Washing…
Bicycle Weekends on Lake Washing…
Jul 28 – Jul 29 all-day
Bicycle Weekends on Lake Washington Blvd
Details from Seattle Parks: On scheduled weekends from May to September, a portion of Lake Washington Boulevard will be closed to motorized vehicles from 10 a.m. Saturday to 6 p.m. Sunday. “Seattle Parks and Recreation[…]
Aug
1
Thu
7:15 pm Point83 @ Westlake Park
Point83 @ Westlake Park
Aug 1 @ 7:15 pm
Point83 @ Westlake Park
Meet up in the center of the park at 7ish. Leave at 730. Every Thursday from now until forever rain or shine. Bikes, beers, illegal firepits, nachos, bottlerockets, timetraveling, lollygagging, mechanicals, good times.ShareMastodonTwitterFacebookRedditEmail
— Advertisements —

Latest on Mastodon

Loading Mastodon feed…