Wallingford to get a bike boulevard

Wallingford will soon get a bike boulevard, thanks to the efforts of Cathy Tuttle, founder of Spokespeople–an organization dedicated to safe bicycling in Seattle.   A bike boulevard is a designated street on which bicycles have priority over motor vehicles, and bikes are free to use the middle of the street while the use of installed “traffic calming” techniques (signage, traffic circles, stop signs at intersections) force drivers to slow down, and be aware of bicyclists.  Bike boulevards are the foundation of bike systems in many cities including Portland, Berkeley, and Vancouver, BC.  Parking would still be available on the bike boulevard and cars would still be able to use the street, but signage would be posted letting drivers know that bicyclists have right-of-way.  The bike boulevard would be funded through the Neighborhood Projects Funds (formerly the Neighborhood Street Fund and Cumulative Reserve Subfund).

Cathy spearheaded this effort nearly two years ago, and she proposed N. 44th Street to become the intended bike boulevard, between Wallingford Avenue N. and 4th Avenue NE.  The bike boulevard will provide cyclists an attractive alternative to adding to the congestion on 45th while still giving them easy access to the business corridor.

As part of the approval process for funding, SDOT recently reviewed the proposal and agrees with the project in theory, but proposes that the bicycle boulevard to be N. 43rd St. as a means to make a longer connection between I-5 and Fremont, in accordance with the city’s Bike Master Plan which, in part, is intended to “connect all Urban Villages in Seattle”.  SDOT introduced Seattle’s first bike boulevard in Greenwood, on Fremont Avenue North, between 80th and 85th streets.

Using 43rd St., SDOT would begin the boulevard at 5th Avenue NE and extend it all the way to Aurora by crossing Stone Way at 43rd, and dropping down to 41st at Midvale to use the 41st St. pedestrian overpass over Aurora Avenue. To remedy the steep stair climb onto the pedestrian overpass, SDOT would install a “runnel” which is a track built alongside the steps for bicyclists to wheel their bike instead of hefting it up to their shoulder and carrying it as they climb the stairs.  For crossing Stone Way N., SDOT proposes installing curb bulbs, which essentially extend the sidewalk into the street, giving drivers better visibility of pedestrians at crosswalks.

While the bike advocates, neighbors, and planners who are part of Spokespeople are grateful that SDOT has stepped-in to approve the project, neighbors and members of the neighborhood district council are concerned that the distance from 43rd to the business corridor is too great.  They feel that placing the bike boulevard on 44th provides a connection between parks, schools, the library, and businesses.  43rd, on the other hand, appears to be a bicycle by-pass cutting through Wallingford that doesn’t serve the business community. Even Suzie Burke, who chairs the Lake Union District Council–one of the committees involved with the project’s approval process–agreed that keeping the bike boulevard on 44th was good for the businesses on 45th.  And while the emphasis is placed on bicyclists, many pedestrians–from young families to the elderly–are safer walking along a bike boulevard en route to the shopping district.

At this point, Cathy is unsure of the project’s final configuration. She suspects SDOT will create the bike boulevard along 43rd street as they propose, but she’s worried too, that dedicating half of the $100K budget for building a runnel on the 41st St. pedestrian overpass detracts from the original intent of the plan—-to connect Wallingfordians to local schools, parks, and businesses.

Anyone interested can attend the Seattle Bike Board and Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board meetings to learn more and provide input on upcoming bicycle and pedestrian projects in the city.  Children’s Hospital also plans bike boulevards and eventually, other areas of Seattle may get them too.

If you’re interested in learning more about bike boulevards, have a look at the video below from Q13, and let us know what you think of the plan in the comments section below, including your preference between N. 43rd St. or N. 44th St.

  1. DOUG. said,

    As a bicyclist, I prefer the 43rd Street option. 44th is a very congested street, clogged by parking and people looking to park. And I’m doubting that part of this bike boulevard proposal is to remove street parking.

    Also, 44th dead-ends at Woodlawn, while 43rd extends five more blocks west. 43rd also borders the Wallingford Playfield, which is a likely destination for a bike boulevard’s users.

    I doubt having to go one extra block to get to 45th will have much impact on the business district. I’ve ridden quite a bit around Portland, and their bike boulevards tend to be on slightly quieter streets than ones like 44th.

    Thu, January 27 at 8:20 am
  2. Hik Bikski said,

    Thank you Cathy and all the helped in this effort! As a long-time bike commuter I am grateful for each change that makes our rides safer and less nerve-wracking.

    Thu, January 27 at 8:34 am
  3. kolokolo said,

    Right on Cathy!

    Thu, January 27 at 8:57 am
  4. Shawn said,

    I think 43rd makes a lot more sense for the reasons Doug mentions above. Also the longer route would help to create a bike network to connect Wallingford with the it’s neighbors.

    I’m not quite sure why we need business needs to be the top priority. Taking the needs of the business community are important, but the article makes it seem like their needs are paramount. Perhaps a solution would be to make one of the north south streets between 43rd and 45th a corridor. Densmore, Woodlawn, or Interlake would be good routes. Densmore is a particularly good choice as it ends in a T at the park.

    Thu, January 27 at 8:59 am
  5. sunshine said,

    I agree with Doug. 43rd already gets nice bicycle traffic, borders Wallingford Park, passes Hamilton and Lincoln schools, and is a quick jaunt to 45th. 44th is very congested already. I live on 43rd and welcome the bikers!

    Thu, January 27 at 9:04 am
  6. Rob said,

    Putting in an improved crosswalk at 43rd would be great for pedestrians too. That way they could get rid of the one on 41st. That thing is a death trap. Everyone uses 41st to turn left since you can’t on 40th and the visibility is just bad especially at night.

    Thu, January 27 at 9:10 am
  7. Julian said,

    Lucky Wallingford! I’d love to see more of these in Ballard as well. More background and video on why these are win-win-win solutions here:

    SDOT really needs to step up the signage on this one. You can barely tell the Greenwood route exists. To attract cyclists, and tame motorist speeds on routes like these takes a lot of paint, and impediments to motorist drive-through travel, while turning stop signs to favor cyclist throughput.

    Thu, January 27 at 9:20 am
  8. Cathy said,

    I’d love to hear from “reluctant” cyclists about what would encourage you to regularly use your bike in Wallingford.

    One reason we selected 44th through the heart of Wallingford (between Thackeray and Wallingford Ave) was partly to minimize the big hills between 43rd and 45th and the big hill between Bagley and Burke. While these hills seem insignificant to good cyclists and bike commuters, they are daunting to the new cyclists, elderly, and children that bike boulevards are intended to serve.

    On 44th, congestion, traffic circles, parking, also have the advantage of slowing auto traffic to be more compatible to the speed of a cyclist.

    We have the option to go further south between Wallingford and Stone and stay with the least grade changes in order to extend the bike boulevard route.

    Thu, January 27 at 9:24 am
  9. DOUG. said,

    Shawn@4: It’s interesting that Suzie Burke’s name is in this article. She takes a “business-first” attitude on most issues. She is notoriously hostile to bicyclists when their needs conflict with her own, and it’s unfortunate that she has the connections to chair boards that determine the fate of great projects such as these.

    Thu, January 27 at 9:25 am
  10. Kristin said,

    I live between 43rd and 44th. I always use 44th because it is flatter. That big hill east of Burke would be daunting, especially since I am often carrying two kids in a trailer. When I first heard about the bike boulevard, I envisioned teaching my kids to ride on it, which may not be as likely on 43rd with the hills.

    I wonder what the goals are. If the boulevard is for getting around the neighborhood – young and old, then 44th may make more sense. If it’s for getting commuters through the neighborhood then maybe 43rd would be better.

    Thu, January 27 at 9:54 am
  11. Eric said,

    Nice article / effort! The Aurora and Stone Way crossings are great.

    Why not use 43rd West of Wallingford Ave and 44th East of Wallingford Ave? Wallingford Ave is already bike friendly, and that would seem to provide the benefits of each side of the argument. It would also make it easier to connect up to the 45th street overpass and ultimately continue the route through to the university.

    In terms of getting people out of cars, what worked for us was people kept smashing our car windows, apparently as part of gang initiation. We got sick of replacing the glass and just got rid of our second car, and now we bike a lot. But I don’t suppose that’s the sort of idea SDOT is looking for…

    Thu, January 27 at 10:32 am
  12. Shawn said,

    Kristin@10: I’m sympathetic to the hills issue. I have a recumbent bicycle that I don’t ride much in Seattle (it was great in New Mexico). Perhaps the solution is a snaking boulevard.

    43rd seems a better choice as you get closer to Stone, but 44th might make more sense where there are hills.

    I think Densmore would make a great turn on this route. Wallingford Play Field seems a natural destination for folks traveling along this route.

    Thu, January 27 at 10:32 am
  13. Connie said,

    I believe the 44th route or the 43rd route may be most optimal. My experience with a model like this is in Vancouver, BC, where the bike boulevards are streets that are one street off of busy commercial streets (Broadway), making it still practical to use the businesses, but out of the fray of the traffic and much calmer.

    Thu, January 27 at 10:57 am
  14. Karen said,

    I live on 44th Street, and I agree with Cathy’s assessment and proposal.

    44th Street already IS an informal, useful, and highly trafficked boulevard for peds and cyclists who want to avoid 45th and still have access to it.

    East of Wallingford Avenue, there are traffic circles at every intersection through 2nd Avenue (8 of the 11 blocks between Wallingford and 5th), so there are already in calming measures in place.

    The block from 43rd to 44th is a long block, as well, and is an often steep uphill ride for all of the blocks in this section.

    Thanks to Cathy for your efforts, and to all for this interesting discussion.

    Thu, January 27 at 11:03 am
  15. Jack Tomkinson said,

    It’s been too long for me to remember both of those routes in specifics, but I’ll comment in the general. I think the routes closer to the main drag would be better for a transportation route. The farther off of the perceived direct route, the less likely people are to divert and return to the main route over the freeway or to the retail/business destination on 45th. I’m afraid the 43 route wouldn’t get used as much a 44th or 46th route. Add the fact that 43rd is downhill and you’ve added the hill as an additional impediment (& imbikeiment).

    While I think runnels are cool when they are well done (which is seldom), I wouldn’t sacrifice safety or right of way for a runnel. We all need to carry our bikes on occasion, so carrying is intuitive. Runnels aren’t as intuitive and they aren’t that easy to use anyway, so I think in the big scheme of things, I’d rather spend that money on good traffic control, signs, striping, curb bulbs, speed bumps etc. For safety (and reduction of intimidation) of new bikers, I think curb bulbs and crossing islands are a lot more useful than runnels. Things like lighted crosswalks, painted crosswalks, and crossing islands do a lot more to elevate the concepts of fossil-free transportation – honoring bikes and peds (not pushing them to obscure routes).

    Thanks a million Cathy for your work on this!

    Thu, January 27 at 11:59 am
  16. Michael said,

    Who are they kidding? The great runnel to nowhere! Whadda waste! On one of the longer Spokespeople rides last year, we rode to the west side of the proposed runnel. The outing was a bit of bust, for there was no there there! Why in the name of ‘following the plan’ would City Hall bike planners throw fifty grand at crossing Aurora when there are perfectly good ways to cross that great divide just north and south of the runnel site? As Jack suggested, a runnel to nowhere is not worth a dime if folks are getting creamed trying to get to it. Let’s not reward Cathy’s fantastic work with this waste of a groove.

    Thu, January 27 at 1:27 pm
  17. Kevin Carrabine said,

    Thanks Cathy for your efforts. And to Julian, for chiming in that Ballard needs to do the same (we need to meet)

    Bike boulevards are usually designed as through routes, and I don’t know these streets well enough to know the pros and cons if that is the goal. For you WallHooders, it shouldn’t matter, should it? You are visiting your commercial zone all the time anyway, right?

    Local knowledge is key, with the sage advice of the professionals who do this sort of work for a living – sounds like a heart to heart is needed to make this work.

    Way to go…..

    Thu, January 27 at 8:31 pm
  18. greg said,

    Great work, Cathy. A few observations…

    There is a fair amount of auto traffic that cuts down Burke and across 44th to avoid the traffic light, particularly in the morning by parents heading for Hamilton, usually in a big hurry, four or five at a time.

    The mongo hill at Stone seems a problem if 43rd is selected. This is a hazard heading westbound because it drops steeply, immediately onto Stone Way.

    Perhaps the route could cross Wallingford at 43rd, cross at the crosswalk, pass Wallingford Playfield along 43rd, turn left down Woodlawn (again next to Wallingford Playfield and Hamilton) and then proceed west along 41st to cross at the crosswalk to the footbridge at Aurora. Sounds complicated, but is logical when you ride it… or just travel down Wallingford Ave from 44th to 41st.

    The flattest routes are those closer to 45th, especially between Wallingford and Aurora. With the kids, I often used the pedestrian bridge and then paralleled Aurora on Winslow to 45th (because autos are on 46th at that point). But this complicates the route.

    It is silly for SDOT to snag 1/2 the money for the runnels. Wait for more funds to complete this luxury. Hoofed it up to the bridge for many years.

    Thu, January 27 at 9:37 pm
  19. Gerald X. Diamond said,

    GREETINGS! That’s me, in the middle, and here’s my comment to Cathy

    Dear Cathy:

    As the Twentieth Century dawned on Greater Wallingford, the Olmstead Brothers were busy building Lake Washington Way and at least a dozen people owned a newfangled Tin Lizzie (horseless carriage). Some of them could even drive it themselves. Everyone knew where the Automobile was going… like the Aeroplane: nowhere! Sensible people walked or rode a horse or a bicycle or a trolley. Here and there, some eager beaver would add a loud, smelly motor to the bike and call it a Motorcycle. Seattle was no longer a village: it was becoming a City.

    By 1915, things had changed a lot. Some commuters joined the Capitol Hill Motorcycle Club, or parked their Ford Model A on the street, in front of the house. Mad Max in his triplane was battling the brave English aviators in their Spads, while the Boeing family was still in elementary school.

    Okay, let’s fast-forward 100 years or so. I spoke with Mayor Greg Nickels and recommended wheelchair ramps on sidewalks to accommodate baby carriages and bicycles, in keeping with the “Americans with Disabilities Act”
    Six weeks later, ramps began to appear all over town. A new century had begun, favoring electronic communications and fuel conservation. Bicycles began to solve the transportation crunch. The Burke-Gilman trail now serves thousands of commuters daily, but elsewhere there is fierce competition for available road space. Ask any traffic light.

    The time has clearly come for a commuter route between the Greenwood neighborhood, Upper Fremont, Green Lake, Wallingford, the University District and University Village Shopping Center. The Interurban Trail can begin its Wallingford branch at Phinney Ave. Here are some viewpoints I have to offer as a professional consultant:

    1. For the time being, let’s ignore the financial challenge and focus on the most essential community values to be realized. By the time we are done planning and involving a couple of thousand local residents, whatever expense we come up with will be justified many times over – principally in reduced costs of medical care and substantial improvements in community health, to say nothing of job creation and enhanced lifestyle.

    2. Let’s accept the fact that 45th Street will be heavily traveled by heavy motorized vehicles for many years to come. We are all aware that bicycle travel in the 21st Century cannot solve more than 20% of the traffic crunch.

    3. Seattle is not Southern California.

    There are a few more ground rules, but these will do for a start.

    When you build a railroad, your first planning tool is a clinometer, to measure the angle of climb that must be negotiated by the locomotive. Between the choice of 44th and 46th streets, the least challenging hills are on 46th. It is currently wider from Midvale eastward to Meridian and requires minimal upgrading, so it would make a good starting point with the least environmental impact. Despite the heavy traffic on Stone Way and on 45th, this route carries very little traffic. Going Westward from Midvale to join the Interurban trail (Phinney) is one challenge to be worked out. Going Eastward from Meridian and beyond the University is a much larger challenge – but not one that is insurmountable. Beyond Sunnyside, the cyclist has a wide choice of lesser-traveled streets between 45th and 50th. At the end, this route safely blends with the Burke-Gilman trail.

    Some years ago, I proposed designating preferred alternative vehicle routes on quiet streets by overlaying a smooth bright yellow paving from 4 to 6 feet wide down each lane, far enough from the curb for safe parking. Motorists using the route would be clearly advised to limit their speed to no more than 20 miles per hour, with a heavy toll for infringement. The Barber-Green Company of Cleveland manufactures a road paver that unrolls a pavement of this type and bonds it to the existing road surface for a lasting, smooth finish. This route provides easy access to bus lines #44 and #16 when bicycle racks are needed.

    I’ve put in my two cents’ worth for the moment. Let me know what else I can help with from this point on. Thanks for the opportunity.

    – Jerry Diamond

    Mon, January 31 at 10:34 am
  20. Kimberly C. said,

    I am an occassional cyclist who, when I do bike, am biking with kids. Usually one on a seat behind me and one riding next to or behind me. Hills are a killer for us, so we often dismount and walk. I would vote for less incline. And also some kind of rules about speed and passing so that we don’t block traffic but also we don’t get plowed under by a regular commuter.

    One reason I don’t bike all that often is that I am afraid of cars. Especially of cars hitting my kids. I would be glad for more designated bike areas. But I am also afraid of some cyclists that I have encountered on the Burke-Gilman and other areas. It is very disheartening to be trying to do the right thing by not driving, only to feel intimidated or be chewed out.

    Thu, February 3 at 12:23 pm
  21. Ben Schiendelman said,

    I like 44th. Vancouver made the choice of going one block off Broadway, and de-emphasizing the mix of modes keeps them from really making Broadway livable. And I think the hill issue is bigger than most people realize – people fear hills!

    I wouldn’t spend on a runnel, no. Make the core good now – we can always come back later to add specific projects like that. It’s easier to fight for a spot project in the future than to make overall improvements where we skimp today. This is the same reason Link doesn’t have any stations between Rainier Beach and Tukwila – you can always add one later.

    Wed, February 9 at 1:04 pm
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