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.