Tom is the co-leader of Green Lake & Wallingford Safe Streets. He lives at the intersection at the south end of Green Lake Park.
Anyone who has visited Green Lake has gone through a crappy intersection. Whether you’re driving, biking, or walking, there are plenty to choose from: the 5-way cluster at 50th Street and Stone Way; the crazy Pitch & Putt intersection at the south end of the lake; or the indecisive four-way stop at Ravenna Blvd.
The City has plans to repave each of these gnarly intersections next year — and many of the major streets in Wallingford and Green Lake. Except for the Pitch & Putt intersection, however, they won’t be making significant changes to these other bad intersections. We believe this is a missed opportunity.
In anticipation of the 2019 project, a group of caring neighbors formed the Green Lake & Wallingford Safe Streets group, a member organization of the Seattle Neighborhood Greenways coalition with more than 350 supporters. Overall, we think the City’s plan to re-pave and re-design four major arterials in our neighborhood is good. But we believe the designs can go even further to implement Vision Zero and the Bicycle Master Plan, provide safe routes to parks and schools, and create a park and trail-like experience that’s just as much a neighborhood asset as the parks themselves.
Thousands of people walk, stroll, run, bike, swim, and row in Green Lake and Woodland Park every day of the week. Getting to and through our parks should be just as safe, comfortable, and wonderful as our parks themselves. As planned, new traffic signals at the north end of the lake (by Duke’s Chowder House) and at the south end of the lake (at the Pitch & Putt) will help move traffic better and create safer crossings for people walking and biking. But a brand-new stoplight at 52nd Street will cause more harm than good. More importantly, this re-paving project is a great opportunity to make the 50th Street intersection safer and simpler.
Here are our two major priorities:
- Square-up the intersection at Ravenna Boulevard; and
- Extend the two-way protected bike lane to N 50th St and create a protected phase for people biking southbound.
Priority A: Extend the two-way protected bike lane to N 50th St
The intersection of Green Lake Way N, Stone Way N, and N 50th Street is considered one of the worst in the city for people walking, biking and driving, which is especially bad considering the Woodland Park Lower Playfields are heavily used and Interlake Child Care and Seattle Waldorf School are both directly adjacent.
From drivers’ standpoint, SDOT considers the intersection to have a “Level of Service F” – failing. Although SDOT doesn’t grade intersection experiences for people not in cars, this intersection is also failing people walking and biking. From a pedestrian standpoint, it takes two entire traffic signal cycles to simply cross the streets from the northwest corner at Woodland Park to the southern corner with Kidd Valley Burgers. For people biking, the intersection is incredibly wide and the bike lanes are squeezed between motor vehicle turn lanes, creating risky maneuvers to get properly positioned at the intersection. So it’s easy to see why the intersection was voted the worst in Seattle in 2016.
Unfortunately, the City currently plans to make no improvements to the intersection except to sync the traffic light with the new traffic lights at the N 52nd St and Pitch & Putt intersections.
We believe a minor adjustment to the signal timing at the N 50th St intersection can unlock major improvements. Unlike all other vehicle lanes at the intersection, the right-hand turn lane on Green Lake Way going southwest-bound (in the direction of Aurora) has two green phases:
- When the vehicles on Green Lake Way eastbound and northbound (coming from Aurora Avenue) have a green phase; and
- When the vehicles on Stone Way northbound (going towards Green Lake) have a green phase.
Our proposal would eliminate the second green phase.
Eliminating the second green phase for the right-turning lane should not impact traffic flow very much, and would enable the extension of the two-way protected bike lane from N 52nd Street to N 50th Street and the creation of a protected crossing for people biking and walking. People walking would also be able to cross in a single light cycle from the northwest corner at Woodland Park to the Kidd Valley block.
The light signal change also enables the two-way protected bike lane to be routed along the western edge of the Woodland Park Lower Playfields Parking Lot, which would eliminate three driveway crossings for the protected bike lane. And it enables the creation of a two-way protected bike lane on N 50th St from Fremont Ave N to Green Lake Park.
For people biking northbound from Stone Way towards Green Lake Park, they would cross similarly to what SDOT currently has planned for N 52nd Street: they would make a two-stage turn to get into the two-way protected bike lane, taking advantage of the intersection’s counter-clockwise green phasing to cross at the very next cycle.
- Enables the extension and addition of new two-way protected bike lanes;
- Significantly improves pedestrian experience;
- Possibly shortens crossing distances;
- Eliminates the need for a new traffic signal at N 52nd St, saving between $500,000 and $1,000,000; and
- Enables the retention and addition of motor vehicle parking adjacent to the homes along Green Lake Way between N 50th St and N 52nd St.
What’s also possible with Priority A
Rather than putting the two-way protected bike lane on Green Lake Way from the Pitch & Putt intersection to N 52nd St, we strongly support putting the two-way protected bike lane on the western edge of the Woodland Park Lower Playfields Parking Lot.
Located on the western edge of the parking lot, the two-way protected bike lane would not cross three driveways, could be as wide as 14 feet with a larger buffer, and would create an exceptional trail-like experience through Woodland Park and to Green Lake Park. In concept, it would be similar to the Westlake CycleTrack, but with less pedestrian traffic. By changing the parking lot’s eastern-side vehicle parking from diagonal to perpendicular parking (which is more space efficient), and adding new parking along Green Lake Way, there would be no net loss of vehicle parking.
The 2014 Bicycle Master Plan calls for protected bike lanes on N 50th Street from Phinney Ave N to Green Lake Way N. Because the City does not plan to change the traffic signalization at the N 50th Street intersection, they also do not plan to build the Bike Master Plan’s prioritized protected bike lanes for N 50th Street. We believe this is a missed opportunity. With the minor traffic signal change we’re proposing, the City can build the protected bike lane.
N 50th Street is exceptionally uncomfortable for people to bike downhill from Fremont Ave N to Green Lake Way. First, it has narrow bike lanes directly up against a large concrete retaining wall as N 50th Street goes under Aurora Avenue. At Whitman Ave N, the bike lane has a blind intersection as drivers from the right come down the hill from Aurora Avenue. Then, there’s the door zone bike lane from Whitman Ave N to Stone Ave N and, finally, between Stone Ave N and Green Lake Way, people biking must merge across a motor vehicle lane to get into a suicide bike lane at the intersection in order to make a left-hand turn to head north on Green Lake Way towards Green Lake Park. It’s dangerous.
With a new protected crossing at the intersection of Green Lake Way and Stone Way and the extension of a two-way protected bike lane on Green Lake Way to N 50th Street, there’s no longer any reason for the current bike lane configuration on N 50th Street. Instead, there could be a two-way protected bike lane on N 50th Street from Fremont Ave N to Green Lake Way on the north side of the street, along Woodland Park. Much of it would be ten feet wide with a three-foot buffer. As N 50th Street goes underneath Aurora from Fremont Ave N to Whitman Ave N, the roadway is more constrained and therefore the protected bike lane would be narrower and would need to be raised to sidewalk level.
The new two-way protected bike lane on N 50th Street would have just have just one significant driveway crossing, no doorzones, no blind intersections, and no merges across motor vehicle lanes. It would also seamlessly merge into the two-way protected bike lane on Green Lake Way, which would be ideally routed through the western edge of the Woodland Park Lower Playfields Parking Lot.
Priority B: Square-up the intersection at Ravenna Boulevard
The intersection of East Green Lake Drive, NE 71st Street, NE Ravenna Blvd, and East Green Lake Way, near the Starbucks is exceptionally wide, creating confusion by people driving and biking as to who has the right-of-way and requiring unnecessarily long crossings for people walking.
The intersection also acts as the main entrance into Green Lake Park with the most foot traffic into the park. In addition, El Escuelita Bilingual School, Billings Middle School, and the Green Lake Preschool in the Green Lake Community Center are all near this intersection.
The City’s 30% design would add a two-way protected bike lane around the park, eliminate two motor vehicle right-hand turn lanes (on East Green Lake Way and NE 71st Street), and create new, relatively small, concrete curb bulbs. The City’s 60% design shows the city will also add crossbikes next to all crosswalks. These are good improvements over the current conditions.
We believe the intersection should be “squared-up” even more than the City’s current design, making the turning motion from East Green Lake Drive to East Green Lake Way more of a true right-hand turn, and aligning as straight-through streets East Green Lake Way with NE 71st Street and East Green Lake Way with Ravenna Boulevard. This can be achieved by extending the planned new curb bulbs and adding a concrete island at the end of Ravenna Boulevard. In addition, clearly marking the two-way protected bike lane and crossbike to and from Ravenna Boulevard will help drivers and pedestrians know where to expect bicyclists.
- Reduces confusion by drivers and others as to who has the right-of-way (whose turn it is to cross the intersection);
- Shortens crossing distances for people walking, biking, and driving;
- Creates more waiting space for pedestrians;
- Creates a larger entrance into Green Lake Park;
- Reduces conflicts between people biking and people walking and driving by clearly marking the protected bike lane and crossbike; and
- Provides placemaking opportunity for planters, a bench, or art within enlarged curb bulb adjacent to park.