We are excited the City of Seattle will pave several major streets in the Green Lake and Wallingford neighborhoods in 2019, and is currently planning improvements to walking, bikeway, bus infrastructure as part of the project. 

Improvements will include:

  • New protected bike lanes on Green Lake Drives/Ways and Stone Way from Aurora Avenue to N 45th Street.  Along Green Lake Park and the Woodland Park Playfields Parking Lot, the protected bike lanes will be together as a two-way bikeway on the west-side of the street.  This will limit the number of times the bikeway crosses driveways, thus making it safer than having two one-way protected bike lanes.
  • Uphill protected bike lanes and downhill marked "sharrows" on 40th Street from Stone Way N to 7th Ave NE.
  • New bus bulbs and bus stops along East Green Lake Drive.
  • Three new traffic signals at the intersections of:
    • Green Lake Drive N, West Green Lake Drive, and East Green Lake Drive (near Duke's Chowder).
    • East Green Lake Way N, West Green Lake Way N, and Green Lake Way N (adjacent to the Pitch & Putt).
    • Green Lake Way N and NE 52nd Street.

Overall, these are good improvements.  Here's how the City can make the streets even better:

  • A: Square-up the intersection at Ravenna Boulevard

  • B: Extend the two-way protected bike lane to 50th Street and create a protected phase for people biking south-bound.

Additional comments provided below.


Priority A: Square-Up the Intersection at Ravenna Boulevard

Current Conditions: The intersection of East Green Lake Drive, NE 71st Street, NE Ravenna Boulevard, and East Green Lake Way near the Starbucks, with its exceptionally wide configuration, causes confusion for people driving and biking as to who has the right-of-way and discomfort for people crossing the crosswalks on foot.  The intersection is the main entrance into Green Lake Park with the most foot traffic into the park.  El Esquelita Bilingual School, Billings Middle School, and the Green Lake Preschool in the Green Lake Community Center are all near this intersection.

SDOT's 30% Design:  The City adds a two-way protected bike lane around the park, eliminates two motor vehicle right-hand turn lanes (on East Green Lake Way and NE 71st Street), and creates new, relatively small, concrete curb bulbs.  The City's 60% design also includes crossbikes alongside each of the crosswalks (not shown above).  These are good improvements.

Our Proposal: We believe the intersection should be "squared-up" even more than SDOT'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 East Green Lake Way with 71st Street and aligning East Green Lake Way with Ravenna Boulevard as straight-through streets.  This can be achieved by extending the planned new curb bulbs and adding a concrete island at the end of Ravenna Boulevard. 

The overall effect will be to reduce crossing distances and increase the amount of waiting space for pedestrians on the curbs.  In addition, clearly marking the two-way protected bike lane and "crossbike" to/from Ravenna Boulevard will help drivers and pedestrians know where to expect bicyclists.

Benefits:

  • Reduces confusion by drivers and others for who has the right-of-way (who's 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.
  • Provides placemaking opportunity for planters, a bench, or art within enlarged curb bulb adjacent to park.

Considerations:

  • The new marked crosswalk from the Starbucks block into the park will be further south, which may adjust the "desire line" for people walking across the street.  The City should consider marking a new crosswalk at the NE 72nd Street intersection near the Shelter Lounge and Lunchbox Laboratory restaurants.  This new crosswalk would lead into the historic main entrance to the park, which has a double row of deciduous trees leaning up to a stage near the Green Lake Community Center.

Priority B: Extend the two-way protected bike lane to 50th Street and create a protected phase for people biking south-bound

Green Lake Way and the parking lot leading up to the 50th Street intersection.

Current Conditions: 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.  From drivers' standpoint, it has a "Level of Service F" — failing.  From a pedestrian standpoint, it takes two entire traffic signal cycles to simple cross the streets from the northwest corner at Woodland Park to the southern corner with Kidd Valley Burgers — caused by the fact that the green light phases for each street coming into the intersection rotate counter clockwise. 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.

Interlake Child Care and Seattle Waldorf School are both directly adjacent to this intersection and the students frequently cross the intersection in order to get to Woodland Park or to go to the zoo.

SDOT's 30% Design: Unfortunately, the City plans to make no improvements to the intersection.  Instead, in order to facilitate the switch of the two-way protected bike lane coming from Green Lake Park to the two one-way protected bike lanes planned for Stone Way, the City would add new traffic lights and signalization at 52nd Street.

Our Proposal: We believe a minor adjustment to the signal timing at the 50th Street Intersection can unlock major improvements.  Unlike all other vehicle lanes at the intersection, the right-hand turn lane on Green Lake Way coming south-bound from Green Lake Park has two green phases: (1) when the vehicles on Green Lake Way west/north-bound from Aurora Avenue have a green phase, and (2) when the vehicles in the middle lanes on Green Lake Way south/west-bound from Green Lake Park have a green phase.  Our proposal would eliminate the second green phase for the right-turning lane.

Eliminating the second green phase for the right-turning lane would enable the extension of the two-way protected bike lane from 52nd to 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 and extension of the two-way protected bike lane also enables the protected bike lane to be routed along the western edge of the Woodland Park Lower Playfields Parking Lot, which would eliminate three driveway crossings and the associated dangerous conflicts between people biking and driving.  And it enables the creation of a two-way protected bike lane on 50th Street from Fremont Avenue to Green Lake Park. 

For people biking north-bound from Stone Way towards Green Lake Park, they would cross similarly to what SDOT currently has planned for 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.

Finally, our proposal would eliminate the right-turn "slip lane" from N 50th Street (west-bound) onto Green Lake Way (north-bound).  This slip lane is currently used, at most, by one or two cars per light cycle.

Benefits:

  • Enables the extension and addition of new two-way protected bike lanes.
  • Significantly improves pedestrian experience.
  • Possible shortens crossing distances.
  • Enables the retention and addition of motor vehicle parking adjacent to homes along Green Lake Way.  In addition, by shifting vehicle parking from the park to the street, there would be no net loss of parking.
  • Eliminates a costly new traffic signal at N 52nd Street, saving $500,000.

Considerations:

  • Intersection is considered "Level of Service F" for drivers.
  • People biking north-bound would still have an unprotected two-stage crossing.
  • Parks Department control over the Woodland Park Lower Playfields Parking Lot

Getting into additional details

SLOWER Signed and DESIGN SPEEDS

We strongly support signing and designing all streets to the standards appropriate for parks, playgrounds, and schools.  The Seattle City Council adopted lower default speed limits of 25 mph for arterial streets and 20 mph for neighborhood residential streets.  In addition, state law enables cities to set 20mph zones within 200 feet of crosswalks that are part of routes to schools and playgrounds.  Given the high level of play activity by kids and adults and the several schools and child care facilities along the project, we request the City sign the streets to the 20 mph speed limit when the street is directly adjacent to a park and within a quarter-mile of a school or child care facility, and 25 mph everywhere else. 

The streets should be designed to reflect the appropriate speeds.  The new protected bike lanes may help reduce speeds to some extent.  In addition, speed humps, raised crosswalks, and rectangular rapid flashing beacons for pedestrian crossings will help match the designed speed to the signed speed.

Two-Way Protected Bike Lane through the Woodland Park Playfields Parking Lot

  Protected bike lane marked in green for illustrative purposes only.

Protected bike lane marked in green for illustrative purposes only.

Rather than putting the two-way protected bike lane on Green Lake Way from the Pitch & Putt intersection (south-end of Green Lake Park) to 52nd street, 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 wider with a larger buffer, and would create an exceptional trail-like experience through Woodland Park and to Green Lake Park. 

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.  Shifting the bike lane off of Green Lake Way would also enable the retention and addition of vehicle parking directly adjacent to the homes between 52nd and 50th Streets.

Two-Way Protected Bike Lane oN N 50th Street

GLWPMIP - 50th Street - Urbanist.png

The 2014 Bicycle Master Plan calls for protected bike lanes on N 50th Street from Phinney Avenue N to Green Lake Way N.  Because the City does not plan to change the traffic signalization of the intersection at Green Lake Way N and Stone Way N, the City does not plan to build the BMP's prioritized protected bike lanes for 50th Street.  We believe this is the wrong approach, and 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 Avenue to Green Lake Way.  First, it has narrow bike lanes directly up against a large concrete retaining wall as 50th Street goes under Aurora Avenue.  At Whitman Avenue, 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 to Stone Avenues, and finally, between Stone Avenue 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 the 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 50th Street, there's no longer any reason for the current configuration of 50th Street.  Instead, there could be a two-way protected bike lane on 50th Street from Fremont Avenue 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 feet buffer. As 50th Street goes underneath Aurora from Fremont to Whitman Avenues, 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 protected bike lane would have just have two driveway crossings, 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 is ideally routed through the western edge of the Woodland Park Lower Playfields Parking Lot.

Access to the Parks & Future Greenways

Woodland Park and Green Lake Park are two of the heaviest used parks in Seattle, with many people walking, strolling, running, and biking.  Getting to and into the parks should be just as good as being in the parks.  Slower signed and design speeds around the parks will certainly help.  In places, additional enhanced and marked crossings are merited, especially along East Green Lake Way on the southeast side of Green Lake Park where there are few crossings and particularly across N 50th Street at Stone Avenue.  Current marked crossings could also use enhancements with rectangular rapid flashing beacon signs and raised crosswalks.

The Bicycle Master Plan also calls for several future neighborhood greenways. One notable greenway is the N 46th/47th Avenue Greenway, which will provide an important east-west connection that runs parallel to Wallingford's 45th Avenue business district and into the University District via the 45th Street Bridge or possible a "catalyst" pedestrian/bike bridge across I-5.  The route is already fairly safe and comfortable to ride.  The City should enhance the crossing of Stone Way at 46th or 47th Street in order to support this future greenway.

Other future greenway crossings include: Green Lake Drive N and Stone Ave N; Green Lake Drive N and Dunsmore Ave N; East Green Lake Drive N and Sunnyside Ave N; East Green Lake Way N and Sunnyside Ave N; East Green Lake Way N and Kenwood Place N; Green Lake Way N and N 53rd Street; N 80th Street and Densmore Ave N; N 80th Street and Corliss Ave N; N 50th Street and Wallingford Ave N; N 50th Street and Sunnyside Ave N; N 50th Ave and 1st Ave N; N 40th Street and Interlake Ave N; N 40th Street and Densmore Ave N; N 40th Street and Sunnyside Ave N.  Proactively designing these intersections to be safe for greenway crossings will ensure the projects are ready for full treatments while making the crossing safer today. 

Google Streetview of five-way intersection of NE 40th Street and 7th Avenue NE, plus the Burke-Gilman Trail

N 40th Street

The City is planning uphill protected bike lanes and downhill marked "sharrows," which is similar to the Bicycle Master Plan's prioritization of minor separation bike lanes.  We are supportive of the City's planned design. These improvements will be especially helpful for the residents in Wallingford who live between Wallingford Avenue N and I-5, north of 40th Street, who bike to/from the University District and/or U Bridge.

The intersection at 7th Avenue NE is especially complex with five streets coming into it, plus a two-way protected bike lane on NE 40th Street to the east, plus the adjacent Burke-Gilman Trail.  We are keen to see improvements to the intersection.

SDOT's traffic control map for the NE 50th Street Bridge across I-5, showing the total road width is 60', sufficient for two 5' bike lanes and five 10' motor vehicle lanes.

Crossing I-5

Interstate 5 divides the neighborhoods of Licton Springs, Green Lake, and Wallingford on the west and Maple Leaf, Roosevelt, and University District on the east.  From 85th Street to the U-Bridge, we have just seven main crossings, most of which are dangerous or uncomfortable for people to walk and bike across.  The City's paving project includes three of the crossings (80th, 50th, and 40th).  The City consider improvements at each of these crossings.

Across the 50th Street Bridge, there is sufficient space to add two minor separation five-foot bike lanes while maintaining the existing five lanes for motor vehicle traffic. While the bike lanes would not necessarily connect to bike facilities on either side of the bridge on 50th Street, it would enable people to get to neighborhood side streets.

Across the 80th Street Bridge, there is also likely sufficient space for minor separation bike lanes, especially east-bound.  These bike lanes would be a good connection to the Banner Way Protected/Buffered Bike Lanes.

The new bike lanes across the I-5 bridges would provide a buffer space for pedestrians walking on the sidewalks.