by Kirby Lindsay Laney, posted 13 November 2015
Changes are coming to North 34th Street, between Fremont and Phinney Avenues, and if you don’t know what they are… well, join the club!
The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has drawn draft white lines on the roadway to mark changes they developed and planned to make in late October 2015. However, those changes may change, following contentious community briefings, and a demonstration of freight mobility by representatives of companies located on N 34th.
The Proposed Plan, As Of Oct 2015
According to Howard Wu, an SDOT Representative who spoke with Fremocentrist in mid-October, the proposed changes were developed based on priorities identified in the Seattle Bicycle Master Plan. The City revised the Bicycle Master Plan in April 2015, and is currently revising the Pedestrian Master Plan. A Seattle Freight Master Plan has yet to be published.
According to Wu, the Bicycle Plan calls for a two-way protected bicycle lane along N 34th Street, to allow better access for cyclists between the Burke-Gilman Trail and the Fremont Bridge. The proposed protected bike lanes, “provides a missing link between the Trail and the Fremont Bridge,” Wu said. However, according to cyclists at two public briefings on the protected lane on N 34th (held Oct 12th and Oct 19th,) and the Oct 26th Fremont Neighborhood Council meeting, the protected lane is not needed. Self-described cyclists at all three meetings insisted that N 34th is safe as it stands.
The changes for N 34th announced at these briefings by SDOT included:
- East of Fremont Avenue intersection – remove street parking to lengthen the right turn/straight traffic lane, relocate the bike box in front of the motorists and crosswalk, and restripe the crosswalk
- Fremont Avenue to Evanston Avenue –currently a one-way vehicle street, SDOT proposed expanding the bike lane for two-way cycle traffic, with a buffer area and flexible delineator posts installed roughly 18” apart, and restripe the angle car parking along north block face. They would also remove the yellow curb triangle (sometimes referred to as Lake PCC) at Evanston.
- Evanston Avenue Intersection – restripe the crosswalk on all four sides of the four-way intersection, with clear all stop signage for motorists and cyclists
- Evanston Avenue to Phinney Avenue – This very long block currently has parallel parking on both sides of the street, and two-way vehicle traffic. SDOT planned to continue the two-way protected cycle lanes from the east along this block, without the delineator posts, to provide for unimpeded street use by the Fremont Sunday Market, and the Fremont Street Fair. SDOT also proposed placing parallel parking along the bike lane and the north face of the block – and removing east bound vehicle traffic. In addition, the Sunday Market representatives asked for help encouraging cyclists to either dismount and walk their bicycles through the Market – or to avoid the entire block on Sundays.
- Phinney Avenue Intersection – restripe crosswalk on all four sides of the four-way stop intersection
West of Phinney Avenue Intersection – originally, SDOT proposed removing the curb cut at the southwest corner, east of the Dinosaur Topiaries, and continuing the two-way cycle lane two car lengths to have cyclists enter and exit the Burke-Gilman Trail on the west side of the Dinos. SDOT proposes permanent tuff posts to guide cyclists in and out of this ramp, along with the flexible delineator posts along the entry way. This would create only one entrance and exit of the Trail, to clarify for pedestrians and motorists more clearly the cyclists’ intentions. Cyclists at the public briefings objected to the placement of the ramp, and the Fremont Fair and Fremont Oktoberfest producer opposes any permanent impediments (the tuff post barrier and delineator posts) that will interfere with the events.
- Phinney Avenue from N 34th to N 35th St – SDOT heard a lot of concern, in their early information gathering, about any loss of parking these changes would bring to Fremont, and they discovered that they could keep the parallel parking along the west side of Phinney Avenue, and place angle parking along the east side, while still accommodating motorists and cyclists on this block.
Public Input, & Outrage
Representatives of SDOT did outreach in advance of making these recommendations. They talked with Sunday Market reps, and heard deepening concerns about cyclists dismounting (during set-up and tear-down of the Market, in particular, speeding cyclists have seriously threatened the safety of vendors and shoppers.) “It’s an educational part,” Wu said about creating the signage, and other efforts to get cyclists to dismount, or detour from N 34th on Sundays, “If they really need to go through, they need to dismount and walk.”
The proposed changes would create a net gain of 10 street parking spaces for the area. Also, where possible, SDOT planners maintained existing load zones, driveways and access. “We hope to clearly define where the bicycles go,” Wu explained about the plan, “we understand this is a very highly traveled area.” They’ve included crosswalk restriping, and re-evaluating crossing lights at Fremont Avenue, to help pedestrians. They’ve also included in this project re-evaluation of the two-way only turn signs at the north and south sides of the intersection at N 36th & Phinney, based on their outreach in June.
As a last step, before installing the changes, SDOT representatives, including Wu and Sam Wood, came to Fremont to brief a few N 34th business owners and employees. The first meeting, held at Custom Smoothies, went well but left many attendees more confused than comforted. A second meeting, at Theo Chocolate, drew more attendees – many of them cyclists, including the owners of Cascade Bicycle Studio.
At first SDOT representatives presented their plans as finished, with a promise to return and reconfigure anything that does not work. (The lack of a permanent barrier between cyclists and parked cars along N 34th between Evanston & Phinney was looked at with considerable concern for the safety of cyclists. Employees at PCC have already noted, since painting of the draft lines, that the wider bike lane across the street from the store makes angle parking much more difficult.) After both public discussions, SDOT representatives agreed to review the ability of trucks to access and navigate N 34th St once it becomes a single, one-way, 11’ wide lane.
Proposed, Planned, But Implemented?
At this time, changes to N 34th are still proposed. The actual changes, most of which involve painting the street, would take a week to do but the date of the work is still pending.
- An Appeal To Put ‘Feet First’
- by Kirby Lindsay, April 11, 2014
- Greenways Get Going In Fremont
- by Kirby Lindsay, July 30, 2012
- A Bike Race For Fremont
- by Kirby Lindsay, May 24, 2010
©2015 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.