There’s been a lot of buzz here (and elsewhere) about Stone Way. So, why should you care? Perhaps you’re not a hard-core cyclist and simply enjoy a stroll with the family along the Burke-Gilman. Or maybe you’re a roadie who can’t stand to ride in-city. Maybe you don’t even own a bike. Here’s why you should care.
Cascade’s Advocacy Organizer, Pat McGrath writes:
blockquote>Most people don’t normally spend a lot of time thinking about the configuration of the roads on which they drive or walk. But the factors that you nevertheless register subconsciously “ the width of the lanes, the layout of the sidewalk, the presence or absence of bicycle lanes “ influence the way we live. For example, wide roads tend to induce speeding and more severe crashes. The presence of bicycle lanes has been linked to increased bicycle use and its attendant benefits. The length of crosswalks is positively correlated with your likelihood of being struck in one. These behaviors and factors take on a particular relevance when we consider their impact on issues like global warming, public health, the obesity epidemic, and personal safety. Roads literally shape our lives.
Seattle traffic engineers know this, and some are trying to act accordingly. We know from internal memos that the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has considered converting Stone Way in Fremont to a safer bicycle and pedestrian-friendly configuration since the 1980s. This plan was on course until the Fremont Chamber of Commerce, worried about changes, mounted a campaign to halt the improvement between 40th and 34th Streets. SDOT says that their decision to eliminate bicycle lanes from this section of the project and retain the old 4-lane configuration was an engineering decision, but we have information that contradicts that claim. As a result of SDOT’s apparently political decision, the bike lanes that would have linked the Burke-Gilman Trail with the growing communities to the North have been stripped from the project, leaving a six-block gap.
The fears of the Fremont Chamber are misplaced. The 4 to 3 lane rechannelization, also known as a road diet, has an established track record of success, numerous operational benefits, and little to no effect on roadway capacity. You can find more information about road diets here.
Furthermore, this action runs counter to a number of initiatives underway at the City. First is the Mayor’s well-publicized fight against climate change. Transportation is our number one source of climate change gases in the State of Washington, and to reduce its contribution we must support alternatives like biking, walking and transit. We know from studies that when we build for those transportation modes, people tend to use them and drive less. The City’s politically-motivated decision moves us in the wrong direction.
The City of Seattle previously announced an effort to improve safety on Seattle’s roads. Three lane roads are proven to be safer than four lane roads for all roadway users see road diet data. The resulting configuration would also give trucks and buses a wider 11-foot lane to operate in. It would increase their effective turning radius (room to maneuver) while reducing their exposure to “pocket” accidents.
Finally, SDOT’s reversal casts a pall over the Seattle Bicycle Master Plan, which has been in the works for two years and is scheduled to be approved by the City Council later this summer. The Bicycle Master Plan originally called for bike lanes along the length of the Stone Way redevelopment project. If the City backs off from bicycle improvement plans like these at the first hint of contention, the message to the public is clear: any bicycle project is up for elimination, regardless of its benefit to the community or traffic engineering facts. The future of the Bicycle Master Plan is thrown into question before it has been approved.
SDOT justifies its capitulation by claiming that converting the street from four automotive lanes to three and adding bicycle lanes would lead to unacceptable automobile congestion. In an unbiased, independent analysis, nationally-recognized traffic planning firm Sprinkle Consulting has concluded that this is unlikely. According to their state-of-the-art traffic modeling software, congestion at the key intersection of 35th St and Stone Way would remain within acceptable parameters. Moreover, SDOT predicts, on the whole, significant increases in auto traffic between 2001 and 2010 at Stone Way intersections. Six years into this time frame, a hand-count of traffic movements by Cascade Bicycle Club has shown that automobile trips are well below the predicted levels and have actually decreased in many cases.
Cascade Bicycle Club and our friends in the community want the City to Seattle to uphold its commitment to build sustainable, safe, livable communities while enhancing mobility. Its plan to add bicycle lanes to Stone Way would have moved us toward those goals. Instead, by all appearances they have chosen to sacrifice those goals in an effort to soothe the unfounded fears of a minority of Fremont businesses.
Cascade Bicycle Club will continue to fight for a complete Stone Way. On the last Thursday of every month from 4:30 to 6:30 we will be conducting traffic counts at35th St and Stone Way to show decisively that Stone Way can operate satisfactorily in a road-dieted configuration. We are mounting a campaign to give businesses that support their customers’ safety a voice in this matter. And we are working with grassroots groups to show the City that the people of Seattle care about safety and the sustainable movement of people and goods.
Some allege backpedaling with changes to bike plan, Seattle Times
Gearing Up, The Stranger
Stone Way Protest Ride, Slog
Changing Lanes, The Stranger
The Bike Plan Unraveled, The Stranger