Photo by Shane Harms
A rider comes off the Burke-Gilman Trail (westbound) and crosses the 11th Avenue NW and NW 45th Street intersection where SDOT has built a new two way bike lane and motor vehicle one way (eastbound).

Oneway street and electric counters streamline Bicycle Master Plan

Cyclists commuters, skaters, walkers, and pedestrians alike may have an extra glimmer in their eyes these last few weeks since SDOT has made strides in making Ballard and all of Seattle more cyclist and pedestrian-minded.

Most recently, SDOT announced that electrical sensors would be placed in numerous locations throughout trail systems and greenways of Seattle in order to count the number of pedestrians and cyclists using the routes.

SDOT says the data will provide information that will facilitate measurement and ways to better serve a growing population of pedestrians and cyclists.

Already on the Fremont Bridge, another counter will be placed at Northwest 58th Street at 22nd Avenue Northwest in Ballard, and six other locations around the city.

SDOT stated, “The counters will help create a ridership baseline in 2014 that can be used to assess and measure ridership in the future and help reach the goal of quadrupling ridership by 2030.”

“No one has really methodically counted trail users,” said Kevin Carrabine, one of the original founders of the Friends of the Burke-Gilman Trail (BGT) and daily bicycle commuter.

“The city used to send counters out on a designated day and so the information was never very complete, and so now I think it’s a tremendous thing to have better data and a better understanding of trail usage.”

Carrabine has been a cyclist commuter for 22 years. He lives in Ballard and every day he rides to the University District where works as a nurse practitioner.

Another SDOT project in Ballard has changed Shilshole Avenue Northwest / Northwest 45th Street to a one-way running eastbound from Northwest 46th Street to 11th Avenue Northwest with a separate two-way bicycle lane on the north side of the street.

The goal of the project is to make the street safer for cyclists because that segment of Northwest 45th Street is one of the highest bicycle collision locations in the city. The street also runs through a light industrial area.

The one-way eastbound solution comes after SDOT collaborated with area businesses in order to make a safer strategy. SDOT said, “Because the roadway segment is so narrow, one-way motor vehicle travel with a separate bike lane was determined to be a better option.”

Though not part of the Burke-Gilman Trail, the project is a step in the direction of fulfilling a safe connecting route within the missing link.

Carrabine said that the 45th one way still has some work to complete. “Its basically functioning but there is still some signage and painting to finish.”

Subsequently, Carrabine said that an issue many pedestrians and cyclists are facing now are local motorists getting used to the direction of the street, with some ignoring the signage and moving right through the "DO NOT ENTER" signs going westbound.

“Its not as safe as it needs to be. There’s still motorists driving west on 45th and choosing to break the law and drive on the bikeway because either they are being defiant or they don’t know. There has been some hostility expressed since the change was made.”

Furthermore, since the change in the one way Carrabine has noticed an increase in cyclists and pedestrians in the area and says that its just a matter of time before a lot more people start to use it.

Furthermore, Carrabine said that it’s great that the city is acknowledging the bikers by building the one-way bike lane, but could do more to help pedestrians.

Carrrabine said that though it's a step in the right direction for creating a pedestrian minded infrastructure, the process of fulfilling the Master Plan has been sluggish in fulfilling implementation.

“I’ve lived here since 1988 (Ballard) and my observation is yes the recession played a roll in delaying much of the development of the Master Plan but if you look at cities like New York, Chicago or Los Angeles, city officials just found the route and bought into it and made it happen. In Seattle we have not gone as far is that. We are totally bogged down in process and one or two voices can literally stop a project.”

Carrabine referred to the contention surrounding the location and development of the BGT. He also mentioned that the city initially approached Ballard businesses in 2009 with the same option of making 45th Street a one-way and business owners rejected that idea, and then appealed the City’s plan.

To the question of whether the city will eventually reach its goal of quadrupling riders by 2030, Carrabine is optimistic.

“I don’t know if hey can reach that goal. Its kind of like if you build it they will come: once people see that it’s a safe place to ride and walk, more people will do that. I’ve been commuting to the UW for 18 years, and I have seen more and more everyday riders. I think if the city can build these things and implement the Master Plan its possible, but I wish it were happening much faster.”

Carrabine explained that in the big picture there are more and more people moving to Ballard as a result of high density housing being created, so there will be more and more cars. Combine that with short comings in public transit, a real need for routes designed for cyclists and other modes of transpiration have already come to a head and will continue to be a real demand for the City to take greater action.

“Thousands and thousands of people live in Ballard that work in the UD and Downtown and if there is a safe trail, they will use it. We’ve got to figure out a better way to get people from Ballard to where they work and the BGT is the city’s premier idea of that.”

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