This was originally posted yesterday.
The proposed Nickerson "road diet" (reducing the street, which currently has four lanes of traffic, to two traffic lanes, adding a turn lane, and adding one bike lane and one sharrow) was the contentious focal point of this morning's Seattle City Council transportation committee meeting.
The committee heard testimony from state legislators, freight and business interests, bicycle and pedestrian advocates, and more than a dozen citizens both for and against restriping Nickerson.
Studies of similar road diets, like the one on Stone Way, showed that they improve bike and pedestrian safety while maintaining road capacity.
Three representatives from the 36th District, where the road diet would be located, urged the council to delay work on Nickerson to do further analysis and to take a broader look at traffic flow and construction projects in the city.
Rep. Mary-Lou Dickerson expressed concern about the potential for heavy traffic on Nickerson once the downtown deep-bore tunnel opens. And she questioned whether Nickerson is as dangerous as road-diet proponents have claimed.
"I don't think the data actually validates the safety issue to take a step of this magnitude," she said. "Looking at the city's data, I see that there were four pedestrian and bicycle accidents in the last three years."
State Rep. Reuven Carlyle said the Nickerson project highlights larger "systems" questions about Seattle's roadways. "Is the policy goal to have an aggressive multi-modal approach on all of Seattle's major arterials or do some get left to funnel motorized traffic?" He said the "needs of freight and industry must to be accommodated" regardless of the broader plan
Opponents of the road diet---including Dave Gering of the Manufacturing Industrial Council, Paula Cassidy of the Wild Salmon Seafood Company, Jan Koslowski of Ocean Beauty Seafood, and Eugene Wasserman of the North Seattle Industrial Association---pointed to the new Ship Canal multi-use path just north of Nickerson as evidence that bike lanes are unnecessary.
Supporters countered that the path doesn't serve commuters, a point that Sen.Jeanne Kohl-Wells brought up in her testimony. "I don't believe that the bicycle path along the canal is conducive to commuters. It is more recreational."
Kohl-Wells also highlighted another point that advocates have made repeatedly: at an estimated $200,000 to complete, the road diet is relatively cheap.
"The Nickerson road diet will be relatively inexpensive and it can be reversed pretty easily," she said. "That gives me comfort in living with the project."
However, Kohl-Wells, like her fellow legislators, urged the council to study the road diet's potential impacts before restriping Nickerson. The Washington State Department of Transportation will release a traffic analysis of Nickerson in September.
Supporters of the road diet, including Cascade Bicycle Club's David Hiller, the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board's Matthew Crane, and Seattle Likes Bikes' Michael Snyder, argued that the road diet would increase pedestrian and bicycle safety while maintaining roadway capacity.
Feet First director Lisa Quinn said, "This is not about pitting walking, biking, and freight against each other. It's about getting drivers in single occupancy vehicles out of their cars." Quinn argued that SOVs are the primary cause of congestion and fewer cars on the road would increase freight mobility more than bike lanes will reduce it.
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