Admiral Way Bike Lanes Draw Support and Scorn

By Josh Cohen July 14, 2010

The Seattle Department of Transportation held an open house at the West Seattle library last night to present their proposal for reconfiguring SW Admiral Way (where a bicyclist was recently hit by a car) to add bike lanes and a marked pedestrian cross walk and reduce motorized-traffic speeds. Though attendance was relatively sparse—25 or so people in and out during the one-and-a-half hours I was there—they all had opinions. There was even a loud, but (mostly) civil argument between two attendees at one point with gems like "why should my taxes subsidize your hobby?" and "maybe if you got in better shape you could ride up Admiral!"

As we reported last week, SDOT proposes to remove one eastbound travel lane on SW Admiral Way between SW Olga St and SW City View St. The removal of the lane would allow installation of a six-foot bike lane with a three-foot painted buffer on the downhill side (eastbound) and a parking protected bike lane with a six-foot lane and three-foot painted buffer between parked cars and the curb (similar to the proposed Dexter Ave lanes) on the uphill.

In addition, SDOT proposes to install a marked pedestrian crosswalk with a raised cement island at Admiral Way and City View St. The city removed a marked crosswalk from that intersection in 2007 to comply with updated federal guidelines (they state that you can't have an un-signalized crosswalk on a four-lane road).

According to SDOT's Brian Dougherty, one of the open house presenters, speeding is a big issue on Admiral. The posted speed limit is 30 mph, but the 85th percentile of cars (essentially the average speed) drive 45 mph.

The project's supporters (who seemed to be in the minority at the open house) expressed relief at the prospect of better bike and ped infrastructure. Opponents' were concerned that having one downhill lane would cause serious back ups (particularly with Metro buses making in-lane stops), and that the city is sacrificing car mobility to accommodate a tiny population of roadway users.

West Seattle resident Greg Poulin was amongst the project's detractors.

"When you take a lane from this very, very vital roadway it's going to bring traffic [backups] all the way up to 42nd and California Aves," he said. "I think we should have a bike network, but we can't do it at the expense of road capacity. We absolutely need to find a better way to get around than single occupancy vehicles, but we're not there yet."

North Admiral Way resident Jim Beaulaurier drives and bikes on Admiral way regularly. He thinks infrastructure for bikes is very necessary. "Currently, there's no room for bicycles on the roadway on the uphill portion essentially forcing riders to compete with pedestrians on the sidewalk."

Beaulaurier also thinks concerns about congestion are overblown and points to similar road diets on Fauntleroy and Stone Way which he sees as successes. "Congestion does not occur at the bottom of the Admiral hill, it's simply an extension of what happens on the bridge. So the notion that somehow gaining 30 seconds on the hill somehow seems fallacious. What's the big hurry to get into the cue for the bridge?"

Concerns about the project didn't just come from opponents. Seattle Likes Bikes' raised concerns that the design creates dangerous pinch points for cyclists where the bike lanes end at the top and bottom of the hill and bicycles have to merge back in with traffic. SLB suggests SDOT extend the lanes to mitigate this problem.

SDOT plans to hold another open house in August (date and location TBA) after reviewing public comment and reexamining the project designs. Public comment can still be submitted at the project website.
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