The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) announced its final plan to makeover a three block section of N 34th St in Fremont. The plan is a hodgepodge of protected bike lanes (good), preserved angle parking (bad), and an oversized 15-foot-wide travel lane (very bad). SDOT expects to complete the redesign by October 2016. We covered the design in depth back in June 2015 and not much has changed since then.

The vast majority of parking will be maintained due to high demand levels registered in SDOT’s analysis. One exception will be a few spots nixed on the south side of the street to better accommodate turning trucks. It seems the angle parking is primarily overflow parking for PCC’s parking ramp, but most times that ramp isn’t full suggesting some folks just prefer parking on the street to dealing with ramp traffic.

The angle parking inefficiently uses street space (it consumes much more space than parallel parking while providing only marginally more parking). One alternative would be maintaining the same design as to the west: parallel parking on both sides of the street with a narrower travel lane. Or if we wanted to get more creative and less parking focused, a pocket park could eat some of the excess street space inherent in a 15-foot lane next to angle parking.

Bicyclists will have a 2-way PBL on N 34th St. (SDOT)
Bicyclists will have a 2-way protected bike lanes (PBL) on N 34th St to connect the Burke-Gilman Trail to the Fremont Bridge. (SDOT)

SDOT described its design as follows:

  • Installing a two-way protected bike lane (PBL) on the south side of N 34th St from Fremont Ave N to Phinney Ave N that connects with the Burke-Gilman Trail at the ramp just west of the dinosaur topiary;
  • Maintaining an 11-foot wide vehicle travel lane;
  • Extending N 34th St as one-way, westbound for vehicle traffic, from Fremont Ave N to Phinney Ave N;
  • Re-painting four crosswalks at the intersections of N 34th St and Phinney Ave N, Evanston Ave N, and Fremont Ave N;
  • Re-painting the back-in, angle parking on N 34th St between Fremont Ave N and Evanston Ave N;
  • Extending the right-turn lane from westbound N 34th St to northbound Fremont Ave N to accommodate the number of motorists needing to make this turn, and to improve sight lines and safety;
  • Preserving parallel parking on Phinney Ave N, north of N 34th St; and
  • Modifying the on-street loading zones and parking time restrictions to better serve the needs of the area (see the map above for how on-street parking will look after construction is done)

An already significant bicycling mode share in SDOT’s traffic analysis highlighted the need for a protected bike lane: “Our counts showed high bike volumes, particularly in the evening peak hours when bikes make up over 30% of traffic on N 34th St between Fremont Ave N and Phinney Ave N.” Still waiting for a traffic analysis that explains a 15-foot one-way travel lane between Fremont Ave and Evanston Ave. Freeway standard lanes are 12 feet while NACTO standards are 10 feet for urban streets.

ProtectedBikeLane34th
SDOT will trim 5 feet from N 34th St gargantuan 20-foot existing lane width between Fremont Ave and Evanston Ave. Between Evanaton Ave and Phinney Ave, N 34th St will lose its eastbound lane to make room for the PBL while still maintain parking on both sides. (SDOT)

N 34th St is also unique in its function as host of the Fremont Sunday Market. Sam Woods with SDOT Project Development Division said they planned the PBL to coexist with the market: “We understand the importance that new PBL could not conflict with the Fremont Sunday Market operations. In response, we’re using flexible delineator posts in the PBL buffer that will be spaced such that market booths fit between the posts.”

Hopefully, the spaced flexible posts still effectively protect bicyclists from encroaching motorists and parked cars. SDOT does promise “signs that show drivers how to park next to the PBL” and a week of outreach after the project is completed.

Looking ahead it could be that this new three block PBL will need to host a detour of the Burke-Gilman Trail if WSDOT returns to its delayed plan to close a section of the Burke-Gilman Trail while it repaints the George Washington Bridge. East of Fremont Ave, the bike lane on N 34th St remains unprotected which will continue to cause bicyclists consternation if it is chosen as a detour.

SDOT is expected to launch a N 34th ST PBL project webpage this week. The project’s primary contact is Rachel McCaffrey, who may be reached at Rachel.McCaffrey@seattle.gov.

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Article Author
Executive Director

Doug Trumm is the executive director of The Urbanist. An Urbanist writer since 2015, he dreams of pedestrianizing streets, blanketing the city in bus lanes, and unleashing a mass timber building spree to end the affordable housing shortage and avert our coming climate catastrophe. He graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington. He lives in East Fremont and loves to explore the city on his bike.