As someone who walks, jogs, bicycles, and drives 35th Avenue NE every day, I support the safety improvements the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has proposed because 35th is not safe for anyone–not drivers, not pedestrians, not cyclists, not children, not the elderly, not the community.

When I jog 35th, I always encounter scary situations. Most recently, I had a woman pull out of her driveway and not realize I was there until she heard me pounding on her hood. A few days before, a van turned into me while I was in a crosswalk. And it’s no different when I walk my dogs. I’ve counted numerous times–it usually takes six cars to pass before one stops when you wait at a marked crosswalk. The other day, I stopped for pedestrians by the library and not only did three cars go by in the southbound lane, but a car veered around me to keep going, nearly hitting two people. This happens all the time.

Cycling along 35th is equally dangerous. A few weeks ago, a car ripped out of the bank parking lot on NE 65th St and nearly hit a cyclist. I recently helped a cyclist who had crashed in front of Starbucks when someone opened a car door without looking. It’s so unsafe and it shouldn’t be.

Now, for those who say cyclists have no business on 35th Avenue NE because of how close the Burke-Gilman Trail is or the designated bicycle route on 39th Avenue NE: that’s absurd. I use 35th when I ride to work because the trail is actually the opposite way. And expecting cyclists to ride along 39th and then, pedal up a steep hill for four blocks just so they can run an errand is a ridiculous. How does it make logical sense to expect cyclists to add mileage to their trip so a person in a car doesn’t have to? And, if I have to run multiple errands, am I expected to ride up to 35th, then ride back down to 39th, pedal a few blocks, and then ride back up?

Then, you have the people who say there’s no need for a bicycle lane because there’s never cyclists on 35th. Stand out on the street during rush hour. During the warmer months, my wife and I put the dogs in a carriage and ride them all over, including our own neighborhood. We should be able to safely travel on our bikes without being forced to ride on only certain sidestreets or the trail – especially since 35th Avenue is where all the businesses are.

The dangerous crossing at 35th Ave and NE 75th St. (Photos by Christopher Priest)

And for those who say the changes will cause too much congestion (including on side streets)… we cannot build our way out of congestion. No matter what the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) does, our roads cannot handle the number of cars on them. 35th is congested and will only get worse, unless we get more people out of their cars (every cyclist is one less car.). SDOT knows this, so they have developed plans to promote cycling, public transit and carpooling. Unfortunately, my fellow citizens keep voting down money for public transit (trust me, I’ve gone door-to-door for several initiatives).

And that’s the other thing that bothers me about all of my neighbors adamantly opposing this plan. SDOT has attended several neighborhood functions. A few years ago, my wife and I stood in line to see plans for 35th, and not a single person before or after us agreed to sign up for SDOT’s survey or to be on their list for the project.

One gentleman on the opposition’s fundraiser page openly brags about thwarting improvements to 65th. He either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that a cyclist was killed by a car on 65th a few years ago. That opposition group didn’t think there was a need for safety improvements either.

When I went to the public meeting about the safety improvements, I heard a lot of people complaining, but I also met a young man who lives on 35thHe doesn’t own a car and has to walk, bike or bus to the university, and he strongly feels 35th is unsafe—he feels strongly enough to show up. I also met a woman who lives in an apartment on 35th who cannot afford a car and so, twice a week, she walks to the Safeway on NE 75th St to shop. She pushes a stroller to carry her groceries. She too doesn’t think 35th is safe. These people live in our neighborhood too and they should be able to get to the store, get to work, get to school, get wherever safely.

A collision on 35th Ave.

And so, here’s my challenge… Anyone opposed to safety improvements on 35th, walk they length of it. For the braver, ride a bike down 35th. Then, come back and tell me how you feel about it. Because here’s the deal–my life, my safety should not be trumped by your ability to park really close to wherever you are going. My safety and the safety of my fellow neighbors should be the most important thing to all of us. And that should not mean I cannot use 35th unless I drive. It should not mean if I want to be safe, I cannot walk, bike or jog on 35th. It should not mean in order to run errands, visit friends and family, or go out for dinner with a bike, I need to zigzag all over the neighborhood.

Northeast Seattle neighbors have been circulating a petition in support of 35th Avenue NE safety improvements for those interested in taking action to help the cause 

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22 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve seen everything you’ve seen plus almost every morning I see people trying to go 40+ and passing other cars / buses on the right. Also the section between 65th and 45th is scary tight and I’ve seen so many near accidents on that road. Hopefully they don’t postpone anything and proceed this spring. I agree about the biking numbers, I see lots of people biking down 35th during rush hour while I wait for the bus each morning. Plus more people will start biking after these changes including myself (I dare not touch 35th right now).

  2. Heh…”safety”

    Good for your neighbors pushing back against more poorly thought out SDOT nonsense.

    • VIncent – for your reference – here is some local data – collision statistics after SDOTADA improvements and bicycle faciltiies along local roadways:
      Stoneway: 14% reduction in total collisions
      Nickerson: 23% reduction in total collisions
      Fauntleroy: 31% reduction in total collision.

      • If you believe that I’ve got some exciting statistics about improved traffic on Mercer to sell you!

        • Yes please do share
          NE 75th: 45% reduction in collisions
          125th: 17% reduction in injury collisions.

          • Mercer Way, the average reduction that drivers spend in the car with roadway and signalization revisions:
            5pm weekday: from 14 minutes down to 4 minutes
            6pm weekday: from 16 minutes down to 6 minutes
            7pm weekday: from 18 minutes down to 7 minutes

        • The volume of traffic on Mercer Way has also increased by almost 30 percent. So even if the traffic is still bad, it’s moving WAY more cars than before.

          In fact, that’s a really good example of why “saving parking” or “adding lanes” doesn’t help traffic and congestion problems. It just means more people fill the space.

  3. If people feel strongly about this, please consider signing the petition in support of the project (tinyurl.com/safe35th), or emailing the mayor.

    This actually represents one of the rare cases where SDOT has engaged the community and come up with a good compromise that meets the communities demands for a calmer, safer street while not slowing down traffic, and only removing under-used parking. The primary benefactors of the safety improvements will be people in cars, who represent the vast majority of people injured on this street, but protection for the vulnerable users (peds and bikes) is critical to preventing unnecessary injuries or fatalities.

    One additional piece of data: https://labs.strava.com/heatmap/#14.02/-122.28136/47.67574/hot/all

    Although the data is admittedly skewed towards more athletic people on bikes, the Strava heatmap shows some interesting data on how many people use 35th ave by bike — I don’t believe that it is really a larger number than use 39th, but there are certainly a lot of people who use it despite its currently terrifying condition. The arguments on what routes people on bikes should or shouldn’t use are a distraction. In general you can sum it up that people on bikes prefer arterials for exactly the same reason as people on cars: business access, protected intersections (eg stop lights), not having to pull over to pass oncoming traffic, etc. As a society we need to provide a way that people using bikes can get home safely no matter what motivates their route.

    Another important element is that we are on the precipice of a bike share and e-bike revolution. With a floating e-bike share, everyone now has access to a bike that can get them long distances and up hills without breaking a sweat. Getting on a bike is no longer just for the athletic, and it shouldn’t only be for the brave.

    • What’s the scale on the Strava Heat Maps, by the way? I can’t find a way to actually see what a “hot” path actually means in terms of users per day. Could be 5 people. Could be 500. Who knows?

  4. Good work on this piece. As a Wedgwood resident, I live on 75th a block from 35th I can attest to the success in the reduction in accidents since the turn lanes and bike lanes were added several years ago. I have children in local schools and one that walked to Eckstein, He noted that there was a reduction in crazy drivers after the implementation of the safety lanes. Because of the location of our house, I can tell you that it has led to a reduction of rear end collisions at the light on 75th and 35th by a huge margin. We walk nearly everywhere to support the business on 35th and to travel to the library. It is a scary place to be a pedestrian or a cyclist. I almost lost my wife and son to a car turning onto 75th from northbound 35th when a car struck them. My wife an son had the light and were attempting to make the bus in front of the Subway when struck. Luckily they survived being hit as a ped. As for riding, I regularly use side streets and sidewalks when on forced to use 35th. I have ridden and raced bicycles throughout my life and to be frank I feel safer riding in downtown LA, and Seattle than I do a block from my home. Additionally the lack of turn lanes on 35th create a danger zone. I have nearly been struck many times at that intersection when on foot. People turning right do not check when turning up 75th from 35th, bear in mind that there is a building (formerly Blossoming Buds) that makes that turn a blind corner. Turn and safety lanes need to be implemented for the safety and benefit of our residents, including the hundreds of Eckstein students that walk that intersection daily. These changes will certainly affect my driving times as I cannot bypass these streets because of the location of my house, but we must act. Any action is better than what we have now. Please support the changes and remove the de facto 4 lane road that runs through our neighborhood.

    You can click the links in Orange Wheels post below to add your voice and check the Strava heat maps.

    Be well friends and neighbors.

  5. I have walked the length of it. I’ve also biked it. Your article is full of hyperbole. Mind you, I’ve also seen people skateboard down it.

    Your definition of safety seems to be one that allows you to be unaware of your surroundings. That’s not safe by any measure.

    You claim safety for pedestrians, and then make the argument that you should be able to bike on the street – and that cars are a problem. I suspect that you’re more of a cycling advocate than a safe-streets advocate.

    Enough’s enough. The street is too narrow to support the “Safe 35th” changes between 55th and 75th without seriously impacting bus traffic, never mind car traffic. When will you stop?

    • There is TONS of local data that indicates similar interventions by the City have made roadways safer for EVERYONE.
      Look at the plans and the data – or provide your own to back up your claims.

      You sound more like more of an anti-bike nimby than this guy sounds like a cycling advocate.

    • Just because someone is vigilant doesn’t mean they are completely safe from crazy and oblivious drivers (which there are a decent amount of). If you’re walking and someone stops for you and you enter the crosswalk and some dude comes whipping around going 35+ there’s not much you can do. Besides 35th already has one lane of traffic and the new changes will reduce that to one lane of traffic so not much is lost besides some parking that is never at full capacity.

    • I spent my friday morning editing a video from someone whose husband (permanently) lost his ability to walk due to a crash on 35th. It was considered an “injury collision” (not even “serious injury collision”). Safety concerns with 35th are definitely not hyperbole.

  6. The Save 35th Ave folks are NOT against safety improvements. We are the ones who finally got SDOT to add a Flashing Crosswalk at 60th St. We have asked them over and over again to add them at 72nd, 77th, and 87th as well (they ignore the suggestion).

    We are the ones that campaigned for turn pockets at main intersections. We succeeded at 75th but still, SDOT will not do that at 65th St.

    SDOT’s plan prohibits parking on the West side. We are against that. We are the ones looking out for people with disabilities, the mobility
    challenged, to get to the places they want to go on the West side. In the SDOT plan they ‘may’ park on the East side and then find a way to cross the street. I say ‘may’ because with 60% of the parking on 35th gone and side streets clogged with parked cars, it is not going to be easy to find parking. We want SDOT to leave parking EXACTLY the way it is now. (And the side effect of what we have today is that moving cars every day frees up parking spaces from those who would leave their cars parked for days.)

    We are the ones concerned about Emergency Vehicles becoming blocked by gridlocked traffic. We are the ones concerned about Metro Buses in substandard 10 foot lanes (11 is the minimum). Better watch your mirror!

    We are the ones concerned that passengers will exit their car and oncoming bikers will get “doored.” We are the ones that worry about cars coming out and on to 35th not having proper sight lines. And the list goes on.

    The 39th Greenway is a reasonable alternative for the 3% who bike against the 13,000 who use 35th. And with spandix and 21 gears, I think you can manage the 4 block ride to 35th !

    • Tom – All of the data indicates that the roadway improvements proposed by SDOT will create a safer roadway condition for all users and will reduce the number of collisions and injuries. As a proponent of safety, I don’t see how you can angle around that. Let’s drop the pretense, the “Save 35th” campaign wants to save parking.

      I don’t know where you come up with the 60% parking loss statistic – I really would like to see the source – though since we only use 40% at peak hours I suppose it doesn’t much matter – but please – do send the source of that data.

      Thank you for being a proponent of flashing crosswalk beacons…unfortunately without the other striping it won’t much matter. A car can’t stop when it’s going 40mph.

      Thanks for your concern for cyclist safety…a cyclist is less likely to get doored when a designated lane is present.

      The absurd scare tactics of “blocked emergency vehicles” and the insult as if to imply that anyone who can’t afford a car or isn’t old enough to drive one, must be a spandex clad 21 gear cyclist is offensive.

  7. I looked carefully at the “Save 35th Ave” petition online, which claims 2507 signatures as of now, against a goal of 2500. It appears to me that all 2507 comments were written by the same person or a few persons and posted endlessly and repeatedly by a bot program.

    • *rolls eyes* Baseless claims without any proof are awesome. Pull the other one – it has bells on it.

    • BTW: For your amusement, I checked out the first few people on the Safe 35th Ave petition.

      We have:
      1 person who lives in Duwamish Valley
      1 person who lives in Vancouver BC
      1 person who lives in Tukwila
      1 person who lives in BERLIN GERMANY, but claims they live in Seattle on 35th.

      Certainly, these petitions are amazingly trustworthy.

      • I agree with you that online petitions mean almost nothing. It was pretty obvious that the Save 35th Ave petition had almost no real persons behind it, and it would not surprise me at all if both sides are doing this. There are open discussions online of bots for signing these petitions, including software that generates fake names.

        • Sounds like we need an actual mailed survey to all of the residents in a 10 block area from 45th Ave to Wegwood before this goes ahead then. I approve of your idea.

  8. The redesign of the 35th aims to improve the flow of the street and while doing that improve the safety. This is realized by eliminating bus stops, introducing pockets for left turning cars, and removing biking from the general lane to separate bike lines. This comes at the cost of some parking. I would say: a street is first for all for moving traffic and not for still standing objects. And since space is limited the choice seems simple to me.

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