The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has shared a new survey on its plans to complete the protected bike network on the west side of Green Lake. The agency appears committed to adding a concrete barrier to create a two-bike facility on the lakeside shoulder of Aurora Avenue, but it has presented three options to create a protected facility on West Green Lake Drive N. Although design work is funded, construction is not, so the City will need to identify funds before it can build the project and close the Green Lake Loop. Still, SDOT is optimistic that construction could start by summer or fall of 2022, funding permitting.

The agency completed a two-way flexpost protected bike lane along East Green Lake Way this summer, but the facility ends at Densmore Avenue N where the lakeside road turns south and becomes West Green Lake Drive. This break in the loop forces people biking to use either a busy multi-use trail along the lake or a rutted narrow sidewalk that devolves into a goat path at times along Aurora Avenue — neither attractive options.

Alternative routes are limited as well. The steep slope up to Phinney Ridge offers a formidable obstacle for most riders and lacks an all ages and abilities route anyway. People could take the longer way around the lake for certain trips, but the detour may add a mile or more depending on the trip pair. The other major north-south bike routes through the area are Phinney/Greenwood Avenue N, Latona Avenue NE to the south, and 5th Avenue NE to the north, none of which are protected routes, and Roosevelt Way NE, which is protected but only in the southbound direction. Stone Way N offers a connection to the south, but protection is lacking south of N 50th Street, making the street a harrowing and dangerous experience for many people biking.

A map shows the project area on the northwest section of Green Lake. The map shows bike facilities that link to Green Lake. Green Lake Drive N offers a connection west to N 83rd Street and up the ridge to Greenwood. NE Ravenna Boulevard offers a protected bike lane to Roosevelt. Bike facilities are not protected on NE 65th Street, Latona Avenue NE, Phinney Avenue N, or most of N 50th Street.
SDOT is looking at options to complete the bike connection around Green Lake. A section along Aurora Avenue is missing. (SDOT)

The City’s plan to add a protected bike lane between N 50th and 45th Streets as part of this project was abandoned under the leadership of Councilmember Alex Pedersen, who chairs the transportation committee. SDOT cited funding shortfalls due to the Covid pandemic as a reason for backing away from the plan.

Finishing the Green Way Loop and adding protection on the paint-only lanes on Stone Way would go a long way toward filling in the bike network in this part of the city. Green Lake is a destination park, and it’s unfortunate that it can be hard to reach without a car.

SDOT’s current designs for the Aurora section of the Green Way Loop, which tracks the highway from N 65th Street to N 73rd Street with a two-way facility behind a concrete barricade. (SDOT)

Adding a concrete barrier along Aurora Avenue would also have the added benefit of improving the pedestrian environment, in addition to making it far safer as a bike route. SDOT’s survey hints that the completion of the outer loop may lead Seattle Parks to tighten restrictions on biking and scooting on the inner loop, as it did as part of its “Keep It Moving” campaign during the summer.

The three West Green Lake Drive N options

While the solution on Aurora is fairly straightforward, SDOT is considering three options along West Green Lake Drive, which each have their own merits.

Option 1: Remove street parking and maintain vehicle travel lanes in both directions, and add a two-way walking and biking path on the lake side of the street. Removing park is the simplest solution, but it could rile homeowners in the area. That said, with Winona Avenue N offering more of a thoroughfare for motorists, both travel lanes aren’t really needed here.

Option 1 would drop the remove street parking in order to keep both travel lanes for cars. The two-way protected bike lane would go on the lakeside of the street, protected by a new curb. (Rendering by SDOT)

Option 2: Maintain street parking, but remove either a northbound or southbound vehicle travel lane, and add a two-way walking and biking path on the lake side of the street. A one-lane street would be even easier to cross, which is a plus for pedestrians, and it would decrease turning conflicts at the intersection with Aurora Avenue. However, some motorists may end up riding over the curb into the bike lane in order to parallel park their large American automobiles on this narrow street.

Option 2 would drop a travel lane (likely the northbound lane) in order to save street parking. The two-way protected bike lane remains on the lakeside of the street. (Rendering by SDOT)

Option 3: Remove parking, two-way travel, and bike lanes on each side. As this option doesn’t have a rendering yet, it appears the least fleshed out and likely to be selected. Since the facility for the rest of the loop is two-way along the lakeside, adding a two-way facility could force an unnecessary crossing for some users, but the narrower street should be fairly calm. The flexposts would also be a downgrade from a curb-protected lane.

Option would add flexpost-protected bike lanes on either side of the street. (SDOT)

Looking ahead and public comment

SDOT has an open house presentation for people seeking more information on the project. Those looking to comment on designs can email GreenLakeOuterLoop@seattle.gov or take SDOT’s survey here. The survey is open until December 6th. Additionally, Green Lake and Wallingford Safe Streets has a petition urging the City to complete the loop, which pushes for the concrete barrier design. SDOT will be presenting the project to the Phinney Ridge Community Council on December 7th. If all goes smoothly, the project could be open by the end of 2022.

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Doug Trumm is The Urbanist's Executive Director. 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.

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