Reader survey for Nickerson ‘road diet’

Although Nickerson Street is on the other side of the ship canal, we wanted to bring your attention to a proposed change. Our sister site, Magnolia Voice has been covering the proposed “road diet” for Nickerson Street, which has led to a passionate debate.

A few weeks ago the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) announced that this summer Nickerson Street will change to include one driving lane in each direction and a center two-way turn lane. The new configuration will reduce the number of car lanes and add an uphill bicycle lane. The downhill traffic lane will have shared lane markings for bicycles.

Magnolia Voice has authored a quick one-question survey about the proposed “road diet.” You can get to the reader survey here.

Geeky Swedes

The founders of My Ballard

42 thoughts to “Reader survey for Nickerson ‘road diet’”

  1. Just part of the mayor’s agenda to make life as miserable as possible for anyone who dares to drive a car. Get ready for more of this as he continues his effort to wreck the city.

  2. i’m usually in favor of this sort of thing, but how does a “road diet” on this stretch fit with the deep-bore tunnel? i thought Nickerson was supposed to be the route to the tunnel for southbound traffic from Ballard.

  3. The study done after the road diet was completed on Stone Way in Fremont showed that a road diet has many benefits to many users.
    Also, the road diet on 24th seems to be working just fine, the drive through there is not as stressful as it once was .

  4. how was the drive on 24th stress full? i hated when they took away a lane on 24th! now you get stuck behind some grandma whos doing 15mph the whole way down and just to make room for bikers… whats wrong with the side walks?

  5. A dedicated turn lane on Nickerson is going to help everybody. That’s a lot more useful than the second westbound lane that goes away before the bridge, anyway.

  6. “What’s wrong with the sidewalks?”

    Let me count the ways…

    1. You have to swerve every block to get through the intersection down the sidewalk ramps, dramatically slowing you down
    2. That’s if there are ramps
    3. It’s a lot harder for cars crossing the street see you on the sidewalk
    4. You have to go a lot slower yet to keep from mowing down pedestrians
    5. The sidewalk often has tree root damage that makes riding uncomfortable at best, slow or dangerous at worst

    Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of places I ride on the sidewalks, but on 24th where there are cross streets every 250 feet, it’s not a good option. I don’t ride Nickerson, so I can’t comment on that.

  7. The problem with the Nickerson proposal is that there is already a perfectly good ped/bike path between the Fremont Bridge and Ballard Bridge (almost!) that is off-limits to cars: the South Ship Canal Path.

    The Nickerson proposal has a west-bound bike lane right next to traffic, and eastbound sharrows that *require* the bikes to ride in the same single eastbound lane as traffic! Talk about a recipe for frustration and accidents!

    Don’t waste the money on the Nickerson bike striping, just put in a marked crosswalk at Nickerson and 11th so that bikes/peds can connect with the South Ship Canal Trail, and everyone’s better off.

  8. They should try reversing the Carpool lanes in Seattle if they really want to encourage car sharing. Simply have 1 lane for single occupancy and two/three lanes for the rest of the cars.

    Perhaps they should think about directing cycle traffic down some of the side streets, that’s where I ride when heading to Seattle downtown since that guy got killed on 24th.

  9. The primary benefit of road diets is to decrease collisions, and especially to improve safety for pedestrians crossing the street. 24th is much better now that there is a refuge in the center turn lane, if you are trying to cross. On Stone Way, injury collisions are down by a third and pedestrians being hit are down by 80%! It’s safer for EVERYONE, and the traffic study shows that it will accommodate all the traffic.

  10. “24th is much better now that there is a refuge in the center turn lane” I’m not so sure thats the case. Certain sections of 24th feel much calmer, but other parts feel really freaking dangerous. Did you know trucks for QFC use the center turn lane for loading and unloading! As I said before, I’d really like to see a study for 24th. However, since the QFC has only recently opened, makeing 24 at 57 and 58 much more insane, I think that study should wait some so the data can mature.

  11. The reductions of accidents on Stone Way is being inflated- SDOT is comparing the number of times POLICE have been called (not aid cars, not fire/mbulance) to the scene of an accident since the inception of the road diet. The pre road diet numbers didn’t differentiate between police response and fire/aide car response. Typically police are not called unless there has been damage to the car of more than $350 (I think) or the bike rider has to be transported to the hosipital. So a bike only accident would not result in police response so doesn;t show up as an accident in the new stats.

    They have been given the option of including accidents in which fire/aide was called and have declined.

  12. I live right on Nickerson, so perhaps I have a different point of view than most. As far as I’m concerned, as both a driver and cyclist, the main problem on Nickerson is traffic going too fast. Like way too fast. Every day I see at least a couple cars going 55+ mph right in front of my house. Nine out of ten others do 40 – 45 mph. Take it from me: it’s absolutely dangerous to cross the street on foot as well as to enter/exit a vehicle parked on the street. To those of you who are upset because this will slow down your commute: You are the reason this is happening in the first place. It’s ironic, I know. Slow down and be more careful.

  13. gts206 – Where are you getting your information on that? From what I can tell, SDOT has never been able to get good aid car stats on bicycle and pedestrian crashes and all of SDOT’s crash data is from police reports.

    If you have hard evidence of your claim, I’d really like to see it!

  14. Pay careful attention, Seattle – you are being played for a sucker. Again.

    This plan is first and foremost an initiative to remove traffic capacity. THAT is what this is about. Bike lanes, safety, etc. – all that’s incidental.

    They call this”a road diet”. What a disingenuous, dishonest political spin. Cut the BS, McGinn, and call it what it is: reducing road capacity.

    Seattle residents consistently list road congestion and traffic as major concerns (when they’re not doing bong hits at the nude beach – that is, with real studies that feature valid data and controls for easy manipulation). Of course, the mayor knows that if he openly promoted his real agenda – to start shutting down roads through the city, reduce traffic capacity, and make driving increasingly painful – the voters would revolt. It would be refreshingly honest: a politician saying his real goal is to make your life more miserable. But he can’t be THAT honest, even in Seattle. So he’s trying to pick and choose a few select roads to start with (roads which are NOT valid for comparison, by the way) and then use those as a model for others.

    Look at the “success” stories they point to: 24th NW, and Stone Way.

    I live near 24th, and I can tell you that it has become much worse, not better, as a result of this “diet” (aka reduction in capacity) – and I say that as someone who uses 24th as a driver, a cyclist an a pedestrian. To claim that the center lane offers “a refuge” for pedestrians is laughable.

    During commute hours, traffic now backs up for many, many blocks, with cars stacked up trying to get through the intersection of 24th and Market from all 4 directions, as the traffic lights cycle over and over again. A hundred cars sitting in gridlocked traffic is not exactly “green”. As for safety, I see close calls where lanes are squeezed there nearly every day, and plenty of car-bike near-misses. More than before – a lot more. This “road diet” has not made this route any safer – quite the opposite.

    I can’t speak to how the changes have effected Stone Way, since I don’t drive through there daily.

    But what I can tell you is that it’s utterly dishonest to point to a road like 24th or Stone Way, and then say “it worked there, so we’re going to do the same thing on 15th Ave W – it’ll be great!”

    15th Ave is a major through route. It is the primary route – and just about the only route – to connect NW Seattle with downtown. Reducing capacity on that route will be a disaster for Ballard and all of north Seattle west of Highway 99. There are simply no reasonable alternatives for drivers on 15th Ave W – when that’s choked off (as it surely will be when lanes of traffic are removed), traffic will back up from the Space Needle to Broadview. I’d question the honesty of anyone who tells you otherwise

    24th and Stone Way are quite different. These are not major arterials, and there *ARE* alternatives to these streets for drivers (I know – I use them every day, since 24th is now generally backed up and unusable).

    There’s a tremendous amount of dishonestly coming from the mayor’s office. Their agenda is pretty clear: they want everyone to ride the bus. Period. They know they can’t make the transit system attractive enough to make more people WANT to get out of their cars and get on the bus (for a variety of reasons). So they plan to FORCE you out of your car, even if you don’t want to take the bus (or can’t).

    How does the mayor plan to force people to get out of their cars? That’s simple: make driving a miserable experience. How do you do that? By making traffic worse. And worse.

    You tear down the viaduct, and tell people to just get over it, that highway capacity is not going to be replaced. Oh, you lie about it to get elected, but your agenda doesn’t have to change.

    You further that agenda by quietly introducing a program to remove lanes from city streets. Start with a few secondary streets that will not have a huge ripple effect so you don’t alarm all the drivers. Shhhhh. You play up the “safety” aspect – who could possibly object to making our roads safer? Throw a bone to the bike crowd.

    Then start applying the plan to larger and larger arterials. As lanes are removed, there’s no doubt that the resulting gridlock will spread, and – surprise! – driving becomes more and more impossible. Eventually, the miserable drivers will have no choice but to abandon their cars and ride the bus (or stay home, or move somewhere else where they aren’t intentionally wrecking their infrastructure). Never mind what they need or want. The mayor says you MUST ride the bus, so you’re going to.

    All in the name of “safety”.

    Of course, the roads will be nice and safe if all cars are forced off them. That’s what this is about.

    You suckers going to fall for it?

  15. Ted, cars speeding is a valid issue. I live on a small residential street in Ballard, and every day I see some idiot zooming by at speeds that shock me. So I can relate to concerns about speeders.

    But what’s the best solution for speeding? Is the solution to remove lanes from our roads?! Lots of people speed on I-5, too – should we start closing down lanes there, too?

    Does anyone really think this is about speeding?

  16. Gee Name, I’m all for making it more and more painful for SOVs to get around. This whole country needs a road diet.

    I have no anger about any of this…perhaps you are the sucker, you are the one with your undies in twist.

  17. Name, backups at the bottom of 24th have nothing to do with a road diet and everything to do with 2 arterials meeting in an urban environment. SDOT has more plans to try and make that intersection more efficient and the Ballard District Council is actively engaged in shaping that process.

    There are the same number of lanes there as before the “diet.” If you use it, you know there are two lanes southbound.

  18. Exacty Ted. Mayor, take note.

    I can agree with some of what you say Name but it sounds like drivers need a change of attitude as well; specifically in their driving habits. i.e. road rage. Some of the problems on 24th are concerns such as driver’s cutting off other driver’s just to make their light. Trucks parked on 24th for QFC to delivery goods. Bicyclists that think they DO own the road and don’t follow the law. It’s a mind set and with it needs to come attitude change. Do I like it right now? No, but it’s because of the idiots that think THEY are the center of the universe. Some people don’t know how to regulate themselves in this city.

  19. zipper, thank you for your honesty. I can respect that. If you just want to get rid of roads, you’re certainly entitled to hold that opinion – at least you’re not being dishonest about it. The mayor is. He should admit his agenda and see how that goes over.

    kurisu, I drive through that intersection most days. It’s a disaster. Yes, there are “4 lanes” feeding into it southbound on 24th – for about half a block. Duh. The southbound traffic on 24th backs up almost to 65th in the mornings. The “northbound” traffic on Leary where it jogs around the bend to turn into 24th northbound backs up nearly to the Ballard Bridge most afternoons. Cars sit backed up, waiting to cross 24th northbound for 10 minutes. When they finally get their chance, I see drivers floor it through the intersection and then – about 100 feet up 24th – suddenly the two northbound lanes merge into one lane, which appears to come as a complete surprise to most drivers (can’t say I blame them – it seems crazy – the street is the same width). I see near-miss incidents here almost every day. Bicyclists added to the mix don’t help either – I see bikers routinely cutting in front of accelerating cars to turn left across 24th (from the right lane or from the sidewalk). All that’s happening with pedestrians dashing across the street, and it’s a recipe for mayhem. I find it hard to believe anyone who has ever actually been there thinks this intersection is safer now.

    The reduction in lanes (what you insist on calling a “diet”) makes this one of the most dangerous intersections around.

    The fact that “SDOT has more plans to try and make that intersection more efficient” is exactly what worries me. The SDOT does not make things better, they make things worse.

  20. Debbie, I don’t disagree with anything you say there. Absolutely, there are lots of clueless idiots on the road, people who speed, bicyclists who think “anything goes.”

    And I wonder what gives the QFC delivery trucks the right to sit in the middle of an arterial and block traffic while they go about their business – is this really legal? How long would it be before someone got a ticket if they parked their Prius there?

    Those are all valid issues.

    I just don’t believe the solution to every issue is “get rid of the roads.”

  21. I couldn’t agree with Name more! The thing about McGinn, or our past mayor, Nickels, is it is “do as I say not as I do.” McGinn’s staff drive to work, as does, I suspect, McGinn nowdays. Nickel’s used the “security” excuse for the reason he couldn’t take a bus or ride a bike. Gee, I would think he could get protection on a bus or at least learn what we deal with when we ride one!

    When the road diet for 24th was discussed (or imposed, since public meetings with SDOT are not about dialogue but about “showing us” what is already decided) an SDOT planner told me that the reason for road diets is to make driving miserable, to get us out of cars. Read the book “Nudge.” It’s all about imposing sidebars to “make us” make decisions.

    The problem is, not everyone can take a bus. Kids, after school sports, caregiving for elderly parents, etc. Not everyone works downtown, and we all know our transit system rarely accommodates cross town commuting.

    We have got to figure out at some point, that trying to impose 21st century life styles on 20th century infrastructure, isn’t working. These changes must work to help people work and live, not to impose some theoretical planning ideas.

  22. Shelterwood,
    I completely agree that we shouldn’t force people into 21st century lifestyles on a 20th century infrastructure. What we can do is make it possible for thousands more people by building the 21st century infrastructure that we want.

    We simply can’t afford to build a system where everyone has to drive everywhere. Especially in a city, it won’t work, period.

    There are people for whom driving is a necessity, and the only way to make it work on our limited road space is if more people make other choices – spending more money in Ballard, riding the bus or even biking downtown.

  23. Well, I’m glad to see that some of you are starting to admit that the real agenda is to just make it too painful for anyone to drive anywhere. Closing roads will certainly be a step in that direction. We can discuss competing views of 20th and 21st century lifestyles as part of that.

    Can we please drop the pretense about safety now and just debate whether or not the city’s policies should be to force everyone out of their cars?

    Obviously, some people here believe that’s the right policy for this city. Some of you are honest about it – even proud – and for being honest you deserve everyone’s respect. Forcing everyone out of their cars is a legitimate policy issue that should be debated honestly and respectfully.

    Can you please get your mayor to drop all the BS about “safety” and have an honest discussion of his real goal?

  24. To me it is about safety first and getting rid of lanes second.
    60+ accidents over about 3 years on the stretch of road because the 85th percentile of drivers are doing 44 in a 30? THAT, is a safety issue to me.

    This road diet will make that street safer for all users: bikes, peds AND drivers.

  25. MichaelSndyer – the info on the police calls vs aid car calls came from Rob (can’t remember his last name) from the Ballard Service Center.

    While I understand the desire to get SOV’s off the road it simply isn’t possible for everyone. I have the option of telecommuting but on days when I need to see clients I have to drive. I can’t bus it from one end of town to another then to the Eastside then to Snohomish County in one day.

    Also everything that you have delivered to your house, or buy at a store was transported to Ballard on a truck. The guy coming to fix your furnace or paint your house? In a vehicle. The recycling you put out every Tuesday? Picked up by a vehicle.

    While Mayor McGinn has stated that he wants the backbone of transportation in the city to be buses and bikes he is overlooking that we all aren’t living in the 1800’s where everything we need is grown in our back yard or can be purchased on a short walk into town and all of our jobs are within walking distance of our homes. The “experts” he has on the panel discussing the road diet – a member of Cascade Bike Club and an expert in childhood obesity. Maybe having some people who aren’t in favor of the the road diet would offer a more balanced perspective.

  26. I strongly favor this proposal. Cars are racing on Nickerson, trying to do 40 in a 30 zone. The same was happening on 24th NW. The traffic on 24th is much saner and safer now, although people are still speeding southbound on 24th becsause it is downhill. The lane adjustment on 24th makes it much easier for pedestrians to get safely across 24th. When I used to walk across the old 24th to get to the old Ballard library I risked my life, even in the marked crosswalk at NW 58th. The real problem is immature, impatient, and insane speeding drivers viz. modern Americans. While there is no cure for that, a single lane discourages racing, and allows for safe turns, safer bicycling, and safer pedestrian crossing.

  27. “This plan is first and foremost an initiative to remove traffic capacity. THAT is what this is about. Bike lanes, safety, etc. – all that’s incidental.”

    As a transportation planner/engineer, and as someone who has spent a lot of time in this area, I find this comment infuriating on a lot of levels.

    First of all, Nickerson is a major safety concern. Any street that has multiple pedestrian or bicyclist fatalities needs further examination of its traffic operations and signalization. Charles put it well.

    For those who believe that the change from a four-lane roadway to a three-lane roadway (with a middle turn-lane) will have a major impact on traffic operations and level of service, you need to understand that intersection design is more relevant to congestion than street design.

    I think some of the debate is misguided and over-exaggerated as if the new plan is to close Nickerson to vehicle traffic and turn it into 8 bike lanes. The only noticeable difference for drivers will likely be that it will be harder to travel significantly over the speed limit.

    For everybody else who is skeptical of this plan, here’s my challenge to you: time how long it takes you to get from the Ballard Bridge to the Fremont Bridge on Nickerson. Don’t speed. Do this at least five or ten times to get a reasonable sample size. Do the same thing again upon the completion of the road diet. See what the difference is. You’ll probably notice the reason there is almost no change in travel time is because the number of signalized intersections didn’t change, which is far more relevant to travel times than the proposed lane changes. If I end up being wrong, please post or email me and tell me I was wrong. I look forward to not hearing from you.

  28. @gts206 – It’s Rob Mattson, Ballard’s Neighborhood Service Center representative. Sounds like he might be working to undermine this proposal (or, is he speaking truth to power??)

    Andy Metz – thanks for the reasoned response. If we leave the impassioned (on both sides) vitriol out, this is about safety and maintaining vehicle throughput. Crazies on both sides see it as either
    1- part of the McGinn plot to make Seattle vehicle – free
    2- the ultimate solution for a climate changing world.

    Let’s relax – this was vetted a year ago with the freight – bike – ped group that had been meeting for nearly two years to address these types of issues, and it was calmly discussed. Now, some folks want to turn this into the MOST IMPORTANT decision that the Mayor or SDOT has ever made…..

    The facts are there for all to see – those facts suggest this will improve safety and maintain capacity – let’s try it, and if it don’t work, then let’s change it back. Pretty simple and straightforward.

    Full disclosure – I drive on this street, I haven’t bicycled on it, I live in Ballard, I don’t work for NSIA or CBC or BINMIC or SDOT or any other acronym.

  29. Good post Andy and bbb1… most people on this blog seem to be missing the point, and they would rather argue about bicycles. But what SDOT is trying to do is make the road a bit more livable for those residents, businesses and the college campus that reside on it.

  30. Enough with the conspiracy theories, Name. And if the mayor is trying to make driving miserable, he succeeded c. 1980. Driving everywhere sucks, especially in traffic.

  31. So if McGinn wants to make Seattle “vehicle free” and wants to remove roads, I invite him to slam the missing link right thru Shilshoe, as per the original plan. Get on it!

  32. GTS206 & BBB1,
    I checked with Rob Mattson and he was very surprised to hear that. He pointed me to the fire department but (as I knew) mentioned that fire responses don’t end up generating police responses and from prior conversations I know that fire doesn’t record enough detail to tell bicycle crashes vs. pedestrian.

    I think this was just a misunderstanding.
    I’ll talk to SDOT tonight and confirm that their before and after numbers were both police reports.

  33. If you actually look at the Nickerson site at SDOT, you can tell that it was the precious administration that made the decision to rechannelize Nickerson. That’s 2 mayors, 2 city traffic engineers and 2 heads of SDOT, and now new numbers from WSDOT that say that even with the tunnel project, 3 lanes are enough to handle Nickerson traffic.

  34. Next election when McGinn is kicked out of office I will be throwing a neighborhood block party. The Mayor seems to think everything revolves around the bicycle. I’m all for biking, but big-rigs are not bicycles, an ambulance is not a bicycle with a bed on wheels attached, and so on.

    Some of us need our cars to get around, the bus wont get us where we need to get to. If this city decided to improve its bus service that is another story, but reducing capacity of roads to make driving miserable will not lead to people getting of their car, but road rage.

    Bicyclist need to get it into their heads that just because they ride a bicycle they have the right to take over the whole road and not move over. I don’t know how many times south of Market on 24th/Shilshole bicyclist will refuse to move over to the right and will just sit in the middle of the road. If they are weaving in and out of traffic they are running red lights and so on.

  35. Regarding GTS206’s assertion,
    I asked SDOT about their data at the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board meeting.

    SDOT only uses police reports for their crash data.

  36. I’m all for this project. The supporters have made their case in a level-headed manner. Pedestrian safety far outweighs the need for cars to approach the tunnel 20 mph above the speed limit.

    Plus, what other neighborhood would put up with 50 mph speeding in front of a school? The SPU campus should be crawling with pedestrians crossing the street to local businesses. Instead, people are frightened of crossing Nickerson. Enough. Let’s have that additional hearing, and then move forward. Safety shouldn’t have to wait forever.

    I do hope this blog can mature a little and become a welcome counterpoint to the kindergartenish mudslinging that dominates the dailies’ blogs.

  37. One other point: If it is reasonable to give bikers only one path between the Ballard Bridge and the Fremont Bridge, why do speeders need a raceway north of the canal and a raceway south of the canal?

  38. Nicely said Brent. I can’t comment on Nickerson, but I have long been sick of trying to use the crosswalk at 24th and 58th. You literally have to pretend like you are blindly walking out into traffic for cars to stop. I’ve watched old ladies wait on the corner for minutes before someone stops for them.

    Our society is all about Me Me Me! Faster Faster Faster! and Ballard seems to be no exception from the comments in this blog and the a-holes on the bus that don’t even give up their seat for the elderly/disabled (a topic for another rant perhaps).

    Calm down, slow down, take the frickin ear buds out – you’ll feel better.

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