tl;dr - If this thing ever gets built, it’s probably going to be on South Shilshole and that’s ok.
So maybe you’ve heard, the Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link EIS has been out for a couple weeks now (so exciting - https://plus.google.com/+BrianFerris/posts/QSK5qfPhGXD
). A lot of ink has been spilled on the subject already:
* Official SDOT Page: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/BGT_Ballard.htm
* Seattle Bike Blog: http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2016/06/22/missing-link-megastudy-confirms-build-the-trail-already/
* Urbanist: https://www.theurbanist.org/2016/07/06/voice-your-opinion-on-the-missing-link/
What's my take? As I mentioned before, my perspective on biking has changed a bit now that I regularly take my daughter to daycare in Fremont via bicycle. Specifically, I’m more a more conservative rider and I’m more acutely aware of sketchy conditions. The Missing Link is the definition of sketchy riding, but fortunately I only have to deal with it for the short section between 17th Ave and where the trail currently terminates at 46th St. No matter what gets built, I think it will be an improvement for me.
As for the remainder of the Missing Link, truth be told, I will probably rarely have a need to use it. Regardless of what gets built, I’m more likely to jump on the 58th St Greenway when heading west to Stone Gardens (or Golden Gardens). That said, this is the internet. I’m still going to give my opinion ; )
Funnily enough, my opinion initially started as this: build it on Ballard Ave.
Being a more conservative rider these days, I spend a lot of time riding on Ballard Ave. Compared to Shilshole and Leary, Ballard Ave is practically dead in terms of traffic. Safety aside, the historic buildings and shady trees of Ballard Ave are way more pleasant than the industrial backlot that is Shilshole. Old Ballard is a place people want to go. Why not put the trail there?
Of course, there is the small matter of the Sunday Farmers Market, our weekly pageant of micro-greens, strollers, dogs, street food, buskers, and other entries from https://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/
. The market is already a hot mess on a busy weekend, especially the stalls along the south-west edge of the street, where the cramped sidewalk makes it tricky to navigate by foot, let alone push a stroller. In my naive world, I’d imagined putting the trail up Ballard Ave and single-tracking the market further up and down the street. More space to walk, more space for bikes, what’s not to like?
The Farmers Market maybe didn’t quite see it that way (see http://www.myballard.com/2016/07/06/farmers-market-concerned-about-ballard-ave-missing-link-option/
). The signs and flyers at the market the past few weekends were pretty clear: if the Missing Link ran up Ballard Ave, it would literally destroy the Farmers Market (there would be an actual explosion). While the rhetoric was over the top, it was also effective (witness all the market patrons filling out comment cards at the SDOT booth). While some might have a bit sympathy for Salmon Bay Sand & Gravel, people f-ing love their Farmers Market.
And to be fair, after talking the idea over with a few people, the idea certainly has drawbacks and I don’t really need the trail on Ballard Ave in the first place. Ballard Ave will continue to be a pleasant place to bike, jog, and walk even if the trail doesn’t get built there. In fact, I think there are many causal riders who would continue to bike it even if Shilshole South was built out (and hard-core riders who would still bike on Shilshole even if Ballard Ave was built out). As long as the trail has good connections to Ballard Ave, then all will be well.
So what does that leave us? Leary Way? As much as I look forward to contending with the worst intersections (15th and Leary, 20th and Leary, Market and Leary), some of the busiest bus stops in Ballard (Market St leads the pack), and a different set of business stakeholders who will likely fight it tooth and nail (Carter Subaru?), Leary doesn’t seem like it stands much of chance, even with a road diet.
That leaves Shilshole. And more specifically, Shilshole South. By the numbers, it seems like a no-brainer. Only a handful of intersections, few of which would need a stop light. It’s what the people always wanted (and what the city council originally proposed). It would be a final FU! to Salmon Bay Sand & Gravel. What’s not to love?
Let’s start with the ugly. By my count there are 25 existing driveways and intersections that the trail would cross between 11th Ave and 30th Ave for the proposed alignment. While the Freelard section of the trail has shown that this maybe isn’t the end of the world, there’s no question that I’d always be on high alert when biking through here. There will still be a sketchy railroad track crossing near the Ballard bridge. Biking through here will never be as pleasant as pretty much any other section of the trail. When the day comes that my daughter inevitably starts riding on her own, I would be reluctant to let her ride here in the same way I would on other parts of the trail.
All that said, it would still be a massive improvement over what we have today in terms of rider safety. More importantly, the alignment seems to include a stop-light at 17th Ave, which would solve my mini-Missing-Link woes. So just build the damn things already!
That said, if I could just make a few suggestions…
While the choice between Shilshole, Ballard, and Leary gets most of the attention, what happens west of 24th Ave is no less important. The proposed alignment continues along 54th St (and I’m using the term “street” charitably here), following the tracks until they reach the locks. While this is certainly the most direct route, it’s not without issues. For starters, this back alley is sort of scary to pass through even during the day, let alone at night. While the new Nordic Heritage Museum project on Market will certainly class up the joint (as would the trail itself), I wonder what it will feel like when finally done.
The connection from the trail to 24th Ave is going to be tricky for north-bound riders. I’m not exactly how they’ll transition from the trail on the south-west edge of the street to get riders across the road into the north-bound lane. I guess you could extend a section of the trail all the way up to the light and then riders could cross over at the light? I can already see riders doing sketchy things to save a light cycle.
Part of me thinks they should just put Market St on a road-diet west of 24th Ave, since there isn’t enough traffic to justify four lanes (and people haul ass as result). As noted in the EIS, this would leave plenty of room for the trail on Market itself and would put the trail front-and-center instead of hiding it out back. Thoughts?
Anyways, if you are one of the one or two people who actually read all of this, congrats! You must be a true bike nerd or really bored or both. Now’s the depressing part where I remind everyone that no matter which alternative we pick, it probably wouldn’t be finished before 2018, assuming it’s ever finished.
On that cheery note, time for bed.