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Monday, April 7, 2008

Planning Ahead

posted by on April 7 at 12:56 PM

The city council is just starting the process of amending its comprehensive plan—the planning blueprint that guides the city’s land use policies. This year, 16 citizens, city departments, civic groups, and city council members submitted 21 possible amendments for the council’s consideration; of those, perhaps a dozen will make it into the Comp Plan itself. While participating in neighborhood planning efforts and testifying at public meetings give citizens a chance to offer their input on legislation, the comp plan process offers a rarer opportunity: The chance to have a real, direct impact on city planning. This year’s amendments range from intriguing to laudable to ludicrous.

The intriguing:

A proposal by the city’s Department of Planning and Development to build a lid over I-5 linking downtown and Capitol Hill. The idea, according to a DPD spokesman, is “just a vision right now,” with no specific structure, location, or price tag, although the spokesman says it could include a park or housing.

An amendment by pedestrian-safety advocate Kate Martin (a friend and ally of Andrea Okomski, whose son Josef Robinson was badly injured by a car) that would require a crosswalk at bus stops on streets with more than one lane of traffic in each direction. The idea, Martin says, is to enable pedestrians to cross the street safely without having to worry that cars in one lane won’t stop for them.

The laudable:

A proposal by the Belltown Housing and Land Use Subcommittee to prohibit new surface parking lots in residential areas downtown.

An amendment by long-winded gadfly Chris Leman to encourage Metro and the city’s solid-waste companies to buy buses and trucks no heavier than state law allows. Currently, buses and garbage trucks are exempted from state laws that would otherwise limit their weight; heavy buses and trucks take a huge toll on city streets, causing potholes that damage cars and endanger cyclists.

Another Leman proposal that would make hard reductions in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) an official city goal, and encourage the city to only fund highway projects that don’t increase the number of miles driven in and through Seattle.

The ludicrous:

A proposal by the North Seattle Industrial Association to prohibit bike trails “within 100 feet of an existing short line railroad franchise that is in or adjacent to the Ballard Interbay Northend Manufacturing Industrial Center.” The amendment is an effort to undo years of planning for the “missing link” of the Burke-Gilman Trail, which the council approved four years ago; neighbors of the trail, chiefly Ballard Oil, say completing the 1.5-mile segment would hurt “maritime businesses” and “encourage more … deadly accidents” as trucks collide with cyclists. BINMIC’s proposal cites two biker deaths in Seattle in the last six months; however, both of those deaths occurred on city streets, not bike trails.

An amendment that would make it easier for the city and state to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with the new, larger elevated viaduct voters rejected more than a year ago.

A proposal by three citizens to create an “Element of Trees” as one of the items to be considered in land-use planning. The proposal would also create a position of “tree czar,” which “would be responsible for trees throughout the city.”

RSS icon Comments


Tree czar! If power corrupts, what will happen to the tree czar?

Posted by bma | April 7, 2008 1:14 PM

I like the VMT proposal and the surface parking reduction proposal.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 7, 2008 1:23 PM

I take it that Metro will then reduce the number of bus stops so there isn't a crosswalk every block? And, frankly, Seattle drivers have become inured to crosswalks. Unless you back them up by adding a stop light or stop sign, they're meaningless and may be more dangerous than having nothing.

Posted by keshmeshi | April 7, 2008 1:29 PM


I agree 100%! Chris Bridges for "Tree Czar"!!

Posted by Clint | April 7, 2008 1:50 PM

Why, exactly, should we turn I-5 into a cave?

Posted by Greg | April 7, 2008 1:51 PM

The BF had a great idea to help with cyclists. Make them get a license, just like motorcycle riders. You may scoff at this, but it would make them take a class, learning how to increase visibility/safety/learn the rules of the road.

I have seen many bikers hugging the sidewalk side of the lane, when that is the least visible place to be seen. They also then dart across sidewalks like a pedestrian if they get to a red light.

If you saw an on-road/off-road moterbike doing that, you would question the persons sanity.

You are either riding on the street or not. Stop being a hybrid. Stop thinking you get both benefits of pedestrians and cars. I think we need to mandate licenses. It would be beneficial for rider safety and would give more importance to bike only lanes.

Just sayin.

Posted by Original Monique | April 7, 2008 1:59 PM

hmm... am i going to help you open this box of worms? why can't a bicycle be a hybrid? it is possible to safely maneuver from the street to the sidewalk, and often benefits cars and cyclists alike. that said, yeah, throw out a few bike lanes to do the same trick.

Posted by infrequent | April 7, 2008 2:06 PM

@5, when it's constructed it's not a cave, it's a tunnel.

If money were no object, then by all means lid I-5. We should develop our city for people and not cars, and I-5 is a scar separating downtown from its neighborhoods. I suspect the cost would be more than prohibitive, unfortunately.

Posted by Cascadian | April 7, 2008 2:14 PM

@6: I absolutely applaud your statement and the push for mandatory bicyclist licensing. Look! I'm a car, I'm a pedestrian, I'm a car, I'm a pedestrian! If you want to be treated like a motorist then stick to motorist-only laws of the road so motorists know what to expect from you. You do not get to hop on the sidewalk and run across the crosswalk and then back on the road to beat the red light. You are one or the other. Pick one.

And ECB: "...elevated viaduct voters rejected more than a year ago." Might we remind you that that was an ADVISORY VOTE. And additionally, voter turnout was appallingly low. So you can't really interpret that to be a majority public consensus.

Posted by Vivalaviaduct | April 7, 2008 2:17 PM

@8: Tunnels are underground. Considering how much of I-5 is up on stilts between the ship canal and I-90, you can't really call it a tunnel, even if it feels like one from the inside.

But semantics aside, trying to build across the top of an I-5 lid would pretty much require another Denny regrade, as far as I can tell. Otherwise I don't see how you'd build up high enough to really get pedestrians across. (Roads? Bike trails? Forget it.)

Posted by Greg | April 7, 2008 2:44 PM

Hey... @6 &@9- as a former delivery driver the "I'm a car! I'm a pedestrian!" was what I did for a living. Thoughtful people on bikes are capable of making those transitions. Maybe a license ain't a bad idea... but the MO of adaptive riding should continue to be a "given".
So, planning the potential urban forest component is "ludicrous?"
Is it so much so that no discussion (or list of ludicrosities) is necessary? Enlighten me... ^..^

Posted by herbert browne | April 7, 2008 2:47 PM


That isn't Capitol Hill over there. I think this is probably referring to the Olive Way bridge or the Madison bridge.

Posted by Cale | April 7, 2008 2:47 PM

I don't see what is wrong with a tree czar. If he is as crazy about planting trees as our drug czar is about incarcerating non-violent offenders, we should be in good shape.

Posted by Cale | April 7, 2008 2:50 PM

@9. cyclists don't want to be treated as a motorist. and quite frankly, motorists probably don't want to have to treat them that way either.

cyclists want to be treated like cyclists. we have plenty of laws already. but for many, they are not good enough. for some reason, many people who ride cars don't think a cyclists should have the option of riding on the sidewalk -- because they should act like a car, and cars don't go on the sidewalks. i find this reasoning very strange.

Posted by infrequent | April 7, 2008 4:23 PM

Because bikes are vehicles, and riding one on the sidewalk is dangerous. Bikes should ride in the street with other vehicles, and be subject to all the same laws as them.

Posted by Fnarf | April 7, 2008 5:12 PM

You have sidewalks, @15?

Are you sure you live in Seattle?

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 7, 2008 6:05 PM

Bikes can't keep up with cars and slow the system down, so they shouldn't ride in the street. Bikes can harm pedestrians when they ride in the sidewalk.


Dedicated bike lanes.

We need them everywhere we can get them.

Posted by Cale | April 7, 2008 6:57 PM

while dedicated bike lanes would be great, until we have them, we are stuck with the current road/sidewalk conditions, and the current set of laws. there are many streets where it is safer to ride on the sidewalk. uphill and few peds make it the preferable method for cars and cyclists alike.

and subject to all the same laws? i'm not sure that's even possible. the fact that we even have bike lanes is proof of this.

Posted by infrequent | April 7, 2008 7:51 PM


Isn't it washington state law that bikes ride on the road? If you are on the road, then follow the rules of the road.

If you are slowing vehicles, just like a large truck, pull off to the side, let people pass and then get back into the lane.

If you want to be on the sidewalk, then fine, but that means you have to be like a pedestrian. Pick one or the other. Bike lanes are the best, but until then, for your safety...follow the rules of the road.

Posted by Original Monique | April 7, 2008 9:04 PM

WSDOT State Bicycling Law:

"Riding on the Road - When riding on a roadway, a cyclist has all the rights and RESPONSIBILITIES of a vehicle driver (RCW 46.61.755). Cyclists who violate traffic laws may be ticketed (RCW 46.61.750)."

Posted by vivalaviaduct | April 7, 2008 9:28 PM

There is no obligation for cyclists (or trucks for that matter) to pull over on city streets and let cars past just because they're faster. Bicycles HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY if they want and need it, just like cars do. It's a courtesy, sure, but only when it's safe and doesn't require special maneuvers.

If you're stuck behind a bike, deal with it; you may not squeeze them or try to sneak past them unsafely. Three feet of clearance is considered a normal minimum.

Traffic laws are for everybody.

Posted by Fnarf | April 8, 2008 2:55 AM

@21: BUT, any vehicle holding up five or more behind must pull over and let them pass. This includes bikes, as described in #20.

Posted by Greg | April 8, 2008 7:26 AM

original monique,

no, in washington you can legally ride a bicycle on the sidewalk. some people find this surprising.(RCW 46.61.755) when people complain about bicyclists who only slow at stop signs, and then also complain about bicycles riding on sidewalks, it seems the complaints are motivated by concerns other than, "it's a vehicle, you have to follow the laws of vehicles."

@20. the law can say they have all the rights and responsibilities, but there are, in fact, some separate rules for bicyclists. and you don't have all the rights. from the same webpage: Some designated sections of the state's limited access highway system may be closed to bicycles for safety reasons...In addition, local governments may adopt ordinances banning cycling on specific roads or on sidewalks within business districts.

you highlight the word "responsibilities" like car drivers are doing some civil service that bicyclists aren't. i am 100% certain laws are bent by car drivers constantly. if nothing else, consider speeding, or parallel parking, or other things i listed here.

fnarf and greg makes some good points about some seeming contradictions bicyclists face. you are pretty much always slowing vehicles when you ride a bicycle. cars face similar quandaries when passing cyclists -- or pulling up next to one at an intersection.

we adapt to the rules in a way that makes sense, and create new rules when appropriate.

the final few comments here talk about what good cyclists do. i still wonder why people get so upset about cyclists. what harm is it if they bend a few rules? i think there is some strange jealousy going on.

Posted by infrequent | April 8, 2008 10:54 AM

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