Monthly Archive for May, 2010

Perspective on fixing the Mercer Mess

The project to fix the “Mercer Mess” has been somewhat controversial, as some drivers have complained about inadequate improvement to travel times.

However, this resident’s perspective highlights the benefits to pedestrians of this project:

I look forward to the day that I won’t have to take my life in my hands when walking along or crossing Valley. While the new sidewalks are a beautiful improvement, just as soon as they went in they became the preferred route for bicycle commuters, who tend to zoom up behind my preschooler and shout, ON YOUR LEFT. Of course, given the current state of Valley, the bikers don’t have much of a choice. I certainly wouldn’t feel safe pedaling into the sea of spaced-out drivers exiting the freeway, not to mention the dangers of old train tracks and the streetcar. Most drivers coming off of I-5 onto Valley don’t seem to realize that they are no longer on the freeway. Their goal is to get through the next light at any cost and they don’t register the possibility of bikers or pedestrians.


Opposition to Nickerson “road diet”

UPDATE: Orphan Road has word of a Google Group set up in support of the “road diet”

The mayor’s proposal to put Nickerson St on a road diet is facing some opposition

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn’s “road diet” for West Nickerson Street is drawing opposition from Councilman Tom Rasmussen, who says the project should probably be delayed until 2016 — when other corridors including two-way Mercer Street and the Alaskan Way Tunnel are completed, and their traffic detours let up.

Rasmussen wants to scrutinize the plan June 8 in the council’s transportation committee, which he chairs.

In a typical “road diet,” a four-lane arterial is restriped so there are two traffic lanes and a center left-turn lane — and often bike lanes, plus some raised medians to help pedestrians. There have been 24 such lane reductions in the city since 1972.

The mayor, a longtime environmental activist, announced the Nickerson road diet May 11, as part of a re-emphasis on walking, biking and transit projects. One goal is for lower car speeds to improve pedestrian safety; the street passes through Seattle Pacific University.

Several local streets including Stone Way and Fauntleroy Way SW have recently been put on road diets with success in reducing accidents and improving the environment for bicyclists and pedestrians.


Bicyclists must yield to pedestrians on sidewalks

Sometimes pedestrians share the sidewalk with bicycles. When that happens, bicyclists are required to yield to pedestrians. From the PI’s Seattle 911 blog:

Every person riding a bike on a sidewalk or public path shall yield the right of way to a pedestrian and must give an audible signal before overtaking and passing any pedestrian, Seattle police spokesman Jeff Kappel said.


Walking Volunteer Park

Volunteer Park is a diversely landscaped park with open green space and several landmarks including a water tower, conservatory, and Seattle Asian Art Museum.

View Walking Volunteer Park in a larger map

Volunteer Park was purchased in 1876 and was designated as a cemetery, before becoming a park, and eventually named after volunteers who served in the Spanish-American war.

There is some parking available inside the park, and the 10 bus goes straight to the park.

Start in front of the Seattle Asian Art Museum. This Art Moderne building was constructed in 1933 as the Seattle Art Museum and offers free admission the first Thursday and Saturday of every month.

In front of the museum is a sculpture called “Black Hole” through which people often enjoy taking photos of the Space Needle and Puget Sound. The reservoir behind the fence supplies some of Seattle’s drinking water.

Head north along the main road towards the Conservatory. You’ll pass a large lawn to the left where on a given day you could see hipsters reading in the sun, medieval role playing, and young people throwing frisbees.

In front of the conservatory is a statue of former US Secretary of State William H. Seward, who is perhaps best known for his role in purchasing Alaska from Russia.

The Conservatory is made of 3,426 glass panes and has five display houses with thousands of plants available to look at.

Turn right before crossing the road separating you from the conservatory and head downhill. In case you need it, there is a public restroom on your left. Behind the fence is Lake View Cemetery, burial place of many of the city’s pioneers. Also on your left is a children’s play area.

Continue along the sidewalk and veer right on the gravel trail. Depending on the time of year, there may be many colorful flowers to your right.

As you continue through this large lawn area, you’ll pass by a very large tree to your right. This area is a fine place for a picnic or to lie down in the sun.

The path will veer back around towards the main road into the park and the Volunteer Park Water Tower. The reservoir was built in 1901. The 106 steps to the top of the tank are available to the public and offer great views in all directions. There is also an exhibit about Seattle’s Olmsted-Brothers-designed park system.

Turn north along the road towards the Asian Art Museum, staying on the left side of the road. Feel free to veer off towards the small pond on the left and enjoy. There is a similar pond on the opposite side of the Black Hole sculpture.

Our walk ends back where it started but feel free to stay and enjoy the museum or more of the park.

Highlights: Beautifully landscaped, views from water tower and in front of the museum, ample lawn space, plants in conservatory, flowering plants

Lowlights: Rumors of illicit activities after dark, would be nice if it were a larger park


SDOT installing more curb ramps

The SDOT blog mentions that more curb ramps (inclined planes) will be installed this summer:

As previously reported here, SDOT is busy installing inclined planes, which we call curb ramps, throughout the city. As a result, we are creating a barrier-free environment for all and improving our pedestrian system in the process.

SDOT crews will focus much of their efforts on Aurora Avenue North this summer. More than 30 new ramps will be installed to ease access to transit and local businesses. These new ramps will be constructed between N 85th St and N 100th St.

But Aurora isn’t the only place where you’ll see new inclined planes popping up. Our crews will be installing these ramps from 14th Ave S to 20th Ave E to 33rd Ave W this year. So whether you’re travelling via wheelchair, pushing a stroller, or carting groceries back home, be thankful for the inclined plane.


Walking Schmitz Preserve Park

Schmitz Preserve Park is the only Seattle park with old-growth forest and is a beautifully forested area that makes you feel like you’re in the foothills of the Cascades rather than in West Seattle.

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Schmitz Preserve Park walking route

Schmitz Preserve Park walking route in green

Start at SW Admiral Way and SW Stevens St, which you can get to by the 56 bus. By car, the directions would have you take the West Seattle bridge to the Admiral Way exit and take Admiral Way across West Seattle and turn left on SW Stevens St, where you can often find street parking near the park entrance.

Enter the park entrance near the SW Admiral Way and SW Stevens St intersection. The road into the park used to be open to vehicle traffic until a landslide in 2002. Though this is a fairly small park, there are several different unsigned trails. If you take a wrong turn, it won’t be too difficult to find your way back. The trail can be somewhat uneven and muddy, but is not too difficult overall.

Walk along the main park road and, at the fork in the trail, veer right downhill. At the next fork, take a left before crossing the creek.

Continue walking and you’ll cross over the stream a couple times. Keep right at the next intersection (turning left will take you back to the entrance) and continue deeper into the park. There are some sections of the park soil that remain damp, though fortunately there are a few boardwalks that keep your feet dry over the worst parts.

You’ll approach an intersection of several different trails. The left-most path will take you into the surrounding neighborhood. Take the trail second from left even farther into the park. The other trails on the right will take you back along the other side of the creek.

This path continues along the stream. Turn right at the next fork to loop back, otherwise you will enter the surrounding neighborhood.

This section of the trail is fairly straight and a little elevated from the creek. Stay straight along this main trail and after passing a side trail to the left, you’ll reach another intersection. Turn right here to cross the creek and the next intersection may seem familiar. Turn left and then left again to return to the main entrance.

Highlights: old growth forest, quiet, not very busy, multiple trails, cool and damp, stream

Lowlights: can be muddy, unsigned trails


Walking through Eastlake

Eastlake is a relatively quiet and historic neighborhood on the east side of Lake Union that is nice to stroll through.

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Start at the south end of the University Street bridge. You can find street parking nearby, or arrive here by the 70, 66, 71 (local), 72 (local), or 73 (local) bus.

At the east corner of Eastlake Ave E and Fuhrman Ave E is the location of the original Red Robin restaurant (now closed). At the south corner is the Martello, Eastlake’s most architecturally significant building in Norman French style. It was was built in 1916 as a private residence and converted to a furniture store in 1920. It currently houses Romio’s Pizza and Pasta as well as condominiums.

Head south along Eastlake Ave E on the west side of the street toward the I-5 bridge. Several condominiums have been built along Eastlake Ave on the north and south ends of Eastlake.

Harvard Ave splits off from Eastlake Ave to the left and heads toward Capitol Hill. Keep walking and you’ll pass Lake Union Cafe and a Psychic Palmist.

After crossing E Allison St and passing the Eastlake Bar and Grill, you’ll approach a wooded area on the right. This is the upper part of Fairview Park. Feel free to take a seat at one of the benches, though the trees obscure the view somewhat.

Head down the stairs toward the lake. If you desire an easier walk, feel free to continue along Eastlake. Once you’ve reached the bottom of the stairs, turn left to take the sidewalk along Fairview Ave. You’ll pass by the Eastlake P-Patch and then the sidewalk will end. Cross Fairview Ave where the sidewalk continues along the water.

At E Hamlin St, turn left up the hill back to E Eastlake Ave. Turn right at E Eastlake Ave and continue toward the heart of Eastlake. At E Roanoke St, you’ll see Rogers Playground, which was named after a former governor in time for the 1909 Alaska-Yukon Pacific Exhibition. You’ll soon pass a few restaurants and other local establishments.

You can turn around wherever you wish, but our route will end at Garfield St where you can cross and walk back along the other side of Eastlake Ave.

highlights: street-level retail, lake view, historic architecture, quiet, few traffic signals to wait for

lowlights: steep hill to the lake shore, not as many places to eat or things to do as other neighborhoods