State lawmakers raise concerns over Nickerson Street road diet

Posted on June 8th, 2010 by Sara Willy


There’s a new twist today in the controversial plan to put Nickerson Street on a road diet. This morning, three state lawmakers from the 36th District (representing Magnolia, Queen Anne, Fremont and Ballard) went before the Seattle City Council’s Transportation Committee to voice their concerns. Representative Mary Lou Dickerson, Representative Reuven Carlyle, and Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles stopped short of calling for the project to be killed. But they urged the Council to wait on a WSDOT traffic analysis due out in early September before moving forward. However, Seattle DOT officials say they already have the information contained in that upcoming report and have used it in their own analysis.

The proposed rechannelization of Nickerson would eliminate a car lane in each direction of Nickerson Street while adding a bike lane and bike sharrow. The three state lawmakers want the Council to look at a more integrated and comprehensive approach to traffic in Northwest Seattle instead of taking on one road at a time. They worry about the impact not only to car traffic, but also freight traffic coming from Ballard and Interbay.

“We’re in real danger of losing a lot of our industry in the city and we can’t let that happen,” said Sen. Kohl-Welles. “It’s very difficult for industry to transport their goods to their port on a bicycle.”

One resident who lives on Nickerson said he sympathizes with cyclists, but believes the road is already pushed to its limits.

“In reality, that street is already at capacity with automobiles. You can’t reduce it more than that. During rush hour when the Fremont Bridge goes up, you have traffic going all the way back to SPU just sitting there.”

Cyclists and other supporters of the road diet also showed up at today’s hearing. They urged the committee to put safety first.

“We find it unconscionable that people would support configuration of a roadway that puts themselves and their neighbors at risk for any longer than possible,” said David Hiller of Cascade Bicycle Club.

Karlen Bere, who lives on north Queen Anne near Seattle Pacific University, shared a horror story with the committee. She says her roommate was hit by a dump truck on Nickerson Street while riding her bike.

“She was stuck in between parked cars on her right and the dump truck on her left,” said Bere. “The restriping of Nickerson is a faster and more efficient solution to our problem than the reworking of the Ship Canal trail which is deeply needed but would take more time, resources and many more meetings.”

The Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board, which advises the Council on bicycle safety issues, also supports the road diet and is asking for monitoring prior to the project and after it is completed. Although supporters of the rechannelization say it will make Nickerson a “complete street” for all modes of transportation, those who oppose the plan say the diet will make things even worse when Nickerson becomes an alternative to access the new waterfront tunnel. The 36th District lawmakers also pointed to a letter from former mayor Greg Nickels who assured them that the city would provide all reasonable access for residents in North Seattle to the new tunnel.

A recent poll on the Nickerson issue conducted on Magnolia Voice, Queen Anne View, and MyBallard showed the community is almost evenly divided. The Magnolia Community Club and the Queen Anne Community Council oppose the plan. A newly formed group called Support the Nickerson Street Road Diet is now on Facebook and Google.

The Transportation Committee did not take any action today, but Councilman Mike O’Brien said he’s ready to move the project forward while keeping a close eye on it.


  • Michael Snyder

    I’m surprised you didn’t quote Representative Dickerson saying that she looked at the Nickerson crash data and only saw a few pedestrian injuries in the last few years, which didn’t seem like a problem to her.

  • Michael Snyder

    I’m surprised you didn’t quote Representative Dickerson saying that she looked at the Nickerson crash data and only saw a few pedestrian injuries in the last few years, which didn’t seem like a problem to her.

  • vanderleun

    Not surprising. QAV’s got the “ride your bike” virus.

  • vanderleun

    Not surprising. QAV’s got the “ride your bike” virus.

  • Brent

    The legislators created the much-feared traffic problem by inflicting us with a $4 billion tunnel that doesn’t go to Interbay. Now, we’ll have to spend lots of money turning five neighborhood arterials into freight channels.

    And if the tunnel really is about moving freight, then give freight its own lane in the tunnel.

    Better yet, make the lower deck freight and the upper deck West Link or high-speed rail.

    But move the tunnel back toward Interbay, or scrap it.

  • Brent

    The legislators created the much-feared traffic problem by inflicting us with a $4 billion tunnel that doesn’t go to Interbay. Now, we’ll have to spend lots of money turning five neighborhood arterials into freight channels.

    And if the tunnel really is about moving freight, then give freight its own lane in the tunnel.

    Better yet, make the lower deck freight and the upper deck West Link or high-speed rail.

    But move the tunnel back toward Interbay, or scrap it.

  • Matt the Engineer

    “In reality, that street is already at capacity with automobiles. You can’t reduce it more than that. During rush hour when the Fremont Bridge goes up, you have traffic going all the way back to SPU just sitting there.”
    (falls out of chair)
    1. One lane or 40 lanes won’t get you across the Fremont Bridge any faster or slower when it’s up.
    2. The road diet starts at SPU and goes west.
    3. The street is nowhere near capacity. We have about the same traffic volume as 45th, with its crosswalks everywhere, crossing traffic every block, pedestrians all over the place, people pulling in and out of parking spots… We don’t need four traffic lanes.

  • Matt the Engineer

    “In reality, that street is already at capacity with automobiles. You can’t reduce it more than that. During rush hour when the Fremont Bridge goes up, you have traffic going all the way back to SPU just sitting there.”
    (falls out of chair)
    1. One lane or 40 lanes won’t get you across the Fremont Bridge any faster or slower when it’s up.
    2. The road diet starts at SPU and goes west.
    3. The street is nowhere near capacity. We have about the same traffic volume as 45th, with its crosswalks everywhere, crossing traffic every block, pedestrians all over the place, people pulling in and out of parking spots… We don’t need four traffic lanes.

  • emma

    We keep hearing that small business will be the engine that gets us out of this economic downturn. If you look on the city website and search for BINMIC (sorry I don’t make the acronyms–but it covers Ballard and Interbay and it’s a manufacturing and industrial zone), you will find the following:

    From the BINMIC Neighborhood Plan dtd 2004–

    Page 9-10, Item 2, BINMIC Economic Development Policies

    Infrastructure in tbe BINMIC shall be sufficient to ensure the efficient operation and smooth flow of goods to, throu and from the BINMlC.
    Infrastructure includes publicly built and maintained roads, arterials, utilities, moorage facilities and other capital investments by the City, Port, County, State and Federal agencies.

    Note that on the south (Queen Anne side of the canal) this neighborhood starts at 3rd Ave W and continues west past the Ballard Bridge.

    The city has spent ‘Bridging the Gap’ dollars to upgrade the Ship Canal Trail which (again on the seattle.gov website) extends from the Fremont Bridge to 11th Ave W (to Fisherman’s Terminal next year, it says)) should provide good access for bikers.

    Why won’t that work for them? If we become a city of bikers, who will deliver the goods we want?

  • emma

    We keep hearing that small business will be the engine that gets us out of this economic downturn. If you look on the city website and search for BINMIC (sorry I don’t make the acronyms–but it covers Ballard and Interbay and it’s a manufacturing and industrial zone), you will find the following:

    From the BINMIC Neighborhood Plan dtd 2004–

    Page 9-10, Item 2, BINMIC Economic Development Policies

    Infrastructure in tbe BINMIC shall be sufficient to ensure the efficient operation and smooth flow of goods to, throu and from the BINMlC.
    Infrastructure includes publicly built and maintained roads, arterials, utilities, moorage facilities and other capital investments by the City, Port, County, State and Federal agencies.

    Note that on the south (Queen Anne side of the canal) this neighborhood starts at 3rd Ave W and continues west past the Ballard Bridge.

    The city has spent ‘Bridging the Gap’ dollars to upgrade the Ship Canal Trail which (again on the seattle.gov website) extends from the Fremont Bridge to 11th Ave W (to Fisherman’s Terminal next year, it says)) should provide good access for bikers.

    Why won’t that work for them? If we become a city of bikers, who will deliver the goods we want?

  • Sandy

    I drive on Nickerson all the time (I live off of Westlake); I wouldn’t say it’s at capacity. When the Fremont bridge is up, it does back up traffic onto Nickerson, which can be frustrating because even if you aren’t trying to get into the lanes that take you over the bridge, you’re often still stuck.

    I think that bicyclists need to understand that not EVERY road in the city is going to be tailor-made for them. I have always been a cyclist, but frankly I think that the cyclist “lobby” groups are getting a wee bit out of hand with all their demands. It’s YOUR choice to ride, nobody’s putting a gun to your head.

  • Sandy

    I drive on Nickerson all the time (I live off of Westlake); I wouldn’t say it’s at capacity. When the Fremont bridge is up, it does back up traffic onto Nickerson, which can be frustrating because even if you aren’t trying to get into the lanes that take you over the bridge, you’re often still stuck.

    I think that bicyclists need to understand that not EVERY road in the city is going to be tailor-made for them. I have always been a cyclist, but frankly I think that the cyclist “lobby” groups are getting a wee bit out of hand with all their demands. It’s YOUR choice to ride, nobody’s putting a gun to your head.

  • Matt the Engineer

    I know it’s easy to focus on bikes, but let’s look at the pedestrians as well. Nickerson goes right through a college, yet there are hardly any pedestrians that use it. Why? Try it out – it’s intimidating to walk there and there are no crosswalks (SDOT removed them because they were too dangerous).

    [emma] The thing is that road diets don’t reduce vehicle capacity – it just slows them down to safe speeds. Trucks will still have very good access, and I’d argue better manouverability, since they won’t have to stop in a lane to turn, and they’ll only have to cross one lane of traffic.

  • Matt the Engineer

    I know it’s easy to focus on bikes, but let’s look at the pedestrians as well. Nickerson goes right through a college, yet there are hardly any pedestrians that use it. Why? Try it out – it’s intimidating to walk there and there are no crosswalks (SDOT removed them because they were too dangerous).

    [emma] The thing is that road diets don’t reduce vehicle capacity – it just slows them down to safe speeds. Trucks will still have very good access, and I’d argue better manouverability, since they won’t have to stop in a lane to turn, and they’ll only have to cross one lane of traffic.

  • I think that to receive the business loans from banks you must have a great reason. However, once I’ve received a college loan, because I wanted to buy a bike.

  • I think that to receive the business loans from banks you must have a great reason. However, once I’ve received a college loan, because I wanted to buy a bike.

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