The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) pushed ahead with the much debated Nickerson Street road diet back in August, decreasing the thoroughfare from four lanes to one in each direction, a center turn lane, with bike lanes on either side.
Despite support from a USDOT’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) study that found that rechannelizations in California, Washington and Iowa have not adversely affected roadway capacity, and data that indicates that the controversial Stone Way road diet improved safety and traffic, the decision to revamp Nickerson was met with split support and opposition. A survey we took back in June indicated that, of the 711 who participated, 48.4 percent were in support of the road diet, while 51.6 percent were against the plan.
Some of the major concerns opponents of the road diet argued is that, being one of only two east-west streets directly feeding Ballard industries, decreased lanes on Nickerson would be met with increased congestion and an inability to meet capacity demands. However preliminary data from the city indicates that the road diet is working as planned, according to a report from Publicola published Wednesday.
The city says that data collected three months after the implementation of the Nickerson rechannelization shows that the same number of cars have been able to use the street, and that speeds along the street have slowed somewhat since the restriping. From Publicola:
SDOT traffic manager Eric Widstrand says the data are still preliminary; the city will continue to do traffic counts through the rest of 2011 and release a full report after the end of the year. However, so far, the study shows that car and freight traffic haven’t been harmed by the lane reduction, and that traffic has slowed to be somewhat closer to the 30-mph speed limit on the road.
“Capacity has not decreased,” Widstrand says. “We’re still able to accommodate” between 15,000 and 18,000 vehicles a day.
Proponents of the project note that decreased speeding along Nickerson as a result of the rechannelization is a good thing. Since the road diet, the average speed along Nickerson has gone down from 40 to 44 miles per hour, to between 34 and 37 mph, according to Publicola. From the report:
“We aren’t slowing anyone down excessively,” Widstrand says. The new speeds remain higher than the 30 mph speed limit, but are still safer for cyclists and pedestrians. A pedestrian hit at 40 mph is about 85 percent likely to die; a pedestrian hit at 30 mph is about 40 percent likely to be killed.
Cascade Bicycle Club representative David Hiller says that neither the group nor the city has yet studied whether the number of cyclists using Nickerson has increased since the rechannelization (which was the case after the Stone Way road diet).