Decisions about the future of Lake Washington Boulevard between Mount Baker Beach and Seward Park are being made which may result in major changes to its usability by drivers. Thousands of drivers depend on this route and for many seniors and those with disabilities, the drive along this road is their only way to enjoy this beautiful park and lakeshore experience.
The community outreach effort being relied upon to inform these decisions continues to be flawed and inadequate. It has not reached all those impacted, once again leaving too many people in the South End out of the conversation.
We are concerned that the planning process for LWB is not giving enough weight to the vast majority of users of the boulevard and will not be in the best interests of the greater community or reflect what the majority of residents want.
WHERE THINGS CURRENTLY STAND
From the current Lake Washington Boulevard Renovations project website:
“The Seattle Department of Transportation, in partnership with Seattle Parks & Recreation and the community, are co-creating design concepts that promote pedestrian and bicycle uses and increase safety for everyone that travels along Lake Washington Boulevard."
"....the Lake Washington Boulevard Renovations Project aims to improve sidewalks and pedestrian paths to be ADA-compliant and increase safety by adding stop signs, speed humps, raised crosswalks, or other traffic calming infrastructure."
The project may possibly be expanded beyond the original scope of improvements outlined above. Seattle Parks & Recreation hopes to introduce their design concepts to the public this spring.
Coexist Lake Washington supports safety improvements for cyclists, pedestrians and rollers on LWB but we favor options that can provide this without adversely affecting people who drive.
We are concerned that the decision-making process for LWB is biased—that the agenda from the beginning was to eliminate driving lanes in one or both directions, and drastically reduce its drivability. We do not believe the majority of people living in or traveling through the South End want this, or that it would be in their best interests.
Traditionally, Lake Washington Boulevard has always been open to everyone except on “Bicycle Sundays” when the 3-mile stretch from Mount Baker Beach to Seward Park was closed to drivers on select Sundays between May and September. For over 50 years, “Bicycle Sundays” were held on approximately 12 days per year ONLY and ran from 10am-6pm.
In 2020, with the City shut down for COVID, traffic across Seattle dropped by more than half. All indoor and many outdoor recreational venues were shuttered, and with so few cars on the road, LWB was temporarily closed to through traffic in order to provide more space for socially-distanced recreation. It was the longest stretch of road that the city completely closed off to drivers during COVID.
LWB was reopened to drivers in the fall of 2020 but now there were new closures on holiday weekends and during school breaks, continuing through 2021. Bicycle Sundays had also morphed into Bicycle Weekends that ran from Friday to Monday, and this continued in 2022.
The City maintained that the decision to add these new closures and expand Bicycle Weekends was based on wide community input. However, many local residents felt they were either left out of the process completely, or that the poll was worded in a way that gave them no option to disagree with extended closures. The poll (which elicited a total of 6,701 responses) was not restricted to residents of the neighborhoods most impacted by closures. It was open to anyone, including cycling clubs and Greenways supporters throughout the city. Only 2,244 who took the poll were from 98118, which has almost 50,000 residents (and, according to latest census data, only 2% of these residents walk or bike to work while 65% drive or carpool).
The poll was used as justification by the cycling clubs and Greenways to pressure the city for permanent closure of the boulevard to drivers and this has led to where we are today.
"I love biking and walking along LWB, but I also like driving along it sometimes with 90-year-old father, and sometimes with my daughter in the vintage car we restored. With few exceptions I have found that drivers are very considerate of bikers and rollers. There is absolutely no need to close LWB beyond the summer weekends as they do now." – Craig Shrontz