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Planning for Westlake Avenue North

A lone bike commuter rides down Seattle's Westlake Ave. N
Millie Magner

Planning for Westlake Avenue N moves forward. Monday the Westlake Design Advisory Committee (DAC) met to discuss plans and concerns for Westlake Avenue N. This committee of 13 includes individuals representing city agencies, businesses & residents along Westlake, Museum of History and Industry, SDOT, PATH and Cascade Bicycle Club. Not a decision-making body, the purpose of the DAC is to air concerns and give input for the design of the proposed separated bike lane on Westlake. in May, SDOT will present two new alternative designs for public discussion.

A traffic plan for Westlake Avenue N is of interest to many; actually to all users who traverse this busy arterial. Questions are plentiful. What is the plan? Who decides? What’s the role of the DAC? First, to alleviate some concerns and confusion. As stated above, based on other committees of this sort in Seattle, the DAC is giving “advisory” input. Therefore, it is composed of individuals representing various concerns and ideas for the thoroughfare. The decision for Westlake will not be made until at least, after another public open house to be held in May. However, based on input, state and federal guidelines, SDOT will design two new alternative plans to present at that time.

Proponents of a protected lane acknowledge the risk felt by businesses, however, at the same time, bicyclists say they risk their lives daily. Bicyclists who use Westlake are also varied in their backgrounds, how they use Westlake, and their ideas for the street design. Though Dexter was re-designed with improved bike lanes and islands and is heavily used by bicyclists, cyclists not using the street, comment that the challenging hill climb is a major factor. “Westlake is flat,” Bicycle Coordinator Drew Dresman, Seattle Children’s Hospital, stated simply, and explained recently that there is just too many bicyclists for the Dexter Avenue bicycle lane widths for many bicyclists to feel comfortable besides the foreboding hill. One bike commuter, Carl Tully, expressed his hopes that planners use vision to design for the future of Seattle, saying, “We have a responsibility of stewardship, to leave a legacy for the generations beyond us.”

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