Letter to the editor: Instead of bike lanes, how about sharrows?

Editor:

I finished studying the 9th Ave/Walnut St bike lane project options presented by the city. None of them seem to acknowledge the outcry of residents along the proposed route.  Frankly, I have not met anyone who really understands why bike lanes are needed.  Instead, the proposal seems to fit some other agenda. Several neighbors said they left Seattle to escape these very things.  And here we are, Seattlizing our beautiful Edmonds.

I’d prefer that we not spend $1.85M for bike lanes along the residential areas of 9th Ave S and Walnut. Unfortunately, the decision to accept the grant money (taxes you and I paid) has been made. Can it be undone? I don’t know. It would take courage.

Here is a simple solution that should satisfy biking enthusiasts, residents, visitors, businesses, delivery drivers, our mayor, city council and city engineering department:

Simply create “sharrows” in both directions on both streets. A “sharrow” is simply a shared lane for vehicles and bicycles and indicated by a symbol including a bicycle with two chevrons.  The ideal use of a “sharrow” is for residential areas with speed limits less than 35mph. Both Walnut and 9th Ave S fit this use case.

So, you might be asking yourself, what would change if we used the “sharrow” option? Essentially, we would see the symbol (mentioned above) painted on our streets.

By using “sharrows,” we can maintain existing parking and existing traffic flow along both 9th Ave S and Walnut including turn lanes along 9th. Bicyclists also have unfettered access to the road. All other presented designs create tremendous safety issues for residents and bikers alike.

If you support this option, I encourage you to contact the Mayor, the Edmonds City Council members and the City Engineering Department.

Sincerely,

Treg Camper
Edmonds

28 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Instead of bike lanes, how about sharrows?”

  1. Mr. Camper’s recommendation sounds like a compromise that will allow the City, Sound Transit, the bike lobby and the Citizens of Edmonds to all save face. If the real intent of the Edmonds City Wide Bicycle Improvement Project is to provide good safe access for bikes along 9th Avenue South to 100th Avenue West to Firdale Village and from 9th Avenue and Walnut Street up Bowdoin to Five corners, then Mr. Camper’s proposed compromise does that. It is based on a share and share alike approach. However, if the real intent of the project is to reduce automobile parking spaces and force traffic calming (a.k.a traffic choking) to discourage the Citizens of Edmonds from using their automobiles and “Seattlizing” Edmonds then the City Government will not accept Mr. Camper’s well reasoned compromise. We shall soon see what the real agenda is.

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  2. Sharrows should not be used on uphill stretches with only a single traffic lane in a given direction. They block traffic when a cyclist cannot maintain speed. Every summer you can watch bicyclists trying to ride up the ill-conceived sharrow section of southbound 5th Ave S. They slow traffic to 5 mph (I’ve been in the line) and back up multiple cars for 2-3 blocks as they try to get up the hill. This isn’t safe for anyone. It’s also as climate-unfriendly as you can get: cars are least efficient at gas consumption at 0-10 mph. So that one cyclist with 6-10 cars behind it (I’ve counted) is forcing the cars to use 2-3x more gas. Climate Committee, shouldn’t you be objecting to this?
    I’ve never understood why the bike route puts bicyclists on this steep, busy stretch for 3 blocks, only moving them over to 6th Ave at the last chance before they get to Edmonds Way. Why aren’t the sharrows on 6th starting at Pine, or better Walnut?
    Sharrows on 9th would be a nightmare if cyclists actually used the lanes.

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    1. It’s fun and good exercise to ride bikes. And Edmonds is scenic enough for it, be it the sight of the Puget Sound or the quaint or bold homes in the bowl. My children and I ride our bikes on 9th Ave frequently. But when I feel like playing Lance Armstrong for the weekend, I go to the Burke Gilman Trail or the Interurban Trail.

      I live on 9th. I park my vehicle on 9th. All my guests park their vehicles on 9th. Is it worth risking the safety of our residents and their guests (young and senior alike) who would be forced to park on steeply inclined side streets off of 9th Ave, all to accommodate a handful of recreational cyclists?

      Edmonds is not a cycling community. We for sure don’t have bike messengers.

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  3. Consider moving the bike lanes from 9th Ave to 8th Avenue from 15th SW to Walnut. The street is open the whole way now except for one block which the city owns now and has a pedestrian pass through. This block could be opened for bicycles only. Perhaps the next block from Walnut to Main could also be opened for bicycles only.

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    1. This is a great idea as far as using 8th Ave and 15th SW for bike routes. Much, much less traffic for sure. This would be a lot safer for bike riders too.

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  4. I think the reason that Sound Transit is giving money for bike lanes is to increase cycling and decrease the amount of parking needed at light rail sites and probably park and ride lots as well. Sharrows have not been shown to increase cycling. Bike lanes aren’t just used for bikes. When I walk along 8th NW in Shoreline I walk in the bike lane. Much safer than the old street without the bike lane. When Shoreline added these lanes on 8th NW/100th Ave W (I live in the Edmonds section of 8th NW) there was a huge increase in bikers/walkers in front of my house. This is a safe route for bikers to get to the Interurban Trail. I have noticed that the bike lanes are also used as parking lanes for UPS/Amazon and other delivery vehicles… Maybe that isn’t a bad thing. I have not noticed many cars parking on 9th Avenue except near the QFC (probably the employees are asked to park there since that lot is WAY too small). There don’t seem to be many people parking on Bowdoin Way either. Most of the area for the proposed bike lanes already has sidewalks, but the bike lane would be another buffer to protect walkers.

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    1. A street is part of the public space. It is helpful to have parking on a street but you are not entitled to put your PRIVATE vehicle on the street because it is convenient for you. The streets can and should be used for the movement of people, whether in cars or on bikes, not the storage of private vehicles. We can take some of our road capacity and make it safe for all – not only those in cars. I have commuted and done errands year round on my bike for over 25 years. I would love to see more dedicated bike lanes in Edmonds. It is a new era and we can change our streetscape to be safer for families, children and commuters. Edmonds will get more dense and have more people, so we must make it possible to get around without a car. If you have driven in Seattle in the last 5 years you have seen the worst of relying on cars as a transportation system. We need safe alternatives. Use the public streets for public good!

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      1. Guy, if you think even 10% of Edmonds’ 43,000+ residents will be getting around town on a daily basis, year round, you are kidding yourself. Look at the demographics of the city, particularly those who reside in the Edmonds bowl.

        Designated bike lanes are not justified at this time, and probably never will be based on the demand.

        Why not use the money to widen the sidewalks along these routes, and create some designated center turn lanes on 9th and 100th.

        Better yet, use 8th Ave and 15th Ave SW as mentioned by Kenn for the designated bike lanes.

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  5. I like Ken Sandell’s suggestion. Move the bike lanes from 9th Ave to 8th Ave. Much less vehicle traffic. So safer and it does not destroy parking and cause traffic jams. Seems like a good idea.

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  6. Alternative 3 for Walnut St/Bowdoin Way maintains parking on the North side of Walnut and Bowdoin, a bike lane on the South side for mostly uphill riding headed East and sharrows in the Westbound lanes which is mostly downhill riding.

    Alternative 2b for 100th Ave W/9th Ave S has parking on the East side of 9th/100th which is good for the residents living uphill and maintains the Westward view.

    The online Interactive Project map provided is not very intuitive but provides the alternative details better than all I have seen in the past.

    Light rail is coming to Snohomish County. Getting to the light rail stations needs to be optimized. Bike lanes encourage an alternative to driving to the stations in the future. They are safer for general riders including families.

    Bicycle riding reduces climate impact from autos.

    Obviously not everyone appreciates cycling. It is healthy, recreational and beneficial to transportation. I support the bike lanes.

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    1. I had no idea this letter would elicit this many views or this kind of response. It would be interesting to know how much money, in aggregate, has been spent creating and maintaining bike lanes around the city vs actual usage.

      I rarely see bike riders using existing bike lanes. If I drove around the town at this moment, I’d be surprised if I saw one cyclist. That begs the question—why spend more money on something people rarely use? Someone said, give bikes a chance. Haven’t we already done that? Still little usage.

      So why take parking away from residents for an activity few participate in during limited times of the year?

      And what about the safety concerns? Parking stall widths will be reduced by 1.5 feet, driving lanes widths will be reduced by 2 feet in each direction. People will be crossing the street more frequently creating increased risk of pedestrian accidents. People will be forced to park and navigate steep inclined streets.

      I get the passion for cycling. I also get the passion people have for their homes. There is where we need to meet. Sharrows can be a nice middle ground for at least part of this project or leave parts unmarked if safer.

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  7. I don’t know where people get the idea that roads are for moving privately owned vehicles and not the parking of privately owned vehicles. Moving and parking go together. Even a bike has to be parked somewhere. There is not a single city in the world that does not have parking spaces for private vehicles on roadways. What would happen to restaurants, businesses or even government offices in Edmonds if there were no on street parking? We are not talking about entitlement, we are talking about common sense. I’m not opposed to bike lanes but the bike lobby seems have a bigger agenda than just being able to ride their bike. So let’s make a deal: I will support your bike lanes, if you will support adequate parking for me and my family and not choke traffic. There has to be a common solution we can all agree upon. What say you?

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    1. I prefer alternative 3 which keeps parking on one side of the street. I have no problem, nor did I state, taking away parking in business districts – don’t assume more than is stated.

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    2. Andrew, it’s hard to think of anything that’s more clearly an entitlement than free and subsidized storage of private vehicles. And no one is arguing for the elimination of all or most on-street parking.

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  8. I think a lot of people are getting worked up by the ‘idea’ of the project without really looking at the details. All of the proposals except one leave WAY more than enough parking from what is used on all of the streets proposed. I just drove through the route today, and more than 90-95% was empty. Rather than reducing parking, in fact this is a net benefit for parking by allocating completely unused areas, and helping out the most congested parking areas downtown.

    That’s already a win-win, and If you add on the fact that the construction is 100% paid for, than there really is no logical reason why we should not go through with this project.

    Edmonds will have some much more serious issues in the future. With all of the benefits of this project, this will definitely be one of our easiest decisions. Let’s save the ‘mock outrage’ for an issue that is actually worthy of it.

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  9. This isn’t “mock outrage.” This is a legitimate reaction to the fact that City officials assured us in public meetings that all the parking would not be eliminated yet Alternative 1 of the Project does exactly that. This is a legitimate reaction to a major breech of trust and tremendous loss of credibility and confidence. This and other recent debacles is making the Citizens feel that we can’t trust our government. What if one of the Alternatives was “No Sharrows and No Bike Lanes”? How would the biking lobby feel about that? Would you have “mock outrage”? The other issue is that because of the steep slope of cross streets on the west side of 9th Ave S, it really does matter which side of the street the parking is on. The biking lobby wants their bike lanes and doesn’t seem to care about local problems for the residents living on the streets where the lanes are planned to go. As Tip O’Neill famously said, “All politics is local.” Over the next few months we are all going to get a better understanding of what that really means.

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  10. There are sharrows on 84th Ave W. They begin at the roundabout at 5 Corners and go south. I rarely see bikes on that street – it’s a path I take frequently.

    Has the City conducted any surveys on how many bikes used 84th Ave W before the sharrows were installed? Have they assessed the usage after they were installed? Is increasing bike usage the goal or is the lure of “free” money clouding the judgement of our local officials?

    Taking the mentality of “if you build it, they will come” is not always practical. Keeping the status quo as an option must also be carefully considered. And there is no such thing as “free” money.

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  11. Sound Transit is giving away lots of taxpayers’ money, throughout the Puget Sound region, to create bike lanes that are seldom used. Why? Evidently to create worse traffic and eliminate parking. They want to choke the road grid to encourage people to vote more money for Sound Transit. I hope the City of Edmonds isn’t gullible enough to fall for this.

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  12. Mr. Herman is correct about Sound Transit’s motivation for the grant. Unfortunately it is not gullibility that is letting this happen in Edmonds but it the conscious intent of many City Council members and many in City Government and perhaps even the Mayor too who believe in the Sound Transit agenda. This can only be resoled at the ballot box at the next election.

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  13. As a preteen I lived in a Midwest town of about 130,000 people. There were very few greater than two lane roads and sidewalks were pretty hit and miss. We all road our bikes all over town and many of us had paper routes that involved hauling heavy bags of papers thru traffic and at times on icy roads in inclement weather. There were no bike lanes.

    Our bikes were our freedom, our means of making money, and our best means of getting around town and we often road them miles to downtown. There were no bike lanes. Our parents told us the roads were for cars and we were to obey all the rules of the road just like cars and get the hell out of the way of cars every time necessary or we would get hurt or killed. Very few of us got hurt or killed. A broken arm or a knot on the head once in a while, due to some carelessness, but mostly we just listened to the adults in the room and got along great on our “wheels.”

    These bike lanes are just another completely unnecessary waste of public time and resources for a special interest group that also happens to be an “in” thing at the moment. This means our city officials will probably embrace it with open arms, whether it is good for all or not.

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  14. The idea of sharrows is a suggestion to aid in coming up with ideas to preserve parking on 9th Ave S (9th). To those commenters who do not reside on 9th, please pause to consider the concerns of the affected residents if street parking is eliminated.
    With the elimination of parking, we worry about the safety of our guests who would be forced to park on steeply inclined side streets when rain and freeze make the street and sidewalk slippery.
    With the elimination of parking, we and our guests worry about backing our vehicles out of our driveways into speeding traffic. Drivers speed on 9th, which brings me to my next point:
    8th Ave S (8th) is a safer alternative for bike lanes. For those commenters who do not live on 9th and its cross streets, and who enjoy riding your bikes, come take a look for yourselves. The route my children and I take into downtown cuts down to 8th, and we follow 8th through a brief off-road trail to Main Street.
    I enjoy cycling. When I train for triathlons, I ride either the Interurban or the Burke Gilman Trails. As far as cycling through Edmonds on a leisurely ride, a bike lane would be safer, and best on 8th Ave S.
    Our sentiments are not a “mock outrage”. We have had to deal with a City Council and a Mayor who have betrayed our trust and confidence. Please encourage our local government to heed the concerns of the residents of 9th: KEEP PARKING ON 9TH AVE S.

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