May 4, 2021 at 12:18 am #1005138
I moved into my house in West Seattle 30 years ago, and have been a weekly runner on Alki, and now both bike and run there almost every day. I am asking for support in approaching city government to relabel and “repurpose” the Alki Trail—-the part that is designated for bikes only! I’ll indicate what I’m asking for, give some background information and data, and then state the rationale.
I am asking that the Trail, which is currently labeled with the same icon used in roadways for bikes only, 1. be labeled in words “For Runners and Wheels Only,” and, 2. for that part of the trail to have a dashed yellow line down the middle to indicate passable lanes.
In these last 30 years using the trail almost every single week, I have noticed who uses it, and have actually spent a few separate hours recording its use. To be brief, depending on the season, day, and time of day—-apart from any marathons being run-—in aggregate the trail is used only slightly more by people on wheels than runners. In other words, it’s not just used by bicyclists. It’s used by a wide variety of wheels, but also by many runners.
My own reason for running on the Trail itself and not the sidewalk for pedestrians is that the wider avenue allows for more unobstructed running, where I’m not dodging pedestrians on the narrow sidewalk and risking injury to my fragile knees and back. Also, I like to run in a meditative state without dodging pedestrians or running onto the grass. Obviously, people on skates, scooters, and 1-4-person quadacycles consider it their trail, as well.
However, I have increasingly seen that part of the trail used by pedestrians standing and congregating around the trail, walking casually along it two to five people wide, or erratically crossing it, sometimes even sitting in lawn chairs camping from their cars on the trail. They essentially either block the trail or make it very difficult to navigate for those wanting to enjoy move along it unobstructed. It makes the experience of riding or running along the trail frustrating and dangerous, for the pedestrians and for people on wheels and running trying to dodge them.
And I have seen some spectacular accidents over the years. This has to do with the misuse of the trial by pedestrians as well as by people on wheels. One of the worst was a 4-person quadracycle riding along towards the left side of the trail (which they do often or they weave along it) who suddenly made a sharp right u-turn, so that a bicycle coming from behind rammed right into it. That person was put in an ambulance. I’ve seen someone open a car door onto the trail while a runner was running on the narrow outside ledge who hit their door. There’ve been several others. I doubt these are being reported.
I’ve also seen dozens and dozens of near misses!!! Bicyclists swerving to avoid pedestrians, bicycles swerving to avoid quadracycles and scooters, everyone trying to avoid people walking erratically or walking dogs on long leashes who are unpredictable or taking up much of the trail, children running into the trail causing scooters and bicyclists to swerve, quadricycles riding erratically and weaving along the road causing other wheels and runners to swerve to avoid them. This use of the trail by all involved (pedestrians, people on wheels and runners) again renders it frustrating and dangerous. Especially with West Seattle and Alki become more dense.
Summary of the issues:
1. The trail appears to be marked with the icon for bicycles only. It is essentially illegal for runners to use the trail. Yet, they do and have. There is no better alternative for them.
2. Bicycles, for which the trail appears to be dedicated, already have an alternative in the labeled access to the roadway.
3. Pedestrians also have dedicated places to walk and congregate: the sidewalk, the beach, and the grassy areas.
4. People on wheels are using the trail in erratic and dangerous ways with no cognizance at all of the frustration and risk to others.
5. With Alki getting increasingly crowded, accidents are happening and more will happen due to disregard for safety and the reality of it being a thoroughfare for wheels and runners.
The rationale for my solution:
1. Label the road in words so use is understood (as opposed to an icon image)
2. Label it “For Wheels and Runners Only” so that:
a. It finally includes runners who have been using it (with guilt in my case) for decades, allowing them to have a safe and enjoyable place to run;
b. It is clear that it is open to other wheels,
c. It is clear that it is not a pedestrian walkway or place to congregate, sit, camp, meander, or allow dogs to run on leash.
3. Paint a dashed yellow line on the current bike-only part of the trail (similar to the line around Greenlake, only dashed) to reflect the reality that passing into the opposite lane is acceptable (and inevitable), so that:
a. It controls traffic better and prevents accidents
b. Discourages people on wheels from using the thoroughfare erratically, putting others at risk.
c. Discourages and warns pedestrians all along the path who may park along the length or access the trail at any point to cross it expeditiously and look both ways before doing so.
In summary, this is an improvement in safety and enjoyment of the trail for the many varieties of wheels and runners who already use it. I’m not sure about next steps, or who in city government are the decision-makers for this project. If you agree with this plan, please help me make it a reality.
JeffMay 4, 2021 at 10:24 pm #1005161
I’ve lived at Alki Beach for 20 years and have seen the same issues. No one pays attention to what lane they are in. I think most people have no idea that there ARE separate lanes for wheels and pedestrians. There used to be painted words and “sharrows” on the paths, but most of those were worn away long ago, and never maintained or improved.
People ignored them anyway and lollygagged in the bike lane. To get around that, the cyclists started using the street, which is not safe for them. I’ve also seen more runners using the street, and that’s not safe, either.
In other parts of the city, green paint is used to designated bicycle lanes. It seems to work well. The green has become immediately recognizable as indicating a bike lane. That might be a start. I like the yellow dashed line idea, too. I wonder how other beach parks handle their traffic and if someone has created a good plan that we could adapt to our situation. I don’t think people associate running with bike lanes, so it would take some education to get people to understand that. But separating runners from pedestrians out for a stroll is a good idea.
Thanks for bringing this up, Jeff. It is way past time for the city to address this. Many people come to Alki for recreation and exercise. That’s a good thing. But with the crowds there comes a high degree of disorder. Good space planning and graphic design could go a long way toward making this area safer and more user friendly.
I don’t know if this is an issue for Parks or SDOT or ?? But I hope that someone who reads these posts will point us in the right direction.May 7, 2021 at 10:23 pm #1005429
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