Downtown Kirkland. Joe Mabel [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]

The city of Kirkland recently launched a Safe and Active Transportation survey. The survey is the first chance for public engagement as the city works to rewrite its Active Transportation Plan, which lays out Kirkland’s strategy for moving cyclists and pedestrians through the city.

The last time the city updated its Active Transportation Plan (ATP) was in 2009. The 2009 ATP was a big step forward for the time, but best practices for bicycle infrastructure have changed dramatically over the past 10 years and the city’s policies are badly in need of a rewrite. In particular, the 2009 plan focused on the needs of “strong and fearless” cyclists, often missing the perspectives of people who are not comfortable riding in traffic or taking the lane.

Take, for example, this quote from Defining a Network section of the 2009 ATP, which explicitly states that bicycle lanes are only needed on high-traffic streets.

Bicycle lanes are generally suggested when auto volume exceeds 5,000 vehicles per day. Therefore, some segments of the bicycle network do not need bicycle lanes to adequately support bicycle travel.

This might sound about right for the spandex-clad street warrior who can consistently maintain 12-15 mph. But if you are a child trying to get to school or a casual cyclist on a comfort bike, a two-lane street with no shoulder may be an insurmountable barrier, especially if it goes uphill as many of Kirkland’s neighborhood streets do. In 2015, Kirkland recognized the need for traffic calming on even low-traffic streets by funding its first two neighborhood greenways. It’s time for the rest of the city’s bike plan to catch up.

One of the reasons that the 2009 plan failed to be more inclusive was that the outreach for the plan overrepresented recreational cyclists while underrepresenting those who ride for transportation. Out of nearly 700 people who responded, nearly every one indicated that they “never” ride to school, and the most common purpose for bicycle trips was “exercise.”

Frequency of bicycle trip by purpose as reported by survey respondents (image: Kirkland 2009 ATP)

This is an important group, but by no means is it representative of the wider community.

Outreach for the 2009 ATP also underrepresented women, with men comprising roughly ⅔ of the respondents.

Age and gender of survey respondents (image: Kirkland 2009 ATP)

The old report acknowledged this gap, but also accepted it as the status quo.

According to one statistically valid national survey, males make about 68% of all bicycle trips and females make about 32% of all trips. Figure 43 shows a similar difference between male and female respondents to the bicycle survey.

By dismissing this inequity, Kirkland’s 2009 ATP ignored the fact that the way we design our roads drives gender disparities. Since 2009 we’ve learned more about how women are treated differently on the road, and how closing the biking gender gap requires tackling the gender bias in urban planning. Now, in 2019, it’s time for Kirkland to treat the biking gender gap as an opportunity for improvement rather than an inevitability.

Research has shown that most people, about 60%, identify as “interested but concerned” when it comes to getting around without a car. If we want Kirkland to build a bicycle network that addresses the needs of the widest range of people, then we need to make sure the city listens to the widest range of voices. Kirkland needs to hear from people who are not comfortable biking under its current conditions.

Take a moment and think about the people you know who live in, work in, or visit Kirkland, particularly those who don’t fit the street cyclist mold. Sharing this survey with them is a small action you can take to make a difference.

Brad Haverstein is a volunteer for Kirkland Greenways and regularly tweets about local transportation, especially on the Eastside.

17 Replies to “Kirkland needs to hear from you about its Active Transportation Plan”

  1. I live near downtown Kirkland and, in addition to buses, use an electric bike to get around the city, including to/from Seattle. During rush hour, the electric bike takes about the same amount of time between Kirkland Transit Center and UW as the #540 bus.

    The bike network is decent, with bike lanes on most of the arterials, plus the CKC, but there is definitely room for improvement. My biggest gripe is that so many of the bike lanes are in door zones, and simply eliminating the on-street parking, in and of itself, would make the ride safer. Considering Kirkland’s oversized requirements for off-street parking, I don’t know why any on-street parking on arterials outside the downtown area is necessary at all.

  2. Interesting that this is so bicycle focused. As someone who lived in a couple east coast cities prior to downtown Kirkland, I’ve found the pedestrian infrastructure to be very poor, and it affects many more people.

    Walk signals don’t change unless you actively push a button, even right downtown, even if there’s no effect on the auto signals.

    Giant flags are provided at crossings with messages telling you that if you don’t carry a flag, you can expect to be killed by a car. Bizarre.

    Streets and ped crossings are often pointlessly wide – e.g. recent rebuild of 6th and Kirkland Way.

    Signals timings can be incredibly long, e.g. try to cross 6th street going north from Kirkland Urban sometime to walk to the post office. Unless you cross against the signal, you’ll be waiting what feels like 5 minutes, often with no auto traffic.

    Prime lots downtown are taken up with parking lots and drive-throughs, which mean pedestrians are in conflict with cars pulling across sidewalks.

    Central Way/85th is basically a 2×2 highway until it hits Lake. Traffic should be calmed at least once it crosses 6th.

    1. You have a very good point. Beg buttons have no place in the middle of downtown, and the wait to cross Lake Street is excessive.

      The rebuild of 6th St. and Kirkland Way, I don’t know how you make the street less wide, while still providing enough room for the 255 to make that right turn. The driveway into South Kirkland P&R is also pretty wide for the same reason.

      1. Good point about the 255. I hadn’t considered that. But it did feel like the intersection got widened during the rebuild even though the 255 always went through there – maybe just my imagination.

    2. Downtown drive-throughs? I know there’s a lot in Totem Lake and east of 405 on 85th but not downtown. Wendy’s is closed so what other ones are there?

      There is however lots of surface parking, but that reflects the poor transit. Metro restructure is this spring so maybe that will help?

      1. I was mainly thinking of the drive-through US bank on Central Way next to Eastside Trains downtown, the Well Fargo with drive through a little farther up Central Way, the big parking lot at corner of Central Way and Lake, and the strip mall development adjacent to the transit center. All of these have multiple auto entrances/exits + parking that make it less friendly to walk around compared to a continuous street wall.

        It’s obvious this is all changing (the Wendy’s is a case in point), so I should probably just give it 5 years. But I do find it odd to have surface parking right at the heart of an otherwise very attractive small downtown.

    3. Agree with all of your points! There are also quite a few places in Kirkland with very poor sidewalks or no sidewalks. I and the other Kirkland Greenways volunteers are very passionate about making things better for pedestrians as well as cyclists.

      It’s true that I mostly focused on biking in this article. Maybe I’ll try to highlight pedestrian issues in a later article.

    1. Yeah! Since I don’t live in Kirkland, I have little reason to weigh in. I worry that an online survey blitz by a few dozen people can easily override what voting residents or commuters want.

  3. The introduction of the Downtown Redmond Link extension will create a major change in how people will access transit. The areas within four or five blocks of each station need detailed attention now that the stations are no longer in the “someday” realm but will actually open in a few more years.. Redmond is generally pretty good for pedestrians near these stations but it could be better.

    This fundamental systems change should be a bigger driver in a plan update feedback from STB readers rather than a broad urging to rethink bicycle lanes as the top priority. There are plenty of other blogs to encourage responding on bicycle lane design.

  4. “[S]pandex-clad street warrior who can consistently maintain 12-15 mph”?!? I guess the PED crackdown has really slowed down the roadies…

    I remember getting around on foot and bike as a kid in a Chicago suburb not too different from Kirkland. I’ve also walked and biked around Kirkland a fair amount as an adult, since I used to work there. So the irony of pulling out a scare quote about streets adequately supporting biking without bike lanes right before praising neighborhood greenways. The backbone of the neighborhood greenway concept is that many low-traffic streets don’t need much work to be part of the bike network! They mostly need to be connected up! That’s a continuation of the previous thought, not a repudiation of it, as the author presents it!

    1. Fair point that maybe I didn’t clearly explain my issues with the “5,000 vehicles per day” guideline. My main concerns are 1) we should be deciding where bike lanes are needed base on accessibility and comfort, not traffic volume; 2) assuming that cyclists can ride in the road with traffic is obviously leaving out some people (especially kids); and 3) 5,000 trips per day is setting the bar much too high.

      I agree with the concept that bike lanes are not necessary everywhere. But I’m worried that Kirkland is taking this 5,000 vehicles per day guideline as a rule, and as a consequence making no changes in some streets which are really quite inaccessible today.

      Compare this guideline, for example, with the draft Portland Protected Bike Lane Design Guide which recommends bike lanes all the way down to 1,500 trips per day for facilities that aim to be all-ages, all-abilities (page 36).
      https://bikeportland.org/2018/06/26/heres-how-we-build-it-pbot-releases-draft-version-of-protected-bike-lane-design-guide-284675

      1. A 5,000 vehicle-per-day standard may be too rote, but accessibility (in a cycling context) and comfort are too vague — anyone with a big voice can use principles like that to argue for or against any project in ways that defy any notion of standards or prioritization.

        But I’m having a hard time envisioning 1,500 or 5,000 vehicle-per-day streets. I can envision the streets I did ride in as a kid (as well as the streets I didn’t — where I used sidewalks, or where I just didn’t go). I can envision many of the streets in Kirkland I’ve been down before and compare them to these streets. I just don’t know which of them fall between 1,500 and 5,000 vehicles-per-day. Are there some examples of which streets we’re talking about here? Preferably from Kirkland (a city whose roads we both know)?

        The Portland guide seems to suggest that most of their roads above 1,500 are at least minor arterials with centerlines, but I could be reading it wrong (and I’m not that familiar with Portland streets anyway). All the Kirkland streets I can think of with centerlines are indeed busy enough that I wouldn’t have used them as a kid! On top of that the town I’m from had some smaller arterials without centerlines I didn’t ride in, and Kirkland has some similar ones. If all those are over 1,500 then… yeah, riding in the road is probably not going to be an option for most people until we have a mass cycling culture and bikes just rule those roads as a matter of course.

      2. Here’s a couple of examples of streets I’m imagining when I’m thinking about the 5,000 vehicle-per-day standard.

        NE 75th St going up the hill from 116th Ave NE.
        https://www.google.com/maps/@47.6718691,-122.1856654,3a,75y,86.22h,90.43t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sRKI5jptLeEWETl5MqBg4HQ!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

        Holmes Point Dr NE where in climbs up to Juanita Dr NE.
        https://www.google.com/maps/@47.7036757,-122.2417647,3a,75y,260.74h,88.56t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sfQAmwczD2x2jYOYzM21_BA!2e0!6s%2F%2Fgeo2.ggpht.com%2Fcbk%3Fpanoid%3DfQAmwczD2x2jYOYzM21_BA%26output%3Dthumbnail%26cb_client%3Dsearch.revgeo_and_fetch.gps%26thumb%3D2%26w%3D96%26h%3D64%26yaw%3D203.18088%26pitch%3D0%26thumbfov%3D100!7i16384!8i8192

        112th Ave NE
        https://www.google.com/maps/@47.6857718,-122.1907142,3a,75y,22.83h,94.67t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sM9zBergKNmMh9qNP7Mu9rw!2e0!6s%2F%2Fgeo0.ggpht.com%2Fcbk%3Fpanoid%3DM9zBergKNmMh9qNP7Mu9rw%26output%3Dthumbnail%26cb_client%3Dmaps_sv.tactile.gps%26thumb%3D2%26w%3D203%26h%3D100%26yaw%3D153.85481%26pitch%3D0%26thumbfov%3D100!7i16384!8i8192!5m1!1e3

        To be fair I don’t actually know how many trips-per-day each of these roads sees. So I don’t know any better than you do which of these meets the 5,000 vehicle-per-day criteria.

        But I think a bicycle plan that works for everyone needs to recognize that even on low-traffic streets there are barriers which will prevent most people from riding a bike. Many Kirkland neighborhoods are served by winding roads that have steep climbs, sometimes without sidewalks. I think these should be getting more attention and the vehicle-per-day criteria obscures this.

  5. I just took the survey. While it was generally well-designed, I was disappointed that there was no opportunity for free-form answers that shed light on what people are really thinking that may not be addressed in the survey or ATP thinking.

    In my case, I am concerned about shortcomings in the Totem Lake mall area. Getting from there to anyplace south involves negotiating a high-speed road (marked as 35mph, but as a biker, I’ve been passed by 50mph in my own lane, causing me to switch to the road between upper and lower mall, which is slower but more congested.) Until paths are constructed that are safe for both cyclists and walkers, and connect in reasonably coherent ways, widespread walking and cycling is a pipe dream. And no, two inches of white paint next to distracted drivers at lethal car speeds does not make me feel protected.

    1. The way that I’ve usually done it is to take the CKC to 124th St., then ride down Totem Lake Blvd. for one block, hoping that since it’s just one block, I won’t get run over. I prefer to ride in the center of the lane so that drivers are forced to make a clean lane change in order to pass.

      I believe the city does have plans to fix this. Not only are they adding bike lanes, but they are also building a path through the park that will bypass the busy road, entirely.

      Another option that might be worth trying is taking 116th Ave. to 128th st. and crossing over 405 there.

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