Today I am continuing the series on connecting the Eastside Rail Corridor by describing the options for getting to downtown Kirkland.
The Cross Kirkland Corridor, the portion of the ERC in Kirkland (blue line) is a half mile and a steep climb from downtown Kirkland. We cross the trail to get to Kirkland, so we are very familiar with this ride. Our most common destination is the Kirkland Library, the green dot on the left. I’ve discussed biking in downtown Kirkland before.
Coming from the north on the CKC, you get off the trail at Kirkland Ave, at which point you have two choices. Our usual route goes straight down Kirkland Ave (red line). The first stretch is mostly flat, then there is a difficult crossing of 6th St (orange line). This is blind – you can’t see oncoming southbound traffic until you are actually in the northbound lane.
6th St backs up northbound at the evening commute time, and it’s hard to get through. It’s not much easier during the day when I ride it. This is the location of most of my emergency stops. I’m not confident that the planned light at Kirkland Way (intersection of orange and yellow) will help the crossing at Kirkland Ave (red and orange), and I don’t really want to ride down 6th just to make the two-stage crossing at Kirkland Way. Once across 6th, Kirkland Ave is pleasantly quiet, but very steep. So we go into town this way, but we don’t leave this way.
The other option is to take 8th St to Kirkland Way (yellow line). The problem here is the blind corner at the trail’s overpass.
People use Kirkland Way to get to and from I-405 in their cars, bypassing the traffic on 6th St and Central Way and the busy intersection there. I am uncomfortable with the speeds on Kirkland Way in a car, much less on a bike. There are no bike facilities on this stretch of Kirkland Way, or even sidewalks for most of it. I use this route coming out of downtown because it’s much less steep than Kirkland Ave, it has a 4-way stop at 6th St (soon to be a light) and I don’t have to cross traffic since I’m turning right. I don’t like having to control the lane here (especially in the dark), but it’s the best of a bunch of bad choices.
For those who are comfortable riding in traffic, these routes work. If the sidewalks are empty, they are an option on these routes for those willing to use them. If we want biking to downtown Kirkland to be a reasonable option for many people, we need a better connection to the CKC. I’d like to see protected bike lanes on Kirkland Way from 8th St at least to the library (the green dot on the left) and preferably all the way to the water. There is plenty of space in the right-of-way, but the on-street parking will be politically difficult to use because people seem to think that there is no parking in Kirkland.
Coming from the south, you can ride all the way to Kirkland Ave, and proceed as described above, but that means crossing 6th St twice. The better option would be a two-way protected bike lane on the west side of 6th (orange line) connecting to Kirkland Ave or Kirkland Way. Two-way bike lanes are problematic, but this is a perfect place for it, as it takes out two street crossings. The city just completed the sidewalk on this stretch of 6th, a great first step. Now the connection works for those on foot.
It’s not a perfect sidewalk (unbuffered, lots of curb cuts) but this was an egregious sidewalk gap (busy street, so close to downtown!) and it’s good that it’s fixed now. Here is the street before, picture taken from the other direction.
Another option would be to use 3rd Ave to State St (pink line). 3rd is a residential street that does not go through by car. It has a staircase connecting to 6th St. State is an arterial similar to 6th, so not an improvement. This option also bypasses the new Kirkland Urban (green dot on the right).
Previously: the bike freeway