Walking Routes to Bellevue Have Gone from Bad to Nonexistent

I ran down to Bellevue today with the stroller as a cargo hauler for stops at Uwajimaya and Total Wine, and wow are things in bad shape.  I don’t think I can make this trip anymore until things settle down.

Here are the blockages that I know about from this trip:

bmap1

120th Ave (location “A”) is completely closed to cars and people.  It’s a giant construction site with machinery everywhere.

124th Ave (location “B”) is a pretty terrible street to begin with.  Sidewalks are mostly missing.  It has large shoulders that one might use, but a lot of them are taken up by trucks.  And some of the few stretches of sidewalk are closed (in the distance you can see a truck blocking the right-side shoulder):

I don’t have a lot of optimism for the Spring District’s transit/bike/walk friendliness.  One of the exits is mostly complete:

The fence is at the existing sidewalk location, so the intersection is going to be huge.  Multiple exit lanes will help ensure car dependence in the area.  And it doesn’t look very good for bike infrastructure.  But I suppose I digress…

116th Ave has no access at all from the north or east because of the intersection at Northup and the other 116th Ave (location “C”).  Zooming in:

bmap2

The northwest corner of the intersection is completely closed to pedestrians as well as the sidewalks leading to it.  This means the crosswalks along the north and west sides of the intersection are unusable.  There isn’t a crosswalk or a signal along the east side of the intersection.  And if you try to go an intersection to the east, you’ll then discover that the south side of Northup doesn’t have a sidewalk.  You might be able to stumble through construction cones and gravel.  (It eventually will have a sidewalk, but a future sidewalk doesn’t make for a very good detour today.)

[Update: September 14th, 2016:

I went back and looked at that south side of Northup again.  There is a temporary path on the shoulder that is guarded by traffic pylons.  One could walk through here.  When I looked during my previous trip, it didn’t register as a possible route.  One could probably get a single stroller through, but a double or a wheelchair would be difficult.  Here are some pictures:

If you come down 24th, then there is a detour sign pointing this way, but if you come down 116th from Kirkland, then you get this confusing sign:

The busy intersection doesn’t have a crosswalk to the left of the picture, and to the right is the wrong direction.

]

The end result of this is that 116th, 120th, and 124th are unusable.  The next crossing to the west is at 108th (a half mile west and you have to backtrack north).  The next crossings to the east are at 130th and 132nd (almost a half mile east), which also have intermittent sidewalks but hopefully no construction.

The hope for the area is supposed to be the ERC (Eastside Rail Corridor), which Kirkland, Bellevue, and King County have all shown interest in opening to people (especially Kirkland with the CKC (Cross Kirkland Corridor)).  However, at this point it looks like this stretch is going to be held hostage by Sound Transit for years or decades.

In other words, don’t try to walk in Bellevue.

 

The Errandonnee is never over

While the actual event might be done, the errands definitely are not.  One of the things that I really liked about the Errandonnee was that the categories forced most people into doing something new.  Or the Errundonnee is my case.  Sure, I ran to work and for the odd errand, but it’s pretty easy to settle into a routine, for better or worse.  The Errandonnee forces you to seek out new destinations.

So on Saturday I found myself with two tasks: drop off four baby carriers in the Crossroads area of Bellevue and pick up a book at the Bellevue library.  So, in the backpack went the carriers and I was off.  The first route was known, and it was pleasant.  I was actually going a bit further than the Mall, and I hadn’t realized that NE 8th St drops to three lanes over to the east.  It’s just amazing how much more pleasant it is there.  With the drop-off done, I then needed to go to the library, which is on the north end of downtown.  I could have gotten partway there reasonably by staying south of 8th, but the overall trip would have been a bit too much anyway, so I decided to grab a bus to downtown.  This worked, though I fell victim to the car-centric design as is too often the case.  I was at 8th and 156th looking for the RapidRide B.  One Bus Away (a local bus app) reported that the next bus was three minutes away from 10th and 156th.  That seemed tight, especially with the crossing of 8th.  Instead I headed towards 8th and 148th, a half mile to the west.  It was downhill, so I figured I could get there in 3-4 minutes.  The bus would have to navigate the turn and that distance as well.  Unfortunately, I didn’t fully think through getting to the actual stop:

I made it to the SE corner with some time, but I missed the pedestrian crossing to the north, and by time the next one rolled around, the bus was gone.  It turned out if I had made this first crossing, then the ensuing left turn cycles (both for N/S and then E/W) would have provided cover for the two half crossings to the west.  A mid-block crossing of 8th would have been enough, but it’s 5 lanes.  Alas, such is the life of a pedestrian.

Then I started thinking about the bus, which was also stopped at the intersection for a while.  How much time does this one intersection contribute to the schedule?  And while on one hand they are both large streets (just look at that intersection!), it’s just a random intersection of roads without a whole lot nearby.  If the B could make its trip unencumbered, would it halve the time between buses?  Or reduce the number the buses needed?  I wonder if some fancy signal prioritization and dedicated space could make buses much more practical even in a suburb.

The Bellevue library is nice – big and new and shiny.  It’s about twice as far as Kirkland for us, and definitely further than Redmond as well.  While it has almost the same elevation change, it’s spread out much more nicely.  In fact, I could see choosing to go there for this reason.  Unfortunately, it isn’t going to happen anytime soon by bike for us.  There is a brief stretch of downtown that would be uncomfortable.  I suppose the sidewalks would work for that distance but only if they were pretty much empty.  The 12th St bridge has a wide pathway on the north.  Going home, we could use the crosswalk and turn left onto 116th.  Going to the library, supposedly they are going to improve the turn onto the path.  116th itself is currently scary (no bike facilities at all), but there is a project to change that.  Unfortunately, the idea of affecting the level of service (LOS – a vehicle-only measure) is a blocker to doing anything in Bellevue, so there will be mid-block bike lanes with scary intersections at both ends.  Then there’s a short stretch of Northup, which is also scary but has a project.  This is a major project, not just a restriping, and unfortunately it will only be (unprotected) bike lanes on a busy road.  And since it is major, it won’t be further improved for a long time.  Opportunity lost!  116th Ave on our side of Northup is mixed.  Southbound (downhill), there are no bike facilities, which works for racers, but not a family ride.  Northbound (uphill) has a bike lane.  The Bellevue portion has a gravel path which is nice for running; the Kirkland half is sketchy for pedestrians.  After that we can get home on residential streets.

It was a pleasant enough run back home.  With some material for a future post…

Mark’s #errundonnee Day 9

[Day 7 errand-less workout, Day 8 off]

After a few days away from running errands, I’m back.  I started with yet another pass by the 520 trail crossing of NE 40th St.  Yesterday (March 12th), I arrived by bike to find the crossing just flat-out closed.  The only options were to hop the plants and curb around the construction and kind of near the crosswalk or to head down the sidewalk.  At the next intersection, there isn’t even a crosswalk to support getting back to the 520 trail, so it’s either 3 crosswalks or some kind of crosswalk to vehicle transition.  Or keep going and take roads.  None of these are real alternatives.  If people are to depend on protected infrastructure, then it’s got to be something like this: convert the southern-most lane of 51st into a protected route to 150th and convert a lane down it as well.  Or find a way to support the trail crossing at all stages of construction.

Today I was pleasantly surprised to see the trail back open.  However, curb openings were in the wrong places for crossing, so part of the road was closed to support walking/biking back to the crosswalk.  On the south side, this meant the right turn lane was closed and the 3 lane wide on-ramp was reduced to 2 lanes, which provided enough space for the 2 lanes of traffic that use it.  (Shortly after the entrance it widens to 3 and 4 lanes for the HOV lane and bus stop, but none of the directions feed the on-ramp with 3 lanes.)  While crossing 6 lanes of 40th is still a lot, the sharper turns due to the closures made for a remarkable difference from 8 higher-speed lanes, both on foot and then on my return commute by bike.

Next I ran to the Uwajimaya in Bellevue.  Yes, unfortunately it’s in Bellevue and designed for cars, so driving would be miserable and biking dangerous.  In fact, not only is it near NE 8th St., but 120th Ave. NE is much worse than it used to be due to widening which probably now qualifies it as a stroad:

They did provide a bike lane, but as it approaches 8th, poof:

which is the same mistake that is being made in the 116th rechannelization.  Of course, this area would need significant changes to the intersection at 8th (and 8th itself), and without those, there probably aren’t any options.

Back to the errands: I had crossed 8th a bit to the east where it’s a little calmer and looped around to approach from the south.  This wasn’t too bad (on foot).  Crossing the parking lot was ok.  And then I had my soy sauce.  Coming back out of the parking lot, I noticed the Big Apple Bagels and picked up a chocolate muffin.  As with a previous trip, I probably wouldn’t have made this stop by car since I wouldn’t have noticed it until I had given up my parking spot.  Sadly, the run with all of these goods was only a block as I picked up a bus ride to complete the trip.  But, the obligatory “after-transport” photo:

The intersection with 8th was also under construction, and it was done well:

In the end, running to the store and busing away worked quite well for this one.

desperation in Bellevue

Our bike is still in the shop, so there’s more driving than usual. Sunday afternoon I went by car to drop off a load of goods at Goodwill in Bellevue. I arrived to a completely full parking lot and a line of cars at the dropoff. There must have been a hundred cars circling the lot like buzzards. Every aisle was completely lined with cars. I do not do well with chaotic parking situations (who does?) so when I realized what was going on, I started looking for a way out. I found the back way out of the lot, and was glad to get out of there without any further wasting of time or stress.

What I sensed in that lot was desperation. All these people drove there, because they don’t have other options. They need to find a place to stash their enormous beast vehicles in order to do their errands, but there isn’t enough space to do that. They are faced with circling the lot until they find space, or leaving with the errands undone. I left, because I do have options: I can come back during the week, or I can suck it up and bike there even if I am uncomfortable doing so (I might be scared to take the lane but I’m not likely to actually get hit by a car or I could ride on the sidewalk). I suppose having too many customers is better than the alternative for the establishments in this shopping center, but I don’t think this situation is actually good for anybody. Ask anybody there if driving was worth it, and if they would have rather walked, if they could.

But this is Bellevue! Nobody can walk or bike anywhere!

Here is the parking lot in question:

Here is the street at the driveway for Goodwill:

Five lanes, no bike lanes, 35+ mph traffic. At least there’s a decent sidewalk.

What else is in the neighborhood?

There appears to be housing south of Bel-Red Road, which is not too far to walk to this shopping center. But Bel-Red is another one of these poisonous 4-lane semi-highways. With the way Bellevue’s super blocks are laid out, there are few safe places to cross the street, so everybody is isolated in their enclave, and can only get out by car.

What’s the solution? I don’t know, but it’s not easy. The first solution that comes to mind is more parking, but that would require a garage at this point. I would say that the first step is to make it reasonable and pleasant to bike and walk there and provide plentiful, obvious bike parking. There are lots of people within reasonable biking distance. Driving is a hassle, and it’s far more expensive to make it not a hassle than it is to make biking pleasant.

A Route to Crossroads Mall

I’ve written before that we pretty much avoid Bellevue as much as possible.  It turns out that Crossroads is actually a fairly reasonable destination, despite the fact that 156th Ave NE and NE 8th St are typical poisonous Bellevue roads.  It’s a combination of a few decent pieces of infrastructure combined with using residential streets over the arterials.  Here’s the approximate route:

Before I go into details, I need to correct that map:

  • Don’t ride a bicycle the wrong direction around a traffic circle
  • A bicycle or pedestrian can go straight across Bel-Red Road in the crosswalk
  • I think the satellite imagery at Crossroads Park is a bit out of date.

Details follow:

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