Nickerson Street or “Here we go again”

At the unveiling of the city’s new Walk, Bike Ride initiative, Mayor McGinn announced that the proposed safety project on Nickerson Street, an arterial just north of the Queen Anne neighborhood, was moving forward.

mobDespite the overwhelming and irrefutable evidence to the contrary, Eugene Wasserman with the North Seattle Industrial Association, Dave Gering with the Manufacturing Industrial Council (MIC) and others immediately began raising fears of economic collapse, businesses fleeing the city, and drivers being stuck in traffic so long that they’ll have to forage for food and water lest they perish in their cars. OK, OK, that last bit is mine.

In a letter sent to the Mayor from the MIC, they make one demonstrably untrue claim after another. Most glaringly, they assert that they weren’t consulted. In fact, Mayor McGinn met with the community for the better part of a Saturday only a few weeks ago. In addition, the freight community was present and participated in meetings where the Nickerson safety project was discussed on April 11, on May 21, on June 25 and again on July 23, 2008.

In another letter, the Magnolia and Queen Anne neighborhood groups wrote, "Any proposal that reduces the carrying capacity of Nickerson is unacceptable." Not a problem, as two-lanes with a two-way-turn lane carry just as much volume as a four-lane roadway in an urban environment. This is due to numerous and irregular turning movements that affect the function of the two center lanes.

The road diet would cover the stretch of Nickerson between Warren Avenue North and 13th Avenue West. It includes the reduction of four lanes to two, the addition of a middle left-turn lane, a bike lane on the westbound side of the street and sharrows in the downhill direction. SDOT will also add marked crosswalks at 12th Avenue West and Dravus Street.

Nickerson averages 19,300 vehicle trips per day, according to an SDOT report in March 2009 on the Nickerson re-channelization. Other recent road diet projects include Fauntleroy Way in West Seattle and Stone Way.

"SDOT expects that the roadway will continue to carry the same vehicle capacity but at lower speeds than currently observed. This will result in a safer Nickerson for all users," said Richard Sheridan, communications manager for SDOT.

How do we know this? We consult the research and rely on the facts. Plenty of people speaking to the media and dashing off letters apparently can't be bothered to read through studies and reports. At a bare minimum, one might take a quick read through the project's FAQ for answers to common concerns being thrown out there for reaction.

As of April 2010 Seattle has implemented two-dozen road diets. The first were done in 1972 on California Ave SW and N 45th St. Since then, study after study has shown that road diets result in lower speeds, increased bicycling and walking, and fewer injuries and deaths, all while maintaining vehicle capacity. It’s what one would call a “win, win, win.”


suzie-burke-stimesJust days ago, Seattle released a case study looking at Stone Way N from N 34th Street to N 50th St. If you listened to the hyperbolic and wildly inaccurate claims made by Fremont landowner Suzie Burke – the Stone Way project has increased delays, made the street more dangerous – and was done without considering the needs of adjacent businesses. If those aren’t bald-faced lies, they’re close.

Data collected by SDOT on Stone Way shows:

  • • Motor vehicles now traveling at speeds closer to the posted 30 mph limit.
  • • A decline of more than 80 percent in those going faster than 40 mph.
  • • The changes made to the street lowered total all collisions by 14 percent and pedestrian collisions by 80 percent.
  • • Motor vehicle traffic volume decreased 6% on the corridor over the study period. This might lead one to believe that the project increased traffic on adjacent streets as people changed routes to avoid delays, but traffic decreased more on adjacent streets than it did on Stone Way N itself.
  • • Bike traffic – the stuff we care about – increased 35% over the period and represents 15% of the peak hour volume.


So, with results like these – what kind of person would oppose the project? Who would support endangering others in our public spaces – including the 40% of the population who can’t or don’t drive?


The Nickerson "road diet" isn't sitting well with City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen. Fight back fast! Send Tom some TUMS!

Seattle Council Transportation Chair Tom Rasmussen, that’s who.

Rasmussen questioned the Nickerson plan at a Metropolitan Democratic Club forum. According a Seattle Times article ("Nickerson "road diet" gives Councilman Rasmussen indigestion"), he said the council might, “a) pass a budget proviso withholding road-diet money, b) pass a recommendation for or against the plan, or c) watch what happens, perhaps adding language repealing the road diet if things went bad.”

For his part, Rasmussen is parroting those individuals who are trying to delay it until 2016 – after two-way Mercer and the Viaduct are completed – so the road could carry detoured traffic. That might be a valid argument – except for two very important points.

First, is that a three-lane roadway carries the same volume of traffic as a four-lane roadway in urban environments – so they’re preserving exactly ZERO additional capacity.

Second, as Transportation Chair, Rasmussen has seen all of the modeling and analysis showing the construction will have LITTLE TO NO IMPACT on the roadway, adding only 50 vehicles per hour at peak. [See the Nickerson FAQ.]

It seems on the face that the Nickerson project is going to happen. However with all the hew and cry, now is the time to add your voice to the mix.


David Hiller, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, EPA Regional Administrator Dennis McLaren, Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen

David Hiller, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, EPA Regional Administrator Dennis McLaren, Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen

Email Tom Rasmussen. Let him know that you're for a safer Nickerson Street for all users. Rasmussen spoke at the F5 Bike to Work Day Rally (photo to right) and is a member of the Seattle City Council Bike Caucus. Remind him that the road diet on Fauntleroy Way Southwest has been well-received, that Stone Way has proved to be a win-win-win and that there is no empirical reason to believe Nickerson will be any different.

Show up on June 8 at 9:30 a.m. for the Seattle City Council Transportation Committee meeting where Nickerson will be discussed.