Photo by Jessica Keller: Beginning next week, a portion of the Ship Canal Trail in north Queen Anne will be closed, and trail users will be re-routed to West Nickerson Street, which has sidewalks for pedestrians, but some trail users and members of Queen Anne Greenways are concerned the current bike lanes will not adequatetly keep riders safe next to the busy thoroughfare.
Photo by Jessica Keller: Beginning next week, a portion of the Ship Canal Trail in north Queen Anne will be closed, and trail users will be re-routed to West Nickerson Street, which has sidewalks for pedestrians, but some trail users and members of Queen Anne Greenways are concerned the current bike lanes will not adequatetly keep riders safe next to the busy thoroughfare.

Seattle Public Utilities intends to close a section of the Ship Canal Trail in north Queen Anne beginning next week through 2023.

Starting Monday, the small portion of the popular trail will be re-routed at Third Avenue West and West Cremona Street. The detour will then run down West Nickerson Street.

That section of the trail is supposed to be blocked off while SPU completes a project to improve temporary wastewater treatment storage in the city. The West Ewing mini park, where construction will take place, will also be closed through mid-2023, as well.

Regular trail users are not happy about the detour route, however.

Andrew Koved, Queen Anne Community Council member and Queen Anne Greenways member, uses the trail frequently and is unhappy about the trail’s closure and thinks the proposed detour route is unsafe.

“It does seem like there is potential for a better detour,” Koved said.

The Ship Canal Trail is used by commuters and recreational walkers and bikers of all ages and by fishermen as an access point to the water.

“So just from a recreation standpoint, that would be bad,” Koved said.

Before COVID-19, Koved used the trail daily on his bicycle to commute to Interbay for work rather than take Nickerson Street, which he said is not particularly safe.

Nickerson is a main arterial through the area, with heavy traffic. Plus, according to an SPU pamphlet about the project, people can expect more trucks in the area while construction is taking place.

Koved said what makes the Ship Canal Trail so nice, in addition to its convenience, is that it is suitable for all ages and abilities because it’s flat and separate from cars and traffic.

Koved said he is a competent biker and he doesn’t feel comfortable taking Nickerson to work on a regular day, and for families with children, it could be even more dangerous, especially if they were not comfortable biking next to traffic.

“So there’s a painted bike lane that does arguably nothing to protect you from cars, specifically now when people are supposed to keep as far from possible from each other,”he said.

The detour also requires crossing Nickerson on the south side, which could make it dangerous for bikes and pedestrians, he said.

“It’s impractical with the volume of trail users to funnel them onto Nickerson and expect people to stay 6 feet apart,” Koved said. “That’s just not enough space. I don’t think that’s going to be sufficient.”

Mark Ostrow, leader of Queen Anne Greenways, said in an email that the standard for a trail detour, especially if it will last for three years, is significantly greater than a painted bike lane. He said the Ship Canal Trail is used by people of all ages and abilities, and the detour should serve their needs.

“Diverting kids and wheelchair users onto a painted bike lane between parked cars and heavy truck traffic for three years is unacceptable,” Ostrow said in the email, adding the two crossings of Nickerson are unnecessary.

Koved said he understands the project itself is important, but he feels the solution put forward creates an “unacceptable false dichotomy” that sends the message that people’s health and welfare can only come at the expense of clean water, when really people should be able to have both, that there shouldn’t automatically be a trade off.

“But the reality is, cities make these decisions and trade offs all the time,” Koved said. “So very often, people lose out. ... I think that’s an incorrect trade off.”

He said sometimes, however, Seattle tries to find solutions to these types of situations. Without knowing the financial impacts of delaying the project, Koved wondered if more time could be taken to find a better solution.

“There is work to be done to, I guess, make it a fair compromise on both sides,” he said.

Koved said, after reaching out to SPU, he learned the detour route may not be finalized and hopes a better solution can be found using a different route and possibly not for so long.

He suggested that project managers reach out to nearby Seattle Pacific University about possibly using some land for a temporary detour.

“The connectivity of this city is not just for cars. It’s for people too,” Koved said, adding access to trails are especially important during COVID-19, when people must stay away from others and recreational opportunities have been impacted.

Ostrow suggested SPU could potentially create a safe and wide barrier-protected detour on the north side of Nickerson by removing some space currently allocated for private car storage.

Thus far, Ostrow said SPU has not provided more information on how the route will be protected, how wide it will be and what will happen to parked cars.

“My sense is that the people involved haven’t given the detour very much thought, which is sadly pretty common when it comes to bike and pedestrian routes,” Ostrow said.