Bike accident puts spotlight on road safety

Wing Point-area residents favor improvements sooner than later.

Stewart Atkinson turned onto Wing Point Way to find a sprawled bicyclist on the side of the road in a heap of metal, blood and flesh.

The rider, an unhelmeted 16-year-old Bainbridge youth injured in an unexplained crash just before 1 p.m. Wednesday, was airlifted to Harborview for treatment.

“How ironic we were just talking about safety for children the night before, and the next day you come across a kid covered in blood,” Atkinson said. “That just isn’t right.”

Safety was a top concern for Wing Point-area residents who met Tuesday evening at City Hall to review two different conceptual designs for Wing Point Way’s non-motorized improvements.

The 40-some attendees overwhelmingly preferred an “integrated plan” – adding bike lanes and sidewalks at the same time as road and stormwater system improvements – over a “phased plan” that would see non-motorized improvements sooner and road work later.

The stretch of roadway in question runs east from Ferncliff to Park Drive, beginning at the top of a long, precipitous hill to the bottom near Azelea Avenue before going up a smaller slope.

The pavement is smooth in places, a rough patchwork of asphalt in others. Shoulders are nonexistent for much of the road with the fogline against the grass – or worse, walled in by steep sides in one stretch.

The “integrated” plan would allow the course of the road to meander from its current straight path. Tom McKerlick, engineer for the city’s Department of Public Works who worked up the conceptual designs, said with shorter sightlines drivers would naturally slow their speeds.

The plan would allow the road to curve away from houses and significant trees. It would also also allow a pedestrian island like those on Madison Avenue, and more greenery to separate the sidewalk from the road in places.

The phased plan, requested by the City Council, would also see two bike lanes and one sidewalk, but would not allow the course of the road to be changed, as the integrated plan does to avoid veering too close to homes or significant trees. Also, road and utility improvements would be put off until 2010 – as scheduled in the existing Capital Facilities Plan – and require redoing bike lanes.

Wing Point resident Richard Cartmell praised the integrated plan, as being ultimately cheaper and avoiding the inconvenience of road construction twice in perhaps four years.

“It is traffic calming, aesthetically much better and looks more like a neighborhood road and gets rid of a blind spot (at the crest of the hill by Tiffany Meadows),” Cartmell said.

But the phased plan has a much lower upfront cost, said Councilman Bill Knobloch, who lives on nearby Azalea Avenue.

“If you want the integrated plan, it’s about money,” Knobloch said. “The phased plan is less than $500,000, and the integrated plan is well over $1 million.”

[Clarification: Knobloch later clarified his numbers referring to the city’s Public Works Department’s earlier preliminary estimates.

In part one of the Wing Point Way phased plan, the construction of only non-motorized facilities would be close to $1 million and would not include the reconstruction of the road and utilities, which would be completed at a later date. The “integrated” plan – which would include non-motorized facilities and road and utility improvements simultaneously, and allow the road to meander – would cost closer to $1.7 million.

City engineer Roger Mustain confirmed that the cost of doing the phased plan’s non-motorized component plus the later road and utility work would total more than the cost of the integrated plan alone, owing in part to a difference in construction times.--Ed.]

Knobloch urged neighbors to contact the Capital Facilities Committee now working to reprioritize capital projects, if they want to see the repaving sooner.

Some said 2010 is too long of a wait for road resurfacing.

“It’s needed to be repaved since I moved here 10 years ago,” Atkinson said.

Karen Connors, chair for the Wing Point Way Neighborhood Association and mother of two young children, said she gathered 197 signatures in a single weekend from residents who wanted the city to improve the street’s safety and road surface, and fix the drainage issue at the foot of the hill.

City purchase of the Hall Property, an open space parcel abutting Wing Point Way, will only bring more people to the area, one neighbor said.

“With the Hall Property, there will be more traffic, so more people are going to be coming because of access to the beach, so it should be prioritized a bit higher,” Ana Rosen said.

But pulling in the other direction was a contingent wishing to preserve the rural feel of the road and “not become another Ferncliff” – which was repaved with bike lanes on two sides and a sidewalk on one side as is planned for Wing Point Way.

Some said Ferncliff Avenue’s repaving and widening caused drivers to go faster, and suggested putting bike lanes only on the ascending side of the road, since bicyclists can keep up with autos going downhill.

That suggestion was countered by others who argued that children on bicycles would ride against traffic in order to ride in a bicycle lane.

McKerlick cautioned that as conceptual plans, it is likely that final plans would be different from what was being presented.

But Connors and resident Jane Cartmell advocated taking the long-term view.

“This is part of Winslow, so it should support the growth anticipated,” Connors said.

“I’m for a plan that’s usable for the next 20 years,” Jane Cartmell added, to which Connors finished, “So it’s not just a Band-Aid.”

* * * * *

The Wing Point way

The conceptual plans for non-motorized facilites on Wing Point Way will be at the city website, Large-scale, color printouts will be posted at City Hall.

Send comments on the Wing Point Way non-motorized plan through Aug. 31 to Direct additional questions to city engineer Tom McKerlick at 842-2016.

Members of the Capital Facilities Meeting are council members Christine Rolfes (, Nezam Tooloee ( and Bob Scales (

* * * * *

Witnesses sought

Police are still unsure what caused a crash that injured a 16-year-old bicyclist at Wing Point Way near Azalea Avenue Wednesday.

A passerby came across the injured youth at the roadside, Traffic Officer Rob Corn said, and no witnesses have stepped foward.

The rider, who was not wearing a helmet, suffered serious head injuries and is in stable condition at Harborview. Because of his condition, police have been unable to interview him to determine the cause of the crash. There was no evidence that a vehicle was involved.

“I’d love to have a witness, but I don’t know if there were any,” Corn said. “It can be kind of a quiet street.”

– Douglas Crist

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