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Lincoln and Lakeway - Hazards “Я” Us

By On
• In Bellingham,

Be you a pedestrian, bicyclist or a vehicle driver, the hazards around the intersection of Lincoln St. and Lakeway Dr. abound. Some relate to poor driving practices and others relate to the set-up of the roads, crosswalks and the parking lot exits. A lot is going on within 500-700 feet of that intersection - a mini-mall, Carl Crozier Elementary, Fred Meyer, Whole Foods, the Sheraton, the Guest House hotel, NXNW student housing, and Woods Coffee to name some of the larger stores and establishments. What are the issues?

The first issue is all the cars making left turns from just about any parking lot exit onto Lakeway. This maneuver is difficult under the best of circumstances but when the exit is onto a four-lane road with either a one-way or two-way turn lane in the middle, the conflicts arise immediately. Case in point, a left turn from the Whole Foods parking lot onto westbound Lakeway (toward town) confronts westbound Lakeway traffic in the one-way left turn lane waiting to get into the Whole Foods lot, as well as those trying to turn left (southbound) onto Lincoln. Cars exiting Whole Foods that do not wish to make the left turn onto Lincoln will nonetheless pull into the turn lane and sit, waiting for an opening to move right into the travel lane. That blocks cars wanting to turn onto southbound Lincoln.

Left turns from the exit at the Sheraton Four Points onto Lakeway westbound (toward town) are also fraught with problems, not the least of which is crossing two travel lanes eastbound and a two-way turn lane that directs cars onto the southbound I-5 ramp. Simultaneously, this turn lane also serves cars eastbound on Lakeway (away from town) that want to turn left into the Woods/Guest House hotel complex. Further compounding the problems, this same turn lane is the access for westbound traffic turning left into the Sheraton parking lot. This causes traffic wanting to access the I-5 ramp to back-up beyond the exits/entrances to the Sheraton and the Woods/Guest House area. Cars exiting the Sheraton, and wanting to head toward town, often pull into the turn lane and sit until the travel lane is open to move westbound.

Now let’s look at Lincoln. Traffic turning left from any of the three exits of the Fred Meyer parking lot along Lincoln also have to face fast-moving, oncoming traffic from both directions. Cars turning left out of Fred’s parking lot will often pull out when traffic from Lakeway allows and then pull into the two-way turn lane, stopping to wait for a break in the fast moving traffic northbound toward Lakeway. This northbound traffic notoriously fails to slow from the posted 35 m.p.h. to meet the 25 m.p.h. speed limit in that stretch of road.

But right turns are not without their own problems, stemming from turning right-on-red at an intersection or turning right out of a driveway. Drivers now turn right into the rightmost lane when it is free of approaching vehicles. However, there are other vehicles in the left lane who have no idea what the intentions of right-turning drivers are. Legally, right-turning drivers must yield to ALL approaching vehicles before engaging a turn. This phenomenon is not confined to the Lincoln/Lakeway area but is seen all over town. (See: RCW 46.61.205 and RCW 46.61.055(3)(a))

Pedestrians will fare a bit better now that the old crosswalk on Lincoln is being replaced by another pedestrian crossing closer to Lakeway. This pedestrian crossing will eliminate the dangerous dashes across the four lanes, especially for people using the bus stops on either side of the street. There remains the gauntlet of pedestrian crossings at the intersections of Lakeway and Lincoln and, a block further west, the junction of Lakeway, King (where the I-5 on-ramp is) and the Fred Meyer exit. This is a sure-fire pedestrian unfriendly area where “aging in place” takes on new meaning as one waits seemingly forever for the WALK sign to come on.

Finally, the bicycles. (Reader alert: I was a bike rider for over 60 years.) There are no bike lanes in this busy area so the riders morph from being a vehicle on the road to being a pedestrian equivalent as the rider moves from the roadway to the crosswalk and back again. Not sure what the status of a bike rider is when on the sidewalk. No wonder vehicle drivers get confused. Some bikers tend to zip about like gnats while doing the magical pedestrian-vehicle transformation. Although, they do that all over town not specifically around Lincoln and Lakeway. But in the area in question, the practices are especially dangerous.

And so, in the words of Michael Conrad on Hill Street Blues and especially for the holidays - click here. Maybe one day roads in this area can be better engineered.

About Dick Conoboy

Editor • Member since Jan 26, 2008

Dick Conoboy is a recovering civilian federal worker and military officer who was offered and accepted an all-expense paid, one year trip to Vietnam in 1968. He is a former Army [...]

Comments by Readers

Dick Conoboy

Dec 14, 2018

This appeared this afternoon in the Bellingham City Road Report:

“Lakeway Drive and Lincoln Street
Crews have completed most of the hard surface improvements at Undine, Grant, Nevada and Lincoln streets, along with Samish Way. When complete, this project will provide a bike boulevard, new sidewalks, ramps, wayfinding and restoration, and will include four new pedestrian crossing signals (flashing HAWK crossings.)  Over the next two months little work will be done (while electrical equipment is being readied); however, road users should expect work to begin again in February for a  few weeks. For more information, visit the project web page or contact Freeman Anthony, P.E., project engineer, at  fanthony@cob.org or (360) 778-7924.”

None of this, however, solves the issues related to the turns and the turn lanes.

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