The Ballard Bridge in Seattle – which connects the Ballard neighborhood with other nearby neighborhoods and the downtown area – is one of the most popular routes of transportation for commuters in the Seattle area. At 2,854 feet long, the bridge is a popular route for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists traveling to and from downtown Seattle.
For drivers, there isn’t anything particularly spectacular about the Ballard Bridge. But it’s an entirely different story for pedestrians and bicyclists who use the small, dangerous sidewalk to cross the bridge during their daily commutes.
Ballard resident Haley Woods is one of the many bicyclists and pedestrians who cross the bridge on a daily basis. She says the narrow width of the sidewalk, combined with the high-speed vehicle traffic, puts pedestrians and bicyclists in an extremely dangerous situation. She made a video, shown below, to explain her concerns to the city and has reportedly sent the video to Mayor Ed Murray’s office:
The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) website says that the sidewalk on this particular bridge is six feet wide, but Woods’s video shows that it measures at just over three feet in some areas. Needless to say, three feet of space is hardly enough room for pedestrians and bicyclists to safely navigate the bridge in both directions.
Exiting Ballard Bridge Sidewalk Just as Dangerous
While the dangers presented to bicyclists and pedestrians on the bridge is a concern, perhaps the most dangerous aspect of the Ballard Bridge is the process of exiting the sidewalk and continuing south on 15th Ave W. As the video shows, the end of the sidewalk merges into the lanes of vehicle traffic and bicyclists have to weave through this traffic to enter the bike lane.
“We call it ‘The Weave of Death’ because cars do not yield to bicyclists who are going straight,” says Mark Ruebel, who regularly uses the bridge during his daily commute.
SDOT officials have contemplated multiple options for improving the level of safety for pedestrians and bicyclists using the bridge, but these solutions could cost up to $50 million to implement. Officials say that even a minor stopgap solution, such as adding a dividing rail to the small barrier between the sidewalk and the roadway, would cost too much for the city to budget for.
But if the city fails to improve the level of safety for the countless commuters who use this bridge daily, it’s only a matter of time before someone gets seriously hurt. In fact, Woods cites a serious bicycle accident in 2007 that critically injured a local man named Terry McMacken, who later died from his injuries.
“Mayor Ed Murray, Seattle City Council, and SDOT: make the Ballard Bridge sidewalk wider, and protected from traffic,” Woods says in the video. “Make it safe for everyone, and get on it!”