Kirkland considering bike lanes, improvements on Juanita Drive

KIRKLAND, Wash. -- Major changes could be coming to a major Eastside thoroughfare.

The city of Kirkland is studying the Juanita Drive corridor, and considering improvements to cyclist, pedestrian, and driver safety.

"The corridor's well known, unfortunately, for some of the wrong reasons," said Jon Pascal, who is a member of the Juanita Drive Corridor Advisory Committee. "It's definitely unique in that regard."

The committee has been studying the four-mile stretch of Juanita Drive for about nine months. Between 10,000 and 14,000 drivers use the road each day, Pascal said. The study found that nearly 40 percent of drivers ignore the speed limit.

An unusually high number of fatal accidents have also plagued the road, Pascal added. An 81 year-old woman was killed in Aug. 2012 when a driver under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs crossed the center line and slammed into another car. The driver, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Friday.

"I think the neighborhood and the city are committed to seeing things happen here," Pascal added. "These might not be large scale improvements. They might be smaller scale, cost-effective solutions that are going to have a meaningful impact on safety."

The city is looking to state, federal, and regional grants to shoulder the cost, which could run up to $20 million, Pascal said. Changes under consideration include adding crosswalks, a buffered bike lane, roundabouts, and more. Construction could begin as early as 2015.

"A lot of people bicycle around here. That's something I always feel - as a driver - a little stressed about," said driver Dani Dick, who spent a lot of time commuting on Juanita Drive for a summer job. "When I see a bicyclist coming, it just doesn't feel like there's a lot of space., I would feel better knowing that there's more space for them to have their own area."

Cyclist Wiebke Schultz, who recently moved to Kirkland from Germany, agreed.

"That would be great," she said, during a lunchtime ride near Juanita Beach Park. "The attitude of the drivers - they're not as good as I'm used to from Germany. They're not taking any care. They're not looking out for you. They just go their way."