Here’s an idea that’s incredibly obvious and way overdue: Shift parking on 5th Ave underneath the monorail columns, then use the skinny lane to the west to create a fully protected bikeway and expand the neighborhood space.
Right now, the set-up of 5th Ave between McGraw Square and Seattle Center makes no sense whatsoever. From the west, there’s a lane of parking, one southbound lane, then a wide no man’s land where the monorail supports are, then two more southbound lanes, then another parking lane. You are not allowed to change lanes between the monorail columns because it’s insanely dangerous, but what if you need to turn? It’s bizarre and confusing. (UPDATE: Commenters have pointed out that it may not actually be illegal to change lanes under the monorail, despite the double white lines)
If you’re biking, it’s downright dangerous. Some people choose to bike in the single west lane, which leads impatient people driving behind them to make a dangerous lane change under the monorail to pass. Others choose the far east lane, which feels more like biking on the side of a highway than a city street. Many more people could not imagine themselves biking on 5th Ave at all.
And if you’re crossing the street on foot, you have quite a distance to cover to get from curb-to-curb. Plus you have to be careful that the monorail columns don’t hide you from someone driving. Basically, the street doesn’t work for anyone (except maybe the monorail).
But it doesn’t need to be this way. Mike Lindblom at the Seattle Times reports on an idea floating around SDOT that would simplify the road, create a safe bikeway and expand public space. Because while this street is uncomfortable today, it could be one of the coolest streets in Belltown and one of the most unique streets in Seattle. I mean, it’s got a freaking monorail. Continue reading