SDOT is proposing a cycle track on Linden Ave to complete something of a missing link in the Interurban Trail near Bitter Lake. The plan calls for a two-way cycle track protected from vehicle traffic by a row of parked cars. A three-foot buffer will separate car doors and the cycle track, and a planting strip will separate the cycle track and the sidewalk (more of which are also being added).
Currently, Linden is a wide street with very little traffic. According to Josh at Publicola, traffic was only around 2,000 vehicles per day in 2007 2008. That is low enough to have simply made the street a bike boulevard. However, Josh reports that the street has been rezoned for increased density, so traffic could increase in the future. A cycle track may also feel more like a continuation of the Interurban Trail sections that bookend the new project at N 128th and N 145th.
143rd is the only street on this 17-block stretch of Linden that continues through. Other than driveways, there are only a couple streets where cars will turn across the track. So while the design is somewhat similar to the proposed design for Broadway, many of the complications that plan is facing will be avoided here.
It probably is a good idea for Seattle to try out a cycle track before the city attempts the plans on Broadway, which is a much more hectic and dense street. There are questions of how bikes will be protected from turning vehicles that may not be used to this placement of bikes and how bikes will make turns across the roadway safely. Josh reports that, for the Linden plans, SDOT is considering either 4-way “scramble” pedestrian and bike signals or dedicated bicycle signals at intersections to help with turning. I would like to see how the track is designed visually to ensure safety at driveways and streets. Parking may need to be pushed back from curbs to ensure that drivers can clearly see bikers before making turns, for example. Also, how will signage and paint be used to remind drivers to be extra careful?
Cycle tracks are powerful because they can convince potential bikers to give it a shot. However, they have to be done right. The first cycle track in the city was proposed for Dexter, but those plans were scrapped largely due to concerns about the fast hill. This section of Linden is much flatter than Dexter, and car traffic is lower. It’s possible the Dexter plans would have worked fine, but there seemed to be a lot of unknowns. Linden is an important commuter route, so it’s not exactly a waste of a project. But more importantly, it could give SDOT a chance to play with designs to help ensure cycle tracks in Seattle are as safe as possible.
The street layouts, from SDOT (full size documents available here)