SDOT is moving forward with plans to create a bike route to connect Broadway and Capitol Hill to downtown via Cherry St. Today, First Hill is something of a black hole of bike routes in the city’s center, and the new route aims to help people get up the hill safely and with as comfortable a grade as possible.
The grades on First Hill streets can be very intense, even by Seattle standards. But the lack of bike lanes and helpful signage makes scaling the neighborhood harder than it needs to be. Currently, there is no good bike route between Jackson and Pike/Pine for those headed east from downtown (Yesler has a bike lane, but that hill is relentless. Jackson does not have a bike lane, but the grade is reasonable).
By extending the Cherry St bike lane from 4th Ave to 7th, people riding a bike will be able to safely pass under I-5, moving at whatever speed they need to get up the relatively steep climb. The route will then guide people north onto 7th, then east onto Marion, which was recently repaved. Both streets are calm, and there is a signalized crossing at Marion and Boren.
At Broadway, the route will direct people north on Boylston to existing facilities on Union. It is also fairly easy to get to 12th Ave and the Central District by taking E Columbia — which dead-ends into Swedish Medical Center — and cutting through Seattle U campus (go slow when cutting through campus, especially when school is in session).
The planned route will not flatten First Hill, but it will definitely take some stress out of climbing up Cherry through downtown. With the marked route down Marion, perhaps fewer people will find themselves riding up a block with a 30 percent grade (I’m exaggerating, but it feels like it sometimes) or find themselves trapped between the concrete barriers in the center of Boren while trying to get across (not fun).
A new bike lane was installed on Cherry Street last year from 1st Avenue to just east of 4th Avenue and SDOT had planned on extending the route to Broadway in 2011. As staff began the design process for these proposed facilities, some potentially challenging conditions for cyclists on Cherry were recognized. First, Cherry is steep! Seattle is known for its steep hills, but Cherry may be too challenging for the average biker. Second, crossing busy Boren Avenue at Cherry would be no walk in the park for cyclists either. While the existing median island at this intersection provides space for pedestrian and bicycle crossings, there are no signals or stop signs on Boren Avenue.
SDOT staff began searching for an alternate route that provides similar connections with a less severe grade. The perfect candidate was found just two blocks northwest of Cherry on Marion Street. Marion handles far fewer vehicles than Cherry making this an attractive alternate route and the grade of the street, while still on an incline, is much less steep than Cherry. In addition, the intersection of Marion and Boren is signalized so bicyclists will have a much easier time crossing this busy street.
The new route will will start where we left off in 2010 at 4th and provide bicycle facilities on Cherry to 7th Avenue. The route will turn northwest at 7th Avenue for two blocks where it will meet Marion Street and begin heading east. Sharrows will be installed on Marion from 7th to Boylston and along Boylston eventually connecting to the existing bicycle facilities on East Union Street. SDOT Paving Crews recently made pavement repairs to Marion so cyclists are in for a smooth ride once installation is complete.
What do you think of the new route? What streets do you use when riding through First Hill?