SDOT outlines Bell St bike route plans due to open in summer 2020

Map of the Bell Street bike route plan, showing protected bike lanes between Denny Way and 5th Ave, and two-way biking between 2nd and 5th. It also shows new traffic controls at intersections for drivers.Bell Street has been a major westbound bike route through the Denny Triangle and Belltown for a long time. As the most obvious relatively low-traffic connection between 7th and 2nd Avenues for people biking southbound into downtown, Bell is a major connection in the Basic Bike Network.

So it is great news that SDOT has announced a date to complete construction on a new bike route on Bell between 2nd Ave and Denny Way: Summer 2020.

A four-block section of Bell Street was completely remade in 2014 into a city park, though one that still allows car travel. The curbs were removed and turned into clever street furniture, creating a street that feels more like a place to hang out. And it mostly works that way. Belltown needed more public park space, and using this street space to create a park was fairly inventive.

But it is not car-free, and car traffic can still be heavy enough at times to make it feel more like a street than a park (thus it is sometimes referred to as the “Bell Street Park For Cars”). People are not supposed to drive more than a block through the park, allowing people to access alleyways and park. Signs at each intersection show turning arrows only (except transit and bikes). But people ignore this rule all the time, which really holds the park back from being as cool as it could be. A street that should be very slow and low-stress can still feel stressful when someone driving is using it as a cut-through.

But while Bell has no bike lanes, at least it is better than its eastbound counterpart Blanchard. Traffic is a bit heavier on Blanchard, though it is not as heavy as many other downtown streets. But it is far from an all-ages-and-abilities bike route.

That’s where the Bell Street project comes in. By making improvements to the park and creating a new two-way bike lane between 5th Avenue and Denny Way, the city will both improve westbound biking on Bell and create a new eastbound bike route option. And since Bell Street turns into 9th Ave N north of Denny Way, these new bike routes will connect to planned protected bike lanes on 9th. And 9th connects to the Westlake Bikeway, and … hey, this is starting to sound like a fully connected bike route! Continue reading

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This is your final week to cross the Fairview Ave N bridge until 2021

Map of the detour routes, showing a biking, walking and transit detour via Aloha Street.The Fairview Ave N Bridge connecting South Lake Union to Eastlake will close for 18 months Monday.

As we reported previously, the biking, walking and transit detour will be routed via Eastlake Ave and Aloha Street. People driving southbound will be directed to continue south on Eastlake Ave to Stewart Street or any of the many streets into South Lake Union along the way. Northbound, people headed to Eastlake will be directed out of downtown via Howell Street.

This is hillier than the current bridge option, for sure. But the real effectiveness of the bike detour will come down to whether they can maintain low and slow car traffic levels on the street. The plan notes Aloha as “local traffic only,” but will many people just drive there anyway? And given how many jobs are located in the area, there may be quite a bit of “local traffic.” I guess we’ll find out Monday.

Additionally, the car detour could make Eastlake Ave more stressful for people who currently bike that route. So even if you don’t use the bridge, this change may affect your route. So just be prepared and give yourself a little extra time starting Monday.

In our previous post, we also discussed some options for avoiding the area entirely. Continue reading

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Watch: Biking Expedia’s amazing Elliott Bay Trail remake

Expedia is preparing to start moving from Bellevue into their new campus on the Seattle waterfront starting as soon as next year. And work is very clearly in high gear across their huge new space.

For the past year, the Elliott Bay Trail has been detoured around the campus work zone while crews went to work on a project to rebuild and significantly expand the trail and nearby park area where Smith Cove meets the bay.

And, yeah. It’s pretty great. Check it out in the video above.

For folks heading southbound, the Elliott Bay Trail has just meandered through a very industrial stretch of Interbay next to busy rail lines. Then the trail takes you past Smith Cove and the cruise ship terminal, and you start to get your first glimpses of the bay.

Google Street View image from 2009 shows the sharp curve in the old path.

From Google Street View, 2009.

Previously, the trail made a sharp turn just as the bay and downtown Seattle came into view. This was kind of cool, but also a bit cramped and unnerving. Your attention was sort of pulled in two directions: Check out that amazing view, and make sure you don’t run into anyone behind the blind curve.

Now, the space is much more wide open with a wide, gradually-curving trail. There’s also a terraced little hill you can climb up and just sit for a while and enjoy one of the best views in the city.

View from the top of the terraced hill in the new park, looking toward downtown. Continue reading

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Watch: The Path Less Pedaled visits Seattle (4 videos)

Russ and Laura from the wonderful bike adventuring YouTube channel the Path Less Pedaled were in town recently and made four videos documenting their time. And they are all great, of course.

First, they toured R&E Cycles in the U District/Ravenna and the legendary Rodriguez Cycles manufacturing area in the basement.

Then they joined a Swift Industries community bike ride:

And Russ did a solo adventure on the ferry to “Painbridge” Island trying to follow the grueling Chilly Hilly route.

And after someone stole Russ’s bike tools from his frame bag (bummer), he biked to Counterbalance Bicycles near U Village and Free Range Cycles in Fremont to buy replacements.

Our city really does have some incredible bike shops.

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520 construction in Montlake will close cross-lake trail Sat and Sun, 24th Ave bridge until late this year

Map of weekend construction showing closes off-ramps and the closed trail in Montlake.

11 p.m. Friday through 5 a.m. Monday morning

The 520 Bridge replacement project’s final set of projects kicks into high gear this weekend with a set of major closures in Montlake, including the 520 Bridge Trail and the 24th Ave E bridge.

To make matters worse, the ramp closures mean no westbound bus access to Montlake. So you might not even able to put your bike on the front of a bus on the Eastside and expect to get off at Montlake (there will be some access on Saturday for the Husky football game).

The 520 Bridge Trail is scheduled to reopen by 5 a.m. Monday morning to serve the morning commute.

24th Ave E bridge is closed to biking and walking for good

Map of the biking and walking detour for users of the 24th Ave E Bridge. The route goes via the Montlake Blvd east sidewalk.

Starting Monday, trail users will connect to the east sidewalk of Montlake Boulevard if headed south.

Continue reading

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How to help fight for transit and local transportation funding by defeating I-976

photoshop of the security footage showing Tim Eyman stealing a chair from Office Depot, except a light rail train has replaced the chair.

Don’t let Tim Eyman steal light rail, too! See the original footage.

Washington’s most famous Office Depot chair thief also wants to take our voter-approved transit and local transportation funding. We must defeat I-976.

Basically, Tim Eyman’s initiative would preempt local governments and agencies in places where voters have approved using vehicle license fees as a way to help fund everything from Sound Transit light rail expansion to basic bus service and street improvements in communities all over the state, including Seattle.

Getting a NO vote on I-976 is pretty much as important as passing Sound Transit 3 in 2016 or Seattle’s Metro-route-saving 2014 vote, both of which voters passed with comfortable margins. But those were local efforts, and we don’t really know how the entire concept of vehicle license fees will fare statewide.

That’s why Transportation Choices Coalition is leading an effort to fight the initiative and urge a NO vote. And they could use your help.

Details from TCC: Continue reading

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Crews set to start building Pike Street bike lanes on Capitol Hill

SDOT crews are set to start work on Pike Street bike lanes this weekend between Broadway and 9th Ave, Capitol Hill Seattle reports. Work is expected to last a week.

Community groups like Central Seattle Greenways have led outreach for this project to an almost unprecedented degree. In addition to a big public workshop in 2018, groups have conducted a ton of business outreach in recent years. Community groups even helped secure funding for a much grander future reimagining of Pike and Pine Streets as part of the Washington State Convention Center expansion’s “community package” of public benefits.

The bike lanes going in this week are largely thanks to a City Council resolution last summer that listed it as a 2019 priority. The project will almost connect the Broadway Bikeway to the 2nd Ave protected bike lane with frustrating gaps between 6th and 9th Avenues. It will be particularly frustrating heading westbound because 9th Ave is one-way southbound and Pike is one-way eastbound. So people biking will have to use the sidewalk, which is bad for biking and for people walking. I anticipate that a lot of people will continue using Pine Street instead because of this gap.

Pike Street bike lanes are extremely exciting. Pike and Pine are already heavily biked despite having very inadequate and incomplete bike infrastructure because these streets connect some of the city’s most densely-populated neighborhoods with the downtown core. A complete and connected bike lane will be a major and instant success.

But it is also extremely frustrating that city efforts to build bike lanes on these routes keeps falling short of actually connecting. The existing pilot bike lane on Pine disappears between 5th and 4th Avenues, for example. And now the new eastbound Pike bike lane will disappear at 9th Ave, one block short of 8th Ave, which at least connects to Pine St without needing to bike on the sidewalk. And the existing eastbound bike lane on Pike downtown will remain disconnected from the new bike lane by a stressful three blocks of uphill mixed traffic biking next to the convention center.

Project map showing the planned bike lanes on both sides of the street and parking removal mostly on the north side.

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Saturday: Expedia will open revamped Elliott Bay Trail with celebration and bike ride

Top-down design concept fo the remade curve and open space of the Elliott Bay Trail.

The most significant change to the existing trail will be an expansion of the park space and rounding of the trail route at the mouth of Smith Cove. Design image from Expedia.

Expedia has been working on rebuilding a section of the Elliott Bay Trail near their under-construction future headquarters in Interbay for the past year, and they’re nearly ready to unveil the new trail and open space improvements.

They’re hosting a celebratory walk and bike ride Saturday morning with Cascade Bicycle Club. So if you want to be among the first to bike the new trail, get down there at 8 a.m. 

The centerpiece of the remake is a wider curve where the trail transitions from the industrial Smith Cove area to the Elliott Bay waterfront. Formerly a sharp turn in the trail with a sudden, breathtaking vista, the new trail comes with new open space so people can actually stop and enjoy the view. And this view is one of the best in the city.

Details from Expedia: Continue reading

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City will add protected bike lanes to sections of Yesler and 14th Ave near streetcar tracks + Broadway/Denny bike turn lane

Map of the changes showing new protected bike lanes on Yesler Way between 14th and 12th Avenues and on 14th Ave between Jackson and Washington Streets. Map of the proposed changes from the city fact sheet (PDF).

Seattle is finally set to make some much-needed bike safety improvements to streets near Bailey Gatzert Elementary School, where many people have crashed on the First Hill Streetcar tracks since the line was constructed in 2014.

The First Hill Streetcar and Bicycle Safety Enhancements Project (fact sheet PDF) will add protected bike lanes to 14th Ave S between S Jackson and S Washington Streets and to E Yesler Way between 14th and 12th Avenues S. The improved bike lanes will have an extra level of separation between people riding in the bike lane and the streetcar tracks. It will also make it less likely that someone driving will be able to pull over and block the bike lane, sending people biking into the tracks as they try to pass.

The project will also relocate a Route 27 bus stop from the northwest corner of 14th and Yesler to the northeast corner. This will both make room for the improved bike lane and create a space for people biking down hill to merge right and enter the new bike lane.

The project does not address the more complicated changes needed to fix the dangerous 14th/Jackson/Rainier/Boren intersection nearby. That intersection was the subject of a lawsuit stemming from a separate terrible crash in May 2014, a year before McCloud’s death. The City of Seattle settled with Daniel Ahrendt for $1.55 million this summer, four years after the streetcar tracks on S Jackson St sent him crashing to the ground where he was then run over by a Metro bus.

Work to improve bike/streetcar safety is far from over. Continue reading

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City Council will vote on ‘mandatory’ bike lane bill + funding bike parking and southend bike lanes – UPDATED

Screenshot text: 15.80.020 Requirements A. Whenever the Seattle Department of Transportation constructs a major paving project along a segment of the protected bicycle lane network, a protected bicycle lane with adequate directionality shall be installed along that segment. Yes, please!

UPDATE: The ordinance and both resolutions passed unanimously. Details on amendments in updates below.

The City Council will vote today on an ordinance and set of resolutions that would all but require the Seattle Department of Transportation to build planned bike lanes when repaving streets, would dramatically increase the bike parking supply and would request additional funding in the mayor’s budget to build key southend and downtown bike lanes that were left out of the mayor’s most recent short term bike plan.

The Council meets 2 p.m. at City Hall today (September 3). You can watch online via Seattle Channel. I will update this post after the meeting, so stay tuned. UPDATE: Passed!

As we reported previously, the bike lane ordinance (CB 119601) would effectively strengthen the city’s existing complete streets ordinance by stating, “Whenever the Seattle Department of Transportation constructs a major paving project along a segment of the protected bicycle lane network, a protected bicycle lane with adequate directionality shall be installed along that segment.”

The ordinance does create an out for SDOT if the department determines a bike lane to be infeasible, but they would need to justify the decision to the City Council’s Transportation Committee. (Full Disclosure: My spouse Kelli works as a Legislative Assistant to Councilmember Mike O’Brien.)

UPDATE: A Councilmember Lisa Herbold amendment (with Councilmember Debora Juarez’s support) to water down the ordinance did not make it to a vote. A note was added that requires broad community outreach.

The two resolutions up for a vote are budget requests to the mayor as city leaders head into its annual budget season. Resolution 31898 seeks funding to build an additional 3,000 bike parking spaces, mostly in the form of on-street bike parking corrals, to support parking private bikes as well as shared bikes and scooters. This is key to the city’s goal of reducing sidewalk blockages from dockless bikes (and, soon, scooters).

Resolution 31894 seeks funding to add a list of vital bike projects in the southend and downtown that did not make the mayor’s cut in her latest short-term bike plan. Specifically, the resolution highlights:

  • Beacon Ave S Segment 1 (S 39th St to Myrtle St)
  • Beacon Ave S Segment 2 (Myrtle St to S Spokane St)
  • Beacon Ave S Segment 3 (S Spokane St to Jose Rizal Bridge)
  • Georgetown to Downtown
  • Martin Luther King Jr Way (Rainier Ave to Henderson St)
  • Two-way protected bike lane on 4th Ave (Main St to Vine St)
  • Alaskan Way (Virginia St to Elliott Bay Trail)

UPDATE: Two amendments passed: Councilmember Herbold added the Georgetown-to-South Park Trail to the list. Councilmember Bagshaw added Vine St from 2nd Ave to Thomas St.

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Bike News Roundup: Everything you ever needed to know to pronounce the word ‘pannier’

It’s time for the Bike News Roundup! Here’s a look at some of the transportationy stuff going around the web lately.

First up! This spring, Russ at The Path Less Pedaled worked very hard to finally answer an enigma that has plagued non-French-speaking bike riders for ages: I bought these bike bags that attach to my bike rack, and the person at the store called them “pan-YAYS,” but then my friend called them “PAN-ee-yers,” and now I have no idea what to call them. How am I supposed to pronounce “panniers?” Well, even if you know (or think you know) the answer, Russ’s exploration of the question is surprisingly fascinating:

Pacific Northwest News Continue reading

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Bike-in movie tonight: Bike Works is showing Lilo & Stitch at Pratt Park

Poster text: Free summer fun with bike works for all ages. Bike-in movie and summer arts celebration. 8-29-19 from 6-10 PM. screening of disney's lilo & stitch at 8:15 PM with free popcorn.Hey, you! Bike to Pratt Park (20th/Yesler) tonight to watch Lilo & Stitch with Bike Works. Because free bike-in movies are awesome, and our city is awesome, and public music and art is awesome, and Bike Works is awesome, and what else were you gonna do?

There music and public art starting at 6, and the movie starts at 8:15.

More details from Bike Works:

Join Bike Works, NW Film Forum, Urban Artworks, and NW Folklife for our BIKE-IN MOVIE NIGHT in Pratt Park! Bring a blanket, snacks, and friends of all ages for this free summer event.

This year, through our partnership with Urban Artworks, we’ll have an interactive arts and mural activity for youth to participate in, as well as performances from a diverse group of musicians from Northwest Folklife before the film. We’re also screening 2 shorts featuring bicycles from Northwest Film Forum’s Children’s Festival before the feature film.

Music & public art start at 6 PM, the movie starts at 8:15 PM.

Performances from:
We’ll be screening Disney’s Lilo & Stitch about a young girl who adopts an ugly ‘dog’ who turns out to be an alien. They embark together on a raucous adventure via trike & surfboard around the Hawaiian islands.

RSVP on Facebook:

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Should the next Ballard Bridge be high, low or in between?

Concept image comparing the three options: A high bridge with steep climbs but no need to open for vessels, a middle bridge that arcs a bit and would need to open less often, and a low bridge like the current design.

Images from the display boards presented during a late July public open house (PDF).

The city is currently conducting an early, fairly high-level study of the options for replacing the Ballard Bridge. The actual project is pretty far away and has no funding, but this study is intended to outline the pros and cons of various options and gather public feedback.

For a while, long-term planning for the Ballard Bridge was on pause because there was a chance Sound Transit was going to route light rail line over the bridge, which would have been a good excuse to rebuild it at the same time. But Sound Transit will dig a tunnel for the Ballard light rail line instead, so now it’s on the city to figure out what to do about the bridge. UPDATE: I jumped the gun here, sorry. It’s still not clear whether Sound Transit will pick a tunnel or elevated crossing, as the Urbanist reported recently. Environmental review will study multiple tunnel and bridge options.

The Move Seattle Levy included $700,000 to start planning the next Ballard Bridge, and the team plans to wrap up that study by the end of the year. The study will not even recommend a preferred alternative, but will provide information needed to take the next step for deeper analysis. Projects of this scale typically move very slowly, and the bridge is not a serious earthquake risk thanks to a seismic retrofit a few years ago.

However, the bridge is a serious bikeability and accessibility barrier due to its very skinny sidewalks. And this was apparent from their survey results, which saw a lot of participation from people who bike and walk (good work!). Continue reading

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Bike share use steady with fewer bikes and higher prices, but bike parking remains a problem

The meteoric rise of bike share in Seattle in recent years has plateaued as the number of bikes in operation shrink and prices rise. However, despite these changes, people in Seattle took about as many bike share rides in the second quarter of 2019 as they did in 2018, showing that demand for the service remains strong.

In quarter 2 of 2018, people took 595,000 trips when there were about 10,000 bikes, some of which were $1 pedal bikes and some of which were Lime’s e-bikes that cost an extra 5¢ per minute, according to SDOT’s Quarter 2 Bike Share Summary Report (PDF). In quarter 2 of 2019, people took 588,000 trips on about 5,000 bikes that cost 25¢ per minute.

So the good news is that bike share use is still strong, and a single e-bike seems capable of doing the lifting of multiple pedal bikes. But the bad news is that fewer bikes and higher prices have stemmed the growth in bike share use, which had been climbing fast since the services launched in summer 2017.

This report comes as the city is developing the details for an upcoming e-scooter share permit. Scooters have shown to be more popular than bikes in many other cities, and companies have been trying to convince Seattle to permit them for years. So this time next year, we may have scooter data to add to SDOT’s quarter 2 report. Continue reading

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Upcoming weekend Link closures a good chance to try biking + Last chance to take station access survey

Graphic showing that a bus will serve each station between Sodo and Capitol Hill.In order to complete work necessary to connect the existing light rail line to the under-construction East Link line, Sound Transit will not operate trains between Capitol Hill and Sodo Stations for three upcoming weekends: October 12-13, October 26-27, and November 9-10.

There will be a free bus serving the stations during the closure, but it could also be a good excuse to try biking if that works for your trip.

And this weekend work is just a warning of larger challenges to come. Crews will be building a temporary center platform at Pioneer Square Station that Link trains will use during a very tough ten weeks starting in January. Trains will remain in operation during “Connect 2020,” but passengers will have to change trains at Pioneer Square Station. Not only that, but there will be fewer trains than usual. And people with bikes will have to exit at University Street Station (if southbound) or International District/Chinatown Station (if northbound) because there are concerns that there will not be room on the temporary platform.

So these upcoming weekend closures could be good practice for January for anyone who currently relies on taking a bike on Link through downtown.

Take this survey today

Today (August 23) is also the final day to submit comments to Sound Transit’s station access survey. Seattle Neighborhood Greenways is encouraging people to give the two Seattle projects in the North King Subarea a high (3) rating.

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Seattle starts planning for shared scooters. Like, for real this time.

Planned timeline for Seattle's scooter share rollout. Details noted here are included in the story text.Scooters are coming to Seattle next year probably maybe.

Work to create the framework for the scooter share pilot project starts now, along with environmental review (of course). SDOT plans to finalize the permit details in the fall and winter, then launch the system in winter or spring.

Scooters have proven to be very popular in cities where they have launched, typically attracting significantly more ride per day than bike share. As we reported previously, Seattle is fairly unique as a city with a large dockless bike share system, but no scooters. In many other cities, companies have been either shifting focus to scooters or have dropped bikes entirely.

Seattle’s scooter permits will be entirely separate from the city’s bike permits, though many relevant details will likely be copied from the extensive bike permit.

It’s not yet clear what a scooter share pilot would mean for bike share. It’s potentially good news that companies offering both devices will not be forced to choose either bikes or scooters because scooters typically generate more revenue than bikes. But it will obviously be up to the companies whether and to what extent they continue offering bikes.

As a much newer technology, there are also lots of questions about how scooters will fit into Seattle. How will their motors handle our steeper hills? What about their brakes on the way down? What sort of technical requirements should the city include to ensure the devices are safe?

Unlike bikes, which have a very long history of use and studies in urban environments, electric scooters are relatively novel. And the designs of the devices has massively advanced in recent years. Data about scooter safety is still fairly new and incomplete, though the massive spread of the devices in cities across the nation is starting to generate some useful information. Some safety issues are shared, like the need for protected bike lanes. But some safety issues are different. Continue reading

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Don’t listen to SDOT, wear whatever you want to wear when walking on Rainier Ave

“Rainier Ave S averages more crashes per day than anywhere else in Seattle,” the public agency in charge of making city streets safe wrote on bus and light rail station ads in South Seattle recently. As the @FixRainier Twitter author put it, “Are you bragging here, @seattledot?”

So what is SDOT — the only people who can do anything to change that terrible fact — doing about it? They’re telling people walking to wear different clothes so they “Don’t Blend In,” the official name of a campaign that “encourages and empowers pedestrians and bicyclists to wear bright-colored clothing that stands out.”

Is there data somewhere that shows people who walk across Rainier Ave wear dark clothing more often than people anywhere else in Seattle? Of course not. Because people’s clothing choices are not the problem on Rainier. The problem is the design of the street, which puts people in harm’s way and encourages car speeding.

Wear what you want to wear. Dark-colored clothing is normal and fine if that’s what you picked out today, and our city should be defending your right to exist safely while wearing it. You do not need special clothes to walk around your neighborhood, and we should stand up against a public agency trying to say otherwise. And if someone wearing a black jacket is hit while crossing a street with a long history of speeding and collisions, that person’s fashion choice is not the problem. The street with a long history of speeding and collisions is the problem. And the only people who can change that street work at SDOT or have an office in City Hall. Continue reading

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As shared bikes and cars get more exclusive, it’s time to start thinking about what happens next

Lime bikes are blowing up. Literally.

Exploding Lime Bike battery on UW campus … yikes! from r/Seattle

This post is not about the couple of battery explosions reported in Seattle recently, but it’s hard to ignore that very visible (and rare) problem. This post is about recent pricing and service area changes by bike (Lime and Jump) and car (Car2Go and the now-defunct ReachNow) share services in Seattle, signs of trouble for the app taxi services (Lyft and Uber), and what Seattle and other cities need to start thinking about for the next phase.

I don’t have any answers. Instead, I want this post the be a place to collect your thoughts as users and to get folks thinking about the role of local governments in the future of shared mobility. Primarily, this site is focused on what comes next for bike share, though it seems worthwhile to consider the bikes within the context of the car-based services. I also want to restart conversations about public funding for bike share, which has proven to be incredibly valuable and effective at increasing the number of trips around town by bike.

But first, lets talk briefly about how we got where we are, what’s working and what isn’t. Continue reading

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Which NE 43rd St concept do you like best for U District Station access?

Map of the project area with NE 43rd Street highlighted.U District Station is going to change everything about the neighborhood when it begins operating in 2021, and the streets should reflect that. Located at Brooklyn Ave and NE 43rd Street, the main station entrance should be supported by streets that reflect the walking, biking and transit focus needed to help it succeed and thrive.

Today, NE 43rd Street dead ends into the station construction site halfway between the Ave and Brooklyn. The street also dead ends into UW Campus at 15th Ave NE. So it is not a necessary street for car movement, making it a great candidate to go car-free. Unfortunately, concepts floating around shy away from going fully car-free, which is a shame.

One big goal needs to be increasing the walking space to accommodate the more than 20,000 daily riders expected. Another goal, of course, is bike access. Bus access is a bit up in the air because it’s not fully clear whether buses will need to operate on the street or if they would be better serving the station via Brooklyn. However, plans seem to assume westbound bus operations complete with new trolly wires for the re-routed bus routes.

The U District Mobility Group and SDOT have two different concepts at this point, and the UDMG is currently taking feedback via an online survey.

Both concepts significantly widen the walking spaces, and both have potential. But the devil is in the details for both of them. So I’d like to hear from you all in the comments below.

SDOT’s counter-flow bike lane

SDOT's concept image, showing a protected bike lane eastbound and a shared lane westbound. Each lane is separated by greenery.SDOT’s design definitely looks a little strange at first. It has a protected bike lane eastbound, but the single westbound lane would be shared by people biking, buses and even … cars? Well, this is where the details become important. The SDOT design would allow all vehicles on the one block between 15th and the Ave, switching to transit and bikes only west of the Ave.

How will the city prevent illegal driving west of the Ave? This question is vital. As we have seen with the Bell St “park” in Belltown, signage alone will not be enough to prevent people from driving there. And if this street gets clogged with cars, the bike access, transit efficiency and walkability goals will be hurt. But if they have a physical car diverter plan, then this option could work.

If planners decide against serious, physical traffic diversion, then they should build bike lanes in both directions. And there also needs to be space for people biking to safely pass buses at bus stops or this shared lane concept won’t really work as a bike route.

The city describes their design as curbless, so you could imagine it as Bell Street, but with a separated counter-flow bike lane.

U District Mobility Plan’s wider curbless concept

Concept image showing a curbless street. Road edges are marked by tactile strips.

Facing east.

The U District Mobility Plan concept looks a lot like the Bell Street “park” in Belltown and gets rid of the bike lane. It’s a curbless street, and road edges are marked by tactile strips for accessibility. The concept would be open to transit, biking and “local traffic.” Hmm.

As we’ve learned from Bell Street, this design works really well when there are no cars, but falls apart once people start ignoring the signs banning through car traffic. And since there will be significant demand for pick-up and drop-off at the light rail station, this street concept would fall apart if it becomes clogged with cars. And simply posting signs will not work. Physical car diverters are needed, which is a challenge when you are trying to allow buses.

But if car traffic is removed or severely limited, then no bike lane would be necessary. The benefits of a curbless street is that people can take over the space. Sidewalks can spill into the road, which is a good thing. You can imagine cafe seating and street festivals and all kinds of cool stuff here. But it has to be done right or cars will just fill the whole space like they always do.

This concept is also set up better for going car-free, which should be the goal for this street, especially for the blocks adjacent to the station.

Concept diagram showing the U District Mobility Plan's curbless idea.

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An olive branch? Mayor Durkan celebrates downtown bike lanes, acknowledges delays

Map of the Center City Bike Network projects due for construction.

Map of the Center City Bike Network projects due for construction.

Seeing Queen Anne Greenways’ Mark Ostrow give Mayor Jenny Durkan a high five from his bicycle is the image that sticks in my head from Wednesday’s press event celebrating the opening of the 8th Ave bike lane downtown (Crosscut’s Josh Cohen captured the moment on video).

The news itself was not a big surprise today. Several projects already announced by SDOT and all but mandated by a City Council resolution are moving ahead, including 9th Ave N8th AvePike St2nd Ave-to-King St, and the King St Neighborhood Greenway.

The real news is that Mayor Durkan is celebrating and promoting a bike project, a shift from her stance for most of her term as mayor. Not only that, but she acknowledged during her speech that bike projects have been delayed further than they should have.

“We know when we hit our reset, we didn’t reset quickly enough,” she said, according to the Urbanist.

This one press event will not heal relations with bike and safe streets advocates, and it also will not put the delayed bike plan back on pace. But it feels like an olive branch, and advocates from Cascade and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways took it (an olive branch on Olive Street! Coincidence?).

I hope this is the start of a change. She clearly took advice from the wrong people when she chose to cancel the designed, funded and contracted bike lanes on 35th Ave NE, and that decision has turned out to be a huge mistake. So I hope mending relationships with safe streets advocates also means she may seek advice from them in the future. Continue reading

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