Clearly, the Mercer West project is a pretty long way off (with construction scheduled to start in 2012), and there are several variables still undecided (like that tunnel thing) that could change this project. And, sure, almost all of this project is centered around motor vehicles. But, as anyone who has ever tried to bike from Dexter to Lower Queen Anne knows, it would be pretty great if there were a comfortable way to get across Aurora.
This crossing is basically a black hole of bike infrastructure. You have to either ride (or walk) your bike on Mercer’s five-foot sidewalk as it passes under Aurora and hope nobody is walking or riding the other way, or you have to go down to Denny, which is many blocks out of the way. If you happen to know your way around, you can also go down to 9th, then take Broad. But this busy street is also not very welcoming to bikes and takes you several blocks out of your way.
So, seeing a rendering of a bike path on Mercer going under Aurora is pretty exciting. The plans call for bike lanes on Roy west of 5th (which will become a two-way street), so bikes will presumably be urged to go up to Roy after crossing under Aurora on Mercer.
I haven’t written about the Mercer project yet, and I would like to know how bikers feel about it. As this project goes forward, what do bikers need? Clearly, something has to change, but what do we want from the Mercer West project?
2 responses to “What do bikers want from the Mercer West project?”
The biggest disappointment to me is that there will not be a direct at-grade connection across Aurora. This could be done by making Mercer go over Aurora as will be done for Thomas and Harrison St for the Deep Bore Tunnel’s North Portal, or by providing a signal at Roy St and Aurora Ave N.
The speed limit on SR-99 technically drops to 40 mph after the Battery St Tunnel but this is routinely ignored. WSDOT is supposed to install radar soon as part of the Aurora Traffic Safety Project but personally I would also like to see a signal at Roy St which would provide a fairly direct at-grade connection between Seattle Center and Lake Union as well as the Dexter Ave N bike route.
If Seattle actually cared about biking on Mercer, they would stripe a contraflow bike lane under Aurora. As for Roy as a bike route, many cyclists try to cross Taylor where cars are turning left from Mercer onto Taylor so as to get on Aurora southbound, and cars are stopped on Taylor, looking right, trying to get onto Mercer eastbound. I’ve been challenged many a time by the former for lane space and have been nearly hit by the latter because cars on Taylor don’t expect bike traffic coming from the left (it is a one way street after all).
The preferred route by the city advises cyclists to turn right onto Taylor and then left onto Roy. Most cyclists don’t do this because the sidewalk on Mercer and then 5th is wide and evens out the grade that would be found on Roy. It also avoids the glaring imperfections in the road surface on Taylor and Roy, the short light westbound on Roy at 5th wherein if a cyclist is not first or second starting on that grade, they won’t make the light, and the pushy and unnecessarily busy and uncontrolled intersection and Taylor and Roy.
Contra flow bike lanes would solve all the problems except for the traffic stopped on Taylor trying to get onto Mercer.