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SDOT proposes Linden cycle track to complete Interurban

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.

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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)

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7 responses to “SDOT proposes Linden cycle track to complete Interurban”

  1. Steve

    Having ridden this street I have mixed opinions about this proposal. It would certainly be nice to fill in this section of the Interurban.

    I’m not sure what the cycle track will prove. As pointed out there’s hardly any traffic on this street. Given the current economic climate even with the upzone it’s unlikely traffic will increase in the next five to ten years.

    I’m not sure how you test or prove the cycle track design given the lack of traffic. For example, it won’t be hard to turn across the two lanes of traffic with or without a scramble signal because with the current level of traffic chances are there aren’t going to be any cars waiting at the intersection with you. Most of the traffic in this area is east-west going to and from Aurora. At a time when the current funding for the Bicycle Master Plan is at an estimated 30% of what’s needed, this seems an odd priority.

    1. Adam Parast

      I could certainly be wrong but I think this is part of a larger reconstruction of the road. When you are doing a large project like this building high quality bicycle facilities is *very* cheap because you don’t have to tear something up and do it over again.

  2. voter

    This is basically a book report of Publicola’s story written yesterday.

  3. Michael A

    I live in that neighborhood, and some weeks back attended a Public Meeting the City had on this plan. I have to say that — while maybe not *ideal* — it may meet the engineering principle of good enough. Frankly, I’m excited about it. :-)

    FWIW, since that two-year-old “2,000 vehicles per day” figure, two large high-density buildings have gone in (130th&Linden, 143rd&Linden), so I would not be surprised if the current traffic numbers are higher.

  4. John C

    The more I think about a bike track, the less I like them. As a commuter cyclist, I believe visibility is my friend, and a cycle track behind parked cars kills that friendship. A good bike lane in each direction will keep cyclist visible and the markings will remind auto drivers to be aware. That’s all we need on Linden N. I would rather see more money spent on bike boulevards for east/west traffic in the city. Bike boulevards, properly implemented, will bring many more new cyclists into the fold.

    1. Adam Parast

      I think we need to balance the needs to cyclist that feel safe in bike lanes with the needs of those that don’t. Bike boulevards are great in areas where neighborhood streets get people to and from where they want to go. In the case of Linden the other alternatives are Greenwood and Aurora. South of 130th a bicycle boulevard on Fremont Ave is perfect, but this small link is critical.

      That is why I think this is a perfect application of a cycle track. It links to high quality facilities that otherwise aren’t continuous from a beginners perspective.

      I do have to say I’m a bit concerned about the intersection design, it needs to be done with lots of care, but done right this will be a great facility.

  5. […] See our post from 2010 for more background on the project, which was one of Mayor McGinn’s first big transportation projects. […]

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