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?
I think this is the route I usually take and it works pretty well. Will there be any kind of treatment on 7th between Cherry and Marion?
Spring is also a good alternative to Marion. It doesn’t have the signalized crossing of Boren, but because it’s a 2-lane, one-way street from 7th-9th there might be room for a full bike lane instead of just sharrows. It would also require more extensive treatment on 7th (Cherry – Spring).
In any case, this will be a welcome addition!
When is there going to be _any_ bike infrastructure on 23rd Ave South through 23rd Ave East? Currently there’s nothing.
I emailed SDOT about this a couple months ago and they replied:
“In preparation for the  repaving of 23rd Avenue, SDOT has begun studying traffic volume, speed, and collision records along the corridor from Rainier Avenue South to East Madison Street. Any changes in the roadway design would be presented to the community in late 2012 or 2013.”
My most direct route home from work is Marion/Madison, but the steepness and traffic make it a nightmare. I’m happy either taking Pike/Pine or Jackson instead. This new route wouldn’t be bad, but still too steep for me to do comfortably every day. I’ll probably stick with Pike/Pine. What we really need is a road diet on Madison with bike lanes from Lake Washington to Elliott Bay. Now that would be awesome. And yes, we also need a road diet with bike lanes on 23rd! Isn’t that in the bike master plan? When are they going to get going on that?
When I used to have to commute to First Hill, the most direct route was Boren, but I ditched that because climbing the hill on that street is very unpleasant. I ultimately settled on 5th Ave to Spring to 9th Ave, which worked reasonably well. This proposed route seems reasonable to me although I don’t think I’ve ever ridden on Cherry.
Does anyone know the least steep hill to get from downtown to First Hill? Is it Pine? As a newbie I’m having a really tough time with the hills and getting motivation to commute with their steepness.
Depending where you are starting/ending, Cherry might actually be the best. Once the bike lane is installed, it will be easier to take your time. It can be stressful to climb such steep grades with cars behind you.
You can also try taking Pike or Pine and going right at, say Minor (anyone have a favorite north/south route through First Hill?). Getting to First Hill from the southern end of downtown really leaves few good options. The Cherry/Marion route would likely be the best route.
Anyone else have route suggestions?
I actually go from 9th to Pine to Minor. Pine isn’t absolutely awful but I then turn right on Minor and follow it to James. Going up Pine and then 2 steep blocks on Minor just does me in!
Sounds like you’re on the right track. Stick with it! It gets easier the more you do it. If you can do that climb, you can do just about anything in the city. That’s pretty cool.
The bike lane on Cherry as it exists is a pretty sorry excuse for bicycle infrastructure. The lane peters out between 4th and 5th into a dotted line as you approach 5th – I attended a Seattle Bike Board meeting where this was discussed; the problem is that there are a number of driveway curb cuts as you approach 5th, so cars can be expected to cross the bike lane to turn into these. How is it safe or reasonable for anyone other than the toughest cyclist to contend with turning, stop-and-start car traffic on that very steep hill? Putting paint on the roadway there means that the official bike map will show this as a preferred route – anyone using that for guidance will be sorely misled! I take the sidewalk (on or off the bike) or just detour over to Pike or Pine.
And while on the subject of downtown bike infrastructure – what’s with the left lane bike lane/sharrow on 4th? At noon today there were several cars stopped in the bike lane – and the sharrow takes you between a row of parked cars on the left and three lanes of traffic on the right. I tried it for half a block then got back on the sidewalk.
We need parking-separated bike lanes downtown. Biking downtown feels like going back in time compared to the infrastructure advancements we have made in other parts of the city.
5-6 foot bike lanes are not going to solve the problem downtown (especially left-side ones).
This sounds like a good plan. I’ve biked all these street segments at some point, but it never occurred to me to take this route through First Hill. It definitely beats James and Madison.