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Seattle Transit Blog: Downtown needs cycle tracks before Bike Share arrives

Following up on our recent post on the founding of Puget Sound Bike Share, Zach Shaner at the Seattle Transit Blog argues that the system should not launch downtown unless there are safe and inviting cycle tracks:

Simply put, cycling throughout downtown Seattle is unwelcoming for all but the boldest, most athletic cyclists, and arguably unsafe for all. Very high traffic volumes and minimally-protective facilities (sharrows and bike lanes) combine with moderate-to-severe grades and a complex one-way system to make riding in the roadway daunting even for those of us (like myself) who do it daily; and high pedestrian traffic makes riding on the sidewalk awkward, slow, and rude.

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Turning loose hundreds of assorted riders per day, most of them new to the vagaries of downtown Seattle’s traffic and terrain, all on heavy 7-speed upright bikes, is a recipe, at best, for lots of rotten rider experiences, and at worst for crashes, near-misses or even a fatality that could threaten the success of the entire enterprise. If bikeshare is to succeed in Seattle, we must do better.

I don’t know if I am willing to go as far as to say the system would fail if it launched without cycle tracks downtown or that we should delay the launch, but it would certainly have a harder time.

Given that bike share is now looming in the maybe-not-so-distant future, there is no doubt that cycle tracks downtown are bike improvement priority number 1 in Seattle. Our downtown frankly looks dated and silly with essentially no space dedicated to safe and comfortable bicycle travel. Let’s get working on the plans and outreach so work can begin next spring or summer.

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9 responses to “Seattle Transit Blog: Downtown needs cycle tracks before Bike Share arrives”

  1. Erik Griswold

    Bicycle share in Seattle will be an absolute and abject failure unless the mandatory helmet law is repealed.

    Want proof? Go to Melbourne, Australia:


    1. Jonathan Callahan

      This should be required viewing for anyone discussing bikeshare in Seattle.

      Now add in my comments on the previous thread about beginning the rollout in the U District, Fremont and Ballard where there is a lot of helmetless riding already.

      We should exempt these bikes from helmet laws and we should NOT debut them on crowded downtown streets or anywhere with steep hills. My proposed rollout would look something like this:


      1. Shane Phillips

        If we’re going to exempt these bikes from the helmet law, there’s no justification for having the law at all. Just get rid of it.

      2. Andres

        Your map makes a lot more sense to me than the bikeshare proposal map. When I first saw it, my initial reaction was, “why are there not stations all along the Burke?”

        Of course, I’m biased living in NE Seattle, but I live here because it’s an inviting place to bike.

    2. Tom Fucoloro

      Unlike Melbourne, PSBS has calculated the anticipated reduction in demand due to the helmet law and the added cost of vending machines into their expenses predictions. They are not going into this blindly thinking the helmet law is a non-issue (I had the same fears).

      Plus, Seattle is way cooler than Melbourne (and nearly twice as densely populated)

  2. Gary

    We also need covered bike racks!!! Who wants to rent/borrow a bike with a soaked seat?

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      So long as the seats aren’t squishy and absorbent (which would be a pretty stupid design), I don’t see that as a huge problem. Just wipe it off like you would a park bench.

      However, I would love to see a cost analysis of covered stations. Would they extend the life of the bikes enough to end up paying for the added cost?

    2. Adam Parast

      An cheaper solution is to include waterproof seat covers that are held on by elastic and then fold back and are stored under the seat.


  3. I absolutely agree with the main post about downtown!:

    -About 4th, 2nd and other: No one expects a bike way on the left hand road, specially on a busy street. They make no sense and I have seen someone having an almost accident every other time I used them.
    -The pavement in Western and 1st Ave has holes, notice that I’m not saying bumps, it has holes several inches deep and a foot or more wide that could easily make you fall if you aren’t careful.
    -There are several streets around Blanchard St that connect 1st and 2nd ave to Alaskan way and the Elliot Bay trail. Crazy as it sound, there’s no asphalt on those streets! Instead, they are covered with bricks which make your bike shake like crazy.
    -And to finish, Yesler, Jackson, and King St don’t have a dedicated bike lane even though they are the only way to to 12 Ave S and they are in a really long slope.

    SDP, I really appreciate your efforts, but there’s still a ton of work to do if we want to make it easy to bike in Seattle!

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