The first in a series of Bicycle Master Plan public meetings was held Wednesday at City Hall, giving a first look at the draft map of recommended bike facilities and asking people for modifications and feedback. The next meetings are 5:30–7:30 p.m. today (Thursday) at New Holly Gathering Hall, November 13 at UW’s Gould Hall and a November 15 online lunchtime meeting.
The map contains many bold and exciting facilities that, if completed, would vault Seattle into position not just as a top U.S. cycle city, but a top global cycling city. The map, while not yet perfect in every way, includes an approach to bike facilities as focused on safe, separated bike infrastructure on high-demand commercial streets as it is on low-traffic neighborhood greenways.
The plan so far includes 523 miles of facilities to build or upgrade. Seattle currently has 104 miles of bike facilities that meet the recommended facility quality levels.
During the meeting, attendees split into groups each looking at a different section of the map (West Seattle, NE Seattle, etc). Facilitators helped steer conversation and record input and suggestions for changes.
Instead of getting deep into the nitty gritty details, here are some broad thoughts I think everyone should bring with them as they go into future meetings:
- Neighborhood greenways are NOT replacements or alternatives for high quality facilities on commercial, destination-filled streets. They are about creating new transportation options that increase all-ages mobility within a neighborhood. For Seattle to be truly friendly for people biking and walking, we need to improve our commercial streets, as well.
- Do not be scared away by fears of future political battles. When you see a cycle track down Rainier Ave or Lake City Way or Market St, remember that this is a 20-year plan that should represent the city we want, not the political realities of 2012.
- Remember that we are building a plan for people who are afraid or unconvinced by cycling today. We are not here to merely represent the needs of people who are already cycling regularly. A facility that is “good enough” for you is not the kind of facility that is going to get a significant return on investment in terms of encouraging more people to cycle. As the neighborhood greenway groups stress, these facilities need to be comfortable for people 8-80 years old and attract the plurality of people who are interested in biking as transportation, but do not for various reasons.
The task of picking and choosing where to locate bike facilities is an enormous task. Use the meetings as a chance to lend your local knowledge of dangerous spots and comfortable grades to modify the road and facility choices they currently list. And keep in mind that each project will not be set in stone, and exact details will be worked out later (for example, if you think the neighborhood greenway should turn here instead of there, that’s not as big a deal as the route being left out entirely).
If you can’t make it to the meetings, you will have a chance to contribute online starting next week. And, of course, stay tuned here for more analysis of the plan in the days and weeks to come.
Here’s the pdf version of the draft map for those who want a closer look:
I can’t help it, I’m scared of the political battles that implementing even a small fraction of this will cause.
Tides will turn sooner than you think. Cycling keeps growing, and so does the number of people who see bicycling as a serious mode of transportation and part of a more dynamic Seattle. Opposition will exist for anything, but the sway in popular opinion is changing rapidly in favor of bike facilities.
tom – do you know what the “major” and “minor” designations mean with regard to separation? does that indicate that the separation will be major (cycletrack or buffered bike lane) v minor (standard bike lane)? or, does it simply mean that the roadway is a major street (arterial) v minor street (collector or local)?
Good question! I mean to put that in the post.
“Minor” means conventional painted bike lanes including buffered bike lanes. “Major” means physical separation (cycle tracks).
“Enhanced streets” will mostly be neighborhood greenways (but maybe also things like woonerfs or something? Not clear yet).
Hey, Tom, just asking because I don’t know, what’s the issue with greenways not being a replacement for biking on driving arterials? I would have thought that a biking arterial on a nearby side street next to the driving arterial (which is a greenway, unless I’m mistaken) would be a replacement, so just wanted to know. I probably just don’t understand the history or full context here, could you clarify, thanks!
I’m not Tom, but I think the reason he says that is because if you only had the parallel greenway, businesses/residences on the busy arterial would be inaccessible to non-hardcore bike riders, since the arterial would have no bike facilities.
That’s a big reason. There are also walking safety, economic and general comfort issues. I’ll have more on it in a post coming soon.
Still, I’d love to have biking and waking often separated from driving on greenways. For example, if a nearby neighborhood street to an arterial had a 15 mph speed limit on cars (but not bikes), fewer stop signs in the direction of the bike arterial, and diverted cars every few blocks, plus received extra pothole maintenance (like arterials do), that would be nearly ideal for me and, I’d guess, many other riders (and walkers).
While I agree that additional support for bikes and pedestrians at busy commercial intersections and streets would be great, that seems expensive compared to greenways, a harder sell politically, would antagonize drivers more, and are less useful to bikers and pedestrians. Or am I wrong about that?
I’m not saying take improving the situation for biking on major streets off the table, I think we should push on that too and continue to make improvements, but I’m asking why we don’t put the priority on greenways and focus more (or even most) effort there?
There has to be a balance of these things. There’s a lot that greenways can do, and the movement for greenways is building in community groups. Meanwhile you can make your own routes on side streets in Seattle easily — I do it daily.
In addition to business access issues, many of Seattle’s most difficult physical obstacles are crossed only by arterial roads, and making a bike network that overcomes those obstacles requires a broader approach than just greenways. Freeways and bodies of water require a different approach than greenways can provide. And creating good crossings of cross-arterials for greenways is sometimes even more contentious than doing it for routes directly along arterials.
Some of Seattle’s bike network problems can be approached with greenways. North-south travel through the Rainier Valley, and through Phinneywood, for example. Others, like crossing I-5 on the south end and crossing the railyard in SODO, will either need totally new infrastructure or routes that follow arterials. Routes that follow arterials can be done in less time and for less money (which is why it’s a real shame that the city did nothing in the Airport Way S Bridge rebuild). Arterials often have grade and directness advantages over side streets as well, and in some parts of Seattle that ends up mattering a lot.
Fortunately, greenways are cheap mile-by-mile and regular people have a lot of input to the process. If you want to see greenways in your neighborhood join a group and pitch your ideas.
I just don’t understand how to read this map to understand whether I get a useful, connected bike network in my neighborhood or not
What colors line up with the streets that someone like me (an “interested but concerned rider”) can actually ride on, and which are the ones I can’t?
Do I look at the green & blue and ignore everything orange, unless it’s an orange dotted line?
Oops, I see David had the same question (which you already answered!)
Theoretically, they all would be because of this rubric (page 23): http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/docs/bmp/BMP%20Update_seventh%20meeting%203%20oct%202012.pdf
The “conventional” bike lanes should only be on lower traffic, lower speed streets. Beyond a certain traffic and speed level, the facility should get bumped up a notch. Of course, this is all just in theory, and it’s not clear how things would actually end up on the ground.
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I’m a fast, male, lycra-wearing, bicycle commuter. I ride to work every day, year round. I often arrive at work sweaty and disheveled (and am fortunate to be able to shower on site). I ride fast because it’s exciting, it’s good exercise and because, as much as I enjoy riding, I see no reason to prolong what is already a significant portion of my life spent on my bike. I wear specialized bicycling clothing because it’s designed for freedom of movement, for speed and for comfort in miserable weather conditions. I honestly can’t imagine riding the distance I ride on a daily basis in street clothing, particularly in winter, although at other times in my life when my commute was shorter, I preferred to wear street clothes.
I feel that the author of “Bicycling is Not a Road Race (cc: SDOT)” spent much of his article heaping scorn on bicyclists like me and trying to construct them as some sort of “other,” hostile to the interests of “normal” cyclists and harmful to the goal of broadening the bicycling population. Nevertheless, I share his goal of increasing the number of cyclists by making Seattle’s infrastructure safer and more inviting to less-experienced cyclists. Is it possible for someone like me to advocate for bicycle facilities that benefit all cyclists, including people who will never want to go fast or wear lycra? I think it is. I don’t think it’s productive, however, to engage in divisive rhetoric that pits one type of cyclist against another and alienates many dedicated commuters like me (and many people I see out on their bikes every day) who may, in fact, have reasons for other than machismo and exhibitionism for riding fast and wearing tight clothing.
I agree! I think the problem arises when people who ride fast and feel comfortable with low or no levels of separation from cars start espousing that such facilities are “good enough.”
I believe everyone should wear whatever they want and bike as fast or slow and they want. But I do think it is important to make clear that for bike advocacy, the fast and confident biker is not the target. After all, a street safe enough for an 8-year-old will also be safer for everyone else. Casting as wide a net as possible is important, even if that means advocating for things you yourself don’t NEED. But casting a wide net also means not alienating people just because they wear a kit.
I agree with Al Dimond’s post above. Balance needed. I’m all for greenways to get more people comfortable riding (and walking) on streets with greater safety if really done to standards that give bikes and pedestrians right of way at presently uncontrolled intersections, on streets wide enough to avoid car doors and allow safe vehicle passing, and if they actually lead to destinations. But I have some concern about the “8 to 80” emphasis, and what Al D notes, “Fortunately, greenways are cheap mile-by-mile”. I suspect that some of the enthusiasm for greenways from officials and agencies is the “cheap” part. They could be the new sharrows. They could be done on the cheap, basically just signed routes called, but not really greenways, so the City can claim lots of miles of progerss quickly, as they did in 2007-8 with sharrow stencils. A danger is that the hard parts on arterials and arterial crossings and bridges would be left unfunded, with the excuse that those parts don’t work for the 8-17 or 70-80 age segments. When planning for 8 to 80″, let’s not forget the “18 to 68” group and what they need to really make cycling a substantial part of Seattle’s transportation.
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