The proposed Sonics Arena in Sodo goes before the Downtown Design Review Board tonight (5:30 p.m. in the Bertha Knight Landes Room at Seattle City Hall). Regardless of what you think of the architectural design, this is a great opportunity to kick-start a serious conversation about bicycle access to the city’s stadiums.
First off, the design documents predict that only two percent of fans will arrive at the arena via bike, four percent by walking and a stunningly low 13 percent via transit. They predict 81 percent will arrive by car.
This is almost certainly far off in all respects. For example, a 2011 Commute Seattle report showed that only 56 percent of people who commute downtown to work do so by car. 47 percent travel by public transit, 4.3 percent bike and 8.3 walk. UPDATE: Zach Shaner points out below that I was looking at a slightly different table. The actual numbers are: transit 42.3%, drive alone 35.2%, rideshare 9.6%, walk 5.9%, bike 2.8%, other 4.2%. He also says the arena estimates are based on data from the other stadiums. But there’s no reason to think that better access couldn’t change these figures.
Perhaps this seems like nitpicking, but a big concern for the stadium is car parking. Concentrating more on providing safe and easy access to transit hubs and providing safe and inviting bike lanes could go a long way in easing these parking concerns.
Plus, an endless stream of fans sporting Sonics jerseys as they walk, bike, and fill buses and trains on their way to the game is far better for team spirit than a traffic jam!
Not all the access issues are under the purview of the arena designers. This will require city action, as well as help from the other stadiums and the Port of Seattle. Here’s an example:
This is a look at 1st Ave in front of the stadium. Now, architects only really have control over the sidewalk and building front design. But it’s not hard to imagine why this street design might discourage people from cycling to games. There is definitely space for a protected bike lane here, which would have the added advantage of improving all the crossings for people walking and giving people on the sidewalk more space from speeding cars. This is especially important for, say, a large crowd of inebriated basketball fans…
There is also immense potential for changes to improve access to all stadiums from Pioneer Square and the International District. For example, there is an existing footbridge from 4th and Weller to the Century Link Field parking lot that is utterly underutilized. Right now, it simply feels like it only goes to the parking lot. But with fairly little work (and maybe some ramps for direct cycling and ADA access without needing the elevator), a trail could be built that makes it intuitive, easy and safe to access the stadiums and Pioneer Square.
Events like Portland’s Bike to Blazers demonstrate the potential for cycling and basketball (or any sport, for that matter) to be a powerful combo. After all, when you bike, walk and take transit, getting to the game can be fun, too.
What ideas do you have for encouraging bike access to the stadiums?
Here’s the full design proposal document: