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City Council wants to add $1M to speed building of downtown protected bike lanes

The FamilyRide crew bike a temporary protected bike lane on 2nd Ave near Madison St.

The City Council has proposed a change to outgoing Mayor Mike McGinn’s budget: Adding $1 million to the 2014 budget for design of protected bike lanes downtown.

Designed so everyday people of all ages and abilities find them safe and comfortable to use, protected bike lanes (also called “cycle tracks”) include a barrier of some kind between moving car traffic and people on bikes. This barrier is often either a short concrete curb, a row of planter boxes or a row of parked cars, depending on the desires of people who live and work on the street.

Cascade Bicycle Club and Commute Seattle demonstrated the potential of protected bike lanes by creating a temporary one-block temporary protected bikeway on Park(ing) Day. And as the FamilyRide crew demonstrates in the photo above, a little extra protection goes a long way to making downtown streets more comfortable, even during rush hour.

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The Bike Master Plan draft shows protected bikeways in blue
The Bike Master Plan draft (a 20-year plan) shows proposed protected bikeways in blue

The Council proposal would direct $1 million currently intended for final design of the Center City Connector streetcar to instead go towards funding the downtown bikeway design (stay tuned for more on the streetcar soon). The money is more than half the funds the city anticipates will be needed to plan more than two miles of protected bikeways through downtown, the most expensive but also most beneficial location for such projects.

The Council also notes the intention to fund the rest of the design costs if the Budget Office’s mid-year updates show there is enough revenue.

The projects specifically noted in the Council’s budget proposal are completing the 7th Ave protected bikeway design (partially funded by Amazon), and getting as far along as possible in design of bike lanes on 2nd and/or 4th Avenues as well as a connecting route on Pike and/or Union.

In a related budget note, the Council directs the Department of Transportation to:

Develop a funding plan that will allow the 1⁄4 mile on 7th Ave and 2 miles on 2nd/4th, as well as the east-west connection between these two segments (eg., Pike/Union), to be completed and in operation by the end of 2015

If you want to make sure these plans are included in the budget, be sure to let the Council know. They will vote on a final budget later this month.

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23 responses to “City Council wants to add $1M to speed building of downtown protected bike lanes”

  1. Mike

    Where’s the extra-double bonus “like” button when you need it?

  2. LWC

    Awesome, but the end of 2015? Really? Given the speed with which Chicago and New York did similar improvements to their main downtown roadways, 2+ years for a couple bike paths is pretty baffling.

    1. Kimberly Kinchen

      Most of the new NYC infrastructure you’re referencing took years of local activists leaning on community boards (be happy there is no CB system in Seattle). Might have looked quick from the outside, but with few exceptions has been a long slog for activists. So getting the council behind this now seems like a big win — and potentially, if this is more than symbolic (I don’t know Seattle so well these days) frees up a little time and energy that advocates can direct to push other important improvements.

  3. stardent

    This is good to see. This arrangement is much more realistic and safer for bicyclists. Just painting the roads leads to conflicts with drivers who think they own the roads while giving cyclists a false sense of safety.

  4. merlin

    Very exciting. I think many people who drive and rarely bike are terrified of hitting someone on a bike. That’s what I hear from my non-biking friends.

    1. Ask

      If that’s really the case your non biking friends shouldn’t be behind the wheel. Driving around terrified is no way to handle heavy machinery.

  5. Josh

    If the City Council is serious, maybe they should make protected bike lanes legal first?

    For now, they’re not lanes, they’re paths — note the signage on Broadway, for example. They’re not part of the street, they’re off-road facilities next to the street. That means different rules of the road, treating intersections as crosswalks, path speed limits vs. posted speed limits, etc.

    Bicycle-shaped signal heads are not legally recognized by the SMC or the RCW. They have no legal meaning or standing. Eventually, the estate of some cyclist will have to try to convince a court to recognize those signals despite the law.

    Or the City Council could direct legal staff to write cycletracks into the municipal code, to the extent allowed by the RCW, and lobby the Legislature to take on the parts where state supremacy prevents the City from acting.

    1. SGG

      Broadway is a great example of good intentions gone disastrous.

      First, there are no real separators, just some little white tube things. It’s not enough to really indicate to motorists something different is going on here.

      Second, the whole thing really feels arbitrary. Green lanes that will last for 6 months, along with more arrows and sharrows pointing every which way. It’s confusing in a car, and it’s confusing on a bike. This gives bicyclists some false sense of security. It’s sort of like the staff break room with a thousand little signs about where to put things and about cleaning up after yourself. Eventually you stop noticing them.

      Third, and this is where I agree with the above poster. There needs to be clarification in the law, otherwise this stuff has no meaning. Most people understand what yield signs, double solid center lines, stop signs, etc mean because they are standard everywhere you go. Seattle just deciding to make up their own stuff may be well-intentioned, but may make things worse.

      1. Tom Fucoloro

        I really don’t see how you can declare the Broadway Bikeway a “disaster.” Seems to me like people are pretty much figuring it out, and it’s not even finished yet.

        Josh, as for the “legality,” the elements are all part of the NACTO guide, a generally accepted design manual. Even the Feds recognize it as such these days (and they are notoriously slow to adapt). So while I’m not a lawyer or anything, I’m pretty sure it’s all fairly well codified. If I’m wrong, point me to a case or source demonstrating the issue, I’d be interested to see it.


  6. I really like the idea but the focus also needs to be the intersections. People like to make fast left turns. Once I even witnessed a guy go flying up in the air and land on the hood of car because the woman claimed, “she didn’t see him”.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      These will absolutely include intersection work. That’s part of the high cost, since intersections are nearly always the most expensive part (and, thus, why the city has had a bad habit in the past of skipping them).

    2. adot

      There should be no left turns for cars from second ave. Period.

      1. bob

        Really? So you want to make it impossible for drivers to get where they want to go? Get real.

      2. adot

        Assuming you’re not being sarcastic, no, I don’t have an issue with making it slightly less of a lazy convenience to operate a private motor vehicle in the commercial core. Driving is already too easy everywhere, private vehicles shouldn’t even be allowed downtown. No turns on 2nd is a good start.

      3. EAK

        I couldn’t agree with you more, ADOT!

  7. CD2UW

    Awesome! This is great news! The centrality and increasing ubiquity of bike infrastructure will promote the need for legal and street design infrastructure. Lets be positive folks and take a win for a win!

  8. […] ← City Council wants to add $1M to speed building of downtown protected bike lanes […]

  9. stardent

    I’d guess 99% of the people on the road (myself included) don’t understand sharrows. What do they mean – bikes can be on the road, watch out for bikes, bikes have the right of travel, what? All this transportation planning by paint reminds me some dictatorships where they declare poverty has ended by redefining what poverty is.
    It’s quite useless, even as a beginning.
    Divided, protected lanes are better. Even here what about buses pulling into stops? So long as parking on the street is widespread any type of planning for separate bike lanes is doomed.

    1. Greg

      Sigh. Unless those protected lanes are very carefully done, it’s they who give a false sense of security, not the trad bike lanes and sharrows.

      And like the person said, if you don’t know how to drive around people on bikes and folks walking then you have no business driving in the city . It comes down to:

      * proceeding at a safe speed (this disqualifies a big chunk of people driving cars, but there you are ;-)
      * checking for folks on bikes and on the street – especially when you’re turning
      * and not passing bikes unless it’s safe to do so.

      It’s not really that hard, but does mean you have to pay attention when driving. A lot of folks out there seem to think this is some terribly unfair burden to bear, but really it’s kindof a necessary cost of being in charge of thousands of pounds of high speed metal.

      Oh, and sharrows are just a reminder of what’s true about roads all over the place. By law bikes belong on the road. And in the city that’s a legal standard that is going to start actually being enforced (it’s an economic thing – cities are competing the young smart upwardly mobile workers that places like Amazon need to grow – and those workers want to live where they can bike even if they don’t.) So best to get used to it now.

      1. stardent

        I know what you are saying – car drivers should either behave themselves or get out. The problem is cars are too big and dangerous to argue with and it turns out that if I am killed by a car, I am totally, completely dead and whatever point I was trying to make dies with me, and the car driver most likely will be let off with a light punishment.
        No, thanks, I don’t want to take chances riding under dangerous circumstances. If my commute were not mostly on BGT, I’d likely drive to work.

  10. As natuaral gas and petroleum prices will continue to make a bigger share of budgets, and the most optimistic study I’ve seen which tries to gauge the safety of cycle tracks (the Montreal one from Anne Lusk) appears to leave out a considerable number of collisions at intersections, I think this sucks for cyclists riding at any speed.

    Light rail is the way to go while we can afford it and the energy is cheap enough to build it.

    The sidewalks downtown are already pretty big if someone’s going to ride that slow and they’d be subject to all the same turning collision probabilities a cycle track would, except for the parked car visibility thing. The 2-way ones are especially concerning, as a cyclist has to look for a left hook in two very different places and I don’t know if any driver is going to expect one going 10mph there as they turn.

    There are other ways to get people on bikes.

  11. […] We reported recently on the City Council’s proposal to add $1 million to the 2014 budget. If approved, the change would accelerate design of miles of protected bike lanes and walking safety improvements downtown and put the city on track to finish construction in 2015. […]

  12. The evidence which suggests cycle tracks’ effect on safety downtown has been presented to me like this.

    Alta Planning and Design, which SDOT and the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board routinely has listened to, has stated in their piece Cycle Tracks: Lessons Learned, “Because of the difficulty and danger of allowing other traffic to cross the cycle track, [cycle tracks] are not recommended on streets where there are many major and closely spaced intersections”. This is downtown, not considering all the busy driveways with blind corners and cars that just bust into the sidewalk and beyond until they’re in a good vantage point of car traffic.

    from Søren Jensen’s Bicycle Tracks and Lanes: a Before-After Study: “The safety effects of bicycle tracks in urban areas are an increase of about 10 percent in crashes and injuries”. Yes, it’s been observed bicycle ridership increases with cycle tracks, but it seems he considered the growing cohort to represent this percentage, though I do not understand his formulas in the format I got and many important references are in Danish.

    Jensen was also asked by the city of Copenhagen to make Road safety and perceived risk of cycle facilities in Copenhagen, also cited by NACTO, which SDOT keeps referring to. It states, in regards to cycle tracks, “If the figures for the road sections are combined with those for the junctions, an increase of 9-10% in accidents and injuries has taken place…the cycle tracks and lanes which have been constructed have had positive results as far as traffic volumes and feelings of security go. They have however, had negative effects on road safety”. The references for this article now aren’t easily found in the mentioned avenues.

    from Niels Agerholm’s Traffic safety on bicycle paths-results from a new large scale Danish study: “In general, implementing of bicycle paths resulted in an insignificant increase in the number of injury accidents by 14%. It was mainly caused by a statistical significant increase in the number of injury accidents with vulnerable road users i.e. moped riders, cyclists, and pedestrians with 25%. The number of injury accidents that involved vulnerable road users did increase significantly at intersections (34%) while the effect on sections was small and uncertain.”

    NACTO also repeatedly refers to Anne Lusk’s Risk of injury for bicycling on cycle tracks versus in the street to suggest cycle tracks are safer, but what’s up with this: “For comparability with exposure data, it was important to exclude individuals injured at intersections who may have been riding on a cross street.”?

    If I decide to ride outside of a cycle track on a street with two ways for cars, I hope in the probable prosecution of not riding “as far to the right as is safe”, a judge would agree these cycle tracks, if implemented in the ways observed, are not safe.

    If it’s about increasing bicycle ridership, SDOT’s own surveys suggest most in town don’t ride for reasons other than safety. so here are some acts that may help this:
    -really working on municipal planning that makes it practical for those to walk and ride a bike to where they need to be (affordable housing? inclusionary zoning? rent control? homeless encampments and shelters?)
    -developing the new rideshare resources to help anyone, getting more drivers that need to drive but don’t feel safe behind the wheel out of that situation, giving those that do drive more experience, and decreasing the number of cars on the road, thus probably the incidence of rear end collisions. The mayor-elect and city council’s positions on the new rideshare services are prohibitive. this has to change.
    -again, light rail should come back, and metro must retain its financial support, decreasing car traffic.
    -bike fit procedures that actually work for those of any riding situation. that plumbline BS has no merit for those with a Dutch bike or beach cruiser, or those want to ride what they got in that way. I keep getting referred to bikes that I know are too small for me. 5mm in seatpost height is like arthiritis to wolverine.
    -bike theft has shown to discourage folks to get back on bikes. Racks could be better designed with tamper free mounting hardware and no more front wheel only shit. take the stickers off them to see how much a saw or grinder got into it, especially with the cora racks. Police reports help because a new buyer may look into it and the SPD pawn unit, or any law enforcement agency using the national stolen items database may make time for it even if property taxes just go to Seattle/KingCo.
    -bicycle parts and service can be more affordable, and bike components can be built to last again, like those of the 30’s. the World Bicycle Fund bikes from SRAM are an extreme example, with weight. It’s the proactive investment in getting a bike that’s a barrier, with one’s personal constant ongoing expenses, to riding.
    -as energy prices make a larger share of personal expenses, I think it’s safe to assume many will stop caring about the weather. look at cities all over the world. UW’s rainwise helps. Pacific Northwest weather won’t induce a cold.
    -can more bike shops stock the city bike map? or material like Michael Bluejay’s “How to not get hit by cars”, or similar work from Cascade?
    -Can a comprehensive study which assesses the risks of vehicular cycling and riding farther right be more publicized if it exists?
    -some drivers still don’t know cyclist rights

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