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City releases 2014 bike map, plans major remake in 2015

2014 2 18 Frontside v4-cropThe city has released the official 2014 bike map, and it comes with an updated color scheme to help highlight routes with the most protection from moving traffic.

You download a PDF version of the print map at the bottom of this post. If you want to score a print copy, you can order one online for free. Just give your address and Washington Bikes will mail one to your house. How cool is that?

The city also has an interactive online bike map that shows bike routes according to your cycling confidence level. For mobile users, there’s also a really nice mobile version.

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While the print map looks nice, some key issues still persist. The biggest issue, in my opinion, is that it is somewhat difficult to predict the stress level of each route based solely on the lines.

For example, some busy streets without bike lanes are marked in a skinny blue line because they are marked with sharrows. Others are marked with thick yellow lines to signify busy streets without bike lanes that are commonly used as bike routes. From the perspective of someone on a bike unfamiliar with the area, these experiences are essentially the same, since sharrows do very little to improve the biking experience.

However, the city is aware of these issues and announced at a recent meeting of the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board that they are planning a big remake of the map for 2015. Next year’s map may make an effort to mark bike routes according to stress level. That way, instead of just telling people what kind of bicycle facility exists, the map will tell people what the biking experience will feel like.

Is it an all-ages-and-abilities facility like a neighborhood greenway, a trail or a protected bike lane? Is it a route for somewhat confident people, such as a paint-only bike lane? Or is it for fearless people who don’t mind mixing with fast-moving traffic?

The redesign may also be a chance to integrate other ideas into the city’s bike map. If you have any ideas or suggestions, post them in the comments below. We will post more about this redesign when the city gets into the process.

Here’s the 2014 map:

Click image for larger JPG or click here for the PDF
Click image for larger JPG or click here for the PDF

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10 responses to “City releases 2014 bike map, plans major remake in 2015”

  1. Brice

    I like how Austin’s bike map uses colors to indicate “comfort levels”. The separations can be subjective, but its easy to quickly scout the least stressful vs. quickest routes. You do lose the detail of facility type from this approach, but many riders (especially new or less confident ones) really just want to know the safest and least stressful routes.


  2. Brian Porter

    A few ideas:
    1) Roads with grades above a certain threshold (maybe 10%) should be removed from the map, or at least very significantly grayed out. This would help clarify the actual bikeable routes in the city.

    2) None of the highlighted bike routes should have very steep grades. Instead, I’d draw the recommended switchbacks . A good example of this is near the Fisherman’s terminal in Interbay. The recommended route for connecting the Ship Canal trail to Gilman is a short steep road. Why not recommend cyclists detour up 21st to Elmore and then back to Gilman? It’s slightly longer but much less steep. Stuff like this matters if you are riding a cargo bike. (Thanks to Madi Carlson for pointing out how easy this alternate route is).

    3) Some of the boldest lines on the map are I-5, 520, 99. None of these are bike routes. They should be massively de-emphasized, although I suppose for I-5 at least there needs to be some sort of recognition of the highway as a barrier to east-west travel.

    4) The current map is way too busy. I’m sure the folks who are thinking about a re-do are aware of this. One solution to the tangle of colors and symbols would be a holistic way of designating stress incorporating grade and infrastructure and any other relevant data points. Routes could then simply be marked in various shades of a single color, where the color shade would indicate overall stress; the other symbols would be removed entirely. (Highly stressful routes would not make the cut and would be left off the map completely.) An alternate idea would be to literally draw out the “island areas” of the city – the places like the top of Queen Anne where the grade is flat and you don’t need to worry at all about grade. Then thoughtfully show cyclists how to get from island to island in a low stress way (recommended Metro routes for example).

    5) I would design the map for people who want to use bike share to get around, who are new to the city, tourists, people who are less confident cyclists. The very confident cyclists already know how to get around, surely are willing to take steeper risks, and are willing to tolerate less comfortable routes. A map is probably less useful to someone like that, but for a novice or intermediate cyclist it could be incredibly liberating.

    1. Dave

      I disagree that steep roads should be removed; I do agree they should be appropriately marked. 10% grade doesn’t bug me, but everybody is different in terms of their tolerance to such things.

    2. Becka

      I agree, I5 is confusing on this map. It’s literally the most prominent feature, and is completely unusable by bike.

  3. Andres Salomon

    I hate the seattle bike map. I look forward to updates that make it focus on bike routes, as opposed to routes that I don’t want to take. Might I suggest modeling it after Vancouver’s bike map? http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/map-cycling-vancouver.pdf

    Note that one color is used; the same color that’s used for bike lanes. The distinction between different types of infrastructure is shown with dashed/dotted/solid/bold lines, with the visual focus being on the *best* bike infrastructure (proper separation, or greenway-like streets that have low automobile traffic and speeds). The lines that stand out less (dashed/dotted) are worst bike infrastructure (sharrows, painted lanes w/ no separation). I can tell w/ a quick glance whether a route between points A and B will be low stress and direct.

    With the Seattle map, I need to constantly reference the legend. What was blue vs yellow again? Wait, blue with little perpendicular lines? So I like the thin yellow, but not the fat yellow? But the fat blue turns into the fat yellow, does that mean I want to avoid the route entirely? Why does this fat yellow have black dots? Screw it, I’ll just take the bus.

  4. Eric

    I use google maps with biking and topography turned on. The new Google maps ruined things as it doesn’t allow terrain and biking at the same time, plus the performance is terrible. Here’s a link to the old, unbroken view of Google Maps. Whoever designed the new Google Maps needs to join the Windows 8 designers in the stockades.

    It would be good if the paper map had 3 color types for the stress level of routes. That way you could figure out where to go with your kids vs how to commute at high speed. There’s no magic formula, but stress is some mix of dedicated right of way, traffic level, and elevation gain.

  5. Zach Shaner

    I’ve always liked this map overall, but I have a few issues with it:

    1. I’ve never liked the use of >> etc to designate hilliness rather than direction of travel, especially in places such as Downtown where direction of travel (one-way vs. two-way) is critically important but omitted.

    2. The map makes Pine appear as a continuous corridor (except for a one-block break between 7th-8th), and it doesn’t convey that it’s westbound-only west of 8th. The map also shows Pine’s bike lane starting at Terry instead of 8th.

    3. The hilliness arrows are always inconsistently applied. Incredibly steep Spring St doesn’t get hill arrows, but gentle Jackson does?

    4. There are problems with rail integration. Mapping all rail transit together is misleading, and it makes the 5th/Jackson area cofnfusingly messy. The First Hill Streetcar overlay makes it appear that are no bike facilities on Yesler between Broadway and 14th. Etc.

    5. Is 19th through Cap Hill and the C.D. no longer a signed route?

    1. Zach Shaner


    2. Zach Shaner

      6. The map makes it look like there’s a direct connection between the Burke-Gilman and the Fremont Bridge and Ship Canal trail. The map should figure out a way to show that you need to use 34th to connect to the bridge.

  6. Josh

    There should be some objective quality standard for bike lanes or sharrows to be included on the map. As it is, it suggests the narrow, substandard bike lanes on a busy freight corridor like Dearborn are a better bike route than lower-traffic streets with sharrows, and doesn’t have any sort of hazard warning for the area of the Dearborn freeway interchange ramps.

    Most of the city’s first generation of sharrows are improperly installed and do almost nothing to improve either comfort or safety, and there are countless miles of very narrow bike lanes and door zone bike lanes that are more hazardous than a travel lane with no bicycle infrastructure at all.

    Have to agree with the inconsistent use of the hilliness chevrons — Jackson gets them, but the preferred route up King Street to avoid the streetcar track conflicts doesn’t.

    Also, the current map does nothing to show grade separations — on my own commute, it implies 12th Ave S and Dearborn intersect, for example.

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