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Vision Zero Bellevue? The Eastside city is crafting a plan + Take this wikimap survey

Screenshot of Bellevue's wikimap (click to contribute)
Screenshot of Bellevue’s wikimap (click to contribute)

Bellevue is trying to identify and prioritize biking and walking safety needs, and they are reaching out for your help.

The Pedestrian & Bicycle Implementation Initiative (“PBII”) has launched a wikimap survey, which lets you go pretty in-depth in reporting challenges to safe cycling or walking in the city. You just drop a point on the map, then answer some survey questions describing the problem and what kinds of infrastructure or enforcement you think could help.

Earlier this year, Bellevue City Council launched the PBII, which is basically an effort to actually implement the city’s 2009 Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan.

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“Rather than undertaking another multi- year planning process to update the plan, Council voted unanimously on February 17, 2015 in favor of initiating the Pedestrian & Bicycle Implementation Initiative (PBII)—a complement of action-oriented strategies to advance the projects and programs identified by the 2009 Plan,” reads the PBII document (PDF).

Top bike route priorities identified in the 2009 plan.
Top bike route priorities identified in the 2009 plan.

As the document notes, the 2009 plan was the product of lots of public outreach. Perhaps you were part of that effort? Or perhaps you are simply frustrated by Bellevue’s glacial pace for improving walking and biking conditions. What’s to say Bellevue leaders are actually serious this time?

Well, have faith and get involved! Passing this scope of work document is a sign that city leaders may finally be ready to get serious about fixing the many missing or inadequate sections of bike infrastructure. But it’s going to take serious grassroots effort and input from people who live, work and play in Bellevue to get past the cars-first inertia in the city’s streets.

But once the city gets rolling, it could go fast. With so many big streets with too many lanes that are too wide, Bellevue could implement a protected bike lane network way faster than Seattle if it wanted to.

OK, I got a little ahead of myself. First, Bellevue is going to create a series of technical reports and action plans analyzing how crashes in Bellevue happen, national and global best practices for preventing those crashes and a list of the top priority projects across the city. All this should be done in 2016.

This could become Bellevue’s Vision Zero plan.

And did I mention they will also come up with a bunch of ideas for how to fund the effort along with a budget proposal? Because none of this will go very far without funding.

All this comes as Bellevue is set to receive state funding to launch bike share. So the PBII also includes putting together a business plan for a Pronto expansion. In order for bike share to succeed, Bellevue needs to attract lots of rides by people who would not feel comfortable biking on the city’s streets today. But that’s an excellent guide for the city’s bike network improvements: It’s not really for the strong and confident people who are already biking (though it will also help them), it’s for the many more people who are intimidated by big, fast streets.

The program will be managed by Franz Loewenherz, a very earnest guy who works hard and is dedicated to walking and biking safety. I’m excited to see where this goes and can’t wait for action in 2016.

More details on the survey from Bellevue:

The city’s Transportation Department is asking the public to identify unsafe conditions or behaviors in Bellevue’s walking and bicycling network. Information gathered through a “wiki” mapping survey will be used to address locations where problems occur. Participate in the survey.

The online survey, which will be available through Oct. 31, allows users to locate a less than perfect spot on a map, describe and evaluate the issue using a menu of options, choose a solution, make additional comments and upload a photo of the location if desired.

The information eventually could lead to improvements. A broad cross-section of stakeholders and city staff will consider the input and develop action strategies to potentially address locations and corridors where problems frequently occur.

Mapping where people notice hazardous conditions or behavior is just one of the tasks identified in Bellevue’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Implementation Initiative.

The survey tool is meant to help transportation staff design facilities, develop education programs and deploy enforcement activities to address safety issues. It is not intended to replace the city’s MyBellevue mobile app and portal, which is used to report maintenance issues such as potholes, and to request services.

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16 responses to “Vision Zero Bellevue? The Eastside city is crafting a plan + Take this wikimap survey”

  1. Oscar p

    Lived in Bellevue 6 months in corporate housing when I first came to Seattle.

    I have moved around a lot and Bellevue is the worst place I have ever lived. The contrived downtown is like Las Vegas without anything that’s fun or interesting. It’s full of lollipop roads but you have to drive everywhere. People I met were stale. Worst of all worlds.

    Granted, I don’t have kids so schools and diploma mill football teams don’t interest me.

    I applaud this effort at bike connectivity. Would have made it a nicer place for sure.

    1. AP

      So Oscar doesn’t like Bellevue after six months of corporate housing. Good to know. This fact adds useful information to the blog post.

      Bellevue is a very young city. Give it a chance to grow. This post is about improving Bellevue, even if it’s not a shallow hipster playground.

      1. Harry blanco

        Sensitive much?

      2. AP

        Yes, Harry blanco. Do you know how to make something sensitive? You continually grind away at it.

        Seattle has an oversized sense of “us vs. them” when it comes to the Eastside. It’s tiring and unproductive and I’ve chosen to point that out when it’s particularly obnoxious. People should grow up and make the region a better place to live.

      3. AW

        Bellevue is quite a nice place to live if you want to have a big house in a quiet neighborhood and don’t mind driving your car everywhere. But let’s get real that although it has a few isolated bicycle facilities, it has nowhere near the infrastructure that Seattle has for safe bicycling. I say this as a former 20 year resident of Bellevue and now a resident of Seattle.

        I do not think there has been any new bike facilities in Bellevue in the last 10 years. Among the challenges to getting decent bicycle facilities in Bellevue:

        * NIMBY-ism. For at least 20 years the city has wanted to simply restripe West Lake Sammamish Parkway so that there are shoulders on both sides of the street but this has been blocked by residents who don’t want any changes. Even just redrawing lines on the road are blocked. Also consider the missing bicycle lanes on 140th Ave north of 8th street NE. Even though this is at least 1/2 mile away from homes in Bridle Trails, that neighborhood has kept the extension of bike lanes north of 8th NE.

        * Although I do not have any hard data, I suspect Kemper Freeman would like to make sure as many BMW can flow into downtown Bellevue as possible and bike lanes would impact that.

        * General apathy by Bellevue residents who only think bicycles get in their way of speeding to Starbucks. I’ve heard many times “why do you need a bike lane there ?” and “Get off the road”.

        At this point I’d be happy if they’d finish the bike lane to connect the 520 trails and fix the entrance to the mountains to sound greenway in factoria. But I’m not holding my breath.

      4. JAT

        Actually I can think of a tiny piece of cycling infrastructure that’s about 2 months old (intersection of 108th and Main) which due to scofflaw motorists is leading to unintended conflicts. This site gave me a place to give very specific feedback and I’m thankful!

        Obviously we all have our per-conceived notions of Bellevue, and it drives me nuts that that’s where my job is, but I applaud the city of Bellevue for trying and I applaud Seattlebikeblog for looking beyond the mid-point of the floating bridge and bringing us this story.

  2. I don’t think the 2009 plan is the plan that’s going to prime Bellevue for successful bike share, unless the bar for success is set below even Seattle’s very modest mark. That is, this is not the plan that’s going to make transportation cycling in Bellevue appealing to a majority of people. It’s a plan that improves things for people that are at least somewhat comfortable being in some traffic some of the time.

    That said, I think it’s absolutely the right decision to focus on implementing it now instead of spending years of effort and energy primarily on more high-level planning. Bellevue’s bike network right now is so bad that even the people that are comfortable with prevailing cycling conditions in nearby towns aren’t comfortable in most of Bellevue. The people that come to meetings, counter the anti-bike pressure, and testify for better conditions, are mostly people that at least do bike sometimes. If Bellevue seriously focuses on implementing the 2009 plan’s facilities and continues to install basic bike lanes along with major road construction it could have an on-street network similar to Kirkland’s in maybe five years. Kirkland’s network has its problems, but it’s sustained enough people that ride often enough to provide a political voice for cycling, resulting in good stuff like a Greenways movement. Of course Bellevue should build the best, most inviting facilities it can get away with in the road space it has, but if it lets the perfect be the enemy of the good it still won’t have the rider-advocates it needs in five years to take the next step forward. For example, I think the removal of turn boxes from the design for the on-street connection of the 520 trail is a mistake… but if there ever comes a choice between building it now and delaying it further for a redesign, I’d rather see it built.

    1. BellevueTheBikable

      In Bellevue, practically every road is either an arterial or a residential street that purposely blocks through traffic, including bikes. Placing bike lanes on the major arterials will not satisfy anyone other than the most fearless stuntmen. Also, the lack of cycling isn’t just roads, but also lack of neighborhood parks or food options. The city was built to be a drivers paradise.

      1. AP

        The same is true of Kirkland, no? There are very few end-to-end connected roads there. The difference is that Kirkland has drawn bike lanes on the arterials. Bellevue has a few, but very few.

      2. Kirkland’s arterials are, on average, narrower than Bellevue’s, which is a difference. In and near downtown Bellevue there aren’t many streets around that aren’t 5-lane arterials, and there will be a few bike lanes drawn on these. But this isn’t really what’s outlined in the 2009 plan — instead it’s a lot of corridors that, indeed, would look familiar to a commuter from Kirkland or Seattle.

        Maybe they’ll build an off-street trail near the Lake Hills Connector — the line along it is labeled a trail, after all! But even if they just put some 5-foot bike lanes on it, this would make it similar to Market Street north of Forbes Creek — a road that nobody likes, but that some commuters at least tolerate (hopefully, this being 2015, Bellevue wouldn’t abruptly end bike lanes like Kirkland ends the northbound lanes on Market). The on-street part of the 520 trail is not going to be an 8-80 facility, but it’s going to be palatable to a wider range of people, in a wider range of conditions, than what’s there today. The 2009 plan is not very strong in downtown Bellevue, but improvements in the planned corridors, along with the planned 116th Ave road diet, would grow an actual constituency of people arriving there regularly on bikes, imagining a very different downtown Bellevue and advocating for this vision. Get the ERC going and we’ll have even more.

      3. BellevueTheBikable

        The roads in Kirkland are connected for the most part. I live on the fringe between Bellevue and Kirkland and take long detours through Kirkland to avoid the scary Bellevue streets, nearly doubling my commute. Keep in mind that a lot of Kirkland roads don’t need bike lanes becasue they have sufficiently low vehicle speeds and volume.

        All you need to do is look at the number of 5 lane stroads in Bellevue versus Kirkland. These types of roads are uninhabitable. Kirkland has 85th and others to the north, especially in Totem Lake. But Bellevue is pretty much 5 land stroads as far as the eye can see.

        Without much fanfare, Kirkland restriped the Lake Washington Blvd lanes from 5/11 bike/car lanes to 6/10, which should be standard on 30 mph streets. On the other hand Bellevue Northup Way bike lanes will be the old style 5/11 bike/car lanes, even with this high profile and expensive construction, and it being so important of a connection. I will predict now that the Northup lanes will be scary and underused, despite the cost and best intentions. The 11 foot car lanes will encourage speeding motorists who seem today to be very aggressive on this stretch of road.

  3. AP

    I hadn’t considered the width of the roads. Great points, thanks.

    And I’m not claiming Bellevue is a good place to bike, or that they even try to fix it. I’m just arguing for a constructive conversation instead of “Bellevue sucks. Seattle is awesome.” Not all of Bellevue is big houses & BMW SUVs. And Seattle has a problem area or two.

  4. Bell Needs Help

    Bellevue suffers not only from the stroads, but what feels like a clear lack of education and consideration by drivers. Also the speeds needs be cut down as anything on 8th or through Bellevue Way feels like a continuation of the freeway.
    I’m happy that it seems like the city is starting to move forward, and that this survey + plan will bring good change. I’m also hoping the repave on 116th will finish with bike lanes that are supposed to be implemented. Bellevue is a beautiful place that is just so terrible to walk or bike.

  5. Gary

    The East side of Bellevue over behind Crossroads is very bikable. Lots of roads that already feel like greenways. Where Bellevue really falls down is that it’s difficult to go E/W except as far South as Eastgate or as far North as the bike lane along 520. You can ride N/S on 108th, or 140th for part of it but I agree in general they optimized the roads for cars not bicycles. They put bike lanes on NE 8th, but it has too high a speed limit to feel safe riding on.

    Downtown of course is terrible, wide streets and no bike lanes or bike parking at all.

    You can thank the Kemper Freeman family for most of this.

  6. […] “I know there’s still a tremendous amount of work to be done” to integrate the policy into the city’s comprehensive plan and the bike/walk initiative we reported about previously. […]

  7. […] As we reported previously, rather than creating entirely new master plans for biking and walking, Bellevue chose to instead create an initiative to speed up and target implementation of their existing plans. The City Council also endorsed Vision Zero in December, with an emphasis on designing safer streets for all road users. […]

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