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SNG: Imagining a truly bike-friendly Uptown and South Lake Union

Lyle Bicknell from Seattle’s Dept. of Planning and Development helped lead a bike tour of South Lake Union and Uptown in July.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The only thing worse than biking in South Lake Union is driving in South Lake Union. But unlike driving, there are some relatively easy and quickly-achievable ways to dramatically improve bike routes to and through our city’s fastest-growing neighborhood.

Over the summer, I joined Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, local residents, city staff and City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw for a bike tour of South Lake Union and Lower Queen Anne/Uptown. It was eye-opening mostly because of how clear the solutions are. SNG has compiled the feedback from the ride into a report with specific suggestions the city, developers and major employers should take seriously.

Below is the report from the Seattle Neighborhood Greenways blog, republished here with permission. Thanks especially to Gordon Padelford and Cathy Tuttle for their work and offering us this post.

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South Lake Union Seattle Neighborhood Greenways Scouting Ride July 2015
South Lake Union Seattle Neighborhood Greenways Scouting Ride July 2015

In July 2015, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways brought together a group of stakeholders to scout and recommend better east‐west connections between the Cascade and Uptown neighborhoods for families and people of all ages and abilities to navigate the fastest growing part of Seattle by bike.

The scouting ride had representatives from the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board, the Seattle Department of Transportation, the Seattle Department of Planning and Development, Seattle Parks, Seattle Parks Foundation, the Lake to Bay Loop Coalition, Seattle Bike Blog, Queen Anne Greenways, Cascade Bicycle Club, Lake Union Greenways, Central Seattle Greenways, and the Seattle City Council.

Top Four Recommendations

  1. Roll Out the G​reen Carpet:​T​he Mercer Street Underpass is an excellent and important all ages and abilities route across Aurora. Extend the “green carpet” east, west, and south in order to connect South Lake Union, Uptown, and Seattle Center.​

    Top Four Recommendations
    Top Four Recommendations
  2. Lake to Bay Broad Street must be all ages and abilitiesSharrows on Broad Street are not an acceptable level of safety or comfort for this major redesign proposed by the Lake to Bay Planning effort. While confident adults may feel comfortable taking the lane on bicycles in traffic, the majority people do not.
  3. Upgrade the Thomas Green Street to neighborhood greenway standards. Thomas Street between Eastlake Ave E and 5th Ave N could be a world‐class east‐west bike route once the Aurora overpass is built.
  4. Build a Greenway from the Thomas St Overpass to the Seattle Center.​ How to get from the waterfront to Seattle Center by bike? The best route scouted between the beautiful Thomas Street Overpass and Seattle Center’s August Wilson Way is a zig‐zag route.

Scroll, zoom, and click the map recommendations below to learn more or view in a new window.

View our complete letter of all recommendations for people bike to and through South Lake Union below or view in a new window.

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11 responses to “SNG: Imagining a truly bike-friendly Uptown and South Lake Union”

  1. Gary Yngve

    I’d love to see more bike route signage in the area. A few weeks ago I was trying to go from MOHAI to Denny Park. I accidentally got onto Westlake “I went down on the SLUT” tracks, and controlled the left lane as FTR as practical. Cars were not happy with me, despite me being only marginally slower.

  2. Tom Fucoloro

    Thanks for this report, Gordon and Cathy!

  3. Peri Hartman

    The most dangerous spot I’ve encountered is transitioning southbound from the westlake parking lots along the lake. If you take the parking lots to their end, you will continue on westlake.

    As you proceed through intersection of Valley, the streetcar tracks quickly merge into your lane (making a turn from valley). This is quite shocking since you are quickly forced to the curb with accelerating traffic behind you.

    A huge warning needs to be present at the south end of the parking area (same area where the new bike way will be built) to prevent people from getting flipped by the rails.

    1. Gary Yngve

      LOL, minus the flip, you basically described my experience. You know when an area is bike friendly when you don’t need to plan a route beforehand but can just “wing it”.

    2. Some people have suggested taking Valley to Boren to get to SLU. That sounds reasonable to me. Or go the other way to 9th, though 9th is IMO one of the worst door-zone bike lanes in the city (along with 12th on Capitol Hill, 2nd in Belltown).

      To go downtown I’d exit at Highland, go down Westlake, stay right onto 8th (you’re off Westlake before traffic is bearing down from behind), then go right on Roy and left on Dexter.

      Personally I’d rather ride down the streetcar tracks than the parking lot. At least the tracks stay put. But apparently a lot of people like the “guantlet of clumsily-moving cars” experience. Maybe they’ll all appreciate Bothell’s work to replicate this experience on either side of Bothell-Everett Highway in town.

      1. Curt

        The EB bike lane on Valley in SLU is useless during the evening commute, it’s occupied by cars in line to turn at Fairview. Should probably remove the parking on the south side of Valley (<30 spots) and add an additional car lane, preserving the bike lane.

      2. AJL

        Curt is right.
        But it’s more dangerous than that.
        Drivers block the eastbound bike line, using it as a motor vehicle lane starting at Westlake.
        Then as drivers who want to take a left onto Fairview get frustrated with waiting, they start crossing the double yellow, heading into oncoming traffic – literally.
        The oncoming traffic (the ones driving legally in their lane westbound) then swerve into the westbound bike lane. I believe that drivers ed taught me to never avoid a collision by avoidance in an urban b/c you could hit someone else (like a pedestrian, or someone like me, a bicyclist).

        So when I take Valley westbound, and that eastbound bike lane is covered by cars, I make dammmed sure that I am not traveling next to any motor vehicle that could swerve into me. I’d take the trail but it’s difficult to access the way I come from and difficult to re-join the bike lane past MOHAI. I abhore the Westlake/Valley pedestrian crossing more than the bike lanes on Valley.

  4. Don’t forget repurposing the Battery Street Tunnel for a bikeway.

    1. Wells

      If the bore tunnel is completed as proposed and Battery Street Tunnel closed or ‘repurposed’, Seattle will suffer a catastrophic disaster. The bore tunnel will destabilize already unstable watery soils beneath vulnerable historic and modern buildings above its entire length, forcing demolition as settling inevitably accellerates and in earthquake, sudden collapse! with a death toll is probable.

      Plan B for Bertha (on record at Wsdot) redirects Bertha to ascend ~2000′ along the seawall to a Pike/Pine portal. Battery Street Tunnel is retained and extended north to reconnect the Denny Triangle grid. For Lower Belltown, either a 2-stoplight surface street arrangement in the DEIS, or, rebuild SR99 below Elliott and Western with a ‘downhill’ southbound access ramp and ‘uphill’ exit ramp northbound. Either would incidentally displace the least traffic onto surface streets.

      Plan B creates the means to strengthen the new seawall which is structurally unsound, top heavy and off-center balanced. An earthquake would cause significant damage to piers and waterfront plaza. Its structural integrity won’t the stand the test of time. Plan B would cost more money but save lives and Seattle’s future. Shoot the messenger?

  5. EHS

    Excellent proposals. But frustrating maps – how am I supposed to know what the colors on the maps mean? Please include a legend – it vastly, vastly improves readability.

  6. […] and biking improvements: Seattle Neighborhood Greenways has a few ideas on how to make South Lake Union and Uptown more bikeable. Another detour returns to the Burke-Gilman Trail. And, Seattle lays out a comprehensive plan to […]

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