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7th Ave bike lane will connect Dexter to downtown, end just 5 blocks from 2nd Ave

From the project fact sheet.
From the project fact sheet.

7th Ave is a direct line from Dexter to downtown, so it’s no surprise that the street is one of the most important bike routes in the city center.

While the street got some nice buffered bike lanes between Dexter and Westlake back in 2010, people biking downtown are still dumped into mixed lanes to navigate downtown traffic.

But that is set to change as early as six months from now as the city moves forward with delayed plans for a protected bike lane between Westlake Ave and Pike Street.

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This is one key piece of finally connecting downtown to popular bike routes to the Fremont Bridge, the Burke-Gilman Trail and beyond. It brings the northend protected bike network within a few blocks of the 2nd Ave bike lane. It also connects the growing South Lake Union to major transit connections downtown (why the city need a quality bike share system).

The current plan is for a one-way southbound lane on the west side of the street that turns into sharrows (yes, sharrows…) between Pike and Union. Many downtown-bound users will likely use Pine Street to get to 2nd Ave, so there will still be five blocks of mixed-traffic biking. This is so tantalizingly close to finally connecting…


There is no northbound lane planned for 7th, though SDOT will begin planning a protected bike lane on 8th Ave next year, according to Community Outreach Lead Sara Colling:

We studied several variations of the protected bike lane on 7th Ave. A one-way couplet on 7th and 8th avenues rose to the top. We focused on 7th Ave first partly because 8th Ave has interim bike facilities (a bike lane for part of it and sharrows for the rest). We plan to start design for a northbound PBL on 8th in 2017.

However, the two-way 2nd Ave bike is still set to extend north from its current terminus at Pike St to Denny Way in summer 2017. When it opens, people trying to head north out of downtown will finally have a quality option that is either protected or low-traffic.

Pike and/or Pine will remain the biggest missing connection downtown, and the 7th Ave project will only highlight the need more clearly. In a perfect world, the city will see this need and at least create some low-fi, paint-and-post bike lanes to help people trying to get between Capitol Hill, 7th Ave and downtown.

And, of course, as connections between the northend and downtown finally get closer, the need for comparable southend connections grows that much more stark. Planned bike lanes on Dearborn are crawling forward, delayed by the slow process for getting WSDOT approval (the bike lanes would make changes near freeway on-ramps, triggering the need for state approval). But even when those go in, there are still major gaps between downtown and routes heading to the International District and Southeast Seattle.

More details on the 7th Ave bike lane from a project fact sheet (PDF):

The Seattle Department of Transportation is improving 7th Ave between Westlake Ave and Union St by extending the protected bike lane and updating traffic signals and circulation. Planned improvements include:

  • Adding curb bulbs to shorten pedestrian crossings
  • Extending the 1-way southbound protected bike lane on the west side of 7th Ave from Westlake Ave to Pike St and adding a bike “sharrow” between Pike and Union streets to better connect South Lake Union and Capitol Hill/downtown
  • Upgrading traffic signals and converting the “contraflow lane” between Olive Way and Pine St from northbound to southbound to improve circulation

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22 responses to “7th Ave bike lane will connect Dexter to downtown, end just 5 blocks from 2nd Ave”

  1. Fish

    A nice improvement but what I find most frustrating is that it still fails to provide a safe bike route from the north side of the city to Capitol Hill. I can’t be the only one that is terrified to bike on Pike, especially downtown, and prefer Pine but I am not going to ride opposite traffic or on the sidewalk from 7th to get there. It’s just 2 blocks short of connecting to when Pine becomes a 2 way street with bikes lanes. How many more years do we have to wait to have a safe connection to the densest neighborhood in the city? A 2 block improvement would make a world of a difference!

    1. Matthew Snyder

      The accelerated funding for BMP implementation, introduced as part of next year’s budget, comes with a string attached. SDOT has to submit a spending plan for the $5M that is specifically focused on connectivity in the bike facility network. They can’t spend the accelerated funds until they’ve developed the plan. I’d hope that relatively short gaps, like the one you mention, would be addressed in this plan.

      I can’t say I’m thrilled about developing yet another plan with its own set of priorities, but apparently, left to its own devices, SDOT prefers to continue to build piecemeal infrastructure rather than a useful network.

      1. dhubbz

        I’m glad to see someone else feels the same way I do about the piecemeal infrastructure. I don’t think popping in a few safety features here and there, throwing in some protected by lines when there is any opportunity to do so cheaply, will really do much to get more people using bikes as a regular mode of transportation. The infrastructure is so inconsistent and it leaves riders, particularly newer riders, feeling ambiguous about how to use the road. (Has anyone seen that cycle track that’s about a half block long on Boyer? It’s hilarious!)

        I am glad for additional safety, but I do think that we are selling ourselves short when we are building bike lanes, even protected ones, instead of cycle tracks. In a perfect world, or at least my perfect world, we would take the 2nd Ave cycle track and keep extending it in all directions.

      2. This PBL on 7th will be similar to the lane on 2nd, except one-way instead of two-way (eventually SDOT wants to do a couplet with the northbound side on 8th).

        The thing on Boyer is part of a neighborhood greenway route, so it would be a great example of non-piecemeal infrastructure closing a gap in a longer route… if it didn’t lead directly to a stairway (which the greenway route follows). I’m not even sure what that makes it an example of…

    2. Jason L

      I do this every day. 7th -> Olive -> 9th -> Pine isn’t too bad. You can use the bus lane on Olive (it’s only two blocks) and 9th is very wide. And you can use an alley a half block short of 9th if you prefer.

      I agree overall, though. It’s a travesty how hard it is to find a route to eastbound Pine from Belltown.

      1. Fish

        I do that route on occasion. I know I’m preaching to the choir hear but the larger issue is that the average person isn’t on google maps and this blog to figure out the safest bike route every time they get on a bike. This is why you see people biking on Denny and then vowing off ever riding again in this city. In many cases, I’d prefer a “less protected” bike route that was at least intuitive and completely connected versus a beautiful protected bike lane for a few blocks that drops me off on a really unsafe road to get to my destination.

  2. Taylor Kendall

    That Amazon protected bike lane is a big ol’ pile of shit. You mix way too much with pedestrians. Yes you are separate from cars but not from walking people who are looking a their phones, and there are several sharp turns that are way too slick. I hope this gets fixed.

    1. GlenBikes

      Ya, but it looks good in photos of the Amazon building. That’s all Bezos cares about. That and 10 hour street parking around his campus. How can a city justify that? Well, Bezos. That’s how.

    2. Becky

      The crossing at Westlake is so very bizarre for the southbound lane on 7th. I’ve never figured out what exactly I’m really supposed to be doing there.

      1. Jason L

        I find it works pretty well to hang back at the provided foot rests until the all-way scramble starts. Once all the peds start moving it’s easy to find a path through.

      2. I think you’re supposed to disregard the crazy markings and go straight through to the other side of the intersection like you had been doing previously. The streetcar track intersection isn’t actually shallow enough to be a problem (you can crash at any angle if it’s wet and your weight is way off-center… this angle isn’t one that will grab your tires and steer you).

      3. Tim F

        After many trips through those bizarre markings at the Westlake crossing, my theory is that the intended path was to follow the diagonally marked bike crosswalk in a ‘Z’ or ‘7’ pattern. It didn’t make much sense in the southbound direction, but there used to be a stub northbound bike lane and then a temporary northbound ‘PBL’ that came and went with the whims of construction. A curb bulb (without any ramps or cuts) prevented a direct crossing of Westlake unless you used the scramble to ride straight into the face of stopped drivers to get around the bulb.

        It was actually easy to ride the 7 pattern (or even a Z pattern) in a single light cycle, but without any signs (and with only a few feet of sad, sad PBL leading into it, I don’t think anyone ever used this. It sounds like as a too-clever experiment that’s been discarded in favor of a couplet. I personally have tended to use 8th, Bell, 9th Northbound, but there’s way too much pick-up and drop-off in the bike lanes currently.

    3. Law Abider

      One morning, during rush hour at about 7:45 AM, a large shuttle bus was waiting to pick up Amazon employees from the new building. I kid you not, the driver had put his sandwich signs in the bike path. I exchanged a few words with the driver who was very aware of what he was doing, yet did not appear apologetic at all.

    4. dhubbz

      I agree with you wholeheartedly.

  3. Andres Salomon

    A buffered bike lane is not bike infrastructure. It’s not anything, really, as @YouAreNotABike is showing us on a daily basis:


    We’re building yet another piece of disconnected bike infrastructure, which is what we seem to excel at. Um, yay?

  4. Whoever designed the expansion has never ridden southbound on 7th and turned right onto Union. The one block between Pike and Union _is_ the single most dangerous part of 7th, if you ask me. I usually stay in the left lane as the right lane is occupied by parked cars on that block, but cars waiting at the light in the right lane try to pass me on the right and cut me off. The right lane should be converted to a PROTECTED bike lane right there, right now.

  5. This is the first I’ve heard of waiting for WSDOT being the reason for Dearborn being delayed, and I think it’s worthy of comment. This is exactly the reason cities have to go at the difficult and uncertain parts of routes first. I-90 Trail to downtown is really one route; a couple years ago we started working on it by designed a simple greenway on Hiawatha. If we’d started Dearborn first, because it was the harder project, we could have got the design done, submitted it to WSDOT, then planned Hiawatha while we waited.

    I guess we could spend the interim actually finishing the route through the International District and Pioneer Square. Or pushing up other BMP work. There’s no shortage of BMP projects so no external delay should be an excuse for slowing the overall pace of implementation.

  6. scott t

    where are moving and delivery vehicles supposed to “park” on these streets? in the car lanes? what is seattle traffic code on that issue when there is no driveway or parking lot?

    1. If you’re talking about the vehicles pictured in those photos of Dexter, there’s street parking on most of those blocks. Frequent bike-lane blocking by delivery vehicles may suggest that more of the spaces need to be loading zones with short time restrictions.

      If you’re talking about the blocks of 7th planned for improvement here, many have street parking that could be configured as loading zones, too. But, as they do on Broadway, intrepid drivers will will find ways to block bike lanes…

    2. Dave F

      They are supposed to park in parking spots. Bike lanes, and car lanes, are for riding and driving – not parking. If there’s no parking spot available, park somewhere else and then walk. Laziness does not excuse illegal parking.

      1. It’s not really laziness — garbage collectors and people delivering packages are on the job all day, and they need a reasonably efficient place to stop to do these things. If the city doesn’t create enough loading zones the blame lies squarely with the city, not the individual drivers. The way some of the blocks along Dexter are you can hardly blame them for using bike lanes — similarly, many bus stops in many cities are on top of bike lanes (in this case cities mark them with dotted lane lines).

        Then you’ve got moving vans. Some of buildings don’t appear to have created a decent place for move-in and move-out activities (the ones along Dexter just south of Aloha are particularly bad), or have failed to indicate it to their residents. That’s the responsibility of the building owners or managers. Buses usually stop and go pretty quickly, garbage and package delivery takes a little longer, and moving trucks can be there for hours — they need a place to do this that isn’t blocking a major bike lane, and on some blocks they just don’t have one.

        When it comes to taxi, for-hire, and carpool pickups, I have a lot less sympathy. There you’re waiting to pick up one or two people in a small vehicle that’s easy to maneuver — you can arrange to wait somewhere where it’s legal. Sometimes I confront these drivers — every now and then I get one to move.

  7. […] bike lanes. This time a 7th Avenue connector. It really looks like Seattle is really moving to a network of bike lanes and paths that connect as […]

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