The S Holgate Street Bridge is far from the friendliest bike route between Sodo and North Beacon Hill, but it is definitely the most direct. But because the only sidewalk on the bridge turns into a staircase at the Sodo end, people biking have to take the steep and often scary roadway. Worse, the bridge is not accessible at all to people who can’t navigate stairs.
But there’s some good news. The city is making some key changes to at least make the sidewalk accessible and provide an option for people biking who don’t feel comfortable or safe on the steep roadway. The project will also make some improvements to help people cross to the north sidewalk at the Sodo end of the ramp.
Work is already underway and will continue into September.
The project will not make Holgate a great route for biking and walking, but it will address the most basic accessibility needs. And that’s a good thing.
Since opening a 2011 extension of the Mountains-to-Sound Trail that connects from the south side of the Jose Rizal Bridge to Holgate, the bridge has become an even more important part of the city’s bike network. For a huge number of homes, it’s simply the fastest way to get to jobs and other destinations in Sodo.
Shortly after the trail extension opened, however, the shortcomings of the Holgate Bridge became clear. Bicycle adventurer, writer, speaker, Beacon Hill resident and all-around hero Willie Weir wrote about his concerns with the bridge back in 2011:
Holgate, which rises to and descends from Beacon Hill, is legendary on this side of the city. It is the type of road that even some seasoned cyclists choose to avoid. If you are descending it from the top of Beacon Hill, you can easily hit 40mph without a single pedal stroke. You just take the lane and fly. The road crosses I-5, and at this point as a cyclist, you need to be hyper-aware as you dump out onto the left lane of traffic. Cars turning from Airport Way S are speeding to make the light at 6th Ave S. Many motorists like to make a left hand turn across your path as they exit the Office Depot. And the road surface is a photo op for the “repave our streets” campaign.
Can you imagine parents riding their bikes along with their two young kids tackling any or all of this? It sounds rather nightmarish.
With the stairs turned into a ramp, people will be able to take the sidewalk to get between the trail and Sodo. I’m sure people who feel comfortable going fast will stick to the roadway, but anyone who doesn’t will at least have another option.