City will build a few blocks of very needed Pike/Pine bike lanes this weekend

SDOT crews will install five blocks of protected bike lanes on Pike and Pine Streets downtown this weekend, making a vital connection to the under-construction 2nd Ave bike lane in the heart of the downtown retail core.

If the weather holds out and work goes smoothly, the bike lanes should be open Monday. Once completed, the bike lanes will be the most significant bike improvement downtown since 2014, when the initial section of the 2nd Ave bike lanes opened.

Since it is a significant change in a busy area, volunteers from Cascade Bicycle Club and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways will be on the ground during the morning and afternoon commutes to help educate folks about the changes. If you want to help (especially for the afternoon shift), sign up online. (Full Disclosure: My wonderful spouse Kelli is one of the organizers.)

As we reported last month, the plans fall just short of making a complete connection either to Capitol Hill or to South Lake Union via 8th Ave. At least for a while, there will be a gap after 6th Ave on Pike Street where the bike lane disappears. Heading west on Pine, people will also need to shift from the right side of Pine Street to the new left-hand bike lane at 8th Ave, which could be confusing and disjointed.

Several readers were upset after reading my August post because they felt I was praising SDOT too much for a project that actually falls short. While it is certainly frustrating that this project will not actually connect to any other bike lanes, don’t overlook how big a deal even this short stretch is. I believe you can simultaneously be disappointed by a project’s shortcomings and excited about the parts that are included.

I mean, just look at this new connection to Westlake Station. A protected bike lane will pass in front of the entrance, and the area left of the bike lane is planned as future TBD people-focused space (See also: Pike Pine Renaissance). This is genuinely awesome and exactly what the space outside this popular transit station needs:

In the near-term, these lanes are not going to get the kind of use they could get if they actually connected to any existing bike lanes other than 2nd Ave. That’s the problem with not going all the way when building a project: People who simply don’t like bike lanes are going be upset no matter what, but potential supporters aren’t going to be as excited about something that ends blocks away from where they are trying to go. It’s much better to just go for it and do it right.

I hope SDOT is prepared to take action to fix the bike lanes if the shortcomings prove to be serious issues. But ultimately, I urge the city to move as quickly as possible to complete the connection up to Broadway. Getting that connection ready for construction as soon as the spring road work season starts in Spring 2018 seems like a worthy and achievable goal.

But in the meantime, at least this is progress in the right direction. Starting Monday, you will be able to bike from Pioneer Square to the Fremont Bridge or Capitol Hill with only a few blocks of mixed traffic. Those few blocks are doozies, but the gaps are getting smaller and smaller.

My hope for Seattle’s next mayor is that she provides the leadership and political cover for SDOT to deliver complete projects. No more excuses. If we’re going to create a bike network and unlock all the trips that such a network will enable, then let’s actually do it. Nobody is asking for a bike network that almost works. Horseshoes and hand grenades, as they say.

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19 Responses to City will build a few blocks of very needed Pike/Pine bike lanes this weekend

  1. daihard says:

    Yes, these are short sections. Yes, this will be a significant change that I love. I found the paint marking on Pike this evening as I was riding home. I’m so psyched – this means I won’t have to crawl through the traffic to go from 3rd to 4th before turning left onto 4th.

  2. DOUG. says:

    These new bike lanes will provide great staging space for construction crews over the next few years.

  3. Clark in Vancouver says:

    It’s a good start I suppose. Connecting to 2nd is the start of a network. Eventually going up to Broadway is of course necessary some day. They need to keep an eye on what’s going on and be prepared to accelerate any future infrastructure building when it becomes obvious that it’s needed.

    I have a way-out-there idea. Change the one-way nature of Pike and Pine for all travel modes. Change them both into two-way streets. Put protected bike lanes on both sides of one of them (whichever is flatter). This would make the speeds on both of them slower improving quality of life around them. There wouldn’t be the need to go a block away to change direction when cycling. People who didn’t want to drive down a street with bike lanes could take the other one.

    • David Seater says:

      The plan is to extend the PBLs all the way to Broadway in 2020. Narrower streets and parking east of I-5 make the design more complicated.

  4. markinthedark says:

    Nice incremental move. I was never sure where I was supposed to be between 2nd and 8th on Pike. Generally, I rode the bus lane and hoped no buses came. I turn right on 8th, so looks like i’ll have to cross lanes eventually on Pike, but this clears most of it up.

  5. Great, this is also a good news for us. Hopefully, there will be a lot of measures in favor of infrastructure construction in the future, which will make people’s cycling more convenient.

  6. Dana says:

    Hopefully what they didn’t isn’t the finished product. On Pine, they did not connect 5th/4th or 3rd/2nd.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      3rd to 2nd is coming. There’s a Comcast project that’s torn up the street at the moment. 5th to 4th, however, is basically the way they have it planned. They don’t want to paint on the brick surface.

  7. Al Dimond says:

    Pine between 5th and 4th is sort of like the original edition of the botched beautification of Bell Street. They may not want to paint on the brick, but drivers in the right lane crossing 5th could use an indicator that they should stay right, that just because the lane to their left is a turn lane doesn’t mean they have the whole block ahead to themselves.

    As far as I could see it looked like everything on Pike was finished according to the plan. On Pine… in addition to the unfinished block from 3rd to 2nd, it didn’t look like protected lanes from 6th to 8th. I turned onto Pine from 7th tonight and the first half of the block toward 6th certainly wasn’t a protected lane (regular lane lines, no posts or buffers, parking against the curb). I looked toward 8th and it looked like there was a shared bike/turn lane against the left curb. Maybe they’re waiting for the planters to come in to do the final layout.

  8. Bikey McBikeface says:

    What makes a bike lane ‘protected’? I was under the impression that Dearborn was going to be protected. It has a few of the bendy poles (what do we call those?) in certain spots, but definitely not protected elsewhere.

    Whatever. The new bendy-pole lanes are Secret Service-level protected compared to what was there before.

  9. Evan D says:

    Isn’t it standard practice to put turn lanes outside of PBLs, with a green-painted mixing zone? Yet left turns off of Pine turn across the new bike lane. What gives?

    • Al Dimond says:

      I think left turns across the Pike and Pine PBLs without mixing zones are all either signal-protected or completely banned, so no mixing needed. I think this is “gold-standard” when you can get it.

      Dearborn and Dexter use mixing zones of various types for non-signal-protected turns. IIRC Dexter’s mixing zones just south of Mercer were based on some new NACTO design that was anointed a “standard” though it had barely been tried. Within a few days of its opening a confused driver hit a cyclist in one. I’m not absolutely against mixing zones for bike lanes, but they obviously eat significantly into any lane’s claim of being “protected”.

      • Evan D says:

        Biked the Pine PBL for the first time this morning, didn’t notice a bike signal at 4th or other signal protection, and had a car waiting for me so it could turn left. The intersection at 6th does have a left-turn arrow and a bike signal with a lead time over the cars, at the same time as the bus signal there. So that’s good!

  10. Crow Plus says:

    Interested in thoughts of bike/bus lane mixing. Did some riding in this configuration recently in London and was surprised at how well it worked.
    Given the Animosity towards bike lanes, wondering if had ever been considered as an option in Seattle.
    Am a regular cycle commuter from Shoreline to downtown.

    • Drew D says:

      I would love to see this taken more seriously here. Unfortunately, I think both transit supporters and bicyclists tend to look down on this as a subpar solution, but for certain streets it would make much more sense to go with an extra wide transit/bike lane than force a decision between unreliable transit or poor bike safety. I absolutely loved the Paris shared bike/bus lanes and those even allow taxis. The key is to make sure they are wide enough to provide reasonable passing distances.

      Even with frequent bus service, say every 6 minutes, bicyclists would enjoy a vehicle free lane for the vast majority of their trip. Consider if you ride on the street for 10 minutes, you are likely only having to deal with 1 or 2 buses and no other traffic. So, 13 of your 15 minutes are spent in the widest most traffic free bike lane possible. While buses are big, they are driven by professionals who aren’t on their cell phones and can be trained to operate as safely as possible in that situation.

    • Al Dimond says:

      It’s legal to ride a bike in almost all Seattle bus lanes (whether signage indicates that or not). A lot of people did it on Pike before the recent changes. A lot of people do it on 4th Ave and 5th Ave today. People that ride on 15th Ave W typically either use the sidewalks or the bus lanes. People even ride on 3rd Ave — some people prefer it to other streets because the buses move in such predictable patterns.

      I think it’s tough to pull off on many downtown Seattle streets, which have far heavier concentrations of buses just as bike traffic is at its heaviest. In some areas where not so many routes are converging it might be better — Eastlake just south of the U Bridge, for example. And on some suburban streets that carry important bus routes but not such crazy numbers of them. On Market Street in Kirkland if they could replace parking and those awful door-zone lanes with bus lanes, that would certainly be better. They’d also want to improve signage and conditions for alternate routes… that would help a lot even today, because Market is so terrible!

  11. JWBikeCommuter says:

    This section sounds extremely dangerous: “Heading west on Pine, people will also need to shift from the right side of Pine Street to the new left-hand bike lane at 8th Ave, which could be confusing and disjointed.”
    So, cyclists will have to cross all lanes of traffic, from right side of street, to get to the bike lane on the left side of the street? That’s not just confusing, it’s a recipe for a cyclist to get hit by a car in one of the 2 to 3 lanes they have to cross!

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