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:
Diagonal parking to future people space on pine pic.twitter.com/CK0uDU44rX
— Dongho Chang (@dongho_chang) September 21, 2017
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.