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Construction set to begin on vital downtown stretch of 7th Ave bike lane

Project map from SDOT.

Construction is set to begin next week to finally connect the well-used 7th Ave bike lane to the downtown core.

When we last wrote about the planned 7th Ave southbound protected bike lane, we noted that it would end just a few blocks from 2nd Ave. But in the interim, SDOT accelerated planning and construction of new protected bike lanes on Pike and Pine Streets. So instead of being yet another bike lane hanging in a vacuum, the new lane will fill a vital gap in the young downtown bike network.

Construction should be complete in April.

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Because bike routes on both Dexter and 9th Avenues N connect to 7th, the relatively low-traffic street has long been a major bike route into downtown from many points north. Construction in recent years has dramatically reduced the street’s usability as a bike route, but that may all change in 2018.

Details from SDOT:

Crews plan to begin construction to improve 7th Ave between Westlake Ave and Union St as soon as January 2, 2018. We expect construction to last through April 2018. Crews plan to work from north to south, with the work area stretching approximately 2-3 blocks at a time. Neighbors should expect typical weekday work hours from 7 AM – 5 PM, temporary lane closures on 7th Ave, potential traffic delays, and intermittent night and weekend work.

Crews plan to conduct intersection work on Friday night, Saturday and Sunday, January 5 – 7, at the intersection of 7th Ave and Stewart St and on Saturday and Sunday, January 6 – 7, at the intersection of 7th Ave and Virginia St. Please read the construction flyer for more information about the start of construction and this weekend work.

7th Ave was selected because it extends the existing 7th Ave protected bike lane and serves as an intuitive connection between South Lake Union and Capitol Hill. The route also has relatively low vehicle traffic volumes compared with other downtown streets and doesn’t serve transit riders. In addition, the conversion of 1 block from 2-way to 1-way provides an opportunity to improve traffic flow.

Extending the 7th Ave protected bike lane is part of the City’s Vision Zero plan to end traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030.

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

Two key changes needed on Pine Street

With this lane set to open in April, SDOT should take another look at the block of Pine Street between 7th and 8th Avenues. Today, an eastbound bike lane on Pine begins at 8th Ave and connects all the way up past Broadway to 15th Ave. Extending that eastbound bike lane just one more block west would connect the new bike lane on 7th Ave to Capitol Hill and give people headed east on Pike Street a better option for connecting to Pine. Rather than biking uphill in mixed traffic on Pike for the block under the Convention Center archway, people could turn left on the lower-traffic 7th Ave and connect to the Pine Street bike lane there.

This new 7th Ave connection also puts more pressure on the city to improve the Pine Street bike connection through Westlake Park. The current solution requires people biking to make a stressful merge with car and bus traffic through the brick-paved area between 5th and 4th Avenues. Close calls are common here, since people driving are at the same time trying to merge left so they can get around the line of right-turning cars that are constantly backed-up through the pseudo-park.

There are several possible solutions here. The city could install a line of planters and/or posts to create a bike lane through the brick area. Or, to be more bold, the city could make the brick area car-free, allowing only bikes and buses through:

And, of course, the 7th Ave bike lane will only go southbound. Neither 6th nor 8th Avenues are quality northbound options. 6th is very busy with a paint-only bike lane that doesn’t start until after crossing Westlake, while 8th has a skinny, paint-only bike lane that is constantly blocked by turning or double-parked cars. Both options require significant mixed traffic biking, which is unappealing to a lot of people who might otherwise get around our growing city by bike.

But Seattle’s downtown bike network is finally starting to come together, which has been a mere dream for so long. With each new connection, pressure on the remaining missing links increases, but only because the reality of an inviting, low-stress network of bikeable routes through downtown is so tantalizingly close.

Here’s a look at the basic redesign for 7th Ave:


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15 responses to “Construction set to begin on vital downtown stretch of 7th Ave bike lane”

  1. Michael Francisco

    I note that this route crosses the SLU streetcar tracks at Westlake. I ride this way frequently, and I have to swerve in the lane in order to cross the tracks safely. I hope SDOT does something to improve the situation here, or else there are going to be streetcar track victims here.

    1. Observant

      The way the existing bike ramp at 7th and Westlake directs you perpendicular to the tracks. If that and paint on the road are not enough to physically and visually indicate to someone how to cross the tracks, we may as well pay someone to hold everyone’s hands as they cross the tracks.

      1. Michael Francisco

        Paint alone isn’t enough – and can actually create hazardous situations by directing cyclists into danger.

      2. Observant

        “Paint alone isn’t enough – and can actually create hazardous situations by directing cyclists into danger.”

        Then we have failed as a society when we can’t rely on intelligence and common sense, coupled with clear suggestions, to keep people from injuring themselves.

      3. Michael Francisco

        No, we have not “failed as a society” – the failure lies with SDOT and with our elected officials. SDOT has failed to design the streetcar tracks to make them safe for cyclists where there are known problems, in spite of hundreds of injuries and a fatality. SDOT is directing cyclists onto track crossings, and this particular crossing isn’t even the worst example. Sure, an experienced cyclist can handle the tracks with a reasonable degree of safety but even a simple mistake, or a traffic conflict could bring a cyclist down. SDOT is wasting gobs of money building a patchwork of bike lanes of varying designs with no standards – or with multiple standards. Bike lanes all over the city are putting cyclists into the door zone, or the right hook zone, or in direct conflict with cars entering or exiting curb cuts. Too often they are worse than useless, and they give drivers the impression that cyclists are required to ride in them. There has been too much money and effort wasted on poorly designed, poorly executed bicycle eyewash; giving cyclists a false impression of safety, and roundly ignored by motorists and pedestrians anyway. Many bike lanes just become construction storage or loading zones or have been ripped to shreds by construction projects almost as soon as they are finished.

      4. Aaron P

        Agree with Michael Francisco that too much of SDOT efforts accurately characterized as “poorly executed bicycle eyewash”. We need better and that can start with the absolutely unacceptable tire grabbing tracks. Who thought these would be okay?

  2. Tim

    The gaps on Pine are still there. I was considering how a protected bike lane protest would go over between 4th and 5th. I’m inspired by protests
    like https://usa.streetsblog.org/2017/11/10/activists-form-chains-of-human-bollards-to-demand-protected-bike-lanes/ this one and wondered if a protest would work.

  3. Aaron

    The Amazon building is surrounded by nice new separated bike lanes, and pedestrians oblivious to bike traffic.

    1. Breadbaker

      They have their god-given right to walk concentrating only on their devices regardless of where they are.

    2. Patrick

      Well, part of the issue is that it’s a two block disconnected section of PBL right now, so there’s rarely anyone actually riding a bike on it. If you get some bike traffic then pedestrians will start to realize it isn’t just more sidewalk.

      1. Aaron P

        How about loading zone? Amazon vendors have figured out that the bike lane is convenient for deliveries such as catered meals.

  4. Apu

    “Today, an eastbound bike lane on Pine begins at 8th Ave… Extending that eastbound bike lane just one more block west would connect the new bike lane on 7th Ave to Capitol Hill” -> amen!

  5. asdf2

    The Pine St. bike lane through downtown is set so that it’s easier to just ignore it and ride in the right-hand car lane. Between the merge at 5th and the overhead of jogging from the right to the left side of the street around 8th, it’s just not worth it.

    Better would be to have the bike lane on the right through 5th, make the entire street car free between 5th and 4th, then leave the existing left-side bike lane in place west of 4th, since you need to turn left to connect to the 2nd Ave. bike path.

    Pine St. should also be two way for bikes all the way from downtown. You should be able to turn east from 2nd to Pine and take Pine straight up the hill to Broadway, without this confusing around-the-block detour to Pike. If SDOT were willing to remove a car lane, there would be plenty of space to add a protected bike lane on both sides of the street.

  6. eddiew

    alternatively, the bike emphasis could be on Pike Street and the transit emphasis on Pine street. Pike Street could have one-way cycle tracks east of 9th Avenue. Strip off the parallel parking. All the Capitol Hill transit service could be on Pine Street east of 8th Avenue. Transit could have in-lane stops. Why have bikes and buses weaving on Pine Street? Pike Street cycle tracks would connect with the bike lanes on both Broadway and 12th Avenue.

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