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Bellevue just opened bike lanes through the heart of its downtown, launched bike share

Bellevue City Councilmembers at the bike lane opening celebration. Photo from the City of Bellevue.

I just had by far the least stressful bike ride through downtown Bellevue in my life.

The newly opened 108th Ave NE bike lanes span the Eastside city’s downtown from NE 12th Street in the north to Main Street in the south, forming what could become the central spine of a Bellevue bike network.

The city launched the bike lane as a pilot project, saying they will study how it works over the next year and make changes to the final design as needed (the study framework is outlined in this PDF). The project is part of an effort city planners are calling the Bicycle Rapid Implementation Program, which is funded by a voter-approved 2016 transportation levy.

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The bike lanes connect to Bellevue Transit Center, so the launch of bike share is timed perfectly to complement the new more comfortable route. People can now take one of many buses into downtown Bellevue, then hop on a Lime-E bike to go the rest of the distance to their destination. The city made a big leap in mobility choices all at once.

Project map from Bellevue.

Speaking of bike share, there are now 100 Lime-E bikes on the streets, with hundreds more allowed by the end of August and as many as 1,200 by the end of the year. And the city has marked out a bunch of bike share parking spaces on sidewalks:

The Seattle Times pegs the cost of the pilot bike lane at $370,000. Some sections are fully protected by plastic curbs and posts while others are paint-only. And a few short sections where existing boulevards or curb bulbs form pinch points have only sharrows. It’s not perfect, but it’s a huge leap forward for a city that can be very stressful on a bike.

I expect this lane will be enough to increase biking in Bellevue somewhat, but there is still a lot of work before the majority of downtown destinations are easily and comfortably reachable by bike. One street is not going to get widespread results. It can help some people and demonstrate the potential for such bike lanes, but widespread use won’t happen until people can reliably get wherever they are going via comfortable bike routes.

The city is opening the door for a significant transportation culture shift, but such a shift won’t happen overnight. People in the habit of driving every day will need to make a leap of faith to give biking a try instead. But now that this lane is in place, there’s a much better chance that they will enjoy it and keep going.

Getting to downtown Bellevue from many directions still requires some fairly stressful biking mixed with car traffic or squeezed into skinny shoulders. So I hope this lane is the start of something big in Bellevue.

There’s a lot of work to do, but the city has good momentum and a solid plan. They can do it.

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19 responses to “Bellevue just opened bike lanes through the heart of its downtown, launched bike share”

  1. Andres Salomon

    I’m glad to see Bellevue making progress, but.. I hope this isn’t a repeat of Seattle. Build the 2nd Ave bike lane, then wait a few years before doing anything else while bikelash consumes the city. Other cities have been much more successful (in terms of ridership growth) by creating an initial grid/network of barebones bike lanes.

  2. Nico

    I read the article on this in the Seattle Times today too. It all make me cringe. Even as a cyclist, I see so much overspending and over construction of bike lanes resulting in making drivers and bikers even more angry.

    I do think dividers are ok on uphills, but only sometimes. And on downhills they should be eliminated. And no more of these two-way bikelanes on one side of the road. It’s North America, ride on the right. rant rant rant

    1. AP

      I completely agree that two-way bikelanes are dangerous. Drivers are trained to look in one direction only when making a right turn. A fast-moving vehicle coming from the right is certain to not be noticed.

      Completely separated bike lanes like the Westlake cycle track are ok but it’d still be nice to have one on each side of the road.

      1. Nico

        Thanks. Yeah, some of these bikes lanes are just ill thought out. Great intentions, poor execution. Moving them to a place like Bellevue to prove the concept is risky. They better be on point!

  3. asdf2

    This is great news that it finally happened. This will open up lots of new transportation options, and with the electric assist, bikeshare is now a feasible way to travel longer distances, not just half-mile jaunts across downtown. I can see the service being used for any trip there’s decent bike facilities – DT Bellevue->Remond, Factoria->Mercer Island, even DT Bellevue->Seattle.

  4. Aaron Donohoe

    We’re celebrating 6 blocks of bike lane that merges with car traffic twice and is interupted by construction? Thanks for setting the standard so low. I’d rather just take a car lane for 6 blocks.

    1. And you are free to do that on 112th or 110th or 106th or Bellevue Way or 100th.

      I’ve used these lanes twice now going northbound, and I think they work pretty well. Are they perfect? No, but this is meant to be a demonstration to show that this type of infrastructure works. When the lanes are made permanent, these issues should be solved.

      1. AP

        Some people just like to bitch about the way the world is, rather than what others are trying to create. Yeah, these six blocks–actually 12 superblocks–are the only protected bike lanes in Bellevue. But the project includes marking bike lanes to the north and south on 108th stretching from I-90 almost to 520.

        Is Bellevue a good place to bike? No way in hell. Are they trying to improve? Yes. Does your criticism help in any way?

      2. JAT

        Well, Actually Washington being a permissive rather than mandatory bike lane use state you are also free to do so on 108th, and I’m seeing it happen (I work on and bike to 108th) as savvy southbound cyclists leave the bike lane early to avoid the likely right hook spots at NE 4th & NE 2nd.

        I do like the bike markings and increased enforcement on 108th (including a new cars only rush hour mandatory right turn in the residential section south of Main).

        See I don’t only complain!

  5. MikeG

    They should consider a bike lane on 112th as this street is the primary connection for cyclists coming from SR520 trails to get to Lake Washington trail which starts just south of 8th/112th. Right now you have to be very comfortable with riding with cars for the 4 blocks between 12th and 8th to ride that stretch of road connecting two popular bike routes.

  6. John

    I ride into Bellevue from Issaquah and approach Bellevue from south side. They’ve also painted separated bike lanes along Richards road, unfortunately those dump you into some sketchy areas, especially under I90 – happy for the work, but I’m sticking with the lake Washington loop into downtown Bellevue. I do not feel the lake Washington loop is particularly safe (especially evening rush hour)… Bellevue definitely has a ton more work to do before it’s a good city for riders. I hope to see more riders out because of the lime bikes.

  7. Skylar

    I used to dread biking through downtown Bellevue, but things have improved so much over the last couple years that I would much rather bike through downtown Bellevue than downtown Seattle. How sad is that?

  8. RussD

    I couldn’t help but notice that five out of the people in the photo are wearing helmets. Is that just PR, or does Bellevue intend to enforce its helmet law on share-bike riders?

    1. Nico

      All share-bike riders must wear business casual attire in Bellevue.

    2. AP

      Oh, the helmet concern!

      As a resident of Bellevue who bike commutes, I’d prefer that Bellevue enforce their automobile traffic laws a bit more aggressively. I wear a helmet when I commute but I’ve never had to “use” it. I’ve been hit four times by careless drivers (in many, many years of commuting) and my only injuries have been far away from my head.

      Helmets theoretically might increase safety but not being hit by a car actually increases safety.

      Thank you for the concern trolling, but I’d prefer that you lobby Bellevue to enforce laws that will increase my safety.

      1. Nico

        Yeah, if cops starting cracking down on drivers not using there turn signal. That would be a start.

        I’ve gotten hit by cars 3 times and suffered no major injuries. I had a basketball run out in front of me on a parkway 2 blocks from my house and I suffered a broken scapula and a broken helmet. Helmets work!

      2. Nico


  9. JuliaZ

    I bike in East Bellevue (Phantom Lake to South Bridle Trails) and find that the most dangerous stretches are my little neighborhood almost-arterials, particularly 164th Ave from NE 24th (Interlake) to SE 2nd. 140th Ave from Main St to NE 24th actually seems quite a bit safer, but I’m not sure why. I’m glad for the green lanes and hope to see them in our side of the city soon. I’ve never biked over to downtown Bellevue as it seems like a death wish TBH.

  10. bike lanes should be on side streets not main lines
    it just makes me very mad that our 4 lane roads get turned into 2 lanes and add bike lanes ,

    this makes cars sit in traffic and they burn many millions of gallons of fuel while just sitting ,

    a car that gets 50 miles per gallon gets zero while sitting ,

    i think the reason for doing this is because in Washington we have the 2nd highest gas tax in America and the more cars sit in traffic the more money the government gets from us

    i have tried to start a petition but have not had any luck figuring out how to do it

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