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After deep review, SDOT reaffirms plans for Eastlake bike lanes

From a project presentation.

There may be no bike project north of downtown Seattle more important than Eastlake Ave. Connecting to the University Bridge today and the 520 Trail in the future, Eastlake is an already well-used bike route with huge promise for growth. The problem is that today, biking on the street is very stressful because there are no bike lanes.

But SDOT’s Roosevelt RapidRide project has the potential to transform the street into the multimodal neighborhood commercial street it should be, prioritizing walking, biking and transit. And plans, developed over years of study, public outreach and dedicated people-powered advocacy, have included protected bike lanes on Eastlake Ave because they are vital to achieving that vision and connecting the citywide bike network.

But due to pushback from folks worried about losing on-street parking, the city went back to the drawing board this year to take another, deeper look at every option they could think of to see if there was any way to create a quality bike route through the area that provides access to Eastlake destinations and a direct route between the University Bridge and South Lake Union. And that effort only further supported what we already knew: Building protected bike lanes on Eastlake Ave is by far the best option.

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So in a project update email this week, the team announced that the bike lanes are staying in the plans.

To everyone who volunteered their time and energy to go to public meetings, send supportive comments or otherwise organize to support these bike lanes, good work! We’re still bit away from construction, but this feels like a significant step closer to a quality bike route east of Lake Union.

More details from SDOT:

Thank you to everyone who joined the October 23 Eastlake neighborhood briefing for the RapidRide Roosevelt project! Approximately 100 interested community members joined us to learn more about the planned protected bike lane and potential tools to manage parking in the future.

You can view the presentation shared at the meeting. You can also review the RapidRide Roosevelt’s bicycle facility evaluation and the draft parking and curbspace management analysis.

Why is there a protected bike lane planned for Eastlake Ave E?

Along with improving transit service between Roosevelt and Downtown Seattle, the purpose and need for the RapidRide Roosevelt also includes improving safety conditions and connections to RapidRide stations for people biking and walking along the corridor.

While bicyclists and pedestrians only make up 6.3% of all crashes, they represent a much larger percentage of serious (47.4%) and fatal (39.7%) crashes. In addition, the University Bridge has the second-highest recorded bicycle volume in the city. The RapidRide Roosevelt project includes approximately 3 miles of protected bike lanes (PBL) connecting Roosevelt, the University District, Eastlake, and South Lake Union neighborhoods.

In Eastlake, the protected bike lane is planned to be built in both directions along Eastlake Ave E. This bike lane is included to meet the project’s purpose and need by improving safety and access to transit, as well as contributing to improved transit speed and reliability in the corridor.

Other bicycle facility options for this area have been evaluated, but the protected bike lane on Eastlake best meets evaluation criteria.

What are the impacts to parking along Eastlake Ave E?

In order to meet the project goals and to install the protected bike lane, the project would remove on-street parking and vehicle load zones on Eastlake Ave E. Loading zones would be replaced near the removed loading zones where feasible.

SDOT will continue to work with the Eastlake neighborhood to develop parking strategies to better utilize remaining curbspace capacity.

Who approved this project? When was the decision made?

The Seattle City Council adopted the project’s Locally Preferred Alternative in 2017. That’s the approval to proceed with the project as currently defined, which includes the protected bike lanes.

The next milestone is the environmental assessment process and preliminary design. We are coordinating with the Federal Transit Administration on our environmental process.

Learn more at the project website.

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21 responses to “After deep review, SDOT reaffirms plans for Eastlake bike lanes”

  1. Damon

    If, like me, you think this is great news, drop a supportive email to [email protected].

    SDOT gets inundated with “anti” emails when they make announcements like this, and it really helps to be able to show that a big chunk of the community supports them.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      The email for this project is [email protected]

    2. Lisa McC


  2. Dave

    I live in this neighborhood and have seen anti-bike lane signs in the windows of businesses along Eastlake Ave. I don’t want to see a repeat of the Westlake Cycle Track or Ballard Missing Link. We (bike supporters) should help talk these owners down a bit. They are not going to see business dry up over a couple of parking spots. In fact the reverse may happen, as more people on bikes travel through and stop for a bite to eat. Eastlake Ave is already pretty ugly with the many unfortunate mini strip malls and circa-70s buildings with nothing but parking at street level. It would be great to see it blossom as a more pedestrian and bike-friendly area.

    1. chris shirling

      Dave… they ARE going to see a drop in business with a loss of over 300 spaces. Remember, it’s not 3 or 4 customers a day from the loss of 3 to 4 spots in front of/near their store. It’s 3 to 4 customers every 30 minutes to an hour. Open 10 hours a day and you are talking about 30+ less transactions. In some cases, that can be the difference between running in the black and now running in the red.

      They are talking about cutting 300+ spots out along that entire road… you don’t think that will have an impact on those stores??? If you don’t recognize that, it’s because you are choosing to be blind to the truth because the truth doesn’t benefit you.

  3. kDavid

    I would just like to take this opportunity to point out that “the right to on-street parking” is not in the Constitution, or Bill of Rights.

    Public rights of way should be used for the most efficient public good – in this case, safe multimodal transportation. It’s my tax dollars to, ya know. As a native resident home owner, I pay a boatload of them, and I want safe cycling options for all.

    (yes, I am also looking at you, 35th Ave NE folks…)

    1. AP

      Agreed, but “native” doesn’t strengthen your argument unless you actually mean indigenous.

      1. Erik

        Neither are bikes lines a “right” either to be fair but I do think there is an entitlement about parking and both bike lanes. There are entitled people in both groups. What’s a native resident anyway? Are you entitled now because of that?

  4. pqb

    Eastlake is awful for cycling, most especially during either rush hour. This despite the high volume of cyclists and it being the most logical rout ‘tween the U District and SLU / Downtown / Capitol Hill. Any improvement to cycling infrastructure – and subsequent traffic pacification – long overdue.

    Hard to tell from a quick scan of the project documents, but I hope SDOT also does something about the Eastlake / Harvard (southbound) confluence. That cluster is the worst. There simply is no safe way to access Harvard from where the bike lane crosses Fuhrman unless you happen to experience a lull in traffic (quite rare most hours) or jump the light. The latter action, of course, posing its own hazards.

    As for the Eastlake businesses…the main reason I no longer frequent that stretch is precisely why it stinks for cycling. I lived in that neighborhood – twice since ’91 – and have always hated that street.

    1. RossB

      Yeah, that does look messed up. What is weird is that Harvard itself has bike lanes. Yet it looks extremely difficult to access.

      I think if I did it on a regular basis, I would take a left on Fuhrman, then a right on Franklin, then a left onto Harvard (like so: https://goo.gl/maps/JiHDxmafUJq). That means two left turns (first at Eastlake and Fuhrman then at Franklin and Harvard). But in both cases there are beg lights. That means in both cases, I would pull over to the right, press the button, wait for the walk signal, cross, then merge into traffic. That stinks, obviously, especially when cars can so easily turn left but it is a safe approach.

      The problem in this case is that the pedestrian crossing at Harvard and Eastlake doesn’t have a signal. It is really annoying. There is a left turn arrow for cars (https://goo.gl/maps/Vw4ZPZJQC1B2) but the crosswalk, which is located a dozen feet to the south, lacks a traffic signal (https://goo.gl/maps/iCkNd5MXP4U2). It would be pretty simple to just add a signal there, along with a beg button. It wouldn’t hurt traffic in the least if the crossing was tied to the left turn arrow. That means that if a car triggered a left turn crossing, the crosswalk would also turn (or vice versa). As it is, I’m not sure if the left turn is even triggered, but simply part of the cycle. This would make sense, since there are really only two cycles here — Eastlake or Harvard. Thus it would be very easy to put in a signal there (at the crosswalk) and tie it to the Harvard phase (i. e. that turn arrow). That is definitely something worth pushing for, and as far as I can tell, is not part of this project (although it might be).

      By the way, this obviously is an issue, and you can see it in Google Streetview maps. I count four bikes in that picture: three on Harvard heading downhill, and one in the turn lane doing exactly what we are talking about.

      1. Smelva

        Ross, ain’t now way your riding up the north part of Franklin, also there is a signal at Eastlake and Harvard.

  5. I would think that when bicyclists can show that they can ride on city streets in a way that they can share with traffic,not demanding rights,then each neighborhood should vote on it.
    Having the city tell people where and when they are putting them in is not a good process.
    I have been a bike messenger and rode my bike around this city for 40 years at least,very rarely have i seen a need for a bike lane,yes a direct route would be nice.My mother lives on Westlake and i would say that the bike lane has caused more problems in that area than solved,why put one there after they just put in the Dexter lane?
    Why abandon the one they built years ago on the North side of lake Union,only to build a newer one just above it?
    There are a couple just a few blocks off Market that connect to the one that goes to Golden Gardens,i often see people riding in the street right next to the bike lane going that way or through the Shilshole Marina parking lot,usually the wrong way,sure it’s pretty but that’s not too safe for bikes or cars.
    For me i take in all of this when considering bike lanes,not just the convenience of cars.
    I don’t mind riding a couple of blocks out of my way so i can ride in less traffic,i also consider if I am slowing traffic on busier streets especially during commute time.
    Share the road with bikes is a great idea,but we should also share the road with cars,delivery trucks and all kinds of commercial vehicles that get the things we want to the shops,stores ,do you complain when the big truck blocking the road is dropping off bicycles at you local bike shop?
    Sorry to rant,just wanted to give food for thought.

    1. AP

      We’ve got a road for cars on Westlake already. Why does Dexter need to be so big? It could just be a two-lane neighborhood street. Automobile drivers who want to get from the Fremont Bridge to Mercer could just take Westlake.

      Come to think of it, why do we deal with through-traffic on either Dexter or Westlake? 99 was built for cars, and it runs right through Fremont down to Mercer. We shouldn’t allow automobile traffic to use Dexter or Westlake as a cut-through just to avoid traffic on 99. We’ve got one road for cars, that should be enough.

      Food for thought.

      1. Well that makes absolutely no sense,homes,businesses ,people all need to get to.What was wrong with riding through the Westlake area before the path.Ever try to walk out of a home or business located on that trail,basically the bikes seem to believe they have special rights to ride fast and not pay attention to people crossing it,granted there are a few blind spots exiting onto docks that are hard to see into and out of,but thats no excuse.
        You and I and many others could nit pick this whole thing to death,some people are going to like the paths ,some will hate them,that doesn’t change the fact that a little courtesy by all will make them happen.Are we going to complain about E bikes and other self propelled modes of transportation using them?Skateboarders,roller blades,baby strollers,heck whole groups of people just walking aimlessly on them.
        And oh my should we just not have cars in the city limits?
        Or are people just to afraid to learn how to ride in the city and want special paths just for them.So in selfishness in an ever growing city we need to have less road space,bike lanes are great,yet sometimes a car is necessary,I personally work on boats and have to bring tools ,do parts runs and I simply can’t do that on a bike,Iv’e tried.But it’s just your kind of attitude that make’s the non bike rider not liking the idea so much,but of course you don’t care what they think .I’d love to have everyone who moved here after 1980 leave,but that won’t happen either.And yes i am from here,at least 52 of my 53 years.
        Ok ,i’m rambling ,it’s sunny out I finally got my flat from last summer fixed so I think I’ll go ride my bike now.

      2. AP

        Came to a bike blog to complain about bikes. True Seattle.

    2. Clark in Vancouver

      I hear what you’re saying and agree however these things can be a matter of perspective and inexperience with having bikes around.
      It tends to be a pattern whenever there’s a new bike route and because of the past 50 years of transportation planning, people walking are not accustomed to having bikes around and of their nature. Not knowing anything else they misinterpret courtesies and perceive them to be something else.
      For example, the best thing to do when on a path with a pedestrian crossing and someone is crossing is to slow down, as a courtesy, so they can cross and your arrival time is after they’ve crossed. All is fine.
      Now somebody not used to that could interpret the lack of stopping (which they’d expect a car to do) as going too fast by them. Sometimes they freeze which messes up the timing.

    3. RossB

      >> I have been a bike messenger and rode my bike around this city for 40 years at least,very rarely have i seen a need for a bike lane

      Well no wonder — you are a bike messenger. Most of us can’t ride that fast, or that aggressively. We just want to bike to work, or bike to our friends house without risking our lives all the time. There are a lot of people (myself included) that will only ride on bike paths or quiet side streets. A bike lane better be very good before I’ll put myself on the road next to cars going 30 or 40 miles per hour.

      Roosevelt/Eastlake is a major corridor, just like Westlake. I’m sorry if Westlake doesn’t please you, but I think lots and lots of people are happy that the trip is safer, if not totally safe (are you saying that riding on Westlake itself was better?). Eastlake is the same way. It is major bike corridor, as it is the only logical bike route in the area. There are only only so many paths in the heart of the city that are relatively flat, and this one happens to be a major connecting route.

      If you followed the history of this project, you know that it was originally billed as a bus rapid transit project. The “BRT” was replaced by “HCT” (high capacity transit) and now has simply become Roosevelt Rapid Ride. From the beginning, there was tension between transit and bike interests over the limited space there. Transit advocates (including me) wanted a lot more right of way dedicated to the buses. But in the end, no one could come up with a cheap way of getting that *and* getting sufficient bike improvements. Of course I would love to see both, but there simply isn’t enough space (unless you spend a lot of money). The point is — even people who are focused on transit, who love seeing transit improvements — recognize the importance of bike improvements (including bike safety) on this corridor, and consider it way more important than making the buses faster (and this project will make them a bit faster).

  6. Safe

    This is amazing and fantastic news. I just hope that the outcome of the project isn’t some camel that doesn’t work well for anyone, such as the southbound stretch of Roosevelt between 45th and 40th which is hardly safe for bikes, pedestrians, or drivers, all for the sake of jamming in a few parking spaces here and there.

  7. RossB

    Good news. Seattle commits to doing the obvious.

    I am sympathetic to small businesses, but honestly, freaking out over a few parking spaces is ridiculous. My son was a small business owner, and I can tell you this was the last worry on his mind. B and O taxes are high and regressive, leasing a place can be extremely expensive, finding good employees can be a huge challenge, attracting customers is never easy, etc.. If your business is going to suffer because you lose a few parking spaces, you probably weren’t doing very well in the first place and have much bigger problems.

    Anyway, as I mentioned in the other comment, this started out as a bus project (originally billed as BRT) but now is mostly a bike project. This is as it should be, really, since this is a major bike corridor. It is nice to see this moving forward, while the city struggles with the aftermath of the incompetent and scandalous previous transportation department. There is less money for this project (as a result) but hopefully they can improve things.

    Looking at the old corridor maps, things look pretty good, with at least one glaring exception: both bike lanes on the same side of the street. This is bad enough to pull off on a one way street, but it is extremely dangerous (and inconvenient) on two way streets, like Fairview. If you are headed north along there, you have to cross the street at Galer, just to keep going straight. That is nuts, and unnecessary. I really don’t see why they did that, since it looks like the amount of space used to protect riders will be minimal (a thin barrier).

    There will probably be a lot more discussion of that as this project moves forward, but this is a big concern.

  8. Jimmy

    I ride this corridor on my commute but I steer clear of Eastlake, its much more quiet and relaxing down toward the lake on the Cheshiahud loop. When I ride the bus on Eastlake it’s pretty comical how the bikes and bus play d0-se-do all the way down the road. No thanks. Also the steep downhill southbound toward the split with fairview it the type of instant death I like to avoid on my commute. Its going to take a lot of creativity to make this street work for everyone. I hope they can work it out. You’ll find me a block down the hill riding, listening to the birds and admiring the lake views.

  9. Frank Field

    I hope they will commit to the project on 35th AVE NE, too. Word from one city council member is the “mediation” they’re doing has resulted in a recommendation to the mayor to remove the bike lanes AND parking. Seems nobody “wins.” Stupid. I’ll happily await the safer bike lanes on Eastlake. I don’t think it’s gonna hurt businesses one bit.

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