Waterfront bike routes will remain open during upcoming SR 99 closure

Work zone maps from WSDOT.

Waterfront bike routes, including the path under the Viaduct along Alaskan Way downtown, will remain open during the upcoming SR 99 closure, SDOT confirmed today.

We have received a lot of questions in the past week from folks wondering is the Viaduct closure would also close their bike route, and it was difficult to find info about bike route closures in the information released. So it’s great to hear that the current routes — including the Portside Trail (connecting E Marginal to Alaskan Way between Atlantic St and King St) and the pathway under the Viaduct — won’t be disrupted, at least not anymore than they are normally.

Unfortunately, WSDOT and SDOT will not be providing any temporary bike route improvements to help people travel through gaps in the bike lane network, however. Such improvements were not expected, but it’s still disappointing that the city is not lifting a finger to help more people get around by bike during this closure. And SDOT’s Heather Marx gave Mike Lindblom at the Seattle Times an even more disappointing reason for the lack of temporary bike lanes:

January is not a comfortable month for biking or walking,” said Heather Marx, city downtown mobility director. “It hasn’t been a big part of our message, because it’s just a hard sell that time of the year.

While certainly fewer people bike during the winter than in the summer, there are still a ton of year-round bike riders in Seattle. The Fremont Bridge recorded 58,591 trips in January 2018, and that’s just one bridge. Sure, that’s a little less than half the trips in July, but it’s still a lot of people who are probably saying to themselves, “What? Am I invisible?” And a highway closure event like this could have been a great opportunity to help more people become year-round bike riders.

Bike advocate Merlin Rainwater wrote a letter to the editor in response to Marx’s statement pointing to recent bike network improvements like the Belltown extension of the 2nd Ave bike lane as an opportunity to help more people bike:

Shouldn’t the city be encouraging people to take advantage of those improvements and try biking? I’m a 72-year-old woman, and I bike year-round. It’s not that hard to sell.

At least bike share is stepping up to try to help more people make more trips by bike during the highway closure. JUMP is waiving the $1 unlocking fee through February 15 (you still pay 10¢ per minute) and bringing thousands more of their red bikes in coming weeks. Between the two companies, there could be 8,000 bikes in service during the closure, Lindblom reported.

The city also says it is working to limit closures from construction work “by temporarily revoking and reissuing permits for work in the right of way until after the closure, and increasing the number of inspectors monitoring projects on the street.” This will hopefully help cut down on the constant bike lane and sidewalk closures downtown.

Perhaps the best improvement for biking is that the Coast Guard will allow the city to restrict Ship Canal bridge openings for more hours around commute times. And since all the bike routes across the canal use draw bridges, this could prevent some bridge delays for folks. That’s not exactly a game changer, but I guess it’s at least something.

But even if the city isn’t going to take action to help more people bike, that doesn’t mean you all can’t. This is a great time to offer to help coworkers or friends get biking. West Seattle Bike Connections was ahead of the game by hosting a test ride last weekend for folks in West Seattle interested in learning how to bike downtown. Neighbors from more parts of town should follow their lead and organize efforts to help folks navigate the city by bike. And be sure to let Seattle Bike Blog know about your efforts by commenting below or emailing [email protected].

About Tom Fucoloro

Founder and Editor of Seattle Bike Blog.
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7 Responses to Waterfront bike routes will remain open during upcoming SR 99 closure

  1. Patrick says:

    “a hard sell that time of the year” – Yeah, and one of the big reasons why is that in the dark and rain those gaps in the network become so much more dangerous.

    I bike all summer. I sweat and shower at work anyway, so a little rain won’t stop me. But when drivers have rain and glare of headlights on their windows I don’t trust them, at least not through sections like 12th and Boren/Jackson. If my commute was all on protected lanes I’d absolutely do it, but it just doesn’t feel safe to me. And I’m someone who’s comfortable bombing down Pine or taking the lane on 8th/9th in the Denny triangle during rush hour when it’s light out.

  2. Don_Brubeck says:

    Our West Seattle Bike Connections ride last Saturday was not a “hard sell”, Heather Marx. We had lots of interest, lots of participation. We’re doing it again this Sunday, January 13. Come ride with us!

    Q: My commute to work takes me 35 minutes to work if I ride my bike. How long will it take after the Viaduct closes and all that?
    A: 35 minutes.

  3. Law Abider says:

    I’ve noticed an uptick in bikers during cold, dark and rainy January that can only be explained by people taking up cycling in anticipation of the viaduct closure.

    Driving is going to suck, buses are going to be full and stuck in traffic and a lot of people don’t have the option of working from home. Cycling and walking are going to be the only means of reliable commuting.

    SDOT, and by association Mayor Durkan, are really dropping the ball here.

    • (Another) Tom says:

      The bike cage at work is still pretty full. I was thinking it was just new year’s resolutions that hadn’t been rained on enough yet but I think you are right and that there seem to be more people already biking in anticipation – awesome.

      Funny enough I took the bus for the first time in months earlier this week. Had a flat I was too lazy to fix in the morning plus a library book I needed to finish so I hopped the bus. My 5 mile bike commute takes me 20-22 minutes; 30 minutes door-to-desk including time locking the bike and changing clothes. The bus commute took 45-50 minutes each way and I wasn’t even near peak of peak. Next week I reckon that bus commute will only get worse, mine will still be delivered like pizza – 30 minutes or it’s free*

      *also still free if less than 30 minutes.

      • Law Abider says:

        I considered New Years resolutions at first, which normally brings a noticeable uptick in cyclists. This January, there have been platoons of cyclist commuters, which you normally only see June through September. Hopefully they all realize that cycling in the cold, dark and rain isn’t that bad, if you have the right equipment.

  4. Breadbaker says:

    We were driving around Seattle on Thursday night about 7-9:30 and were surprised at how many cyclists were out at a time and in places we weren’t used to seeing them. I suspect the “I’d better figure out if I can do this on a bike because I won’t be able to after the viaduct closes on the streets” was a lot of it. Interlake and Ballard were two of the neighborhoods we were in.

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