Seattle is about to invest to build a public car charger directly in the path of the on-hold Broadway Bikeway extension north or Denny Way.
Once complete, people biking northbound in the Broadway protected bike lane would need to merge into mixed traffic at Denny Way to go around a parked electric car using the city’s charging station. And neither Seattle City Light nor SDOT seem concerned about this conflict, as Capitol Hill Seattle reports:
“In the absence of a bike lane currently, we believe this is a great location for an electric vehicle charging station,” Scott Thomsen, spokesperson for City Light tells CHS. “Should there come a time, we will be able to move our infrastructure.”
The Seattle Department of Transportation describes the situation a little differently.
“We do not believe installation of a charging station would preclude future bike lanes,” a spokesperson tells CHS. “Assuming a charging station is installed on Broadway, we would work with our partners at SCL to determine how to design a (protected bike lane) around it or shift the charging station to accommodate when the time came.”
The Broadway Bikeway extension is at the 90 percent design phase, which is essentially shovel-ready. It was initially scheduled for 2016, but has been put on hold due to a lack of funding for the associated streetcar extension. The design does not have on-street parking next to the charger location, but it does have parking space across the street as shown in the image above.
You can learn more and provide feedback at an open house 6 p.m. March 6 at Seattle Central College’s Broadway Edison Building in Room 1110. If you can’t make the open house, you can also contact the project team:
Thanks for asking! Folks that can't make it are encouraged to email comments to SCL_ElectricVehicles@seattle.gov or call (206) 684-3800.
— Seattle City Light (@SEACityLight) February 27, 2019
As we have argued, the bikeway should go ahead with or without the streetcar because its current abrupt end at Denny Way does not work. The Denny Way terminus was supposed to be temporary, but installing a charging station in the planned bikeway path suggests that the city considers it permanent. And that’s frustrating not just for bike access and safety along the north end of Broadway, but it severely limits the usability of the existing stretch of the bikeway that reaches south to Yesler Way.
On the other hand, completing the Broadway Bikeway as designated in the city’s Bicycle Master Plan sets up a connection that could reach all the way to the University and 520 Bridges. It would also create a consistent street design for all of Broadway and improve safety for everyone, especially people walking.
Even if the city truly is willing to spend more money moving the charger later when the bikeway is installed, that feels like an unnecessary expense. More likely, the cost of moving the station will be yet another barrier to completing the bikeway.
But the bigger issue here is that the city is apparently not considering its modal plans when choosing car charging locations. Either that or they see charging cars as more important than biking. If the argument for public funding of car chargers is to fight climate change (a questionable strategy), then blocking a bike lane is counterproductive. It would be much better to install the chargers in parking spaces with no plans to change.
I’m not necessarily against experiments in public funding for electric car chargers, though there are equity questions about charging stations that need to be addressed. After all, you need to be able to own an electric car to use these public stations. But such efforts definitely cannot impede known solutions like transit, walking and biking. And I mean that literally in this case but also financially as the city budgets its resources.