You spoke up, and city plans now extend E Union St bike lanes through 23rd Ave

Concept diagram showing the proposed street design between 14th Ave and 26th Ave. There are bike lanes protected by car parking on both sides of the street.Map of the project.Thanks to everyone who voiced their concerns about SDOT’s incomplete plans for E Union Street bike lanes in the Central District, the project team has changed their designs to now extend the new bike lanes through the intersection with 23rd Ave.

You can support the complete bike lanes by completing the project survey by February 7.

Union is already a very popular street for biking even though its paint-only bike lanes disappear and reappear constantly between Madison St and 34th Ave in Madrona. It’s just the only east-west street in the area that goes all the way through without dead-ending into a major institution (like Seattle University) or turning into a staircase (Pike St). So protected bike lanes on Union are one of the highest-priority bike improvements for the neighborhood.

The design released last spring showed protected bike lanes from 14th Ave to 22nd Ave, then people biking would have been directed to either mix with car traffic (defeating many of the benefits of a protected bike lane) or use the busy sidewalks in the 23rd and Union business district.

Needless to say, people were not pleased with those options. The Urbanist was able to obtain project survey results that showed more than 600 of the 877 responses the project team received were from people calling for completing the bike lanes. The Central District has among the highest bike commute rates in Seattle, and Union is a key link to and through the neighborhood. So it’s no surprise that response was strongly in favor of complete bike lanes.

Capitol Hill Seattle reports that the key trade-off and conflict around the bike lane connection is car parking, though the major Midtown Square development will more than make up for any parking reduction:

Wednesday night, SDOT representatives said the updated design would only require the loss of five existing street parking spots at the key 23rd and Union intersection. Some of that may be able to be mitigated by the opening of the Midtown Square development across the street. That three-piece, seven-story mixed-use apartment development with 428 market-rate and affordable apartment units and a quasi-public central plaza will include a huge underground parking garage when it opens in fall of 2021.

Map showing more project detail, including bus stop locations and parking restrictions.But this project removes very little parking. A project map counts individual spaces that would be removed. The total for the whole project? 11. That’s an average of less than one space per block. The total for the 23rd Ave area? 3.

It is definitely worth the trade-off here since it will make it easier and safer for people to bike to neighborhood businesses. There’s no question that complete bike lanes will bring more people than three car parking spaces.

Concept diagram showing the proposed street design between 14th Ave and 26th Ave. There is car parking on both sides of the street and a bike lane uphill with sharrows downhill..Unfortunately, the project still does not have fully complete bike lanes because the eastbound/downhill bike lane is planned to disappear for a few blocks starting at 26th Ave and crossing MLK Way. This is especially frustrating since 27th is designated as a future neighborhood greenway in the Bicycle Master Plan and MLK technically has bike lanes (though they are old, far too skinny and honestly pretty worthless). Union also continues to be an important bike route east of MLK. So why stop the eastbound bike lane two blocks before being complete? If we’re going through all this work now, we should do it right.

CHS also reports that the project team is working with the Seattle World School (old TT Minor building at 18th Ave) school buses off Union and onto E Pike St to avoid conflicts with the bike lane.

The project is nearing the end of the design phase, and the turnaround is fast. Construction is planned this summer.

UPDATE: Here’s a Seattle Bike Blog video about the project:


About Tom Fucoloro

Founder and Editor of Seattle Bike Blog.
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2 Responses to You spoke up, and city plans now extend E Union St bike lanes through 23rd Ave

  1. RossB says:

    What is crazy about this (and other) parking fights is that they often happen in areas where there is a ton of parking. There is parking on adjacent parallel streets ( and side streets — including even angle parking ( To be fair, there are areas where the loss of even a handful of short term parking spots could mean a major hit for a business — this just isn’t one of them. The total lack of perspective with parking is really frustrating. Just park around the corner — chances are you’ll have to anyway. Your business will be fine — you aren’t to lose any customers because they had to park around the corner (which is a better place to park anyway).

  2. Ben P says:

    I liked the video. I feel like I got a really good understanding of the street from it.

    It’s ridiculous how many parking spaces the 23rd and Union development will have – two hundred and fifty. The streets don’t have enough capacity for that many cars. There should be parking maximums instead of minimums.

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