Mayor Durkan: ‘Eastlake is moving forward’

Photo of Mayor Jenny Durkan speaking at a podium. Three people stand behind her.

From left: Seattle Neighborhood Greenways Community Organizer Clara Cantor, SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe, Cascade Bicycle Club Policy Director Vicky Clarke and Mayor Jenny Durkan.

Mayor Jenny Durkan removed all doubt about what she thinks about Eastlake Ave bike lanes during a mid-day press event today.

“Without prejudging what would come out of an EIS or what the lawyers would say, we need that bike lane,” she said in response to a question from Heidi Groover at the Seattle Times. “From the north end to downtown Seattle there are only a few routes you can go on, and so Eastlake is moving forward.”

Mayor Durkan was speaking at a press event celebrating the completion of several downtown bike lanes recently (more on that coming soon), but her Eastlake statement definitely got the biggest applause.

As we reported last week (and then rambled on about for more than an hour in a video), Eastlake Ave is the most controversial segment of the major RapidRide J project, a rapid bus and multimodal street remake of the corridor between Roosevelt Station and downtown. Because the project is receiving significant Federal funding, the Federal Transit Administration and SDOT have released a required joint environmental assessment outlining the options they considered for each part of the project and selecting a preferred option, which includes bike lanes.

SDOT anticipated pushback on Eastlake because adding protected bike lanes would remove a lot of parking on the street, so they conducted an exhaustive 100-page report (longer than the environmental assessment for the entire project) looking at nine different options for building a bike route along the project corridor. And the bike lanes are just the only option that is complete, makes regional bike connections and serves neighborhood destinations.

District 4 Councilmember and Transportation Committee Chair Alex Pedersen attended a town hall meeting conducted by the Eastlake Community Council last week, and bike lane supporters packed the place. During the meeting, Pedersen didn’t support the bike lanes, but he also didn’t suggest he was going to fight them. This probably left everyone frustrated, but it’s a win for the bike lanes because they are in the designs now.

It was already a long shot to get them removed at this point in the process, at least through political channels. And people wanting to build political support to block them needed the mayor on their side. So her unequivocal support is a big deal. Here’s hoping it doesn’t end up in court like some other major bike projects have.

The biggest threat at this point is probably the Feds. The funding is supposed to come through, but you never know with this administration. I suppose that’s one more (comparatively minuscule) reason to make sure that guy loses in November.

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18 Responses to Mayor Durkan: ‘Eastlake is moving forward’

  1. Matthew Snyder says:

    Mayor Durkan is quoted here as having said, “From the north end to downtown Seattle there are only a few routes you can go on, and so Eastlake is moving forward.”

    Did anyone follow-up with a question about connections to south or southeast Seattle? There are also only “a few routes you can go on” when trying to get from downtown to the Rainier Valley, but I have yet to hear a strong statement from the mayor supporting quality bike facilities on any of them.

  2. (Another) Tom says:

    I’ve been very disappointed with Mayor Durkan but I very much appreciate her standing up for these bike lanes.

    I predict renting bikes to ride around Lake Union is going to become a popular summer tourist activity once we complete this flat, scenic loop with protected bike lanes. Should be a boon to businesses ready to serve.

    • Eastlake Business Owner and Resident says:

      First let me say that I am a bicyclist, but I also drive a car, take the bus and walk. As a business owner in Eastlake, the impact of losing street parking for many small businesses will be the demise of those businesses. The was the impact on Roosevelt for many businesses. There is very little bicycling activity on Eastlake outside of the morning southbound commute and the evening northbound commute. This happens to correspond with parking restrictions already in place during those times. I never understood why dedicated bike lanes could not be enforced during those busy hours, but allow parking during the day when businesses need those spots and at night when residents need those spots. Eastlake Ave is a limited resource that needs to be shared by a diverse group of stakeholders. It seems strange that we have to have a win-lose solution. Safety for bicyclists is very important. I’ve had more than my fare share of “near misses” by drivers. But I also don’t want to see the very small businesses that make Eastlake a community forced to close because a more creative “share” model of Eastlake Ave could not be created.

      • (Another) Tom says:

        “There is very little bicycling activity on Eastlake outside of the morning southbound commute and the evening northbound commute.”

        Perhaps a full set of protected bike lanes will change that. That’s the idea after all and what I was getting at – this is an opportunity.

        “I never understood why dedicated bike lanes could not be enforced during those busy hours”

        Oh, I’m sure the motorists will abide by the time restrictions. Come on, we can hardly keep cars out of dedicated 24-hr bike lanes. A protected bike lane is needed here 24 hrs/day. We aren’t building this just for commuters and a cyclist shouldn’t have to consult a time table to determine safe passage. Dedicated means dedicated.

        Ultimately, it is sad if longtime businesses have to close but if their business model relied on exploiting a limited public resource (street space) then I don’t see why we should continue to subsidize their business. If parking is so important perhaps they should buy land to put in a parking lot or pay to have a parking garage dug.

        “Eastlake Ave is a limited resource that needs to be shared by a diverse group of stakeholders.”

        Yes and they tried very hard to find a feasible alternative for cyclists but there are none. They produced an exhaustive 100-pg report on the issue. There is not enough room for cyclists, buses, general traffic, and private automobile storage so they’ll have to store their cars elsewhere.

      • If you’re weighing whether you should bet the future growth of your business on (a) going all-in on winning wallet share from 22,000 new people living and 91,000 working within a half-mile by 2035, connected by a protected bike lane that joins up with one already running through one of the fastest-growing areas, with one of the top bike-crossing counts at the end of its protected bike lanes just north of you (University District/U Bridge), with busses bringing people who can see your sign or stop in running every 7.5 minutes or (b) going all-in on preserving 325 parking spaces on Eastlake Avenue, you will be a lot better off choosing (a). (Stats from the EIS)

        (We lived in Eastlake, on north end of Fairview, and even back then we made most trips on the UDirstrict – Eastlake – Downtown axis on foot or bus, because driving was far from awesome regardless of parking.)

      • Steve Campbell says:

        Which businesses on Roosevelt were closed due to the protected bike lane? Do you know of any specifically or are you just making things up to bolster your argument?

      • DaveW says:

        You might be somewhat reassured that the overwhelming majority of studies where parking has been replaced with protected bike routes have shown a benefit to businesses: https://www.citylab.com/solutions/2015/03/the-complete-business-case-for-converting-street-parking-into-bike-lanes/387595/

    • (Another) resident and business owner says:

      Comments from (Another) Tom only serve to reinforce the negative and rarely true stereotype of the arrogant, privileged cyclist that would put his fitness regimen over the livelihood of others. Does anyone really expect a small business owner to pony up the capital to buy land in Seattle and dig it up for a parking garage? A small business that rents retail space from a landlord?

      Small businesses are not as powerful or sophisticated as corporations. Small businesses are the innovators, and the main source of diversity in the marketplace. They need some assurance from their community that the rug won’t suddenly get pulled out from underneath them. Eliminating customer parking is a huge hit to survivability for most small businesses. While these businesses don’t currently pay much to the city to buy parking, you can bet they pay their landlords in the form of higher rents, which are typically multi-year deals.

      Those fickle tourists will make up for business lost to real city residents, no doubt. Perhaps a full set of dedicated bike lanes will entice tourists from warmer climes to visit and ride rental bikes in the cold January rains? If not, why have revenue 12 months of the year anyway when you can have packs of tourists ride by from June – August? A winning strategy for any furniture store, tax preparer, or anyone else not operating a cafe or food cart, you can bet on it.

      Instead of asking small business owners to build private parking lots, how about putting license plates on adult bicycles, charging registration fees and then using the funds to build infrastructure for bikes. After all, no motorist gets a free pass registering a second motor vehicle, so why the freebie for pedal power? It’s not as if anyone can drive or ride two vehicles at once. It’s time cycle enthusiasts put some skin in the game, and that goes beyond “I’ve already paid for infrastructure via property tax”. That money buys roads, if for nothing else than getting the USPS, Amazon Prime, Metro, school buses, the fire department, the police, and Waste Management to your door. New construction requires new funding – and new construction is needed, not just the band-aid of lines painted on existing streets The funds that are collected for road maintenance simply won’t get it done, and bicycles need their own routes for the sake of everyone’s safety and sanity. Once we all understand that, maybe people won’t be so glib about dictating bankruptcy and ruin to people that have bet their entire lives on small businesses. Businesses built on serving the community, including cyclists.

      • Or we could just charge for all street parking, everywhere, which would have the benefit of internalizing the negative externalities of driving.

      • Eastlaker says:

        “Small businesses are the innovators”

        So innovate! Adapt to the changing marketplace!

        “They need some assurance from their community that the rug won’t suddenly get pulled out from underneath them.”

        Suddenly??? This plan has been in the works for years, and it will be years still until construction actually begins. And yet instead of ‘innovating’ you and a a handful of naysayers are insisting that they should continue to be allowed to treat a public roadway as a private parking lot.

        The idea that business will crumble if these changes take place flies in the face of reality:

        1) There is extensive empirical data that transit and cycling improvements have a positive impact on a community/neighborhood as a whole – including businesses.

        2) Even with the ongoing evolution of Eastlake – incluidng long-pending plans for tranist and cyclign improvements – business is increasing. Serafina just invested in an expensive remodel – do you think its innovative owners would sink all that money into a remodel if there was any chance that a loss of parking was going to sink their business? Louisa’s closed… and instead of becoming a vacant eyesore, new owners remade it into Otter. Johnny Mo’s Pizzeria just opened up – at an intersection where two bike routes merge! Armistice Coffee moved into the building at Eastlake and Boston. Mammoth opened – and has committed to returing after the current building is torn down and a new one goes up.

      • (Another) Tom says:

        Ah, the last bastion of the wrong. Tone policing and stereotyping. I do enjoy a lot of privilege in my life but certainly not while cycling. I also don’t give a hoot about fitness. I ride to get to work because it is cheaper, faster, and more reliable than sitting in traffic.

        “Does anyone really expect a small business owner to pony up the capital to buy land in Seattle and dig it up for a parking garage?”

        No, but I do expect you to make the tiny logical leap that parking/road space is extremely valuable and shouldn’t be forever hogged by an enterprise just because they were there first.

        “While these businesses don’t currently pay much to the city to buy parking, you can bet they pay their landlords in the form of higher rents, which are typically multi-year deals.”

        This is nonsensical and irrelevant.

        “Instead of asking small business owners to build private parking lots, how about putting license plates on adult bicycles, charging registration fees and then using the funds to build infrastructure for bikes.”

        Classic.

        “It’s time cycle enthusiasts put some skin in the game, and that goes beyond “I’ve already paid for infrastructure via property tax”.”

        You should be ashamed of making a comment like that. Cyclists have plenty of skin in the game. We leave a bunch of it on the pavement every time a distracted driver plows into us and that is why these PBLs are needed.

        There are about 8 million reasons your tired “they should pay their fair share” argument is wrong. Also, I own a car and pay my tabs just like everyone else.

        ” and bicycles need their own routes for the sake of everyone’s safety and sanity.”

        So we agree? This is one of those routes. Not only that but this one has no feasible alternatives per the exhaustive study.

        “Businesses built on serving the community, including cyclists.”

        Clearly not.

  3. ballardite says:

    I hope the Eastlake side goes along the lake just like the Westlake side. It would be much more protected, just as fast to ride and allow traffic to move better on Eastlake ave.

    • Rich says:

      @ballardite, have you ever actually ridden your suggested route along the lake?

    • Eastlaker says:

      A path along the water in Eastlake would be on Fairview – a narrow, two-way residential street with parking on both sides and no sidewalks – and no right-of-way for a ptotected bike lane. In other words, a TERRIBLE alternative to protected bike lanes on Eastlake.

      • Dan says:

        After having ridden both Eastlake and Fairview more than a few times, the dealbreaker seems to be the stretch between Roanoke and Hamlin. I assume there are some entrenched property rights issues around there. I’d personally trade speed for less traffic if that was the choice, but I can’t imagine what the path is without throwing a block of 10% grade into the mix. My assumption is that this doesn’t work for the casual commuter cyclist toting a bag full of gear home.

        The concern I’d have is that protected lanes on Eastlake might end up looking too much like they do on Dexter, or Pike/Pine. So long as the path isn’t going to reduce the ability for cars to see cyclists, it’s *probably* a gain.

      • KAL says:

        I think bike lanes on Eastlake make sense. (Given the hill at Furhman, given folk who want to visit Eastlake itself).

        I also think long term the city can and should make a better Edgar/Hamlin connection happen for Fairview. (Unlike Rich and Eastlaker, I love biking on Fairview through Eastlake and I think there’s a value in having a better connected route for folk like me who enjoy quiet mixed streets as compared to protected busy ones.)

        @ Dan, making a better Edgar/Hamlin connection looks like it might be quite do-able from the Zillow property boundary pictures. Looks like there’s basically one property’s parking lot between Edgar’s street end and the Fairview stub past Hamlin. Options:
        (1) work with the property on the waterfront to see if they would sell part of their parking lot to the city or if there’s a way the city could work with them to get a path through there.
        (2) build a short boardwalk on the water that just goes around the edge of the one waterfront property. The distance between Fairview and the street end of Edgar is actually really quite short. I would assume the boardwalk option would be more expensive to maintain. The boardwalk option would also entail working with the short dock currently there to make sure either they can go under the boardwalk, their dock is relocated to outside the boardwalk or they sell the dock.

        Still some hill at Roanoke if we only connected Hamlin to Edgar, but I think connecting Edgar to Hamlin would do a lot since the hill at Roanoke to Yale isn’t as bad as Fairview to Hamlin to Yale to Edgar. It looks like a boardwalk could be put in place between Roanoke and Hamlin’s Fairview stub, but that looks much more involved with all the houseboats and multiple properties along there. So, personally, I’d target the lower hanging fruit of connecting Hamlin and Edgar, but maybe I’m thinking too small.

  4. Rich says:

    I hope this works out, but I don’t really trust Jenny Durkan.

  5. Pingback: Watch: Mayor Durkan celebrates downtown bike lanes, says more to come | Seattle Bike Blog

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