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What kind of bike lanes should SDOT build on MLK between Rainier and Judkins Park (in 2023)?

Project map.I know it’s pretty hard to think about 2023 right now. Because a month lasts about a year right now, 2023 is more than 30 years away.

But SDOT is currently conducting a survey about the planned MLK Way S bike lane between Rainier Ave S and S Judkins St even though they don’t plan to build the project until 2023 ahead of the Judkins Park light rail station opening. But they are getting a head start on planning.

The survey is short and asks participants about the safety issues they face on the street, then offers a handful of options for how the planned bike lane could work.

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One option has a two-way bike lane on the east side, another has a two-way bike lane on the west side and a third option has one-way bike lanes on each side of the street.

Diagrams comparing the options.In taking the survey, I found it a bit difficult to know what to choose. The good news is that all the options appear to include a protected bike lane. But there’s no context about the trade-offs or benefits of each option. In general, two one-way bike lanes is the best practice unless there is a good reason to do otherwise. So I guess without any such reason, the one-way bike lanes would be best. But only if these lanes are complete and fully protected for the entire length, including intersections.

But I want to hear your thoughts. Have a good reason to go with a two-way bike lane? Let us know in the comments.

One other possible issue with this survey right now is that it’s not clear whether public outreach can really be complete right now. As we reported yesterday, one recommendation from The Untokening is to avoid planning future projects “when equitable public participation is impossible.” On the other hand, SDOT may not have conducted more than an online survey for this phase anyway. But SDOT staff needs to know that the outbreak does not relieve them of the need for equitable outreach in project planning. So if they cannot conduct outreach that is equitable, they should put planning on hold.

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10 responses to “What kind of bike lanes should SDOT build on MLK between Rainier and Judkins Park (in 2023)?”

  1. Richard

    I theoretically like 2-way bike lanes, but Seattle has done such a historically terrible job and the termination points on 2-way lanes, I lean toward 2 1-way lanes. (full disclosure: My commute goes up the Broadway lane, ending just a few blocks north of the endpoint, so I … er… *normally* get a daily reminder of how bad SDOT’s 2-way lane terminations are)

  2. Gordon

    It depends a lot on the connections the south. If the plan is to just giving up at the intersection of MLK and Rainier, it probably makes the most sense to have a 2-way on the East side so people can bail out and go on the neighborhood greenway over by Franklin. But hopefully, we can find a way to continue the route on either Rainier Ave or MLK which would probably make one-way lanes more compelling.

    Also, this route isn’t being constructed until 2023 why do outreach now when it’s going to be so challenging? Or why not build something temporary now for people to test out and get feedback that way.

  3. Peri Hartman

    I vote for one way lanes. On 2nd Ave, most of the reverse direction is uphill, so going reverse against automobile traffic isn’t so bad. But, on the level, where you might go 15-20 mph, you become invisible to oncoming traffic which might turn in front of you. They *might* think of looking for oncoming traffic on their left. But on their right ?

    Second, as Richard says, SDOT does a poor job of interfacing to two-way lanes. I can imagine that, for one reason or another, two way lanes won’t work for some parts of Rainier. So, what will they do ? Make you cross 4 lanes of traffic to go to the other side for two blocks and then …. cross 4 lanes again to get back. I really don’t want to see that.

    Third. The lanes SDOT builds tend to be too narrow. Having 20mph bikes in each direction with only 2′ to spare between is asking for head on collisions.

    1. Skylar

      I agree, plus the problem right now is that the existing two-way facilities have even less room for 6′ physical distancing than our trails.

  4. Pedro

    One-way, two-way, unicycle-only, it doesn’t matter.

    This is a dumb, make-work project that continues in the spirit of SDOT’s long tradition of building in SE Seattle, routes not needed, not asked for, and not going places cyclists go.

    What we NEED are direct routes to downtown (aka same starting point but heading north on Rainier) or down into Rainier Valley – on either Rainier or MLK. And, as you can see on the pretty map, SDOT does not plan to build either of those.

    This new protected bike lane doesn’t go anywhere useful. It starts at a central hub and goes UPHILL to a lovely residential neighborhood, nothing wrong with that, exept there are already two, previously built bike routes up that big ol’ hill, (Greenway and 31st bike lane).

    One-way or two-way? Luckily for us, this new dumb protected bike lane won’t be built until 2023 ,so it won’t not matter whether it’s one-way or two-way until 2023, ate which point nobody can start not riding on it.

    1. Jonathan Glick

      Your frustration is understandable but there is a network improvement here because an MLK bike lane would at least extend south to Mt Baker Station. The Central Greenway can currently get you to about Rainier/College St and the still-incomplete Rainier Valley Greenway requires a much steep climb out the the way that the MLK route.

      That said, SDOT really needs to better explain how these proposals fit into a larger network. The maps they provided here don’t even show the Greenway routes. It makes me wonder if they have completely forgotten that the RV Greenway is not finished and continues to dead end in the middle of nowhere on Mt Baker Ridge.

  5. Jeff Fisher

    Kind of an unusual road.

    According to the map there are 8 intersections on the west, and only 6 on the east – one of which is a dead end – another is a strange angle (down across the slope I think…).

    I can’t recall specifically, but i’m guessing the west ones get more turns on/off mlk as well.

    As it goes down the hill isn’t there a steep slope on the east side, up from the road?

    The east side is also shady on the hill, because of the slope.

    The east side has the two parks. Which means no driveways there. Also means bike lanes would be more buffer for the park.

    And right at the south end, the east side is franklin highschool.

    Right now this all suggests two lanes on the east side to me.

    But my familiarity of that area is mostly just driving through it regularly quite a few years ago and a few times a year now.

  6. RossB

    A couple of one-way bike lanes is better. As you wrote, unless there is a really good reason to do otherwise, that is best. It is just easier and safer.

    (I would imagine the most common reason for having the two-way bike lane is lack of width. This seems to have sufficient space for the lane and buffer on each side).

  7. MW

    I’m not convinced that a PBL for the downhill is a good idea, I think that’s more dangerous than a sharrows. Nobody wants to descend at 30 mph in a confined lane with people getting in and out of cars and oncoming bikes. The sight angles are bad, and there’s no way out if there’s a pothole or road contamination like sand or glass shards. I’d vote for a climbing PBL and a downhill sharrows that transitions to a PBL lower down where it flattens out. What the city ought to do is do some chalk drawings and do a beta test of it with some volunteers BEFORE spending any real money, then assessing what works and what doesn’t.

  8. I used to work right off this route (just up the steep hill of S Walker), so I’m very familiar with the challenges of this section. I used to walk, bike, bus, drive (and multi-modal combos of the above), and I’d regularly witness people driving way over the speed limit, passing to the left or right, you get the picture. So, first of all, I see all options as being safer for everyone using the corridor.

    I’d prefer Option 3, with one-way protected bike lanes on both sides of the street. A parking-protected bike lane will be safer for all roadway and sidewalk users, and PBLs in each direction will allow people riding to safely and easily access their routes from wherever they start.

    In the business section, I also really like what look like real concrete buffers, which would be safer for all users! There are businesses on both sides of the street here, so having protected bike lanes will make it more accessible and safer for people to choose to walk or bike here.

    I’m not really sure why the two-way options are involved here, at least without an explanation of the benefits. I have to assume they’d be easier to implement, but I’d like to see pros/cons, and they’d need to outweigh those of two one-ways. Option 3 looks like the best option for the most people.

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