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Construction begins soon on initial segment of the 4th Ave bike lane

Project map.Crews are gearing up to build a protected bike lane on 4th Ave between Pine and Madison Streets downtown.

This is the start of the second north-south bike corridor downtown and a key piece of the Basic Bike Network vision, which would build a connected web of protected bike lanes from Seattle Center to the International District and places in between, helping more people bike to more homes, workplaces and destinations within our state’s busiest area.

Though 4th and 2nd Avenues look close together on a map, the topography on the ground puts them in different realms. At Pine Street, the streets are basically at the same elevation. But the two blocks separating them at Madison are some of the steepest streets in the entire city. So for people trying to access major institutions, like the Seattle Public Library or City Hall, or heading further up to First Hill, 4th and/or 5th Avenues are vital.

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The first segment will be a two-way bike lane on the west side of the street between Pine and Madison, essentially mirroring 2nd Ave.

Cross-section of the proposed road changes.There is currently an uphill painted bike lane on 4th Ave that ends at Spring, so this project will connect to that old bike lane for the time being. That should be a huge improvement for people heading northbound who currently have to either merge into the left general purpose lane and bike in mixed traffic or try to merge across the entire street in front of the library in order to ride in the bus lane. Neither option is good. Being able to simply continue straight into a protected bike lane should be a massive improvement.

There may be limited utility to the southbound bike lane until the project extends further in a future phase, but people biking to First Hill will have a new option for connecting to the Spring Street bike lane. Sure, the block between 4th and 5th is steep, but it is likely worth it to avoid the stress of biking on 5th Ave, something many people simply would never consider doing. And when the Central Branch Library opens again, the bike connection there will be great (OMG, remember going to libraries?!?!? You could just go and get comfortable and read whatever you want for free…).

The planned bike lane is skinny for a two-way lane at eight feet plus a 2.5-foot buffer. That’s the absolute minimum standard for such a facility, and a bit skinnier than most of the 2nd Ave bike lane. Like on 2nd, the bike lane and left turn lanes will have separate signal phases to avoid conflicts at intersections.

In future phases scheduled for construction in 2021, the bike lane will extend to Vine Street to the north and will connect south to 2nd Ave through an out-of-the-way detour down Yesler:

Full project map. We will have another post dedicated to discussing the future south end connection soon, so stay tuned.

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5 responses to “Construction begins soon on initial segment of the 4th Ave bike lane”

  1. David Andrade

    That’s good news.

    For those currently starting at 4th Avenue/Washington Street going northbound, the main challenge I always come across is right under the Yesler Way overpass as it is full of litter and people. You can’t really bike on the slightly elevated portion of the lane there as a result.

  2. ronp

    definitely pretty damn scary to leave my office at 4th and Madison and head to NE Seattle on 4th. I look forward to the lane!!!!!

  3. kiriska

    Hmm. Look forward to the lane, but really wish it were on the other side of the street, which would make northbound right turns a lot easier, but I suppose since car traffic is northbound, it’s easier for northbound bikes to merge into traffic before a turn than southbound bikes, so preserving right turns for southbound bicyclists is more important?

    I go north on 4th Ave a lot from ID to Belltown and usually just ride in the bus lane since I’m eventually going to turn right. Merging in and out of PBLs is a hassle, so I sort of foresee continuing to just ride the bus lane. I might’ve normalised the last few months of traffic too much and have forgotten pre-pandemic times already, but it’s not usually busy enough to be of huge concern to me.

  4. JAT

    I hate two-way bike lanes. Just hate ’em.

    So I’m not feeling a lot of gratitude for this. When I worked on 4th I kinda liked the weird wrong side of the road bike lane, though as with many bike lanes it did disappear exactly where the motor traffic got hairy (at the Library).

  5. eddiew

    per the poster above, tent campers block the west sidewalk under the Yesler Way bridge, so pedestrians and cyclists must share the hump; visibility is not great due to the bridge and slight curve.

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