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Initial stretch of the 4th Ave bike lane opens downtown

Crews have finished work on the first phase of the 4th Ave bike lane downtown.

The new two-way bike lane connects the six block from Pine St to Madison St, directly connecting Westlake Park and the Central Branch Library.

Future phases scheduled for 2021 should connect the bike lane through Belltown and into Pioneer Square. See our previous story for more on those plans.

This bike lane has been a long time coming after Mayor Ed Murray delayed it in 2016, then Mayor Jenny Durkan delayed it again in 2018. Safe streets supporters have protested on the street several times to urge the city to take bike safety and transportation seriously.

Because of downtown’s severe grades when headed east-west, 4th Ave is a very necessary complement to 2nd Ave because some of the steepest streets in the entire city separate these two streets. So they look close together on a map, but when you’re on the ground, they sure feel very far apart.

This is an odd time to make safe streets improvements downtown because so many of the destinations they reach are closed right now due to the pandemic. But that also makes it a very smart time to make these changes. When the central library and City Hall and all those other government and office buildings reopen, this bike lane will be there to help keep people safe and provide a non-motorized way to get there.

Have you ridden the 4th Ave bike lanes yet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Project map.


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13 responses to “Initial stretch of the 4th Ave bike lane opens downtown”

  1. Dave

    Slapping this simple paint and post bike lane in seemed so quick, so easy, and so cheap for SDOT to implement. It’s amazing how much time and political effort it took just to get something this simple shoved through the system. And even though it’s so simple, it’s huge. The central library is now accessible by bike for the first time.

    1. Yep, it would be good to get some numbers to the public to counteract the bad publicity from the $12M / mile segment (which included all sorts of other upgrades).

      1. NoSpin

        We can start by not perpetuating the myth that it ‘cost $12 million per mile’

    2. Andy B

      “accessible by bike for the first time” is more than a bit hyperbolic. There’s been a *very* comfortable bike lane on Fourth for well over a decade.

  2. Andy

    I do not understand why Seneca to Madison is one-way, this was supposed to be a two-way bike lane yet the two blocks I use (and the last two blocks to the library, the chief destination), is one-way and the wrong direction. Don’t get me wrong I like new bike lanes, but this one just leaves me confused.

    1. This is phase 1. That section will be 2-way as part of phase 3, currently set for 2021.

    2. I don’t understand it, either, especially since for the last 2 blocks to the library the bike lane is wide enough for 2-way travel. Every person I’ve seen going southbound just salmons in the one-way PBL, and I don’t blame them.

      Also, as Nick mentioned, the 2-way portion is going to be extended in future phases farther south, but SDOT mentions that the 2-way PBL will redirect at Dillon Way to Yesler Way to 2nd Ave at the south end at first. It will not connect to Main St for another couple of years.

      From the SDOT project page:
      “We still envision a bike network with a direct connection down 4th to S Main St, but the impact to bus travel times at this point is too significant. As an interim solution, we’re routing the south end of the protected bike lane through Dilling Way to Yesler for a connection to 2nd Ave. When buses are routed off 4th Ave in a couple years, we intend to make this direct connection as funding allows.”

      4th Ave Mobility Improvements project page: https://www.seattle.gov/transportation/projects-and-programs/programs/bike-program/protected-bike-lanes/4th-ave-mobility-improvements

  3. kiriska

    Rode this the other day and it’s mostly fine, but man, exiting the bike lane to merge back into traffic from the left (northbound on 4th) is much more hazardous than merging from the right, especially since the bike lane ends in an area of maximum confusion for vehicular traffic thanks to the bus-only lane.

    1. Conrad

      My thoughts too. It looks like they plan to continue north at some point but right now the bike lane ends in a bad place so I exit the bike lane well before. Also , the hotel loading zone sucks but it did before too.

  4. eddiew

    Is it really just paint and post? are not signal changes required, especially at the westbound east-west street intersections: Pine, Union, and Seneca? There was significant signal work on 2nd Avenue. What is happening to the parking in the pullouts?

  5. eddiew

    Yes. The SDOT slide show states there were signal changes.

  6. ronp

    Been riding it to my empty office near the library several times already. It is really nice!

    Yes going downhill and changing lanes to get over to Westlake is a bit sketchy but uphill is so easy and stress free.

    Good job bike and pedestrian advocates!

  7. eddiew

    I rode 4th Avenue between South Jackson Street and Pine Street early this afternoon. The bus island farside South Jackson Street is closed while real time information infrastructure is installed. Under the Yesler Way bridge, a tent village blocks the south sidewalk, so pedestrians are forced to use the bike hump. Between Madison and Seneca streets, the bike infrastructure curves into the former parking pullout and the short term parking is floating to the east of the cycle track. Signals at the westbound streets, Seneca and Union, have new signals; bikes get a green with the regular lanes; the left turning traffic must have their own cycle. At Pine Street, the signage says straight only, but out of habit, two cars turned left to Pine Street in front of me; I used evasive action and can write this now. SDOT could sign that better; could add NO LEFT. This could actually help transit flow, as before Covid, Pine Street had too many vehicles to allow routes 10, 11, 47, 49, and some peak routes to move well; in the p.m. and on shopping days, there was gridlock. It appears a lane will be taken at off-peak times; this could lead to more congestion. During Covid, some peak bus routes are suspended; they will probably return.

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