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Sunday: Celebrate the new Union Street bike lanes

People with bike trailers hauling lots of food up the hill in a bike lane.
The Union Street bike lanes being used to haul freight up the hill. Riders, led by Joseph Roberts, on a Pedaling Relief Project food rescue mission, delivering donations from PCC to the Byrd Barr Place food bank. We hauled 675 pounds of food that day.

East Union Street now has protected bike lanes from 14th to 26th Avenues, providing a lower-stress way to climb the unavoidable ridge that peaks around 18th and 17th Avenues through the Central District.

Before the new lanes were installed, skinny paint-only bike lanes appeared and disappeared seemingly at random along the route. Now they are consistent, traveling between the sidewalk and parked cars. The bike lanes also calm traffic, which can get going pretty fast down the steep hill. People driving used to swerve into painted bike lanes to pass turning cars (and cars stopped to let people cross the street). The new design makes crossing the street significantly more comfortable.

The bike lanes are well-used heading up the hill. Downhill use is a bit more mixed, which makes sense. People who already bike in the area are used to bombing down Union’s steep hill. The new bike lane requires users to brake and go a little slower. I don’t see this as a problem, though. People have choices now. If you like bombing the hill, take the lane like before. But if you’d rather take your time, then use the bike lane. It’s great to have different options for different people.

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Project map.
From SDOT.

Thanks to people who pushed back on the original design, the bike lanes continue through the intersection with 23rd Avenue. This provides a comfortable bike connection for people traveling from east of 23rd, but it also provides a connection to the many destinations at the intersection itself.

To celebrate the new bike lanes, Central Seattle Greenways is inviting everyone for a Sunday ride. Meet 10:30 a.m. at the little park at 15th and Spring. Details from Central Seattle Greenways:

Join us for an all-ages-and-abilities, slow, social bike ride led by Central Seattle Greenways to celebrate SDOT’s brand new installation of protected bike lanes on E Union St., as well as the new southern portion of the Central Ridge Greenway along 18th Ave S and the Stay Healthy Street on E Columbia St. We’ll also stop to discuss improvements to 12th Ave S that have been proposed by CSG and Beacon Hill Safe Streets. The ride will finish with a gathering at the new Boon Boona Coffee near Seattle University.
WHERE: (Start) Meet at Spring Street Mini Park -> Union PBL eastbound to MLK -> Union PBL westbound to 14th -> 14th to Columbia -> Columbia (Stay Healthy Street) to 18th -> 18th (Central Ridge Greenway) to King -> 18th to Yesler -> Yesler to 12th -> Finish at Boon Boona Coffee / 12th Ave Square Park (End)
The route is 4 miles and involves about 400 feet of climbing elevation. Full map here: https://goo.gl/maps/oeHy6V91kkKfJHS29.
WHEN: Sunday, June 13 – meet at 10:30 AM at Spring Street Mini Park
HOW: On wheels (bicycle, tricycle, unicycle, scooter, etc.)
WHO: All are welcome!

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4 responses to “Sunday: Celebrate the new Union Street bike lanes”

  1. I tried them weds. Nice. Like you said, Tom, downhill it’s better to be in the traffic lane unless you want to go jogging speed. But uphill, I was able to relax and not be constantly concerned about who might swerve into me.

  2. Gary Yngve

    “If you like bombing the hill, take the lane like before. But if you’d rather take your time, then use the bike lane. It’s great to have different options for different people.”

    I agree with this, but I wish the city would educate motorists with a sign like, “Bicycles May Use Full Lane”. I also find it safer to control the lane on Dexter downhill, NE 75th St downhill by Eckstein, Eastlake downhill by Fred Hutch, etc., but some drivers like to tell me that I’m in the wrong.

    1. bill

      Or instead of trending towards signs repeating the entire Vehicle Code, we could require a written test for license renewals so people brush up every four years. Worked fine in days of yore.

  3. Michael

    I’m kinda surprised at this opinion of this being viable options to have yet another bike line that requires swerving twice at every intersection to stay in the allegedly protected bike lane…

    but this time it is downhill instead of flat like 4th Ave (why isn’t that a straight line either?), and the added bonus of idiots leaving their passenger doors open…

    seems smarter to not even have the downhill lane and keep parking curbside instead.

    Bad design at a glance, so I’m not using that downhill lane again, especially after a friend woke up in the hospital from hitting one of those curbs.

    I’m curious how many other cyclists accidents this has caused, so that is my next web search, looking for statistics.

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