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City set to begin work to complete the Green Lake Outer Loop, should open by December

Concept image of the Aurora bike path with crude drawings of people biking within a barrier-protected lane.
Green Lake & Wallingford Safe Streets created this graphic to show their concept. Now it’s happening for real.

It’s happening. Work to complete the Green Lake Outer Loop will begin “this month” and should be open by December.

The community-generated concept would repurpose a non-continuous lane along the east side of Aurora Avenue, turning it into a walking and biking trail with a sturdy barrier protecting it from Aurora traffic. It will at least partially restore a route that has been missing for nearly a century, ever since traffic engineers tore through Woodland Park and the side of Green Lake to build Aurora Avenue. The bikeway will also make the gravel and dirt pathway next to Aurora a lot safer and more comfortable for people walking and running by creating a barrier and buffer space.

You can find detailed designs in our previous post. But once complete, people will be able to bike a full loop around Green Lake, which has long served as a nexus for north end bike routes. The Outer Loop will only make that role more clear and will open the bike network to more neighborhoods west of the lake. It could also take some pressure off the lakeside path, which had long had crowding issues.

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Green Lake & Wallingford Safe Streets deserves a lot of credit for promoting this idea and organizing support.

This project is a very worthy improvement to the bike network. But we need this same urgency and creative repurposing of existing infrastructure in South Seattle, too. Lake Washington Boulevard is the most obvious place to start, but there are many opportunities to make improvements that will help people bike and walk safely and comfortably even if they don’t live near Green Lake. It’s not a zero-sum situation where Green Lake got bike lanes at the expense of South Seattle, but can you blame people for perceiving it that way? The problem isn’t a lack of funding, it’s a lack of political will. The city needs to see that SDOT and city political leaders are serious about making equitable investments in safe streets.

Bike advocates have been arguing consistently that the city needs to prioritize bike network improvements in the south end. It’s been a monthly refrain out of the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board for at least a decade. Under Mayor Jenny Durkan, advocates had to drag the mayor and SDOT kicking and screaming toward a more equitable bike plan, which they got thanks to Council action. It’s not a bad thing that Green Lake is getting a full bike loop, but it’s extremely frustrating that there is so little urgency to make similar improvements in South Seattle. There are some good things happening, like the Georgetown to Downtown bike route, but that won’t even break ground until 2024. People need safer walking and bike routes now. Investing equitably means that places like Rainier Valley that have been historically under-served by city and state safe streets improvements need even more attention than places like Green Lake with a long history of such investments.

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6 responses to “City set to begin work to complete the Green Lake Outer Loop, should open by December”

  1. bill

    A prime candidate for “repurposing a noncontinuous lane” is southbound W Marginal Way SW north of the longhouse, where the bike route takes the sidewalk. SDOT was set to build a protected trail but pulled back at the last minute. The project is supposed to be studied after the high bridge reopens.

  2. To be honest, I find it odd that the article is supposed to be about the completion of the Green Lake Outer Loop, but it somehow ends up talking about South Seattle.

    1. Allen Lau

      You’re not allowed to talk about anything these days without talking about not its fair to someone else. I didn’t make the rules!

  3. Allen Lau

    Has there ever been a discussion about connecting the Green Lake system to Stone Way and thus connecting it to Burke-Gilman?

    1. I believe SDOT originally planned to extend the protected bike lanes all the way down onto Stone Way N to N 34th (i.e. Burke-Gilman), but that project was either put off or cancelled (don’t recall which).

  4. Susan

    This project actually creates new hazards for our kids. The design takes traffic from northbound Aurora going to the busy Bathhouse parking lot, serving the west side of Green Lake Park, and now routes vehicles down North 76th, a residential street where kids play and walk to Bagley Elementary and Eagle Staff Middle School. This creates an unsafe cut-through in the middle of the neighborhood. Neighbors have raised this issue with SDOT and the City Council for many months with no mitigation in the present plan and with construction about to start.

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