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Construction to build major bike improvements brings many months of tough detours on Pike and Pine

Map of the initial construction zone on Pike between 4th and 6th Avenues.Crews building improved bike lanes on Pike and Pike Streets downtown will close existing stretches of bike lanes for months at a time. So while both bike lanes were already incomplete, biking there will get worse before it gets better.

Central Seattle Greenways has sounded the alarm about the sorry detour options for this major bike downtown bike route and “have written to [SDOT] Director [Gregg] Spotts asking for SDOT to do better.” Read the full Tweet thread:

The group notes that a detour to Bell Street is much too far out of the way, so the only practical options for people biking are to mix with car traffic or ride on busy sidewalks. Neither of these options are good.

A construction notice from SDOT notes, “To build those improvements we will need to temporarily detour the existing bike lanes. Detours will be to streets with existing, similar facilities.” However, as Central Seattle Greenways notes, there are no nearby streets with similar facilities. This is why Pike and Pine are such vital bike routes. They are the only viable options for biking between downtown and Capitol Hill or First Hill in this corridor.

The best option by far would be to construct a temporary bike lane that goes around the construction zone. This is the gold standard for detouring a bike lane, and it should be the city’s go-to option whenever possible. It might mean removing one of the extra general purpose lanes or on-street parking, but safety is more important.

Another option could be to temporarily transform an existing one-way bike lane on Pike or Pine into a two-way lane when the other street is under construction. Many people already use both lanes as two-way lanes, anyway. Adjusting them to make two-way travel safe and official could be a useful option during some phases of construction.

It is frustrating that bike detours weren’t more carefully planned out before breaking ground. But it’s not too late to prioritize safety and create a usable detour.

Eventually, this work will be worth it. When they were constructed a half decade ago, the existing Pike and Pine bike lanes were supposed to be pilot projects that would be improved over time. But those improvements never came. Both lanes have serious missing sections and design compromises, including uncomfortable turn lane merges. The Pike Pine Streetscape and Bicycle Improvements project should fix these issues and create fully connected and separated bike lanes from Pike Place Market to Bellevue Ave, connecting to existing bike lanes that extend to Broadway. You can see more details in this PDF.

More details on the current construction closure (PDF) from SDOT:

I’m excited to inform you about the beginning of construction of Pike Pine Streetscape and Bicycle Improvements, a project by the Office of the Waterfront and Civic Projects and the City of Seattle, that is planned to start as early as next Monday, February 13.

The project includes improvements to crosswalks and sidewalks, more greenery, protected bike lanes and new public seating, all with a more consistent character and identity from end to end. The project will make Pike and Pine Streets one-way streets from 1st Ave to Bellevue Ave, with Pike St being one-way eastbound and Pine St being one-way westbound.

To build those improvements we will need to temporarily detour the existing bike lanes. Detours will be to streets with existing, similar facilities.

Construction work is starting between 4th and 6th avenues on Pike St. Access to all properties including businesses and residences will be maintained during construction work, but it will include closure of bike lanes and detours to cyclists.

We will also be sending out a weekly construction email (you can sign up here) where you can find updated information and what you can expect in the coming weeks.

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3 responses to “Construction to build major bike improvements brings many months of tough detours on Pike and Pine”

  1. I am very curious what Gregg Spotts’ response would be, if any. He is supposed to be the new driver for ped/bike safety improvements.

  2. Alkistu

    The price of progress.

  3. eddiew

    Construction impacts are one thing. But note that the basic design of the PPR was flawed. When complete, westbound cyclists will have to transition to Pine Street from Pike Street via Melrose. This was not necessary. The PPR could have made the CBD pattern match the Capitol Hill pattern: two one-way PBL on Pike Street and two-way transit on Pine Street; those modes could be on separate streets. The community helped design the Pike Street system. West of Bellevue, Pike Street could have had two one-way PBL and Pine Street could have had two-way transit with new eastbound electric trolleybus overhead between 1st and 8th avenues. The PPR will impose a 400-foot transfer walk between Link and eastbound buses on Pike Street. The traffic studies imply that Pike Street will be jammed much of the time. The Kubly SDOT added the incomplete PBL to Pike and Pine streets in about 2015. Note that the westbound bike lane on Pine Street leads directly to a curb bulb at 5th Avenue just as buses need to shift left get around the queue of right turning traffic going to 4th Avenue. The Kubly PBL slowed the bus routes.

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