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Eastlake group is trying to kill RapidRide J (which includes bike lanes)

I’m traveling home today after a week in St. Louis and Las Vegas visiting family, but I wanted to put out this notice since it is a top priority bike network improvement.

The Eastlake Community Council is hosting a meeting at 6 p.m. tonight (July 25) at the Agora Conference Center (1551 Eastlake Ave E) with Councilmember Sara Nelson in which they will discuss the RapidRide J project. The Board itself seems divided on it, but there are folks trying to gather support for an effort to kill the fully-designed and ready project.

This has already been debated to death over a period of many years, and it is very late in the process to try to stop it. But until crews are out there pouring concrete, it’s best not to assume it will definitely happen.

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So for anyone who missed it the first time (or times) this was debated, Seattle studied all of the potential bike routes in Eastlake extensively last time folks organized pushback against the project, specifically the planned protected bike lanes. SDOT’s report on the matter is lengthy and exhaustive, concluding that Eastlake Ave bike lanes are the only viable option for a safe and direct bike route through the neighborhood that serves people of all ages and abilities. There is really nothing left to say about it that has not already been said during the previous years of outreach.

The project also has significant Federal funding and has gone through the necessary Federal scrutiny in addition to the usual Seattle Process. It is on its fourth mayor, and even bike-lane-killing Jenny Durkan supported it.

The street is not safe for walking and biking as it is today. The city’s study found that while bicyclists and pedestrians only make up 6.3% of all crashes on Eastlake Ave, they represent a much larger percentage of serious (47.4%) and fatal (39.7%) crashes.

The street is also in terrible condition. This project will improve conditions and safety for all road users, including people in cars. It will also improve non-driving access to the many great businesses along the street.

Folks concerned about parking reductions could press the city to scour the neighborhood for blocks where parking could be added. I know of quite a few with parking allowed on only one side even though they are as wide as streets with parking on both sides. They could also expand short-term parking limits on blocks near businesses. These are reasonable asks, and I’m sure you’d find wide support for them. I’d support those effort, for what that’s worth. But trying to kill a needed safety and transit project that’s ready to build? That’s not being reasonable.

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15 responses to “Eastlake group is trying to kill RapidRide J (which includes bike lanes)”

  1. eddiew

    There is a group that is upset with the change in pathway in the U District to the Roosevelt couplet and NE 43rd Street from the current Route 70 pathway. I agree with them and disagree with the SDOT pathway.

    1. Skylar

      I agree, eddiew, there’s a lot of people who get on the 70 on 15th who wouldn’t be well-served with the changed route. Spending tens of millions of dollars only to miss campus and U-District Station just shows how out-of-touch SDOT is. That said, it doesn’t help that Sound Transit also spent billions of dollars on grade-separated transit that somehow managed to miss major destinations by not actually building stations at them, and now other agencies have to cover for their mistakes.

      I do love the idea of actual, honest-to-deities bike lanes on a major cycling corridor that connects two huge destinations. The transit “improvements” are meh but this is a big deal.

  2. I

    Is the meeting open to the public?

  3. DOUG.

    Any idea why Sara Nelson will be there? She’s not on the Transportation committee.

    1. Ballard Biker

      If the NIMBYs can get any councilmember to oppose something that would bring massive community benefits, it would be Sara.

      This is also the same councilmember that openly opposes unions and wants to throw the homeless in jail. Opposing RR J is right up her alley.

  4. NoSpin

    The ECC is using every excuse they can dream up – preserving parking, preserving tree canopy, biking is safer on parallel side streets, old people can’t walk as far between the fewer RapidRide stops, fewer lanes = more traffic, “Save the 70” – to kill this project via Seattle Process.

    1. Gary Yngve

      ECC: “biking is safer on parallel side streets”
      LOL, the uphill side street (Boylston) is an I5 on-ramp. The downhill side street (part of Chesiahud trail) features THE CLIFF, which many cyclists cannot climb under their own power.

  5. JB

    This reminds me of all the pearl-clutching by businesses along Westlake when the bike lane was under discussion there. It was going to be the last nail in their coffin etc. And here we are what five years later, and are there *any* customer-facing businesses on Westlake that have closed?

    1. John Doe

      meanwhile notice how much empty commercial real estate there is along Eastlake Ave. truly a closed by 9 kinda street and arguably a food desert if you kinda don’t wanna spend $5 per tomato at a lovely beachside wine shop

      1. Tom Fucoloro

        There are a handful of great restaurants and businesses, but a lot of empty and underutilized storefronts. You’re right about that. The status quo isn’t exactly a boon for business. The roar of I-5 surely doesn’t help. Cars and roads haven’t done the Eastlake neighborhood any favors throughout Seattle’s history. Making Eastlake Ave accessible to people biking and safer for people on foot will be a great thing.

  6. Aaron

    So I literally went to these meetings for the J Line / Bike lanes on Eastlake back in 2018/19. The reality is there were maybe 5 of us “pro-bike” and the other 25 people there are pro status quo. We really need to figure out how to get our numbers up for these sorts of meetings if we’re going to stand up against them.

  7. eddiew

    On Eastlake Avenue East, SDOT provided a design that should please the bike community. The tension will be at the RR stations where sidewalks are narrowed and cyclists will be asked to yield to bus riders going between the buses and the sidewalks across the PBL. Imagine the NE 65th Street humps with more and faster bikes with more transit riders.
    The parking loss is an issue; it could be addressed with land and funding; there may be room at East Allison Street under I-5 for parking; SDOT could buy land and build wood frame housing atop a garage with paid short term parking in the business district. Is a transit arterial the best place for an eight to eighty bike facility? There may be room for a second slower bike emphasis street to the west; this was studied and rejected.

    1. NoSpin

      Your suggested parking solutions are pragmatic and reasonable – except to Eastlake businesses who feel that on-street, curb-side parking directly in front of their building is a god-given right. That’s what they currently have, so any change -however reasonable – is a loss in their eyes.

  8. Eastlaker

    My impressions from attending the meeting:

    * The business owners who are opposed to bike lanes are not convinced by the research that shows businesses benefit from an increase in their customer base in the years after bike lanes are added. The increase in business that comes from bike lanes should be a powerful argument with Eastlake residents as a whole but not with the businesses. Bike lane supporters need to focus on the many residents especially younger renters who would love a more thriving walkable and bike-able Eastlake.
    * The Eastlake Community Council does not represent Eastlake residents. It represents ECC’s paying members. It says so in the organization’s bylaws. https://www.eastlakeseattle.org/about
    That context is important. If you live in Eastlake and are pro bike lane I would suggest joining the Eastlake Community Council so that your voice is heard and you can vote on the council’s direction. For the record the ECC is a great organization that organizes many community park cleanups and outdoor movie nights and other initiatives–but on the issue of bike lanes it is siding with the business owners who are opposed because that’s what its articles of incorporation and bylaws say it must do. If you live in Eastlake, join ECC so you can vote and be heard.
    * Pro bike lane supporters should stop saying visit the Netherlands to opponents! Not an effective talking point! Also, be empathetic to the concern about the loss of parking spaces and business loading zones.

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