Washington House passes e-bike sales tax exemption

Rep. Sharon Shewmake (D-Bellingham)

On Tuesday, by a 57 to 39 vote, the Washington House of Representatives passed HB 1330, exempting electric bikes and up to $200 in bike accessories from state sales taxes. In a tweet, Rep. Sharon Shewmake (D-Bellingham), who introduced the bill, called it a “bipartisan bill that will be good for the climate”. 9 House Republicans voted for the bill, the exact number of Democrats that voted against it.

Rep. Alex Ramel (D-San Juans) framed the bill in committee as a pilot that will show whether sales tax incentives can increase e-bike sales in Washington. The exemption would expire on May 1 2027 or when $500,000 in sales tax revenues have been forgone under the program. Long time Seattle Bike Blog readers may be surprised to see Rep. Ed Orcutt (R-Kalama) voting to exempt e-bikes from sales taxes here.

The bill still has to get through the State Senate. Both the Senate Transportation Committee’s Chair, Steve Hobbs (D-Lake Stevens) and its ranking member Curtis King (R-Yakima) have proposed increasing the sales taxes on sales of new bicycles of all kinds, a largely symbolic gesture to make a transportation package appear to be balancing revenue sources from all transportation modes. Presumably those members won’t vote to also exempt e-bikes from sales taxes; it’s unclear what happens if both were to pass.

If this were to go into effect, it should only fuel the massive appetite to purchase bikes that continues into 2021. Today the Seattle Times quoted Gregg’s Cycles’ Marty Pluth: “Every bike that comes in is sold right away, so we never get to a point where we refill the tank.” But the sales tax exemption also brings some parity, with Washington already offering a sales tax exemption on the sales of electric vehicles. Since 2019, a sales tax exemption has been available on the first $25,000 on a new electric or hybrid vehicle and the first $16,000 of a used one.

On the Federal level, there’s momentum for incentives like this as well, with Portland’s Rep. Earl Blumenauer sponsoring a bill with Rep. Jimmy Panetta to introduce the Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstart for the Environment (E-BIKE) Act, which would create a tax credit that covers 30% of the cost of an electric bike, up to $1,500. Lawmakers clearly see e-bikes as something they can work to promote. Even if this bill doesn’t make it through the State Senate this session, that momentum is not likely to go away.

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Bigger detour scheduled at 23rd and I-90 as detour legibility issues persist

As soon as Monday March 15, people walking, biking, and rolling on the Mountains to Sound trail at 23rd Ave S & I-90 will have a more circuitous detour as crews pave the east side of the 23rd Ave crosswalk and close the entire trail near the intersection. The entire sidewalk on the east side of the street will also be closed; people accessing the trail will have to use the alternate access points at 24th Ave S from the north and 25th Ave S from the south.

Entire trail east of 23rd to next trail entry and entire sidewalk on east side of 23rd closed

Planned detour as soon as March 15 at 23rd and I-90

This is a 24/7 detour and is expected to last 10 days.

The Mountains to Sound trail detour at 23rd has been something that many trail users have been frustrated with for a while. Detour signage has been unclear, sidewalks that are supposed to accommodate people biking and walking along the detour blocked by no-parking signs, and ramps that could allow people to access alternate trail entries not in place.

We contacted Sound Transit about the persistent problems with the detour, and were told that the agency was working to implement improvements at the Mountains to Sound trail here this past weekend. Here’s what they said they are doing:

  • New asphalt ramps instead of the movable wooden ramps
  • Additional drums and barricades to make the detour more clear
  • Updated signage
  • More frequent monitoring to ensure the sidewalk is usable during non-construction hours

But the agency declined to tell us what was causing the failure to coordinate a legible and consistent detour at the intersection. The detour all the way to Judkins and Massachusetts Streets was communicated by Sound Transit as being in place only Monday through Friday 7am to 3pm, but has frequently been in place at nights and weekends. It’s also one thing to continue to maintain a parking lane that could be converted into a real detour; it’s another thing to pair that with next-to-no signage, and a crosswalk that people biking are sometimes able to use to detour into the street and sometimes cannot. Seattle Bike Blog readers have reported issues here going back through most of 2020. The bottom line is that Sound Transit should be better at this.

Wide two lane road with a parking lane with parked cars in it

Photo submitted by Tonya Ricks Sterr showing the street space on 23rd that could be used for a bike detour in 2020.

The detour here will eventually return to normal, hopefully at the end of this month, but Judkins Park Station will retain several barriers to access. Natalie Bicknell at The Urbanist summarized many of those issues this week, with the I-90 access ramps feet from the Rainier Avenue station entrance at the top of the list. Theres still a lot of work to do to make this segment of Seattle more friendly to people who aren’t in a car.

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New coalition forms to oppose new highway spending over sidewalks and transit

Man along a four lane highway with a gravel curb

Paulo Nunes-Ueno of Front and Centered at a Tacoma bus stop without a sidewalk.

At a press event in Tacoma at a bus stop next to fast-moving traffic, with no actual sidewalk available for people to use to access the bus stop, Disability Rights Washington & Front and Centered outlined their priorities today for the statewide transportation package moving through the legislature this year: “No new highways until we have sidewalks and reliable transit service”.

Paulo Nunes-Ueno, Transportation and Land Use Policy Lead for Front and Centered, the largest coalition of communities of color-led groups in the Pacific Northwest, identified the gravel-covered curb as “unfinished business” that Washington governments hadn’t prioritized in part because of the 18th Amendment to the State Constitution, passed in 1944, that ties the the state’s gas tax to highway projects. “The way we have funded transportation has left out too many people, most often people of color and poorer communities but also everyone who doesn’t drive”.

Krystal Monteros, Chair of Tacoma’s Commission for People with Disabilities, shared her experience living across the street from the spot where the event was held: “The sidewalk across from my apartment is still messed up”, limiting her movement. Disability Rights Washington has created an invaluable storymap talking to people in every legislative district in the state who can’t drive, sharing the stories of those vastly underserved by our transportation infrastructure currently. The map is an essential resource, particularly for lawmakers deciding where to allocate scarce dollars.

The press conference today comes on the heels of Governor Jay Inslee holding one last week with area leaders to push for a “maintenance first” transportation package. “We are getting our vaccines. Now we need to get our roads, bridges and ferries. All of these things are necessary for the rebuilding of Washington state’s economy. We need to make the investments first, and I emphasize first, in maintenance of our existing transportation system…it is woefully underfunded.”

But even a heavily maintenance-focused package in 2021 would not be putting maintenance first, after highway spending has ramped up steadily under the Governor’s watch. A chart from WSDOT Secretary Roger Millar’s State of Transportation address to the legislature this year showed more highway spending planned during the 2021-2023 biennium than ever before, with numerous mega-projects prioritized over preservation and maintenance.

Highway spending planned by WSDOT by biennium. (Click to enlarge)

WSDOT’s active transportation plan, released in draft form late last year, outlined just how improvements to make our state highways usable for people who are rolling, walking or biking stack up against the spending we’ve already allocated to highway expansion projects. Roger Millar, at last week’s press conference, cited a $300 million price tag on the I-5 bridge over the ship canal to get the facility in a “state of good repair”; contrast that with a $283 million price tag to add speed treatments to every single state highway through a population center in Washington. Separated pedestrian and bike facilities everywhere come in at $1.8 billion, comparable to many high-profile highway expansion projects considered by the state in recent years.

Front and Centered and Disability Rights Washington’s call for no new spending on highways in Washington is a bolder request than we have seen from other transportation advocacy organizations in recent months. The Clean & Just Transportation Table, established by the Climate Alliance for Jobs and Energy, made up of 205 statewide orgs (including Front and Centered), and promoted by Transportation Choices Coalition, has highlighted the fact that Washington’s transportation spending is “inadequate, inflexible, and inherently inequitable” but has stopped short of calling for a moratorium on highway expansion. Alex Hudson, TCC’s Executive Director, signed onto a joint op-ed in the Seattle Times last month that left the door open to specific megaprojects: “Many larger projects, such as a new I-5 bridge over the Columbia River, an improved Highway 2 trestle in Snohomish County and repairing the West Seattle Bridge are also essential to congestion relief, safety and commerce.”

The Washington House Democrats‘ transportation package remains the most progressive proposal on the table, with billions more in spending for transit, bike, and pedestrian infrastructure than the state has ever seen at the state level. But it does include billions of dollars in new highway projects as well. Contrast that with the proposal Senator Steve Hobbs has unveiled as chair of that body’s transportation committee, which includes half as much money for multimodal priorities and billions more for highway projects.

With pressure from the Governor to get a transportation package, we should expect to see the committees scramble to assemble a coalition that can pass both chambers by the end of the legislative session on April 25.

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Tonight: Watch the Filmed By Bike Festival with Evergreen MTB

Filmed By Bike event poster. Person doing a jump on a bike in the woods.6:30 p.m. tonight (March 8), stream the Filmed By Bike short film festival with Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance. Tickets are $5 per person (create an account to see the checkout page). The films look great!

Details from Evergreen MTB:

Don’t miss this Live Streaming Film Festival event presented by the Evergreen Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity committee!

The Filmed by Bike Adventure Shorts program features inspiring tales of adventure, struggle and triumph on the rugged road. The path to expedition isn’t always easy, but nature and a wild sense of curiosity lure us away from our computers, desks and schedules to enter the great wide open.

These incredible films will wow audiences with their gorgeous cinematography and compelling stories. Appropriate for all ages.

Featuring Films by: Deann Garcia, PEARL iZUMi, Analise Cleopatra, Kristina Wayte and Travis Rummel
Timing: Doors open at 6:30 for the Live Stream event. Links included with purchase of tickets
Fees: $5 per pair of eyeballs on your screen! (honor system)
Proceeds: Proceeds from this event will go to support Evergreen’s Equity and Access Initiatives throughout the state.

Here’s a little sneak peek…

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Burke-Gilman detour planned as work on N 34th Street PBL begins

The Seattle Department of Transportation announced today that as soon as Monday they’ll be starting work on the long-anticipated N 34th Street protected bike lane between Stone Way and Fremont Ave.

The immediate impact of this is a planned 3-week closure of the Burke Gilman trail between Stone Way and Troll Ave during which people biking will be directed to N Northlake Way. People walking and using wheelchairs on the Burke will be directed to the sidewalk on N 34th, according to SDOT. That sidewalk is incredibly narrow compared to the amount of pedestrian traffic in the area, so this detour will not be great. There will also be a 1-week closure after that diverting traffic from the sidewalk onto the Burke Gilman, which should be less impactful.

map showing the detour as described in the article

Map showing the planned detour of people biking on the Burke Gilman onto Northlake Way.

From SDOT:

We are dividing the initial sidewalk work into two phases so that we can create detours for people in the area. The detour route will affect people walking, rolling, and biking at the intersection of N 34th St and Stone Way N. We are prioritizing the safety of pedestrians during this time.

During Phase 1, which begins as early as March 8 and lasts about 3 weeks, about 300 yards of the Burke Gilman Trail will be closed.  

When approaching Stone Way N, people walking/rolling on the Burke-Gilman Trail will be directed to the sidewalk on the south side of N 34th St. People biking will be directed to N Northlake Way. All travelers can rejoin the trail at Troll Ave N.

During Phase 2, which will last about one week following Phase 1, the sidewalk on the south side on N 34th St will be closed for about 300 yards. 

People using the sidewalk will be directed onto the Burke-Gilman Trail. They can rejoin the sidewalk using a ramp to N 34th St 150 yards west of the work zone.

We’ve asked if there will be any separation on Northlake Way from traffic for people biking with kids and will update the post when we hear back. Update from SDOT:

We are not making changes to N Northlake Way during the detour period.

N Northlake Way is a relatively calm street, but we recognize that the Burke-Gilman trail is an all ages and abilities route attracting riders with a wide variety of comfort levels. We hope that riders will understand the challenges we face and that these detours are necessary so that we can build more protected routes and improve the bike network.

two lane road with some back angle parking on it

Northlake Way, the planned detour of the Burke Gilman for 3 weeks

When complete, the project will fill a noticeable gap in Seattle’s bike network for people biking between Westlake Ave, Queen Anne, and the heart of Fremont and the Burke Gilman heading toward UW.

Protected bike lane between just north of the Fremont Bridge on Fremont Ave and between Fremont and Stone on N 34th

Map showing extent of planned bike lanes on N 34th Street.

The design that SDOT is implementing sacrificed a lot of elements to accommodate the apparent needs of people driving in the corridor, and so may ultimately disappoint many who have been following the project for a while. It is exciting to see it finally implemented though.

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Take SDOT’s newest Stay Healthy Streets survey

SDOT is moving forward with its plan to implement up to 20 miles of “permanent” Stay Healthy Streets this year, even as the department doesn’t yet have a funding source identified to keep the Mayor’s promise from last summer. A plan to use money from some projects in the bicycle master plan program met resistance from the city’s advisory boards.

It also looks like the department is still considering which Stay Healthy Streets will be selected to become permanent as well. SDOT has another survey up through March 11 that gets fairly granular on what segments of their nearest Stay Healthy Street people walking, biking, and rolling feel safe using.

We do know that SDOT is planning Stay Healthy Streets in both South Park and Georgetown as part of their Home Zone treatments as part of the West Seattle Bridge closure response. Another new short Stay Healthy Street is planned in Little Brook in NE Seattle. And Greenwood’s 1st Ave NW appears to be the first existing Stay Healthy Street progressing to the community outreach stage, with two meetings focused on it since the start of the year. One of those meetings was last night. At that meeting we learned that so far 82% of survey respondents have said they support making the Stay Healthy Street in their community permanent.

We also still don’t know very much about what is actually planned to make Stay Healthy Streets permanent.Of course, what ends up happening will in part be driven by the budget. One slide did show a new kind of paint-and-post curb extension along with some of the other ideas that have been suggested as concepts so far:

Powerpoint slide with different street treatments including paint curb bulbs, ecoblocks with art on them

Later this month we should have more details SDOT’s full Stay Healthy Streets proposal, at least on some of the more hotly contested ones like Beach Drive SW in West Seattle. Fill out the survey!

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Greenways groups renew push for crucial bike connection on 12th Ave S

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways affiliate groups Beacon Hill Safe Streets and Central Seattle Greenways have jointly asked the Seattle Department of Transportation to take another look at the feasibility of adding bike facilities to a dangerous segment of 12th Avenue S, between Yesler Way and King Street. The letter, dated last month, comes as SDOT continues construction work on protected bike lanes south of King Street across the Jose Rizal Bridge.

Huge intersection with pavement in bad shape

12th Ave S at Boren Ave looking south

This stretch of 12th Ave S is one of the most dangerous spots in the city for people biking. From the letter:

SDOT collision data shows that 66 cyclists and pedestrians were injured on 12th Ave S between E Yesler Way and S King St between 2004-2019, a rate of about four and a half injuries per year. We frequently observe even strong cyclists riding on the sidewalk along this stretch of 12th Ave S due to the stressful riding conditions, particularly northbound.

In 2019, a presentation to the bicycle advisory board stated that SDOT had modeled adding a protected bike lane to each direction of 12th Ave south of Yesler Way, and that “impacts to Yesler, Boren, and Jackson intersections add significant delay and queue lengths” and that the impact would “especially delay streetcar and transit”. 

The letter asks for intermediate improvements that are not full bike facilities.

  • 12th Ave S northbound: It appears there is sufficient ROW to accommodate a painted bike lane along the northbound section of the corridor, which is uphill and therefore the more stressful of the two directions when biking.
  • 12th Ave S southbound: There also may be an opportunity to add a southbound bike lane for a portion of the corridor. Both of these changes would likely require some rechannelization of 12th Ave S between Yesler and Jackson.
  • Pavement quality: The intersection of 12th Ave S and Boren Ave is desperately in need of repaving. Deep potholes in this area make for dangerous riding conditions.

Adding a safe bike connection to this segment would connect the protected bike lanes already in place on Yesler and Broadway; connecting existing facilities has been reiterated over and over again as a high priority for the expansion of the bike network by SDOT.

As SDOT moves forward with a proposed policy that would prioritize bike facilities in contested segments like the ones being discussed here only if they are deemed “critical” segments, this segment is clearly one of the most critical in this area of the city.

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Aurora Ave could still get a Stay Healthy Street, design documents confirm

A proposal to convert the curbside lane of northbound Aurora Ave N alongside Green Lake Park into walking, biking, and rolling space in the form of a Stay Healthy Street is still under active consideration by SDOT and WSDOT, Seattle Bike Blog has learned. This stretch of road doesn’t have any sidewalks, just a dirt path next to fast-moving traffic along Aurora. The inner loop at Green Lake Park is currently restricted to people walking in one direction, with people riding bikes currently not allowed. Repurposing a lane of this short segment of Aurora, which is underutilized, would add another accessible route around Green Lake and really the only way for people biking to get around this segment of the lake.

SDOT’s Ethan Bergerson told Seattle Bike Blog: “SDOT and WSDOT are continuing to consider the opportunity to create a larger Stay Healthy Street near Green Lake Park. Considerations include COVID-19 recovery and vaccination rates, traffic calming solutions, and funding availability.”

Dirt road with a puddle with tire tracks next to three lane Aurora with median obscuring the other three travel lanes.

Current condition of the dirt path around Green Lake along Aurora Ave.

Draft plans for the closure that were created last Summer obtained by a records request show just how far along the proposal has come to becoming reality. They show a water-filled barrier protecting the curbside lane on northbound Aurora, connecting West Green Lake Drive N with West Green Lake Way N.

Blueprint showing walk bike and rolling lane on Aurora

Barriers on Aurora protected bike walk and roll lane

Walk bike and roll lane on Aurora protected by barriers

On the south end, this lane would connect with the existing Keep Moving Street that has been in place along the southwest corner of the lake since last year. Last month, SDOT announced that they would be adjusting that street to reopen West Green Lake Way to vehicle traffic southbound to provide access to parking lots, while keeping the northbound lane for people walking, biking, and rolling. This change hasn’t been made yet, but has been promised soon.

Street closed sign in front of two lane road

The Green Lake Keep Moving Street, due to reopen to vehicle traffic in one direction.

At the north end, the barriers would end a short distance from Aurora, with the entire stretch of West Green Lake Drive between Aurora and Winona Ave N closed to through traffic like a Stay Healthy Street, with ADA access to the parking lot on that stretch still maintained.


Barriers stop shortly after Aurora Ave on Green Lake Drive northbound

Winona Ave and Green Lake Drive with signage blocking the south part of Green Lake Drive

If all of that’s confusing (because it is) hopefully this map can help clarify the segments depicted here. You can see the full plans from this post here.

Three segments around the lake as described in the article.

What’s being considered or actually happening along each stretch around Green Lake.

The long-anticipated protected bike lanes around the east side of Green Lake are scheduled to be completed this year. If this proposal were approved, people biking would have a nearly completely protected route around the entire lake. Whether this idea for the west side of the lake is just a pandemic experiment, or a good idea that never sees the light of day remains to be seen.

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Changes at Rainier and MLK coming in 2022, but what’s next for Accessible Mount Baker?

As the Seattle Department of Transportation moves ahead with designing a planned protected bike lane between Mount Baker light rail station and the planned Judkins Park light rail station on MLK Jr Way S, with the bike lane planned to be completed close to the station’s grand opening in 2023, we now know that pedestrian improvements at one of Seattle’s most dangerous intersections along that route are planned to go in next year.

Those improvements around Rainier Ave and MLK Way are the result of a small allocation of Move Seattle Levy dollars earmarked for Accessible Mount Baker. $6 million was reserved for “near-term improvements”, which in this case are coming during the sixth year of the levy. Two people were killed at this intersection in 2020, and one person was killed in 2019, pointing to a level of urgency at this spot.

Rainier and MLK Intersection with missing crosswalks on two legs

The biggest improvement planned is the installation of marked crosswalks along the two legs of the MLK/Rainier intersection where they are currently missing. The not-fully-accessible bike and pedestrian overpass will still be there, but crossing at-grade in any direction will become an option. Crosswalks will be wider, sidewalks extended in some areas and repaired in others. A no-right-on-red restriction will be added for vehicles turning from Rainier onto MLK northbound, which will protect people biking if it’s not counteracted by the street’s design.

Four crosswalks, new curb ramps, and green crossbike markings

Early diagram showing upgrades at MLK and Rainier, with four crosswalks and bike crossings.

Text reading Widen the Sidewalks and repair the sidewalk in sections with enlarged sidewalk on Rainier at MLK

This intersection is going to be the south end of the protected bike lane on MLK when it’s complete in 2023 and the increased pedestrian space here will help people biking transition to where they want to go next. In the future, the bike lanes may continue south on MLK. Funding to study a possible extension to S Henderson Street was included in this year’s budget.

One possible near-term improvement that SDOT eliminated from contention was the conversion of the northern traffic lanes on Mount Baker boulevard to walk and bike space. With a wide boulevard median already in place this would have been a very cost-effective way to create more space for biking. This improvement was one aspect of the larger vision for Accessible Mount Baker, so maybe it can come back at some point.

Bike lanes and a walking lane in one lane of the historic Mount Baker Boulevard

Turning part of Mount Baker Boulevard into a walk bike lane was eliminated from the project last year.

So what’s next for the Accessible Mount Baker vision? The fate of the Mount Baker Transit Center will in large part determine the answer to that question, but even a concept study on its relocation is paused due to reduced revenue. SDOT”s Ethan Bergerson told me last week that it “still a priority to start again when we have more funding”.

SDOT is applying for a grant from the Puget Sound Regional Council to use toward the MLK Protected Bike Lane project. If that grant were to come through, that could free up more money for improvements here. But nickel and diming improvements here won’t achieve the larger vision for Accessible Mount Baker, which is really a placemaking project with a lot of beneficial transportation improvements included: making the car-oriented area around Mount Baker Station more pleasant for everyone. The $24 million price tag attached to the entire project in 2015 is surely much higher now but it looks like most of the vision will have to wait for the next transportation levy.


The bow-tie concept that mostly separates Rainier and MLK with public space created out of street space

The Accessible Mount Baker concept: still game changing and just out of reach.

Seattle is embarking on an ambitious plan to build a lot of much-needed social housing around Mount Baker Station. Sound Transit land in the area can be combined with the UW Laundry site, now under City ownership, presenting a truly unique opportunity to create transit-oriented public housing in Seattle. These projects were not fully in view when Accessible Mount Baker was being developed, but they make the vision even more important to realize.

Map of station area with all land between the station and 25th Ave S as under consideration for housing

City owned properties that could see public housing under the plan moving forward.

The Office of Housing has a survey up through this Wednesday (March 3) on what your goals and priorities are for the sites eyed for redevelopment. If we get this right, it could be huge.

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Lower speed limits on state highways through city proposed by Seattle

Update (3/1): SDOT has confirmed speed limit changes on Aurora and other corridors is expected in 2021 pending approval from WSDOT. The post has been updated below with comment from the department.

Late last year, the Seattle Department of Transportation proposed a plan to reduce speeds on most of the highways within the city of Seattle that fall under the jurisdiction of the state of Washington. The proposal, obtained by Seattle Bike Blog via a records request, if fully implemented, would ultimately leave very few remaining stretches of highway through the city with a speed limit above 30 mile per hour.

This move follows an announcement in fall of 2019 that the City of Seattle would be moving to adjust speed limits on most arterial streets to 25 mph. As of January, the department said that nearly 75% of arterials are currently posted as 25 mph. But WSDOT corridors like Aurora Ave and former WSDOT corridors like Rainier Ave see a huge share of Seattle’s serious traffic injuries and fatalities. SDOT’s proposal to WSDOT notes there were 53 serious injuries or fatalities on Aurora Avenue resulting from collisions between 2015 and 2019 and 595 injuries that weren’t determined to be severe in the same timeframe. Aurora Ave remains a public health crisis.

The first phase of speed limit reductions would implement a 30 mph speed limit on Aurora Ave N north of Green Lake. Currently that stretch has segments where the limit is 40 mph and segments where it’s 35. The speed limit along 145th St would be lowered to match this speed, as well as the northern segment of Lake City Way. Between 115th and 130th on Lake City Way, in the heart of Lake City, the limit would drop to 25mph matching Seattle’s other arterials. Sand Point Way south of NE 65th St would drop from 35 to 30 mph; north of there SDOT has already implemented a 25 mph limit.

Map of proposed changes as described in the article

SDOT’s proposal for the first phase of lowering speed limits on WSDOT corridors on the north end of Seattle. (Click to enlarge)

South of downtown, East Marginal Way between Spokane Street and the 1st Ave S bridge would go from 35 to 30 mph and a very short segment of Highland Park Way/SR-99 over 1st Ave S would drop from 35 mph to 25 mph.

Map of proposed changes as described in the article

SDOT’s proposal for the first phase of lowering speed limits on WSDOT corridors on the south end of Seattle. (Click to enlarge)

The second phase would lower speeds on the remaining stretch of Aurora south of Green Lake from 40 mph to 35 mph. This is the stretch of Aurora that SDOT’s data shows the most people currently drive at speeds significantly above the limit. The remainder of Lake City Way south of 115th would drop from 35 to 30 mph, and Montlake Boulevard around the ship canal would drop from 30 to 25 mph.

Map of proposed changes as described in the article

SDOT’s proposal for the second phase of lowering speed limits on WSDOT corridors on the north end of Seattle. (Click to enlarge)

The remaining change south of downtown in phase 2 would be a reduction on East Marginal Way south of the 1st Ave S bridge in Georgetown from 45 to 35 mph. This is the segment where SDOT is currently planning to add a grade-separated segment of the Georgetown to South Park trail. A stretch of 1st Ave S over SR-509 in South Park without any sidewalks would drop to 30 mph.

Map of proposed changes as described in the article

SDOT’s proposal for the second phase of lowering speed limits on WSDOT corridors on the south end of Seattle. (Click to enlarge)

The chart below lays out the different limits proposed for each phase alongside the existing speed limit:

Full chart of speed limit changes as described

SDOT’s full proposal for lowering speed limits on WSDOT corridors, in two phases. (Click to enlarge)

Speed limit changes alone aren’t enough to achieve all of our desired safety outcomes, but SDOT notes that “We’re seeing that speed limit signs alone can improve public safety, even without changes in enforcement or urban design. This finding is important because enforcement disproportionately impacts Black people and other people of color”. Increased police enforcement of speed limits doesn’t appear to be on the table here, rightfully.

The proposal includes data collected on vehicle speeds on these WSDOT corridors, including the difference between posted speed and the median speed (50th percentile), the speed at which half the drivers are driving below. Below are the WSDOT corridors with the biggest difference; most of the segments at the top of the list are proposed to see lower posted speeds in phase 2 as SDOT collects more “before/after” data. This list shows segments where the street design may be playing a larger role in current vehicle speeds than posted speed limit signs.

Two segments of Aurora at the top of the chart, followed by Lake City Way and SR-509 and then Aurora again.

Difference between median speed and posted speed limit, in miles per hour, WSDOT corridors in Seattle.

The proposal does list a few engineering strategies that SDOT is moving ahead with to pair with reduced speed limits, including traffic signal timing changes to reflect the new speed limits, as well as incorporating the new speed limits into any new project designs: design speeds can influence how lane lines are painted. But the primary one listed was increased signage: SDOT’s policy would add signs at every arterial crossing as well as every 1/4 mile: if a driver is going 25 mph they would encounter a speed limit sign every 36 seconds.

Illustration showing one arterial bisected three times with a multitude of signs every 1,000 feet or so.

Illustration of SDOT’s updated speed limit sign placement policy.

SDOT did not provide answers to questions from Seattle Bike Blog about any known current implementation schedule for this proposal or details about how the proposal was received at the Washington State Department of Transportation; we hope to update the post with more information as we get it. Update: SDOT’s Ethan Bergerson tells us that “we are planning for an initial reduction in speed limits on Aurora and other state routes in 2021. We must wait for the official approval from WSDOT, which is expected in the coming months. We will continue our partnership working towards lower speed limits into the future”.

Bergerson also told us, “Setting corridor speed limits is an important part of our larger Vision Zero strategy. Posting lower speed limits and more frequent signage follows NACTO best practices and has led to lower speeds and fewer crashes in other Seattle neighborhoods. These speed limit reductions open the door for further design changes described above and will be accompanied by signal timing changes and speed limits reductions occurring throughout Seattle.  We expect this comprehensive approach to safety will influence driver behavior and lead to safer speeds.”

Initial data on Seattle’s first set of speed limit reductions, recorded before the pandemic caused traffic volumes to plummet, showed an overall reduction in crashes of 22%. These case studies were all on arterials in North Seattle, and none of them were high-crash corridors, but so far the data is promising. Implementing lower speed limits on the WSDOT-controlled corridors through the city will be key, though, and now we know just how far along the city is in proposing those changes.

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Your Voice, Your Choice program to spend 2021 catching up

For a second year in a row, the Your Voice, Your Choice participatory budgeting program that awards funds for small street and park improvement projects will not be conducting any process to fund new projects in 2021. Last week the Department of Neighborhoods, which administers the program, announced that instead the Your Voice Your Choice team will be focusing on “ensuring that we keep our promise to the community by channeling all remaining funds to Seattle Department of Transportation and Seattle Parks and Recreation to implement previously awarded projects, particularly those in our most vulnerable communities (Equity & Environment Initiative Focus Areas)”.

The Your Voice Your Choice program is one of the only avenues that exist to allow community suggestions on improvements to make streets safer or parks more accessible, in the case of streets, outside the normal SDOT prioritization process.

According to Shaquan Smith, Participatory Budget Advisor at the Department of Neighborhoods, the backlog primarily consists of 22 projects that were originally selected by community in 2019. We do know of some 2018 projects that are left to be completed, though. For example, a new crosswalk being added at 14th Ave E and E Aloha Street near Volunteer Park required coordination with Seattle City Light in 2020 and is still not in place.

Asphalt trail connecting Rainier Ave to the existing trail

This recently installed trail connection at Rainier Ave and the Mountains to Sound trail was a 2018 Your Voice Your Choice project

Per Smith, “​Due to COVID, the original $2 million that was meant to go towards the 22 awarded projects in 2019 was cut in half”, hence the city is having to use the 2021 Your Voice Your Choice budget to complete the existing backlog. Smith also cited unforeseen design and construction issues, coordination with other projects, departments, and/or agencies, and delays related to crew bandwidth which increases the costs of labor and materials as contributing to delay.

We are seeing projects get completed around the city, like the curb extensions recently installed in Queen Anne at the crosswalk at Taylor Ave N and Galer Street, tweeted by Lee Pyne-Mercier:

You can check the Your Voice Your Choice implementation page to see which projects in your neighborhood are in the backlog.

“​If there are no other delays, the goal is to complete most of the backlogged projects by the end of 2021 with very few being carried over to 2022. This will allow the program to be able to restart an official new cycle of new projects that year,” Smith said.

In 2018, the program was criticized for not including a broad enough array of voices in the project selection and voting stages. In 2019, more than 6,500 people voted on projects, or less than 1% of the city’s population, after attempts to broaden participation were made, including adding more paper ballots at Seattle Public Library branches. In 2019, they also allocated an extra amount of money to be available in the City’s “Equity and Environment Initiative Focus Areas”, where they would benefit underserved populations.

The Department of Neighborhoods now says they will be spending 2021 “restructuring the YVYC program to better meet the immediate needs of Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities who have been most impacted by COVID-19″.

2021 is also the year that SDOT will be completing the Neighborhood Street Fund projects, which are fewer in number and larger in scope, and which you can read about here.

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After years of delay, improvements coming to 15th Ave S & S Columbian Way intersection

Later this year, the Seattle Department of Transportation is set to complete improvements that will make it easier to bike through one of Beacon Hill’s trickiest intersections. The changes planned at 15th Ave S and S Columbian Way come three years after the department was originally scheduled to implement a much bolder reconfiguration of the intersection here, but that iteration of the project was cancelled after local opposition.

SDOT is repaving a stretch of 15th Ave S, from Spokane to Angeline Streets. Most of the street here is two lanes in both directions without much street parking, and isn’t getting any additional space for bikes. This is unfortunate, as there’s plenty of room and no parking to fight over. Traffic volumes from SDOT’s last citywide volume report show similar vehicle volumes on 15th Ave S as on the segment of Rainier Ave S which has been converted to one lane in each direction with a center turn lane. It also has very similar volumes to S Spokane Street, also getting repaved here, which already has one lane in each direction with painted bike lanes.

Map of 15th Ave S from Spokane to Angeline Street as highlighted

Map of planned repaving and intersection improvements on 15th Ave S.

SDOT is currently planning an all-ages bike route across Beacon Hill for 2023, and currently plans to route people biking onto Beacon Ave in this area. But on the north end of the hill, advocates are pushing for the protected bike lane to be routed onto 15th Ave. At the south end of Beacon Hill, SDOT already installed bike facilities on Swift Ave, which is what 15th Ave turns into. 15th Ave will continue to make sense as a bike corridor and an opportunity was missed here.

One very wide curved street meeting another one going north south with vast space where they connect

Arial view of the current configuration of 15th and Columbian Way.

As for the improvements at 15th Ave and Columbian Way, the plan that would have been implemented in 2018 directed all southbound traffic onto the curve of Columbian Way, with drivers wanting to continue on 15th having to make a right turn. This would have dramatically reduced the size of the massive intersection. A second crosswalk across the intersection from the middle school was to be added. A public plaza would have been created out of the excess street space, with space for people biking to get through the intersection via the crosswalks.

Original design for the intersection described in the article.

The original design funded and scheduled to be installed in 2018.

The design now planned maintains one through lane on southbound 15th Ave S, doesn’t add any additional pedestrian crossings, and doesn’t include any space for people biking northbound from Columbian Way. But it does add a protected bike lane on southbound 15th Ave S by moving the parking in this stretch next to the travel lane. That protected bike lane starts very slightly out of frame at the top of the following image.

Improvements planned this year as described in the article

The planned 2021 improvements to 15th and Columbian. (Click to enlarge)

On the south side of Oregon on 15th Ave, people biking will share space at bus stops with people entering and exiting buses, matching similar designs seen recently on NE 65th Street and 12th Ave S. Southbound, the bike lane disappears very shortly after the bus stop, making its utility questionable. Northbound, the bike lane extends nearly two blocks down to S Angeline Street, the street where the Chief Sealth trail terminates. But at Oregon street, people riding northbound are dumped onto the sidewalk.

Two bus stops south of Oregon with loading space for buses and bike lanes existing in the same space

Bike space mixes with bus loading zones south of Oregon Street at 15th and Columbian.

Though the original redesign here was approved in 2016, improvements at this intersection date to at least 2008, when a reconfiguration very similar to the one proposed was suggested in an SDOT commissioned study, the Southeast Transportation Study.

Sketch of street redesign similar to the 2018 planned improvements described above

Proposed redesign for 15th and Columbian from 2008.

With the project going in now, after years of delay, with most of the changes proposed along the way discarded, is a testament to just how much of an uphill battle it is to redistribute essentially any current street space allocated to vehicles.

During the last full Seattle Public Schools school year (2018-2019), the southbound school zone speeding camera on 15th Ave S was the most active single camera in SDOT’s school camera arsenal. Over 800 tickets were issued on average per month during the course of the year, 8,012 in total, underlining just how much this intersection redesign is ultimately a school safety project. It’s also likely there would be zero changes happening here if not for the advocacy of groups like Beacon Hill Safe Streets, despite existing plans here on the books. The changes here are clearly hard-won, and should have an impact.

This weekend and next weekend, SDOT will be closing Columbian Way immediately south of 15th Ave S. Traffic will be detoured via Snoqualmie Street and 15th Ave S. You can read more about the planned improvements here.

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Georgetown residents push to get a downtown bike connection back into plans

A group of community leaders and residents of the Georgetown neighborhood have sent a letter this week to SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe asking the department to “re-engage” on the issue of creating a dedicated bicycle connection between the neighborhood and the rest of the city via downtown Seattle. The letter cites systemic issues facing Georgetown that are not specifically related to the closure of the West Seattle bridge in March of last year, which has led to an increase of traffic diversion through the neighborhood and an increased focus on the transportation needs of the Duwamish valley. From the letter:

Access to services outside our neighborhood remains a challenge. We do not have direct access to Rapid Ride, and our regular bus service is limited in destinations and times for essential services. Georgetown is not within a walk-shed of a light rail stop and we do not have shuttle service to the nearest station. Bike connectivity is dangerous for anyone who is not a seasoned rider outfitted with the experience and equipment to share routes with cars and freight in substandard conditions, which does not accommodate all abilities. While the bike link between Georgetown and South Park has been a very important and necessary project for which the community has advocated for years, we would like to re-engage on the crucial bike connectivity for Georgetown with the rest of the city, as funding for transit remains a challenge.

A feasibility study on a Georgetown to Downtown all-ages bike route was one of the projects that SDOT “paused” in 2020 due to budget impacts caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Funding allocated to plan for an extension to the existing multiuse trail in SoDo was also paused at the same time. Last fall, the city council restored funding for planning for the Georgetown to Downtown connection as part of the 2021 budget.

The planned trail between Georgetown and South Park is moving forward more quickly, with the city council also allocating construction funding for this project in the 2021 budget. SDOT is continuing design work on the trail so we should have more details on this in the coming months. Completing this trail will connect Georgetown to West Seattle and downtown via the Duwamish trail via South Park- if the final gap on Marginal is completed- but this route adds much more time than a direct connection via SoDo would.

Connection on Albro, Ellis, East Marginal, and 14th Ave S.

Proposed Georgetown to South Park trail route

Jon Persak, one of the signatories on the letter and a member of the West Seattle Bridge Community Taskforce, spoke on the subject of SDOT’s design to finally connect the Duwamish trail on West Marginal at a taskforce meeting last week, saying that he feels the conflict over road space on Marginal Way will “suck the air out of the room for other neighborhoods who are trying to get their needs met in terms of bike connectivity to the rest of Seattle”. Peaches Thomas of Duwamish Valley Safe Streets, another signatory, has joined West Seattle Bike Connections in supporting the trail connection.

The primary connections between Georgetown and Downtown as envisioned on the Bicycle Master Plan are Airport Way and East Marginal Way S.

Major connections: East Marginal, Airport Way, Ellis

Georgetown’s connections and envisioned in the Bicycle Master Plan.

Completing the Georgetown to South Park trail as currently planned will create a safe place to bike along East Marginal Way, but extending this connection further north as envisioned in the Bicycle Master Plan will be a heavier lift. SDOT is moving forward with improvements that will significantly improve East Marginal north of the West Seattle bridge but further south proposed improvements are minimal. “Removing a motor vehicle lane was not recommended”, per SDOT’s website, and making the basic sidewalk improvements that are recommended is not even funded at this point.

Unfunded plans on the south end of East Marginal Way show minimal improvements.

A protected bike lane on Airport Way has appeared on ambitious bike lane plans before, most recently in 2015, but the last time it was proposed, the project did not ultimately move forward due to a concern over the need for large numbers of vehicles needing to use Airport Way as an I-5 alternative in an emergency, so this too seems like a heavy lift.

The only other streets that fully connect Georgetown to SoDo are 1st Ave S and and 4th Ave S. Both of the existing bridges over the train tracks between those neighborhoods are coming under increased scrutiny due to seismic vulnerabilities that will cost a lot (!) of money to fix. Northbound traffic on the 4th Ave S bridge has already been reduced to one lane to reduce further deterioration.

As the letter notes, “…Georgetown is historically often passed over for critical needs”. Most of the construction funding for bike facilities through the end of the Move Seattle levy in 2024 is accounted for, but if planning work was prioritized for a Georgetown to Downtown bike lane, completing this very needed connection could become a reality. It is absolutely a connection that needs to happen as soon as possible.

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King County expected to examine helmet law as Cascade Bicycle Club supports repeal UPDATED

Correction: the data compiled by Ethan Campbell of Central Seattle Greenways has been updated after further analysis of the citations issued revealed a number of duplicates. The overall summary of the information has not significantly changed.

The King County Board of Health is likely to add a review of the county’s bicycle helmet requirement to its 2021 workplan today at its monthly meeting. This move comes after the Cascade Bicycle Club, nation’s largest statewide bicycle nonprofit, formally announced earlier this month that they are in support of repealing the law requiring bike riders in the state’s largest county to wear helmets.

Cascade’s Tamar Shuhendler told me that the bicycle club sees a responsibility to reexamine its decision on the helmet law, as one of the organizations that originally had supported a King County helmet law. When I asked her about the reaction in the cycling community to the club coming out for repeal, she acknowledged the diversity of opinion on the issue, saying Cascade “welcomes as much community input as we can possibly get”, in advance of any final action on the law.

King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles announced she would introduce the amendment to the workplan earlier this month. “The current helmet laws in place are clearly having a disparate and negative impact on our most vulnerable neighbors and I agree that the enforcement of this law is not being applied fairly,” Kohl-Welles wrote in an email sent to her constituents. The amendment is expected to pass. UPDATE: It passed, unanimously.

The impetus for reviewing the law now is largely driven by new information around the disproportionate impact of the law. In December, Crosscut’s David Kroman published data showing that nearly half of the helmet law citations given in the City of Seattle since 2017 went to people experiencing homelessness, a vast chasm of disproportionality that illustrates how the law is being misused.

Last November, video captured Seattle Police mockingReal Change vendor who had just been involved in a traffic collision. The person was cited for not wearing a helmet, bringing home just how this law is used as a cudgel against people experiencing homelessness.

Last year, Central Seattle Greenways convened a Helmet Law Working Group with Cascade and Real Change. CSG member Ethan C. Campbell analyzed data on 1,667 helmet citations in Seattle and found that Black people made up over 17% of the tickets issued despite making up 8% of Seattle’s population. A similar disproportionality was found with other bicycle-related infractions, not just helmet law violations, pointing to more work to be done around the issue of enforcement.

Big discrepancy between citation rates between Black, Native American and white or asian/pacific islander people

Data obtained by SPD on bicycle related infractions reveals a stark disproportionality.

Tacoma repealed its helmet law last year, stating in the text of the ordinance that it would “reduce the likelihood of unnecessary enforcement actions”, citing lessons learned during the bike and scooter share rollout there.

In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced they would no longer promote the conclusion that bicycle helmets reduce head injury rates by 85 percent in light of meta-analyses of similar studies that found lower and inconclusive results, a fact that comes from a 1989 study that drove many municipalities around the country to pass helmet laws in the early 1990s. But advocacy organizations stayed away from advocating for full repeal of the laws on the books.

Seattle’s bike share goldrush resurfaced the issue several years ago but there was little momentum for repeal. It took an increased awareness around the issue of selective enforcement to finally push the issue back to the forefront. What’s left to be seen is whether a shift in the Public Health community around the issue has also occurred enough to affirmatively support repeal.

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What’s the deal with BIRT? A conversation

Last fall, SDOT released a report on the future of transportation in the vicinity of Interbay and Ballard. The result, the Ballard-Interbay Regional Transportation System (BIRT) report, focused on the big topics of what to do about the Magnolia and Ballard bridges, both on a timeline to replacement, but it also looked at the projects needed to better enable to get around the area without a car, of which there are many.

There are so many moving pieces around what happens next, we got a few people who have been following the topic closely together and talked about what the BIRT report means and what its impact is likely to be. The discussion ended up venturing into a larger discussion about transportation and land use in Seattle.

In the conversation:

Laura Loe is a NW Queen Anne Renter, a Magnolia P-Patch gardener, and has nervously ridden a bike less than two dozen times. 

Ray Dubicki is a stay-at-home dad and parent-on-call for taking of tasks around Ballard. He is an attorney and urbanist by training, with souptonuts experience in planning and law. He enjoys using PowerPoint, but only because it’s no longer a weekly obligation.

Mark Ostrow once had a long conversation with Bobby McFerrin at a brasserie in Paris. His tweets, which are legendary, can be found at @qagreenways.

The conversation has been edited for clarity and for length.

Seattle Bike Blog: So, I just want to ask this group what BIRT is, as an introductory question.

Ray: BIRT is…

Laura: A blank check for climate destruction.

Ray: Yeah, exactly.

Laura: It’s a blank check for climate destruction!

Ray: BIRT is a study that the state mandated in 2019 that took an entire year for the City of Seattle to write…

Laura: And it was seven hundred thousand dollars.

Ray: And in that year they left out parts of Interbay in order to support rebuilding two billion dollar bridges, so a total of two billion dollars worth of bridges, and not taking into account all of the other parts of the infrastructure equation that are in Interbay, such as rail, bikes, pedestrians, transit.

There are some very cute accessory things that go along with those two billion dollar bridges that they call pedestrian infrastructure. But really, it is bending pedestrian infrastructure and transit infrastructure to the service of these giant highways running through the city.

Mark: Yeah, it’s really clear that the highway is the main part of what they’re trying to build there. Anytime you look at pedestrian infrastructure or bike infrastructure, it always just winds around the car stuff like a pretzel.

Laura: So I think your readers should understand who’s in control here. The people that are in control are the BNSF [railroad], the Ports, the maritime industry and the freight industry. They have the power in this region. So it’s not a normal conversation about, like, the Roosevelt protected bike lane. We are dealing with forces way different than a Roosevelt protected bike lane situation. You’re dealing with national freight companies, national railway, ports. Ports have so much power, so much power to shape this.

And so all those forces are so big in comparison with just a little ant walking over the Emerson interchange or a little ant walking over Dravus [Street] or a little bike rider crossing the Ballard bridge and having to do this weavy-ass stupid thing to get to the other side. Like we are so minimized in the economic forces, the capitalist forces, not to make this about capitalism, but this is about the ports and the maritime industry and the freight industry wanting not one thing that will slow their economic engines.

Mark: Yeah, I mean, not just that, but the military as well. They were mandated to be major stakeholders in this entire process. So it’s kind of the capitalist military industrial complex. And we’re just trying to cross the bridge, you know, to get to a brewery. And I think that we’re way the heck down the list of priorities.

Laura: The little chicken is trying to cross the road.

Continue reading

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Green Lake Keep Moving Street to shrink by half as southbound lane reopens

As early as next week, the Keep Moving Street in place on a portion of West Green Lake Way N, allowing space for people to more comfortably walk, bike, and roll apart from vehicles, will shrink by half as the Seattle Department of Transportation reopens its southbound lane to vehicle traffic. According to SDOT, this change is being made to allow people driving to access both the parking lot at the Green Lake Park tennis court and the Lower Woodland Park off-leash area parking lot.

This Keep Moving Street was the second most utilized open street in 2020 on a per-mile basis according to SDOT’s data, second only to Beach Drive in West Seattle. SDOT will be installing barriers to separate the newly reopened travel lane from the lane devoted to walking rolling and biking, but we don’t yet know what kind of barriers those will be.

Green line connecting East Green Lake Way N with N 63rd Street between Woodland Park and Green Lake Park.

Map showing the Keep Moving Street at Green Lake.

Scaling down the Stay Healthy Street to restore access to parking will be frustrating to many who have enjoyed it, but hopefully this opens up an avenue to its conversion into a long-term facility. Later this year, SDOT will open a bike facility on the other side of Green Lake Drive/Way, between Stone Way and Densmore Ave at the very north end of the lake.

Permanently converting the lakeside lane where the Keep Moving Street exists now would continue that facility even further around Green Lake. By itself this would be nice, but it would also set up the future possibility of a safe bike route all the way around the lake that’s separate from the loop trail.

Person on bike with empty kid carrier on back on empty Keep Moving Street

Green Lake Way’s Keep Healthy Street last Summer. (Tom Fucoloro)

Along the very western edge of Green Lake Park is Aurora Ave. A substandard gravel path is the only way to navigate this stretch if you’re walking; if you’re rolling it’s pretty much inaccessible. Paired with the fast moving traffic on Aurora it’s a recipe for disaster. In 2019, a UW student, Bergen Fuglestad, was struck by a driver while jogging along this path. That collision resulted in what is likely to be permament injury to Fuglestad.

Converting the curbside lane on Aurora next to Green Lake Park could make everyone safer.

The rightmost lane of Aurora here is incredibly underutilized. Converting it into a bike facility protected by jersey barriers (as exist in the median of Aurora here) would protect the walking path and complete another segment of the full bike connection around Green Lake. It also would likely slow most drivers a bit more at that segment. Installing barriers on the south end of the lake this month will be a great way to pilot it.

SDOT says they envision the Green Lake Keep Moving Street staying in place longer than other Keep Moving Streets because of the restriction on bikes using the Green Lake path. Hopefully longer in this case means permanent.

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Report details how much catching up Seattle has to do in 2021 on bike lanes

A report completed by the Seattle Department of Transportation in December but not released until this week shows how much catching up the department is planning to do in 2021 to complete installing bike facilities that it had originally planned to install last year. This report is the most recent update on SDOT’s progress on building Seattle’s citywide bicycle network since the recalibration of the construction plan for the remainder of the Move Seattle levy through 2024 was completed in 2019.

According to the report, only 2.3 miles of protected bike lanes or neighborhood greenways were completed through the third quarter of 2020, compared to the original plan for the year of 15.2 miles set in 2019. The ones that were installed were almost all big achievements, it must be noted. These were the Avalon Way PBL in West Seattle. the first phase of the 4th Ave PBL downtown, a Yesler Way PBL between 12th and 14th Ave, and a neighborhood greenway on Capitol Hill connecting Lowell Elementary School and Meany Middle School. SDOT is also counting the Lander Street Overpass as bicycle infrastructure in the report, which certainly makes it the most expensive trail constructed in Seattle at $100 million for one quarter mile.

Another 6 miles of PBLs and greenways were scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, but the majority of those projects didn’t achieve that deadline and were pushed into 2021. One project, the completion of the Pike Street protected bike lane between 6th and 9th Ave downtown, was essentially cancelled after originally being scheduled for last year. It’s now only scheduled to be completed with the rest of the permanent Pike and Pine PBLs installed as part of the Pike/Pine Renaissance in 2023.

The first phase of the 4th Ave protected bike lane downtown was completed in 2020.

That means SDOT is planning to complete around 11 miles of neighborhood greenways or protected bike lanes this year that were originally planned for last year, on top of what was originally scheduled for 2021. In an assessment of the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the entire department published this year, SDOT said they were on track to complete 50-55 miles of bike facilities, including painted bike lanes, by the end of the levy in 2024. This is half of what was promised to voters in 2015.

We don’t yet know what impact the delay in project delivery in 2020 will have on projects scheduled for 2021 and beyond. Traditionally, every spring the Bicycle Master Plan’s implementation schedule would be reviewed by the city council’s transportation committee, something that didn’t happen in 2020 due to the Covid emergency. It’s also not clear that reviewing the bicycle master plan’s implementation is a priority of Alex Pedersen’s transportation committee.

Below is the list of 2020 projects that are set to be (mostly) completed in 2021 or later.

Hopefully we can get a more complete picture on the status of the program before too many additional months of 2021 progress. You can read the full 2020 status report report here.


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Watch SDOT’s virtual tour of the Duwamish Trail connection & crossing improvements

The Seattle Department of Transportation continues outreach around its proposal to finally connect the last segment of the Duwamish Trail between the West Seattle Bridge and the separated trail that starts a half mile down West Marginal Way SW.

A Virtual Open House around all the improvements planned for the street is planned for next Thursday, February 18th at 6pm, with the fate of the protected bike lane project the most significant decision left to be made. Duwamish Valley Safe Streets and West Seattle Bike Connections have already voiced their support for connecting the trail, with the Freight Advisory Board and the Port of Seattle being the primary opponents of taking away street space for the lane.

Last week the Bicycle Advisory Board was told by SDOT’s Bradley Topol that if the proposal to convert a westernmost lane of Marginal to a two-way protected bike lane was approved, the department currently plans to separate the bike facility from the rest of Marginal with either concrete barriers or planters, not just paint and plastic posts. Prior to this, we hadn’t heard what was planned to be able to make people biking northbound, with drivers coming southbound in the next lane, more comfortable.

In advance of the virtual open house, SDOT has released an online walking tour of West Marginal that does a great job of illustrating what the improvements would entail and why they are needed. Check out the video below!

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Segment of Lake Washington Boulevard to reopen for Winter, Spring breaks UPDATED

Update: due to the anticipated snow event this weekend, the closure of Lake Washington Boulevard outlined below has been postponed to Monday February 15. It will run through Sunday the 21st as planned. 

A stretch of Lake Washington Boulevard just south of Mount Baker Beach will open to people walking, biking, and rolling starting this Friday February 12 Monday February 15 through Sunday February 21, Seattle Public Schools Winter Break, as well as April 9th through the 18th, for SPS Spring Break. The street will be closed to vehicles between Stan Sayres Boat Launch and Mount Baker Beach during that time.

Map showing closure to vehicles from Mount Baker Beach to Stan Sayres Memorial Park.

A short segment of Lake Washington Boulevard south of Mount Baker Beach closes for Winter and Spring breaks.

This is the same stretch of Lake Washington Boulevard closed to people driving during the winter holidays last year, and doesn’t extend all the way south to Seward Park like the Summer 2020 closure did.

This closure sets the stage for another Summer-long open street on Lake Washington Boulevard but begs the question: if we can open it for a week at a time, why not indefinitely, at least for this year? People who use this route for transportation, given the lack of dedicated bike facilities parallel to it, don’t disappear at the end of school breaks.

The full Lake Washington Boulevard closure last Summer was the third-most-used Open Street in the city behind West Seattle’s Beach Drive and Green Lake Drive in North Seattle. The idea of permanently closing it to vehicle traffic, which we have done before with Interlaken Boulevard in north Capitol Hill (another Olmsted legacy route), remains hotly contested. Any path to a change in use would go through the Seattle Parks board, which has control over the street since it technically rests on park property.

In the meantime, we’ll enjoy every weeklong closure we can get.

Read more about the overall Keep Moving Street and Stay Healthy Street program here.

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Watch out! Speed bumps added to Roosevelt Way bike lane near 43rd. UPDATE 2/5: They’re gone

UPDATE (2/5, 1:45 p.m.): The bumps are gone.

UPDATE (2/5): The speed bumps will be removed. This morning we received an update from SDOT’s Ethan Bergerson:

I want to give you an update that we are planning to remove this speed bump. Our City Traffic Engineer Dongho Chang personally inspected the location yesterday afternoon and, while the speed bump complied with official design standards, he felt that it was still best to remove it given the concerns we were hearing from riders because we want people to feel comfortable riding on our protected bike lanes. We’re considering other possible safety measures for this location, in addition to the safety features and signage that we have already installed.

Original post: Without any advance warning, the Seattle Department of Transportation has added “speed bumps” to the Roosevelt Way NE protected bike lane around the bus stop island near N 43rd Street. The two bumps are plastic with reflective tape on them, and come up fast on people biking. Per Dongho Chang, City Traffic Engineer, the bumps were installed in reaction to at least one bad collision between someone biking at fast speed and someone using the drop-off space here for UW Medicine.

Plastic bike speed bump in front of sign labelled Bike Speed Hump

The bike speed hump was installed in the past few days

We went out to inspect the bike speed hump after a reader tip came in overnight by reader Bob Vosper who didn’t see the bumps last night until the last second and ended up flipping over his bike. Thankfully, Bob’s okay. He sent us a photo of how the bumps look at night.

Bike speed hump seen above at night

There’s an advance warning sign a bit before the sign right next to the bump, but that advance sign is a lot higher off the ground. Dongho Chang told me that’s due to MUCTD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices) standards for sign height. But it may end up out of the field of vision for someone biking down Roosevelt at night with a bike light aimed lower.

person biking along next to advance warning sign for Bike Speed Humps Ahead

Chang was out inspecting the speed bumps today while we were checking it out, and told us they plan to replace the plastic dome with an asphalt hump like the ones more common around town. He also thought there were some immediate tweaks they could make to the approach to give people biking more warning that they’re coming up on a hazard.

More from SDOT’s Ethan Bergerson:

“We can say that this was one of several tactics intended to improve safety near the bus stop, loading zone, and main entrance to UW Medical Center a few feet down the road. People, including many hospital patients, need to cross over the bike lane in order to reach the bus stop and loading zone. In addition to being busy King County Metro bus stop, this is also the loading zone for several forms medical transportation such as King County Metro Access, DART, Hopelink Medicaid Transportation, and UW Medicine hospital shuttles.”

Bike/pedestrian collisions are a lot more rare than vehicle/pedestrian collisions, but if there was a hotspot in Seattle for crashes like this, it would be here. SDOT’s collision database shows at least 3 recorded collisions here since 2018. However, the design here looks like it makes the protected bike lane more dangerous for people biking. It seems like the best fix here would be to remove this plastic bump, which isn’t like anything currently in a PBL in the city, until another fix can be put in place.

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