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  • Best Side Cycling: Are these Eastside bike lanes really among the worst in the U.S.?

    No, they are not. Sorry for the spoiler.

    Don’t get me wrong, the Coal Creek Parkway bike lanes in Bellevue, Newcastle and Renton are not sufficient for the road conditions. As you can see in the Best Side Cycling video, the road is too fast and busy for a skinny paint-only bike lane to provide a safe and comfortable space. The problem is made worse because the road is winding and hilly, creating scary situations where riders must put a lot of trust in people driving to maintain their lanes even in slick conditions. There are also long stretches of the road where there are no opportunities to escape the lane if needed for any reason, which makes the experience that much more stressful.

    So if this lane is genuinely bad, why was I so quick to dismiss the idea that they are among the worst bike lanes in the U.S.? Well, unfortunately, there is a lot of competition for that title. The other lanes featured in the Momentum Magazine story are worse. But also, these are not even the worst bike lanes in our region.

    Right off the bat, I’d point to the MLK Jr Way bike lanes between E Union Street and the I-90 Trail in Seattle. They look like this:

    Google Street View photo of a street with parking on both sides, a lane in each direction and a center turn lane. There do not appear to be any bike lanes.
    From Google Street View.

    “What bike lanes?” you ask? Precisely my point! Yet to this day, this is noted on the official Seattle Bike Map as having bike lanes. These were created many years ago and are effectively extended parking lanes. They used to paint little bike icons in these lanes, but SDOT paint crews have wisely and mercifully saved everyone a lot of confusion by no longer painting the bikes when they refresh the stripes. These never were real bike lanes, and the ever-increasing size of the average vehicle has only eaten further into whatever pitiful amount of space they once provided. One community member waged a years-long campaign to get the city to take them off the official bike map because he didn’t want the city’s bike lane prioritization process to rank this street lower because the computer thinks there are already bike lanes here. Because, I must reiterate, there absolutely are no bike lanes here. Unfortunately, even the recently-approved Seattle Transportation Plan calls for a bike lane “upgrade” here, signalling that the city’s database still considers these to be real bike lanes. Hopefully SDOT staff can step in and properly account for this when doing their prioritization calculations.

    That said, it’s probably still more comfortable to bike on MLK Jr Way than Coal Creek Parkway just because of the traffic calming and slower speeds.

    To Seattle’s credit, the city has been working hard to upgrade it’s worst bike lanes. The no-doubter worst bike lane in Seattle used to be the 2nd Ave chaos zone bike lane downtown (Easter Egg: You can see the very beginning of the Occupy Seattle protest in front of the Federal building):

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  • Greenways: 6 people killed in Seattle traffic in a single week as Council considers street safety funding

    Map of Seattle's High Injury Network streets with broken hearts added for 6 fatality locations between May 23 and 29, 2024.
    Base map of the High Injury Network from the recently-approved Seattle Transportation Plan. Broken hearts added by Seattle Bike Blog to note the locations of the six traffic deaths in Seattle between May 23 and 29.

    Traffic deaths in Washington State reached a high in 2023 that the state has not seen in 33 years. That number of deaths in 2023 increased 10% over 2022. King County leads the way with 167 people killed in traffic, more than double the number in 2014. These are all the big numbers on a scale that it’s difficult to wrap your head around.

    But then last week happened. Six people were killed in Seattle traffic in just seven days, a horrific level of traffic carnage the city has not seen in such a short period of time since the 2015 Ride the Ducks disaster on the Aurora Bridge killed five people. But these six deaths were not the result of one negligently-maintained axle on a dangerous tourist vessel, they were spread out across the city on streets that Seattle knows are dangerous.

    Our condolences to the friends and families of the six people killed.

    Three of those killed were inside cars while the other three were walking when someone in a car struck them. As you can see in the map above, every single death occurred on a street designated with a high injury score on the newly-approved Seattle Transportation Plan’s High Injury Network. These are streets “where fatal and serious crashed have already occurred,” according to the plan (page V-30 in the technical report). “Its use is considered a reactive approach that informs safety corridors of focus for the Vision Zero program and more.”

    Seattle has more than enough data to identify where we need Vision Zero safety improvements, but now these six people have involuntarily added six more data points to this terrible map. Their lives are why this work is so important, and why the Seattle City Council could not possibly add too much funding for Vision Zero work in the next transportation levy. Every time SDOT’s Vision Zero team makes significant safety improvements to a street, it works. But the city continues to fund this work at a snail’s pace.

    Seattle should simply not have a “high injury network” of streets. We built these streets, and so now it’s our city’s job to fix them before more people get hurt or killed. SDOT’s Vision Zero team has proven themselves worthy of our trust. It’s time to fund them properly and make a moonshot to actually reach Vision Zero by 2030 as is the city’s official policy goal. It’s not going to be easy or cheap, but we owe it to all those who have been killed and all their communities who have been shattered. Every time I speak to a grieving loved one of someone who has been killed, they all say the same thing: This can never happen to anyone else again. Let’s listen to them.

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  • Alert 5/31-6/3: Bill Dawson Trail closed, but 520 Bridge Trail open

    Construction closures map marking Montlake Boulevard, Lake Washington Blvd and the 520 ramps as closed along with the Bill Dawson Trail.
    Image from WSDOT.

    It’s yet another weekend of major closures in the Montlake/SR 520 area. The Bill Dawson Trail between Montlake Blvd and Montlake Playfield will be closed late Friday evening (May 31) through early Monday morning (June 3) along with Lake Washington Boulevard between 520 and the Arboretum. However, walking and biking access will be open along Montlake Boulevard even while the street is closed to general traffic. The 520 Bridge Trail will also remain open even as nearby freeway ramps are closed.

    So in a way, it’s shaping up to be a decent weekend to bike through Montlake. But Boyer Ave E will likely be extra busy again, so be ready for that.

    The Bill Dawson Trail is closed “so crews can remove temporary electrical poles and begin grading the area for landscaping,” according to WSDOT.

    If you ever lose track of what is closed in Montlake at any time, check the 520 Construction Corner website.

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  • They did the thing I suggested at 9th and Mercer, and it almost works!

    They did it! The Seattle Department of Transportation changed the order of the traffic signals at 9th Ave N and Mercer Street to allow straight traffic, the bike lane and the crosswalk to go before the left turns. This was an idea I first suggested more than six years ago shortly after the new Mercer Street configuration opened. I then made a longer video and post about the idea in April 2022 when I was biking through there every day while doing preschool transportation. Every single time my kid and I tried to get through here heading northbound during the early evening commute, left-turning traffic from southbound 9th Ave would block the bike lane and crosswalk.

    I am barely exaggerating when I say “every time.” It was a very uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situation. One of the most common reader complaints I get from folks via social media or email are about this intersection. It is very well-used, providing the most popular connection between the city center and bike routes to most points north. There are no easy solutions to backed-up traffic on Mercer Street since those are caused by traffic getting onto I-5, but surely the city could at least do something to keep the bike and crosswalk open, right?

    I am not a signals engineer, but I thought I had a simple fix: Just change the order of the lights. And after more than half a decade, they did it. And the results are…I think pretty good but not perfect!

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  • 5/28: Bike Shack hosting free Shoreline biking and walking advocacy workshop

    Photo of a bike workshop with a sign reading "future community bike space. volunteers and tools wanted." With text: Shoreline Biking and Walking Advocacy Workshop Tuesday, May 28th.
    From the @SeattleReconomy Instagram.

    People who want to help promote safer and easier walking and biking conditions in Shoreline, assemble! The newly-opened Shoreline Bike Shack is hosting a free workshop 6 p.m. May 28 where you can learn about what’s happening now in the city and meet other neighbors who also want to work to make the city more friendly for biking and walking.

    The Shoreline Bike Shack is part of Seattle Reconomy’s Shoreline tool library, and it has opened within an area with a lot of biking but sparse access to conventional bike shops. Their goal is to offer an affordable community bike workshop (it’s free, though donations are encouraged) with knowledgeable volunteers to help people keep their bikes rolling. They also hope the space will help support and build the bike community in Seattle’s neighbor to the north.

    More event details from the Shoreline Bike Shack:

    Want Better Biking and Walking in Shoreline?

    • Find out about current and upcoming transportation projects in Shoreline and how you can be involved
    • Learn some easy and effective ways you can be an advocate for safer streets and greener mobility
    • Meet your neighbors who are interested in biking and walking!
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  • Tonight: Author of ‘From Rails to Trails’ at Town Hall Seattle

    Three headshots side by side of Peter Harnik, Katy Ricchiuto and Tyler Vasquez.
    From the event listing.

    Peter Harnik, the author of a book documenting the history of the United States’ rail trails will speak at Town Hall Seattle tonight (May 23) along with Katy Ricchiuto from Lid I-5 and Tyler Vasquez from Cascade Bicycle Club.

    The event starts 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall’s Wyncote NW Forum space. Sliding scale tickets are $5–$25.

    Harnik’s 2021 book “From Rails to Trails: The Making of America’s Active Transportation Network” chronicles the work it took to build a nationwide movement to preserve abandoned rail corridors by transforming them into biking, walking and sometimes horse-riding trails. It also explores “what the continued creation of rail-trails means for the future of Americans’ health, nonmotorized transportation networks, and communities across the country.”

    The talk at Town Hall will connect the reuse of rail corridors with modern attempts to repurpose freeway spaces, such as the vision behind building a lid over I-5 where feasible through Seattle. The Lid I-5 vision could reconnect neighborhoods and turn a place currently best to be avoided into a destination.

    More details from the event listing:

    Come to learn how Seattle — and the nation — can repurpose old transportation corridors to improve the environment, reduce energy use, and help curtail climate change. Author and film producer Peter Harnik will tell the history of the rails-to-trails movement and the critical role played by the state of Washington and Seattle’s Burke-Gilman Trail. Afterward, there will be a description of the exciting campaign to construct a park lid over Interstate 5 and complete rail trails on the east side of Lake Washington.

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Bike Events Calendar

all-day Gorge Ride 2024
Gorge Ride 2024
Jun 15 all-day
Registration will open at www.gorgeride.eventbrite.com about February 1.  Advance registration closes at midnight, June 10. The ride extends 19.25 miles along the historic highway and state trail west to the Senator Mark O. Hatfield West[…]
6:00 pm South Seattle Safe Streets Coali… @ Virtual via Zoom
South Seattle Safe Streets Coali… @ Virtual via Zoom
Jun 18 @ 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Joint meeting between Rainier Valley Greenways & Beacon Hill Safe Streets.ShareMastodonTwitterFacebookRedditEmail
7:15 pm Point83 @ Westlake Park
Point83 @ Westlake Park
Jun 20 @ 7:15 pm
Point83 @ Westlake Park
Meet up in the center of the park at 7ish. Leave at 730. Every Thursday from now until forever rain or shine. Bikes, beers, illegal firepits, nachos, bottlerockets, timetraveling, lollygagging, mechanicals, good times.ShareMastodonTwitterFacebookRedditEmail
5:30 pm Downtown Greenways monthly meeting
Downtown Greenways monthly meeting
Jun 24 @ 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
Last Monday of the month.  Join us! https://seattlegreenways.org/downtowngreenwaysShareMastodonTwitterFacebookRedditEmail
6:00 pm Ballard-Fremont Greenways Meeting
Ballard-Fremont Greenways Meeting
Jun 26 @ 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Ballard-Fremont Greenways meets monthly on the 4th Wednesday of the month. Join the google group for monthly meeting information: https://groups.google.com/g/ballard-greenwaysBring your enthusiasm and ideas to share with the group or just stop in to say hello[…]
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