Neighborhood and Central Seattle Greenways activists volunteered their weekend to survey the merchant community along the Pike and Pine corridor from Broadway west toward Downtown. A $10 million protected bike lane route through the busy thoroughfare is scheduled for completion by the end of 2019.
Brie Gyncild of Central Seattle Greenways says the outreach campaign is simple. “Our entire goal is to ensure that the design works for everyone, including businesses. Understanding their needs, whether they be loading or parking or pedestrian safety or even aesthetics, lets us advocate for a design that accommodates their needs,” Gyncild said. UPDATE: We have updated Gyncild’s comments and removed a quote that was mis-reported by CHS. We apologize for the error.
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Community volunteers began the campaign to alert business residents to the bike lane discussion and gauge their reaction to the coming changes for the first time last year. The squeaky wheels of civic minded groups and individual volunteers planned outreach events to gather quantifiable data on corridor specific needs. With the intention to ensure personal input influences the city’s design process before it begins, the facilitators hope to maintain a local communication channel with business owners through the planning process. Managing expectations is another goal for the bike lane proponents. Volunteers hope to get ahead of knee jerk reactions from businesses that are caught unaware by sudden construction and ideally meet any objections with fair solutions. And there are resources available. The city will install bike racks and self repair kiosks at the request of some business owners along the route.
The volunteers say that daily delivery access and pleasant passage are chief among concerns from business owners. Notably, Gyncild said the patron and employee-base in the corridor uses public transportation to get to and from shops. “The protected bike lane may cut down a little on street parking but it won’t hurt business,” she said.
The protected bike lane project will be paid for by the $83M community improvement package negotiated between community groups, the City Council, and Convention Center developers as part of street vacations necessary for the center’s expansion.
Despite substantial funding, the high traffic corridor has logistical challenges, such as a stretch of lane heading downtown along the
Pike Pine bike lane lines. Heading downhill east of Melrose, left turning peddlers are forced to cross-cut traffic to the left side bike lane west of 8th Ave. Safety issues like these are the driving force behind the effort to secure citywide safe passage across all modes of transportation.
McCaela Daffern of the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict said her group got involved because they look at neighborhood health in a broad sense and addressing pedestrian and cyclist safety and mobility are key to a healthier Capitol Hill. She says the EcoDistrict looks at long term community resilience and a multi-modal transportation system contributes to the resilience of Capitol Hill when shocks and stresses occur.
She says this type of analysis looks at long term community resilience and a “neighborhood’s ability to withstand the shock and stresses of creating a multi-modal transportation system so people can get to work safer and faster.”
The weekend wheel advocates will host a design and learning workshop on October 25 at The Summit on E Pike. The workshop begins at 6 PM. Small-group creative planning activities are planned for attendees to mingle and trailblaze.
This is the second year the Greenways groups have conducted a business survey about protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety and their input is well received by SDOT, according to Central Seattle Greenways co-leaders and liaisons Gyncild and David Seater. But this time, the project is different. Money is lined up to finally make something happen.
Saturday’s outreach event began with a strategy and best practices training session. Gyncild says business owners are aware of hazardous conditions caused by cars impeding on bike lanes and Uber and Lyft drivers who pull over quickly into bike lanes and loading zones.
Despite the coordinated efforts of numerous groups, a full scale connected bike lane network throughout Downtown continues to suffer budget setbacks. According to Mayor Jenny Durkan, the original bike lane promise was too ambitious and initial cost estimates were too low as compared with current estimates.
The push-pull of voter approval versus a commitment to fund has kept the project in low gear.
“This is really frustrating for us, we’ve seen so many projects go over budget but still happen anyway,” said Micah Glaz, Greenways volunteer and avid cyclist.
Glaz says he sees a theme emerging from City Hall to favor some projects over others.
An affordable system of protected bike lanes in the corridor could help validate lower cost solutions for downtown. Central Seattle Greenways and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways were some of the groups to successfully lobby the City Council for inclusion in the community package.
In addition to connected corridor pathways, the city will design and build interim bike lanes downtown during construction of the convention center.
The danger of disconnected and unprotected lanes, especially through some of the Seattle’s notorious intersections is not only a barrier to entry for new cyclists, but a constant reminder of the stakes for long time peddle pusher like Glaz. Moving through Yesler and 21st, Glaz was once struck by a vehicle in an area without a bike lane.
Central Seattle Greenways plans to see the Pike/Pine project through to its completion with events and community engagement activities such as the upcoming Park(ing) Day on September 21st. Greenway volunteers are installing a pop-up protected bike lane on Pike between Summit and Minor for the annual day of streets-to-parks design. The day is an annual performance of utility, art or both. The only rule is that it take place in a parking lot or lane. Chip Ragen of Ragen & Associates contributed planters and plants to the protected bike lane replica planned for the street in front of Kaladi Brothers Coffee. Riders are invited to try the lane and hang out and discuss the impactful transportation changes coming soon to the corridor.