Tuesday night, Seattle Department of Transportation officials will be at Washington Hall as part of a series of “conversations” in neighborhoods across the city about — and, yes, we know the Seattle is Dying crowd loves this — the plan for implementing Seattle’s bike plan.
One topic newly installed SDOT head Sam Zimbabwe’s crew knows will be on the minds of neighbors and business representatives in this plan for the plan is a pretty solid embodiment of Seattle’s increasingly modest bike projects circa 2019: new, semi-protected bike lanes on E Union hoped to be under construction by the end of the year and, some advocates say, disappointedly compromised by a City Hall unwilling to take on a serious commitment to new bike infrastructure.
First, SDOT wants you to know the whole bike riders can ride on the sidewalk thing at the busy intersections of E Union and 23rd and E Union and MLK is only an idea right now — one of many planners need to sort through, SDOT spokesperson Ethan Bergerson tells CHS.
“We realize because there is a gap, people could potentially ride on the sidewalk. One potential thing is widening the street but with all the development that probably isn’t possible,” Bergerson said.
“This is all conceptual.”
Bergerson said the ideas on the table are there to spark discussion and SDOT is “starting to get feedback on it” as planners “take a fresh look.”
“We want to build a network that is safe,” Bergerson said. “What we’re hearing — on one side — is that there is a gap there where we’d like to see a more connected network.”
“To confirm what I said, everything we’ve shared so far about the Union protected bike lane is still conceptual, we have not yet begun the design process,” the spokesperson later said by e-mail. “So we are definitely very open to feedback and can still consider modifications.”
The project planned for opening in 2020 (hey, 20/20 Cycle, get in on this) and paid for by the Move Seattle levy would “upgrade the existing bike lane into a bi-directional parking protected bike lane (PBL) from 14th Ave to 22nd Ave and 24th Ave to 26th Ave” and “add an uphill PBL and a downhill shallow lane from 26th Ave to Martin Luther King Jr. Way.”
The gaps advocates worry about come at the 23rd and MLK intersections where, in the concept mapped out right now by SDOT, bikers would be directed to use the sidewalk and get out of the street.
“Benefits include improving the “travel experience for people biking, walking and driving, including bus and freight operators” and reducing collisions to help us achieve our Vision Zero goal,” SDOT writes.
A third goal listed by SDOT? “Fewer people riding on the sidewalk.”
The mushy logic of it all comes as the Seattle bike community is facing disappointment over the realities of the city’s commitment to transportation infrastructure that limits motor vehicle traffic. E Union might be an opportunity for Seattle to get its bike planning back on track. Seattle Bike Blog posted one possible recipe. Here’s what SBB likes:
First off, there is a good part to this design. Between 14th and 22nd Avenues, the city will add or upgrade bike lanes to be parking-protected. Getting the design right at each intersection and driveway will be very important, but this is a great starting point.
And here is what SDOT needs to fix:
But once the project gets to 22nd, it abandons these bike lanes entirely. E Union Street today is has two lanes (one in each direction) plus two parking and painted bike lanes at 22nd Ave, but then widens out to five lanes (two each direction and a left turn lane) plus a parking lane before reaching 23rd. There is no space constraint here. Traffic doesn’t suddenly double in that one block.
The Seattle Bike Blog’s fix? Drop a few lanes of traffic:
Tuesday night’s “cafe conversation” at Washington Hall, Bergerson says, is a chance for people who ride bikes and city officials to talk out Seattle’s Bike Plan implementation, not just E Union. SDOT is promising a “separate outreach meeting at a convenient location” specifically for the bike lane project. But they also know that Tuesday, the E Union project is more than likely to come up.
“You’ve got limited space,” Bergerson says. “It comes down to a very rapidly growing city, and a rapidly growing part of town,” and he says, “the same amount of space on the roadway.”
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