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City collecting feedback on plans for E Union protected bike lanes

While the department says its designs for the project are only at the “10%” conceptual stage and big decisions about things like whether part of the route will require riders to cross sidewalks and how many if any parking spots will have to be removed, SDOT is collecting feedback on what has become a current flashpoint in Seattle’s struggles to create useful bicycle infrastructure in the city — the planned E Union protected bike lanes.

Through May 31st, the Seattle Department of Transportation is running an E Union St Protected Bike Lane Survey. The short survey asks about your current transportation habits around E Union and how you think protected bike lanes might impacts your behavior.

It also gets to the heart of the matter for many who are criticizing the plan — choose 3!

Ian Eisenberg, neighborhood property owner and the owner of the Uncle Ike’s retail marijuana chain and its flagship shop at 23rd and Union, has been critical of the plan and called for help pushing back on the possible loss of street parking.

CHS wrote about the planned new bike infrastructure back in April as SDOT officials said they were still working out issues like possible gaps in the protected lanes due to space constrictions at the route’s busiest intersections.

The project planned for opening in 2020 and paid for by the Move Seattle levy to create an alternate for bicyclists away from the coming Madison Bus Rapid Transit corridor 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 sharrow lane from 26th Ave to Martin Luther King Jr. Way.”

Specifics on issues like possible sidewalk crossings at 23rd and Union and the loss of possible parking spots are still to be determined. The plan is parking friendly, however, with street-parked vehicles central to the design concept, separating bike riders from the flow of vehicle traffic.

The E Union protected bike lane project comes as Mayor Jenny Durkan’s administration has shifted how it prioritizes transportation spending and taken a more modest approach to implementing the city’s bike plan. Durkan’s pick to lead SDOT Sam Zimbabwe has been touted as a “project delivery expert” known for his planning and technical leadership.

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19 thoughts on “City collecting feedback on plans for E Union protected bike lanes

  1. I get a “this site is not secure” error when I try to click on the link to the survey. Same issue when I try to access from the city’s website. I know that’s not CHS’s issue but there’s no other outline to leave this comment :).

  2. Thanks for the link!

    Just submitted, my top 3 where:
    + Improving bus speed and reliability
    + Retaining as much parking as possible*
    + Repairing Pavement

    *Did note in my comments that parking concerns may be alleviated when the SE corner of 23rd/Union is *finally* developed w/ a public parking garage

  3. here are the comments I submitted in email and on survey:I am not a bicyclist and made these suggestions after conferring with some who are and are also very interested in maintaining E. Union as an important arterial for autos, buses and bikes.
    It would be difficult to move the route off Union unfortunately even with problems, since there are no good streets which go all the way through and/or connect existing bike facilities and most are steeper than Union.

    The improvement is that the protected two-way bike lane is no longer part of the proposal. That was especially scary for the riders on the steep hills. Instead the protected lanes are on either side of the street which is safer, but I think it should be simplified to just have the protected bike lanes on the uphill portions. That way it keeps the cyclists visible when they are going fast downhill and would potentially allow the buses to continue to pull out of traffic on the downhill portions.

    The real drawback is the bus stops requiring traffic to stop in line and the proposal to reduce the number of stops. Do you know what stops they are proposing to consolidate? Do you think there are some that could be consolidated without causing undue hardship? No.

    The main points:
    • Union is the major arterial connecting the core of the Central Area to downtown and it carries a lot of the traffic – vehicular and bus traffic, thus any blockage of the traffic with buses stopping inline will create major backups.
    • Consolidating bus stops that are on hills will greatly impact bus users who cannot easily negotiate the steep hills.
    • Issues of safety: How will cars entering Union or turning off Union onto side streets negotiate bicyclists that are speeding downhill and don’t intend to yield? The cyclists will be hidden behind the row of parked cars so drivers will not be able to see them. In addition, the cars will not be able to see oncoming traffic when they stop behind the bicycle lane and then if they pull out to see the traffic, they will likely block the bicycle lane. Also, if the driver wants to cross Union, they will not be able to see the cyclists or will have to pause partially blocking traffic on Union. All of which creates very dangerous situations for everyone. (This may be a good reason to look at side streets if any make sense, but likely experienced cyclists will continue to use Union because it is the direct shot.)
    • Having a protected lane only for the uphill portions of the travel and sharrows for the balance will be much safer, since it will keep cyclists visible to motorists when they are travelling at speeds comparable to the vehicles.
    • Another issue not easily solved is the plan to move the school bus parking off of East Union. Is there a planned location? A past plan to move it from E. Union was highly controversial with the final decision being for it to remain on E. Union.
    • At one meeting, the project leader indicated that there would not be bus islands. The bus will pull in the bike lane as currently proposed.

    • I don’t disagree with you in spirit, but one thing…. a cyclist going down hill should *never be expected* to yield to a motorist turning onto a side street or exiting from a side street…

      I do however agree that downhill bike lanes are incredibly stupid. Protected ones block the line of sight for everyone and give inexperienced cyclists a false sense of security. All downhills should be sharrowed – in the middle of the lane. There is little reason that even a novice or unconditioned cyclist should not be able to keep up with traffic on a downhill and the absolute best and safest place for them to be is taking the lane fully. Then they are visible, out of the door zone and much safer from right hooks (where in a motorist passes then immediately turns in front of the cyclist, because somehow they forgot they just passed them….)

      • They should be expected to yield to vehicles of any kind in front of them that are turning if they are on the road/in the lane, as they, too would be vehicles on the roadway. Now, vehicles turning out in front of them… the vehicle entering the road should yield. All that being said, laws of physics do apply…

  4. I don’t understand Ian’s objections. Uncle Ike’s has 17 off-street spots at his shop, and he owns the car wash next door. How many spots does he need?

    People bike through this area all the time. It’s a high-volume commuting corridor for people heading downtown *and* to neighborhood businesses, and there’s really no good alternative to it.

    I live on E Union. I walk, bike and own a car. I will be happy to continue to support businesses that are either neutral or positive on safe bicycling.

    I refuse to support businesses that take public positions that make my life more dangerous.

    • Ike’s does have a parking lot. You’re correct this probably wouldn’t effect us. IMO what makes a neighborhood interesting and vibrant is lots of smaller scale interesting shops and restaurants. Many of the new buildings on Union do not have customer parking lots and they rely on street parking. As a business owner, landlord and resident I want to see local businesses thrive. I’m also biker and I appreciate the challenges on the road. I think the changes for Union could easily go too far and the city’s outreach is flawed and biased towards cyclists.

      • Curious why Ian gets to speak for all the small business owners in the area… some of whom I have heard express support for safer bike infrastructure.
        The area is an “urban village” with even more development going in — there will already be a ton of new parking/traffic pressure with the developments (grocery store, Bartells, etc.) — a protected bike lane (and investments in public transit) is the least the city can do to encourage other means of transportation to/from the area.

        The more people who don’t need a car (who bike/walk/take the bus to get around), the less pressure on neighbors who do!

      • Hi Ian, thanks for the response (and nice to meet you in person a few weeks ago at the Summit on Pike).

        I guess that’s the thing – I also want a vibrant neighborhood with thriving small businesses.

        My opinion, for what it’s worth: there actually aren’t that many street spots there; and there are are so many more people living in this neighborhood than there were a few years ago; so many new apartment buildings on the western slope of the hill, and electric bikeshare is growing super fast. All of those people are potential customers for the 23rd/union area, and they represent far more people than could ever park at one time on the street. If they can get there safely without a car in 5 minutes vs 20, wouldn’t that do good things for business?

        Cars are great (I love mine) but they just don’t scale in dense areas.

        Finally, regarding outreach: I received the SDOT mailer addressed to “occupant” at my address, and went to the table they put out because it was important to me. Also great to see multiple articles on this blog and other places (patch, etc). Personally, I think the outreach is much more standard and good faith than you seem to suggest.

      • Two observations I’d make:
        1. Ian expressing his opinion about preserving some on-street parking doesn’t preclude any of the other small businesses around there from speaking up to offer their opinions. But if you’re expecting any of these businesses say, “no, we don’t care about street parking for any of our potential customers”, you’ll likely be waiting awhile before you hear that.
        2. While it may be true that there are a lot of people walkable to this intersection, and more all the time, there are a lot of people whose option for, say, picking up some takeout food, would be either trudging 5 or 10 locks up and down hills (often in the rain), or just driving somewhere else within a 5 or 10 min drive that *does* have some street parking. What would you do? There are still relatively large swaths in the CD where people live, that aren’t a 5 min walk to anything. Having no street parking (even a 15- or 30-min space) you’re turning your back on all that neighborhood business. That’s fine if you want to turn your back on all that business because your walkable business will support you. But I’ll bet a lot of small businesses wouldn’t big cheerleaders of that idea.

  5. Where protected bike lanes are installed, this often means that buses must travel in the single thru-lane only, with no opportunity to pull over at stops, to allow motorists to pass while the bus is loading (which sometimes takes quite awhile). This results in significant backups on heavily-used arterials, and is one of the main reasons why motorists are frustrated with PBLs.

  6. I really hope these bike lane gaps get filled. I just think its so absurd that we live in one of the densest urban areas of all Washington State and some people think our limited public arterial space should be forfeited to the storage of a couple dozen personal vehicles. The space is there, let’s make it easier for everyone to share our limited space and reduce the number of stationary visual obstructions.
    Really disheartening to see Ian’s push back on this, guess I won’t be going to Uncle Ikes any more (also, by calling yourself a “biker” instead of “cyclist” I can tell you don’t actually ride a bicycle). Anyone have good alternatives for cannabis shops in the area?