Pikes/Pines | Hitting the pavement for a geological trip through the natural history and present day questions of the Capitol Hill streets and sidewalks beneath our feet

Ready for shipping from CalPortland’s Ready Mix and Pioneer Aggregates Plant in DuPont (Image: Cal Portland)

I don’t know about you, but I rarely consider the streets and sidewalks I travel over unless they’re an impediment. Biking around Seattle I know where to veer past a specific pothole. I’ve found myself in a groggy rage having spilled coffee down my sleeve, tripped by a tree root uplifted section of sidewalk. My car is old and I know when a road is equally as pocked by time.

And yet, it’s easy to just feel as if roads happen (if one ignores the traffic revisions that we endure for years). A good number of folks reading this do not remember a time when new roads were built on or adjacent to the Hill. They were just there and unless you are a civil engineer, an urban planner, or a mass transit or bicycling advocate, you might not have considered them either.

Sometimes roads take us in directions we hadn’t considered. When I first pondered the natural history of roads, I had this quaint idea of delving into what grows in the cracks of the concrete. There are surely compelling stories here, but really, you can figure it out: roads are made of earthly materials and plants grow in and wear at said medium with their roots, which combine forces with other types of weathering. We’ve all probably seen a bokeh image of a tree growing out of rock in some misty locale. Give some seeds a few years without any bother and our streets and sidewalks would quickly begin weathering away, all manner of vegetation sprouting from the cracks.

Ultimately, I realized I didn’t really know what roads are made of. Where did the material come from? What are the environmental costs of putting in and maintaining roads? How long does a road last? These are all questions I recently put forward to folks at the Seattle Department of Transportation who endured such infantile questions about our city streets with grace. Continue reading

With bigger Pike/Pine street changes ahead, construction on Melrose Ave pedestrian and biking overhaul slated to begin this summer

The Melrose palm is staying

Changes are coming soon to Capitol Hill to improve walkability and the biking — and we’re not talking about melting snow and ice.

The community vision for a safer, more vibrant for Melrose Ave — the change coming soonest — has been a decade in the making. Recognizing safety concerns, community members started doing outreach to neighbors to gather ideas for what a better Melrose would look like, eventually developing the Melrose Promenade project at the base of Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile, a plan for the total re-orientations of Pike and Pine into one-way streets is also underway with a longer wait for the start of that construction.

The changes to Melrose, currently expected to begin construction in June, include a redesigned intersection at E Olive Way with a new signalized crosswalk on the west end of Melrose as the Seattle Department of Transportation reconfigures the I-5 on-ramp, SDOT community outreach lead Sara Colling said.

There were 141 reported collisions on Melrose between Roy and University from 2013 to 2018, with almost all of the serious injuries being suffered by people walking or biking on the short stretch between Denny and Pike Pine.

New protected bike lanes between Denny and Pike Pine will attempt to improve safety on Melrose. They will be one-way lanes on each side of the street protected with plastic posts and pavement markings. Continue reading

Why Capitol Hill’s Millionaire’s Row isn’t a Stay Healthy Block anymore

A Capitol Hill avenue that became a popular addition to the city’s experimentation with community-created walking and riding streets as part of its efforts to address social distancing needs during the COVID-19 crisis has been removed from the program and looks unlikely to return.

The situation on 14th Ave E is an example of the limits of Seattle City Hall’s urbanist-leaning efforts and, the resident who originally applied for the permit says, a prime example of kowtowing to complaints from homeowners and drivers.

“If SDOT continues to insist on these restrictions (and others) then it seems clear to me that they have no intention of allowing the program to continue in a dense urban neighborhood, no
matter how successful the program was,” applicant and area resident Christopher Hoffman tells CHS.

According to Hoffman, his original approval of the program’s implementation on 11 blocks of 14th Ave E, the city’s legendary Millionaire’s Row extending south out of Volunteer Park, came with the basic requirements allowing the use of signs and small barriers to “temporarily close a street to create more outdoor recreation space for people to enjoy while following social distancing guidelines” while allowing “local access, deliveries, waste pickup and emergency vehicles.” Continue reading

City beefs up Stay Health Streets signage

The city’s Stay Healthy Streets program to restrict motor vehicle traffic on select streets to create more open space during the pandemic is adding sturdier signs to help better protect people from drivers as they walk, bike, and roll.

The new signs aren’t exactly barriers but officials hope they will be less susceptible to breakage and loss as bad weather and bad drivers have taken a toll on the city’s collection of a-frame style signs deployed early in the pilot project. Continue reading

New ‘seated’ option Wheels join Seattle’s scooter share fleet

A “a more accessible” scooter with a ride the company behind it says is smoother and more “suited to Seattle’s hills and weather” has joined the city’s fleet of private company-share transportation options.

Wheels has released its seated rental scooters onto the streets of Seattle Monday:

Wheels are designed far differently from traditional stand-up scooters. A seated riding position and low center of gravity provide a safer and more stable ride — one that’s more accessible for a much broader demographic, as evidenced by the fact that half of Wheels‘ riders are women and one-third are over the age of 35. Large 14-inch tires create a smooth ride across bumps, cracks, and uneven surfaces. And, unlike other offerings, Wheels comes with its own integrated helmet system! Initially, 20% of Wheels scooters in Seattle will have integrated helmets, but this will soon be scaled up to cover the whole fleet.

Continue reading

With sunny and dry days ahead for repainting of Capitol Hill’s Black Lives Matter mural, rain is not a risk — but the return of smoke season is — UPDATE

E Pine was stripped of its BLM mural last week as part of a project to recreate a more durable version (Image: Alex Garland)

The project to remake Capitol Hill’s Black Lives Matter mural as a permanent feature of E Pine should move forward this week with a forecast for dry weather making the pavement a suitable canvas for the effort.

A Seattle Department of Transportation representative tells CHS that artists are planned to be on the street starting Wednesday to begin the process of repainting the 16 10-foot-tall letters. SDOT is planning a four-day window for the project but they’re expecting the work might wrap up early. E Pine will be closed to traffic during the painting and sealing work. Continue reading

For more space to walk, run, and roll during COVID-19 restrictions, Seattle now issuing ‘Stay Healthy Block’ permits

Capitol Hill will not be getting a “Stay Healthy” street designed to give people more space to walk, run, roll, and spread out during the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions but your neighbors might want to join you in creating a Stay Healthy Block.

The city has announced it is making the permitting process free for non-arterial, residential street closures to encourage more open space in the city during the pandemic:

If your organization wants to apply for a permit, keep these things in mind:

  • You can go to our Stay Healthy Blocks website to apply now.
  • You’ll be responsible for notifying neighbors, closing the street with barricades and printable signs we developed, and monitoring for safety.
  • You’ll also be responsible for ensuring compliance with public health guidelines.

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways is also giving the effort a boost by offering a limited number of free signs and volunteer support to organizations looking to create their own Stay Healthy Block.

The new initiative builds on the Stay Healthy Streets effort that has created routes closed to “through motor vehicle traffic to provide more space for distancing, exercise, and recreation. Officials also hope the routes can help connect people to services and businesses without the need for cars or public transit. The streets remain open to “local traffic” and deliveries and the rules are in effect 24×7.

In the Central District, the route includes 25th S starting near Judkins Park north to E Columbia, E Columbia between 12th and 29th, and a finger on 22nd Ave stretching north to E Howell.

In May, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced the routes will be a new permanent part of the city’s infrastructure. The Stay Healthy Blocks, meanwhile, are only temporary.

Learn more at the Stay Healthy Blocks website.


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Scooter-share finally rolls onto Seattle streets

The first provider of pay by the minute electric scooters has launched in Seattle with the green and white scooters already part of the Capitol Hill and Central District landscape.

Lime rolled out the first in its fleet Wednesday as part of Seattle’s newly launched scooter-share pilot program. Continue reading

Central District’s ‘Stay Healthy’ street gets Hopscotch CD addition

Hopscotch CD returns

By Lena Mercer

Wear a mask and play a game. The Central Area Neighborhood District Council is bringing hopscotch back to the Central District this weekend, leveraging a neighborhood street already quieted as a safe space for neighbors to walk and get some exercise during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. For the Labor Day weekend, stretches of Central District sidewalk will be decorated with a smaller but still impressive Hopscotch CD 2020 course.

The all volunteer-backed CAND is hoping add a little joy into the world in these pandemic times. CAND president John Stewart is optimistic. “The pandemic has been hard on everyone, young and old alike, for all kinds of different reasons,” Stewart said. “We can’t fix that, but we can give folks a place to go have some fun with absolutely no strings attached.”

Continue reading

Dining in the street may be the future of Capitol Hill food and drink — at least for the rest of Seattle summer

Let’s trade parking for places to sit and enjoy some pizza (Image: Harry’s Bar)

As King County nears the two month mark of the so-called “Phase 2” of reopening and restrictions on indoor dining have tightened  — with seating limited to members of the same household and scaled back bar service — dining al fresco seems to be the best way to enjoy your favorite reopening restaurants. Unfortunately, many Capitol Hill and Central District restaurants and cafes don’t have outdoor space. To help, the city has begun a free, “streamlined” process of offering six-month outdoor café and street closure permits.

UPDATE: So far 27 Capitol Hill restaurants have applied for temporary outdoor café permits compared to just 8 Central District businesses, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation, and nine Capitol Hill businesses — and none in the Central District — have shown interest in street closure permits.

“[W]e are preparing to do targeted outreach to small businesses on specific streets in high priority areas to ensure this information is available and accessible,” SDOT’s Brian Hardison said. “To avoid perpetuating existing inequities in the neighborhood, we’re working to ensure that we meet the needs of both businesses and residents.”

Some smaller, fast-moving examples can be found along 15th Ave E. Olympia Pizza III and adjoined Harry’s Bar are some of the first Capitol Hill spots to start outdoor curbside dining.

Owner Harry Nicoloudakis said building the sturdily fenced-in island — also known as a “streatery” — was an easy decision. Continue reading