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Seattle to Build Bike Lanes Away from Busy Streets

Seattle’s new bike plan: have people ride on calmer backstreets.

By Mike Lindblom

The Seattle City Council voted unanimously Monday to overhaul its Bicycle Master Plan, to provide separated bike lanes as well as a network of calm backstreet routes known as greenways.

The 2014 version is meant to serve what Councilmember Sally Bagshaw likes to call “willing but wary” riders. That’s a shift from earlier thinking — to apply pavement icons and bike lanes to busy streets, to establish that cyclists deserve their share of the road. But activists here and in other cities think they’re nearing the limit of how many people are willing to bike with other traffic. On average, 4 percent of Seattle residents commute on bicycle to work or school, while the busiest trail sections exceed 2,000 riders on warm weekend days.

The plan calls for 474 miles of new or improved bike routes, at a cost of about $20 million a year for 20 years. Half would be greenways, plus 102 miles of bike lanes separated from traffic, and 32 miles of off-street trails.

In the Roosevelt area, the city is looking at greenways and bike paths connecting to east-west Ravenna Park so riders could avoid hostile traffic on Northeast 65th Street. On fast-moving 35th Avenue Southwest in West Seattle, separated bike lanes would be built, as well as a greenway on nearby side streets.

The plan in Ballard shows a west-east “missing link” trail (red), a bikeway on the Ballard Bridge or a new Ship Canal transit bridge (brown), and protected bike lanes north of Fremont Bridge (blue).

“I’m excited to see it actually call out the language of ‘all ages and abilities’ as its goal,” said Cathy Tuttle, director of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways. She said most of the greenways were “crowdsourced” by neighbors’ suggestions. Tuttle said the city is getting more serious about sheltering greenway users, by adding speed humps and stop signs in new Delridge and Beacon Hill routes, for instance.

The new plan calls for bike bridges over Interstate 5 at Northgate and the University District, carried over from the 2007 plan; a bikeway on the Ballard Bridge corridor; a separate bikeway going under I-5 linking Sodo to Beacon Hill at Spokane Street; central waterfront bike paths; and a separated bike trail from the Highland Park hill to the Duwamish Trail and industrial area.

Among the toughest problems is where to locate protected bikeways through downtown Seattle, where bus and car traffic already fills the pavement, with a First Avenue streetcar on the drawing board.

(c)2014 Seattle Times

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