by Tyler Mangrum
- The Capitol Hill Times -
Mayor Mike McGinn’s legacy is sometimes-controversial stance on prioritizing the creation of a network of bicycle lanes across the city. Now, with only a month left in his tenure, Mayor McGinn and SDOT’s head, Peter Hahn, who will also be departing on January 1, have released an updated version of the Bicycle Master Plan that calls for $400-$500 million to be spent in more extensive alterations to Seattle’s roadways to create a bike-friendly transit system.
One of the major changes in the updated version of the Bike Master Plan is the decision to implement more protected bike lanes like the one currently being tested on Broadway. The updated plan extend that lane across the length of Capitol Hill, all the way from Yesler in the south, until reaching Roanoke Park, near University Bridge, after merging with 10th Avenue. An east-west protected lane would be constructed on Pike Street, until intersecting with Broadway, and then continue along Union Street before turning southwards on Martin Luther King Jr Way.
According to Hahn, constructing more protected bike lanes corrects what Mayor McGinn’s administrations saw as major flaws in the former version of the Bike Master Plan implemented in 2007, which called for more use of “sharrows,” lanes that are used by both cars and bikers, which generated criticism from both drivers and bikers over the prospect of having to share the roadway with one another.
“Probably for its time, it was just fine,” Hahn said to Seattle Bike Blog on the former iteration of the plan. “Due to compromises at the time, sharing lanes lead to some friction.”
So far, the protected bike lane on Broadway has received similarly mixed reviews. Drivers have called the new lanes confusing, and have mistaken the areas of the lane that lack a concrete barrier as a turning lane or a parking spot. Some business owners have also voiced concern over how the lanes would potentially restrict parking. Currently, the portion of the bike lane that is protected, near Pine Street, has allowed for parking in the space between the lane and the roadway, but it’s unclear if this will be a city-wide standard.
Cyclists like Margot Wise, a Central District resident who works on Capitol Hill, praises the bike lane as a major step forward for the city’s transit infrastructure.
“I love the bike lane,” Wise said. “I love that I don’t have to fear getting car-doored, and I love the designated bike stop lights, and I hope that they do it all over the city. It’s a huge improvement.”
The updated version of the master plan would also implement a new method of road-sharing that is currently untested in Seattle: neighborhood greenways. Streets designated as greenways would actively discourage drivers from using them through the use of traffic reduction measures, like speed bumps, curb bulbs and roundabouts, instead encouraging the roads to be used by bikers and pedestrians.
Roads that would be designated as greenways under the bike plan would include east-west roads like East Republican Street, from Melrose Avenue to 21st Avenue East; East Denny Way, from Broadway to 21st Avenue East; and East Columbia Street, from Broadway to 29th Avenue East. North-south greenways would include Melrose Avenue East, from Pike Street to the Melrose Connector Trail; 21st Avenue East, from Galer Street, merging into 22nd Avenue, and continuing on to Jackson Street; and a zig-zagging greenway beginning on 16th Avenue at Volunteer Park, then cutting east to 17th Avenue, 18th Avenue, 19th Avenue, and 20th Avenue, at various points.
The first of these greenway projects currently underway, on 21st Avenue, previously dubbed as the “23rd Avenue Greenway,” has itself elicited rage from residents over the potential ramifications of that project. While the greenway will be constructed, 23rd Avenue will be reduced from four lanes to two. During a November meeting where the greenway was discussed, residents expressed almost-unanimous anger over the prospect of 23rd Avenue’s reduction, and that perceived uselessness of the greenway once 23rd Avenue’s revamp is complete.
Despite the mixed reception from both of the pilot projects so far, the updated master plan was warmly received at a December 11 public hearing primarily attended by bike advocacy groups. However, Hahn’s firing by Murray may signal a change in the wind for SDOT’s priorities once the new mayor takes office.
Murray has so far been reluctant to voice a particular opinion on how the Biker Master Plan may be altered by his administration, but Jeff Reading, the mayor-elect’s press secretary, previously told the Capitol Hill Times that Murray seeks a “comprehensive ‘Move Seattle’ transportation master plan that integrates planning across all modes of transportation rather than making plans within a series of mode buckets.”