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Seattle’s Westlake Bikeway is Finally a Reality!

It has been over ten contested years since Seattle advocates and bike riders have wanted a safe and efficient bike route on Westlake Avenue, a much-needed integral link in the bike network. I've visited myself in 1999, 2006, 2008 and 2011, each time having to either ride the dangerous speedway on Westlake or navigate thru the annoyingly clustered parking lots that comprise the slower alternate route. For a long time many plans were put on hold due to objections by businesses and entities along the waterfront that needed access.

Well that's no longer the case. Under the leadership of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Scott Kubly, the Director of Seattle's Department of Transportation, all sides got behind a compromise plan that saw a new protected cycle track pushed thru. I am sure each side didn't get 100% of what they wanted, but I can testify it is wonderful and I bet commuters are loving it too.

Seattle Bike Blog does report that recently someone threw tacks along the path, which of course is not a good thing. But it seems there is always someone trying to fight progress.


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  • Eli

    For contrast, one of my coworkers made a very short video of his experiences trying to use the Westlake Protected Bike Lane: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybktys0SRkY&feature=youtu.be

    In order to preserve 90% of the underutilized, city-owned parking for businesses who don't actually use it, Seattle created a dangerous, narrow, unpredictable and uncomfortable bike lane. I expect it to contribute to numerous preventable bike/bike and bike/ped collisions.

    From my POV, Seattle just created the Star Wars Episode 1 of bike lanes -- everyone was excited when it was unveiled, and it's better than nothing at all. And it won't stand the test of time.

  • Gorgon

    I don't really see much here other than 1) Yes, the area they split the lanes around the trees is a bit narrow - I think they just should have cut those trees down and planted new ones nearby. 2) two of the complaints are about paint?? What ??? 3) people walk in front of me in bike lanes no matter what city I am in and how well it is marked, even when I went to Copenhagen a few years ago.

    But the good thing is, the more crowded it becomes with cyclists, then 3 or 5 years down the road they will need to find a way to accommodate us which might be more bike lane real estate.

  • Eli


    In 3-5 years, we can spent *another* $2 million completely ripping out this project and rebuilding it to the specifications that Vancouver BC, Portland OR, or any city with good leadership would have built it to in the first place.

    And that is (in part) why Seattle spends a ton of money on bike infrastructure, but consistently fails to get comparable outcomes to our peer cities for dramatically more money.

  • Tinglebike

    Except that Portland, OR has almost no protected bike lanes anywhere. But Vancouver does and they are great.

  • garyyngve

    This path could have been the main commuter cycling route from north Seattle to downtown. Instead, it is windy and narrow and covered with noisy paint (to satisfy the city's lawyers of all the manufactured conflicts in an overly compromised design?). The road next to it is a 4-lane 35 mph arterial monstrosity with no bicycle infrastructure. It is unreasonable to expect cyclists to want to commute at 10 mph to downtown -- time is valuable, and the minutes lost from going needlessly slow might convince a person with family obligations to drive instead of bike.
    Also there have been no attempts yet to make the north side curve/hill safer -- striping a midline, putting "slow" paint on the downhill side (lol!), installing a spherical mirror... There will be an ugly accident there soon, I'm sure.

  • dwhiting

    So basically your complaint is the bike lane isn't wide enough to accommodate the top speed and largest volume of cycling commuters whose time and convenience should be paramount concern, regardless of other users. Sound familiar?

  • garyyngve

    Not the speed of the fastest - the speed of nearly all bicycle commuters - or anyone with eassist - designing for 10 mph is a joke. The standard MUP around here is wider and signed at 15 mph. 10 mph is a jogging speed. I could bike faster than that when I was seven years old. Peds can take the adjacent sidewalk. If it were wider, a faster bicycle could pass a slower bicycle without getting on the sidewalk (technically illegal for eassist on sidewalk in Seattle).
    Your analogy would be like spending a ton of money to build a railroad for commuters but cut corners by not making it straight enough so the train goes slower than is practical. The issue is not that car drivers have fast roads with poor infra for others for their own convenience - and I'm claiming as much here - the issue is that they chose to build it where they did, to build it as narrow and windy, and not to impact the convenience of the cars, whether driving or parking. As such, this expensive new infra had a chance to exceed expectations but instead meets only some.
    If the city is serious about getting more cyclists, we need routes that are safe and expedient. If you are in a family with two working parents and two young kids, time is more valuable than money.

  • garyyngve

    There is a meta-issue here that folks outside of Seattle don't get. The city has a habit of investing in piecemeal infra in areas where their addition is not particularly useful, while ignoring other areas that are much more needed, or implementing a half-assed solution. The east side of Lake Union and Ballard Bridge are worse for cyclists than this area (west side). We still have the Missing Link in our renowned Burke Gilman after 40 years of nimbys fighting and cyclists cracking their heads open

  • dwhiting

    Lived in Seattle for 25 years, founding member of WSBC. Your argument is an all or nothing approach to for design in an area with pedestrians, other cyclists and vehicles needing to access the waterfront buildings. Yours is the same stubborn attitude of SOV drivers.

  • Devin Quince

    I agree on most everything except that 10mph is a jogging speed that would equate to a 2:45 marathon

  • Fish

    I agree with many of the comments below that perhaps the city tried too hard to please the local businesses by preserving too much of the parking. On the other hand, after our experience with the missing link, I would take a sub-par protected bike lane right now over the perfect protected bike lane 20-30 years from now. Life's too short and this is a step in the right direction. The REAL problem is the lack of connections to our protected bike lanes throughout the city. That's simply unacceptable.

  • garyyngve

    Your flawed analogy is missing the point. They could have made the trail faster and at the same time safer for everyone. Make it wider. Make fewer car crossings with the trail raised a few inches. Make the trail straighter. Look at the awesome BGT improvements by UW - tons of ped mixing there. Minimal paint, wide straight path.
    SDOT, instead of being bold, let the NIMBYs win.

  • garyyngve

    Heh, yeah, you're right. 8 mph is more like jogging speed.

  • http://www.streetfilms.org/ Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    6 to 8 mph for those of us who are older.