On Friday, the Seattle Department of Transportation finished installing buffered bike lanes along 7th Ave. between Denny and Virginia. I reported on the buffered bike lane plans in detail a few weeks ago, but to recap: The new lanes are six feet wide with a two-foot painted buffer between the bike lane and the car lane. In addition to installing the lanes, SDOT will have to restripe that section of 7th Ave. from two lanes in each direction to one.
SDOT also recently installed new buffered lanes on 130th St., and has plans for new traditional bike lanes on Roosevelt and 11th Avenues in the U District, and a cycletrack on Dexter.
It'd be easy to take the cynical view of SDOT's Bicycle Master Plan. The 130th St. and 7th Ave lanes, combined, are less than one mile. In 2010, the plan calls for around 20 miles of new on-road facilities plus signage and maintenance—not a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. At the current pace and funding level, it will be many decades before the city fully implements the bike master plan. Progress on every semi-big infrastructure project is marred by hand-wringing and fear. Things could be better.
On the other hand, SDOT's bike program is limited right now by a slim budget in a bad economy, so it may make more sense to focus on the quality of the new infrastructure, rather than the quantity, for now. And the new buffered lanes, short as they are, represent a step in the right direction. Rather than paying lip service to bicyclists with sharrows (which give the city bragging rights about the number of miles of on-road bike facilities but don't do much to keep people safe), SDOT is (finally) building pragmatic, well-designed infrastructure in worthwhile places.
Seventh Ave., along with Dexter, 11th, and Roosevelt Aves., has some of the highest bike traffic in the city. 130th St. connects the Interurban Trail to Greenwood. The bike infrastructure being built right now is part of a larger network. A quality bike network is the key to getting more people on bikes—if people can't get where they want to go safely and easily, they're not going to ride.
Buffered bike lanes and cycletracks are a huge step up from half-assed sharrows. It seems like a little momentum is building for alternative transportation in Seattle, and it feels good.