Stalled Roosevelt Bike Lanes Should be a Wake-Up Call

By Josh Cohen July 29, 2010

Part of the Seattle Department of Transportation's proposed redesign of Roosevelt Ave from NE 75th St to NE 115th St has been put on hold until at least 2011. SDOT had proposed adding uphill bike lanes and downhill sharrows and installing a marked crosswalk at 90th St. In order to accommodate bike facilities between 75th and 85th (a particularly narrow section of the road), SDOT would have to remove parking along the west side of the road.

Unfortunately, it appears that SDOT caved to pressure from Maple Leaf residents who opposed the project, and will now postpone plans to add the bike lanes from 75th to 85th. The redesign of 85th to 115th (including the 90th St crosswalk) will go forward as planned later this year.

From SDOT's press release:
The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) received and reviewed more than 100 comments regarding this project.  We heard support for additional bicycle facilities, more marked crosswalks and traffic calming.  We also heard concerns about the impact of losing on-street parking and possible impact on transit operations with only one southbound lane between NE 75th and NE 85th.

In order to conduct additional traffic and parking analysis over the fall and winter months, SDOT is postponing implementation of the plan between NE 75th Street and NE 85th Street until 2011.  We anticipate the 15th Avenue Bridge will reopen by that time and traffic on Roosevelt will normalize.  We will return to the community in early 2011 with an updated proposal.

It's a shame that SDOT caved to a small contingent of NIMBY Maple Leaf residents who are too selfish to give up half of 10 blocks of parking in order to make bicycling safer and easier.

Though arterials like Roosevelt pose some issues for cyclists (higher traffic speeds, more air pollution), they're still the fastest, most direct routes through Seattle and bicyclists deserve safe access to them. Bike lanes and, to a lesser degree, sharrows help facilitate that safe access.

SDOT isn't the only one to  blame for this setback. It's also the fault of bike advocates (myself included) who say we want bike lanes, but rarely seem to turn out to express our support. In my experience with SDOT project open houses, opponents of bike projects almost always outnumber supporters. Not only does this mean that the majority of comments on bike projects are generally negative, it also bolsters people's perception that bike projects only benefit a handful of roadway users and therefore aren't worthwhile.

Furious and fearful opponents put forth the effort to attend these open houses and deliver their comments to SDOT. Supporters, already largely content with the proposals, do not. I wasn't at the Roosevelt open house (see?), but I would guess it was similar. Bike advocates need to show up and voice their support for SDOT's bike projects—or, at the very least, submit comments through SDOT's web site.
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