Council backs plan to expand bicycle lanes

Seattle would double its number of bicycle lane miles and add other bike-friendly street upgrades under a plan approved Monday by the City Council.

Published November 5, 2007 by Seattle Post-Intelligencer
By Angela Galloway 

Work is already under way on 450-mile cycling network

Seattle would double its number of bicycle lane miles and add other bike-friendly street upgrades under a plan approved Monday by the City Council.

In April, Mayor Greg Nickels announced a 10-year strategy to make Seattle a better place to be a bicyclist. City crews have already begun implementing some of its recommendations.

Though some in the cycling community see Monday's vote as a vow by the council to back the $240 million in projects it recommends (that figure is in 2007 dollars), the resolution does not bind the city to make any particular upgrades. However, the vote does make the plan official city policy.

"Seattle has truly stepped forward and made a commitment to investing in a sustainable form of transportation," Gordon Black, director of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, told the council Monday. "Your decision … will undoubtedly help towards making cycling more appealing to a greater number of people. That, in turn, will help ensure that Seattle continues to exceed its targets in reducing (greenhouse gas) emissions."

Black also called on the council to continue supporting efforts to educate drivers and bikers to share the road.

"Some drivers have trouble with this concept," he said. Recent events show it's becoming "ever more important that we all learn how to safely share our roads."

Last week a West Seattle bicyclist was shot in the lung with a BB as he pedaled home. And on Saturday, friends of a cyclist killed after a truck hit him in September staged a memorial, cycling past the Eastlake intersection where Bryce Lewis died.

One element of the plan approved Monday has drawn protests from some cyclists.

They had hoped for a separate bike lane along a busy stretch of Stone Way North, where the plan instead recommends "sharrows," or markings to indicate safer bike routes within existing road lanes.

In response to the criticisms, the Seattle Department of Transportation is gathering new traffic data and plans to revisit the decision early next year.

In all, the plan would establish a 450-mile cycling network, Councilwoman Jan Drago said. That includes stretching the city's bike lanes from 25 miles to 143 miles and expanding multiuse trails from 39 miles to 58 miles.

The "Bridging the Gap" property tax levy approved by voters last year will pay for some of the improvements. Beyond that, the city plans to seek federal grants and other funding to supplement city spending.

"We need a plan because we want to increase the use of bicycling in Seattle for all trips by tripling the amount of bicycling in Seattle between 2007 and 2017," Drago said during Monday's council meeting.

At the same time, the city hopes to reduce the rate of bike crashes by one-third, she said.