Your drive through Seattle could become a lot more congested and your chances of finding street parking could evaporate as the city installs a series of protected lanes to accommodate bike commuters.
The city council just approved the new 20-year bike master plan, and it calls for protected bike lanes on 2nd, 4th, 5th and 7th Avenues through downtown Seattle. This plan updates the original 2007 bike master plan.
To put these protected bike lanes in, the city will have to eliminate street parking or a lane of traffic on those already congested roads.
A protected bike lane is a lane that is separated from car traffic so riders feel safer.
The master plan includes 102 miles of these lanes on streets like Roosevelt and 130th on the north end, 15th Avenue in West Seattle and MLK through the Rainier Valley.
“We carefully want to balance the interests of people who drive and people who park and of course the needs of residents and businesses, but we’re going to have to figure out the right combination is for a given block and a given corridor to make sure that we can both accommodate current traffic and really set the city up for the future,” said Rick Sheridan with the Seattle Department of Transportation.
The city expects another 100,000 people to move to Seattle over the next 20 years, and he said planners want them out of their cars.
“We’ve got to find a way to move people to other modes, modes that they want to voluntarily support, because otherwise we’re just going to have gridlock going forward,” said Sheridan.
Only four percent of Seattle commuters use their bikes today. Some people ask why is the city spending $20 million a year over the next 20 years for such a small segment of the community.
Sheridan said many potential riders don’t feel safe taking their bikes out on the roads. Protected bike lanes should encourage more people to use their bikes.
“Our goal is to create facilities that really are suitable for riders of all ages and all abilities,” he said.
City planners will start looking at specific routes and roads later this year. They will meet with business owners and residents to talk about the impacts of losing parking or lanes of traffic to find the best way to balance all interests.
“As we look at things like parking, is it better to accommodate more bike facilities than parking, that’s a determination we’ll make after we study the roadway, understand the impacts and have conversations with the nearby businesses and residents,” he said.
The city has yet to find a way to come up with the money to pay for the master bike plan.