A total of 7,000 bicyclists took over Seattle streets April 2, including the I-5 express lanes in what is thought to be the first Emerald City Bike Ride. It was a unique experience for bike riders to roll along a freeway, and among them was local bike advocate Tom Fucoloro.
“It’s a really powerful feeling. You never bike on anything that wide,” he said. “It was a blink and we went from the U-District to South Lake Union. It went so fast. I’m not used to being able to get around that quickly. There’s no bike route that does that without including delays, big hills and things like that.”
That got Fucoloro thinking — why not a bike lane on that scale?
“We are going to need to rebuild I-5 through Seattle at some point, and a lot of its structures are reaching the end of their life and are going to need repairs, so that’s the time to fix a lot of the problems with I-5,” Fucoloro said.
“Basically … there’s no bike route equivalent of what I-5 does,” he said. “When you think about what makes a really good bike route — it’s flat, direct and a lot of it is covered so it wouldn’t get wet in the rain. So that would be a really good project.”
Putting a bike lane on Seattle’s freeway is not a new idea, though it is primarily Fucoloro’s, as it has often been promoted through his Seattle Bike Blog. The blogger admits that the notion is far-fetched, but said that since he’s an independent source, he can explore things that seem “ridiculous.”
However, Fucoloro is not alone in touting ideas for I-5 on a “ridiculous” level. A recent movement proposes putting a lid on I-5, removing it from view and reconnecting the streets above. Such ideas have garnered little more than neighborhood meetings.
Fucoloro’s idea may not be as bold — or expensive — as a lid, rather, he wants to mimic what has already been done on I-90 and the SR 520 bridge — a cement wall separating a bike trail along the side of the freeway’s express lanes. He argues that such a project could be done during the next inevitable phase of construction on I-5.
“The way I imagine it is that it would be on the west side of the express lanes,” Fucoloro said. “It would just be like if you took the I-90 bridge trail and pasted that on the I-5 express lanes.”
“It’s something to study,” he said. “But I estimate it would turn an hour bike ride into a half hour bike ride at very comfortable, no sweat speeds. You could get from Green Lake to City Hall in a half hour.”