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Seattle council passes measure to include bike lanes in new road projects

Proponents of Seattle bike lanes score a huge win. (SDOT)

Seattle City Council unanimously approved a measure Tuesday to require all new paving projects over $1 million to include protected bike lanes.

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“This ordinance is really directed toward safety for bicyclists in our city,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien. “It’s intended to ensure we uphold the commitments we’ve made to build the facilities that have been laid out in (the Move Seattle levy).”

The measure applies to any “major paving project along a segment of the protected bicycle lane network,” but not regularly-scheduled maintenance or repairs.

It also gives the Seattle Department of Transportation the flexibility to determine if a protected bike lane wouldn’t fit into a street’s dimensions, or would be too expensive to include in a given project. If that determination is made, SDOT would be required to provide a written report to the council outlining why it can’t build the lane, and detailing “how connectivity of the protected bike lane network could be advanced in the absence of a protected bike lane in that segment.”

Councilmember O’Brien pointed to the measure as both a boon to the city’s goals for safer bike lanes, and as a way to save money building that infrastructure.

“If you’re going to build the infrastructure, the most cost effective way to do that is when you’re already tearing up the street,” he pointed out. “It’s the most cost-effective way to achieve the safety network we’re trying to achieve.”

Public commenters — who loudly applauded the measure’s unanimous approval — were out in force to voice their support for safer conditions for cyclists.

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“As an expert in traffic safety, I’m looking all the time at places where people have been hit and have been killed. Progress takes time, but I think time’s up here,” said former city council candidate Cathy Tuttle.

“Biking around downtown, frankly it’s scary,” described another commenter.

The measure will next head to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s desk to be signed into law.

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