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Building the Downtown #BasicBikeNetwork

By Ryan Packer. A leader of South Lake Union Greenways

Between 2010 and 2016, 45,000 new jobs were added in the neighborhoods comprising Downtown Seattle, most of them in District 7. Stunningly, 95% of these new commuters have chosen to get to and from work by modes other than driving by themselves. For the first time in Seattle’s history, the rate of people driving by themselves to work has dropped to only 30%. That’s over 30,000 more people a day using transit and over 9,000 walking or biking into downtown.

With so many people coming into District 7 every day without their cars, the gains that have been made to improve both walking and biking in all of the center city neighborhoods, including South Lake Union, Belltown, and central Downtown, have made such a huge impact in terms of making people’s lives easier and keeping them safe.

This fall, the first stages of protected bike lanes were installed along Pike and Pine Streets downtown. The creation of a bike connection between Capitol Hill and Downtown has been long in the making and once the connection is made fully protected in the next few years it will truly change the way that all Seattleites are able to experience biking through downtown. The bike lanes have already provided added protection from turning vehicles for people on foot downtown, which is so important as foot traffic increases to retail destinations in the area and daylight is at its minimum. The long term project known as the Pike Pine Renaissance, which began its first phases of outreach this year, represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rethink the way we use the public right-of-way through one of the most popular places in our city, the retail core between Pike Place Market and Capitol Hill.

pike pine PBL collage

In Belltown, the extension of the 2nd Avenue protected bike lane has continued at a rapid pace this year, with the high-quality facility heading toward completion early next year. Once finished, this will create an all-ages-and-abilities route between downtown and Seattle Center. In addition, the project has also added signalized crosswalks for people crossing 2nd Avenue through Belltown when previously the design of the fast-moving corridor encouraged people in vehicles to not stop for pedestrians.

2nd ave pbl in belltown

2nd Ave Protected Bike Lanes are Almost Open!

South Lake Union, on the heels of benefiting from the opening of the Westlake Cycletrack between Lake Union Park and Fremont last year, named bike facility of 2016 by People for Bikes, is continuing to see its bike network extended, most notably on 9th Avenue North, which will see a full bicycle connection realized between Valley Street and Denny Way by next year, and is part of the center city #BasicBikeNetwork:

Downtown Minimum grid map v5 without header

People on foot crossing between Denny Triangle and South Lake Union also noticed a big change at Terry Avenue where a previously unthinkable place to cross given the busy traffic on Denny Way was made safe with the benefit of a pedestrian crossing. The facility got a lot of attention from the nearby Seattle Times offices, where reporters had remarked on the intersection’s hazards for years.

Terry before improvements

Terry before improvements

In Magnolia, a project that was delayed from 2016 is finally nearing completion: the installation of protected bike lanes along 20th Ave W and Gilman Dr W will finally allow a safe connection between the world-class Elliott Bay Trail and the Ballard Locks.

gilman pbl donghoLooking ahead, the demolition of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the reconnection of the street grid on Aurora Avenue between Mercer and Denny, the reinvestment in Key Arena, and the work happening on the waterfront are all projects that have a great potential to transform District 7 into a place where people come first. For instance, we’ve already successfully advocated to get a traffic diverter on Thomas St at Aurora to prioritize the street for people walking and biking, once it is reconnected. The advocates in District 7, on the part of neighborhood groups like Queen Anne Greenways, and South Lake Union Greenways, are an invaluable part of moving forward toward this better future.

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