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Saving a Bike Lane & Building Connections

By Robert Getch. Co-leader of Beacon Hill Safe Streets

I was surprised when SDOT told Beacon Hill Safe Streets they wanted to downgrade the planned Swift/Myrtle/Othello protected bike lanes that had been originally included in the 2018 repaving project, to just bike lanes. Including protected bike lane upgrades as part of repaving projects is significantly cheaper to implement than coming back later and doing the work as a bike only project, because the work crew is already there ripping up the road and is able to just repaint different lines and adds posts. So why the downgrade?

Sharrows in Front of the Community Center

Sharrows in Front of the Community Center

It was probably because this route wasn’t considered a top priority. In previous conversations advocates had agreed that our efforts should be focused on North-South connections to rest of the city’s bike network and to downtown. But the significant cost savings meant it would be much harder to come back later after the higher priorities were completed.

And while not the top priority, this route does connect to important locations: the Othello Light Rail Station, grocery stores, Van Asselt Playground, Van Asselt Community Center, John C Little Park, New Holly Childhood Center, and is close to Cleveland High School. It’s also one of the only East-West connections across south Seattle due to I-5 and other barriers. This route connects the Othello neighborhood to South Beacon Hill to Georgetown, and once the Georgetown-South Park Trail is completed, to South Park as well. That’s why West Seattle Bike Connections, Duwamish Valley Safe Streets, Beacon Hill Safe Streets, Rainier Valley Greenways, and the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board were all supportive of this route: they recognized the importance of linking south end communities.

Neighborhoods Meeting to Discuss the Route

After our groups stood united and said no to the downgrade, we won back the posts and buffers for the bike lane. And while the design isn’t perfect, and we know that it won’t be an instant success because the rest of the bike network is still years away, we are incrementally building a path forward to a day where anyone in South Seattle can hop on a bike and use safe, connected, simple routes to get to the places they want to go.SwiftMyrtleOthello_mapIf you value our work, please donate to keep us going.