Mixed reviews for new bike lanes on Seattle's Capitol Hill

by: Linzi Sheldon Updated:

SEATTLE, Wash. - Some cyclists and business owners are complaining about the new cycle tracks on Capitol Hill.

They say the tracks are causing trouble and even some safety issues since they were installed in October.

Steve Bunin has been cycling for years, but seeing the cycle tracks on Broadway was a first for him.

“It just confuses people,” Bunin said. “No one's seen it before.”

KIRO 7 strapped cameras to Bunin's helmet and bike to get a first-hand look.

The two-way bike lanes are separated from traffic by a row of parked cars. They even have their own signals.

But not everyone is following the new rules, and Bunin said that’s a big problem.

Bunin took photos of an armored truck parked in the middle of the lanes in early December, even, he says, with a parking spot next to the lanes available.

“I said, ‘You know you're parked in a bike lane. You're making this dangerous for other people,’” he said.

“There's been parking in the bike lanes,” Ritu Shah-Burnham, who owns Z Pizza on Broadway, said. “I think it’s still happening.”

She said the lanes have also been a pain in her pocketbook.

The new lanes have taken away some turn lanes off Broadway, which she says makes it harder to get to her business and for delivery drivers to leave.

“It's going to be difficult,” Shah-Burnham said. “It's a huge burden to put on smaller business owners.”

Cycle tracks aren't cheap.

According to the city of Seattle, it costs upwards of $1.5 million per mile to build them.

The city installed two other cycle tracks in North Seattle in 2013 in less urban areas, and next spring, it will complete the 1-mile stretch on Broadway.

Eventually, Seattle Department of Transportation  wants more than 100 miles of tracks stretching from north to south.

“I think as we deploy more of these facilities, people will definitely understand more quickly,” city traffic engineer Dongho Chang said.

He said the community requested the tracks as part of the streetcar project on Broadway to encourage less confident cyclists to hit the roads.

He said a Canadian study found cycle tracks reduced cyclist injuries by 90 percent.

KIRO 7 asked about the tracks in Seattle.

“Do you have proof in data that it's increased safety in these three spots?” KIRO 7 asked.

“Absolutely,” Chang said. “We are collecting data-- these are brand-new facilities, and so it's going to take some time.”

The city has the support of groups like the Cascade Bicycle Club and cyclists like Ogden Meares.

“I think it's a statement that Seattle is putting bikers - not ahead - but on par with cars,” he said. “I think it's an improvement.”

SDOT said it will have full information for 2013 sometime next year, which will help the department compare the before and after collision numbers at each of the cycle track sites.

SDOT said one of the next locations for a cycle track is Westlake Avenue North.

Officials said they expect construction to start on Westlake in 2015.