More protected bike lanes coming to downtown Seattle

VIDEO: More protected bike lanes coming to Seattle

SEATTLE — More protected bike lanes are coming to Seattle. They’ve been in the plans for years, but on Wednesday, City Councilman Mike O’Brien proposed a resolution that would put more concrete deadlines in place to finish the network of protected bike lines.

The projects also have some drivers worried about the impact to traffic – some of the work reduces lanes for traffic and eliminates parking spots.

But bicyclists say the current setup makes bike riding in Seattle dangerous.

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Heather Eliason is a Fremont mom who commutes downtown every day on her bike, with her two kids in tow.

“The biggest struggle is people going in the bike lanes,” Eliason said.

The city already has some protected bike lanes, and plans in place for a network of the lanes in downtown Seattle. The protected lanes separate bicyclists from drivers with a median or white plastic poles.

“We have plans in place, and have had those plans in place for a number of years. Yet those timelines keep slipping,” O’Brien said.

Wednesday at the Sustainability and Transportation Committee meeting, O’Brien – who chairs the committee -- proposed a resolution that outlines the construction goals.

“This resolution is about really solidifying the timeline and the very specifics, block by block of what we’re going to be building in the next year and a half,” O'Brien said.

A map from the city shows protected bike lanes will be installed on stretches of  8th Avenue, 12th Avenue,and Pike, Pine and South King Streets, to name just a few.

People from the bicycling community pleaded with council members during the meeting, asking the city to make the projects a priority.

“Please don't delay this,” Eliason said.

Some speakers got emotional, remembering 51-year-old Alex Hayden, a Seattle resident. He was killed over the weekend while riding in a bike lane on Rainier Avenue South in Skyway.

“This is life and death for most of us. And I really appreciate the professionalism of the folks in the room but this is hard stuff for a lot of us,” said Meg Wade, another Seattle bicyclist.

Some people who drive in Seattle are worried the bike lanes will squeeze cars into less space, and say the construction work will also take a toll.

“It’s going to slow everything down,” said Schuyler Mcafe, who drives every day for work. “I get it the bikers need more safety, because not everyone pays attention, but you also have to think of the flow of cars.”

Bicyclists say the lanes will actually help improve traffic flow.

“It benefits drivers too, to have me separated from them. It lets them flow more freely and I have to slow them down,” Eliason said.

The protected bike lane work on 2nd Avenue cost $12 million for a mile of work, and the price tag brought criticism from residents.

But the city says that was an anomaly and costs were much higher because it required work like system upgrades for traffic signals.

SDOT says on average, protected bike lanes cost between $1 million and $2 million per mile.