New South Seattle bike lane coming, but downtown lane scaled back

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Carl King has nothing good to say about cycling along Seattle's Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

"It's dangerous, it's always been dangerous," he said.

Traffic moves quickly.

There's no bike lane.

"There's nowhere to ride. You have to risk your life to ride," King said. "Since I'm not leaving a carbon footprint I think it would be beneficial for everybody in the city if we had bike lanes everywhere."

As the city slowly builds a bicycle network, Southeast Seattle has long felt left out.

Tonya Ricks Sterr lives near Seward Park and says basic connections are missing.

"If you asked me how to get downtown from my house I couldn't really tell you a route," she said.

After an outcry over an earlier version of implementing Seattle's Bicycle Master Plan pushed back 25 miles of projects, the city added plans for a bike lane along a stretch of Martin Luther King Jr. Way just south of I-90.

There's money to actually build that project, unlike the bike lanes planned on Beacon Avenue South that are only funded for study.

City officials say the latest plan builds 50 miles of new bike lanes by 2024 and studies another 29 miles, getting them ready to be built when funding is found.

"Having them in a plan isn't enough. We need to build those projects," said Vicky Clarke of Cascade Bicycle Club.

The new plan also downgrades a two-way protected bike lane on Fourth Avenue downtown to a lane that only goes north.

City officials say a two-way lane could slow traffic, adding up to five minutes to bus trips.

"Those numbers are worrisome to us. We still want to deliver the best possible facility out there for both transit riders and bicyclists but we have a little more work today before we're ready to commit to a two way facility," said Jim Curtin of the Seattle Department of Transportation.

Clarke called the scaling back of the 4th Avenue plan "disconcerting" and said with the rise of electric scooters and other small wheeled devices, it's important they have somewhere to go.

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