Seattle residents mixed after city announces no bike lane planned for 35th Avenue

SEATTLE - It’s rush hour in Seattle and along 35th Avenue, it means navigating traffic and watching out for cyclists who are sharing the road too. That includes watching out for families like the Gruhns, who were cycling together to the doughnut shop down the street.

“We’re going out on the sidewalk, and we’re in danger of cars coming in and out of the driveway and cars coming in and out of the road where as if we had a dedicated bike lane it would be a lot safer for my kids,” said Robert Gruhn, who lives in the neighborhood and was biking with his 3 and 5-year-old children.

After a heated debate of adding a bike lane on this street, the City of Seattle released design plan Tuesday: no bike lane, one lane of traffic in each direction, a turn lane in the middle with parking on one or both sides of 35th depending on the block.

New design elements:

NE 47th St to NE 65th St

  • Parking will be maintained on the east side of the street, instead of both sides
  • One lane in each direction
  • No center turn lane given the narrow width of the road

NE 65th St to NE 85th St

  • Parking will be maintained on the east side of the street, instead of both sides
  • One lane in each direction
  • Center turn lane

NE 85th St to NE 89th St

  • Parking will be maintained on both sides of the street
  • One lane in each direction
  • Center turn lane

Throughout the corridor

  • Pedestrian crossing improvements at 60th St and 80th St, with further evaluation of additional requests after the project is complete
  • New left-turn pockets at NE 75th St as well as space for left-turning vehicles to pull out of the travel lane at many other intersections
  • Signage and crossing enhancements on the 39th Ave NE greenway
  • New load zones and short-term parking changes, in coordination with nearby businesses

“It’s a shame,” said Gruhn, who saw the plan for the first time this afternoon.

But, just down the street, Scott Kuenher, who lives in the neighborhood, took a look at the design plan and says he’s happy with it.

He says he doesn’t see enough cyclists on 35th to warrant an entire bike lane, and says they cyclists can use side streets or the Burke Gilman Trail a few blocks away.

“The parking, look where all the business are, they wanted to put a bike lane right in front of all the businesses, it just seemed crazy to me,” said Kuenher.

But Gruhn is pumping the brakes on that argument.

“A lot of people say well go over to 29th. Well, there’s a hill on 29th and then you don’t have a dedicated right-of-way and you have cars coming in and out, so it’s really not an option. All of these side streets have parking on both sides of the street. It’s really not a realistic argument to say you’re impacting businesses,” he said.

How to share the road is turning the wheels in the minds of city leaders across Puget Sound. In Tacoma, they’re looking at developing a comprehensive network of bikeways citywide.

Tacoma mayor, Victoria Woodards, discussed the expansion of bikeways in her state of the city address earlier this year.

“Transportation is the second largest cost in most family budgets. Achieving a more bike friendly infrastructure and better transit connections is sure to have better financial connections is sure to have an immediate impact on the financial well-being of Tacoma’s households,” said Woodards.

How to share the road and do it well is something Vicky Clark with the Cascade Bike Club says can be done by looking at examples to the south and north of Seattle.

“You look to Portland to the south and Vancouver to the north and they’ve done it,” said Clark.

The Cascade Bike Club supported bike lanes on 35th Avenue.

“Frustrating and disappointing to us,” said Clark about the news of no bike lanes.

She says she’d like to know how the city will plan for alternate modes of transportation if they don’t add bike lanes to streets like 35th.

“What’s the vision for multimodal transportation?” She questioned. "We have more people, less roadway space. We need more ways to move people around.”

As a resident of Wedgewood, Gruhn says this decision impacts his future too, as well as his family’s safety as his children grow and maneuver around the neighborhood themselves without designated bike lanes.

“It means it’s higher risk for my kids as they grow up and try to go to Top Pot and go to high school, and it means more car trips for me to take them places to be safe,” said Gruhn.

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