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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Leaked Bicycle Master Plan!

posted by on November 28 at 11:50 AM

A source recently slipped me a near-final first draft of Seattle’s Bicycle Master Plan, which will be unveiled for public comment next week starting on December 5.


The plan recommends expanding Seattle’s networked bike trails from 69 miles to 162 miles over the next five years, outlines exactly where new bike lanes and mixed-use trails should go, suggests that certain streets become “bicycle boulevards,” fixes the Burke-Gilman Trail’s problematic “missing link,” and offers a schedule for when to do what. These improvements will be funded, in large part, by Proposition 1, which was just passed by Seattle voters to improve the region’s roads. The $365 million levy is designed to include about $70 million for non-car-centered improvements.

Will this new master plan make good on Mayor Greg Nickels’s promise to make Seattle the most bike-friendly city in the nation? See for yourself.

Below are six large PDF files that show the plan in its current form. The “action plan” shows generally what the city should do where. The “facility recommendations” show what specific bike-oriented improvements should go where (climbing lanes, paved shoulders, “sharrows,” etc). And the “phasing recommendations” suggest when all of this should be done.

I recommend clicking on the facility recommendations. That way you can see what’s being proposed along your regular bike route and whether the changes make good sense. Again, there’s a public hearing on this first draft on Dec. 5 in Ballard, and another one on Dec. 7 in Columbia City.

One cool “long-term” proposal in the master plan: A separate bridge for cyclists next to the treacherous Ballard Bridge.


Facility Recommendations, north and south.

Action Plan, north and south.

Phasing, north and south.

RSS icon Comments


"Facility Recommendations" links ain't working for me.

Posted by DOUG. | November 28, 2006 11:52 AM

checking North facilities you get:

The requested page could not be found.
Page not found - /blog/files/2006/11improvements_north.pdf

did you forget to chmod them?

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 28, 2006 11:52 AM

ah, you're missing slashes in the Facility Recommendations - fix your links.

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 28, 2006 11:54 AM

Working on the links, sorry. Give us a few minutes and they should be working.

Posted by Eli Sanders | November 28, 2006 11:59 AM

Wouldn't bicycle boulevards throw a wrench in the PWC's surface option plan by eliminating street capacity that's supposed to help absorb the loss of the viaduct?

Anyway, looks good. Let's see how much of it actually comes to pass.

Posted by Gomez | November 28, 2006 11:59 AM

Why is Eastlake a "Key Corridor for Short Term Study"? Extend the streetcar to UW, get rid of Metro routes, eliminate on-street parking and give us bike lanes. Done!

Posted by DOUG. | November 28, 2006 12:03 PM

All the links should work now, critique away!

Posted by Eli Sanders | November 28, 2006 12:04 PM

!!! fantastic !!!

Posted by z is for xylophone | November 28, 2006 12:27 PM

Yes, ladies and gents, this is it. The Master Plan: Bikes will travel on ... STREETS!

Next up, we unveil our blueprints for surface-level subways!

Posted by Wilson | November 28, 2006 12:32 PM

Heh. The surface-level subways would go well with our subway-level "light rail." ;p

I'm still having trouble with the links, btw.

get a "Page not found - /blog/files/2006/11improvements_north.pdf" error message.

Posted by golob | November 28, 2006 12:50 PM

Georgetown? and West Seattle? Unclear as to what is being done about those two routes.

Posted by 24 Karat | November 28, 2006 12:52 PM

all the pdf's are dead links.

Posted by derrickito | November 28, 2006 12:53 PM

They should all work now. Hit refresh.

Posted by Eli Sanders | November 28, 2006 12:56 PM

Thank-you Eli.

Posted by golob | November 28, 2006 12:59 PM

One thing already annoying: Eastlake is still just a "Key Corridor for Study"!

This is the primary route between the two in-city UW campuses (U-District and SLU).

Why the hell isn't it going to get a bicycle lane? There is room on the road, and it is the major N-S route for commuters from or to these parts of town...

Posted by golob | November 28, 2006 1:07 PM

Airport Way South (major link of South Seattle to Downtown) was always included, that is until now.

Someone had it pulled so that roadway could be used for viaduct and I-5 spillover. We'd love to see AWS back on the map with bike lanes.

Posted by Kenny | November 28, 2006 1:08 PM





what color means "bike lane with no fucking cars around?"

Posted by chris | November 28, 2006 1:11 PM

Amen to extending the streetcar up Eastlake. I see Westlake is another "key short term study corridor". Why not a bike lane and streetcar to Fremont and beyond? Building a long ($$$) bike only bridge next to the Ballard Bridge is never going to happen. 3rd Ave W would be a lot shorter and cheaper, and be useful as a streetcar/auto bridge too.

Streetcar via Eastlake and Westlake/Nickerson/Leary, with the triangle completed via Northlake/Pacific would be a major improvement in Seattle transport.

Posted by I'm Tom Peters, and I'm full of ideas | November 28, 2006 1:11 PM

What is the difference between a "road diet" and a "lane diet"?

Posted by cdster | November 28, 2006 1:32 PM

Eastlake, however major, is too narrow for a streetcar AND a full bike lane AND parked cars. Remove the parked cars and you create an expressway that will destroy the community. I don't really see how you're going to make that link work.

A lot of this is nothing; "shared roadway" is the biggest part, and that's what you've already got (which can work, if people obey the law). I don't know what a "sharrow" is; is it a lane shared by buses and bikes?

It only takes a few minutes' study of this map to see why this city is so impossible for transportation, whether car, bus, bike, pedestrian, or imaginary rail system. Even the straight lines on the map are ignoring tons of obstacles. Clearly what we need is at least a tri-corner bridge over Lake Union and another four-way over Green Lake.

Posted by Fnarf | November 28, 2006 1:50 PM

A lane diet is when you reduce the size of automotive lanes to make room for a bike lane. A road diet is when you remove a general purpose lane to add a center turn lane and usually bike lanes too. It's a misnomer because the typical road diet converts a 4-lane road to 5 lanes (2 bike, 2 general purpose, 1 center turn). To say it reduces the number of lanes indicates a bias ("only car lanes are real lanes!").

Any ideas on a better name for road diets?

Posted by green street | November 28, 2006 1:54 PM

Have to agree with all the comments about shared roadways - I know far too many people who've suffered major accidents getting wacked by a car door.

If we were serious about biking, we wouldn't have on-street parking in the bike lane side of a bike lane, other than bus and taxi and white stripe 3 minute pickup zones.

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 28, 2006 1:56 PM

OK, read the maps - two comments:

1. Wallingford Ave N route - um, steep hill there, with deadend, not bikeable.

2. Woodland Park Ave N route - at the Lake Union end - that intersection has a lot more traffic now, I've seen many bicyclists almost killed trying to cross there (no lights, no ped button to stop traffic).

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 28, 2006 2:01 PM

A FAQ on sharrows from SF:

Posted by green street | November 28, 2006 2:01 PM

Doug, streetcars are not only inefficient, but they block car traffic. You cannot expect an Eastlake streetcar to supplant the need for bus service.

Posted by Gomez | November 28, 2006 2:26 PM

So it's paint. The easiest kind of change to implement, and the second-least-effective (after signs saying "bike route"). I'm still not exactly clear what it really is, though; is it a marking in the shoulder? In the lane next to the shoulder? I could use a diagram. And does it matter what it is, if motorists and bicyclists are confused? I mean, I'm reasonably up on this sort of thing, more than some people, and I have no idea what they look like or what the heck I'm supposed to do when I see one.

The only thing that's really going to make a difference is a large increase, say 200% or so, in the number of cyclists. Who's got an idea how to do that?

Posted by Fnarf | November 28, 2006 2:29 PM

I've got another name for road diets - fucking idiotic (or my second choice - PC bullshit).

Choking off key arterials to benefit 2-5% of commuters is a perversion of what growth management was supposed to be about.

You'll see torches and pitchforks in West Seattle if they try that nonsense on 35th Ave SW...

Posted by Mr. X | November 28, 2006 2:29 PM


Westlake, Eastlake, and Airport Way were part of the plan originally but the motor freight community, whose representatives don't believe trucks can coexist with bikes, blocked their inclusion in this draft.

If you want those routes you're going to have to fight for them at the meetings.

Posted by green street | November 28, 2006 2:37 PM

Mr. X! Shame on you! I will stop put out your torches with logic and melt your pitchforks with reason.

35th AVE SW should have bike lanes. Furthermore, the number of cars parked on that street does not warrant parking on both sides! Car drive too fast as it is. A road diet actually makes cars drive faster. That is why traffic engineers like them. The get more cars past a given point in a given time. People in cars need to slow down to UNDER THE SPEED LIMIT. Stop for pedestrians trying to cross the road. Giving room to bicycles would encourage more to ride. And the number is of people that ride to get somewhere in Seattle is about 1% :-(

Posted by Aaron Goss | November 28, 2006 2:39 PM

Here's an idea for you.

Posted by green street | November 28, 2006 2:40 PM


Actually, the city streetcar plan does call for replacing bus service with an Eastlake streetcar. Specifically route 70. Once Link reaches 45th, the 66 & 71-73 will likely terminate there. Call me optimistic, but I'd expect that to improve car traffic.

Posted by I'm Tom Peters, and I'm full of ideas | November 28, 2006 2:43 PM

Mr X
Spare us your hyperbole. Many road diets have been executed in Seattle and the world did not end. Why? Because road diets dramatically increase roadway efficiency and safety (see pages 9 through 11.). Please explain how this represents a "choking".

Posted by green street | November 28, 2006 2:49 PM

Mr X. has a typical attitude about road diets that is not based in reality. Google road diets and you will find a multitude of studies pro and con. Here is one link:

The reality is that for certain roads under 25,000 cars a day they can be better for bikes, better for neighborhoods, and even better for CARS!

The 1950's design of two lanes each direction with no center turn lane causes some cars to speed because they perceive they have more room. At the same time, folks taking a left are risking their lives by being stopped in rapid traffic. Real world experience has found that average speeds stay around the speed limit and accidents go way down. The road diet is only a problem if you want to drive 45-50 down an arterial like Mr X and I do sometimes on 35th SW. BTW--35th is an unlikely candidate because its traffic volumes are at the upper end of the effectiveness level.

There are plenty of success stories locally including 45th in Wallingford, 8th NW in Ballard, Delridge in West Seattle, Lk Wash Blvd in Kirkland, Rainier and Renton Aves in Skyway.

Road diets are great for bikes, neighborhoods, cars and the businesses along roads. Whenever possible we should implement them. They carry as many cars at almost the same speed without the herky-jerky stop and go dangerous traffic flow.

Posted by i prefer a reality based commute | November 28, 2006 2:50 PM

Right, fellas. Tell that to everyone who now waits in traffic on NE 50th eastbound since the city removed a lane of traffic.

I wouldn't point at 8th Ave NW as a success in anything except showing how City traffic planners piss away money in the name of being "green" (btw - did you know that using that median to walk across a street is considered to be jaywalking?)

Bicyclists would be better served by repaving existing streets than narrowing them, as would the 60%+ of Seattle residents who still commute by car (oh yeah, light rail to the U will open in 2016, so relief is just around the corner. Not).

Posted by Mr. X | November 28, 2006 2:56 PM

The Eastlake street car extension to UW is already on the table. It'll hook up with the light rail station that just received the federal funding green light.

It's total bullshit to say that the removal of parked cars destroys a community. What a pathetic lack of imagination.

Posted by DOUG. | November 28, 2006 2:59 PM

Oh, and a quick glance at the study you cite doesn't illustrate how

1) bike usage actually increased as a result of these changes (which I suspect they would if they could demonstrate that it had)

2) citing increases in auto volume doesn't say whether the road is more efficient or not - it just says that background traffic increased (ie - had the "diet" not been done, the street may well have been able to move more vehicles than it did subsequently).

In short, I don't buy it. I can believe City planners and their agenda, or my own two eyes. I choose the latter.

Posted by Mr. X | November 28, 2006 3:11 PM

You're still wrong on the facts, Mr X. No one is talking about narrowing streets. And two anecdotes do not equal actionable data.

Posted by green street | November 28, 2006 3:12 PM

Mr X:
1. Here's your evidence of increased bike usage (assuming the road diet includes bike lanes):

2. What do you call moving more people with the same road width over a fixed period of time?

Posted by Mr X | November 28, 2006 3:21 PM

Sorry, that was me who made the last post.

Posted by green street | November 28, 2006 3:23 PM

No, but two specific intersections that have become more snarled as a result of the turn lane -- 50th and Stone Way, and Greenwood and 85th -- DO indicate that there's at least the possibility that it's not a panacea.

On Greenwood, you have two lanes narrowing to one, which always is going to cause problems. And if the turn lane backs up into the thru lane, as happens frequently, you have the possibility of major, major tieups lasting for hours caused by just a couple of vehicles. Same for Stone Way: a backup in the turn lane, at a turn which allows only a couple of cars per cycle (assuming typical inert brain-dead Seattle drivers), backs up into the thru lane next to it ALL THE TIME. So the thru lanes go green, but nobody goes, because the lanes are blocked. Like sideways gridlock. Happens several times a day there.

So this great solution isn't perfect. Maybe it's best in some situations, but clearly not in all, and clearly not without some costs.

Getting back to bicycles, I think we've proven in this city that increasing facilities for bikes DOESN'T increase ridership, because we've provided some, and ridership hasn't significantly increased. It's possible that there are other facilities we haven't provided yet that would break that open, or even that there's a critical mass of improvements you have to reach before the effect kicks in, but it seems very unrealistic to expect a HUGE increase in bikes with any realistic plan.

And plans that involve reducing car capacity of existing roads, when people are screaming at the lack of capacity they have NOW, is going to be politically very, very unpopular. Face it: if you're in the 3%, you're going to lose. It's quite impressive that you've gotten as much as you have as it is.

Posted by Fnarf | November 28, 2006 3:25 PM

Mr. X, there will be deadbodies along 35th Ave SW as well as pitchforks if bike lanes are placed on that main drag: Too many cars and buses like to drive like nascar on that street which will make for a lot of biker roadkill and since you've got like one car for each resident in a house in west seattle, there won't be enough room on the sidestreets to accomodate those cars if they're banned from that street.

Posted by neo-realist | November 28, 2006 3:30 PM

Mr X is probably the guy who almost runs me over as I cross the crosswalk with the light at Thistle and 35th because he wants to take his free right. I walk, bus, bike and drive to commute. Can't we all just get along?

Posted by i prefer a reality based commute | November 28, 2006 3:34 PM

Take the current bicycle map the city is distributing, subtract the blue lines (arterial routes commonly used by cyclists -- read: no facility) and tell me we have a network of bike facilities in this city. Just like cars, cyclists need to get from their origin to their destination. If there is an impenetrable barrier or perceived safety problem between those two points, the trip will shift to a different mode.

Look what happened in Portland as they added bike facilities over the last 20 years:

Posted by green street | November 28, 2006 3:40 PM

I'll venture this as a long time commuter and messenger in the city of Seattle.

Adding lanes and making cycling safer in general will encourage more people to ride. How much? That depends.

What really keeps people from picking up their bikes are the hills. If you come to love them, then it's no big deal. But many people lack the will to deal with the hills on a daily basis. Regardless of where you want to go in Seattle, chances are there's a hill in your way.

That is the number one complaint I hear from people who think cycling in Seattle is crazy. Number two is the rain. I can't tell you how many times I get that in the elevators on a typical wet day.

But for the life of me I wouldn't give it up. It makes me stronger, healthier, and greatly increases my love for life.

Posted by move_it_by_bike | November 28, 2006 3:56 PM

Green Street,

Well, in the overall scheme of things, Portland's facilities have increased bike usage from nearly zero to somewhat more than zero. Their mode split is still similar to Seattle's - which is to say, infinitesimal.

In most people's eyes, removing lanes of traffic has the same effect as narrowing the street if doing so makes traffic visibly worse. In other cities they use left turn arrows at intersections rather than removing a lane of traffic for a period of blocks to create a left turn pocket at intersections, but SDOT has been unwilling to do so.

Also - your statement regarding "moving more people" doesn't get at the fact that the underlying volumes of people and traffic are growing. To say it another way - how many more people in a growing city with decreasing household sizes (which makes for more work and other trips) could have been moved down those roads if they hadn't had lanes of travel removed?

I'm for adding bicycle facilities - to a point. For me, that point has to involve a cost-benefit analysis regarding other road users (in most cases in Seattle, those happen to be people in cars, and will continue to be for some time), and ought to be based on what actually works (for example - grade separated facilities and using secondary streets) rather than making ideological points (cars are evil, so bikes should have priority on arterials/be able to ride anywhere in traffic/take precedence over trucks on freight routes/whatever).

BTW - I rode a bike for years (along with the bus), and still own two of them. If I worked a mile from my house, and didn't live at the top of one of the highest hills in the City, I would probably commute by bike in good weather (though not in the rain - which is probably the case for all but the most hardy and/or fanatical of bike users).

Posted by Mr. X | November 28, 2006 3:59 PM

Not to nit-pick but Eastlake does not have a street car, nor are there any serious plans to extend the line northwards on it.

I still think Fairview by the Hutch (where there will be a streetcar) should also have marked bike lanes.

Who are these mysterious "freight interests"? Which meetings do I need to be loud at to get Eastlake added back? ;p

Posted by golob | November 28, 2006 4:00 PM

BTW - I wrote those comments about hills and rain before I saw Move_It_By_Bike's post....

Posted by Mr. X | November 28, 2006 4:01 PM

Face it: traffic sucks. It always will suck. It sucks for cars, it sucks for trucks, it sucks for bikes, and it always will. The only plan that has a prayer of making traffic easy around here involves shutting down Microsoft, shutting down Boeing, shutting down the UW, shutting down the Port, shutting down the three or four largest banks downtown. Sort of the Detroit plan, if you will. Destroy the economy. Then traffic will be a breeze, and you'll be able to bike everywhere. If you can afford a bike. Otherwise, screw it. Get used to the way a city is supposed to be.

Posted by Fnarf | November 28, 2006 4:47 PM

FYI The maps weren’t leaked; they've been public for about two weeks. You can access PDFs of maps at the city website:

Also come comment on the plan at the 2 public meetings next week where we'll post updated drafts maps and explain all the terminology:

Bicycle Master Plan Meetings

December 5th
Odd Fellow Temple in downtown Ballard
1706 NW Market St.

December 7th
Rainier Community Center
4600 38th Ave. S

Posted by Virginia | November 28, 2006 5:03 PM

That's cute, that you think public opinion significantly influences City decisions.

Posted by Gomez | November 29, 2006 8:42 AM

Fnarf: traffic dosent suck for bikes. it just sucks for you! and thank you for your permission, i will bike everywhere.

the more people who do bike, make more room for you on the road so i'd think you'd be happy about it. its better for the environment (you are welcome) and there's more parking spots for YOU! (im not taking up any space) so, why the 'tude? seriously i dont get it. this is about money allocated to non-car traffic right? like peds, bikes, runners. surely you can see the benefit on our city over all. or, maybe this is just a fun pissing contest for people who have no lives. sorry i interrupted.

Posted by jenny at her desk. | December 1, 2006 4:44 PM

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