Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« Reading Tonight | Blah Blah Fucking Blah »

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

25 Road Diets? Yes and No

posted by on September 10 at 10:15 AM

Last week, when I heard city of Seattle bike planner Peter Lagerwey tell a crowd at the Pro Walk/Pro Bike conference that the city had “started on 25 road diets, and we’re working on the 26th now,” it sounded too good to be true. As the city employee who headed up the development of 2007’s Bike Master Plan, Lagerwey was tapped to head up a panel called “How to Develop and Implement A Successful Bicycle Master Plan”; the particular aspect of Seattle’s plan he was referring to wasnarrowing roads by removing lanes of traffic and converting them to bike lanes or other bike facilities, such as sharrows. (Sharrows are road markings in traffic lanes that let drivers know to look for bikes.) Such “diets” tend to be controversial, because they reprioritize streets for bikes and pedestrians instead of cars. So it struck me as odd that there could’ve been so much progress in so little time.

Turns out, there hasn’t been. A list of “road diets” provided by the city’s Department of Transportation (SDOT) shows that of the 25 Lagerwey was referring to, only four—or, really, two, given that three of the diets listed are actually contiguous sections of Stone Way—have occurred since 2007. The rest are older—in some cases, much older: The first road diet on the list, the narrowing of N. 45th Street between Latona Ave. NE and Stone Way from four lanes to two, dates back to 1972. Only nine of the road diets on the list took place this decade. And the three most recent ones were controversial—so controversial, in fact, that SDOT attempted to eliminate them at the instigation of area business owners. Only massive pushback from cycling advocates, who organized a protest and commissioned an independent traffic study to prove narrowing Stone Way wouldn’t harm nearby businesses, convinced the department to narrow the road as planned.

That’s certainly not to say that Seattle’s bike master plan is a failure—just that, like every political process in Seattle, it remains open to discussion and outside influence. According to Cascade Bicycle Club’s David Hiller, who also spoke on the Pro Walk/Pro Bike panel, SDOT’s progress is “tracking really well” with the adopted bike-plan schedule. In the weeks leading up to the conference, the largest such event in the nation, spray-painted temporary markings for bike lanes and sharrows appeared on streets all over the city. Hopefully, cyclists won’t have to wait until next spring—the next time the city will be able to paint once the winter rain sets in—to see those promised bike facilities made permanent.

RSS icon Comments


I took a bike ride from atop Kent East Hill to Palmer-Kanaskat State Park on Sunday.

Passing through Black Diamond I noticed that in the new intersection at the cross of Kent-Kangley and 169, they have posted WA State official signs reading "Right Turn Yield to [Bike Symbol]".

Sign on, you crazy Black Diamond!

Posted by John Bailo | September 10, 2008 10:28 AM

Fucking Sharrows! They have recently painted them on the AVE. WTF? It's a no passing street- hence the solid double yellow line. When I drive a university express up the AVE I have to wait- more then patiently - behind an old lady that can afford 200$ panniers but not a helmet a 5mph. I hit 42nd and 8th on time. I am ten minutes late only 4 stops later! My passengers miss their transfers, ect. JFC, people aren't going to depend on mass transit if it takes two hours to get home!!! The AVE is a perfect place for a bike lane- eliminate the parking. There are countless side streets to park on if necessary, plus ample bus service. It is the cities cop-out to businesses. They will survive.

Posted by Kat | September 10, 2008 10:33 AM

After failing to win the hearts and minds with his pathetic trolling attempts, is John Bailo now attempting to fit in by "relating" to the cool kids up in Seattle?

Posted by w7ngman | September 10, 2008 10:34 AM

@2: yes, I'm not sold on the coexistence of bikes and cars. I prefer that we develop something I call a Bicycle Topology:

Posted by John Bailo | September 10, 2008 10:45 AM

So what was the purpose of road diets back in 1972? Because that stretch of 45th isn't exactly the best place to bike, and it bottlenecks like crazy.

Posted by Curious | September 10, 2008 10:48 AM

Brooklyn, or 11th, or 12th, seems like a much more sensible location for a bike lane.

Posted by keshmeshi | September 10, 2008 10:52 AM

I'm beginning to take a shine to John "Don't Call Me Sir" Bailo. God knows why.

Posted by Hooty Sapperticker | September 10, 2008 11:18 AM

Sharrows make sense when there is actually room for cars to pass. Otherwise the sharrow doesn't really offer the "share" it intends, such as the preposterous situation that Kat points out above.

In West Seattle they have them on Admiral and California (both roads with two lanes in each direction). They're also down on Beach Drive, which is just one lane in each direction, but it's easy (and legal) for cars to pass bikes, as it's just a white dashed line and the road isn't busy.

Posted by Free Lunch | September 10, 2008 11:25 AM

3 ft is always good. Period. I don't ever want a cyclist under my back duals(tires).

Regardless, sharrows are a cop-out by the city. They want bike friendly lanes" without lawsuit. When they show elimination of parking- on the ave ect. I will be convinced.

FYI, lawsuit implications. Why has Seattle chose to use sharrows? There are many lanes where parking is irrelevent. Take the bus, bike or walk.
Try driving the bus through the height of the farmers market. Most of the people that bus it, live there. The rest out of towners. Make them pay.g
That farmers market is great, but i thought it was supossed to be local. So why do I
see Nevada plates parked in my bus zone??

Posted by kat | September 10, 2008 12:00 PM

Sharrows are ridiculous, but removing street parking is EXACTLY the wrong idea. It's counterproductive. It converts city streets into highways, focused on the fastest possible through movement of motor vehicles at the expense of all other considerations -- including bicycles, pedestrians, and businesses. Street parking is an essential buffer zone between speeding traffic and curbside stores. Remove Ave parking and that street will resemble the deadest stretches of Aurora in no time.

Posted by Fnarf | September 10, 2008 12:11 PM

I actually like the sharrows. They're not perfect, and as an every day bike commuter I'd prefer separate lanes, but they at least act as a constant reminder drivers that bikes will be there. I feel like i get a lot less of the angry "follow close then speed by" on roads with sharrows.

Posted by c | September 10, 2008 12:45 PM


The U-District neighborhood plan chose Brooklyn as the primary north/south bicycle route. It's a nice wide street and less heavily utilized than the Ave, so clearly it made too much sense for SDOT.


And if you think Ave businesses have problems staying afloat now, try removing parking for their customers.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Posted by Mr. X | September 10, 2008 1:37 PM

Repeat: sharrows are horrible. In spirit, and in practice. They suck.


Posted by alex | September 11, 2008 12:10 PM

Comments Closed

Comments are closed on this post.