Seattle DOT Hits the Street to Tell People About a New Bike Lane Proposal

Much nicer than the church basement, at least during a Seattle summer – and better attended, too. Photos courtesy SDOT.

pfb-logo-100x22Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

One part public outreach and one part PARK(ing) Day, Seattle DOT held a three-hour open house last Wednesday for a half-mile protected bike lane on Dexter Avenue. The outreach session took place on green plastic mats spread out to cover an empty parking space.

Project manager Kyle Rowe explained that a different, state-led project on Dexter had him on a tight deadline. What’s more, because Dexter is a necessary link between downtown and the heart of Seattle’s bike culture in Fremont and Ballard, the number of affected households was huge.

“That is kind of like a funnel for roughly two-thirds of north Seattle,” Rowe said. “To capture all the people that use Dexter in a traditional open-house style, which would be 7 to 8 or 9 p.m., would mean flyering or sending a mailer out to most of North Seattle, and that didn’t make sense. I also wanted to accelerate this to meet the deadline of the state’s restoration work.”

So Rowe used a trick he said he’d seen on “Streetblog or CityLab” and held his public meeting on the side of the street from 7 to 10 a.m. on a weekday. He brought eight easels, two tables, a few temporary bike racks, a comment box, sticky notes, a sign-in sheet and a bunch of hot coffee.

That last item was important.

The project is a standard 4-3 road diet, plus switching auto parking and bike lanes to create narrower street crossings and a much more comfortable bike ride.

“I think the coffee was the big sell, but it definitely allowed us to get five minutes with them,” he said.

The open house drew 40 to 60 people, Rowe estimated: people passing by, working or just walking in the area. It cost exactly as much in staff time as a traditional evening open house. And unlike an indoor meeting space, the street use permit was free.

Rowe said almost all the responses were positive, though some people had requests for changes to crosswalks.

New Seattle Transportation Director Scott Kubly stopped by, arriving on his own bike. So did more than one local TV station, but Rowe said he doesn’t think the TV stations ever broadcast anything.

“Maybe there wasn’t enough controversy,” he said.

Seattle Transportation Director Scott Kubly talks with residents about the plan.

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  • Justin

    Seriously, this is what SFMTA and the city and county of San Francisco should do when it comes to building new cycling infrastructure or hosting public meetings. If the Seattle DOT can think outside of the box and host meetings right on the proposal sites why can’t SFMTA?????? Instead of doing the traditional wasteful methods of regular public meetings where people have only an uninformed or misinformed myopic, obtuse or even a narrow minded sense of the proposals, why not do them at the site where people will have a better understanding as one can visualize more easily of the vision thus building a positive consensus and support. Now I understand that the tight schedule and the need to meet deadlines as well as the will to accelerate this project because it’s a high priority are the reasons why it came to be, but this should be standard and the norm, for DOTs when it comes to visualizing transportation improvements especially building better biking infrastructure, more planners should do this and host meetings at the site. This should be common practice

  • Awareness is the issue here. Additionally, getting involved in the area transportation infrastructure advisory group are good ways to start.

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