Seattle Mayor’s Bike Lane Retreat Enrages Activists

After five years of plans for bike lanes, Seattle DOT yesterday unveiled this disappointing design for 35th Avenue NW. Photo: Seattle Department of Transportation
After five years of plans for bike lanes, Seattle DOT yesterday unveiled this disappointing design for 35th Avenue NW. Photo: Seattle Department of Transportation

Environmentalists and bicyclists in Seattle are furious at Mayor Jenny Durkan after she capitulated to opponents of safe streets on an important corridor.

On Tuesday, the city unveiled new plans for 35th Avenue NW, featuring highway-width lanes and no bike infrastructure. The city’s Bike Master Plan has called for protected bike lanes on this important corridor since 2014. Data show that 198 people have been injured on the roadway since 2004, according to Seattle Bike Blog.

Durkan appears to have caved to a small group of residents who opposed the bike lane. This group, called Save 35th Avenue NE, was intense in its opposition, sometimes almost comically so. Last year, members attacked the project, claiming the “single mothers don’t commute to work on bikes,” only delete their account under fire from a bunch of bike-riding moms.

That group was concerned about the loss of 40 parking spaces, according to local reporter Erica C. Barnett. But the plan rolled out by Seattle DOT on Tuesday — confusingly — still eliminates parking. Rather than a bike lane it adds a turn lane.

Seattle DOT’s Twitter announcement of the design was subject to the worst “ratio” possibly in the history of Twitter.

The replies were scathing:

The incident is a troubling sign that Seattle’s new mayor isn’t committed to the ideas that have made the city a star in the sustainable transportation world, both on transit and reducing car use.

The head of the Washington Sierra Club, which had advocated for the bike lane, was merciless in his appraisal of Durkan Administration priorities.

The city’s decision apparently followed a meeting with both bike and opponents and proponents.

“We have decided not to install bike lanes,” Samuel Zimbabwe, Durkan’s interim transportation adviser told residents, as reported by the Urbanist. “This is a decision we’re happy to stand on.”

Later, in response to the drubbing it received on Twitter, the Seattle DOT did indicate some openness to revising the design.

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This is What a Bike-Friendly City Looks Like

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Montreal: Youth, extraordinary bravery and helmets are unnecessary. Montreal: A two-way, buffered bike lane on a residential street. Montreal: A two-way, physically-separated bike lane on a busy avenue. Berlin: Bike lanes along this busy avenue are clearly differentiated from the street and sidewalk using color and physical separation. Berlin: Bike lanes often share sidewalk space […]