Ridership Jumped 400% When Seattle Protected a Bike Lane

Photo:  Dongho Chang
Photo: Dongho Chang

Bike ridership jumped more than 413 percent after Seattle upgraded a key corridor from a mere painted bike lane into a beefier protected version, a city official revealed on Thursday.

Department of Transportation lead engineer Dongho Chang tweeted about the surge along Second Avenue as a way to highlight the game-changing power of a protected lane versus a painted lane.

“Downtown has always been a challenging area for people to ride, especially with our hilly terrain,” Chang posted on social media. “The numbers show that people will use bicycle facilities when it is more comfortable and thoughtfully connected.

The project began with a pilot in 2014 to convert a regular painted bike lane on Second Avenue into a curb-and-landscape-protected bike lane. An extension through downtown Seattle was completed last year, lengthening it to about one mile.

Watch what happened to daily ridership as the bike infrastructure upgrades progressed.

Graph: Dongho Chang/Seattle DOT
Graph: Dongho Chang/Seattle DOT

The protected bike lane project was costly by bike lane standards. At $12 million, it was the most expensive bike lane Seattle ever built (the cost was partially offset by $5 million in federal money). Rebuilding part of the street to make a very well protected lane required some utility relocation.

When it opened, Seattle Bike Blog said it “revolutionized biking” in downtown Seattle. The city of Seattle keeps an automatic bike counter on the street. It reports about 83,000 trips since December.

Seattle was at one time a leader on sustainable transportation, but new Mayor Jenny Durkan has killed plans for a bike lane on 35th Avenue NE, a dangerous thoroughfare which has been proposed for bike lanes for a decade. And she has infuriated safe streets advocates in the city by revising the city’s Bike Plan, and cutting a dozen projects.

The moves represent a real turnaround, as Seattle’s earlier efforts had been seen as among the country’s most successful.

Seattle is obviously not the first city to experience massive increases in cycling after a protected lane is installed. Toronto claimed a 300-percent hike on Sherborne Street. And, more generally, New York says cycling is up 70 percent since 2011, when the city truly began expanding its vast protected bike lane network.

“Miles of protected on-street bike lanes are emboldening the more cautious and risk-averse New Yorkers to take to the streets on a bike,” the city’s DOT said in its semi-annual “Cycling in the City” report.

10 thoughts on Ridership Jumped 400% When Seattle Protected a Bike Lane

  1. Seattle’s DOT is a hot mess. After spending all that money on 2nd ave, little was left. They originally assumed Big manna from Federal heaven because, well, why not? Can’t spend money you ain’t got. Not sure your links provided the real reasons scoop: TL:DR.

  2. “all that money” was spent completely repaving the street and moving utilities largely unrelated to the bike lane. SDOT bundled the project which gave us the nasty $12M per mile headline.

  3. And that’s how these projects should be handled in many scenarios. Denver is taking a similar strategy as well.

  4. That’s not why SDOT is a hot mess, though. SDOT’s a hot mess because they were left without a director for a year (two interim directors in the meantime, including one who was a highway engineer with the state DOT), and now have a permanent director who is getting engineering instructions from the pro-car Mayor. Angie mentioned 35th, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg; 35th and 40th are on the order of $70k-$150k protected bike lanes that were canceled, SDOT’s at least a year behind in delivering basic maintenance projects (and often 2-3 years), the Mayor’s underfunded, watered-down, & delayed numerous transit projects, and lots of people are leaving SDOT because the work environment and lack of leadership is so toxic.

  5. Bundling not a problem and at least they did get a 40% federal grant. But the rest (mostly) came out of the so-called $930 million ‘Move Seattle’ approved by voters. That $930 million relied on lots of federal grant money which is not there. Simply, they promised way more than they could deliver and ofc everybody wants what they want yesterday from money that doesn’t exist.

  6. Do you need real online income opportunity to receive atleast $7400 each and every month? Then you are at the right place simply because I am obtaining that much since six months now. There is no one saying to you what to do,use your laptop computer with internet connection, carry it to seaside beach or even a park or mountain, and complete your work peacefully with nature. In Online earning, simply take your laptop along with you on your family tour. Here’s the best way to start >>> http://serverless-url-shortener.s3-website-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/3a6Hhjg

  7. A woman was killed while biking on the street just 2 weeks before it opened in 2014. It was tragic and shows that we need to move quickly for safe streets, but her death didn’t “make it happen”, the PBL was already in the works.

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