True Story: The City of Seattle has taken space away from cars and given it to cyclists. And not just any space, but the most sacred kind of space there is in car culture: parking. A new bike lane will soon open on the west side of 4th Ave between Yesler and Spring, as part of Seattle’s new bike master plan. And 38 parallel parking spaces will be sacrificed. This is a minor miracle.

As for whether or not the majority of Seattlites share my view of progress, this King5 news story is highly revealing. It begins with a set up, describing this dreadful thing that has happened: downtown parking is becoming more scarce, and when you’re late for an appointment you’re going to have to drive around and around the block looking for a space and you may not even find one! Then comes the punchline: “The culprit – a new bicycle lane on 4th Avenue.”

23 Responses to “Progress”

  1. The Overhead Wire

    That’s the car lovin media for you.

  2. bl@ster

    Yes, yes, I’m all for reducing our dependence on cars. However, I find it highly dangerous for bikes and cars to be sharing the roads. It either has to be designed for one or the other.

  3. Sabina Pade

    Am not in town presently to witness the work in progress, but I do hope it will amount to more than simply a painted stripe in the roadway.

    I recall the municipality’s official delegate bicyclist of the Swiss city I last lived in. It was his task to explore the city’s road network, as a cyclist, and propose ways to improve its cyclability.

    The municipality estimated at the time that paint-stripe-separated bicycle lanes within the roadways, if sufficiently widespread, would find considerable usership.

    Several weeks into his duty, while trying to negotiate an intersection using a bike lane recently painted onto the roadway, the municipal cyclist was struck by a car and killed.

    I hope Seattle is opting for separated-right-of-way bicycle lanes, as implemented systematically throughout much of northern Europe. They’re wonderful.

  4. Tony

    The news clip indirectly refers to another ridiculous aspect of our downtown parking situation: price. The market rate for downtown parking is $12 per hour, yet for the most prime location: on street parting, we are charging only $3 per hour. The report said just as much: this causes drivers to circle the block, creating more traffic in the already heavily congested downtown looking for a cheap on-street space. We should be charging MORE for the on street spaces, not less. Doing so would actually benefit drivers, because you could actually find an on street space when you truly did desperately need one and it would raise a ton of revenue for the city that could be spent on any one of the eight million good ideas that we “just don’t have money for”.

    On the bike lane itself: thank god. It’s about time, though it would have been nicer if they had taken out a lane of DRIVING (they have 4 of them) rather than a lane of parking. The parking really does help downtown retail. The driving lanes just help commuters get to their employer provided free parking spaces faster. Oh well.

  5. JesseJB

    I laughed all the way through that King5 article. Ohh nooo im so scared of the big bad bike lane!!!!

  6. dorian gray

    I sit atop one of the high rises and from my office I can see the top floors of all the parking garages in the CBD. THEY’RE ALL EMPTY! There is no shortage of parking. There is a shortage of people who are willing to accept the true cost of driving downtown. My favorite example is the tearing down of the viaduct may lead to 200 lost parking spots. Those parking lots are about 25% filled at peak business hours.

  7. Caffeinated

    Sorry, but I don’t think taking away parking spaces makes any sense at all… those that suffer are the retail businesses. I like the idea of separated lanes for bicycles though

  8. Steve

    Out of curiosity, can anyone name a retail businesses on 4th between Yesler and Spring that caters to anyone driving into downtown? Everything I can think of are walk-up businesses (coffee shops, noodle shops, a newsstand)…

  9. Oran

    I’m proud. I was one of guys doing the layout for the paint crew. It was a Sunday morning a few weeks ago, we closed half of the street to spray paint where the new lane markings would go. I asked my supervisor, “so this means the parking’s gone?” Yes, he said. Finally, a bike lane on Fourth. The buses also get some more space.

    After Spring St all the way past Virginia St, we have sharrows. The 2nd Ave bike lanes were repainted, too.

    I work downtown and I really don’t get why would anyone drive anywhere downtown to grab a lunch. It’s not worth the hassle. Most people take public transit in anyway. The 38 gone spaces will not be missed.

  10. justin

    this is pretty suprising, in the last show down in Ballard didn’t they opt for sharrows?

  11. Josh Mahar

    Tony, That’s so right! Streetfilms made a nice little video illustrating that point:

    @4 and 7: While seperated bike lanes might be good for some busy sections downtown I think we should take a(nother) cue from Europe and start experimenting with some Shared Space concepts. Not only is it generally cheaper to implement but it is arguably safer and states loud and clear the priority of the pedestrian.

    There is a particular section of 4th between Wall and Cedar that is so relaxing to ride down. Perhaps we could limit traffic at Battery and try it from there to Denny. (Any city planners reading this, eh?)

    Seperation is planning of the past, the future is in cohesion!

  12. Orion

    If 38 new cyclists use the new bike lane and ride to work the parking will not be missed at all.

  13. Matt the Engineer

    Tony’s comment is dead-on. Whenever I drive downtown to run an errand I circle for parking a good 5 times before giving up and paying extra for a lot. With higher street rates I’d go straight to the lots unless I was in a hurry.

  14. wes

    Were all the lanes on the street adjusted? If not, how did the buses get more space? Isn’t the bus lane on the opposite side of the street from the bike lane?

  15. NBeacon Jon

    This is good news. I currently use 3rd Ave. on my bike to get from south of downtown to the financial district. The lights on 3rd are infuriating, and leads a man to commit misdemeanor traffic offenses. But now maybe 4th will be safer.

  16. Dan Staley

    Whenever I drive downtown to run an errand I circle for parking a good 5 times before giving up and paying extra for a lot. With higher street rates I’d go straight to the lots unless I was in a hurry.

    Thus is named a big reason for congestion in CBDs, à la Shoup.

  17. Bryan McLellan

    I also agree with Tony. Driving downtown should mean that you plan on bearing the cost of the private parking lots.

    I love that the news caster starts of by saying that parking lots are being lost to _bikes_ like we’re losing parking spaces to roving bands of kitten murders or something.

    Having grown up in the country I appreciate all the options outside of driving and only wish there were more. Nobody says “This is so inconvenient I could be taking the bus, or killing kittens whilst riding my bicycle!”

  18. Oran

    Yes, all the lanes on the street were adjusted.

    Since the 7′ parking lane was eliminated for the 5′ bike lane, the remaining lanes were shifted over to the left, leaving a wider bus lane on the opposite side. At the intersection of 4th and Spring by the library, notice the markings made to guide 4th Avenue traffic back to the original alignment. If you look hard enough you can still see the remains of the old channelization.

  19. Shane

    A note from the field: Just rode down fourth after reading this post earlier today. While the theory and the post made me happy, the reality of a sharrow is that its a politician’s way to say they are giving to the bikes, but without really giving anything but some toxic paint.

    At most, I made it the length of three parked cars in that “bike lane” before encountering another parked car, a loading truck, a dumpster!, more construction stuff, more cars, and more cars. I also saw a parking officer and inquired.

    She said to contact Sdot. I asked about if she could start dolling out some tickets. She shrugged.

    The true bike lane on 2nd was much more pleasant, and a physically separated bike lane would be all the better. I’ll keep dreaming.

  20. derrickito

    i just ate a giant breakfast burrito, several nacho chips, a bagel, and had about a half gallon of orange juice.

    im off for some pizza next.

  21. Rightchus Dude

    Bikes DO take parking spaces away from us. Bikes take all kinds of things away from us. They took my grandma when she had the cancer. They took my hampster when I was 12. Do to this, I always try to take their wheels when I see them. I’ve only broken a few fingers as they ride by and I’m getting better at running alongside them.

  22. kar

    I watched the clip and it mentions that according to SDOT the bike lane is needed to allow car traffic to move smoothly past slow moving uphill bicyclists. So why not ask drivers what they think of that tradeoff, cheap parking vs. less congestion?

  23. Josh Mahar

    I was thinking about arrows vs. lanes while riding home today and I have come to the opinion that arrows have more potential than bike lanes. Here’s my theory:

    With the bike lane on 2nd you have a very narrow section of road dedicated to bikes. With double parked cars, people parking and getting in/out, and speedy drivers flying past real close, it just doesn’t feel very comfortable.

    With the arrows on 4th you really have an entire lane to ride in. At present it can be uncomfortable with people getting pissed behind you, but eventually, when more people start riding bikes, then drivers will just acknowledge that this lane is the dedicated bike lane. With it being so wide its much more relaxing and speedier bikers also have room to pass slower bikers.

    Now that the arrows are on the ground, it is our job to make that lane the dedicated bike lane by simply making it local knowledge and etiquette. This is shared space at its finest.

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