Sunday, October 19, 2014

Seattle BMP Implementation plan!

So, now, a clearer look at what the Bike Master Plan's lines on a map will actually mean for the next five years. Here are the big takeaways for me:
  • It's weak in West Seattle. This isn't all that surprising, as the BMP has always been weak in West Seattle, but this plan throws it in relief. The two greenway routes in the eastern residential neighborhoods are great, but there's little help in here for access to businesses in Alaska and Admiral Junctions, and little help for getting between the junctions (and adjacent hilltop neighborhoods) and low-lying destinations (primarily the bridge and Alki). These connections are menaced by a junction without a name, the junction of Fauntleroy, Admiral, and the high bridge, and that doesn't look to change.
  • It's not totally clear that a plan has cured SDOT of opportunistic bike planning. Opportunism is a problem when it becomes a game of, "We'll build bike access where there's room," rather than, "We'll build bike access where we need it." Nothing in this implementation plan looks like the great routes needed between the U District and three key destinations to the south: downtown, Capitol Hill, and the Central District. There's growth coming to Northgate and Alaska Junction and still these are places the bike network goes to die. And we've continued to allow retail, entertainment, and even residential incursion into industrial areas like SODO and Interbay while transportation planning remains exclusively freight-oriented.
  • Paging Mr. Newmark, we'll have some missed connections. Northeast Seattle is probably the worst. The recent NE 75th St bike lanes stopped just short of Roosevelt to the west and 39th to the east, and will stay that way. New lanes on 130th make it to the Interurban but stop at I-5, a few blocks short of both Roosevelt and lanes on 125th. The 68th St greenway will end into nothing at both ends, even though it's just a few blocks from other routes. Elsewhere, the plan for existing ROW on 6th and Airport to extend a good bike route south from the end of the SODO trail is fine, but what happens in the east-west jogs? In particular, the jog on Spokane from 6th to Airport? There isn't a lot of room among the highway ramps... and this is a route filling one of the biggest gaps in our cycling network, so it's one we really should get right.

    EDIT: There are a few things to be happy about regarding connections. The plan includes work on N 34th and Fremont Ave in Fremont, an opportunity to fix some of the awkward turning situations at 34th/Fremont and 34th/Stone, to patch a short gap in the Interurban Route, and to improve wayfinding between the Interurban Route and the Burke (or even to suggest alternate Interurban Route connections for people that find Fremont Ave too steep).

  • Neighborhood greenways will prove their worth in SE and Central Seattle. What's awesome about the plans to blanket these parts of town with greenways is how easily they connect together, at simple side-street intersections, while separated arterial routes require more complex connections.
  • Don't sleep on the suburbs. During BMP discussions some people expressed concerns about planned routes near the edges of the city, especially the southern edge near Boeing Field -- "Will these routes be useful if they drop off at the city limits?" Yesterday I saw some new bike lanes out the window of the train on the way home from mountain biking and went down to check 'em out this morning. Tukwila has recently built a half-decent bike route using East Marginal Way, parts of Boeing Access Road and its ramps, and Airport Way, and they're waiting for that connection from Seattle that, by this plan, won't be complete until after 2019. It turns out Tukwila's lanes really lose a lot of their usefulness because the connection north into Seattle is so bad. The ball is really in Seattle's court when it comes to connecting to several neighboring cities, especially to the south, where routes are affected by the SODO gap as well as gaps closer to the borders.

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