The Uncertain Future of Seattle's Bicycle Master Plan

By prioritizing a multi-modal approach and preserving existing vehicle space, the Seattle Department of Transportation risks abandoning the goals of its bicycle master plan.

2 minute read

January 4, 2021, 9:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Broadway Bike Lane

nickfalbo / Flickr

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is defending the decision to eliminate planned bike lanes on 35th Ave NE, arguing that removing the dedicated bicycle space will allow for more efficient transit movement through the area. SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe blamed "outdated" modal plans that don't "play nice" with each other. The agency is developing a new framework for resolving conflicts between modes, but it's unclear where and how bike infrastructure will be prioritized.

So far, the proposed policy prioritizes pedestrians in "urban centers and villages," transit between neighborhoods, and goods movement in industrial centers. The bicycle network will receive priority "at critical connections" where it will "share priority with pedestrians," signaling support for multi-use paths and trails rather than dedicated bike lanes.

"From what I have seen, it’s mostly a way of preserving the status quo," said Anna Zivarts, a pedestrian advisory board representative on SDOT's Policy and Operations Advisory Group (POAG). Bryce Kolton, a representative from POAG's transit advisory board, echoed similar concerns, citing a reluctance on the part of the city to redistribute street space away from single occupancy vehicles. "Until they can tell me why established plans have not been completed when they aren’t for car traffic … I don’t think a multi-multimodal plan is the answer."

Ryan Packer, writing for Seattle Bike Blog, acknowledges that there are still a lot of questions about how a more multi-modal transportation plan will affect bike infrastructure, but with almost no space reallocated from vehicles to bicycles, the "skeletal" policies proposed within the new framework seem to walk back the more ambitious goals of the past.

Monday, December 28, 2020 in Seattle Bike Blog

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