Tucked away in the Seattle Department of Transportation's excellent announcement about opening streets to pedestrians is a thrilling hint of things to come.
"In light of the COVID-19 health crisis and closure of the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge, Mayor Durkan also directed the SDOT to evaluate and accelerate implementation of other bicycle facilities," concludes an SDOT blog post. Wait, what's that? More bike facilities coming sooner than expected? Tell us more, you tease!
As it turns out, SDOT didn't share any details about which projects will be accelerated because they don't quite know yet.
"We're in the process of evaluating," said Ethan Bergerson, SDOT spokesman. They're balancing factors like "equity, connectivity, safety benefit, complexity, and cost," and hope to have more specifics soon. Whatever they wind up being, they'll come on the heels of numerous other improvements, like eliminating the need for "beg buttons" to change the light at crosswalks, as well as various projects continuing on schedule: bike lanes on SW Avalon Way and 35th Ave SW; major upgrades as part of the Delridge Way SW – RapidRide H Line project; speed humps and traffic diverters on greenways throughout the city; and creating 2.55 miles of bike lanes as part of the Green Lake and Wallingford Paving and Multimodal Project.
And now that SDOT's talking about accelerating more projects, local transportation groups already know what they'd like to see, with "wish lists" of projects that need to get underway as soon as possible.
Of course, more connectivity to and from West Seattle is at the top of anyone's priorities. There are quick, easy fixes that would improve transportation options: "Better signage and wayfinding," suggested Paul Tolmé at Cascade Bicycle Club.
Vicky Clarke, Cascade's policy director, stressed that making the Stay Healthy Streets permanent is "a really positive move," but added that it should only be one prong of a multi-pronged approach. "Building bike lanes is really prong number two," she said.
Cascade has four policy priorities that they hope the city will focus on: More open spaces for walking and biking while we're all in lockdown; expand the bike networks to close the gaps; open streets commercial foot-traffic, so that businesses can serve customers without cramming them all indoors; plan to incorporate sustainable transportation projects in any recovery budgets.
Cascade also has a "Connect Seattle" map with fourteen high-priority projects around town. There are upgrades around Northgate that need attention; connecting Southpark to the Georgetown trail; the perpetual headache of the Burke-Gilman Missing Link; repaving Greenlake, and more.
Tom Fucoloro, who runs Seattle Bike Blog, also pointed to West Seattle connectivity as particularly urgent. With many of us stuck indoors, congestion hasn't been too terrible. But "those communities shouldn’t be devastated by huge traffic jams and dangerous streets" when quarantine ends, Fucoloro says.
He cited Marginal Way as needing particular work, where bike lanes are rough and often blocked by trucks. There's also the MLK bike lane between Mount Baker and the I-90 trail. And also augmenting the 7 and 8 bus routes with bike facilities can get transit-riders out of crowded vehicles and onto bikes, reducing the risk of transmitting viruses.
"There’s so much work to be done," Tom sighed. "You could take your pick."