The death of a 53 year-old bike rider at a notoriously unsafe intersection, just hours into Bike to Work Month, is a reminder that bike safety requires more than just paint on a road.
The investigation is ongoing, but the SPDBlotter says cyclist was northbound on East Marginal Way, presumably in the painted bike lane. When I rode that bike lane a few weeks ago, I was terrified by trucks and cars bouncing and weaving way too close.
Bike lanes separated by elevation, curb, planter box, etc – aka cycle tracks – are about safety. That’s why I’m encouraged by movement toward a cycle track in downtown, probably the toughest bike infrastructure nut to crack in the city.
Seattle Department of Transportation director Peter Hahn said planning was underway, with work potentially starting in 2014. Hahn said Second Avenue is an options, although the SDOT preliminary draft of an updated Seattle bike master plan also suggests Fourth and Seventh Avenues.
The Downtown Seattle Association has joined with SDOT and King County Metro on Commute Seattle, which promotes better commute options into downtown, including a cycle track. Business support will be critical, because a cycle track will likely come at the cost of on-street parking.
“I think the business community is ready to have the conversation,” said Jamie Cheney of Commute Seattle. She frames it as a business-competitiveness issue: firms looking to hire and expand downtown seek to lure the creative-class workers most likely to bike.
Seattle bikes. About 3 percent regularly bike commute, and more polls (including this Cascade Bicycle Club one from January) have found that more would if it were a bit easier, and safer.
And it’s just not safe right now. Paint on the road, as yesterday’s accident shows, is cold comfort.