Last week was quite busy for bicycling in Seattle with the roll-out of Pronto, ITE/APBP Social, Cascade Bicycle Club annual meeting, bicycling, safety and growth presentations as well as an annual conference of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals.
How has Seattle become such a bicycling hot spot? Seattle is the fastest growing city in the nation. Very likely within Seattle, South Lake Union is the fastest growing neighborhood. Among all of last week’s events, including Pronto roll-out, Cascade Bicycle Club hosted a luncheon presentation on the Future of South Lake Union. The event followed on the heels of the Seattle City Council’s adoption of a rezoning plan for the neighborhood. The event’s three speakers presented vision, plans and changes underway for South Lake Union.
Holly Houser, Director Puget Sound Cycle Share, gave an overview of Pronto, Seattle’s newly installed bike share program. The take-away from her presentation is Pronto is a “connector” system, not “bike rental.” Set up to allow short term use, stations are established to enable persons to bike to various locations around town in 30-minute time frames. Pronto’s bikes are not designed for distance travel. “Accessible” was how Houser described both the bikes and the system. 500 bicycles, fifty stations with auto kiosks and 20 docks for bikes, have been installed in downtown, Capitol Hill, the University District, First Hill, and South Lake Union. South Lake Union is station #1. As both a testament to the system and to the growth of the neighborhood, Houser said that she’s learned that recruiters are already using Pronto to attract new employees. Pronto’s sturdy bicycles, designed for all levels of bicyclists, are equipped with lights and helmets are available at station bike check-outs.
Brennon Staley, Senior Planner with Seattle Department of Planning & Development reiterated the fast growth of South Lake Union, saying the in the next ten years, the city anticipates 8000 more housing units and 16,000 more jobs in the neighborhood. In reference to the rezone, Staley explained that the city has been actively planning South Lake Union development since 2006. The rezone is formed through an urban design lens with variety and towers to increase density, but also to keep the “openness” for a more relaxed, walkable neighborhood that encourages lingering.
Though the population will be increasing in South Lake Union, the “right-of-way” will not, emphasized Staley. Therefore the Department of Planning and Development must also include traffic patterns and design as it proceeds. Streets will continue to be designed with a “green streets” approach which makes the environment more park-like through the use of vegetation. This design will build in traffic-calming, though not eliminate parking and car use, will limit parking and slow speed while encouraging transit, walking and bicycling.
Dawn Schellenberg, Community Liaison, Seattle Department of Transportation, addressed the future of bicycling in Seattle with adoption of the Bicycle Master Plan. Schellenberg gave credit to the thousands of volunteers who helped make it happen. That plan, over twenty years, will expand Seattle’s bike lanes, especially protected bike lanes like that which already exists on Broadway and 2nd Avenue.
Next Wednesday, October 22, Schellenberg reminded those in attendance, SDOT will present the final design for placement of the Westlake Protected Bike Lane. October 25, not one of Seattle’s most pleasant weather days, the Fremont Bridge bicycle counter registered 2500 cyclists crossed the bridge. For those cyclists downtown bound, at Nickerson, they’re faced with two choices, ride up Dexter’s hill or turn left to ride down Westlake. Construction of the protected bike lane is slated for late 2015. Working to accommodate businesses, residents, and a diverse range of bicyclists, SDOT has found that sidewalk alignment makes the most sense. Following the open house, the department will finalize the design. One hundred miles of protected bike lanes are proposed in the Bicycle Master Plan including Dexter between Denny and Mercer as well as Eastlake Avenue. These future protected bike lanes will benefit from the 2nd Avenue demonstration project. It sounds like the future of bicycling in Seattle includes much more than South Lake Union.