SDOT Considers Alternatives to Eastlake Bike Lanes, But It’s Clear There Are None


While Lynnwood Link is slated to get its badly needed $100 million from Congress in the latest appropriation from D.C., Seattle’s RapidRide projects wait on the Feds and are just as essential in serving the city’s surging transit needs. Roosevelt RapidRide is one of the corridors that have submitted applications for Small Starts grants from the Federal Transit Administration and without that money, the project will likely be dramatically scaled back. That uncertain budget is one part of an overall shortfall that could be as high as $150 million on Move Seattle transit projects compared to expectations when the levy was passed.

The project has now been in the planning stage since late 2014, and there has always been a push to ensure that a transit upgrade of the corridor also includes real multimodal improvements. Eastlake Avenue is an obvious piece of any citywide bike network since Eastlake currently lacks any bike infrastructure through the heart of its business district. A direct connection between Downtown Seattle and the second-busiest ship canal crossing for bikes in the city (after Fremont) is a no-brainer. It’s on the Bicycle Master Plan, and Roosevelt RapidRide is our chance.

On the other hand, some Eastlake residents and business owners are not happy with the idea of losing the on-street parking that would be required to make room for protected bicycle facilities–325 total on-street parking spots to install one-way protected bike lanes on the entirety of the corridor.

Eastlake as a neighborhood has a large amount of off-street parking available at most times of day, but the loss of the on-street spaces has prompted the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to go back to its engineers and determine if there’s an alternative that could get people using bikes safely through the corridor while not requiring the removal of so much on-street parking.

So the department came back with nine different options:

  • Option 1: Do nothing at all.
  • Option 2: One-way protected bike lanes on either side of Eastlake (this is the current plan)
  • Option 3: A two-way protected bike lane on one side of Eastlake.
  • Option 4: A one-way protected bike lane on Eastlake headed north, and a greenway two blocks away on Yale Ave E for riders heading southbound.
  • Option 5: A one-way protected bike lane on Eastlake headed north, and a one-way protected bike lane two blocks away on Yale Ave E for riders heading southbound.
  • Option 6: Creating a multi-use trail on Fairview Ave E.
  • Option 7: A neighborhood greenway on Fairview Ave E
  • Option 8: A neighborhood greenway on Minor Ave E and Fairview Ave E.
  • Option 9: A neighborhood greenway on Franklin Ave E.

After an initial screening process, all but four of these options were ruled out, either because they don’t provide a level bike route, don’t meet the original intention of the project, or require a right-of-way purchase (the trail).

SDOT’s chart shows which options were considered feasible and worthy of further study. (City of Seattle)

A two-way protected bike lane on Eastlake was found to require the same number of parking spaces to be removed as the one-way lanes will, and was rated lower on safety, likely because people on bikes may not be traveling in the same direction of travel as motor vehicles, increasing opportunities for conflicts with them.

That leaves the two options with a detour for southbound riders.

Alternate routing would provide northbound bike lanes on Eastlake (green line) but direct southbound riders to a parallel neighborhood greenway or protected bike lane on Yale Ave E (red line). (Google Maps)

Routing southbound riders either to a protected bike lane or a greenway will not eliminate the need for people to bike safely on Eastlake. People on bikes have a need to get to businesses in the neighborhood too, and people heading downtown are likely not going to take a two block jog, and will end up just biking on Eastlake anyway.

The collision numbers for people biking on this corridor show the urgency needed here: from 2012 to 2017, there were 40 collisions involving people on bikes in the Eastlake neighborhood. 39 of those 40 bike collisions were on Eastlake Avenue itself. Bicycle volume studies showed that 120 people per hour were heading through the heart of the business district during rush hours.  Even if a significant number felt comfortable using a permanent southbound detour, that’s still a lot of opportunity for unsafe interactions on Eastlake. That is not a Vision Zero approach.

It would be great if there was a way to route people on bikes through Eastlake safely while retaining as much parking for local businesses as possible, resulting in a win/win. SDOT has studied the alternatives here and it doesn’t work. Now they just need the decision-makers at City Hall to back them up and ensure that a key piece in the bike network gets built in a way that it maximizes its own utility.

Email your councilmembers today and tell them you support the bike lanes as designed in the original Roosevelt RapidRide plan.

Roosevelt RapidRide Predictably Scales Back Bike Plans

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Ryan Packer lives in the Summit Slope neighborhood of Capitol Hill and has been writing for the blog since 2015. They report on multimodal transportation issues, #VisionZero, preservation, and local politics. They believe in using Seattle's history to help attain the vibrant, diverse city that we all wish to inhabit. In December 2020, Ryan started a three-month stint as editor of Seattle Bike Blog.

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Preston Sahabu

I would actually be a big fan of a multiuse trail on Fairview if it meant bus lanes (or even exclusive streetcar lanes?) on Eastlake. But in the short term, taking away parking and putting up bike lanes is a good move.

Lief Cardigan

As someone who used to live literally on the corner of Eastlake and Roanoke with my window facing the hill, that hill is super steep even for some cars. When it was wet out you frequently heard cars spinning out if they had to stop at the light. When I would bike south, I’d usually head down that hill to Fairview so I didn’t have to bike along Eastlake, and going down that first block to Yale sucks, which is also a left turn into an uphill, which after riding your breaks down a hill is terrible.
There’s also about 10 perpendicular parking spots on that hill on the north side of Roanoke at that corner that would be super dangerous to any bicyclist that was turning off Eastlake, especially at rush hour when most of the spots empty with people driving to work. It’s hard to back in to them because of the hill and pulling out was hairy even without bikes going by.

Glenn macdonald

In other words, 96 percent of the city can just go screw themselves. How do you like that Ryan?


In order to make a real numbers comparison between bike lanes vs. street parking, you can’t just compare city-wide numbers of people riding bikes vs. driving cars all over the city. I think everybody on all sides can can agree that a typical day does not have anywhere near 96% of the city parking their cars on Eastlake – even if they all tried, only a tiny fraction would fit.

The only drivers that would be effected are the ones that are not just driving on Eastlake, but *parking* on Eastlake. Considering that the Eastlake street parking isn’t anywhere near full anyway, we’re talking *street parking*, not private lots, plus it’s mostly the same cars sitting there for hours at a time, the actual number of Eastlake parkers is far less than one might think.

A rough count of on Google Earth imagery shows 124 cars parked on the southbound side of Eastlake between I-5 and Fairview, with the street parking about 3/4 full, on average. Multiply by 2 for the other side, and you have about 500 cars. Assuming 1/5 of the spaces turn over during the day, that’s 600 car parkers per day. Just one bike per minute from 8 AM to 6 PM is already 600 cyclists per day. Anecdotally, we’re probably already past that (at least on days with decent weather), and if Eastlake had bike lanes, more people would ride it than do so today. And, the 600 daily cyclist figure assumes zero ridership outside of 8 AM-6PM, so that’s probably an undercount.

So, if you want to play the numbers game, you can’t just dismiss bikes having insufficient modeshare to matter. Again, a comparison between bikes riding on Eastlake vs. cars driving on Eastlake doesn’t matter, as nobody is proposing preventing cars from driving down Eastlake. It is only the number of moving bikes on Eastlake vs. *parked cars* on Eastlake that is relevant.

Jules James

Sure wish SDoT would spend a few bucks on a couple 24/7 roadway usage studies of existing arterial bike lanes. Everyone is calling them “empty.” But the government answers by building more. Is our goal to blindly build failure until we run out of money? As a casual bicyclist, I’d rather ride side streets with REALLY smooth asphalt.


> Sure wish SDoT would spend a few bucks on a couple 24/7 roadway usage studies of existing arterial bike lanes.

They’ve installed bike counters, you can see the data here:

> I’d rather ride side streets

Eh, it looks like you’re in the minority there. 240 people per hour cycle N/S on Fairview vs 860 on Eastlake during peak.

Jules James

I’m sorry you missed my points. SDoT has counted Peak traffic in Eastlake only. Neighborhoods function during non-peak hours, so ridership needs to be counted in non-peak hours also. The point of building failure refers to the two statistically-reliable counters — Spokane Street Bridge and Fremont. Bike usage has declined 2014 – 2017, according to these numbers. I do hope that expecting roadway decisions to be based on relevant traffic data does not dismiss me as a minority.


> SDoT has counted Peak traffic in Eastlake only.

Are you proposing that cycle traffic proportions are hugely different during off-peak hours? That horse won’t run.

> building failure refers to the two statistically-reliable counters — Spokane Street Bridge and Fremont. Bike usage has declined 2014 – 2017

Good thing you are using the wettest year in recorded Seattle history to make that point. If you’d included 2018 you’d have seen a rising trend. /sarcasm

Come on, you aren’t making this argument in good faith. “More studies now, more studies forever” is the rallying cry of the NIMBY who wants to create another Ballard Missing Link situation. Be honest and say you don’t want bike lanes because you don’t want the neighborhood to change (or other similar argument). No one who’s been in Seattle long can help but lament the changes that growth brings, that’s a perfectly reasonable response. But the city is growing and growing denser and we need traffic planning that addresses this. Remember the classic photo:


The existing Roosevelt bike lane is underused because there is no corresponding bike in the northbound direction. So, anyone who uses it *still* has to be willing to ride in traffic in order to get back.

That’s not saying the Roosevelt bike lane wasn’t worth building, though. It’s moving in the right direction, so when we finish the job with 11th going to the other way, it suddenly becomes usable.

And, even if the Roosevelt bike lane isn’t used, just having it there calms the street, and makes it much more comfortable to walk along the sidewalk or cross the street as a pedestrian. All the while, cars have plenty of space with the two remaining lanes, and no one even notices, except for the gross speeders, who have a harder time getting around drivers who drive the speed limit. Even if the bike lane were just trees and grass, I would still consider it an improvement over the car lane that was there before.


I’d argue that options 4 and 5 don’t meet the standards of providing a level route, either. The grade on Roanoke is such that all but the hardiest cyclist isn’t able to climb it and a route that requires a dismount isn’t a solution to the conflicts that are currently occurring on Eastlake.

Mike Carr

Are you saying there are hills in Seattle?


Mike Carr

Thanks for the home video of yourself





+1. A grade like Roanoke is way too steep to expect people to ride – even the Lime-E bikes have trouble going up that hill if you ever need to accelerate from a stop. It is not a viable alternative.

Amy Step

Amy Step

This column is almost breathtaking in its self-centeredness and lack of empathy for non-cyclists. Parking is essential for many reasons — it means access for people to businesses and institutions, including access for many who cannot conduct their lives on bicycles — as well as survival for business. SDOT seems to have come up with a compromise that doesn’t kill business while at the same time it meets cyclists’ needs. Yet the author rejects it. Why? Because cyclists will use Eastlake anyway and they’ll get hurt. He adds: “That is not a “Vision Zero approach”? So VZ dictates that we have to protect lazy people who don’t want to ride two blocks out of their way from their own risky behavior? I don’t think so.

Kate Dulemba

It’s an article of opinion with no hard data. Means nothing until Oversight Commmittee final suggestions in Oct. And Durkan’s final decision with streetcar will set the tone for things like this project


How is that a bicyclist is called “lazy” when claiming some space and a driver how can’t park directly in front of a business somebody who is being infringed on his rights? And it is not the bicyclist that is dangerous. Or maybe you can show data bicyclists wounding or killing drivers?
Maybe is it good to remember that that bicyclist means it is all the more likely for you to find a parking spot.