Cycle Tracks Debut In North Seattle

Jul 15, 2013

The city’s first cycle tracks have been installed in North Seattle. They’re designated bike lanes, separated from car traffic by a parking strip and located on Linden Avenue, a quiet side street just off Aurora Avenue North.

Michael O’Brien commutes to work at the UW on his bike, and he loves it. “I think this is awesome. It feels a lot safer; I’ve noticed a lot more families out on the road,” O’Brien said. “You see a lot of moms and dads now, especially on Saturday and Sunday. I really like all the artwork. It’s a beautiful ride on a nice day. It’s gorgeous.”

But other cyclists, like Kurt Litsinger, aren’t so sure the lanes are really necessary. "I don’t feel any safer riding on this two-block stretch of road that has this thing," he said. "I mean, maybe this section is safer, but this wasn’t exactly a section I was that worried about to begin with.”

Just to be clear, the cycle track spans between North 128th and North 141st Streets. It runs along the eastern side of the street, and features bright green boxes at intersections and driveways to alert drivers. It’s separated from two-way car traffic by a row of parked cars. The track even has its own traffic signal at intersections, featuring a green glowing bicycle when it’s safe to go.

Knute Berger, a writer for Crosscut, studies urban design history in Seattle. He says the cycle tracks are a good first step, but doesn’t think anything works overnight. He references Seattle’s long history of commuters attempting to make peace on the roadways.

When bikes were introduced to the city, there was a big struggle between bikes and wagons. When cars were introduced to Seattle there was a big struggle between wagons, horses and cars,” Berger said. “There were various policy responses to trying sort out chaos on the roads and brewing some level of civility.”

While the tracks are meant to put drivers at ease, some are worried about having to navigate the new configuration. Anne Morales works right next to the new bike lanes. She said she’s seen a few near-misses. That kind of gives me a little anxiety and kind of [leaves me] wanting to be more careful,” she said.

Other neighborhoods that could see cycle tracks in the future include Capitol Hill and the Ballard-to-Downtown corridor.