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No bike lanes, less parking, but plenty of frustration over Northeast Seattle street plan

caption: A graphic rendition of the new plan for 35th Avenue Northeast, looking north from Northeast 73rd Street.
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A graphic rendition of the new plan for 35th Avenue Northeast, looking north from Northeast 73rd Street.
Seattle Department of Transportation

There’s something for everyone to hate about Seattle’s "compromise" over bike lanes on 35th Avenue Northeast.

For bicyclists: There are no bike lanes. At all.

For people worried about parking: No parking on one side of the street from Northeast 47th to Northeast 85th streets.

The compromise was announced Tuesday by the Seattle Department of Transportation.

Already there’s anger.

Those who saw the original plan as a victory for their transportation and environmental goals are feeling betrayed.

But business owners who feared they would lose customers over parking aren’t likely to be happy either.

The debate over the bike lanes has been going on for years.

The dispute got so heated last year the city resorted to hiring a mediator, leading to the decision Tuesday.

For its part, SDOT says that 35th Avenue Northeast will be safer for everyone under the new plan. It says a center turn lane will help, as will “slowing vehicle speeds and better defining the travel lanes.”

Seattle Department of transportation spokesperson Mirabel Cruz says the safety improvements include "better pedestrian crossings, and narrower streets which are going to reduce speeds along the corridor."

Jordan Royer, who helped start a political action committee to fight the bike lane called "Neighborhoods for Smart Streets" sees the new plan as a victory for motorists.

Royer also said the safety improvements will make a difference for all residents, including cyclists.

Bike advocate Lolly Kunkler said she and other Northeast Seattle residents were deeply disappointed and blamed the city's reversal on Mayor Jenny Durkan.

She "caved to the loudest voices," Kunkler said.

Kunkler also said she's disappointed that Seattle is not in this instance living up to its promises on climate change and the environment.

There's no reference to how the plan will serve the city's stated goals of reducing carbon output.

Here’s a pertinent part in the update on the SDOT website:

Design Update

Since the early stages of the 35th Ave NE Project, we've heard support from the community for changes to the street that improve safety. When the project began, the goal was to better organize the street, increasing safety for everyone. To meet this goal, we proposed a design that included bike lanes consistent with recommendations in the Bike Master Plan.

In response to the feedback we heard about the design, and based on industry best practices, data analysis, and continued conversations with the community, we’ve chosen to move forward with a new design that includes 1 travel lane in each direction, a center turn lane (north of 65th) and parking maintained on the east side of the street (between NE 47th and NE 85th streets).

Better street design can lead to safer streets. The new design helps us improve safety and operations for all travelers on 35th by providing a dedicated space for turning vehicles. We’ve seen decreased vehicle speeds and decreased collision rates on streets with 1 lane in each direction and a center turn lane. Examples include NE 75th St, NE 125th St, and Nickerson St. By slowing vehicle speeds and better defining the travel lanes, this helps increase safety for everyone on 35th, including people crossing the street. While there would be no protected bike lanes on 35th, people riding in the street would still benefit from slower vehicle speeds and clearly defined travel lanes. We will also be making enhancements to the parallel neighborhood greenway on 39th Ave NE that provides a route for people that prefer to bike on a quieter street.

To make space for the center turn lane, parking will be maintained on the east side of the street, instead of both sides. Throughout this project, we’ve worked with businesses and religious organizations along 35th to better understand parking, loading, and access needs. With the new design, we have decided to prioritize parking on the east side of the street. This decision is based on community feedback and the location of several existing load zones and ADA parking spaces on the east side of the street. We’ve heard these spaces are critical for people with limited mobility that are attending services at the religious institutions on 35th.

The new design addresses many concerns we’ve heard from the community however, we’ve also heard requests for additional enhancements along the corridor. SDOT is evaluating these requests and will share more information as we have it.

Why you can trust KUOW