Bikes Don't Like Mike's Lake City Road Diet

The mayor's controversial new east-west bike lanes fail to attract cyclists.

Road diets, says SDOT spokesperson Rick Sheridan, are "about safety, not bikes." But more often than not, road diets (or "rechannelizations")—at their simplest, a reduction of the number of lanes open to motor vehicles on a given arterial—include new bike lanes. So they're at least sort of about bikes. And given that no single dieted road caused more of a ruckus than April's tummy tuck of Northeast 125th Street in Lake City, Seattle Weekly recently sent summer intern Kate Barker out during early-evening rush hour to take stock of how many cyclists were taking advantage of the newly dedicated bike lanes delivered to them by Mayor Mike McGinn, whose political fortunes cratered like a pothole with last week's overwhelming affirmation of a tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Barker made her pilgrimage to Lake City in the middle of a workweek earlier this month. Stationed at 125th and 27th Avenue Northeast, Barker observed two bikes headed westbound and three eastbound between 4 and 5 p.m., six westbound and one eastbound between 5 and 6, and five westbound and one eastbound between 6 and 7. Needless to say, more than 18 cars traversed the same terrain over the course of those three hours. In the interest of monitoring a McGinn-backed road diet that seems sensible, Barker observed Dexter Avenue North under identical conditions. During the same three weekday hours, a total of 457 bicycles whizzed by Galer Street. Barker also sought a South Seattle east-west corridor that boasted characteristics similar to the 125th Street diet, and thus ventured to South Columbian Way between MLK Way and Beacon Avenue South. Stationed at South Angeline Street, she observed a total of 19 bicycle commuters between the hours of 4 and 7 p.m. Does three bikes per lane per hour during prime drive time amount to wise public policy? Voters will have their say in November, when they're asked to approve a $60 car tab fee that will direct a significant amount of funding toward—what else?—accommodating cyclists.

 
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