Finding space for new bike infrastructure is always tough. Usually existing streets aren’t getting any wider, and parking and drive lanes often take precedence in the minds of residents and policy makers. Solutions that allow cars and bike to share space are becoming more common, like the wonderful Bryant Avenue bike boulevard. So when you find a street with extra space, it’s kind of a miracle.
When I ride to work, I frequently use the 1st Ave S/Blaisdell one-way pair for going north-south. Both of these streets recently received bike lane improvements, including a bit of protected bike lane on 1st Avenue, south of 33rd Street. When I asked the project coordinator why 1st Avenue got the protected lane instead of Blaisdell, which has higher traffic volumes, his answer was “space”. Here are some of my observations (as a cyclist and autoist) from using these streets:
- It seems like overkill to keep Blaisdell a two-lane one-way street when both 35W and the Park/Portland one-way pair are so close. Especially south of Lake Street. Traffic engineers, weigh in here. Is there any appropriate traffic volume that warrants this type of street design in an urban setting?
- Speeding is frequently an issue on these streets, especially Blaisdell. I do it myself, and the liberal use of “this is your speed” radar signs reinforces this.
- Much of the bike lane on Blaisdell is filled with potholes, manhole covers, street detritus and sometimes parked cars. In other words, it’s not very nice.
- Riding next to traffic that is traveling 35-40 mph is uncomfortable. I certainly wouldn’t take my daughter in a trailer or on her own bike on these streets.
- In almost all places where it has been measured, auto traffic volumes on 1st and Blaisdell south of I-94 have dropped since 2006, in some places as much as 30%.
- Turn 1st Ave into a two-way protected bikeway from 40th to 16th Street or maybe even Grant. This could be with a raised curb, or just some paint and plastic bollards. There would still be space for one auto lane in most places I think. Turn LaSalle/Blaisdell into a two-way with one travel lane in each direction starting at Grant, with parking on both sides.
- Move the bike lane on Blaisdell behind a row of parked cars and adequate buffer space. I say adequate to distinguish this from the 1st Avenue North design. See these examples from Chicago. Reduce car travel lanes to one south of 31st Street.
- Turn both 1st and Blaisdell back to two-ways where possible with one travel lane in each direction and parallel parking. Give them the bicycle boulevard treatment a la Bryant. Set speed limit at 25.