S.L.U.T. Rash Spreading Among Bicyclists

As reported by the Seattle Times [*] (and several injured friends of mine), the South Lake Union Streetcar tracks are very unfriendly to bicycles.

What was once a broad, relaxing coast from downtown to South Lake Union, en route to the University District or Fremont, is now the most stressful leg of the journey. As shown below, the streetcar tracks are installed in the right lane in both directions.

Bicyclists are now given three choices: riding in the left lane, while being passed on the right (and sometimes on the left, over the double yellow) by drivers who just don’t see what the problem is; testing their luck in the right lane, hopping over the tracks and risking falling under the wheels of nearby cars if anything goes wrong; or, trying to find another route.

My Slutty Bike Commute
Photo by Lucia Gregory via Flickr

The fine folks at Seattle Likes Bikes have organized a protest ride, to take place at 5PM on Wednesday December 12th. Their requests are really quite reasonable:

1. An alternative route to be added early in 2008. Bicycle lanes are planned for 9th Ave N, but the city wants to postpone adding them until late 2008 or early 2009 when construction on Paul Allen’s buildings in that area is complete.
2. Caution signs (like those in Portland) indicating that cyclists should exercise caution around the tracks and that motorists should give cyclists a few more feet of maneuvering room so they can avoid the tracks.
3. Where the tracks are in the right lane, sharrows should be installed in the left lane to remind cyclists and motorists of the safest place for cyclists to ride.
4. That Seattle Department of Transportation will consult with Portland Department of Transportation, learn from Portland’s experience, and adopt guidelines that consider cyclists when installing future sets of tracks in roadways.
5. For a feasibility study of rubber track filler that could be installed to compress under the trolley wheels while being rigid enough to prevent bicycle wheels from being trapped in the tracks.

In the mean time, let’s welcome the latest addition to our fair city’s transit system with some entertaining video footage and music:

(yeah, I know that’s light rail, and this is a streetcar, but c’mon, we’re celebrating!)

4 Comments so far

  1. wesa (unregistered) on December 12th, 2007 @ 7:10 am

    I am thankful that I do not have to ride that route. The other roads down that direction are either so crowded with cars or so uneven that I take my business elsewhere. I’ve been hearing stories about riders crashing lately. Be safe guys.


  2. Fence Sitter (unregistered) on December 12th, 2007 @ 7:20 pm

    Definitely reasonable (and in fact somewhat shaming of the planners who overlooked them in the first place) demands/requests. But I’m convinced that the “protest rides” such as this one do nothing to increase public sympathy, but instead give motorists – and now transit riders – another reason to be annoyed by cyclists (not reaching whether that annoyance is justified in general). It’s unnecessarily polarizing, unless you’re just looking to rile up the choir, which may feel exciting but accomplishes nothing.


  3. eldan (unregistered) on December 13th, 2007 @ 12:02 am

    @Fence Sitter: sometimes I wonder if you’re right, but what else do you suggest we do? We have also been writing the city en masse, but so far this has got us one warning sign on one of the approaches to the route.


  4. Fence Sitter (unregistered) on December 13th, 2007 @ 6:35 pm

    @Eldan:
    I don’t have a great answer, but I do believe that organizing is the right solution. But it’s going to have to be organizing with the aim of getting $ together to contribute to campaigns and possibly even hire someone who has some decent connections to lobby the council and mayor’s office, not organizing to get people angry, on either side. As far as public awareness goes, my hope is that once some of the corridors from the master plan are implemented, we can have celebration rides following some of those routes to keep a high profile without intentionally disrupting those whose support we need to succeed.



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