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Streetcar/bikeway integration porn from Seattle

Posted by on April 13th, 2012 at 1:15 pm

A visualization of plans at Broadway and Marion streets in Seattle as part of their First Hill Streetcar project that breaks ground this month.
(Graphics: Alta Planning + Design and Fat Pencil Studio)


Here in Portland, we’ve had lots of hand-wringing about the impact the streetcar is having on bikeways. Hundreds (if not thousands) of people (including my mom!) have crashed on the tracks while bicycling and just yesterday, we reported on a lawsuit where the City of Seattle admitted their streetcar track designs are dangerous.

While the currently under construction Eastside Streetcar Loop has had a significant negative impact on the bikeway environment here in Portland and I’ve heard from numerous insiders that opportunities for cycle tracks alongside the new streetcar route have been missed, it looks like our friends up in Seattle have taken things up a notch. I came across design drawings for their First Hill Streetcar project (set to break ground this month) this morning and they left me quite envious.

The drawings make it clear that bike usage was not just something to be considered or accommodated, but a major priority in the overall street design. The result is a lot of dedicated, physically separated space for bikes. What’s also noteworthy about these plans is that they were conceived and illustrated by two Portland-based firms: Alta Planning + Design and Fat Pencil Studio.

Check out more of the drawings below…

Another look at Broadway and Marion…

Broadway and E Pine before…

Broadway and E Pine after…

Terrace Plaza…

Broadway & Denny…

Yesler Way & Broadway…

And they’re incorporating public art into the bollards being used to separate the bikeway…

The bad news is that it’s too late to make our Eastside Loop look more like this (except for some sections on NE 7th through the Lloyd District where we have some space that could be converted to a cycle track); but the good news is that streetcar/bikeway integration practices seem to be improving.

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Comments
  • 9watts April 13, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    And I don’t feel dirty having looked at those pictures….

    Recommended Thumb up 6

  • Chad Berkley April 13, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    This is definitely, NSFW!

    Recommended Thumb up 5

  • Nick April 13, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    I wonder if they, or we in Portland, or anyone really, will start using green tinted concrete instead of green plastic that wears off?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 13, 2012 at 1:50 pm

      i wouldn’t hold your breath Nick. Seems like unless the cost was the same it’s not going to happen any time soon. Also, keep in mind that green thermoplastic wears off because of car tires, so when it’s used on bike-only spaces it will last much much longer.

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    • kittens April 13, 2012 at 10:32 pm

      I don’t think exterior concrete tints well, regardless the color. See for example: NW Davis from 3 to 4th or the burnside crossings, or countless new Fred Meyer parking lots, some of the max platforms, they all look great for a few years and then turn dull with dirt. Maybe if they used some green aggregate like ground up glass or plastic and threw it on a top it would do it.

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  • Spencer Boomhower April 13, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    Swoooooon. Nice work Alta and Fat Pencil!

    Recommended Thumb up 4

    • Joshua Cohen April 13, 2012 at 11:17 pm

      Thanks Spencer! Some credit is also due to the good folks at Mithun Architects in Seattle. They added the photorealistic landscaping and people that are seen in a few of the images above.

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  • Spiffy April 13, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    sure would be nice to have a cycle track on the eastside streetcar loop here…

    Recommended Thumb up 8

  • spare_wheel April 13, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    i like bidirectional cycletracks because they provide a limited passing option but IMO those ugly barriers were completely unnecessary. a raised lip would have created protected space and would have given cyclists another passing option. imo, alta planning is the soup nazi of separated infrastructure.

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    • Steve Durrant April 14, 2012 at 10:44 am

      Spare_wheel said: “imo, alta planning is the soup nazi of separated infrastructure.” I resemble that comment….

      Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Cora Potter April 13, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Behold the future of Foster Rd.

    Recommended Thumb up 14

  • craig harlow April 13, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    It’s nice that Portland has been a leader for 20 years in progressive urban transportation design. Have we now become a follower?

    Recommended Thumb up 11

    • Steve April 13, 2012 at 2:03 pm

      You work in the Lloyd district as well, Craig, so I’m taking your question as rhetorical…

      Recommended Thumb up 1

      • craig harlow April 13, 2012 at 2:20 pm

        Zing!

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  • Steve April 13, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    Now THAT looks world-class.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Steve April 19, 2012 at 3:58 am

      It looks like every European city. I recently moved from Portland to The Netherlands and this is almost exactly what it looks like on EVERY street in this country. Awesome to see it taking place in the US. I hope Portland does something similar to this in the future. Portland is after all American’s greenest city.

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  • Kiel Johnson April 13, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    maybe you should start a new site called bikepornportland.org? I wonder which would get more hits.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • o/o April 13, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    this is not a porn at all but the word could get workers in hot water with their bosses for nothing… you know big brother watching stuff like that… luckily i am using a public computer.

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  • Hart Noecker April 13, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    Riding down the middle of the tracks on Grand/MLK feels like a cycletrack to me, already cars are avoiding that lane, and with a couple bikes in the middle most vehicles will start merging to an outer lane several blocks behind you. I know it’s not the safest thing in the world, but it’s not like I can’t see where the tracks are. A little bunny hop in and a little bunny hop out and tragedy is averted.

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    • NF April 16, 2012 at 7:53 am

      I’m still trying to teach my 8 year old how to bunny hop correctly, but she keeps crashing on the streetcar tracks when riding on MLK.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

  • kittens April 13, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    where can I get me some of those orange snail things? I count three, and thats three more than portland has.

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  • i ride my bike April 14, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    There was a real lost opportunity when planning and designing the Eastside Streetcar to have rethought the entire street design of MLK, Grand, Broadway and Weidler in addition to bike infrastructure. For example did they really have to remain 4-5 lane wide one way high speed traffic-sewers? Not only would this have benefited bikes but peds, transit riders and especially the businesses and residents along these auto-infested drag strips (yet passing through existing historic and urban neighborhoods where this auto-oriented highway design never made any sense).

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  • Jake April 14, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    Super nice, way to go Seattle. I use to ride capital hill back in the day, bike lanes were scarce…

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  • Robert Ping April 14, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    Beautiful designs, beautiful concepts. Go Seattle!

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  • Steve B April 15, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    Seattle says: “Bikes and streetcar? THIS is how we do it.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hiUuL5uTKc

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  • kenny April 16, 2012 at 10:41 am

    This is PRECISELY what I have envisioned the street car extending to the business districts throughout much of Portland should be. Complete streets, bicycle cycle tracks and some added beautification. Foster, Lents, to Woodstock following down past Reed College to Sellwood on Tacoma and 13th, continuing the loop to the waterfront… THIS is the design to follow when the expansion occurs.
    Thanks for posting this, Jonathan. I feel my blood pressure fall 5 points just looking at the pictures. Portland needs to be a leader again and make some bold positive changed in our transportation infrastructure.

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  • 007 April 16, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Unfortunately, Portland and Oregon do not have the income that Seattle and Washington state have.

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  • Mickey April 16, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    If we just spent our money on a freeride park like the I-5 Colonnade park in Seattle, or Valmont in Boulder, we wouldn’t have to have any more debates about bunny hopping or other skill related issues because riders would have a safe place to develop the skills to ride in any conditions in any location on the planet, rather than learning a bunch of unsafe practices from their kook parents like doubling up on bikes or barging out into traffic on some overloaded clunker because it is within their ‘rights’. I bet that the Colonnade park is creating more highly skilled and dedicated lifelong cyclists than the Williams corridor ever will.

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  • Lenny Anderson April 16, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    The concept pictures always look a bit better than real life. The eastside extension here in “how can we do this at lower cost?” Portland isn’t really so bad. Broadway/Weidler has track on the inside/left while bike lanes (which do need to be buffered) are on the right. B/W could definitely use a “diet,” but that’s a different fight.
    7th Avenue now has generous bike lanes…so generous that people park their cars in them…in both directions with center loading platforms for the streetcar. Thanks Chris! MLK & Grand where streetcar is on the right with the 6 bus, have never been designated bike streets; rather they are freight, transit, car streets. If that changes by some miracle, cycle tracks could be placed up the left side as is planned for Williams, just so bikes don’t have to play tag with buses there. Or better yet, build the 7th Avenue bike/ped Bridge over Sullivan’s Gulch.
    Its really only in the Pearl, on Lovejoy eastbound, where the streetcar track trumped the bike lane from 14th to the Lovejoy Ramp. 5 blocks out of three plus miles is pretty good.
    Yes, we still have to cross tracks…as they will have to do in Seattle. No way around that. Someone asked how bikes and trams are managed in Amsterdam. It has a bunch of tram (streetcar) lines. Any answers out there? I remember my first tram ride there in ’82 from Central Station; it just seemed like one near miss after another, but all in relatively slow motion. So what’s the story there?
    A personal note: my late mother as a young wife in Edinburgh, Scotland crashed on the tram tracks there in the ’30s. My dad later determined that she had a poorly balanced bike. But I never saw her on one in my life, only the picture of her with a busted arm in a sling.

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    • OnTheRoad April 17, 2012 at 2:19 pm

      MLK and Grand may be “freight” or “car” streets, but the 1996 bicycle plan called for “Safe Bicycle Passage on All Streets” page 28. Also says when a street is reconstructed, that bicyclists’ need must be met.

      “All streets except limited access highways should be accessible by bicycle. Whenever streets are reconstructed or constructed, appropriate bikeway facilities must be included to accommodate bicyclists’ needs. This is also a state law, ORS 366.514, adopted in 1971, which states that ‘Footpaths and bicycle trails,2 including curb cuts or ramps as part of the project, shall be provided wherever a highway, road or street is being reconstructed, constructed or relocated.’ ”

      Apparently this provision not only was ignored by the streetcar people, but they made the facilities worse for bicycles – especially the King-Grand overpasses of I-84.

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      • Daniel R. Miller April 17, 2012 at 3:19 pm

        Exactly! Not only didn’t make minimal provision for bike thru-traffic in that corridor, but made it worse, all for the sake of a glorified tourist-trolley/development-tool. THIS IS PORTLAND FOR GAWD’S SAKE!! It is frankly an embarrassment (based on our supposed niche and branding) to have such non-attention to bicycle infrastructure in a visible and close-in redevelopment scheme. But longer run, I think there is still opportunity to reconfigure lanes on MLK/Grand to accommodate some world-class bicycle infrastructure in the inner east side. As Jonathan and so many others point out: it is just a matter of political will and priorities. And hey, if it comes to a matter of civic pride in the friendly rivalry between two Cascadian sister cities, so be it.

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  • Lenny Anderson April 17, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    1996 was a long time ago!
    When light rail went up Interstate, the entire street was reconstructed, and it included bike lanes as per the guidelines you cite. That was until a task group I was on agreed to remove them thru the Killingsworth and Rosa Parks (formerly Portland Blvd) MAX Stations to maintain on street parking for redevelopment. I deeply regret agreeing to that to this day, though I just rode up Interstate today, and it was not a big deal.
    Grand/MLK is another piece of cake. Streetcar projects do not rebuild entire streets like light rail, hence its lower cost. Buffered bike lanes up the left side of both are still possible but would require some heavy lifting. I would put my energy into making 7th Avenue a complete bike route from NE Tillamook to SE Division instead by getting a bridge over the Gulch. That might be politically easier than taking a lane off MLK/Grand for bikes. And the couplet may still be “99E”which gives ODOT considerable say as well. Alta Planning & Design now have their offices on Grand. Someone there should do a bikeway concept for the couplet and throw it out there.

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    • OnTheRoad April 17, 2012 at 7:22 pm

      Yes, 1996 was a while ago, but the bicycle plan from then was the adopted policy until the 2030 plan (adopted only in 2010) superseded it.

      Seems like accommodating bikes on King-Grand when the streetcar did its redesign of the right-most lane would have been much easier, cheaper than getting a bike bridge built over I-84 at Seventh.

      But I’m sure a lot of people would just say learn how to ride your bike and bunny-hop over those tracks – problem solved.

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  • Lenny Anderson April 18, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    Check in with Alta and the Eastside Industrial Council re reducing lanes on Grand/ML King to accommodate bikes. Because its a transit street, you probably need to think left side as I noted above. re Streetcar…ride it sometime and make a note of the wide variety of people it serves, many of whom could not manage a bike for getting around. It has been a critical piece of the transformation of entire sections of the westside Central City into bike/ped/transit friendly places, tracks not withstanding.
    The eastside extension could do the same there.

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