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Thursday, April 5, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Nickels has $240 million plan for better biking in the city

Seattle Times transportation reporter

Seattle is gearing up to install more than 100 miles of new bike lanes in hopes of tripling the number of residents who commute, run errands and play on two wheels.

Mayor Greg Nickels on Wednesday released a new Bicycle Master Plan, funded partly by a new property tax that voters approved last fall.

"In my opinion, this is the best plan in the country," said David Hiller, advocacy director for the Seattle-based Cascade Bicycle Club, which helped create the project list.

Nickels touted the plan as one of his administration's measures to reduce global warming, though a shift to bicycling within Seattle alone creates minuscule global impact. Many cities are encouraging two-wheeled travel.

Seattle has $27 million earmarked for trails, bike lanes and safety projects from a new $365 million, nine-year tax levy for transportation. That's nowhere near enough to cover the plan's wish list of more than $240 million in projects.

City transportation director Grace Crunican said she will seek other sources of money for future big-ticket items, such as a bicycle-pedestrian bridge crossing Interstate 5 at Northgate. And in many cases, bike lanes will be built mainly from city road funds, when streets are repaved or widened anyway.

Changes on way

Early projects include a bridge over railroad tracks from Lower Queen Anne to the waterfront; a new mile of the Burke-Gilman Trail through Ballard to Golden Gardens Park; and an underpass from north Beacon Hill to Sodo.

Drivers and cyclists will see far-reaching changes:

• "Sharrows," which are pavement arrows urging bikes and cars to share a road lane. Stretches of Wallingford Avenue North, Northeast 45th Street, Seneca Street, South Henderson Street and Third Avenue West will get them this year.

• New bike lanes, starting with Avalon Way Southwest, 16th Avenue Southwest near South Seattle Community College, Eighth Avenue Northwest and Eighth Avenue downtown this year.

• "Road diets," where a four-lane street shrinks to two lanes plus a left-turn lane and bike lanes. This is planned at Stone Way North and has been discussed for parts of 35th Avenue Southwest.

• Police crackdowns against cyclists who run red lights, and against motorists who turn in front of bikes.

On a typical weekday, 6,000 people commute by bike in Seattle, said city cycling coordinator Peter Lagerwey. The city dreams of catching Portland, where more than 8,000 riders a day cross major bridges into downtown.

About 1 to 2 percent of Seattle adults commute by bike, but surveys suggest 8 percent would do so if they felt safer, backers said.

Marked lanes, signs and trails are likely to provide the encouragement they need, Lagerwey said.

Bellevue, Bothell, beyond

Bikeways are proliferating in suburbs, too.

Redmond is adding multipurpose trails in areas such as Overlake and around Microsoft's campus. It's less expensive than reconstructing roads to add a bike lane, planner Joel Pfundt said. Bellevue has restriped roads for bike lanes. Bothell is funding part of the North Creek trail, to eventually reach Everett, and would build bike lanes in future road-widening projects.

Seattle city leaders are counting on bicycles to help offset traffic jams during replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Bikes and buses would share Third Avenue downtown, while roomy Blanchard and Bell streets, going east-west, will be marked as bike routes.

Philosophical rifts have occurred between those who support separate bike paths and riders who envision cyclists as full-fledged road users.

Longtime rider David Smith criticized the plan as "one-dimensional," because bike lanes next to parked cars can create a false sense of security. Plan supporter Ellen Aagaard replied that children and novices need paths to build confidence and skill before they venture into road lanes.

Staff reporters Rachel Tuinstra and Naila Moreira contributed to this report.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or mlindblom@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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