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Friday, July 20, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Some allege backpedaling with changes to bike plan

Seattle Times transportation reporter

Mayor Greg Nickels says his goal is to make Seattle the nation's best city for cycling, but bike advocates say he's backpedaling along Stone Way North.

Within a week or two, the city will re-stripe the lower end of the recently repaved street — but without six blocks of bicycle lanes that were in the original plan.

Between North 34th Street and North 40th street, Stone Way will be a four-lane arterial, instead of undergoing a "road diet" with two bike lanes, two road lanes and a central two-way left-turn lane.

The Seattle Department of Transportation just completed such a reduction along 10 blocks north of 40th. But skirmishes continue over the lower part near Lake Union, three months after the city canceled the bike lanes there.

"The Stone Way decision sort of hearkens back to the dark ages of traffic engineering," said David Hiller, advocacy director for the Cascade Bicycle Club. "No way the city can stay on the course it's on and not seem hypocritical. This is a trust moment."

The city recently announced a new 20-year Bicycle Master Plan and has earmarked $27 million in new taxes for cycling projects. On Thursday, Nickels broke ground on another mile of the Burke-Gilman Trail near Shilshole Bay.

"I think the mayor's support for making Seattle the best bicycle city in America is unquestionable," spokesman Marty McOmber said.

But on lower Stone Way, local businesses and the Fremont Chamber of Commerce objected to losing two motor-vehicle lanes. There was a lack of local consensus and engineering and safety issues because of truck traffic, said city DOT spokesman Gregg Hirakawa. A transfer station for garbage haulers is nearby.

An engineering consultant for the bicycle club concluded in late June that if the road were narrowed to allow bike lanes, traffic would still flow at acceptable levels.

Stone Way connects to the Burke-Gilman Trail, and the Fremont Bridge is a major crossing for cyclists. So if the city can capitulate here, projects all over town are vulnerable, Hiller argues.

He admits being surprised the Fremont Chamber had more clout than the 7,400-member cycle club.

Chamber President Marko Tubic — an avid cyclist and former racer — said lower Stone Way remains "a heavy industrial thoroughfare."

Tubic said he does not believe this situation is related in any way to bike proposals in other neighborhoods.

"I've never seen this as an anti-bike effort," he said.

Six months from now, the city will study how the four-lane road is working and take a fresh look at whether to re-stripe it for bike lanes, Hirakawa said.

In the meantime, the bicycle club will conduct its own traffic counts and educational events, Hiller said. "It's going to get louder. It's going to get bigger. I can't tell you what all the tactics are."

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

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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