Expert: Downtown Seattle streets 'extremely dangerous' for bicyclists

Jun 20, 2013

Seattle consistently ranks high on top-10 lists for bike-friendly cities. But the keynote speaker at an urban cycling symposium taking place at the University of Washington this week gives Seattle a scathing review.

Professor John Pucher teaches urban planning and public policy at Rutgers University, and has been studying cycling for the past 15 years. Pucher spent the past week in Seattle and Vancouver, and says his recent ride into downtown Seattle proved highly stressful.

The main marked bike way, a shared lane on Second Avenue, gives riders a false sense of security, says Pucher. 

“I found it extremely dangerous. It’s an accident waiting to happen. We almost got doored several times; there were people trying to parallel park their cars right into the bike lane," he said. "What is there now is more dangerous than nothing.”

By contrast, Pucher says he enjoyed biking other parts of Seattle including the Burke Gilman Trail and the buffered lane on Dexter Avenue.

But all of that paled in comparison to his rides earlier in the week in Vancouver, B.C., where the city has recently put in 6 miles of separated bike tracks. Pucher says it’s clear Seattle should follow in Vancouver's footsteps. 

“I think it’s a pity. There’s so much potential here in Seattle. And it’s going lost, because there doesn’t seem to be the political will to implement these things," he said. 

The latest update of the Bicycle Master Plan calls for more protected bike tracks. The plan is expected to be formally adopted by the Seattle City Council sometime this fall, but still lacks funding.