A concept rendering of the what the downtown Bellevue bike lanes will look like once completed. City of Bellevue

A concept rendering of the what the downtown Bellevue bike lanes will look like once completed. City of Bellevue

Bike share, lanes coming to Bellevue this month

July is shaping up to be an exciting month for Bellevue bicyclists.

New bike lanes in downtown Bellevue will be up and running this month after years of planning.

The lanes will run for three-quarters of a mile through the city’s core along 108th Avenue Northeast between Main Street and Northeast 12th Street with one lane on either side. For most of their length, the lanes will be separated from car lanes by painted buffer areas, temporary curbs and posts and planter boxes.

Bellevue’s principal transportation planner Franz Loewenherz said the $365,933 project is part of a larger vision to expand and improve bicycle and pedestrian travel in the city, including providing a connection between the I-90 and SR 520 trails.

“That really opens up a lot of connectivity for people who are wanting to travel within the city,” he said.

The project is fully funded by the voter-approved Neighborhood Safety, Connectivity and Congestion levy and will be completed this month with a grand opening planned for July 31. The project is one of many the city has been working on. Since the city adopted a pedestrian and bicycle transportation plan in 2009, it has improved or added around three miles of bike lanes annually.

In 2015, the city council directed staff to increase that rate of expansion with funding from the levy. In 2017, city staff added nine miles of bike lanes, and they’re on track to add another 19 miles this year.

“You can see a significant uptick of project delivery,” Loewenherz said.

City staff looked at three other corridors, including two running east to west, for the demonstration bike lanes, but chose 108th Avenue Northeast based on community feedback. The lanes will be used as a weather balloon for future projects in the city.

Loewenherz said both safety and the perception of safety were key motivations for the bike lanes. A community survey of more than 1,100 residents found that 57 percent of respondents felt very unsafe riding a bike downtown and 63 percent of drivers felt unsafe driving near a bicyclist. In the bike corridor, one lane of traffic will be retained in each direction.

In addition to the bike lanes, Loewenherz hopes to bring a bike share program online before the July 31 opening ceremony for the downtown lanes. The city is finalizing a permitting process for private companies to provide an initial 400 shared bicycles in the city, a number which could increase to 1,200 by years end. The permit would be an incentive for riders to leave bikes in designated areas in an attempt to minimize bikes being left at random locations across the city.

The neighboring city of Redmond was considering a bike share program earlier this year that would allow riders to leave bikes anywhere in the city. Seattle has multiple bike share services that let riders activate bicycles through an app and charges them for use by the mile.

The Bellevue bike lanes grand opening celebration will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. July 31 at the Bellevue Corporate Plaza.

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