Protected bike lanes in Bellevue encourage people to ride more

City reports more safety and efficiency.

In July 2018, downtown Bellevue added its first protected bike lane on both sides of 108th Avenue Northeast. A year later, studies show that it’s working, according to the city — people feel safer, and the lane has made downtown more inviting and user friendly to those who don’t want to drive.

Franz Loewenherz, the Bellevue transportation planner, says this particular bike lane, even though it is only a three-quarter mile segment, represents an important key connection from the south downtown 1-90 trail to the north downtown 520 trail.

With plans to add more lanes in the future, Loewenherz says a lot was learned from the 108th Ave Street analysis study, which focused on three main areas: safety, efficiency and livability.

For example, 87% of people who biked felt safer and more comfortable, which may have been a reason for a 35% increase in bicycle ridership. This data was also reflected in Bikeshare statistics, which reported that this particular stretch of road has the highest number of users than any other street in Bellevue. For the benefit of pedestrians, there was also a decrease in the number of people who used their bikes on the sidewalk.

“Some people would argue that we’re moving too fast for them and other people would argue that we’re moving too slow,” Loewenherz said. He said there can be consequences in building rashly, and a poorly designed project could create more problems than it solves. In fact, Loewenherz said that not following a methodical approach could even be dangerous to motor vehicles and pedestrians.

There have been two biking-related fatalities involving cars in Bellevue in the past two years. Transportation officials point to these deaths as evidence they still have more work to do to make roads safer for everyone.

“We see it as our number one priority to ensure that everyone gets home safe each night,” Loewenherz said. “When you implement new facilities, you end up creating a lot of confusion over how to move through space.”

In September, Loewenherz reports a bike lane on Main Street was added to connect to 108th Avenue, Loewenherz said. In the spring, there will be a project at the north end of downtown on NE 12 Street that will connect up to 112th Avenue NE and continue north to the 520 Trail, and to the east over to the Spring District.

Loewenherz said other possible bike candidate corridors could be 106th Ave NE (Main Street to NE 12th Street), 108th Ave NE (Main Street to NE 12th Street), Main Street (Bellevue Way to 112th Avenue NE) and NE 2nd Street (Bellevue Way to 112th Avenue NE).

Claire Martini, policy manager for Cascade Bicycle Club, said Bellevue is a good example of a city trying to get ahead of transportation issues.

“A challenge, especially on the Eastside, is that it has really suburban land use patterns and so many of the existing roadways were configured with drivers in mind,” Martini said. “As our region has grown and has added new neighbors and lots of new jobs…the way that folks use to get around isn’t sustainable for the number of people and number of jobs that we have.”

Martini believes biking could be part of the solution to address growing congestion in a community like Bellevue, especially with the light rail opening in 2023 on the Eastside. Martini is hopeful more people will be moving into Bellevue, and a protected network of bike lanes could encourage people to pick up a Bikeshare and ride the last mile or two to work.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story incorrectly reported the month bike lane protection was added. It has been changed to July.