Highland Park Way hill bicycle-lane plan resurfaces in pitch for federal funding

Back in 2020, not long after the West Seattle Bridge closed, SDOT unveiled a version of the Highland Park Way/Holden safety-improvements plan that included rechannelizing the HP Way hill – removing a northbound (downhill) lane and installing a protected bike lane on the southbound (uphill) side. This idea generated considerable community concern (partly but not entirely because the hill was a vital artery for bridge-detour traffic), and SDOT shelved it later that year. Now a bike-lane proposal for the hill is apparently back. We discovered this while reading SDOT’s grant-proposal document published here, part of an application for $30 million in federal funding. Most of what’s proposed for West Seattle in the Safe Streets For All proposal consists of small projects such as curb ramps. But on page 15, we found the bike-lane proposal, now described as “protected bike lane, east side, separated 2-way bike lane” on Highland Park Way between West Marginal and Holden. No design or rendering is featured in the document, so we’re checking with SDOT, including the question of whether this is planned regardless of grant-funding status. The new 2-way bike-lane proposal isn’t mentioned on SDOT’s HP Way/Holden project page, which recaps the scrapping of the previous idea and notes the community suggestion that the existing east-side roadside path be widened instead.

34 Replies to "Highland Park Way hill bicycle-lane plan resurfaces in pitch for federal funding"

  • Anne September 30, 2022 (11:55 am)

    Why the rush? How about take a breath-wait 6 months -monitor traffic on HP Way Hill. During bridge closure  many who hadn’t gone that way before may have found that route better. Hopefully any big change like this will be open to public comments first. 

    • WestSeattleBadTakes September 30, 2022 (12:20 pm)

      Bicycle infrastructure should not be determined based on the behavior of drivers.

      • Anne September 30, 2022 (3:24 pm)

        Who said anything about behavior of drivers? Looking at whether traffic patterns stay the same or change after a 2-1/2 year detour should be part of good planning. 

        • WestSeattleBadTakes September 30, 2022 (7:13 pm)

          We need connected bike infrastructure everywhere. End of story.

          • Anne September 30, 2022 (9:05 pm)

            Sure we do- don’t disagree. 

      • SpencerGT October 1, 2022 (1:39 am)

        In a world where space is infinite, I would agree.

    • Anthony Avery September 30, 2022 (12:42 pm)

      Why the rush? 2022 is shaping up to be the most dangerous year in a decade for people on bikes or on foot. There is currently no safe way to get between South Park and Westwood Village, White Center, or other locations in SW Seattle. The lack of opportunity and dangerous existing conditions are wholly unacceptable in every sense of the word. New and safe bicycle facilities connecting these two communities is vital for economic mobility and doesn’t eliminate the motor vehicle access. This needs to be done yesterday. One quibble, it should be a north/west side facility since that’s what ties in to the trail, and eliminates the conflicts at Othello. Putting it on the south/east side makes riders cross two legs of the WMW/West Highland intersection, increasing conflict and danger.

    • skeeter September 30, 2022 (12:52 pm)

      Why the rush?  I’ll propose an answer.  Because pedestrian and cyclist deaths in Seattle are steadily climbing.  Let’s stop or at least slow down the bleeding as quickly as we can.  

      • Al King October 1, 2022 (6:39 am)

        Skeeter;others. Why the rush?? I agree with that simply because appeasing the “do something now” crowd has a HIGH likelihood of SDOT quickly spending money on projects that give a visual of “doing something” but in reality don’t really help. Who gains from that??  

    • Jort September 30, 2022 (1:35 pm)

      Imagine someboday saying, “let’s just wait six months and see what happens to the traffic” when deciding whether or not to even study repairing the high bridge. 

      • Hammer in Hand September 30, 2022 (6:00 pm)

        Well we don’t have to imagine it… we lived it and more 

  • Foop September 30, 2022 (12:34 pm)

    So glad to see this coming back. This road, while not the easiest hill for non-ebikes – shaves off 30 minutes if I am riding home from anywhere but downtown or north of the peninsula. The hill itself seldom gives me pause, but the aggressive drivers traveling up the hill scare me every time I try it, foolishly thinking my fellow road denizens have gotten more sympathetic to other people on the road. Not to mention constantly being directly behind vehicles pushing their engines (and thus, exhaust) up the hill and into my face.

  • Brian September 30, 2022 (1:19 pm)

     I would be interested (but not interested enough to find the data myself) to know how many riders use the hill and whether or not a specific bike lane would be justified. I know technically bikers aren’t supposed to use the sidewalk but let’s be honest, there aren’t a bunch of people walking up and down this hill either. Most of the bikers I have seen on this hill are walking their bikes up on the sidewalk anyway. 

    • nwpolitico September 30, 2022 (3:06 pm)

      As someone who has biked that hill multiple times, I can confidently say that knowing how many riders use it now is not a solid datapoint, given how much the current built environment dissuades cyclists.

    • skeeter September 30, 2022 (4:26 pm)

      Hey Brian.  I don’t have any data on how many cyclists use the route, but even if I did it wouldn’t be valuable.  I mean, if we’re considering building a bridge, we don’t use the metric of how many people are swimming across the river as the metric to justify the bridge.  We need a city in which people can safely bike and walk to where they need to go.  This would be an important route.

      • Cyclist October 3, 2022 (5:19 am)

        Hey Skeeter,Quite an ignorant argument.  There are many ways to measure demand.  There are safe walking and biking routes today, just not on this path.  It needs to be a comprehensive solution.  Let us not also forget the city has a lot of fair weather riders and we haven’t seen the fall rain yet.

  • K September 30, 2022 (1:32 pm)

    Hopefully we’ll see some proper design that will provide strong, physical barriers (not paint and post) and also calm traffic, and leave space for pedestrians. I’m excited for this area to get away from the current dangerous stroad model. If you are concerned about public safety, road redesign is for you!

    • Frog September 30, 2022 (2:55 pm)

      Since it’s green space on both sides going up the hill, why not a totally separate, really protected bicycle path rather than removing lanes for motor vehicles?

  • Jon. September 30, 2022 (2:11 pm)

    I agree with Brian. We need a study of how many people use this steep hill as a bicycle route. Downhill, bikes can maintain speed with traffic; uphill, most people walk their bikes. We need to know how many (or how few) we’re talking about before we start messing around with established traffic patterns. And please don’t suggest that “if we build it, more will come!” 

    • Jort September 30, 2022 (3:46 pm)

      Why should we not suggest “if we build it, more will come?” It’s literally hard and proven scientific fact.  Do you not like that it is a fact and don’t want people to mention it?

    • bill September 30, 2022 (8:15 pm)

      I am a fairly fearless descender but I would not attempt to keep up with the 50 mph traffic on that hill. I think it’s scary poking along at a safe speed like 35 in a car. 

  • Neighborhood Athlete September 30, 2022 (3:09 pm)

    I have ran, biked, and even scootered up and down the HP way hill.  Definitely not for the faint of heart but it is convinient.  I have ridden on the roadway on the down but never on the way up.  Too scared so i ride the root-ridden, bumpy as hell sidewalk.  While it may not be the most traffic-intensive path, it is not the least.  At minimum, the sidewalk needs to be refinished and/or expanded (if the protected bike path is not feasible).  There’s plenty of room.  Maybe add a few benches along the way too. I would venture to say that half the people walking their bikes up the hill probably do so because the path is so bumpy.  It is a safety hazard on a bike and ankle buster on foot.And if there is budget left over, maybe add some speed bumps on the road… O_o

  • Jeepney September 30, 2022 (3:22 pm)

    As someone who has biked up that hill, I would be in favor of a protected bike lane.  However, removing a lane of traffic is illogical.  Why not construct the bike lane in the parking strip on that side of the street?I am of the opinion that the safety “improvements” SDOT are implementing are actually unsafe, case in point on Delridge and Avalon where pedestrians and cyclists are now closer to vehicles driving by.

  • Delridger September 30, 2022 (3:59 pm)

    This is great news! This would shave a good chunk of time off of my current bike commute. And reducing to one lane would hopefully slow down some of the speeders who blow past me when I’m doing the speed limit while driving. Win win! Build it!

  • Joe Z September 30, 2022 (4:37 pm)

    It should be obvious that any road with high car traffic would also have high bike traffic. 

  • Mark September 30, 2022 (5:12 pm)

    I biked to/from my job via Highland Park Way five days a week year-round during the years that the  South Park bridge was being replaced. I used the car lane for the downhill going to work (easy to flow with the traffic), and the sidewalk for the uphill grunt on the return home.  Anyone that rides up that hill in the car lane with the current configuration is foolish, especially given the completely safe option of using the sidewalk.I rarely saw pedestrians on the sidewalk, and the only real problems I ever had were from overgrown vegetation or a slippery buildup of wet fallen leaves in the autumn (which were quickly addressed by the city when reported).  I don’t see any reason why the sidewalk couldn’t be converted into an “official” pedestrian/bike lane.

  • Mj September 30, 2022 (5:46 pm)

    Highland Park Way is a brutal hill for analog bike riders!  

    A wide downhill lane, two uphill lanes and a protected uphill bike lane could possibly work.  Maintaining the existing channeling at WMW is needed, downhill bicyclists could merge with traffic at WMW and some widening for uphill bicyclists would be necessary to the west of WMW.

    Some widening at SW Holden St. would also be needed.

  • Don September 30, 2022 (5:54 pm)

    Mark is right. Do not try to put a bike lane in the deadly Highland Park road. Widen and develop the path on the S/E side. I live right off Highland Park and ride my bike  down the hill several times a week. Not many pedestrians. A bike lane in the street would be crazy. 

    • Patience October 1, 2022 (6:53 am)

      We live close to “Boeing Hill” (Highland Park Way) too – for over 60 years.  We (and our neighbors) have always called that a “path”, not a sidewalk.  Many of us have used the path for our daily walks and bike commutes.  I agree that this path should be widened AND resurfaced to support the growing number of users (including e-bikes).  Many of us in the neighborhood are at the age of appreciating how e-bikes are helping us out there and keeping us moving.  There would be room on this (future-widened) South/East path for both direction (uphill/downhill) of pedestrian/bike traffic.

      • TC October 1, 2022 (3:10 pm)

        Lake Tapps Parkway in Auburn is a comparable hill in length and grade and they have a great mixed used path. I’d love to see something like that on Highland Park Way, and then just put share the road markings on the right lane so bikes can still ride down with traffic if they choose to.https://maps.app.goo.gl/tm3NCoaSiMEYiUt86

  • KayK September 30, 2022 (6:29 pm)

    I agree – use the sidewalk space and get it fixed for up and down travel. As folks may still remember this is one of only three ways off the peninsula- keep it useful for all.

  • Don Brubeck September 30, 2022 (8:03 pm)

    West Seattleites need a safe bike route from Highland Park to get to South Park and the Duwamish Trail to the Spokane Street Bridge.   A separated multi-use path to replace the lumpy, narrow, asphalt sidewalk on the south side would do it without reducing traffic lanes. This used to be a hill that only fit cyclists would climb.  E-bikes and scooters have changed that.  Good to see this is back.

  • Sunny.206 October 1, 2022 (7:47 am)

    I’m all for widening the path and making it multi use, that would be great for everyone but remember the cities vision zero plan seem to be all about lane reduction and keeping people in the home pods, so reducing the way to exit the peninsula by a lane or 2 is just what they’ll do ☹️

  • Chemist October 1, 2022 (2:04 pm)

    Considering $13.4 M of the $30 M federal grant request is budgeted for 3 protected bike lane projects, maybe SDOT is proposing to improve the off-street “sidewalk” to a full path instead of just install low cost barriers in the street.  It’s hard to tell without more about each project and the budget estimate of each but “in-street” seems to be called out on other projects.

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