Nickels unveils bicycle master plan, aims to triple commuter cycling

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels this morning released an ambitious bicycle master plan, which he hopes will triple the number of city residents who pedal to work.

"The goal is simple: to make Seattle the best bicycling city in the nation," he said, standing along a trail at north Beacon Hill.

The city has earmarked $27 million for trails, bike lanes and safety projects from the $365 million, nine-year "Bridging the Gap" property-tax levy for transportation that voters approved last fall.

Cycling advocates, including leaders of the powerful Cascade Bicycle Club, worked alongside city planners in choosing scores of projects in nearly all sections of town.

The first improvements, through 2009, will include 53 miles of pavement markings to encourage cars and bikes to share a road lane; 37 miles of new bike lanes; a bike-and-pedestrian bridge at Thomas Street near Seattle Center, and two miles of trails.

Later this year, routes will be improved on Dexter Avenue North, a popular street for southbound bike commuters in the morning. At the corner of Dexter and Denny Way, a major entrance to downtown, the existing southbound bike lane will be expanded, and a green bike lane will be added. New pavement markings and signs will aim to prevent cyclists from getting hit by car doors in the right-side parking lanes.

City Transportation Director Grace Crunican said the city will seek other sources of money for future big-ticket items in the plan, such as a bicycle-pedestrian bridge across Interstate 5 at Northgate.

On a typical weekday, 6,000 people commute by bike in Seattle, said city cycling coordinator Peter Lagerwey. The city also estimates that one-third of all residents do some cycling.

The city is counting on bikes to help offset traffic jams when the Alaskan Way Viaduct is replaced; work might start on some viaduct sections within a couple years.

About 1 to 2 percent of adults commute by bike, but surveys suggest that 8 percent would do so if they felt safer, plan supporters said. Marked lanes, signs, and trails are likely to provide the encouragement they need, said Lagerwey.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or