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Bike lanes and bus stops set to change Riverside Avenue in downtown Spokane

UPDATED: Tue., July 17, 2018, 11:33 a.m.

Pedestrians cross Riverside Avenue at Howard Street, Oct. 1, 2017, in downtown Spokane, Wash. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Pedestrians cross Riverside Avenue at Howard Street, Oct. 1, 2017, in downtown Spokane, Wash. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Riverside Avenue in downtown Spokane will look very different soon, with fewer lanes, redesigned transit stops and bikeways the likes of which Spokane has never seen.

The city is now seeking feedback on work that may begin as early as next year, and stretch over three construction seasons. A survey of the work seeking community feedback, the second for Riverside’s renovation, is available through July 27.

Among the questions it asks: Should vehicle parking be angled, allowing for more stalls but cutting out the center turn lane everywhere but at intersections? Should the bikeways be conventional bike lanes, or “cycle tracks,” which are protected from traffic with a low, curb-high wall and parked cars?

The overall project will remake the street between Division and Monroe streets over three phases beginning as early as next year. Riverside will be the first street remade in anticipation of Spokane Transit Authority’s proposed Central City Line, a streetcar-like electric bus that will connect Spokane Community College with the Browne’s Addition Neighborhood through downtown.

The city’s first survey gathered 180 responses online. Another 50 responses came from business and property owners who were sent paper ballots through certified mail. Nearly 70 percent of respondents said they preferred bike lanes. About 40 percent said they liked three lanes, while 30 percent said they didn’t and another 30 percent said they were neutral.

Following the city’s first survey, the city dropped proposals to put vehicle parking and transit stops in the center lane.

Brandon Blankenagel, a city engineer, said the survey respondents’ clear preference for bike lanes led to further questions about what type of bike lane would fit best on Riverside.

“It was a matter of how do you implement bike lanes? How do we deliver that concept?” he said. “With bike lanes, there are a couple of options, but otherwise they’re pretty run of the mill.”

The idea for cycle tracks came because the city’s Bicycle Advisory Board has encouraged adding protected bike lanes to the city’s supply of bikeways, and Spokane Transit authority recommended taking the bike lanes behind the transit stops to avoid conflict between cyclists and buses.

If the city builds the cycle track, it would be a first for the Inland Northwest. Though they’re becoming more common in cities around the country – including in San Francisco, Minneapolis and Detroit – they haven’t quite made it in the Pacific Northwest. When Seattle’s Westlake protected bike lane opened in 2016, bike ridership doubled on the road and it was named the best new bike lane in the country by PeopleForBikes.org. Seattle has nine protected bike lanes under construction, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation.

In 2015, Portland’s transportation director Leah Treat said protected bike lanes should be the default bikeway on all major streets, but the city only recently began to codify the practice with its official Portland Protected Bicycle Lane Design Guide.

For more information on Spokane’s plans for Riverside, and to take the survey, visit http://bit.ly/2zpHcVZ.


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