Seattle’s leaders are working to build a network of connected bike lanes, but every inch of pavement is contested and tensions run high. In Vancouver, which already has such a network, cycling numbers are up. Driving numbers are down. And the opposition has largely melted away.
In Seattle, every bike lane, whether it’s just a painted white line or a fully separated, landscaped bikeway, seems to be fought tooth and nail, in a never-ending battle over precious street space.
The city’s been trying to build one 1.4-mile stretch of bike path in Ballard for nearly three decades. A long-planned bike lane on Fourth Avenue has been pushed back to 2021.
North of the border, the battle has, if not disappeared, at least faded. Former foes have become allies. In less than a decade the city has stitched together a network of bike lanes, mostly separate from traffic, that lets cyclists navigate downtown and beyond without going shoulder-to-shoulder with cars.
Downtown Vancouver is peppered with interconnected bike infrastructure. Bike lanes aren’t painted or marked with pylons; they’re separated from traffic with planter boxes or other solid dividers. There are bright-green crossings, special bike traffic signals, turn restrictions for cars and all manner of textured pavement, sidewalk bulbs and signage.