Central Seattle Greenways (CSG), in coordination with other greenways, ped-bike and neighborhood groups have been pushing over the last few months for a ped-bike trail on the SR-520 Portage Bay crossing from Montlake to North Capitol Hill. They have built up a lot of momentum for the idea and this post clearly lays out the argument for the connection and addresses some common questions and concerns.
It would not be hyperbole to think of north Capitol Hill as a topographic fortress. It is surrounded to the east, north, and west by very steep slopes. To the best of our knowledge, there is no ADA accessible route for walking or biking off of north Capitol Hill (check out the map below – compiled from city data and actual measurements). Complicating the situation, the streets that were slightly less steep were cherry picked to be arterials for car traffic. As a result, creating an all-ages-and-abilities friendly route between the “urban centers” of Capitol Hill and the University District, and further to neighborhoods in N.E. Seattle and to the Central District, is quite a challenge.
A Portage Bay Bridge Trail would bridge this topographic fortress. According to WSDOT, the Portage Bay Bridge Trail (PBBT) would have less than a 5% grade, be well lit, and be considerably more direct in getting to the “Montlake Hub” of regional trails and to Husky Stadium side of the UW campus. It would be the most direct and family-friendly route from the Montlake Hub to Capitol Hill by far.
Even in terms of getting between Capitol Hill and the East Campus of the UW, taking the PBBT would only be slightly longer than a Harvard Ave E route (1.89 to 1.63), but would be significantly less steep (4.5% to 8.7%), and more separated from traffic. Even amongst experienced cyclists, research has found that article “cyclists are willing to go considerably out of their way to use a bike boulevard or bike path rather than an arterial bike lane,” and that people will go over three times more out of their way to avoid routes with slopes of over 6% grade compared to those with 4-6% grade (click here to purchase full article). This affect would likely be more pronounced in people who are willing-but-wary. In other words, since the PBBT will be better separated and less steep than other options, people will choose to use it over routes that currently exist even if they are shorter. Let’s look at a few of the existing alternatives.
Whole post here.