Main St in Bellevue, where a bike lane is being considered (Image: Dan Ryan)


Bellevue may have decided to make the 108th Ave NE bike lane it built last year permanent, but when it comes to expanding the city’s downtown cycling network the Bellevue Transportation Commission seems to be at odds with City Council. On May 23rd the Commission split 3-3 over whether to add bicycle lanes along two blocks of Main ST between Bellevue Way and 108th Ave NE, despite the fact that City Council strongly supports the project. Following the split, the Commission voted to delay further discussion, but did not choose a specific date to revisit the plan, leaving it unclear how the process will move forward.

This is the second time that the Commission has punted consideration of extending Bellevue’s downtown bicycle network. City staff first proposed the Main ST project at the Commission’s March 28th meeting, but the issue was tabled after the Commission’s 4-2 vote to retain the existing protected bicycle lanes on 108th Ave NE.

The decision to delay comes after Commission Chair Lei Wu has received specific instructions from Bellevue City Council to evaluate options for Main ST and choose an alternative. At a May 13th study session the full Council discussed the proposal with Wu and expressed unanimous support for moving forward with an east-west bicycle facility. Since City Council strongly supports piloting more bicycle lanes, why is the Transportation Commission dithering on its responsibility?

Speaking of the Transportation Commission’s vote to retain the existing bike lanes, Mayor John Chelminiak said:

What the transportation commission is doing, or at least a majority of the transportation commission is doing, in my mind, is helping the council and the city of Bellevue implement adopted policy of the city. And that’s the job of a commission. The job of a commission is not to consistently second guess, its to implement adopted policy.

Mayor Chelminiak went on to add that this is an opportunity to add bike lanes to Main ST since one of the general traffic lanes which would be converted has been closed anyway due to construction without causing significant problems.

I would say move ahead with a decent amount of speed because my daughter was still in school in 2017 when that lane got blocked. It hasn’t changed anything, it’s been blocked because of construction. I think take advantage of that fact and, since its been blocked lets get a bike lane in there and see how it all works.

In the Commission’s debates Wu seems to be the swing vote. She voted with Loreana Marciante, Clifford Chirls, and Scott Lampe to retain the 108th Ave NE bike lane, but voted against the Main ST project on May 23rd, specifically citing the need to wait for the Bellevue Downtown Association (BDA) to meet on June 5th to discuss its position. What’s strange is that the BDA’s meeting was apparently called with the expectation that the Transportation Commission would have finished its deliberations and prepared a recommendation for City Council. From the BDA website:

On May 23, the [City of Bellevue] Transportation Commission will consider two alternatives or no action for extending bike lanes along Main Street. The recommendation will be transmitted to Council for review on July 8. The BDA Transportation Committee is convening on June 5 to review the Commission’s work to determine if a recommendation should be processed through the BDA Board in advance of the July Council meeting.

Also strange is that the date of the June 5th BDA meeting was well known when Chair Wu presented to City Council on May 13th. Wu’s slides even listed the BDA meeting as part of the project timeline, showing it occurring after the Bellevue Transportation Commission meeting, and no mention was made then of a need to delay the Commission’s discussion.

The BDA has been supportive of implementing a downtown bicycle lane network in the past, and wrote a letter to the Commission supporting the retention of the 108th Ave NE bike lane. From that letter:

Strengthening multimodal connectivity in a measured way is consistent with past BDA positions and its 2019 adopted Downtown Access Strategy…. Acknowledging a mode is only as useful as its system’s reach; it’s important to continue advancing connectivity for modes that currently operate in isolated stretches.

It’s unclear whether anything that results from the BDA’s June 5th meeting will break the deadlock on the Bellevue Transportation Commission. Its also unclear whether Bellevue City Council has invested the commission with the authority to kill plans to extend the downtown bicycle network entirely. What is clear is that this level of acrimony and debate is out of proportion with the scope of a project that adds only two blocks of painted bike lanes. If Bellevue wants to realize its vision for cycling in downtown, it will need to find a way to accept community feedback while still moving forward with implementation on a predictable schedule.

Brad Haverstein tweets about local transportation, particularly on the Eastside.

18 Replies to “The Bellevue Transportation Commission is stalling on downtown bicycle lanes”

  1. Sounds like the Transportation Commission has about as much utility as the East Bellevue Community Council: negative.

    1. Why not create one north/south lane which is exclusively for bikes (and pedestrians)? Then consider an East/West one? Every city would benefit from such an arrangement.

  2. They should stall and make sure the Main street bike lane isn’t going to be as poorly designed as the 108th one.

    1. Unfortunately the commission has spent so much time debating whether bike lanes should exist that they haven’t really discussed the design alternatives for Main ST at all.

    2. The stalling sounds like it’s probably because of trying to stall the existence of the bike lanes itself, not stalling for better ones, unfortunately

  3. I looked at the map and see bicycle lanes on Main between Bellevue Way and 106th. It’s more than two blocks from Bellevue Way and 108th too.

    I’ve not followed this, but is the section in question just between 106th and 108th?

    1. There are some incomplete bike lanes around the Main ST and Bellevue Way intersection today.

      Going downhill on Main ST toward Bellevue Way there is a narrow bicycle lane for about a block starting at 106th. Almost as soon as you get into it you have to leave it again because it suddenly switches to the other side of the general purpose lane before going through the intersection.

      Going uphill there is a bike lane through Main ST and Bellevue Way intersection but it disappears about halfway to 106th if I remember correctly.

      The proposed Main ST project would replace the existing bike lanes with a new design (potentially changing them to buffered bike lanes) and connect them through to 108th. For details see the slides posted on the BDA Transportation Committee website:

  4. There is no possible way that they could make things worse at Northbound 108th at Main. Or maybe I am wrong. It took some really creative thinking to come up with something as bad as it is. Traffic backs up for 1/4 to 1/2 mile every time school lets out. But that doesn’t really affect the bike traffic, BECAUSE THERE IS NONE. It only affects those of us who actually live on 108th, or those who live in Surrey Downs, the most convenient way to cut through the mess, well after you wait the 10 minutes to get there. I am sure all of those on 109th don’t mind. You can still cut through The Surrey Building for now, but thats coming down. Then either Main St or one of two lanes on 108th will be closed for construction traffic. The simple obvious solution is to leave the bike box in front of the inside left only lane and give us back the straight/right lane with right on red. Worked great for forty years.

    1. Traffic was bad before the bike lanes, but now you have a safer option than driving. Complaining about traffic problems while contributing to the traffic problems yourself has a certain irony, though.

      1. Safer?
        Take a look at the ridiculous way the right turn is setup now. I have never seen anywhere a right turn was even legal from the inside lane.

        Not everyone can ride a bike.

        Even in the 24th century the needs of the many will outweigh the needs of the few (or the one)

        I wonder how many bikes even pass through 108th and Main? How many cars? Is it even 100 to 1?

        Give back the right lane at 108th and Main.

      2. Sorry Jeff –

        If a ton of people take the bike lanes, you’ll hear calls to expand the bike lanes.
        If nobody uses the bike lanes, you’ll hear calls to expand the bike lanes.

        It’s the perfect sales pitch.

  5. The biggest draw back of bike lanes in DT Bellevue is the abrupt termination that forces the cyclists into traffic lanes. Either provide a contiguous bike lane or none at all and mark the pavement with the >> Bike marking that tells the drivers to share the road with a cyclist. The abrupt start of a bike lane by taking away a car lane causes the drivers to race to beat a cyclist before the bike lane starts and the abrupt termination leaves the cyclist vulnerable to car traffic that is going to make a right turn into the next intersection. I have been a bike commuter for the last 35 years, in Los Angeles and in Bellevue, and do not see much benefit in the current set up in DT Bellevue.

  6. I got these ads about how it was slow down traffic and I should be concerned. Lol. I have a better solution
    Bellevue’s full. There’s no more room. Sorry. Lol.

  7. Its also unclear whether Bellevue City Council has invested the commission with the authority to kill plans to extend the downtown bicycle network entirely.

    The Bellevue Transportation Commission is an advisory body. All decisions lie with the City Council. Commission members are appointed by the City Council and are volunteers, not paid staff. They historically have been a very “pro business” group. The commission does a tremendous amount of leg work digging into the details of the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) which provides the budgetary framework from which the City operates. It is annoying that bike lanes all over Bellevue tend to be disconnected stretches built when the opportunity arises rather than to a master plan (and schedule). To their credit, the Transportation Commission did a great job in working with staff to create the final Spring Blvd design that will make that area far more pedestrian and bicycle friendly than downtown which was designed entirely around the automobile.

  8. I noticed anti-Main Street bike lane yard signs along Bellevue Way today. Says Save Our, then says something like don’t let the city council take away Main Street traffic lanes.

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