Monday, October 28, 2013

Downtown from the South: Infrastructure Update

The City of Spokane has been hard at work completing part of the Master Bike Plan, on 4th and 2nd Avenues this summer and fall.  New striping for lanes on both have been completed and redesigned intersections and bike paths are almost complete.

The new infrastructure effectively links the South Perry District to Downtown with a combination of bike lanes, sharrows and shared-use paths.  Getting downtown from this area has been problematic because either 4th or 2nd Avenues though ridable, unceremoniously dumped westbound cyclists into congestion and heavy traffic with no accommodation at Division Street.

These improvements solve some of that but the issue still remains on 2nd since the bike lanes disappear at Division just as a lot of car traffic is fighting for a lane.  Readers may recall that there was a lot of controversy when bike lanes were not installed (even though they were part of the approved plan) when west 2nd Avenue was reconstructed a couple of years ago.

Here is the continuation of the new bike path westbound at 4th and Browne

Eastbound traffic on 4th uses the center lane sharrow.  Westbound bike traffic uses the new pathway on the left
.4th Avenue seems most workable for east and westbound riders since the lanes are freshly painted all the way from Arthur on the east to Howard Streets on the west.  The 4th and Division Intersection has been redesigned so that westbound riders now can continue riding west rather than having to merge into northbound traffic on Division.

Westbound approaching Division from 4th Ave.

Westbound 4th and Division Intersection with new center bike lane that transitions (crosses) from the right side of the road.

4th and Division westbound - the new westbound pathway is just visible at the top of the photo
The westbound bike traffic is then directed onto a new pathway separated from auto traffic to just west of Browne.  There are not any traffic lights at Browne and 4th so cyclist still need to clear crossing traffic from the north and merging traffic from the south (eastbound only) when negotiating the intersection.

Though not perfect, 4th Avenue improvements appear to provide the best transit of a highly congested area for both directions of cycling traffic and I applaud the City on completion of this segment of the Master Bike Plan.

Eastbound improvements appear to be completed and worked fine on the bike this weekend.  I look forward to riding the entire westbound route in a week or two when completed.


  1. Thanks for the update on this, been wanting to check it out. I rode 4th Ave eastbound last week to Division, saw the sharrow and wondered what all was going on over there. And I didn't realize there will be a new option for going west. Really looking forward to riding it - it's always been a bit of a pain to ride back from Rockwood Clinic to my job downtown.


  2. On one hand it's good see infrastructure and energy focused here -- but it's a shame there's not enough leadership in the city to really prioritize cycling infrastructure so that hacks like this don't have to be wedged in the left-over streets.

    imagine a new cyclist or kid encountering the intersection shown in your last three pictures: oncoming cars with "wrong way" and "do not enter" signs, riding against traffic and onto a sidewalk. all of these features work against good design principles and rules of the road.

    And the eastbound jockying with cars going 30+ mph for the center lane on 4th after crossing browne (where a 3-lane brigade of oncoming traffic charges through the 3rd ave intersection up the hill) can be a terrifying experience.

    My guess is that eastbound cyclists will opt for the new path to avoid that situation -- then pop out at division going the wrong way and stay there or cross mid-street east of division to the westbound lane.

    This is a high-volume, high-speed corridor -- pushing bikes against traffic, crossing in front of freeway off ramps, mixing them up with changing lanes of cars... yikes!

    East-west through south downtown is hard, no doubt, and any routing would be expensive and challenging -- but my opinion is that these unnatural, confusing acts of bike routing -- which occur with many segments of the 4th ave piece (e.g. Lincoln/monroe), make things less safe.

    1. Really can't disagree with anything above John. It could be somewhat confusing heading west - particularly with the do not enter signs. The other thing to note is the westbound bikes will need to watch for left (north) turning traffic since both directions of travel have the green light. The only protected direction is from the exiting freeway traffic since they have a red. My main point was though not perfect, it still seems preferable to trying to jockey your way north across 3 lanes and a freeway off ramp to get to 2nd Ave and where the bike lanes end. Thanks for reading and your comments.

    2. John, it will all be a moot point as soon as there's snow. Then the new connector will be left to its fate, covered by wavy foot-packed ice. Based on the City's history of not maintaining bicycle facilities, that is a very safe prediction.

      On the bright side, those who are hardcore enough to ride in the winter should have no problems just turning right onto Division at 4th. Their two lanes are protected on both sides for a block, and if they want the left lane, they just need to signal and execute one lane change with traffic that just came around a 15mph corner and is decelerating for a red light (assuming you turned on a green). It's a downhill block to 2nd if that's their target, or even more downhill if they want Sprague or Trent. I do this all the time, and my bike VERY seldom catches fire and explodes :)

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