KFnet in T-Town

Jul. 27, 2009 at 8:34am

New Bike Lanes on 21st Street

Heard some chatter last week and confirmed that there are indeed new bike lanes coming to 21st between Cedar and Union. Check it out!

I know there's been talk from past city council candidates about slowing 21st Street down and I'm all for it. It's a great route from downtown to Westgate but I've absolutely never seen a need to have four lanes running from Union to Pearl. The traffic doesn't merit that much space and, though marked as 30 MPH, no one drives that speed. Reducing the number of lanes and adding a bike lane will hopefully make this less of a freeway and more of a neighborhood artery.

Can't wait to see more bikes lanes around town. Keep up the fine work City of Tacoma!

comments [63]  |  posted under 21st street, bike lanes, proctor, tacoma, urban development


by L.S.Erhardt on 7/27/2009 @ 8:41am
It feels narrow when I drive my truck.
...but I'm all for bike lanes. Can we get some on Division?

by Nick on 7/27/2009 @ 9:24am

by fredo on 7/27/2009 @ 9:56am
It looks like cars get about 60% of the width, parking gets about 20% and bikes get about 20%

My question: is the prevalence of bicyclists really great enough to warrant this type of accommodation? My guess is that when the weather is nice maybe 1% of the commuters are on bikes and when the weather is bad the number of bicyclists is so low as to be unmeasurable.

by KevinFreitas on 7/27/2009 @ 10:24am
@fredo: There are enough bikers that will use the lanes but, sure, it's not going to be a solid line of them at all times. Plus, often a barrier to even wanting to ride a bike around town is the feeling of not knowing where it's safest to do so. More bike lanes will mean more awareness and more participation. Plus, I'm a huge fan of slowing things down on 21st so it's not seen as the speedway most people use it as.

by fredo on 7/27/2009 @ 10:30am
Right on Kevin, and thanks for the posting. I'll be careful when driving N. 21st. It's too scary for me, but I applaud the people who are making the effort to use this green alternative.

by Emilie has one foot on shore on 7/27/2009 @ 10:39am
KF is on the nose, fredo. I'm a definite novice biker, and although I HAVE finally (mostly) conquered my fear of hills for the down-to-work commute, I'd love to take the little red bike farther afield.... but I never know which roads won't scare the bejeezus out of a beginner like me. 21st is a main route between my Stadium digs and a couple place I need to be on a weekly basis... I'm pretty stoked to give the new bike lanes a try!

by dolly varden on 7/27/2009 @ 10:53am
I'll use 'em. Great news!

by Ann on 7/27/2009 @ 1:10pm
Glad to see the bike lanes. Going to take me a while to work up the courage to use them.

by Nick on 7/27/2009 @ 1:19pm
Another plus to this is that it provides an explicitly-designated route for cyclists to use. This could help concentrate bikes onto specific streets, making it easier for urban planners and developers to know when and where to accommodate for bikes (not to mention vans/trucks making business deliveries).

by jenyum on 7/27/2009 @ 1:21pm
I've already noticed a bit of a traffic slowdown. This is definitely a good thing. It's been dangerous to even to attempt to cross 21st for a long time.

by Erik on 7/27/2009 @ 1:47pm
A good move overall.

Traffic tends to move at a rate correlated to lane width.

by intacoma on 7/27/2009 @ 1:56pm
pacific needs to be slowed down as well especially as it goes up the hill, I'm tired of people going 60

by wstanton on 7/27/2009 @ 2:48pm
21st is one segment of a great Tacoma street -- running all the way from its beginnings as C Street, at Military Rd in Spanaway, through Parkland, arriving in Tacoma as as Park Ave., becoming Yakima Ave., Thompson Ave., Yakima (again), "I" St., N. 21st St., Westgate Blvd, N. 17th St. all the way out to Narrows Drive at Jackson. I like to think of it as continuing down Jackson, & through U.P. and Lakewood as Bridgeport, to the gate of McChord, a 23+ mile inverted "U" of a route weaving together all of greater Tacoma.

In my opinion, the cities should bike-enable this whole route. It parallels the crazier Pacific corridor, stays relatively peacefully centered between Downtown and MLK/Sprague -- , and keeps a decent elevation across the freeway / South Tacoma Way gully. Bridgeport gets crazy thru U.P. and the maze of Lakewood, but it could be done.

by L.S.Erhardt on 7/27/2009 @ 5:15pm
I've already biked it.
Needless to say, the nimrod drivers in this city apparently don't understand the concept of a narrower lane just for bikes.
Almost got creamed by a VW Beetle by Union.

Perhaps a public awareness campaign is in due order? I'd volunteer to get it rolling, but my grass-roots efforts get ignored.

by KevinFreitas on 7/27/2009 @ 8:31pm
wstanton: thanks for pointing that out -- it is an amazing road! I used to attend and work at PLU and used it as a connection from my rental in the Stadium area all the time. It'd be amazing to see such a length of road all bike accessible. I'm definitely gunning for them to bike route it at least to Pearl but on to Jefferson would be nice for a connection nearly to the Tacoma Narrows and Scott Pierson trail.

@Thorax and everyone: are the actual lines painted yet? Until then I suppose it shouldn't be considered a 100% bike route and I'd imagine plenty of drivers may still be a bit confused especially since it's not readily apparent what's going on without solid lines. I could easily see those little reflector dealies looking weird in low sunlight and such.

Overall, so very many benefits on certain roads and so relatively cheap to implement. Now it's time to tackle poorly designed streets like Tacoma Ave at the top of downtown, Center street through the Nalley Valley, Pine from Center up through 6th Ave and to 21st, etc.

by L.S.Erhardt on 7/28/2009 @ 4:39am
Yeah, nothing painted. They just oiled the street, so there are reflective tabs instead of paint for all the lane markers.

But I should note that being run off the road has happened to me before on better-marked lanes... such as on N. Stevens. It's sad but true that as a pedestrian/cyclist, I feel unsafe on most non-side streets. We need more street-side parking allowed. Yes, I of all people am advocating more parking. Not because I think there is a shortage but because that row of parked cars creates a physical and visual buffer between you and the traffic.
Granted, even the residential streets with parking are dangerous, but at least where the grid still exists you can see traffic better. Roads that unnecessarily wind are the work of Satan....

by Erik on 8/11/2009 @ 12:21am
It looks like some come commuters are irritated that their speedway through the north end neighborhood has been impinged:

Traffic calming measure on North 21st Street irks driver


I drive through the area everyday though and it seems to be working very well.

by ixia on 8/11/2009 @ 1:16am
The pacific octopus lives 3-5 years in the wild. Forced to dwell in an urban habitat, she only made it a few months. Keep the wild spaces wild!

by fredo on 8/11/2009 @ 6:20am
Traffic "calming" sounds like such a great idea. Everyone wants drivers to remain calm. Another word for calming is "slowing" and that doesn't have quite the same cache.

The constituency which is pushing traffic calming will be the first people to complain when slow traffic delays the response of an emergency aid vehicle to their homes.

by KevinFreitas on 8/11/2009 @ 6:40am
Put up one of those temp radar "slow down" thingies and people will slow down through there. It'd a 30 MPH road and drivers need to heed that speed.

by fredo on 8/11/2009 @ 6:55am
Doctors put aquariums in their waiting rooms to calm people down. We should try this on streets which need calming. Try painting a large octopus, for example, right in the middle of an intersection and see what happens.

by KevinFreitas on 8/11/2009 @ 6:57am
Oh, sad, sad octopus. I was there upon it's creation and now it is but a memory. I like the idea but think they need different, more durable paints.

I've used the lanes a couple times and love 'em. They make a nice connection whether coming from downtown via "I" or 6th Ave area via Cedar (or Pine -- I forget what it is at that point).

by ixia on 8/11/2009 @ 8:32am
Wait, I posted that last post at 8.30 am! Am I in a time warp?

by KevinFreitas on 8/11/2009 @ 8:47am
@ixia: some weird blip going on. Tacomamama noticed it too. I'll have to see if I can hunt it down... (the bug, not the octopus :) )

by tacoma1 on 8/11/2009 @ 10:03am
For anyone that loves cars, or hates them, here is link to a funny video on car culture:


by Erik on 8/11/2009 @ 12:24pm
For anyone that loves cars, or hates them, here is link to a funny video on car culture:


I remember how bizarre it was when I first tried to drive on 21 street with signs that allowed parking only at different times during the day.

The prior speedway design made the neighborhood a place to drive through rather to enjoy. Trying to cross 21st other than at one of the few crosswalks was a hazard.

Here's a good article on Traffic Calming.

Traffic Calming 101

"In almost all U.S. cities, the bulk of the right-of-way is given to the roadway for vehicles, the least to the sidewalk for pedestrians... just suppose that Americans were to extend their walking radius by only a few hundred feet. The result could be an emancipation... --William H. Whyte (CITY: Rediscovering the Center)


by tacoma1 on 8/11/2009 @ 1:26pm
Nice link. What stands out to me is that there is balance on those streets. Balance between cars, bicycles, pedestrians, and trees.

by jenyum on 8/11/2009 @ 8:34pm
They seem to be working on S 12th now, by Union. It would be nice to be able to safely cross the street by the Mandolin.

by KevinFreitas on 8/14/2009 @ 11:38am
Project as massive as this don't make me feel so bad for adding a bike lane or two around town. Pretty sure our taxes are proportionally going to where they're used most.

They ain't building that thing for bikes!

by L.S.Erhardt on 8/14/2009 @ 9:04pm
Careful... taking that picture is probably a felony and threat to National security!

But aside from that, I agree that the quantity of car-only stuff more than justifies bike lanes.
Speak of, have you seen the bile lanes on the new D street overpass? Pretty nice! I just wish they went farther than just the overpass itself.

by KevinFreitas on 8/16/2009 @ 11:38am
I haven't see those Thorax. Yeah, it'd be great if they could extend the lanes all the way down Dock Street and up the hill to the McKinley neighborhood. Could help make the Dome District even more of a transportation hub if they add cyclists to the already plentiful bus, train, and light rail mix.

by amym on 8/16/2009 @ 1:28pm
Sorry, but the new bike lanes are not very appealing. I bike often with my children, and have no desire to ride with them between traffic and parked cars (which have the potential to open a car door onto the bike lane). I'll ride on the sidewalk or stick to side street until there are actual bike boulevards in Tacoma. Calming traffic is always good, though.

by KevinFreitas on 8/16/2009 @ 2:23pm
amym: I know you mean. I stopped riding along "I" for that very reason. I feel a bit safer with a bike lane even still because parked cars at least can see by the white painted lines that bikes are more likely to be there. No so on unmarked streets. Plus, the couple times I've ridden 21st's new lanes there have been almost no parked cars. Not sure why that is -- maybe the residents aren't home yet around 5:30pm on a weekday.

Having bike boulevards would be sweet though. Wonder which streets around here could be designated as such?

by tacoma1 on 8/16/2009 @ 5:40pm
the water ditch trail should be perfect for cycling once it's done

by KevinFreitas on 8/16/2009 @ 7:20pm
Very true, exciting corridor! Imagine this then being connected from the Thea Foss all the way along through the Point Defiance sea wall. It'd be amazing if we could get some kind of decent connection from downtown to the Foothills Trail our near Orting, too. All it takes is time and money...

by L.S.Erhardt on 8/16/2009 @ 11:12pm
"Having bike boulevards would be sweet though. Wonder which streets around here could be designated as such?"

North Union? Could always insert a bike lane in the middle of the islands. All the trees seem to be planted on the edges.

by Nick on 8/17/2009 @ 11:09am

I've always thought that space down the middle of Union was under-utilized. I love the trees and the islands really make that area look beautiful, but the lack of any sort of official encouragement to use the space has seemed rather silly to me. Aren't there signs that even say pedestrians aren't supposed to walk there? WTF?

by KevinFreitas on 8/17/2009 @ 11:23am
Yeah, that's a lovely lane. The no pedestrian signs I think are to try and prevent them from crossing there in the middle at the various intersections. Seems a perfect opportunity to do what they did nearby along Mason there near proctor. Put in a walking and bike path and extend it all the way down past UPS. Benches. Etc.

by Nick on 8/17/2009 @ 12:41pm
Yeah, I can almost picture a scaled down version of Portland's North Park Blocks. Granted, ours isn't in the heart of downtown, but a similar design would be pretty cool.

by thriceallamerican on 8/17/2009 @ 1:01pm
@jenyum, re: S 12th work...

Unless plans have changed the construction will only be occurring between Union and Sprague, and thus not extending far enough to affect the neighborhood around Mandolin. I believe the initial squeaky wheel that made the project happen was the Friends of S 12th group, so the city is doing work in their area. Fun with public involvement.

I was following this early on but am not really up on the latest. Last I knew, the plans involved reducing the eastbound lanes to one lane while leaving the westbound direction as two lanes. (I would have rather seen it reduced to one lane each direction. If people want to drive fast they should take the freeway. But they did some sort of traffic flow study that showed the westbound lanes as "necessary". Whatevs.) Also look for some bump-out things to make slight meanders in the lanes.

I hope it doesn't suck.

by tacoma1 on 8/17/2009 @ 1:03pm
Union is a utilities corridor. I don't know if the utilities companies involved would allow a pathway there or not, but this is an excellent idea.

If that were to happen, the center of Union would have to be changed to a contiguous median - from say 30th to 26th, and 26th to 21st. With too many intersections, cars would be colliding in to cyclist's and pedestrians.

by KevinFreitas on 8/17/2009 @ 1:33pm
I totally vote each crossing be mini-bridges of glass over the intersecting roads. Then cyclists would really be getting into something worth paying licensing fees for! Ooo, or perhaps a velodrome plopped into Tollefson Plaza? Just need two more sides! ;)


by tacoma1 on 8/17/2009 @ 2:24pm
A Tollefson velodrome with a spire in the middle! At the base of the spire, we could have a pawn/bail bond/tattoo/teryaki shop. That would put us on the map!!

by Nick on 8/17/2009 @ 3:44pm
@tacoma1 don't forget the obligatory craters/potholes surrounding the spire!

by izenmania on 8/24/2009 @ 7:45pm
I don't know how far they've gone, but the area immediately east of Pine on 12th has been re-paved, with reflectors indicating fresh bike lanes.

by KevinFreitas on 9/9/2009 @ 4:49pm
Great story on NPR about bike lanes in NYC:


Like I said with a smoking ban, if it can be done in NY then it can be anywhere!

by tacoma1 on 9/9/2009 @ 5:53pm
Great link and story. Thanks.

Earlier today, instead of working , I was looking at the streetfilms website. And I was thinking kinda the same thing. This is in San Fran, but same thing goes, if a big city can pull this stuff off, certainly, Tacoma can pull it off too. I know we have car free Sundays on five mile drive for half the day, but wouldn't it be great if the entire Ruston Way was open to human power only on Sundays, maybe just one Sunday a month to start? Maybe even from Downtown Tacoma all the way to Point Defiance? Just a thought, or a dream.........


by KevinFreitas on 12/1/2009 @ 3:12pm
Just out running errands this afternoon and what do I see? Fresh bike lanes and crosswalk stripes painted up and down 21st Street. Check 'em out:

Thanks Tacoma crews for all your hard work! Now to get a wind and rain proof jacket so I can start utilizing them without freezing my ass off...

by narndt on 12/1/2009 @ 3:22pm
I want a used "bike lane person" template as artwork for my home!

by Non Sequitur on 12/1/2009 @ 8:14pm

by Jesse on 12/1/2009 @ 8:20pm
This is progress. Some other streets in town could use the narrowing and addition of bike lanes too.

by david on 12/1/2009 @ 11:24pm
I like Fredo's Octopus Intersection idea.

by morgan on 12/2/2009 @ 11:29am
When are they going to do the rest of 21st from Alder on down to "I" Street?! Why must the city take so long for something so simple?

by fredo on 12/2/2009 @ 11:38am
"Why must the city take so long...?" Morgan

ha ha ha these postings reveal so much irony.

On another discussion involving governmental inaction you noted that it was a good thing when the government took "baby steps."

by L.S.Erhardt on 12/2/2009 @ 11:53am
I love the bike symbol with the lock painted in it.

Anyone notice that St Helens NB is bike-only yet SB is "Shared" Bike+Car? I saw that this morning while shopping.

by tacoma1 on 12/2/2009 @ 12:50pm
30th street is also getting bike lanes right now. It really does make the lane space feel smaller, even though the space for cars is exactly the same. It should definitely aide the traffic calming efforts around town, and make our streets safer for everyone.

More street films anyone?


by L.S.Erhardt on 12/2/2009 @ 1:04pm
You know, it seems like to get any "positive" press, you have to go over the top.

So, why not get all this so-called "green cred" by building an extensive, comprehensive city-wide bike network (use the word "green" and federal dollars are yours) and then invest in a fleet of rent-a-bikes?

Then make such a big noise about it that even Seattle looks down form it's gilded throne and says "that's a good idea, we ought to try that".

Granted, the current "Green movement" is a bubble, just like the tech stocks on the NASDAQ in 198-2000. If you had ".com" in your name, you were gold. Same thing now, if you're "green", "sustainable" or "alternative energy".
It's all cyclical, and eventually this bubble will pop too. We'll end up with the never-had-a-chance companies going away, and leaving the solid players behind... just like with the internet.
We REALLY need to jump on this to take advantage of the bubble and AND AND use it to get the most robust "green" companies here for a sustainable future after this bubble pops.

Bikes are a good start, as they're as "green" as you get and are cheap. Make some nose with that, and remake the T-Town economy from that starting point.

by Nick on 12/2/2009 @ 1:18pm
I noticed S 12th also got some bike lane painting love this morning. Nice!

by KevinFreitas on 12/3/2009 @ 8:30am
Yay, looks like the new ones along 30th are getting some paint as well:

Didn't feel too tight a fit at all when driving along side the new bike lanes this morning. This is so great to see! Can't wait to look at streets like Alder and Center to get some lanes on those. Make commuting to and from downtown far smoother and safer.

by Nick on 12/3/2009 @ 10:27am
Is it me or do the recently painted yellow divider lines look like they'll wash off with the next major rain?

by L.S.Erhardt on 12/3/2009 @ 11:03am
That's because they use "environmentally friendly" paint.

by Nick on 12/3/2009 @ 11:55am
Also, what's with roads/freeways all over WA having zero reflectors (or pathetic excuses for them) on lane markings? It always feels like I can never see lane boundaries during a heavy downpour, and considering our region's reputation for rain, I find this surprising. Has anyone else noticed this?

by KevinFreitas on 12/3/2009 @ 12:59pm
@Nick -- I actually have noticed that in the last couple rains. Not fun to have trouble making those lines out. Phew! And I thought it was just 'cause I'm getting old! ;)


Although I have another home on the web I thought it might be nice to lead by example a bit and put this blog system up to the test myself.

So far, so good... Funny how I build web tools for other people that are far better than the one's I have setup over on KFnet.


Hey Clear Channel, Clean Up Your Crap!

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