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Seattle's Dexter Avenue To Become A Little Safer For Bike Commuters

Jennifer Wing
The morning comute along Dexter Avenue as it crosses Mercer.

At 7 a.m. on a recent morning, biker after biker whizzed by on Dexter Avenue heading into downtown Seattle. Some wore fancy gear. Others rode in summer shorts and sandals. Most carried backpacks.

This is one of the most popular roads for the city’s bike commuters. Still, if you want to get around Seattle safely on two wheels, you have to always be aware of cars. According to the most recent available data, there were 406 car-bike accidents in 2012.

“The traffic is a lot less forgiving to bikers so if you don’t have a lot of confidence that can be a real challenge,” said bike commuter Scott Dewees, who rides on Dexter almost every day.

Construction on Mercer Street and State Route 99 is making the commute more of a challenge these days for bikers on Dexter, which parallels SR 99. But starting in October, the city will be making improvements along Dexter between Denny Way and Mercer Street. Once the project is completed in mid-2015, city officials say there will be more room for bikers and pedestrians.  

Kyle Rowe, a planner with the Seattle Department of Transportation, says this wide stretch of road will go on a diet.

“The street will go from four lanes to three, with a two-way left-turn lane in the middle and one lane of traffic going in each direction,” Rowe said.

New bike lanes on either side of the street will be next to the sidewalk and protected by parked cars. The configuration will be similar to the bike lanes on Broadway in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Over the past few years, the city has made similar improvements farther north on Dexter. Earlier this month, the city banned cars on Dexter from making a right onto Mercer Street heading toward Puget Sound. The decision to implement the turn ban came after cars turning right at that intersection hit two cyclists.

According to a survey conducted by the city last year, 97,000 Seattleites say they ride a bike at least a few times a month. That same report cited the top reason people don’t ride more often as “not feeling safe.”

Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.