The Downtown Bikeways work group has been talking to people that live, work, go to school, eat, or recreate along the corridor that connects downtown with Loring Heights, Stevens Square, Whittier, and neighborhoods to the south. One person that we spoke with is Galen Ryan, who used to live along the corridor. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What is your connection to the LaSalle-Blaisdell and 1st corridor?
I live by Cedar and Lake now. I used to live at Franklin and Lyndale by Mortimer’s. I would take Blaisdell when I went south and east from my apartment and [would take] 1st Ave when coming back. I wish [the City] would extend that protected bike lane on Blaisdell from Lake Street up through Whittier because [the neighborhood] is similar in its residential nature, or maybe even higher density.
What are your thoughts about the car traffic on this corridor?
When I biked on 1st Ave, it felt like I was the only person traveling on the street in any sort of vehicle, but it always seemed like the whole block was parked up. On LaSalle there is more car traffic, and you just kind of have to put your life in other people’s hands and trust that they’re gonna pass you at a safe distance.
What do you think would make these streets safer?
I’m a fan of putting parking-protected bike lanes wherever they fit to allow for continued parking access, and a safer bike experience.
What are some examples of bike or pedestrian infrastructure in the city that feel safe to you?
I like the 3rd Ave protected bike lane through downtown. Blaisdell, south of Lake Street, is really nice. I like the 26th and 28th Street protected bike lanes. Those provide a lot of nice access across Whittier and the Wedge.
Why do you like those streets? What makes them feel safe?
Probably the same reasons as everybody else, you’ve got that dedicated space. You’re not adjacent to traffic going twice to three times the speed you are. You feel like you can just take your time. As a pedestrian it shortens the crossing distance. It would be nice to have some concrete barrier between the bike lane and the driving lane so that it could operate as a safe pedestrian median. And as a driver, a lot of people used to park close to the intersections [on 26th and 28th], which made it hard to see crossing traffic without putting the nose of your car into the traffic lane.
Would you like to see protected bike lanes on LaSalle-Blaisdell and 1st?
Yes. There isn’t a nice north-south bike connection right now really. Also, do you know Strong Towns? They were the first group that introduced me to this concept that we need to lower car speeds. Strong Towns points out that you can’t just have low speed limits. Instead, we need to design our streets to reinforce driving slowly. [Slower car speeds] are less fatal when crashes do occur. Also, the slower a car is going, it creates less noise, and a more peaceful environment on the street.
If the City were to install protected bike lanes along this corridor, what would you want them to look like?
Not bollards, but some sort of longer barrier, or planters. They’re a great way to provide a more substantial barrier and improve the street scenery. They help make it more clear that [the bike lanes] aren’t a lane for driving.
What would you say to your Council Member?
It’s time to really support and expand the protected bikeway network in the city as a tool to develop climate resiliency. The US census shows that most bike commuters are people with lower incomes and it’s important to develop a safe network for those individuals. We can’t continue to prioritize a transportation mode that pollutes our environment, and endangers our kids.
If you would like to share your support for a safe, protected bikeway that will connect downtown with Loring Heights, Stevens Square, Whittier, and neighborhoods to the south, please fill out this digital postcard.
If you'd like to be featured in an interview about this corridor, or if you'd like to help the Downtown Bikeways work group advocate for protected bike lanes, please contact us.