Bike Boulevard Unveiled on Seventh

Eric Rosane, Staff Reporter

A newly installed bicycle boulevard on Seventh Avenue is the first move in a series of actions to be taken by the city’s public works department to maintain safer pedestrian and cyclist travel on low-traffic streets.

Traffic barriers were installed on several streets that run perpendicular to Seventh in late May. They aim to alleviate stress for east-to-west commuters, giving pedestrians and cyclists an alternative to the congestion that occurs on University Way. 

“It’s [a] proven safety fact that if you can separate bicycles and vehicles of traffic travel, it makes it a lot safer,” said Derek Mayo, city engineer for the City of Ellensburg. “Bike boulevards are still shared… but Seventh doesn’t have: One, that many vehicles; and two, we put those divergents there to remove the cars and promote safer bicycle travel.”

Mayo and his colleague Josh Mattson, a civil engineer for the city of Ellensburg, have been working with and researching options for the city’s Non-Motorized Transportation Committee to find safer options for cyclists and pedestrians.

The bike boulevard, part of the city’s 2008 non-motorized transportation plan, was initially slated to be installed on University Way in 2013, but due to the large volume of traffic, public works proposed that the barriers would be better utilized on a lower-traffic road.

The boulevard is reminiscent of Portland’s neighborhood greenways, an initiative that Mattson said was an inspiration. Portland’s neighborhood greenways are characterized by slower speed limits on bicycle-friendly streets, and they have been placed in areas with plenty of cyclists and environmentally conscious resources.

These roads have become so popular with city councilmembers and citizens alike that the Portland City Council has said it wants every resident to have a bicycle boulevard available to them within a half a mile of their residence.

In Ellensburg, motorists who aren’t aware of the boulevard have to make u-turns and route revisions, especially if they plan on traveling east to west.

“We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback, [with] people that use it, but there’s also a lot of people that aren’t bicyclists and don’t see the benefit of the project,” Mayo said. “There’s a certain sect of the population that definitely is going to use it and has been using it and we hope that continues to grow.”