Exit133 is about Tacoma

Imagine Tacoma – Bike Me!

As the calendar points to it now being Spring, thoughts turn to taking the bicycle down from the rafters of the garage and check it out for fair-weather commuting to Downtown Tacoma. So imagine fine-tuning Downtown itself to make the ride to, and from, work more inviting:

Pierce Transit Hillclimb Assistance:
What about Pierce Transit giving bicycle commuters a ride ‘up the hills’ for free? – a ‘Free-wheel Up-Hill’ so to speak. Allow helmeted riders on-board for the bit of the ride from Pacific Avenue up to Division, MLK or South 38th. And if not free – maybe for a yearly ‘Get out of Downtown for a Fee Card?’

St. Helen’s Assistance:
Please have St. Helen’s be a one-way UPHILL. Use the vestige of the horse-powered street car line to be conducive for used by the human-powered craft.

Back-in Parking:
Please, please restripe all of the angled parking for back-in (thus allowing the removal of trunk items towards the curb and not into traffic) – and the bicyclist can make eye-contact with the driver.

Bike Racks:
Hey, if we can’t get trash cans, lets at least get bike racks.

With gasoline prices expected to spike-up again this Summer (and if you’re a Kunstlerite– we are past peak oil production as it is), some low-tech cost-efficient bicycle amenities might just help get more fair-weather cyclists into the fold (and up the hill).

Note: Tacoma Bike Swap, Saturday, May 9, Noon – 5 p.m. UPS Memorial Fieldhouse.

Free and open to the public. Come buy or sell a bike as part of Bike Month!

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jamie from thriceallamerican

Two years later, I’m still grumbling about the city’s St. Helens direction decision…still haven’t heard a compelling reason for why downhill would be the better direction.

(And as an addendum…how is that intersection going to work once Antique Row becomes 2-way?  Talk about a nightmare…)

Love the free bus idea, too.

Need to get off my butt and start up the bike+train commute.

March 26, 2009 at 8:35 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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dolly varden

Sound like some very doable suggestions.  I just ride up St. Helens the wrong way now that it’s one way.  No close calls, yet.

One more bike-friendly suggestion that should have the backing of the wider community:  Fix the potholes.

March 26, 2009 at 8:57 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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March 26, 2009 at 10:05 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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I agree with needing more bike racks and secure places to lock up bikes at businesses.  Hooray for the Mad Hat Tea Co. who actually let me take my bike inside this morning.  I’m all for getting the word out about businesses that provide for us bicyclers and welcome our business!

March 26, 2009 at 11:25 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Erik B.

Please have St. Helen’s be a one-way <span class=“caps”>UPHILL</span>. Use the vestige of the horse-powered street car line to be conducive for used by the human-powered craft.

Nada.  90 percent of the cars want to use St. Helens downhill at the entrance to downtown. Best to design the streets and walkways how people want to use them rather than trying to force them to use downtown in a way they do not want to.  Otherwise, they won’t try.

As Jamie pointed out its old fight which is now over with the <span class=“caps”>LID</span>.

Please, please restripe all of the angled parking for back-in

I keep hearing this one, but people don’t like back in spaces.  I don’t think they like the ones in Stadium which might explain why there are always empty spaces there.

Its great to be pro-bike.  Yet, the cars need to be integrated in a way they don’t dominate.

March 26, 2009 at 11:29 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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jamie from thriceallamerican

@ErikB 90 percent of the cars want to use St. Helens downhill at the entrance to downtown.

I’m going to have to ask you to cite a source on that one, sir.  I highly doubt the veracity of that figure.

Plus (<span class=“caps”>PLUS</span>!)–and I know you just argued against the back in parking, but as Mr. Boe points out it’s in the long run safer, so hear me out–the change for the <span class=“caps”>LID</span> doesn’t have to be a done deal, for with just some simple signage changes St. Helens can be (wait for it) uphill with back-in parking.  Can I get an amen?

March 26, 2009 at 11:51 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thorax O'Tool

Yeah, when going downtown, I prefer to take Stadium Wy. Much easier. But on the way up, I’m still wanting to take St Helens. While I agree it really should be one-way, I’m teaming up with Jamie for this one: Uphill.

As for biking… fixing potholes? Awesome idea. Bike racks? Sweet! Hill Climb? Fabulous… I’ve been known to get a pull up 9th from pickups on occasion (you just hold onto the bedrails), and a ride on the bus sounds much more pleasant, safer and of course, legal There are a bajillion good reasons to bike, and gas prices going back over $3/gallon (it’s coming people, I assure you) are as good as any.

But you know what would really get me biking places? A combination of more bike lanes and somehow, someway getting the idiot drivers in this city to not scare the ever-loving-sh*t out of you on the streets. I’ve had way too many close calls down on 11th and Pacific, let me tell you. I don’t want to meet my maker via the grill of an F-350.

March 27, 2009 at 12:37 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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I moved to Tacoma 2 years ago from Seattle. During this time, Seattle has tremendously increased the number of bike lanes and sharrows around town, put in bike turn lanes, and generally become a much safer city for biking. Tacoma? Not a single new stripe of white paint, far as I can tell. I’m not holding my breath for the year I’ve got left in this town. Bike lanes and sharrows are the cheapest thing in the world, and considering the ghost town that most of Tacoma is, they require almost no planning (since most roads are much wider than they need to be for current traffic… ahem, sixth ave). At this point, I’m just convinced that nobody in the City gives a damn about biking in this town. If they did, there’d be 15 new bike lanes by next month.

March 27, 2009 at 7:54 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Douglas Tooley

Bike issues are a great one for broad civic discussion – the tech is pretty simple and everybody understands what a hill means – not to mention crazed automobile drivers.

<span class=“caps”>FWIW</span>, walking your bike up 3 or 4 blocks of hills isn’t all that bad.

March 27, 2009 at 12:45 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Sadly, Elliot’s right. Seattle has (miraculously) forged ahead with a solid plan and actually done something in a short period of time (bureaucratically speaking).

A year ago, it seemed like Tacoma was getting excited… “Oh, bikes bikes bikes!” The city reached out to the community (kudos)… heck, they even tried commuting (more kudos). I engaged in an email conversation with those who could impact things (accessibility, yay!). And hey, didn’t the city bring up some consultants from Portland? I imagine that cost something…

A year later, nothing to show for any of it.

Yes, things take time in govt. But wasn’t there some huge amount of money just lobbed our way for transportation? And with all that emphasis now on “Shovel Ready” infrastructure projects… uh, hello? Bike lanes? Sharrows? It’s paint, you don’t even need a shovel. Granted, the potholes are a pretty massive problem, too, but I’ve come to terms that the standing perspective is to stick fingers in that dike.

As for St. Helens, I was kinda floored when I encountered an individual (who identified themselves as part of the City govt.) that said of the project, without any cycling-related prompting, “Oh, you mean that thing that totally screwed over cyclists?”

Okay, so there’s a niche population that’s crying bloody murder and at least one City govt. member who sympathizes… sounds like the perfect plot for the next film festival. City Hall is overrun by Cycling Ninjas, aided by a sympathetic insider…

March 27, 2009 at 12:57 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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jamie from thriceallamerican

Erik B, I’m still waiting for that source citation on the 90% figure.

I believe you’re the only person outside of city gov’t and the downtown merchants that I’ve ever heard argue for the one-way downhill choice…

March 27, 2009 at 2:34 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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the down hill one-way is good for skateboarding! ! !

March 27, 2009 at 3:28 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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dolly varden

Count me as another supporter of sharrows.  Very cheap and easy.  Though they can seem like kind of a cheap, empty substitute for bike lanes, they actually do make bikes feel more “wanted,” and make cars look out for them more.  They should complement a good bike lane system, not replace it.

As far as St. Helens goes, how about painting in an uphill bike lane on the sidewalk? (Not that the sidewalk’s that crowded with pedestrians there anyway at most times of day.)

March 27, 2009 at 4:02 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Jerry Petteys

This city has gotten better with bike lanes, but it’s come to a standstill as of late. As a daily rider, I appreciate being able to go one-way down St. Helens. I was hoping Broadway would be one-way going the other direction (it’s a more gradual way up).

Stadium way is irritating with the angled parking and the shoddy repave job. It’s wierd that a bike lane begins just after the bumpy pavement.

I wish that 21st would just be one lane and allow space for a bike lane. It would reduce speeding and make the road safer.

I find K Street, N 15th, N. 18th and N. 24th good streets for navigating the North End.

March 27, 2009 at 4:03 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Lance Kagey

David This is one of the most brilliant ideas I’ve heard. <span class=“caps”>GREAT</span>!

Pierce Transit giving bicycle commuters a ride ‘up the hills’ for free? – a ‘Free-wheel Up-Hill’

I would vote for the politician that would push this idea forward.

Okay, so what do we need to do to move this along?

March 27, 2009 at 4:22 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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I love <span class=“caps”>ANY</span> idea to make riding in Tacoma easier, but given the city’s disinterest in providing even pedestrian access, I’m skeptical.  Seems to be all about the car.  (Remember a few months ago where St Helens was closed, Broadway was closed, and there wasn’t even a safe pedestrian walkway up Stadium Way?) 

bus up hill? all for it, but it’s only a 7-minute push/walk. (and a 7-minute ride ;-) ) You’d take more time waiting/loading/unloading…

St Helens? – I ride the sidewalk or the wrong way.  Given the back-out parking I feel safer riding the wrong way uphill than the right way downhill.

March 27, 2009 at 5:03 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thorax O'Tool

Okay, so what do we need to do to move this along?

March 28, 2009 at 4:17 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Local political action emphasis needs to be taken off of recreational trails and more towards real commuter bike lanes and trails.  I spoke with Marty Campbell about this and he seemed to think that N. 24th would be a great bikes-preferred road route across the top of Tacoma.  I disagree, especially since it crosses so many arterials and it sort of peters out a block before Orchard.  Right now, my preference is N. 26th connecting to Narrows Drive, but that won’t get me downtown unless I head down to 24th. Be nice if there were signs and paint.

Anyone thought about questioning the approach to the bridge trail?  Right now, I have to pull a 270 degree turn to get onto the thing from southbound Jackson Street. 

Lastly, my dream is to create a “bike freeway” down the middle of 21st. It would involve a bike overpass over Proctor Street and use the median right-of-way for the Cushman transmission towers. Anyone know when the cantalever-style Cushman electric transmission towers will be replaced by single poles, as they have been from the Narrows crossing?

March 30, 2009 at 7:03 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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I think white painted bike lanes are dangerous.  I bike with my small children and I do not feel comfortable unless car danger is far away.  Bike boulevards are great as a way to connect bike paths and to integrate cars and bikes.  Roads that have speeds of 30mph and over should have segregated bike lanes which look similar to this:  en.wikipedia.org/wik…

More info on boulevards:


March 31, 2009 at 12:09 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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A big hell yeah on more bike racks!

Some how, I doubt the the city would like my idea of turning a few on street car parking spaces into parking spaces for however many bikes you can fit in there (10-15???)

April 1, 2009 at 4:47 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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David Koch

April 2, 2009 at 4:32 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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(late to the game as always)


With it one-way down hill, I’ll bet it’s currently >90%.  j/k

I did some quick traffic counts on that intersection and the one at 9th and Pacific back when it was 2-way.  Can’t find my numbers, but more cars were using St. Helens in a downhill direction and making a left onto 9th.  From 9th, the majority of cars went straight onto the freeway though, rather than toodling around downtown.  (Erik being a notable exception.)

While this has been decided by the City, it is important to note that the City’s own engineering staff actually recommended that the project be one-way uphill due to intersection challenges at both ends.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see it revisited in another 5+ years once we see the intersections in action.  Unfortunately, that’s too long to wait for a bike option.

April 3, 2009 at 1:54 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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jamie from thriceallamerican

Thanks David.  Always nice to have you join in the conversation, no matter how late.  :-)

You’re probably right that there was somewhat of a majority of downhill traffic, and I imagine that it also had a lot to do with the reason you stated regarding people headed for the freeway (since 9th is a freeway entrance, but not an exit).  That said, that downhill traffic would be little-inconvenienced by taking Market to 9th instead of cutting the corner with St. Helens.  So I’m not sure preexisting numbers matter that much.  St. Helens doesn’t make a good major arterial, anyway, it’s practically a parking lot you can drive through…

I guess I didn’t recall that the city engineers had preferred the uphill route.  Were the merchants really the only contingent clamoring for the downhill direction?  And if so, how on earth did the council end up listening to them over the objections of what I recall being a large number of cyclists, back-in parking proponents, etc.?

I just wish we could kick that 5+ years into fast forward…

April 3, 2009 at 7:40 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Matt Newport

I commuted through that St. Helen’s/Broadway area for 3 years en route to Federal Way.  Except for the recent construction periods when there was no actual road, that hill is/was one of the better parts of my entire route (right of way/wide lane/little traffic).  I recommend wearing a bright yellow/reflective vest, lots of lights, wide tires for the potholes, and taking the lane or sidewalk if needed.  Same goes the rest of town, really.

Don’t wait for the infrastructure, just get out there and show others that you can make it happen on a bicycle by riding safely and responsibly, despite the conditions.

(<span class=“caps”>FWIW</span>, Jerry Petteys’s comments are spot-on.)

April 5, 2009 at 2:46 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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