Roll your bike up the staircase

Cyclist using a runnel

If you’ve ever carried your bike up a public stairway or clunk-clunked it along the steps–or avoided a trip by bike entirely because of that steep hill–we’ve got good news for you. 

Some newer staircases in Seattle are sporting a simple design feature: a runnel, which is a narrow ledge along the side which allows you to push your bike up or down the staircase.  It’s exciting how a small design tweak like this can expand the value of a community asset.  A staircase that normally would just serve people on foot now provides a connection for folks when they’re riding their bikes.

Wooden runnel at Admiral Way SW

SDOT recently installed a pilot wooden runnel on a stairway connecting the Alki Trail and the West Seattle Bridge Trail with the buffered bike lane on Admiral Way SW.  Based on the positive feedback on that design, we’re including a permanent runnel as part of a staircase replacement this summer at SW Spokane Street between SW 60th and SW 61st Streets, just a few blocks from the Alki Point Lighthouse.  Other types of runnels exist on the state’s Galer Street Pedestrian Bridge over SR 99 in Queen Anne and on the privately-owned “double helix” bridge connecting Amgen to Elliot Ave W in Interbay.

Bridge at Amgen includes runnels

Many of SDOT’s public stairways are made of rails and concrete slabs salvaged in the 1940’s when the city converted from trolleys to buses.  (We have a nice tradition of reusing resources instead of throwing them away.)  Many of these old staircases will be replaced thanks to the Bridging the Gap transportation initiative approved by Seattle voters.  Stay tuned for runnels on some of the new staircases which connect important bicycle routes.

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  1. josh says

    I’ve often wondered why this decades-old idea had such limited use in a city with so many grade changes. The ramps cast in the stairs from Lake Washington up to the I-90 trail have been very successful. And they’re popular with pedestrians since cyclists self-segregate to the outside, leaving the inside as a fast lane for less-encumbered users.

  2. Rebecca Slivka says

    They might be useful going up, but I’ve never used the one going down from Montlake to the Montlake Flyer stop because it’s easier to carry my bike than to get it in the slot and then hold the brakes while descending.

    As a right-hander, I’d like to see the “upstairs” ramp on the right side going up, but other folks may have a different preference.

  3. Dante' says

    I think these “runnels” are really cool! It is true that sometimes very small changes can have great impacts on making biking in the city even more convenient. Great job SDOT.

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