Have you been to Capitol Hill lately and seen the low lying loops along Broadway? The burly blue barricade? What are they? Where’d they come from? What are they for?
They’re called “bollards,” and they’ve been placed along the newly opened Broadway Protected Bike Lane to help drivers identify the edge of the bike lane. They also provide a visual and physical barrier to protect people riding bikes. The Broadway Bike Lane was developed as part of the First Hill Streetcar Project.
The bollards’ design is the work of Seattle artist Claudia Fitch, who worked with Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) staff and First Hill Streetcar Project designers, including Mithun, to develop site-integrated artwork along the entire route of the streetcar. Imagining the streetcar’s continuous power wire as a thread tying neighborhoods together, Fitch drew on metaphors related to sewing, needlework and beadwork in conceiving her creations. That’s why the bollards are suggestive of ”stitches,” and large sculptural “beads” and “eye-of-the needle” caps adorn the poles supporting streetcar power wires.
There are 21 bollards along the 1.2 mile bike lane within a 2’ wide buffer separating bikes from cars. They were manufactured of molded plastic by Landscape Forms in Kalamazoo, Michigan and are filled with hundreds of pounds of sand. Members of the Seattle Conservation Corps assisted with their installation.
Fitch’s artwork includes many public art installations in the Northwest, including at CenturyLink Field and in the South Lake Union neighborhood. She has also exhibited her work in museums and galleries nationally and internationally.
Her streetcar artwork was commissioned with funds transferred to SDOT from Sound Transit. SDOT partnered with the Office of Arts & Culture to administer the art project.