SDOT highlighted the recent changes to 20th Ave NW in Ballard on their blog. I had the chance to try the new lanes out the other day, and the new configuration seemed like a natural fit for the street. They are nothing cutting edge (5-foot lanes, much of which is in the door zone), but it will likely feel safer than 24th Ave NW for many riders.
Interestingly, a neighborhood greenway is noted in the Bicycle Master Plan for 17th Ave NW (effectively one block from 20th Ave NW). Clearly, the funding for greenways is still an impediment to implementing them instead of bike lanes (17th would require several expensive crossing improvements).
The recent changes on 20th Avenue NW demonstrate how SDOT is better supporting cycling while still addressing the needs of drivers. As part of Bike Master Plan implementation, we removed the center turn lane to install bike lanes while also preserving on-street parking. These bike facilities run for a half mile in both directions on 20th Avenue NW from Market Street to NW 65th Street.
Why this approach? 20th Avenue NW carries a low volume of traffic (less than 7,500 vehicles daily at its busiest point) and our counts show a relatively small number of turning movements. This provides an opportunity to improve bicycle access along the street without affecting vehicular traffic flow, inhibiting access to residential side streets or removing parking.
The best part is that the removal of the center turn lane on 20th Avenue NW doesn’t undercut roadway safety. The road still features only one travel lane in each direction, so traffic will continue to move at the pace of the slowest car. Given the low traffic volumes and adherence to the speed limit, motorists have sufficient gaps to turn left against oncoming traffic.
This street is yet another example of how SDOT can install bike lanes and, through careful examination of a road’s operation, still ensure that drivers can easily move around.