The 2nd Ave protected bike lane project appears to be ahead of its original ambitious schedule, and Publicola reports that the lane could open as early as
Labor Day weekend (UPDATE: SDOT’s Dawn Schellenberg says their current goal date is September 8, not Labor Day weekend).
But that’s not even today’s best news about downtown Seattle’s first protected bike lane. The city has given second thoughts to its original plan to direct people on bikes to follow the existing walk signal and will install bike-specific signals at every intersection after all.
This removes my biggest worry about the city’s quick and relatively low-budget plans for the pilot project from Pike to Yesler, which the city is billing as a demonstration of the potential for more protected bike lanes in the city center. Since people on bikes are used to following general traffic lights, it might have felt a bit unnatural to ignore them in this case and follow the pedestrian signal instead. By deciding to install bike signals, the city is removing doubt about when people biking should stop to safely allow left-turning motor vehicle traffic.
Publicola reports that the choice to go with bike signals came from incoming SDOT Director Scott Kubly, a good sign that Kubly not only prioritizes implementation (as he has said many times), but he also wants to do things right the first time. The design of the 2nd Ave bike lane is similar to one installed on Chicago’s busy Dearborn Street under his watch, so he should have a good idea about what elements are vital to making the project succeed.
City workers have already completed pavement repairs needed to smooth out cracks in the bike lane space, and they have already put down spray paint markings where permanent paint will go soon.
Instead of using concrete curbs like much of the Broadway Bikeway, the 2nd Ave bike lane will be protected from moving traffic by a buffer space lined with reflective plastic posts. For much of the day, parked cars will also provide a protective layer, but during peak hours much of the bike lane will be adjacent to the new left turn lane. Left-turning traffic will get a new dedicated turn signal so they have time to make turns while people biking and walking are stopped. When the walk and bike signals say “go,” the left-turning traffic will have a red arrow, which should make the experience much less stressful for people walking along 2nd Ave.
With all this excitement about the new bike lane, it should not be lost that it achieves another long-desired downtown bike facility goal: These are the final days for the existing skinny, paint-only, door-zone-located “worst bike lane in Seattle.” Good riddance!