The new 2nd Ave bike lane revolutionizes biking downtown

IMG_3232Biking downtown will never be the same again. Monday morning, city workers completed work on a protected bike lane on 2nd Avenue connecting from Pike to Yesler, ringing in the beginning of a more family-friendly streetscape in the heart of the city’s downtown neighborhood.

“I live two blocks away, and I’m somebody who almost gave up bicycling because it’s so scary down here,” said City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw. But this new lane feels more comfortable for her and others who are on the fence about getting around town on a bike.

And watching Madi Carlson of FamilyRide (and a sometimes contributor to Seattle Bike Blog) cruise stress-free up and down 2nd Ave with two kids on the back of her cargo bike, you can get a sense of how having a little extra protection from cars will go a long way to make cycle more inviting to so many more people.

Of course, there are still a lot of missing links before the new lane connects comfortably to Seattle’s other neighborhoods, but what felt impossible just last week feels within reach today.

City leaders officially launch the new bike lane.

City leaders officially launch the new bike lane.

“This project will help Seattle better understand how to build protected and grade-separated bike lanes,” said Mayor Ed Murray at a press event dedicating the upgraded bike lane. “Second Avenue’s improved design will work better for pedestrians, bikes, automobiles and transit.”

Originally on schedule for construction in 2016, Murray gave SDOT directions in May to make a protected bike lane happen before Pronto Cycle Share launches in late summer. Four months is a very fast timeline for a project of this scale, but SDOT delivered. Now the city has a jump start on creating a safer and more comfortable bike network in the city center.

Unfortunately, the lane was not completed in time to help Sher Kung, a young mother and attorney who was killed at 2nd and University August 29, just ten day before the upgraded bike lane opened. She we struck by a box truck making a left turn, a known problem with the old bike lane that the new protected bike lane attempts to address.

Dick Cantwell — co-founder of Elysian Brewing on Capitol Hill and the Elysian Bar at 2nd and Pike — praised the new bike lane for making it easier for people to get to and from his business.

“I’m very excited as a business owner to have this safe connection,” he said to a crowd of city officials and media Monday morning. “It will take our city’s bike culture up a notch.”

But more needs to be done. He pointed out that there is still no way to safely bike from Capitol Hill to downtown, a need Cantwell knows better than anyone else. His son Nap died in June of 2012 when biking west on Pike at Boren. He was just days away from his 19th birthday.

Tens of thousands of dollars were raised in Nap’s honor to benefit Bike Works, which created a program scholarship in his honor. The intersection where Nap died remains unchanged.

Volunteers help ease confusion

This delivery driver figured out the new loading zones, which seemed to work well.

This delivery driver figured out the new loading zones, which seemed to work well.

Like any major road change, there was some confusion Monday morning as people driving, biking and making deliveries tried to figure out the street changes. For example, there were quite a few people making illegal left turns when the new red arrow was showing, despite new signs saying that left turns are only allowed on a green arrow.

“Anytime you roll out a new facility like this, there’s gonna be some confusion,” said incoming SDOT Director Scott Kubly. Since adherence to the left turn signal is vital to safety on the new bike lane, this is a detail city officials will need to monitor closely in case enforcement and/or design changes are needed.

But Cascade Bicycle Club is being proactive about the changes and have mobilized a small army of volunteers to stand near every left turn location to help people driving and biking understand the new road design. These protected bike lane ambassadors will be there all day today and tomorrow spreading the word and answering questions. So if you see them, say hello and thank them for their help making the project work better.

And if you want to help, Cascade could use some help filling two-hour shifts Tuesday between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Email Brock Howell at brock.howell@cascadebicycleclub.org with the times that work for you.

Rough edges

IMG_3247The entire project is not perfect. The Pike Street intersection was particularly confusing and felt a bit dangerous. North of Pike, the old one-way painted bike lane is still in place, and there is a new two-way bike lane for one block of Pike stretching from the market to 2nd.

The bike lane leading to the market is awesome, and the connection to and from the market is seamless and easy because people on bikes can simply join the all-way walk “scramble” signal phase.

But the intersection at 2nd and Pike is a real challenge, in part due to a relatively new bus lane on Pike east of 2nd. It’s not clear how to turn right to get into the new 2nd Ave bike lane since there is currently no waiting place or bike box to help people make a two-stage right turn. Signs say to use the crosswalks, but biking on sidewalks and in crosswalks is not comfortable, especially in an area packed with so many people.

Looking east from the Pike St bike lane at 2nd Ave

Looking east from the Pike St bike lane at 2nd Ave

People biking northbound on 2nd have an easy right turn onto Pike to head east, but it is a bit confusing to make a left turn into the new bike lane leading to the market. Trying to make a two-stage turn is very uncomfortable and puts you in the path of turning cars. The best option is to use the crosswalks, but again that is not a comfortable or intuitive solution in such a busy area.

People heading straight on eastbound Pike could also face some conflicts with people also driving straight. The bike lane essentially leads into the center lane, but people driving in the right lane will need to use the center lane to avoid driving in the bus lane. Installing complete protected bike lanes on Pike should be a top priority for the city, but in the immediate term something is needed to make it more clear where everyone should go.

The city had originally planned an all-way walk/bike signal phase here, but that has not been put into action.

The all-way signal has also not been put into action at Yesler, the upgraded bike lane’s southern terminus. There was some confusion about how to get in and out of the new bike lane on Yesler between 2nd and Occidental, though it did not feel as dangerous as the intersection at Pike. However, an all-way walk/bike phase would work wonders here, including for people walking to and from Pioneer Square Station. Hopefully the city decides to follow through with that plan.

And, of course, hopefully the new bike lane can be extended further north and south sooner rather than later.

Before and After

But despite these rough edges, the project completely changes how comfortable it feels to bike through downtown. Below are two videos I shot using a helmet cam. The first was taken in 2011 (you can see Occupy Seattle in its infancy at 3:25). The second was taken this morning. Play the second video when the first gets to about 0:35 to compare the difference (apologies for the shaky video).

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109 Responses to The new 2nd Ave bike lane revolutionizes biking downtown

  1. Brian says:

    Sorry, but I think the two way protected lane was a stupid idea. I would’ve preferred one-way south- and northbound protected lanes on 2nd and 4th, respectively. That would’ve eliminated a lot of confusion. Much of your analysis is premised on the notion that people will “get used to” the new traffic revisions. In reality, as Seattle grows and continues to become a more global city, more and more of the traffic downtown is likely to be first-time or occasional visitors. Downtown grids need to be set up in a way that will allow people from out of town to navigate at least somewhat comfortably.

    • Peri Hartman says:

      And if you’re going from 1st & Marion to 1st & Pike, would you take 1st, 2nd, or 4th?

      • Brian says:

        I assume your response was meant sarcastically and/or rhetorically, but to be honest if I had to make that trip I’d probably just walk.

    • David says:

      My office is on Western and having having to bike ALL THE WAY up to 4th to get to a northbound bike lane would be a huge pain. Now I only have to bike up to 2nd to get to a northbound bike lane and it’s going to improve my commute 100%. A ton of people that work along western/1st will echo my same feeling.

      • Carpooler says:

        Meanwhile, this new arrangement screws over all carpoolers who pick up and drop off on 2nd ave.

      • Leif Espelund says:

        In what way? There are still load zones that you could use. Also, even though I don’t think you are supposed to, if you do it quickly the bus lane is often used for this purpose. Hell, cabs will often use it as their own private loading zone, so long as you are slightly more respectful than them you’ll probably be okay.

      • JimInAuburn says:

        They still have loading zones in the section with left turns only. And you can still park on the sections without the turn lane, and the lane on the far right has not changed and can be used for parking and loading when not rush hour. I think they did a pretty good job of balancing things with this change. They just need to fix the signage to make it clear where the parking is and where the loading zones. That and the cars need to stop running the red arrow light and the bikes need to stop running the red bike light. Had two of them just do that in the two blocks I walked on second to lunch.

      • Joseph Singer says:

        OK. You’ve complained. How about finding a solution to your problem? Bikeways are not going away.

    • Ben P says:

      Two additional reasons to consolidate – One, There is safety in numbers. By consolidating the northbound bike traffic from 1st, 3rd, and 4th and the southbound bike traffic from 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, we generate salient presence in the minds of interacting motorists. Dooring and hooks are largely contingent on not checking for cyclists. The second reason is implementation. If we wanted a north on 4th and south on 2nd, what would we have right now? Just south on second. If we start seeing heavy cyclist congestion on second, we can always make it one way and make a comparably safe north cycle track for 4th. I hung out by the track all day today. Though there where many causes of confusion and areas for improvement, I never saw any indication that bidirectional bike traffic was a problem.

    • Al Dimond says:

      Downtown grids need to be set up in a way that will allow people from out of town to navigate at least somewhat comfortably… on foot. Most “global cities”‘ downtown street networks are barely drivable for locals. No “global city” has the street capacity for most of the locals to drive downtown, let alone to open up the dream of ubiquitous car culture to the whole world.

      • Gary says:

        “on foot!” I agree with this, that a city I would want to live in/work in/ should be very foot friendly. However “Global” cities are often much older and hence grew up before the invention of the automobile.

        And yes, it be much better if we focused on making the city good for people vs cars. That said, deliveries still need to be made and sometimes thats by car or truck as well bicycle and foot.

  2. SGG says:

    I don’t know where else to request this, but would you please consider examining the new two-way bike lanes on Yesler in Pioneer Square? I was just looking at this today, and it’s completely unclear how this is intended to be used.

    • Patrick says:

      I think that it’s because of the Pronto station at Occidental Park, but that’s just a guess. It’s only 1 relatively traffic free block away.

      It would be nice if they extend it down to the waterfront trail once all the construction finishes up.

  3. Andres Salomon says:

    This may seem like a small thing, but I really appreciate that peds are also protected from left turning cars when given a walk signal.

    From watching the video, it does seem like the bike signals should be on the other side of the intersection (rather than the far side). Does it feel like that in person, too?

    • Josh says:

      At some of the intersections, a supplemental near-side signal would certainly be useful, especially where the bike signal is clustered very close to the general traffic signal.

      FHWA also suggests making the bicycle signal faces directional, so they’re not visible or minimally visible to motorists. That will reduce the number of drivers who mistake a green bike for a green ball on rainy days.

  4. Skylar says:

    Why wasn’t SPD on-site doing traffic control? To leave volunteers in the position of risking their lives to keep drivers from killing even more people is ridiculous. That’s why we pay police officers.

    • Cheif says:

      Did you ride it? They were standing on the sidewalk chatting with people stopped at lights, not directing traffic.

      • Skylar says:

        I did not ride it, but Crosscut reports that the volunteers had to jump out into traffic to keep drivers from making illegal left-turns:

        http://crosscut.com/2014/09/08/transportation/121814/riders-review-seattles-new-2nd-avenue-bike-lane/

        It’s even more concerning if the police actually were there and decided not to do their jobs.

      • Ben P says:

        I was doing the ambassador bit today, and I can confirm crosscut’s report. As clear as the turn signals seemed to me, a portion of the drivers seemed really confused. We started going into the intersection blocking the way and pointing out the red. Most drivers were polite and a little embarrassed, but we had one near miss. A red pickup starts pulling the illegal left, an ambassador runs out, the pickup momentarily slows and then peels into the turn at the ambassador. The ambassador was only nipped by the mirror and the pickup immediately got stuck at a red on third. A passerby saw, sprinted up cherry, and snapped pics of the plate and the lady driving. After confirming the ambassador was ok, he ran to a cop posted on a nearby block. The cop’s response was polite and dismaying. The driver may have mistook you for a panhandler, we can’t cite people for a moving violation unless an officer sees it, and even if we did want to act on it, the vehicle could easily have been sold or lent something or other I didn’t quite follow since I smelt excuse. He then suggested we call SPD’s non-emergency line and inform them of the illegal turn situation so they could post a motorcycle cop. After thanking him for his time we called SPD. The operator, clearly not appraised of the changes on 2nd, was very curious about all the details. I explained as best I could, parted amicably, and didn’t see a cop there for the rest of the day.

        I would like to contrast SPD’s underwhelming response utter lack of presence with SDOT’s great work. They were out there, talking to ambassadors, talking to drivers, watching the traffic, just getting as much information as they could in order to perfect it. It was very enjoyable talking to them and I gained a new respect for their performance.

      • Karl says:

        “It’s even more concerning if the police actually were there and decided not to do their jobs.”

        I’d be surprised if they did their jobs.

        Recently got back from a cycling trip out of town and rode my bike from the Amtrak station to the Alaskan Way (& beyond). Unfortunately this coincided with a game being done and the police were standing on the corner chatting amongst themselves instead of directing traffic, while cars kept pulling into the middle of the intersection as the light changed, creating a traffic jam. Instead of doing their jobs they say there and repeatedly let this happen, and then yelled at two of us on bikes when we tried to thread our way through the mess they let happen!

        Of course, that is just what I expect from Seattle cops. We pay them, they don’t do their jobs.

      • ChefJoe says:

        Ben P
        You can report unsafe drivers and they may get retesting at next renewal…
        http://www.dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/reportunsafe.html

      • Chief says:

        That driver report letter seems like it’s more for getting it official that your elderly relative shouldn’t drive as opposed to getting random bad drivers in trouble.

        “Please be as specific as possible about the driving abilities and medical or vision conditions of the driver, and include supporting documents with the completed form if necessary.
        The age of the driver isn’t a consideration. Just because a driver has reached a particular age doesn’t mean that he or she is an unsafe driver. Medical conditions affecting driver safety can happen to anyone at any age.
        All information submitted must be personal knowledge or observation. We won’t accept second-hand information or anonymous letters.”

      • ChefJoe says:

        Chief, if you open the form there’s a check box for “poor driving skills” as well as medical/visual conditions. There’s also a box for “concerned citizen” as how you observed it.

      • Kirk says:

        I heard from an ambassador on the street yesterday they are changing out the ” turn on (green ball with white arrow) only” signs to “no turn on red”.

      • JimInAuburn says:

        As a bike rider that does not ride downtown, and a car driver that rarely drives downtown, was dubious about the bike lane, but after seeing it, I think with a few tweaks, it will be much safer. They should have had the no turn on red signs to begin with. They are much better than the on green only. Going to be a waste of thousands of tax dollars now to swap them out now.

  5. Cheif says:

    The protected light cycles are nice. I didn’t think I would, but I like the ride north on 2nd better than 4th.

    • I found the Northbound ride a little frustrating since I was stopped at almost every intersection. Fixing that is going to be difficult, given that the signals on 2nd are timed southbound. One possibility would be a flashing yellow signal for northbound cyclists if there are no cars waiting to turn though I can see a whole host of potential issues with that as well. Either way, 2nd is vastly improved and will be even more so once the Pike confusion is cleared up.

      I spoke with a friend who drives in the area often and he liked it since it should eliminate fast downhill cyclist / car turning left interactions entirely. No driver, deep down not even the nastiest Seattle Times commenter Troll, wants to hit a cyclist – I think most will come to prefer this arrangement.

      • Lack Thereof says:

        This is my issue as well. 15 seconds per cycle is a very short window. On the southbound/downhill route, a rider gets the advantage of the light cascade timing for the 1-way car traffic, which stretches that 15 second window into 20 or 30 to make it to the next intersection, making it possible to clear 2 or 3 intersections in a go. On the northbound/uphill route, though, it’s one block at a time.

        The alternative for northbound riders would be to switch to the crosswalk, I suppose.

      • Lisa says:

        I found the ride north quite nice. I used to take 1st, because no way was I climbing the hill all the way to 4th. I’m a slow climber so it’s nice not to have the fear of angry vehicle drivers buzzing me because they think I’m too slow. I didn’t think the stoplight timing was much different than I encountered on 1st.

      • Anton says:

        Time to convert 2nd Avenue to two-way? I would love that – it would calm traffic down significantly. Right now it feels like a highway many times.

      • Ben P says:

        @Lack Thereof
        the ped and the cycle phases are together. Using the crosswalk against the red, jaywalking?

      • Lack Thereof says:

        If the ped and bike phases are together, then my strategy wouldn’t help.

      • Lack Thereof says:

        Also, I stand corrected. Thanks to Josh’s video below, it appears northbound riders can clear 2 intersections per cycle. That’s not nearly so bad.

  6. Joseph says:

    I share Brians concern about two way lane being confusing and therefore dangerous. Has anyone here tried biking the other way? Tom: could you try making a video in the other direction?

    • Antoine says:

      I was concerned about having a contraflow bike lane on such a busy street, but I actually found biking northbound even nicer than biking southbound. Going uphill, there was less incentive to go fast. I didn’t find the signal timing any worse than going southbound (hint: if you are going fast enough in the protected bike lane to catch all the green lights on 2nd Ave, you are biking too fast…). Most importantly, and surprisingly, was that going north, you don’t have to hope that drivers can see you in their rear-view mirror. Instead, you can make actual *eye-contact* with them. If they don’t see you, it’s obvious, and you can stop or wave to catch their attention. I was really pleasantly surprised.

      The main thing it showed me, however, was how important network effects are going to be with these cycletracks. Biking up to Pike was fantastic, but getting from 2nd and Pike to 8th and Pine (where the bike lane up to Capitol Hill starts) was a nightmare. Until there is some kind of protected lane on Pike, I will probably just keep using my current alternate route and forego the 2nd Ave bike lane entirely. These lanes really will start to get useful and useable once they start connecting to one another.

      • Gary says:

        On Pike I ride in the bus lane until 7th or so just past the convention center. After that there is enough room to ride the right all the way up to Madison. It’s in the door zone but when I’m climbing the hill I can easily stop before getting doored. And I can see into the cars pretty easily. I’d love a protected lane all the way up but I don’t think that there is room.

    • Josh says:

      Northbound view this afternoon:

      • Chief says:

        Nice! I lol’d at the skateboarder at 17:23:12.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        Despite your commentary, Josh, the video sure seems pretty pleasant to me. I know you’re trying really hard to hate it (and sure, I agree with some of your nitpicks), but come on. Look how many happy people are biking in downtown in your video! Don’t miss the forest for the trees.

      • Josh says:

        I’m not trying to hate it — I’d love to see it done right, and this is certainly a big improvement from the botch on Broadway, but it’s still a confusing, nonstandard facility that doesn’t comply with uniform national standards for traffic control devices.

        That means locals may learn to understand it, but out-of-town drivers, which downtown Seattle gets a lot of, will be confused by nonstandard signals and noncompliant signs.

      • RTK says:

        It looks painfully slow compared to riding up 1st. I have yet to give it a go northbound, will have to give it a try.

  7. jay says:

    I’m glad they put the bike signals in, I took the bike lane North at about noon and only had to stop at 2 lights, but at 3 others the pedestrian signal had already started to count down, so if they had gone with the pedestrian signals it would have taken a lot longer .

    I agree that it was a little confusing as to how to get to the bike lane on Pike, but not all that bad. The worst part was that it then leads to the market, While it is probably an exaggeration, it seemed like it took about as long to go the two blocks on Pike Pl. to get to Western then the whole trip up 2’nd. It would be nice if they got the cars out of there http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2014/08/28/where-should-seattle-create-a-pedestrian-plaza-first/#more-391685

    “Of course, there are still a lot of missing links” may be a bit of an understatement, even on this one street the bike lane doesn’t go very far. It would be cool if it could go all the way to the Seattle center, though I suppose that might require taking quite a bit of parking. Since it looks like there will be Pronto stations on or very close to 2’nd at Blanchard and at Vine, it would seem desirable to go at least that far. Yes, that would about double the length/cost but one can dream.

    • Cheif says:

      I thought the same thing, without looking up the start and end points I just got on second at bell and wondered for several blocks when exactly this bike lane thing was going to begin. I was hoping it would start in belltown but then the downhill part was the most important bit to implement first.

  8. Dolyn says:

    Happy to see this open though a little bittersweet after so many near-misses, collisions, and a death. I’m going to give 2nd north a try tomorrow instead of 4th though I’m still confused about turning on to Pike…

    As the track is currently in a trial phase is there any sense of when improvements or additions could be made (ie. Pike intersection still dangerous, expanding further north & south, connecting east).

    I think my favorite part of the ride were the volunteers stationed at every stop making sure riders felt welcomed!

    • Dolyn says:

      *As the track is currently in a trial phase is there any sense of when improvements and/or additions could be made (ie. Pike intersection still dangerous, expanding further north & south, connecting east)?

  9. Patty Lyman says:

    Volunteering today at second and Cherry, the two issues I noticed were- some bikers who would run the red light, and about 1/4th of cars still turned left when they had a red light. No turn on red signs would be great….

    • scott R says:

      Since many of the intersections are between 2 one-way streets, weren’t the vehicles making legal left hand turns? Without a specific ‘No Turn On Red’ signage i think the drivers are technically correct in making that turn.

      • Skylar says:

        It’s not actually two one-way streets anymore, though. 2nd Ave is now two-way for bikes.

      • Stuart says:

        Skylar: you’re right, but since the law only cares about what sort of street you are turning ON to, it’s still legal without a “no left on red” or equivalent sign. I saw some intersections have a “left on {green arrow graphic} only” sign, but that seems less forceful than “no left on red”.

      • Alkibkr says:

        Skylar has a good point, but these fine points of the law may be lost on most motorists. I think SDOT certainly needs to add “No left turn on red” signs at those intersections.

      • Josh says:

        At several of the intersections, there are “no turn on red” signs that are quite a distance from the signal controlling the left lane. I suspect many drivers genuinely didn’t notice the disconnected “no turn on red” signs and thought their left on red was still allowed.

      • Josh says:

        Example of a “NO TURN ON RED” sign that’s not very close to the associated red signal — drivers could easily miss this.

        https://flic.kr/p/p6u7ab

      • Josh says:

        While the “Left Turn on Green Arrow Only” signs used on 2nd are an approved, standard design (MUTCD R10-5), I wonder if compliance would be better with the more common negatively-worded “No Turn on Red” signs?

        People often don’t have time to read all the signs they see, putting “NO TURN” first may grab their attention more effectively than putting “ONLY” at the very end.

        I also wonder if the turn prohibitions are really large enough to be conspicuous to drivers. MUTCD says they should be 30×36 inches on a standard roadway, but maybe SDOT could consider the oversized/expressway version, at least at the start of the bicycle signals, 48×60 inches, to attract more attention for an unusual configuration?

      • Lack Thereof says:

        Left turn on red is legal… UNLESS there is a red arrow.

        Red ball = turn is legal after complete 3-second stop
        Red arrow = turn on red is not allowed.

        From the video, it appears that in the SDOT configuration, whenever the red ball is showing, so is the red arrow. SDOT could potentially reprogram the lights to turn off the red arrow (or make it flash) during the East/West cycle. That would allow legal left-turn-on-red at these intersections.

        However, right/left on red is a pretty big pedestrian hazard when combined with heavily used crosswalks, so you probably would want to restrict such light programming to nighttime hours only.

      • ChefJoe says:

        Josh, the MUTCD R10-5 sign is different from what appears on 2nd avenue. State law also requires a “no turn on red” sign for these types of intersections.
        http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/pdfs/2009/part2b.pdf
        http://app.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=468-95-120

        Lack therof, you’ve got it wrong. Look up RCW 46.61.055 section 3 c for the arrow red signal. Both red circular and arrow signals are treated equally by RCW.

      • Josh says:

        Left turn on a red arrow is legal from/to one-way streets unless there are signs to prohibit it. Good catch by ChefJoe on the R10-5 using text instead of a graphic for the “green arrow” part.

        I don’t know just how picky the courts are on the interpretation of RCW 46.61.055:

        vehicle operators facing a steady red arrow indication may, after stopping proceed to make … a left turn from a one-way street or two-way street into a one-way street carrying traffic in the direction of the left turn; unless a sign posted by competent authority prohibits such movement.

        Does a sign saying “left on green only” legally equal a sign saying “no turn on red”?

        Legal or not, “no turn on red” is definitely clearer, shorter, and more familiar to motorists.

      • Kirk says:

        “unless a sign posted by competent authority prohibits such movement.”
        I guess that also calls into question the competency of the agency that placed the sign. SDOT… LOL

      • Josh says:

        In this case, “competent authority” just means they legally have the power to erect traffic controls… it can’t be a sign installed by random neighbors trying to change traffic patterns.

  10. Ben P says:

    A smashing success. Compared to the driveway ridden, piecemeal opened, high in the sky signaled, construction muddled, and relatively unused Broadway cycle track, this is amazing. As sad as the early termination at pike is, it allows us to contrast the old and the new quite clearly. A whole different world. It only took watching the normal track operations for a few hours make me forget the madness that 2nd once was. After I moved to pike, each cyclist I saw merge into the turn only lane approaching the track made me cringe. Encore SDOT, encore council, encore.

  11. jon says:

    Its more than a little appaling that motorists are allowed to be on the road without understanding simple traffic laws like what a left red arrow means. Hardly surprising though being that they give out licenses like halloween candy, hell, the department of licensing just gave me a new license despite failing the vision test so I guess i cant complain. Luckily for everyone I barely drive and mostly take transit but what about those a slave to their car who can’t see.

    • Doug says:

      You better bone up on your traffic laws. It is legal at the vast majority of turn arrows to make the turn on red after coming to a stop. Of course, the exception is when signs prohibit that, but it is relatively understandable for drivers to miss little signs I a brand new traffic configuration.

      Also, I think it’s pretty dumb that turns we allowed against a red arrow at all.

      • Josh says:

        “vehicle operators facing a steady red arrow indication may, after stopping proceed to make a right turn from a one-way or two-way street into a two-way street or into a one-way street carrying traffic in the direction of the right turn; or a left turn from a one-way street or two-way street into a one-way street carrying traffic in the direction of the left turn; unless a sign posted by competent authority prohibits such movement.” http://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=46.61.055

  12. Joseph Singer says:

    I hope they don’t consider this finished. It appears that for much of the ‘bikeway’ there’s no center yellow line.

    • Josh says:

      Also, none of the centerline bollards at intersections have striping around them.

      That’s a long-standing requirement for centerline obstructions, because the obstruction itself can be hidden behind a rider in front of you. You won’t see the post until it’s too late to avoid it, but you can see the wide yellow diamond striped around the base of the post.

    • Lack Thereof says:

      I assumed this was intentional, to allow passing and avoidance of hazards except directly adjacent to intersections.

      • Josh says:

        A dashed yellow center line would still allow passing with due care, just like it does on a street, while maintaining delineation of northbound and southbound traffic mid-block.

  13. Stuart S says:

    I volunteered this evening for the 5 to 7 shift at the Benaroya parking garage. It was quite hair raising as I inherited the task of directing traffic coming out of the garage. There were quite a few irate drivers blaming their long wait to exit on the cycle track. However it was the traffic backup that was causing them the delay.

    It’s pretty clear the garage driveways will continue to be a source of conflicts. Drivers are nosing out and blocking the cycle track and the sidewalk. And the he left hook conflicts still exists with vehicles entering the garage. Many of the drivers asked me hopefully if ambassadors were going to be there permanently. I’m pretty sure the building will need to hire an officer to manage traffic during peak hours. That will solve the issues for drivers exiting during rush hour but the safety issue will remain for the rest of the time.

    • jon says:

      Agreed but that garage exiting conflict wont go away with any bike lane design. The other change absolutely needed to 2nd Ave that will great help this issue and almost all other problems is a drastic reduction in traffic speed. This is a city street not a freeway yet the design of the street still more resembles I-5.

    • Gary says:

      I volunteered for the 6am to 8am shift this morning at this same location and it is d*mn dangerous! Cars come down Union and hook left and without slowing down hook left again right across the bike lanes, see pedestrians, and stop. I saw at least 3 close calls in that 2hrs. As an Ambassador, I wore my full reflective vest and cop reflective gloves and was able to direct traffic to avoid peds, bike and keep the cars moving so that everyone flowed but even still there were close calls. I got yelled at for blocking the intersection by one car (I was keeping him from hitting a pedestrian which he didn’t see until after he stopped… but still I kept it civil.)

      I agree with Stuart, the building needs to hire a traffic control person for the 6:30am to 9am and again at 3pm to 6pm. Pedestrians are clueless here about how invisible they are. (The trees to the South of the parking garage put them in the shadows) bicycles coming down the hill (North to South) think they have the right of way, and charge full speed ahead when if they were out in the traffic lane would stop behind the stopped cars…. Instead they have to come to a fast stop to avoid a car pulling into their lane making the left…. Bikes riding North have it easier as they can see what is going to happen long before they get there.

      After watching various bike riders traveling on 2nd, I would recommend that South bound riders ride in the Western most (right side) lane and take a lane. That North bound riders use the new cycle track…. or ride 4th, which I prefer unless you are only traveling a couple of blocks in which case it works, but be on your guard.

      I would also recommend that anyone who traveres this area at 6:50 to 7:05AM be very careful. There must be people who have to be at work at 7am because they are hell bent for leather to get into that parking garage. (I spoke with one pedestrian who claimed that a certain black car with a woman driver has nearly hit her 3 times!)

      This extra lane probably helps pedestrians the most as it makes drivers turn straight and look at the sidewalk before they cross it. Although that makes the bike lane dangerous as the cars will stop blocking both North and South bike lanes. The alternative is for cars to stop in the left car lane, which is dangerous for bicycles as the driver has a hard time seeing bicycles approach at speed down the hill.

      I expect more accidents which is unfortunate.

  14. jon says:

    I want to strong commend SDOT and all the staff that designed this fantastic new facility. It is a HUGE improvement over what was there before. I didn’t ride to work before because of the dangers and uncomfortable environment, with this new facility I will tomorrow and most days.

    Not to get too ahead of ourselves but I look forward to hearing about plans to extend this further north to LQA and also to extend the Pike portion up to Capitol Hill and the Yesler portion to Colman Dock.

  15. Chief says:

    Watch out for the valet parking situations. They were bad about parking / throwing doors open without looking / congregating on the old bike lane and not much has changed. The employees are bad about it because they feel like its “their” turf and the customers are bad about it because, frankly, you’re not going to get a person who is too lazy to park their own car who is also going to care about paying attention to a person on a bike.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      The valets don’t have a easy job trying to adapt to the new bike lane situation, and they don’t want to be in the path of someone going too fast on a bike any more than you want them to be in the bike lane. Something like a raised crosswalk across the valet station could help slow people down and make it more clear that people will be cross the bike lane.

      • Josh says:

        Since the path is a public right-of-way, aren’t the valets, parking lot attendants, etc. required by law to comply with workplace safety requirements for high-visibility safety apparel? Seems like that would help make them much more conspicuous to cyclists as well as motorists.

        They’re workers in the roadway, there’s no physical barrier, they’re directly exposed to traffic in an urban area, doesn’t existing law require at least ANSI Class 3 apparel?

        Anybody know L&I’s position on valets picking up cars within the street rather than in a parking lane?

      • RTK says:

        Something like that would be nice, I was going southbound about 9:30 PM tonight and the valet issue seems a significant concern. Pedestrian traffic back and forth across the bike lanes as mid-block locations.

  16. Matt says:

    I am not a regular bike commuter on 2nd but I made my way down there from my office in Fremont during the evening rush hour.

    First of all, the city did as good as a job as they could have done and the Bike Ambassadors were amazing. The thing we have to emphasize is that this is a busy, busy street and a bike lane is not going to calm it as much as it needs to be. This is more of a buffered than a protected bike lane. What needs to be done to improve it and truly make it safe is finish all of the “missing links” as referenced above so people can actually get there and it seems like they need to reconfigure the streets downtown.

    I do not get why we have a 3rd ave bus only street and then we still have buses on every other street. I am much more a fan of having buses and bikes on the same street without a bunch of entitled suburban car commuters. Is there anyway to reconfigure things so that the buses are moved from 3rd to 2nd? Make 2nd a bike and bus only street but allow people on there just for parking or the valet. I know there isn’t a decent way to enforce it but it would significantly reduce the amount of cars on that street.

    Lastly, as people referenced above a lot more needs to be done to make Pike Place Market bike and pedestrian friendly. There is not one reasonable way to get from the Elliott Bay Bike trail to downtown that does not involve biking all the way down to Jackson and back uptown. It seems like it would be so easy to put a protected bike lane on Western (the only cars on there are merging onto the viaduct from the right lane) and then get rid of the cars in the market. Seriously, why on earth do we allow cars to drive thru there?? Instead, allow bikes to go through both ways. Ok I could go on forever but THANK YOU Murray for at least taking the big step of getting this done!

    • Kirk says:

      Matt, from the Elliott Bay bike trail to downtown, there several options. My preferred option is to go one block past the end of the trail on Alaskan Way and turn left on Clay (by the Spaghetti Factory), then right to the bike lane up Elliott Avenue to Pike Place. I always ride through the market southbound in the mornings. I know it is one way the other way, but it really is a unique pedestrian mall. I’ve done it for years without any hassle. I ride the short two blocks at a walking pace, yielding to all others. One could legally ride along the same route on the sidewalk.
      The other alternatives are to take the elevators. There is one at Lenora by the Seattle Marriot, and one at Bell Harbor. The elevators are a good option for me if I get trained. Instead of waiting for the train to pass, I’ll ride up to an elevator.

      • Matt says:

        Thanks Kirk, I meant Elliott ave and not Western. In any case, I am more referring to routes for the “average cyclists” to take downtown. I go that way and never see anyone, which should mean that people do not feel comfortable going that way. Technically, biking through Pike Place that way is illegal though I doubt anyone would stop you. It’s not an enjoyable experience for me at all. My point is that this could be a great bikeway and absolutely nothing is done to take make it one. Having the connector to 2nd on Pike now and then in the future having Pike become a protected bike lane to Capitol Hill would make that route very useful.

      • Peri Hartman says:

        I’ll “second” connecting 2nd to Pike in both directions – to cap hill and to pike place. I’m not sure how bikes should get through pike place, but it connects to Western, which could ultimately be another popular bike route.

        Western is a good way to climb from the waterfront going north – it’s gradual and light traffic. North of the market, one could make the same argument, except on Elliot (which, however, doesn’t have light traffic).

  17. Matt says:

    Elliott or Western–one of them could easily be reconfigured to be more accommodating towards bikes to go through the market. I don’t think the city realizes how many people living in Ballard/Interbay/Magnolia do not bike downtown or to Capitol Hill because they do not have a comfortable way to bike there. Yes, there are options but I’m sorry the second I hear take my bike on an elevator I just hop in my car instead. I am someone that bikes everywhere and I am young and fit (I completed RAMROD this summer) but I still do not feel comfortable biking from Elliott Bay Trail to Downtown. Anyway, let’s please just focus on trying to connect 2nd and Broadway to the rest of the city in a safe way so that these protected bike lanes become success stories that can easily be implemented everywhere else in the city.

    • Kirk says:

      I think Elliott Avenue is a logical choice to have improved. The bike lane is already there, it could be made a decent two way lane similar to 2nd Avenue, just by removing the parking. I’m always a fan of removing parking to improve the transportation ability of a street. And if Pike Place was turned into a pedestrian mall, and bike friendly in both directions, it would be a nice connector much of the year to Pike Street. Of course, riding through the market on a summer Saturday at noon would be really tough. And it’s a pretty good climb up to First Avenue from anywhere except for Pike Place.

  18. JimInAuburn says:

    Anyone know what the two turning arrows painted on the ground in green at some intersections mean?

    • jay says:

      The arrows in the green box? those are for turning West, you enter the turn box then wait for a green light Westbound instead of trying to cross multiple lanes of traffic (remember, you are riding a bike, not driving a car)

    • Josh says:

      They’re two-stage turn boxes. Instead of making a normal turn through the travel lanes of 2nd during their green phase, you veer across the oncoming lane of the bike path into the box, pivot 90 degrees, and wait for the cross street to have a green.

      There are quite a few of them along the new streetcar line, too.

      They’re experimental, not generally legal to install on public streets without permission to experiment from FHWA as part of the process for getting new traffic controls approved — cities that install them have to report crash data back to FHWA, and after the experiments are over, either FHWA approves the new design or the cities have to remove the experimental facilities.

      They’re not recognized by the Seattle Municipal Code or the RCW, and most people aren’t familiar with them yet. Add to that the lack of “no right turn” and “no left turn” signs/markings on the path itself, and bike signals that say you are allowed to make turns across 2nd, and it’s not surprising many people are confused by them.

      Regular users should figure them out fairly quickly, regardless of their legal status.

      FHWA background information on two-stage turn boxes:
      http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bicycle_pedestrian/guidance/design_guidance/mutcd/turn_box.cfm

      SDOT postcard with a brief explainer:
      http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/docs/SecondAvePBL_PostcardBike.pdf

    • Josh says:

      I will say, they’re about the shallowest turn boxes I’ve seen, not deep enough to actually keep a bike out of both the crosswalk and the path.

  19. Leif Espelund says:

    Tom, if you had gone the same speed in those two videos it would have made this a lot cooler. But here is a YouTube Doubler of them anyway: http://youtubedoubler.com/dnVj

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Ha! I like how I hit the same lights in each video. So much for the protected lane being slower…

      Thanks.

      • Lisa says:

        I’ve noticed the same thing, I hit the same lights as I used to. I like that the ped signals still coincide with the bike lights, as I often use those to gauge how much time I have left.

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  21. Kristina says:

    I ride north on 2nd for the first time. I liked the gentle grade and not smelling so much exhaust as I do on 3rd. Overall I liked it more than I expected. A couple items do need improvement. I was riding at 7:30pm. At all but one intersection for cars to go east the turning cars were moving to turn left in red after I pasted. This makes me completely uncomfortable to ride this route south where I don’t have a good view to see if the car is going to try to beat me thru the intersection. If they can and do still turn left on a red then there is no improvement on safety other than the extra visual the width separation provides. The other difficulty is what to do at Pike. I don’t like riding on 1st street and prefer 3rd which if you aren’t heading to Ballard or the market is a natural fit. However right now it says no left turn on 3rd except buses until 6:30pm. Normally I would be using this earlier. This sign should be changed to include bikes as bikes are allowed on 3rd during peak hours.

    • JimInAuburn says:

      They should really have a cop on every corner where people can turn left writing tickets or at least giving out warnings about people turning left on green. Will help also if they had a sign that said “no turn on red”. I do not understand why people have such a problem with that, if they cannot figure out that they are not supposed to turn on red lights, maybe they should not be operating a car.

      • Leif Espelund says:

        It is legal to turn left on a red onto a one way, so without a specific sign that says “no turn on red” it may not be a ticketable offense right now. Sounds like they are putting up the proper signs soon. http://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=46.61.055

      • JimInAuburn says:

        They do have a legal sign right now. It says “turn on green arrow only”. Someone said they will be swapping them out for the “no turn on red” signs, which will be much better. I think people would notice them much more than the turn on green arrow only ones. Either one is fine for making it illegal to turn, just that the ones with NO on them will probably be seen better. There will however still be people that turn, just like at any intersection with no turn on red signs, or even no turns, or one way, you occasionally get the clueless driver that does something they are not supposed to do.

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