Bellevue plans bike lanes on 116th Ave NE

Vicinity MapNoting that traffic levels are not high enough to need two northbound lanes, the City of Bellevue has proposed bike lanes on a segment of 116th Ave NE between NE 12th St and Northup Way.

This project would help improve a key bike route connection between the 520 Trail, Redmond and beyond into downtown Bellevue. It would also connect planned bike lanes on Northup Way (scheduled for 2016) to the NE 12th Street bridge, which provides a rare quality bike crossing of I-405. Since crossing freeways is often the biggest challenge to getting around on a bike, this is a smart connection for Bellevue to make.

The project, which could be completed in 2015 if all goes according to schedule, would also have essentially zero trade-offs. Traffic studies show that the street only carries 11,000 vehicles per day, about half the number that can be comfortably carried by the proposed three-lane street design (plus more in the new bike lanes). The street currently has two northbound lanes but only one southbound lane despite the fact that travel is essentially equal in each direction.

“The volume occurring now in the northbound direction can be readily accommodated by only one through lane, as evidenced by the single southbound through lane today,” the Department of Transportation said in a memo to the Council last week. Redesigning the existing street is also a very cost-effective way to make the bike route link.

Nonetheless, the project has received pushback from Deputy Mayor Kevin Wallace, according to Bellevue Reporter.

“Wallace said the proposal makes no sense when considering other projects in the Bel-Red corridor that are planned to increase capacity and what safety challenges could be created for nearby hospitals and firefighters using that stretch of road,” Bellevue Reporter reports.

Wallace’s concerns are all addressed in the DOT’s memo. The project won’t affect the ability for the road to carry a huge growth in traffic (assuming there even is any, since traffic has been on the decline in recent years). And, of course, a three-lane street design is much safer for all road users than the current four-lane design. Here’s the explanation from the Bellevue DOT:

Safety was also reviewed for the corridor and it was determined that the plan would have benefits on several fronts. First, vehicle safety would be improved as traffic now turning in to or out of driveways on the east side of the roadway must turn across two through lanes. There are fewer instances of accidents occurring for driveways on the west side, in part due to the one through lane being crossed as compared to the two through lanes on the east side of the road. With the planned project, most driveways on the east side would have fewer vehicle lanes to turn across and accordingly provide a safer condition for motorists.

Secondly, pedestrians would realize a safety benefit from the planned project by having fewer vehicle lanes to cross. With the overlay design, staff is evaluating the potential addition of a marked crosswalk mid-segment in the NE 19th Street to NE 21 Street vicinity (there currently are no marked crosswalks between NE 12th Street and NE 24th Street). Having a single through lane in each direction with a center turn lane affords a safer crossing for pedestrians than the current conditions, where two through lanes can result in what is called a “multi-lane threat”. In the multi-lane threat situation, one motorist stops to yield for a pedestrian crossing in the marked crosswalk while another motorist comes alongside the stopped vehicle in the second through lane and their line of sight is blocked by the initially stopped vehicle. These multi-lane threats are a serious safety concern for pedestrians and the Transportation Department takes great care to address these where marked crosswalks exist. As the design of the overlay plans progress, the exact location and treatment of a marked crosswalk will be developed to improve pedestrian safety to the greatest extent practical.

Pedestrians will also benefit from the addition of a buffer space from motorized vehicle traffic by having the bike lanes next to the existing narrow sidewalks (which, along much of the corridor are directly adjacent to the curb, with no planter strip to provide a buffer).

Cyclists will benefit from the addition of bike lanes in the corridor. The bike lanes will create designated areas for cyclists, moving them out of general vehicle lanes and reducing the friction and stress that can accompany sharing a lane with faster-moving motor vehicles. Motorists will benefit by having bicyclists out of the general vehicle lanes, thus removing the impediment associated with slower-moving bicyclists and reducing the sometimes awkward vehicle movements that occur as motorists navigate around slower moving cyclists.

Eastside Bicycle Routes will be voicing their support for the plans at the Bellevue City Council meeting tonight (Monday), 6 p.m. at Bellevue City Hall. Anyone who can get there is encouraged to attend and voice your support.

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18 Responses to Bellevue plans bike lanes on 116th Ave NE

  1. William C. says:

    As a cyclist in Bellevue who uses this route regularly, this is quite possibly my top-priority bike improvement. If I can’t come tonight, who should I contact in support of this?

  2. GlenBikes says:

    You should send e-mail to the following people:
    Kevin McDonald, Senior Planner (he’s the underdog hero of this story) – KMcDonald@bellevuewa.gov
    Brad Miyake, City Manager – BMiyake@bellevuewa.gov
    City Council – council@bellevuewa.gov

  3. Josh says:

    Typo — Bellevue has “Northup Way,” not “Northrup.”

  4. Lisa McConnell says:

    The City of Bellevue has had this in their Pedestrian-Bike Plan since 2009. http://www.bellevuewa.gov/pdf/Transportation/ped_bike_plan_2009.pdf see page 143 for bike project map and page 153 for the bike project prioritization list. Note the currently planned and funded Northup project was listed as a low priority and the 116th Avenue project is listed as a higher priority.

    • Richard says:

      Northup is low priority?
      Heading uphill, there’s heavy traffic that wants to drive 40-ish, no shoulders, and low capability to pass, and it’s a critical link in one of the areas largest bike commuter paths. How the heck did that get designated low priority??
      On topic though, this would be a huge benefit and would likely see extremely high usage. Sad that so many in our local governments default to obstructionism.

      • Al Dimond says:

        I think Northup got a priority bump along with the 520 bridge bike path plans. I also think Bellevue, like Seattle, tends to choose cycling projects by opportunity more than priority.

  5. Gary says:

    Looks “ok” but of course would be better if it wasn’t just paint on the shoulder but instead jersey barriers… but that would be harder to sweep clean.

  6. Jeff Dubrule says:

    Would it make sense to have, instead of 2 lanes, to have a single 2-way track with a buffer on the East (Northbound) side?

    This would:
    – Give slow uphill riders (going North) even more of a buffer-zone from vehicles approaching from the rear.
    – By making the two lane a bit narrower, there’d be room for a buffer-zone, eventually leading to a protected lane, ideally.
    – Allow Bellevue to extend the track along the South side of Northup Way, onto the South side of 24th, to the 520 trail, all of which has no driveways/crossroads/etc. on that side.

    Downside would be that downhill riders would be adjacent to traffic moving in the opposite direction, but that seems OK, if you can see them coming, and dodge if they’re headed straight towards you. Also, there’s 2 bus-stops to figure out, though after the Metro cuts, they will be served by only one route, so it won’t be a steady stream of buses.

  7. asdf2 says:

    I’ve ridden this route for years and bikes lanes on 116th has always seemed like a no-brainer for the reasons outlined above, although I pessimistically assumed that Bellevue was too car-oriented to give an idea like this serious consideration. I am excited that this is finally actually going to happen.

  8. Al Dimond says:

    Big fan of this, though the particulars of the transition between the bike lane section and the “no change” sections at either end will be pretty important.

    Before too long King County is going to have to look at extending the ERC bike path south from where Kirkland’s portion of it ends. Then connections between the ERC and the 520/Northup route, and between the ERC and 112th (or some other route into downtown Bellevue) will become the really big thing.

  9. Mark Whiteside says:

    Like other comments stated, this is the most harrowing and unpleasant portion of an otherwise enjoyable bike commute. There aren’t many safe ways to get from Bellevue to Kirkland.

    Great to see something might be done about it. As suggested, I’ll send email in support.

  10. Jonathan says:

    Oh wow, I’ve been riding on this street for years as a northbound connection to the 520 trail and here they might actually provide the completely absent N-S bike link through Bellevue (well N-bound at least). Because this is such an under-used street for car traffic it’s really a no brainer. Come on Bellevue, make it happen!

  11. GlenBikes says:

    If you’re looking for another way to help move bicycling forward in Bellevue, Cascade Bicycle Club still has lots of spots open in Bellevue for the annual ped/bike count Sept 30-Oct 2nd. This is the data that helps get funding for bike projects. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1HyepT-vAJkmDelwx_l9u1Jek6uTLsw-lw20z0Vks08o/viewform

  12. Kevin McDonald says:

    At the direction of the City Council, the Bellevue Transportation Commission will study the technical information staff has gathered, receive public comment, and develop a recommendation. The Commission will discuss the proposal on Thursday, September 25, (Bellevue City Hall, Conference Room 1E-113) the meeting begins at 6:30 and public comments are heard after roll call and staff reports. Written comments may be directed to me at my e-mail: kmcdonald@bellevuewa.gov.

  13. Me says:

    This would be great. However, the NE 12th Street bridge does NOT provide a “rare quality bike crossing of I-405.” There are no bike lanes on that bridge.

    On the East to West direction of travel there is a double wide curb (which sees nearly no pedestrian traffic) that bikes can use, but that is very impractical because there is no good way to get back into the street save to wait for the pedestrian light to turn white. Unfortunately Bellevue does not synchronize their pedestrian lights with their car lights. It shows that the car is their main concern. A car can turn into a lane that has a white pedestrian light but neither pedestrians nor bicycles can go against a red pedestrian light. This means that bikers can either be in the midst of traffic (going slowly as the bridge goes up) or on the curb with severe delays at the end of the bridge.

    The situation is worse on the other side for cyclists who want to go towards the 520 trail. If they ride on the curb, they need to wait for two pedestrian lights to turn left on 116th Ave NE (three if they use the wide curb). If they stay in the roadway, they either need to ride left which cars do not expect, or ride right and then cross two or three lanes of traffic, one of them delimited by Bott’s dots which are quite hazardous to bicycles crossing at a shallow angle.

    Improve 116th but please redesign that bridge to allow for safe and timely bicycle traffic!

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