City finally set to finish Ballard Missing Link tweaks announced in 2012 + Scary near miss video

Temporary safety changes announced in 2012 have been implemented slowly

Temporary safety changes announced in 2012 have been implemented slowly

In late 2012, Councilmember Tom Rasmussen and then-Mayor Mike McGinn held a press conference under the Ballard Bridge to announce a series of temporary safety improvements to the dangerous streets connecting the two severed ends of the Burke-Gilman Trail. Some of those changes have been implemented, and some were improved (they built a two-way bikeway rather than planned “advisory” bike lanes, which would have directed people on bikes close to the road edges).

The city is just now getting started on shoulder paving work they announced during that 2012 press event. Work is scheduled to begin April 28 and will go through May 6. If you bike this route, be prepared for delays or to take a different route.

Details from SDOT:

Pavement repairs are coming to 24th Avenue Northwest as well as Shilshole Avenue Northwest during the next two weeks, weather permitting.

Paving crews from the Seattle Department of Transportation plan to work on a small stretch of 24th Avenue Northwest between Shilshole Avenue Northwest and Northwest Market Street on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 28 and 29. Northbound lanes on 24th will remain open but southbound traffic on 24th will be detoured to Market Street from which motorists can select one of several alternate routes to reach Shilshole. The crosswalk on 24th Avenue on the south side of Market Street will be closed, and pedestrians will instead use the crosswalk on the north side of Market Street. Bicyclists northbound on Shilshole will be able to use the sidewalk to reach Market Street.

SDOT crews plan to work on Shilshole Avenue Northwest between 17th Avenue Northwest and Northwest Market Street and from April 30 to May 6. On-street parking on the south side of Shilshole will be restricted while the crews replace the road edge. The street will remain open to traffic, but flaggers and Police Officers will assist southbound traffic, pedestrians and bicyclists through the work area.

Work hours will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Motorists and bicyclists are advised to expect delays or use alternate routes.

The shoulders on Shilshole are particularly dangerous because the roadway lanes are raised just enough in places to create a dangerous lip that can send people biking plummeting to the ground. I know this first hand because I watched it happen to a stranger biking in front of me a couple years ago. Luckily, there were nobody was trying to drive past us at the time, so the guy got up and biked away with only scratches and bruises. He said he biked this route all the time, and must have just somehow misjudged the shoulder lip this one time. Ever since then, I stay off the shoulder entirely.

The shoulder paving project won’t fix the Missing Link, though it should help ease yet one more hazard. But from wheel-grabbing train tracks to poor sight lines to oblivious people driving across the temporary bike route, the many problems will continue to injure people until the trail connection is finally completed.

Cascade Bicycle Club’s Connect Ballard team reports that the timeline for the Environmental Impact Statement (also announced at that same 2012 press conference) is currently on track for a draft to come out in late 2015 or early 2016 (one of the group’s goals is to expedite this process). Three years just to produce another study of 1.5 miles of trail that has already been delayed 12 years. I dare you to find a worse example of the so-called Seattle Process.

Near miss video

Meanwhile, a Missing Link near-miss video blew up on Reddit the other day. The original poster emailed Seattle Bike Blog to offer the video and say what he hopes comes from all the attention it has been getting:

If this video is useful to your blog, I give you permission to use this video in any manner you choose as long as it is not a witch hunt on the driver. My bigger issue is whether or not this turn should even be possible from an infrastructure/safety point of view.

People driving through the bridge supports to go down a bumpy alleyway is a whole new way to get hurt while biking on the Missing Link and yet another hazard to look out for. Perhaps this happens now because the street is one-way for people driving. I don’t see any reason why the city can’t make some design changes to prevent this from happening again.

Oddly enough, another Reddit user was biking the opposite direction and also had a helmet cam (what are the odds?):

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19 Responses to City finally set to finish Ballard Missing Link tweaks announced in 2012 + Scary near miss video

  1. Josh says:

    With the street one-way now, is there *any* legal way for a driver to access those alleys on either side of the bridge?

    If it was just a double yellow line, the answer would be yes, it’s legal to turn over a double yellow for an alley or driveway. But it’s a *double* double-yellow creating an “island”, so turning across the island is prohibited.

    But then how do drivers get to those alleys?

    How do drivers coming the other way down those alleys get onto the street?

    As far as I can see, the city hasn’t left any legal option. Should the alleys be closed?

  2. Troy K. says:

    Being fed up with people doing stupid stuff I’m using forward and rear facing cameras on every commute.
    Got some nice video of an Accutint suv buzzing by me on 1st Ave and some another of a driver making a right turn from the far left lane cutting in front of myself and another person cycling in the right lane on Alaskan.

    • Cheif says:

      Hope you’re reporting dangerous / aggressive driving to the police.

      • Skylar says:

        I hope more that SPD and the city attorney actually care enough to do something about those reports. Even with the VUL it seems drivers can get away with murder (or at the very least manslaughter).

        It would be nice if SPD would do targeted enforcement of aggressive driving in areas where conflict between cyclists and drivers is likely, rather than rely on citizen reports.

      • Richard says:

        Why? I mean, I’ve had blatant dangerous aggression with NO excuse, clear visibility of driver and license, and they’ve still completely ignored it. I still do it, but why does it matter?

    • sb says:

      Can you describe your camera set up and all of that? thanks.

  3. Matthew Snyder says:

    Any word on a potential all-way stop at 46th/45th/Shilshole? Or is it still going to be a cross-your-fingers-and-go-for-it kind of turn for westbound cyclists? I still don’t really get why they installed a stop sign at NW 45th St and 14th Ave NW, which was not a problematic intersection to begin with, but haven’t really improved the mess just a few blocks west of there.

    • Skylar says:

      The rest of the cycle track was easy, and it made the city look good. SDOT has a long history of not doing anything challenging or interfering with drivers when it comes to safe cycling.

    • sdv says:

      Any word on fixing the pavement at the 46th/Shilshole juncture, which is functionally the same as a railroad track in its potential to catch a wheel and throw a cyclist?

    • 47hasbegun says:

      Yeah, I’m really unhappy about the lack of a stop sign at Shilshole and NW 46th St. Heck, if they had done that and nothing else, I’d be happier than I am with the current situation.

  4. Jonathan Mark says:

    This SDOT web site says you can turn left across a double yellow line if the double yellow marking is less than 18 inches across. If greater than 18 inches, you can not turn left. Unclear what happens if equal to 18 inches. I need to keep a ruler in my car, clearly.

    http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/sdotfaqs.htm

    Also I feel compelled to point out the obvious, that it is not only at intersections that 2-way cycle tracks endanger people riding bikes in the counter flow direction. According to the expectation set by the double yellow, the bicycle is going the wrong way. This danger combines with other factors such as coming out of the sun which is at a low angle, and columns at the centerline obstructing the view, and it is totally understandable that the person driving didn’t see the person riding a bike. The roadway design is unsafe.

    • Al Dimond says:

      The place where people turn across the bike path into the alley is an intersection, just like driveway crossings are intersections. Like many driveway crossings, the design of these were almost completely neglected. There’s no reason they can’t be better.

      But the proper BGT extension should be coming in the next few years, so they might not bother.

    • jay says:

      I take exception to your “totally understandable that the person driving didn’t see the person riding a bike”

      Technically*, not in the eyes of the law. One has a responsibility to see other people and things, if conditions make that difficult, one is required to take additional care.

      I understand that from some points of view that “additional care” may be too much of a burden, but in the fullness of time, some points of view become less popular (for hyperbolic examples, check out the 13th and 19th amendments to the US constitution) Of course I’m just being silly, thinking that blacks and women are not quite equal to the relatively wealthy while males [“men”]mentioned in the declaration of independence is nothing like thinking people who are not driving cars are not quite worth considering.
      A better example of views changing over time might be; once automobiles were considers so scary and dangerous that it was required that they be proceeded by a person on foot carrying a red flag. But it was soon recognized that a few deaths were a small price to pay for the convenience of the automobile!

      Hmm. I seem to have forgotten what my point was…Oh, yeah the law!, well, whatever, it’s kind of like speed limits, yielding for pedestrians, and stuff like that, nobody really cares, but technically …

      *https://xkcd.com/1475/

    • Josh says:

      There are double-yellow lines on both sides of the bridge supports, creating a median island that is *not* legal to cross unless there’s a marked opening through the median island.

      RCW 46.61.150
      Driving on divided highways.

      Whenever any highway has been divided into two or more roadways by leaving an intervening space or by a physical barrier or clearly indicated dividing section or by a median island not less than eighteen inches wide formed either by solid yellow pavement markings or by a yellow crosshatching between two solid yellow lines so installed as to control vehicular traffic, every vehicle shall be driven only upon the right-hand roadway unless directed or permitted to use another roadway by official traffic-control devices or police officers. No vehicle shall be driven over, across or within any such dividing space, barrier or section, or median island, except through an opening in such physical barrier or dividing section or space or median island, or at a crossover or intersection established by public authority.

      WAC 468-95-160
      Agency filings affecting this section
      Other yellow longitudinal markings.

      Pursuant to RCW 46.61.150, amend paragraph 06 of MUTCD Section 3B.03 to read:
      If a continuous median island formed by pavement markings separating travel in opposite directions is used, the island may be formed by two single normal solid yellow lines, a combination of two single normal solid yellow lines with yellow crosshatching between the lines with a total width not less than eighteen inches, two sets of double solid yellow lines, or a solid yellow line not less than eighteen inches in width.

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  6. ChefJoe says:

    I’m impressed that the video captured the driver using their left turn blinker. The city could paint a “yield” line across the bike lane and consider this solved, right ?

    • Josh says:

      Paint an opening in the median island, so that it’s legal to drive through there like that, and put a stop sign and stop line so that drivers recognize the need to stop and look for cross-traffic.

      • Al Dimond says:

        As far as driving “through there like that”, if “through there” is the location the guy drove into in the video, I actually think we’d be better off making it clear it isn’t legal to do that.

        I’d just close the area off to cars altogether. What does turning across the trail in an area with such difficult visibility provide access to? A couple unintentional, unmaintained parking spaces? A cut-through to 46th? None of that is worth the confusion of an intersection right under the pillars.

        If the alley or those parking spaces must be kept open to cars, the intersection and signage has to indicate the most important thing: that people moving across the trail have to look both ways.

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