Salomon: Seattle’s newest protected bike lane just part of normal street maintenance

EDITOR’S NOTE: Andres Salomon is a father and active member of NE Seattle Greenways, as well as an occasional contributor to Seattle Bike Blog.

Image from Google Maps

Image from Google Maps

Seattle has just added a brand new protected bike lane to its repertoire.  Last month, the city finished up work on a half-mile stretch of bike lanes in North Seattle.  The segment, located on College Way N, helps connects a widely-used I-5 crossing, Wilson-Pacific Middle School, parts of Northgate, and runs alongside North Seattle Community College.  While there was previously a scary bike lane there (that I’d made fun of in the past), this represents a major upgrade to the safety of people biking on that corridor.

There are a number of interesting things about this project, but perhaps most interesting element is the fact that SDOT appears to have treated this as a maintenance upgrade rather than a major new bike project. 

The corridor had received a bunch of pavement fixes last summer, and was due to be repainted. There was no public outreach or open house meetings that I’m aware of.  None of the people involved with Licton-Haller Greenways (including members of local neighborhood community councils and college employees) knew about the bike lane changes until painting had started.  There is no project website or link from SDOT’s PBL webpage.  The only hint that it was being planned was its inclusion in SDOT’s 2015 Bike Master Plan implementation plan (page 16 of this PDF).

Here’s what it looks like:

The start of the new protected bike lane at N 92nd St and College Way N.

The start of the new protected bike lane at N 92nd St and College Way N.

Here the plastic posts go away to allow for on-street parking.

Here the plastic posts go away to allow for on-street parking.

Stop and drop off your mail, smell the flowers, and practice loading your bike onto a bus with Metro's practice rack!

Stop and drop off your mail, smell the flowers, and practice loading your bike onto a bus with Metro’s practice rack!

Even though this wasn’t previously a door-zone bike lane, the quality of the pavement and proximity to speeding cars made it quite uncomfortable.  Not only has the pavement been improved, but attention seems to have been paid to where people on bikes would actually be riding.  Pavement seams in the old bike lane used to scare me when riding on skinny tires, for example. Kudos to SDOT for addressing those issues.

The current buffer is where the old bike lane used to be. Riders would have to pay special attention to the seam. It was also a problem when taking the lane. The new lanes avoid the seam completely.

The current buffer is where the old bike lane used to be. Riders would have to pay special attention to the seam. It was also a problem when taking the lane. The new lanes avoid the seam completely.

The lack of driveways make the protected bike lane feel exceptionally safe and comfortable.  However, the intersections have absolutely no improvements at all.  We’ve learned from the Roosevelt protected bike lane that we can’t just retrofit existing bike lanes with a buffer at intersections, due to the increased right-hook risk.  I hope SDOT is considering possible options at these intersections.

We can't just drop protection at intersections and call it done.

We can’t just drop protection at intersections and call it done.

In particular, the intersection of N 100th St & College Way N seems particularly bad.  A slip lane and wide intersection guarantee that drivers will be making lots of high speed movements.  The wide intersection is tough for people walking as well, and could be easily fixed with some curb bulbs.

Slip lane of N 100th St. It's 2015, why do we allow these bits of highway infrastructure on our city streets?

Slip lane of N 100th St. It’s 2015, why do we allow these bits of highway infrastructure on our city streets?

It took quite a while for the elderly gentleman to cross. Right-turning drivers can do so without slowing much here.

It took quite a while for the elderly gentleman to cross. Right-turning drivers can do so without slowing much here.

The bike lane on the west side of the street is not protected.  However, it has been upgraded to a buffered bike lane.  The new buffered bike lane begins at N 100th St, and is buffered on both sides of the lane.  As on the east side, parking is located between the bike lane and sidewalk.  I’m assuming that the bike lane was left unprotected due to the large number of driveways present.  While it’s a huge upgrade from the previous door-zone bike lanes, it seems like an obvious candidate for a left-side protected bike lane (similar to NE Ravenna Blvd).

The unprotected (double-buffered) lane on the west side of College Way N, with lots of driveways.

The unprotected (double-buffered) lane on the west side of College Way N, with lots of driveways.

North of N 100th St, the old door-zone lane was repainted. The entire stretch used to be like this, only with worse pavement.

North of N 100th St, the old door-zone lane was repainted. The entire stretch used to be like this, only with worse pavement.

The city deserves praise for quickly upgrading bicycle facilities like this.  This used to be such a horrible ride (and still is, north of N 103rd St).  However, we need to make sure that they don’t consider these bicycle facilities complete until they feel (and actually are) safe and inviting.  Intersection improvements are not optional, and this corridor is an important connection. It must work for all ages and abilities.

About Andres Salomon

Andres is a father and active member of NE Seattle Greenways.
This entry was posted in news and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Salomon: Seattle’s newest protected bike lane just part of normal street maintenance

  1. Tom Fucoloro says:

    This happens all the time: City repaints an old, door zone bike lane rather than automatically upgrading it to modern standards. So it’s great to see this from SDOT. I can’t wait until they are so good at bike lane upgrades that it becomes just part of regular maintenance :-)

  2. Josh says:

    If nothing else, the mouth of that slip lane could use some green hazard paint and a bicycle pavement marking to remind drivers to look for bicycles coming up on their left.

    I see it already has shark’s teeth and a yield sign, so drivers should be looking for conflicting traffic, but will they be looking for bikes near the curb, or vehicles in the street?

  3. Andres Salomon says:

    Thanks for posting this, Tom!

    I’ve got an email out to SDOT to see if they are planning any more upgrades. If they get back to me with additional improvements, I’ll report back.

  4. Harrison Davignon says:

    Of course this happens in a country still obsessed with the car. We need to build a balanced system that works for drivers and cyclists alike. Has the city noticed that more and more people are giving up cars, less young people are getting driver licenses and more people than ever want to ride bicycles for transportation? This isn’t the 1990s were cars ruled the roads and most everyone wanted and had cars. Times have changed though. I’m not saying take vehicles away, i’m just saying give people options. Pitiful job on the bike lanes, but its better then nothing.

  5. daihard says:

    This is definitely a welcome upgrade. I used to avoid College Way N due to the insanely crappy pavement. I’ve ridden there a couple of times since SDOT announced the upgraded bike lanes. I can’t say I love the new bike lanes, but like I said, it’s a huge improvement.

    Their next step should be extend the bike lanes all the way up on Meridian to provide a preferred direct bike path from Green Lake to Haller Lake / Pinehurst.

  6. chris isaacson says:

    Why are the lines painted white? Should they be painted solid yellow ?

    • Josh says:

      Yellow lines mean traffic on the other side of the line is moving in the opposite direction. When a bike lane is going the same direction as the traffic next to it, the separation must be white.

  7. Friendly biker says:

    Just rode this two days ago. It’s amazing how different it feels there. It went from freaky-scary to comfy-safe overnight.

    Super awesome to see the city doing this kinda work.

  8. Joseph says:

    So excited to see one-way bike lanes! So glad they didn’t twist themselves into contortions to make a 2-way PBL. It makes *sooooooo* much more sense to have bikes going the same direction as cars. Nice work SDOT!

  9. RDPence says:

    The comments about the crappy pavement on College Way should be remembered when it comes to the Move Seattle levy. In some quarters, urbanists deride street repaving projects because “that’s just for more cars,” conveniently forgetting that bicycles and buses also move on that same pavement. Bridging The Gap never did bridge any funding gap, and Seattle is still years behind on basic street maintenance. Whatever your favorite mode of travel, we should all support a major increase in arterial street repaving.

  10. SashaBikes says:

    I’ve been really excited about this improvement – it makes it much nicer than it used to be, and it was all done with very little fanfare.

    I do sincerely hope that they consider fixing the many road hazards (huge cracks) and repainting the lanes heading north of 100th up Meridian. It’s the last half mile or so of my commute, and the improved lanes just highlight how truly scary the remainder is. I’ve started dismounting and walking my bike the rest of the way in to work. My reports using the SDOT pothole app don’t seem to be registering.

  11. Andres Salomon says:

    FYI, SDOT just told me they will be upgrading the markings at these intersections later this year as they finalize their PBL policies.

  12. Pingback: St. John’s holds off spending $125K on bike lane consultant - Binary Option Evolution

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *