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.
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:
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 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.
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.
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 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.