City proposes simple fix to connect Fremont Bridge and Burke-Gilman Trail

MapProtectedBikeLaneThe city has proposed a simple way to better connect the Fremont Bridge and the Burke-Gilman Trail: Two blocks of protected bike lanes on the south side of N 34th Street.

The east section is pretty simple: Make the existing eastbound bike lane into a two-way bike lane. Everything else stays the same:

ProtectedBikeLane34th-2The second section requires a little more work. By continuing the bikeway to the trail connection at Phinney Ave N, the city proposes keeping the parallel parking on both sides of the street and changing it to a one-way street. Since eastbound traffic today ends at Evanston Ave anyway, this isn’t a huge change.

ProtectedBikeLane34th-1In general, it would be great to see the bikeway get wider when possible. Ten feet is the bare minimum width for a two-way bike lane (12 feet is preferred), and we know this one will get a ton of use in both directions. It will also be interesting to see how the bikeway design works with the weekly Fremont Market, which takes over the street on Sundays (I’ve asked SDOT for clarification on how this would work).

City staff are on a short timeline to get feedback, so don’t wait to let them know how you feel about the idea.

Details from SDOT:

You have an opportunity to provide input for a new protected bike lane segment along N 34th Street in Fremont!

More than 100 people bike on N 34th Street between the Burke-Gilman Trail and the Fremont Bridge during the peak morning and evening weekday hours. Currently, bicyclists share the road with people who drive vehicles.  There is an eastbound bike lane between Evanston Avenue N and Fremont Avenue N.

SDOT is proposing to extend the existing bike lane along N 34th Street from Evanston Avenue N to Phinney Avenue N.  We would convert it to a two-way protected bike facility that would accommodate people of all ages and abilities and provide a connection between the Burke-Gilman Trail and the Fremont Bridge. The existing parking configuration will not change.

This project is funded as part of the Bicycle Master Plan.

Please provide any feedback you have by June 26th to the project manager, Howard Wu at howard.wu@seattle.gov.

 

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67 Responses to City proposes simple fix to connect Fremont Bridge and Burke-Gilman Trail

  1. LWC says:

    Great idea!

    Any thoughts on similar treatment east of the bridge? Connecting from westbound BGT (e.g. coming from the University) to the Fremont bridge is not very smooth currently…

    • Josh Too says:

      I think this could be even more important than what is proposed. 34th is often closed west of Evanston during markets and festivals, which presumably won’t move because of lines on the asphalt, so this proposal probably won’t help cyclists on the days when the some of the largest numbers of them will be out riding. I imagine a protected two-way bike lane on the south side of 34th from Stone Way to the east side crossing of the Fremont bridge would be feasible and appreciated by those going to and from the NE and SLU/LQA/downtown. It would eliminate potentially getting doored heading west on N 34th, the risky left onto the bridge, the long detour to Canal St and its potential closures, and congestion on the west side of the bridge and around the funeral home on Florentia. Improving the weirdly narrow and obstructed pedestrian situation on 34th’s south sidewalk and at Stone Way would be a big plus.

      • jay says:

        I’m having a hard time visualizing what you are proposing; ” a protected two-way bike lane on the south side of 34th”, What would be the point of a two-way? there are already a one way bike lanes on 34th, encouraging more “salmoning” on the bridge sidewalk is about the last thing anyone needs.
        “would be feasible”, again I don’t think I’m visualizing what you are saying, looks totally impossible to me, unless the lane of parking is taken and the “Waiting for the Interurban” island is extensively reworked.
        Well, looking at the map again, if the north bike lane was gone I guess there might be room enough for a mediocre, minimally separated (not really too “protected”) two way on the south side, and only the island would need to be reworked, however people on bikes who wanted to continue west, or turn north at Fremont would not appreciate removal of the north lane for a two way lane on the south side.
        I do agree that the corner by Bleitz is bad, but a westbound one way bike lane on (a probably one way for everyone) Florentia could help that a lot.

  2. Andres Salomon says:

    A few thoughts about this.

    1) Whoa, did SDOT just start using Streetmix.net for their designs? That’s awesome!

    2) These two segments are neighborhood streets. Other than traffic volumes, there’s no reason why we couldn’t widen the sidewalks, narrow the roadway down to the standard 25ft curb-to-curb, make it two-way, drop the speed limit down to a reasonable 20mph, add speed humps, add some diverters, and make it a Neighborhood Greenway.

    3) If we are to stick with protected bike lanes, 10ft is too narrow. The Federal Highway Administration’s new design recommends 12ft:
    http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bicycle_pedestrian/publications/separated_bikelane_pdg/page07.cfm#figure11

    4) An 11ft wide one-way travel lane is too wide, and will encourage speeding. Again, this is a neighborhood street. Drop it down to 9ft, and use that extra 2 feet for the PBL.

    5) A 15ft wide travel lane is crazy. If it is to allow trucks to double-park, just create some loading zones. If it’s to allow space for pulling out of the angled parking, make a narrow lane with delineator posts or other obstructions that are spaced to allow parking drivers to squeeze between them. Don’t just leave it as a 15ft travel lane, though.

    • RossB says:

      One thing to keep in mind is that the area used to be industrial. I’m not sure if is anymore. Other than trucks making deliveries (to PCC and the local bars) there isn’t much truck traffic. Theo’s maybe — and a handful of small industrial shops (like the one that caught fire recently). But I think that is why the streets were so wide, and so making them more narrow may not be that difficult (because some of the reason they were wide in the first place are gone). To answer some of your points:

      2) The first thing to do is add four way stops everywhere. Trucks don’t like this, but like I said, there really are very few. Most are fairly light trucks, too (like ones carrying produce or handful of kegs). Some of the blocks are very long (like the numbered streets between Evanston and Phinney) and some of the bozos do drive too fast. Speed bumps could work, but this change will help, too. Parking on both sides will slow people down (a bit) since you have to keep an eye out for someone pulling out on either side. If they really want to slow it down, they should just keep it two way (like the area to the north of 36th). Cars have to wait for oncoming traffic, and pull out of the way.

      4) That is a reasonable suggestion. I think the only concern is trucks (is 9 feet wide enough for them)?

      5) The 15 foot wide area is because of the angle parking. People do it really poorly and this gives folks a chance to go around the driver a bit sooner, and not stick out, blocking Fremont. This is only a block, and a short one at that. Right now it actually works fine because everyone drives really slowly. People jaywalk all the time (it is essentially a woonerf). I think people will continue to drive slowly through there, since the number of pedestrians outnumber the cars. Bikers should ride slowly for the same reason. I think the idea of 12 feet on the long part (Phinney to Evanston) followed by a narrowing to 10 feet makes a lot of sense (there is a four way stop at Evanston anyway).

    • Andres Salomon says:

      Here’s the streetmixes that I sent to SDOT. Because streetmix doesn’t do 11ft bi-directional lanes, I used weird 5.5ft travel lanes. Imagine this with cheap street furniture (bike corrals, parklets, planters, etc) to narrow the street, and speed humps/diverters to ensure drivers slow down or avoid the street. Angled parking is replaced with parallel parking on both sides of the street.

      http://streetmix.net/-/249963
      http://streetmix.net/-/249964

  3. Josh says:

    Pity the City doesn’t think there’s room to comply with FHWA’s new Separated Bike Lane Planning and Design Guide.

    Assuming for the sake of argument that the street is so constrained that a more-hazardous two-way sidepath is justified, FHWA calls for 6 feet each direction, 12 foot path width, not 10 feet.

    If an 11-foot travel lane (not “drive lane”, it’s a general travel lane open to all users, including bicycles) is adequate for the second section, why is there not room for a safe 12-foot path width in the first section, leaving a 13-foot travel lane?

  4. Michael says:

    I know this is “last-century thinking”, but I’ve never had a problem on that stretch of 34th as it is currently configured. There’s not that much auto traffic, and speeds are low due to the chaos of the back-in parking (which is near impossible for many Seattle drivers.)

    • Matt says:

      I was thinking the same thing and I bike to Fremont for work nearly every single day. The real issue is on the other side of the Fremont Bridge. The Stone Way and 34th intersection is pathetic…I work on that corner and the wait for bikes and pedestrians is so long that people end up jaywalking and running lights. It should be a 4 way pedestrian/bike crossing like it is at the Market. It also turns into a mess with cyclists trying to go up 34th on the south sidewalk because they want to take Westlake downtown. I’m not sure what the solution is but it seems a lot more pressing than this project.

    • daihard says:

      I agree with Matt. I ride the eastern side of Fremont Bridge and up on Stone very frequently. I have to merge with traffic so I can turn left onto Stone, and it’s not always easy.

    • J says:

      I don’t think there’s a problem with that street, either. I live in the area and have never felt unsafe or seen any problems. I am mystified as to how this became a priority. My guess is that it’s cheap and the city can publicize building a protected bike lane as a win, even if it’s unnecessary. Isn’t this going to conflict with the Fremont market? What are they going to do on Sundays?

      The only rational reason I can think of is that cyclists tend to use the existing contraflow lane (incorrectly) as a two-way lane, so we might as well make that official so people stop salmoning there.

      You know what I’d totally support in that area? Putting up signage to inform riders on the west side of the bridge that the bike lane is a one-way; don’t use it to ride north in the southbound lane. It’s dangerous for you and everyone around you.

      • daihard says:

        How about the side path on the east side of the bridge? I only ride northbound there, but I sometimes run into bicycles coming the other way. The path is very narrow on the bridge, and in my experience, none of those southbound cyclists slow down. I think it’s very dangerous.

      • J. says:

        daihard: Agreed. It’s just a mess all over, with a lack of throughput at rush hour on both sides.

        The problem I’m referring to isn’t on the sidewalk, though, it’s people actually riding against traffic in the road on the west side.

      • daihard says:

        You mean the separate southbound path before it merges onto the side path right before the bridge? Now that’s a new bad for me. I agree, that has to be stopped.

      • J says:

        daihard: Yes, that’s what I mean. I see it at least once a week when walking over the bridge.

        I’m tempted to do some midnight engineering.

  5. Josh says:

    As mandated by the City Council when adopting the 2014 Bicycle Master Plan Update:

    Section 6. Design of Bicycle Master Plan Recommended Facilities
    A. Consistent with Strategy 4.10 and Action 4.10.1, facilities will be designed to meet or exceed applicable federal, state and local guidelines and standards. In the absence of existing guidelines or standards, the City Traffic Engineer will exercise his or her best judgment.

    Only when there are no existing federal, state, or local guidelines or standards is the City Traffic Engineer authorized to exercise best judgement. Where those federal, state, or local guidelines or standards exist, BMP facilities will meet those standards.

  6. Joseph says:

    I agree, a 10′ bi-directional PBL here sounds like a poor idea. Building yet more substandard infrastructure is the *last* thing we need.

    QUESTION: I hope we’re all emailing Howard Wu (howard.wu@seattle.gov) with this feedback. Are we?

    I don’t think (unfortunately) this comments thread counts as official input, which is a pity as it’s so much easier and more social to comment here….

  7. Andy says:

    The only thing unsafe about this stretch currently is the poor pavement quality and the conflict that westbound riders have crossing oncoming traffic at the Phinney intersection to get on to the trail.

    I’m sure this a a pretty cheap project, but I’m really baffled as to how it got prioritized, and even more baffled that the only actually unsafe part of this section (the intersection at Phinney) got ignored.

  8. lisa says:

    It seems kind of pointless… everyone here has commented about how it’s a neighborhood street and there aren’t that many conflicts to begin with. Plus, it’s downhill so I want that whole lane to go fast and have clear sightlines. Plus, there’s actually so much bike traffic there that having the extra space for bike passing is good.

    I usually hate on sharrows, but this street is actually the perfect application for them. I’d like to see SDOT focus on things that DON’T work instead of things that work just fine. Would I take my midwestern mother on this street on a bike as-is? Yes.

    • ODB says:

      I agree and join everyone who is baffled as to what cost/benefit analysis caused this project to become a priority. The area is absolutely loaded with bike infrastructure already and the street in question is already very mellow for biking. How many bicyclists would even be bothered to use the westbound lane of this under-sized and likely-crowded facility when a perfectly good traffic lane is available? If built, I predict it will be like the two blocks of two-way track exiting the UW campus at 40th. The inconvenience of getting into and out of the track westbound won’t be worth the trouble.

      This is proposal strikes me as a great example of what happens when planners get coopted by bike advocates who are ideologically committed to protected facilities at all costs (and harbor a corresponding horror of shared facilities because “I wouldn’t let my three-year-old ride them on his balance bike”). I can only speculate that there must be a person or faction at SDOT that loves the idea of two-way cycle tracks and is just looking for new places to put them in.

      • Andres Salomon says:

        I’m confused as to why you think this project came from bike advocates. It’s in the 2015 BMP implementation plan as a PBL:

        http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/docs/bmp/BMPImplementationPlanMarch2015.pdf

        And in the BMP:
        http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/docs/bmp/apr14/NW_Sector.pdf

        I suspect the prioritization is due to it being seen as low-hanging fruit. SDOT needs to get some PBLs built to meet goals, and no one’s going to fight them here.

      • daihard says:

        Looks like it means the BMP is little more than a collection of “feel good” ideas. Just off the top of my head, I can think of a few streets that would benefit far more greatly from a PBL than the section of Fremont that will get one now – places like NE/N 130th, 5th Ave NE, 35th Ave NE, etc., etc.

      • RossB says:

        >> “I wouldn’t let my three-year-old ride them on his balance bike”.

        I’ve seen little kids riding on it (ahead of their parents). It did make me a little nervous — 99% of the drivers there are just fine, but you do see an occasional idiot (who feels the need to rush from one intersection to the other or pulls out of their parking spot without looking). The section next to the PCC is different. While cars swerve out into the bike lane, everyone drives really, really slowly (bike speed, if not pedestrian speed).

        But even on the other part I agree, this really is a low priority. Even the Burke Gilman isn’t 100% safe (I’ve seen idiots cut across Latona, for example, oblivious to the fact that it is the busiest bike path in the state). So it seems like the city should worry about more dangerous areas (or close off intersections like that) before tackling this little inconvenience.

        Oh well, this little change probably won’t happen anyway. Just before the work is about to start, someone will probably sue and stop the whole thing (sorry, I’m feeling really cynical right now).

  9. DigDug says:

    “More than 100 people bike on N 34th Street between the Burke-Gilman Trail and the Fremont Bridge during the peak morning and evening weekday hours.”

    …that sounds… low? Is that right? That can’t be right.

    • Lisa says:

      If we assume that it’s 1/3 of the Fremont bridge traffic… that’s about 1,000 weekday trips in the summer.

    • Josh says:

      Reading that, I assumed it was trying to say bike volume exceeds 100 *per hour* during peak hours, not 100 people commute through during the entire commute.

  10. Harrison Davignon says:

    Maybe were starting to see the city slowly accommodating bicycles and making riding safer. I know there is no easy fixes, on account of 100 years of building roads for the vehicle, instead of bicycles. Hopefully one day, we can have safe reliable options for motorists and bicycles .

  11. Skylar says:

    Like others, I’m not sure that this is the best use of SDOT’s limited time and money. If I were to spend planning and money on this, I would put in a one-block bi-directional protected bike facility on the north side of Florentia to connect to the Ship Canal Trail. West-bound car traffic would be preserved, and east-bound traffic would need to divert to the Nickerson/4th/Dexter/Westlake monster intersection. There would need to be some work rearranging the parking lots, but shouldn’t be anything too major.

    Failing that, then how about adding a curb cut to make it easier for north-bound cyclists on the west side of the bridge to get to the eastbound bike sensor in the road? When I do it I have to stop and hop off the curb.

    • J. says:

      I’d support this if they would also remove the bushes at the intersection so there are clear sightlines around the corner. That’s a problem now and I’ve been involved in many near misses as a pedestrian and cyclist when people coming around the corner are moving too fast.

  12. Bob Hall says:

    I’m perfectly on board with the whole all ages & abilities theme, but I agree with most of the comments questioning whether this stretch of road is that bad to begin with.

    What about bicycles who are trying to access PCC? There are usually tons of bikes locked up there, especially this time of year. It seems like if you’re forced to ride in these 2-way lanes it will be very awkward to make your way to get groceries.

    Seems like SDOT has the classic “when you’re holding a hammer everything looks like a nail” syndrome. Infrastructure should be context-sensitive, but it seems like a 2-way PBL is the answer whether the context is a freeway underpass (Mercer under Hwy 99), a busy downtown avenue (2nd ave), an urban village street (34th st), etc. Take a page from the New Urbanists, learn what a transect is, and then ask yourself how you would place different bicycle treatments in different transect zones.

  13. kommish says:

    I’ll just join the chorus (and email the City too, don’t worry). I ride north across the bridge, cross 34th, and head up Fremont Ave with my kid every single morning. I’ve biked this particular set of interchanges between the bridge, the BGT, 34th, Fremont Ave, etc the entire 7 years I’ve lived in this city. Of ALL the improvements this area desperately needs, this strikes me as the absolute least important. It’s a weird route getting from street level down to the BGT there, but holy shit, guys, have you ever tried to navigate the buses and traffic coming down Fremont from Leary to the bridge at rush hour?? Would you like to know how many pedestrians I have nearly taken out because a Metro driver pulling over to a stop in front of the Dusty Strings decided cutting off a lady with a 7 year old was a super duper good idea, forcing us out of the lane and into the crosswalk? That intersection is the worst, and this project would do nothing to make it better. The block they’re talking about fixing is already nice and slow because it’s so tight with the angled parking.

  14. Matt says:

    My biggest concern is not necessarily this project, but I am worried this will become a larger strategy for the city. Instead of tackling the large and incredibly controversial bike projects, the city is going to settle for conflict-free, minor infrastructure improvements. I never thought I would be against bike infrastructure but it concerns me that the city is going to spend lots of money adding PBL through alleys and other unnecessary routes that will have absolutely zero effect on bike rates. In the end, when our bike share is exactly the same as before, the anti-bike zealots will have all the data they need to prove that bike infrastructure improvements are useless. The Mayor impressed me when he put his foot down and completed 2nd ave but I’ve seen little action lately. I would like to see our city leaders stop trying to please everyone and do what’s right for the city.

  15. Tom Fucoloro says:

    Wow, wasn’t expecting so much negativity about this. I think people hating on it might be missing the point: To provide a more continuous trail-like connection from the Burke-Gilman to the Fremont Bridge. This does not exist today, and here’s a pretty simple and cheap way to make that happen.

    Just because you all know how to make that connection doesn’t mean everyone else does. I see confused people all the time trying to navigate this connection, and signs alone don’t work as well as a continuous bike facility. I remember when I first figured out how to make this connection, and it felt like I had discovered a secret short cut (until I realized lots of other people were already well aware of it). I know once you’re used to something it seems so obvious, but we gotta break out of that point of view in order to make a truly obvious bike network. Instead of looking at this from your perspective, put yourself in the shoes of someone trying to find the Fremont Bridge from the Burke-Gilman Trail for the first time. This will make it so much more obvious and simple.

    To address some other comments:

    – A different issue being worse is not a valid argument to not improve this area. I agree the intersection at Stone and that connection to the bridge needs a lot of work (and don’t get me started on Fremont Ave…), but that doesn’t mean we can’t improve this connection in the meantime.
    – This section is not great today. I’ve had near-misses with people pulling out of the parking without paying attention. I’ve also encountered a lot of vehicles parking in the counter-flow bike lane, often to make deliveries. Creating a bike lane barrier could help fix that problem.
    – There’s a lot of traffic circling, looking for parking during busy times of the week (like drunken weekend evenings), and that’s not a comfortable environment to bike through. Sure, it’s mostly slow-moving, but here’s a chance to provide a protected option. If you really hate the bike lane, you can still bike in the street if you want (well, westbound anyway). But nearly everyone else is going to love this option.
    – The city making these small and easy connections as a part of regular business is a good thing. There are a million small fixes that might not be game-changing on their own, but add up to make navigating the city on bike that much easier and more friendly. This is one of those projects.

    • Andres Salomon says:

      One of the things being discussed on the Fremont Greenways list is making it a festival street (instead of a PBL or a greenway). Any thoughts on that?

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        That could be a cool long-term idea, especially if traffic calming and diversion is significant enough to really make the street people-focused. As we’ve seen on Bell St, curbless streets can still get filled with cars without a traffic diversion effort.

        But in the meantime, this bike lane plan is simple (mostly paint) and can happen now. I assume there’s no immediate timeline on the festival street, right?

      • Andres Salomon says:

        Bell St is exactly why I would prefer to see this remain two-way instead of one-way. :)

        Bell St isn’t a festival street, though, it’s designed to be a park (http://www.seattle.gov/parks/park_detail.asp?ID=4472).

        The only festival streets I’m aware of are in Georgetown (http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/btg_nsf_georgetownfestivalstreet.htm) and in Beacon Hill (https://goo.gl/maps/8gYxJ). Both are two-way, and both remove parking (which I’m guessing would be a non-starter with PCC right there). Both could also be done much better though, with stuff actually in the roadway (trees, cement bollards) to slow drivers down. However, the idea of a street that is designed to be closed to cars on a regular basis fits well with the farmer’s market.

    • Matt says:

      I think we’re all just a bit frustrated with what’s going on at Westlake and the Missing Link and we’re taking it out on this project. In any case, I can’t help but fear that the city is going to publicize minor projects such as this as large scale improvements every time we demand for them to complete the “game-changing” projects. Hopefully, I’m just overreacting.

    • Josh says:

      I think much of the negativity isn’t driven just by this one project, but by SDOT’s ongoing failure to meet safety standards and guidance on project after project.

      Here’s a fairly simple, small project, with plenty of excess street width, and they still seem to think a substandard 2-way sidepath is the best answer.

      If Hannibal asked them how to get elephants over the Alps, I bet they’d propose a 10-foot, 2-way sidepath.

      Nevermind what FHWA’s guidance says, or CROW, or OECD, or AASHTO, or WSDOT… they’ve got this one arrow in their quiver and they shoot it at every target.

    • Andy says:

      A different issue being worse is absolutely a valid argument not to improve this area *first*. SDOT has limited staff time and limited funding, and deciding to prioritize this project is symptomatic of the flawed ranking system that SDOT uses for all their prioritizations in the BMP Implementation Plan.

      While making small and easy upgrades a part of regular business is great, that isn’t the case here – this is a stand-alone project that is being designed in an unsafe and negligent fashion, against the City Council’s explicit direction to follow national standards, and neglecting the most important part of making any facility safe – the intersections.

    • kommish says:

      Tom, I hear you. When I emailed the City, I suggested they paint the route between surface streets and the BGT for cyclists to follow (though I think signage would also be okay, provided it actually narrates each step, which Seattle signage is sometimes not great at), rather than installing a PBL. Frankly, I wish they’d just close those couple of blocks to traffic entirely, like they do for the Sunday market.

      I don’t think it’s entirely a straw man argument, though, to say that a different, worse area should receive attention first. I agree – let’s not make the perfect an enemy of the good – but I also know that there are a finite number of dollars and an even more finite amount of political will to make bike infrastructure improvements. I think other improvements would make satisfying clarification for drivers and cyclists and pedestrians in that 4ish-block area, whereas this improvement would (maybe) help cyclists and (probably) piss off the few drivers who bother going down that street.

    • I. Ponder says:

      Tom wrote “Wow, wasn’t expecting so much negativity about this. I think people hating on it might be missing the point.”

      Is Josh just being a negative hater when he says the plan doesn’t meet adopted standards? Must we all be Mary Sunshines?

      Josh wrote “As mandated by the City Council when adopting the 2014 Bicycle Master Plan Update:

      Section 6. Design of Bicycle Master Plan Recommended Facilities
      A. Consistent with Strategy 4.10 and Action 4.10.1, facilities will be designed to meet or exceed applicable federal, state and local guidelines and standards. In the absence of existing guidelines or standards, the City Traffic Engineer will exercise his or her best judgment.

      Only when there are no existing federal, state, or local guidelines or standards is the City Traffic Engineer authorized to exercise best judgement. Where those federal, state, or local guidelines or standards exist, BMP facilities will meet those standards.”

      Is there a good reason these standards shouldn’t apply?

      • Bob Hall says:

        +1 It rubs me the wrong way when people who are exercising critical thought and judgment are being labeled “negative” and “haters”.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        I said both in the story and my comment that it should be wider, which is also what Josh is saying. So we agree there.

  16. James says:

    I also bike through this section every day, and agree that this solution seems superfluous in the context of the area. A better approach would be to make the intersection of 34th and Fremont Ave N into a protected intersection, with very clear signage and pavement markings to encourage two-stage left turns. Even at rush hour, 34th Street is not terribly intimidating aside from a few conflict zones that the proposed plan does not address. Improving the connections from the bridge to the surface streets on either side would be much more useful improvements in my book.

  17. Matt Cunningham says:

    I also bike through this area every day, heading east on 34th in front of PCC. 1) The island there is pointless and should be removed because it only exacerbates 2) the fact that as someone above already mentioned, the bike lane is de facto two-way, despite the fact that it isn’t wide enough to carry traffic in both directions. I have daily near collisions with bikers heading west who have swerved over into the bike lane to go around cars parking in front of PCC. Personally, I’d be happy if it were fixed. As for the stretch west of PCC, that could also use some work (hopefully repaving will be part of the project–the cracks are horrible). I’m going to email the PM and suggest 12 ft lanes.

    • Tory says:

      I disagree on losing the island. I think it is the only thing that prevents cars from turning the wrong way down the street. I’ve been at the stop sign in front of the PCC many times and seen cars try to turn and drive eastbound to where I’m standing, ignoring the DO NOT ENTER sign and my waving arms.

  18. Todd says:

    I like the idea as I ride this stretch quite often but have questions about west bound travelers. Is the idea to have them use the eastern side of the Fremont Bridge as well? That seems a little congested to me. It’s already tight with peds and cyclists sharing the road — most of them northbound riders.

  19. Elias says:

    Stick out your arms to your side. If you’re an average sized person, that’s over 5 feet hand-to-hand. Would you like to be biking that close to somebody going the other way, towards you? Remember, we want cars to pass 3 feet from us? Handlebar to the handlebar, you may be less than 3 feet from oncoming traffic.

    I don’t mind infrastructure, but there are practical reasons to have your path over 5 feet wide.

    • Orv says:

      Maybe it’s a traffic calming feature, to keep bike speeds down. ;)

      I do think on a path that narrow the spandex-clad types are going to get really impatient when they get stuck behind casual cyclists, and may create unsafe conditions when they try to pass. I’ve frequently felt like a hazard to navigation on the Burke-Gillman, and it’s a lot wider than 10 feet.

      • Josh says:

        It’s not just Tour de Commute riders who have issues on substandard-width paths like this.

        There’s an electric-assist cargo bike that occasionally blows by me on the I-90 Trail, it’s easily 3 feet wide all by itself, and my 26-inch cruiser has wide handlebars, so even when he’s passing uncomfortably close to me, there isn’t room for a pedestrian coming the other direction, let alone a bicycle.

        Seattle has an unusually high proportion of cargo bikes, but SDOT isn’t even living up to guidelines for standard upright road bikes.

  20. Al Dimond says:

    Actually one thing I didn’t think of until earlier today: If there’s one thing I really want right in this area, it’s banning the left turn from the bridge to 34th at all times of day. It’s a difficult maneuver in heavy traffic, and the most typical mistake for drivers to make is failing to see cyclists and pedestrians, especially when the two southbound through-traffic lanes are backed up. I witnessed a collision, just in front of me, where a southbound cyclist was hit from the side by a driver accelerating hard to get through a gap in the other two lanes. The driver was fooled because some of the lanes were backed up and stopped, and the hard acceleration gave the driver less reaction time and made for a harder collision. The layout of the intersection inevitably leads to this sort of acceleration.

    • RossB says:

      I agree. I’ve done that exact maneuver (in a car) and you are right, it isn’t easy. You have to be very careful, and a lot of drivers aren’t (they take that turn way too fast). Heading straight (west) from 34th you don’t have that problem. By then it is obvious that there are bikes everywhere; you usually have to stop while the cars in front wait to turn right; your eyes are focused straight ahead, where it is obvious that lots of people are slowly milling about. Besides, left turns like that really aren’t good for traffic flow (cars back up behind the left turner, or quickly dart around). Meanwhile, it isn’t hard to just keep going straight and then take a left (on Evanston, where there is a left turn light and a left turn pullout).

      So even though I have taken that turn many times, I agree, they should ban left turns there at all times.

      • Al Dimond says:

        The one thing that’s harder is if you specifically need to access that block of 34th from south of the bridge. That is, if you need close access to any business on the block except PCC (which has a garage for customers and a loading dock for deliveries).

        The other way in from south of the bridge is right on 35th, right on Troll Ave, right on 34th. That’s not ideal for a delivery truck; some would struggle to make the turn at 35th just as buses do even with drivers that take the turn every day, and Troll Ave is pretty steep. Next chance is all the way over at Albion. That’s a pretty long detour…

        Maybe that block of 34th is one-way in the wrong direction. If motor vehicles could go east instead of west they could access the block via Evanston, which works fine from any direction. Egress shouldn’t be too bad, either. To go west you turn left onto Fremont Ave, then left to Fremont Way (i.e. 36th, Leary); to go north or south you turn directly onto Fremont Ave in the direction you want to go. To go east… there isn’t room for eastbound motor vehicles immediately west of Fremont Ave, so you have to go left on Fremont Ave, then right on 35th.

        One problem I can see is that it might become an attractive cut-through route. That’s a problem if the signal cycle creates a conflict between drivers turning off of 34th and people biking and walking across Fremont Ave. It could also be a problem if bridge backups hurt its local access function. I’m not sure any of that is as bad as the left turns are today. Put up a “local access only” sign and enforce it occasionally.

      • Al Dimond says:

        (Oddly enough, I go through that intersection all the time and I don’t think I’ve ever made a vehicular left after the bridge. I’ve pulled into the bike box to make a two-stage turn and I’ve gone around the block a few different ways. Once just after moving to Seattle I took the illegal left from southbound Fremont Ave onto 34th. I was already in the left lane when I realized the turn was illegal. I don’t remember how it worked — today it would not have been physically possible in a car, but I was biking, and I don’t remember how that block was laid out before the bike box went in.)

    • k_rob says:

      Agree. The city is missing all sorts of low hanging fruit such as this. Also the timing of the stoplights downtown, eg. on 4th encourages cars to go ~40, when the stated goal is ~20ish.

  21. daihard says:

    Is there any way we (or even I) can directly ask SDOT why they choose to ignore the BMP guidelines when they build new bike paths AND expect an answer? I somehow don’t think it’s just sheer ignorance on the part of the city engineers.

    • Josh says:

      If enough people ask, eventually there will be an answer.

      Email the project engineer, and CC Scott Kubly.

      Ask politely, without any accusations that put people on the defensive, but ask clearly — BMP Adopting Resolution says X, this project is doing Y, can you explain why the project isn’t following adopted policy?

      Many times, in my experience at least, you’ll find out that it’s simple inertia. That’s how they did the last five projects so it’s what they’re thinking when they start this project.

      That can apply even to very simple changes — a couple of years ago I asked why the city was still using its obscure “T” markings for signal loops instead of the MUTCD-standard bike on a line. Signals got back to me and said it was simply a new marking that they hadn’t yet started using … more than ten years after it became the national standard. No hostility, no hidden agenda, not even trying to save money, just hadn’t gotten around to changing what they’d been doing for years.

      So, ask, but don’t necessarily expect a clear or profound answer.

      • daihard says:

        Thanks, Josh. I will try to find who I should shoot the question to as the primary recipient.

      • Andres Salomon says:

        One more point – I’ve asked SDOT if they have a default (travel) lane width, and if so what it is. They informed me they normally stick with the existing lane widths (for a restriping project), and for new striping it’s a decision that the people working on the project decide. No defaults.

        I suspect that bike lane widths are similar. Even if there’s a new national standard, the people working on an individual project might not have seen the new standard. Get the people on that project on board with the new standard, and you might have to do the same on the *next* project with a different group of employees.

      • Josh says:

        Project manager for the N 34th St work is given on the SDOT blog as Howard Wu, howard.wu@seattle.gov

      • Josh says:

        The City does have some formal standards. You can find many of them in the Right of Way Improvements Manual, available on SDOT’s web site.

        http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/rowmanual/

        The Manual isn’t automatically updated when outside standards or guidance change, sometimes there’s something allowed in the Manual that’s discouraged or prohibited by other rules, or something not in the Manual that has been adopted in other rules. For example, ROWIM only says that sharrows need to comply with the minimum spacings of MUTCD, while the BMP Update clarified that they should be centered in the travel lanes as recommended by the ITE Traffic Control Devices Handbook. The Manual has the bare minimum, ITE has best practices guidance that exceeds the Manual’s requirements.

  22. Josh says:

    Also worth noting, the first paragraph in the Bicycles section of the ROWIM:

    Per RCW 35.75.060 and 36.82.145, all bicycle facilities must comply with Chapters 1515 and 1520 of the WSDOT Design Manual which is consistent with the 1999 AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities.

    Many SDOT bicycle projects very clearly do not comply with WSDOT standards, which can be found at:
    http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/publications/manuals/fulltext/M22-01/1520.pdf

    (For one common example that annoys many people — where parking is not allowed in a bike lane, “NO PARKING” signs are required. Otherwise, parking in bike lanes is legal under state law.)

    • jay says:

      “Otherwise, parking in bike lanes is legal under state law.” AFAIK, true enough, but we are talking about Seattle here.
      While the title of Seattle Municipal Code 11.72.415 may be confusing: “11.72.415 – Trail or path.”
      (note that all of chapter 11.72 is “STOPPING, STANDING OR PARKING RESTRICTIONS “)
      the text of 11.72.415 (emphasis added) says:
      “No person shall stop, stand, or park a vehicle, bicycle, or other device on or adjacent to a trail, path, lane or other facility or way which has been designated for the use of pedestrians, equestrians, or bicyclists, in such a manner as to obstruct or restrict the use of any portion thereof: Provided, that authorized emergency and maintenance vehicles are excluded from the provisions of this section when engaged in necessary emergency or maintenance work.”
      Says nothing about signs.

      Of course that provision probably gets even less notice than any of the following: 11.72.080 – Crosswalk—On. , 11.72.100 – Double parking., 11.72.360 – Sidewalk. and, 11.72.035 – Blocking or obstructing traffic or sidewalk—Unoccupied vehicle. And much less than my favorites: RCW 46.61.465 Exceeding speed limit evidence of reckless driving., and, RCW 46.61.500 Reckless driving — Penalty.
      ( gross misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to three hundred sixty-four days and by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars. )

      • Josh says:

        But there’s no requirement to know the SMC to get a driver’s license, no immigration exam for Seattle drivers. Drivers from the rest of the state know you can park curbside on a city street unless signs prohibit parking. Seattle code is different, but the only way people learn that is by getting tickets, which doesn’t happen very often.

  23. fooeynet says:

    Noticed they were marking out the lanes this morning!

  24. Pingback: State will close busy Fremont section of Burke-Gilman Trail Monday | Seattle Bike Blog

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