Nearly two years later, Broadway Bikeway finally open at north end

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For the first time, the entire length of the Broadway Bikeway’s first phase is now open.

Since it opened officially exactly two years ago, the north end of the project has been a bike route dead end due to construction for Capitol Hill Station at Denny Way. That means one of the city’s most visible and ambitious protected bike lanes has had limited usability, acting essentially as a local-access-only facility.

The reopened section makes it easier to access the businesses and homes on the north end of Broadway, but the transition from protected bike lane to a busy street with only sharrows is still fairly jarring.

There is also a key piece of the design that is still missing: A bikes-only turn lane southbound at Denny to give people an easier way to transition from the shared lane to the bikeway. According to plans, this lane should look like this:

2011_0803_Seattle_StreetcarV4-denny

Basically, you should have two options for the transition, which we have drawn on the image above. You can get into the turn lane and wait for a break in traffic to turn into the bikeway, or you can move into the bike turn box on Denny and wait for the signal to change.

I asked SDOT why this bike lane is not currently installed, and it sounds like it was an oversight.

“Thanks for catching this,” wrote Seattle Streetcar Manager Ethan Melone in an email. “I’ve contacted our traffic group to get this added.”

Unfortunately, accessing the north end of the bikeway will still be a bit awkward for the foreseeable future. When Denny Way reopens through the current Capitol Hill Station construction zone, access to neighborhood bike routes east of Broadway will improve a lot, but the problem is not scheduled to be fully solved until the streetcar extension project is complete.

Theoretically, the streetcar extension could be shovel ready next year, as we reported previously. But recent delays in getting the line up and running shrouds the entire streetcar project in doubt.

While it certainly seems silly to stop the streetcar route just before it hits the north Broadway business district, an area packed with destinations and homes, we here at Seattle Bike Blog don’t care all that much about the streetcar. Neither, it seems, do many people at Seattle Transit Blog these days.

But the bikeway is fantastic and worth investing in no matter what happens with the streetcar. The worst thing that could happen is if a streetcar stall takes the needed bikeway extension with it.

By reaching the entire Broadway business district, connecting to Capitol Hill Station, planned quality bike lanes into downtown and the planned 520 Trail to Montlake and the Eastside, Broadway could become a central hub for local and regional cycling routes. This would be great for the businesses in the area and light rail ridership, and it would place a comfortable and connected bike facility in the midst of one of Seattle’s most dense and active commercial areas.

In other words, Broadway should remain at the forefront of people-centered urban design. And a safe bikeway would provide low cost options for getting around the area. After all, the bikeway also comes with some huge walking safety and comfort improvements that north Broadway needs, as we noted previously:

Boradway-at-Boren-2

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28 Responses to Nearly two years later, Broadway Bikeway finally open at north end

  1. Eli says:

    I can’t wait until they re-open the protected bikelane on John to my house (aka: the sidewalk). Then this will actually be slightly useful.

  2. Southeasterner says:

    That proposed transition looks insane.

    So as a cyclists going Southbound you have to cross over to the center of the lane and then veer across oncoming traffic to access the bike lane? Alternatively you can veer off to the right (note drivers will likely harass you for not using the bike lane in the center of the road) and potentially sit through two light rotations at which point you will need to turn right after vehicles that will also be making a right turn?

    Leave it to SDOT and Alta to devise new bike “infrastructure” that makes the merge of death look safe. This may actually displace the Ballard Bridge as the Seattle merge of death.

    • Andres Salomon says:

      I think Tom missed one variant for getting into the bike lane. At least, this is how I would do it:

      1) Heading southbound, stay to the right. If the light is green as you approach, do what Tom showed with the red arrows (that means waiting for a single signal phase).
      2) However, if the light is red as you approach, filter up in front of any waiting cars.
      3) Once at the front (assuming the light is still red and there’s a walk signal), use the crosswalk to get to the NE corner.
      4) Wait at the NE corner for the light to change, and once you’ve got a walk signal cross to the SE side and enter the bike lane. That move also just requires waiting for a single signal phase.

      • Southeasterner says:

        So you probably have a 60-40 chance of not hitting a double light. However, it doesn’t address the safety issue that you will be going straight through the intersection and making a right turn onto the bike lanes while vehicle traffic will be making an immediate right turn.

      • Andres Salomon says:

        I’m not sure I was clear. You’re basically using the crosswalk to make both crossings, so you have the same safety concerns as pedestrians.

      • Southeasterner says:

        Gotcha. But not what the red arrow or green box would lead you to do.

        I think the only way to make it work is have some very clear signal priority and pray that drivers at this intersection will be the only ones in Seattle to actually obey a no turn on red sign.

  3. Jonathan Mark says:

    That does look perilous to stop and wait in a “bike lane” adjacent to 30mph traffic going both directions.

    Additionally the markings seem contradictory as the sharrows suggest cars may go there, but the yellow dotted line suggests they may not (but somehow it is OK for a bike to cross the dotted yellow and move closer to the oncoming traffic).

    Wouldn’t it be a lot safer to just have a normal left turn lane?

    • Josh says:

      Those are some of the concerns that FHWA is trying to sort through while dashed bike lanes remain experimental.

      As part of the experiment process, any city that wants to install dashed/”advisory” bike lanes is required to file for approval with FHWA, and track the actual outcomes of the installation. Once enough of them have been installed and the data come in, FHWA evaluates which designs work, which ones don’t, etc., and decides what final designs to approve, if any.

      If none of the experiments work out, then FHWA can require removal of the experimental facilities. (Unintended consequences — sometimes a design seems like a great idea, but in the field, collisions actually go up.)

      It’s a very cumbersome process, but it’s part of ensuring markings and traffic controls have enough uniformity nation-wide that a driver visiting from Florida knows how to drive in Seattle.

      More info on dashed bike lane experiments:
      http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bicycle_pedestrian/guidance/mutcd/dashed_bike_lanes.cfm

  4. Jonathan Mark says:

    P.S. Looking again at the picture, maybe it is not a yellow dotted line, it is a white dotted line with a yellow border? Intriguing.

    • Al Dimond says:

      I’m not really a huge fan of setting up two options here. It’s hard enough to indicate to unfamiliar riders how to properly navigate into the cycletrack if there’s only one way to do it! Maybe they figure enough of the people coming from the north would ignore the two-stage turn suggestion that they want to explicitly mark the other path.

      Since the lane markings shown for the turn pocket are bike lane markings, not sharrows, I think they’re OK; it might be nice to have some sort of turn arrow indicating the maneuver (though it’s an unusual maneuver surely some standard arrow covers it!). Other places I’ve seen with bike-specific turn lanes or pockets:
      – SB Harvard at Shelby, which actually is a really similar intersection, with two options for making the turn. There a left-turn arrow indicates that it’s a left-turn lane.
      – WB N 125th St at the Interurban Trail. Markings are similar, but lane line is always solid where it exists. Approach is with sharrows and the “stay right to turn left” option looks awkward, but I’m sure people do it to avoid hanging out in the middle of the road.
      – SB Green Lake Way at Meridian, with similar pavement markings (bike lane and left-turn markings, no dotted lines in this case), cut into a physical median. The median makes “stay-right-to-turn-left” difficult.
      – SB NW 8th Ave at 77th, with no pavement markings, cut into a physical median.

      – The turn out of the Ravenna median bike lane at Green Lake Way. Pre-PBL it had a buffer and separated left-turn and through pockets, for all the good they did (it’s pretty much impossible to take turns properly at this intersection because of its ludicrous size and the volume and wildly varying speeds of pedestrians and runners). It wouldn’t surprise me if some “cross-bikes” went in for the Ravenna PBL but I haven’t been through in a while.

      – EB Valley at Fairview and EB NE 50th St at Stone/Green Lake each have bike-only left-turn lanes; they’re to the right of general-purpose left-turn lanes. They use solid lanes farther back from the intersection for these.
      – NB 16th Ave S at Marginal Way is similar, but treats continuing northwest on Marginal Way as going straight, so the arrow is a straight arrow, not a left arrow.
      – The bike lane on SB Ellis at Marginal Way is often treated exactly like this, but the general-purpose lanes are signed as left-turn lanes and the bike lane isn’t… and the right-most general-purpose lane allows a straight-through movement into a driveway. So using the bike lane to turn left is both a bad idea and probably technically illegal, which might matter if you’re ever involved in a collision there.

      – WB N 34th St at Fremont Ave, with its giant green bike box, where of course there are no turn arrows in the bike lane so westbound cyclists line up in it and then play chicken with eastbound cyclists approaching from the other side in the contraflow bike lane. I think in 2016 SDOT is going to make the eastbound bike lane into a two-way PBL, so westbound cyclists will see something pretty similar to southbound cyclists on Broadway… but because of the extreme volume of left-turning traffic there’s a left arrow to smooth things along.

      – There’s something sorta like the Broadway thing at WB Union approaching Madison, but there you stay right to swing through with the cars and left for the crosswalk-and-bike-box route. Here the left-side bike lane (narrow, extremely faded, and using straight-through arrows, which feel somehow appropriate) transitions to old-school wayfinding dots where you enter the crosswalk (sure, why not?). Farther back the signage is not real helpful — you can get caught in the middle if you choose the left lane and swing right at 13th (I’ve done this, fortunately in light traffic).

      I can’t think of any others. I’m sure I missed a few.

      IN CONCLUSION, consistency is for suckers.

    • Josh says:

      It *should* be a white line — legally, yellow lines separate lanes moving in opposite directions.

  5. RossB says:

    Isn’t there a third option (or at least a variation of the first option)? Basically, you wait to cross traffic, but there is no break. Once the light has changed, you get off your bike and walk it through the crosswalk to your left (perfectly legal). Once the light changes, you are good to go. You just have to be careful about people turning as you go along the crosswalk (but that is true for everyone in a crosswalk) . It seems to me that I would pick that option every time (if there is a break in traffic I get into the bikeway quickly — if not, I walk a few feet in the crosswalk).

    • Al Dimond says:

      I’d wait in the middle of the intersection. If I don’t get a break I’d vacate in the “orange” phase. That’s the standard procedure for a vehicular left, which is the closest precedent to this maneuver.

      As a midwestern transplant I’ve noticed that people all over the west coast, drivers and cyclists alike, wait way too far back when making uncontrolled lefts at signalized intersections. But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you mean you’ll walk a few feet in the far crosswalk :-).

    • Josh says:

      Minor nitpicking: No need to get off and walk, bikes can legally ride in crosswalks in Washington State.

  6. Matthew Snyder says:

    Sigh… more non-compliant infrastructure. Move Seattle might seem a lot more palatable if SDOT were not just making shit up as they go along. Pardon my French.

    • Patrick says:

      I mean this as a genuine question – is there a standard to be compliant with for the crossover to a mid street start of a single side bikeway?

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        The standard would be to just complete the whole bike lane instead of stopping it halfway. I get that transportation projects have scopes of work, but that just doesn’t work when you’re building biking (or walking or driving…) infrastructure.

        You gotta do the whole thing or you can’t expect to see the results you’re aiming for. Half a bike lane does not attract people who don’t feel comfortable biking in traffic. A complete bike lane that connects to other complete bike lanes does.

        The Move Seattle plan has these cool complete corridor concepts that seems to recognize our transportation woes won’t go away if we only fix random sections here or there: http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2015/03/02/move-seattle-one-plan-to-rule-them-all/

        That’s the strategy I hope the city moves to for building out bike lanes. But it takes more money than we are investing right now. Which is yet another reason to vote yes on Prop 1, and to tell all your friends and family members to do the same.

  7. Kirk says:

    Perhaps this intersection should be made an all way pedestrian cross. People riding bicycles could either cut across on a green light while riding in traffic for confident riders, or stay right and wait for a red light and cross diagonally across. No turn on red, and move the stop lines well back from the intersection so people aren’t tempted. Perhaps a green diagonal indicating the way.

    • Gary says:

      This is the first sane suggestion I’ve read for fixing this crossing of death.

      Yeah, I’d move to the left hoping for a break in traffic, or a last chance run for it on the yellow. If that fails, I’d ride in the crosswalk to my left hoping that the traffic turning right onto Broadway see’s me and that I can get up onto the sidewalk in anticipation of entering the bike lane when the light changes again.

      Alternately, I’d just take the lane and continue to ride in traffic on Broadway doing my best to block any cars from even thinking they could squeeze around me. Which would suck as some driver would ride my rear wheel yelling at me to get in the bike lane.

      But then I don’t ever plan on riding on this street anyway.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Kirk, this is a great suggestion!

  8. Dave P says:

    SDOT needs a bike czar. Somebody to check in on all the projects and construction zones–make sure they are at least safe for the growing population of people using bikes for transportation. And maybe even advocate for better biking infrastructure. As a contrast to the above mentioned intersection:
    http://kuow.org/post/protected-intersection-bikes-opens-salt-lake-city

    • Andres Salomon says:

      I moved here from a city that had a Bike Czar (that was the official title). It wasn’t a very bike-friendly city. I like the SBAB + Dongho combination better, even if SBAB meetings are hosted in bike-unfriendly downtown.

      • Dave P says:

        Oh that’s cool. I didn’t know there’s already an engineer at the city interested in helping with bike issues.

  9. Josh says:

    Haven’t taken a look at this on the ground yet, so a question for anyone who has — just south of the end of the Denny transition, the illustration shows a door-zone sharrow next to the bus stop.

    Did that get corrected in real life?

    2014 BMP Update mandated that sharrows be properly placed in the center of the travel lane, not the right edge where they encourage unsafe in-lane passing by drivers.

  10. Jonathan Mark says:

    I was just near there so I went and looked. The left turn bike lane is not there yet. Also no sharrow by the bus stop yet. The bike box is there as shown on the right side of the drawing.

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