Long overdue sidewalk closure rules now in place, city will work on bike lane rules next

Top image: Seattle Bike Blog. All others: SDOT

Top image: Seattle Bike Blog. All others: SDOT

Picture1If you are building something in Seattle and need to close the sidewalk, you can no longer simply send people walking out into the street.

That’s according to new rules outlined by SDOT (PDF), which we wrote about previously. During public comment, the city received “overwhelmingly positive” feedback on the rule, which should significantly limit the number of “Sidewalk Closed” signs you encounter when walking around the city.

The rule also outlines the preferred way to build temporary walkways around construction sites, including attention to accessibility, lighting and barriers to protect people from both nearby traffic and the construction work.

The rule mentions that SDOT may consider bikes when evaluating reroute or detour plans, but more specifics about how to properly maintain safe bike access near construction sites will have to come from a different rule change altogether. This rule pertains to sidewalk use, but bikes are vehicles and need to be addressed in the “vehicles and traffic” rules.

But good news! SDOT says that because so many of you commented that bikes need to be considered, they will be looking at creating new bike-specific rules in 2016. So maybe — just maybe — your trip down Dexter won’t be so damn scary soon.

More details on “SDOT DR 10-2015” from SDOT:

The rule includes:    

  • New standards on the types of materials to be used and their placement
  • Direction on creating well-maintained pathways and clear signage
  • More details on meeting American with Disabilities Act requirements

Specifics on the requirements are all in section 7 of the pedestrian mobility around work zones rule. New content addresses open walkways; scaffolding; corner work; reroutes; and detours. It also clarifies the difference between a reroute and a detour, with the latter being a last resort when no other option is safely feasible.

  • Reroute = keeping people on the same side as the existing sidewalk (see pics below)
  • Detour = sidewalk closed; pedestrians must cross to the other side of the street

We’ll work with existing projects to help ensure safety and mobility for people walking in the area. The same applies for new 2016 construction that may be exempt depending on location, duration, hazards and the associated cost of compliance. Look for more specifics with the January implementation, including a Standard Operating Procedure document that will help address questions raised during outreach. In the meantime, if you see what looks like an unsafe work zone walkway, let us know with an email to SDOTConstructionHub@seattle.gov.

A Director’s Rule interprets an existing Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) and this one ties directly to SMC Title 15 Street and Sidewalk Use. The Pedestrian mobility around work zones rule directly supports both Seattle’s Vision Zero for safer streets and the Access Seattle Initiative to maintain mobility in the city during peak construction periods.

SDOT DR 10-2015 revises and replaces the former Pedestrian Mobility Around Work Zones Director’s Rule (SDOT DR 1-2011). The updated rule, which is legally binding, is supported by a new progressive enforcement procedure that focuses on providing clear direction to reduce infractions, and heightened attention on those with cumulative violations.

For 2016 the creation of a Director’s Rule for bike mobility around work zones is up for discussion. This after much of the public comment during outreach asked that bikes be included in the rule that interprets SMC Title 15. Bicycles fall under SMC Title 11 Vehicles and Traffic.

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21 Responses to Long overdue sidewalk closure rules now in place, city will work on bike lane rules next

  1. Jonathan Mark says:

    This is a tangent about more temporary sidewalk closures. I saw something weird downtown at 3rd & Pike on Sunday night at 11:20 PM. There was a large truck parked in the bus lane outside the Ross clothing store, and a track with rollers was set up to convey boxes out of the truck into the front door of the store. This blocked the sidewalk including all west access to the bus stop on Pike between 3rd and 4th. I with my luggage and everyone else were walking in the street to get around the truck.

    I made a gallery with a couple photos of this marvel: http://imgur.com/a/RuqvS

    I am curious and web searches didn’t turn up any info. Does this happen often? I figure they must have a loading dock in the alley but maybe this truck was too massive to get there. Do they have to pay fees to block the sidewalk like that?

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      That definitely looks illegal. Did you send it to SDOTConstructionHub@seattle.gov?

    • Skylar says:

      This happens all the time at the Macy’s loading dock too. There’s frequently a huge semi parked across the sidewalk with the cab in the bus lane. It happens so frequently that I can’t believe that SDOT isn’t aware of it, and tacitly condoning it.

    • Andrew Squirrel says:

      Oh yeah, I’ve seen that at Ross before. I think I was so dazed by that accordion track I could only marvel at the ingenuity instead of considering how illegal it must be to block the sidewalk. I think it’s essential we have proper loading and unloading zones in downtown that are available for all delivery drivers which is why I’m completely opposed to civilian parking taking any priority over large vehicles in the limited curb space of downtown.

      • Mark says:

        I too have seen this contraption in action. While I was amazed at the ingenious logistics I couldn’t help but feel uneasy that they were allowed to unload this truck with that rolling stand, regardless of the hour, blocking the public right-away entirely. Aside from this potential wrongdoing I would agree with Andrew in believing all street level parking should be designated for emergency vehicles/commercial delivery/valet/passenger loaded & unloading only. We have plenty of underground parking in the city that is left vacant even at the busiest of hours.

      • Molly says:

        Yes! Definitely! Surface parking for emergency vehicles/commercial delivery/valet/passenger loaded & unloading only!
        Contact your City Council Reps!

  2. BB says:

    ” your trip down Dexter won’t be so damn scary soon.”

    I wish they would simply close the bike lane between these two construction sites. Leaving it open , leaves me open for abuse from motorists.

  3. Meredith says:

    I was going to say “Can we get some fast enforcement of this on Dexter”… Right now I encounter pedestrians using the bike lane as the sidewalk just about every day…

  4. Joseph Singer says:

    I got quite the surprise a couple nights ago going north on 2nd Avenue. About the 1400 block you see the sign on the sidewalk that it is closed with no alternative. The bike lane is detoured but absolutely no instructions or any path for a pedestrian to follow. Yeah, it’s nice that they made a detour for bikes, but what about people not on bikes? I took my heart in my hand and walked in the bike lane but did not feel at all comfortable about doing it.

    • Joseph Singer says:

      Sorry, there’s no detour marked for pedestrians. All it has is just a sidewalk closed sign.

    • Skylar says:

      I’m as frustrated as the next cyclist when I come across a pedestrian in a bike lane adjacent to a perfectly good sidewalk. In this case, though, there is no sidewalk at all. I would cut the pedestrians some slack.

      Let’s remember that pedestrians and cyclists need to work together to correct the real problem – that our city is still designed to benefit the automobile and their operators.

      • Andres Salomon says:

        Yep. And by doing piecemeal facilities, we’re not making it any better.

        For example, Dearborn is getting PBLs in 2016. I’m super excited about this, but part of the section getting a PBL lacks a sidewalk. People ALREADY walk in the (unprotected) bike lane because there aren’t any other reasonable options. Once a PBL goes in, it will become a de-facto sidewalk.

        https://twitter.com/NEGreenways/status/672897071943311360

        We could fix this by trying to arrange multiple street upgrades at once. Places getting new bike infrastructure (money from the bike funding pool) also get new sidewalks (money from the ped funding pool) and intersection fixes (money from the general intersection/signal upgrade funding pool, the safety funding pool, and so on). Places getting general street maintenance fixes (repaving) also get new bike infrastructure, new sidewalks or sidewalk fixes, etc. This would save money in the long run (see also: http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2015/01/09/roosevelt-bike-lane-will-get-safety-upgrade-from-u-bridge-to-ne-65th/#more-441700 , Roosevelt PBL will cost less than 1/4 of normal PBL cost thanks to it being combined with the repaving project).

      • Andres Salomon says:

        Whoops, not sure how I messed up the threading, but that was meant as a reply to Skylar.

    • jay says:

      Are you talking about the scaffolding near Pike? If so, you are probably at the wrong place. That originally was for both pedestrians and northbound bicycles, with southbound bicycles routed onto the general traffic lanes*. But [i]some[/i] people had a hissy fit about that and now it is woefully inadequate two way for bicycles and nothing for pedestrians.

      If you didn’t know that, I have to assume you don’t spend you entire life on that block, therefore you presumably had to cross a street at some point, considering the a-hole drivers outnumber a-hole cyclists (I’m not going to deny the latter exist. cough, Derple, cough) and that cars are far more deadly than bicycles, taking your “heart in hand” can’t be a new experience. While I’m not a statistician, I’m pretty sure it is many times more likely that the average person will kill a pedestrian while driving than be killed, when walking, by a cyclist. (you personally may not drive, but then you wouldn’t be “average”)

      However, since bicycles are allowed on sidewalks, I personally don’t see why you can’t use the scaffolding. At least _I_ won’t run you over, the thing can’t be much more than 50 meters long, I can slow down for that distance (but I am very rarely there anyway so that is easy for me to say) On the other hand, in return I’d ask that you not walk in the exact f-ing center of shared use paths, while the right side would be preferred, I don’t really care much which side you are on just as long as it is to one side of the center. (note that that would not of course apply in the excruciatingly narrow 2nd. Ave. scaffolding, that is strictly single file)

      *considering that the 2nd Ave. cycle track has no AAA connections to anywhere, if one is confident enough to get there in the first place, then southbound riders may well be better off in the general travel lanes. On the cycle track one has to wait for left turning vehicles, while the center and right lanes still have a green, and then there are the left turning vehicles that don’t want to wait their turn despite the red arrow (and, yes, lots of cyclists run lights too, but there are far fewer cyclists than drivers, and they are nowhere nearly as likely to kill you).

  5. ronp says:

    I fell over into the orange barriers at 8th and Howell the other day — https://www.seattleinprogress.com/project/3016917/page/4 – when my front tire hit a metal road plate that extended under them. They have since placed cones along the plate. I was not hurt at all, but very annoying!

  6. Law Abider says:

    The contractor on 8th Ave, between Bell and Blanchard (the parking lot next to the La Quinta), must not have gotten the memo. Last week, they closed the sidewalk AND the parking lane, with no detours or pedestrian paths. As a cyclist, I used 8th for a short distance to get to 9th Ave, going north, and use the parking lane as a buffer. Their construction fence is essentially abutting the right through lane, so pedestrians are screwed, cyclists are forced out into traffic, it’s a dangerous disaster just like all other construction in the immediate vicinity.

    I assume that it’s Vulcan development, with Amazon pegged as the tenant, so they’ll get all kinds of pedestrian, cyclist and drive lane bypass waivers like their other buildings in the area.

  7. Breadbaker says:

    For both pedestrians and cyclists, a huge issue is the location of the first warning signs. I’ve seen so many sidewalks closed mid-block with no warning before you got to the closure sign. Imagine you’re in a wheelchair and have to turn around in a small space? Walking on the sidewalk is not like driving; you’re entitled to be distracted and supposed to be “window shopping”. And yet you see this all the time: no signage until the obstruction.

    For cyclists, the amount of space between a “Bikes merge with traffic” (as though bikes aren’t traffic) sign and the actual obstruction rarely leaves space to do a merge. And of course the cars aren’t seeing that sign at all.

    Further, construction and delivery trucks in Seattle seem to be believe that “bike lane” equals “first place to park” if they can’t find a legal space, without any fear of penalty.

  8. Al Dimond says:

    The long-term temporary sidewalks and long-term bike lane closures go hand-in-hand. It would be best for bikes if the normal bike lanes and sidewalks were open when the construction site was inactive, but this would probably result in lower-quality, less consistent sidewalks during active construction work.

    Dexter brings this into focus because we actually have some examples of nice long-term temporary sidewalks there. In addition to the long-term setups on the downslope, there have been some less formal bike lane disruptions on the upslope, apparently related to the new office building going up on Westlake near Highland, and also for delivery of interior fixtures for the building along Dexter nearby (I think Pemco is moving in). The temporary disruptions are annoying, coming on the climb, being less predictable, and sometimes having large construction vehicles encroaching just slightly onto the bike lane, with cones seemingly placed to encourage riders to squeeze past, while common sense dictates that we should keep a wide berth around cement mixers or any vehicle that might be unloading things. A permanent bike lane closure on the climb, however, would be even worse. For every rider like me that would ride right down the middle of the lane (as I do whenever I leave the bike lane), many would hug the barrier (as many do even on the downhill today), and drivers would pass them imprudently, leading to dangerous situations for cyclists in both directions (drivers, too, but at Dexter speeds the stakes are less for them).

    We (people with a stake in streets like Dexter, and the city) need to think seriously about the hierarchy of uses on these local arterials. These are key bike routes and bus routes. There’s no reason we should accept long backups due to cut-through cars on many of these streets. Dexter in particular is flanked by Westlake on one side and Aurora on the other. Should people be driving on Dexter if they’re just going through without stopping between the Ship Canal and Mercer? I don’t think so. Keep the through-traffic on streets like Westlake and Aurora and imperfect treatments on streets like Dexter are easier to handle.

  9. Ford Driver says:

    Large trucks and commercial deliveries requiring “creative” parking and/or blocking pedestrian right of ways should be restricted to between 9pm and 5am.

  10. Pingback: We Can’t Wait, Part II: How Seattle’s bike plans got so lost, and how to get back on track | Seattle Bike Blog

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