2nd Ave bike lane will go one block further south + North extension set to open in 2017

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Images from an SDOT project flyer (PDF).

Concept with planters, looking south from Yesler.

Concept with planters, looking south from Yesler.

You may have noticed crews out painting what appears to be the first extension of the 2nd Ave protected bike lane since it opened in October 2014.

Your eyes have not deceived you.

Don’t get too excited, though, because it’s only going one block further to S Washington Street. But this is a rather important block, opening up connectivity to 5th and 4th Avenues to the west and 2nd Ave (not to be confused with 2nd Ave Ext) to the east.

But the bike lane still won’t have a complete and intuitive connection to and from the International District, a major need for the bike network.

The bike lane will also be protected from traffic by planter boxes instead of the reflective plastic posts we know so well. Those planters will also be added to the rest of the existing 2nd Ave bike lane by May. Hopefully the planters not only make the street a bit more attractive, but also prevent people from driving and stopping in the bike lane.

North extension scheduled for 2017 opening

belltown_scheduleWe already told you about plans to extend the 2nd Ave bike lane north to Denny Way “possible this year.” Well, the timeline for the project now says the city will put it to bid this summer, workers will begin construction in the fall and the bike lane will open in spring 2017.

The project includes three new traffic signals at Vine, Cedar and Clay Streets that have been needed for a long time. Work is also complicated by curb bulbs that will likely need some design changes, a factor the existing bike lane did not face.

Obviously, the faster the city can get this done the better. It’s particularly urgent that we create a connection to at least Blanchard and Lenora, which provide connectivity to other major bike routes. With the northbound 2nd Ave bike lane ending abruptly like it does today, spring 2017 feels very far away. Imagine if this segment opened before the two-year anniversary of the original bike lane…

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29 Responses to 2nd Ave bike lane will go one block further south + North extension set to open in 2017

  1. Peri Hartman says:

    Great news!

    A very small change could double the safety of this facility. Move the intersection stop line back for cars turning left across the bike lanes.

    Currently, cars stop and queue right up to the cross walk. Most appear to be obeying the no left on red but, as a cyclist, “most” doesn’t count if you get hit. By moving the stop line back about 10′, it would give us cyclists more time to react if a car is creeping forward and might make a left turn.

    In other words, if the car is 10′ back from the crosswalk, you can be certain that it would not be able to turn left in front of you faster than you can stop. If it’s right at the crosswalk and you’re going 15mph, it could cross your path very quickly.

    This would be a big safety improvement and is cheap and doesn’t encumber drivers. Safe, nice, cheap.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Agreed! 100%

    • Becka says:

      I love this idea. Such an easy change with big results. And it appears that this is already the standard configuration in bike-friendly countries like the Netherlands.

      • NickS says:

        It isn’t as easy as it seems. Most traffic lights use sensors in the pavement to detect vehicles and to trigger light changes. Position the stop line further back, and you must dig up the street to relocate sensors.

      • William says:

        @NickS It is not that hard to move the sensors. One just has to slit the surface, insert new ones in the required place, and install sealer. Anyway as best as I can tell many of Seattle’s traffic lights don’t actually use the outputs as anyone who sits through full light cycles early on a Sunday morning can attest.

      • DrewJ says:

        There are no sensors for 2nd Ave signals in downtown and Belltown. With rare exception, there are actually no sensors in the area south of Denny, north of Jackson, and west of 6th.

      • Peri Hartman says:

        Great! So let’s bring on the paint!

    • AW says:

      Great idea. I say this should be standard for ALL streets with bike lanes.

      • Peri Hartman says:

        I disagree. It only makes a difference where there is “no turn on red”. If turns are allowed on red, then turning vehicles will move up to and into the crosswalk. So the stop line is irrelevant.

      • Josh says:

        True as long as SPD continues not to enforce basic traffic laws anyway.

        Pulling into the crosswalk so you can see to make a right-on-red is illegal, SMC 11.72.080, no stopping on crosswalks, period. Stop before the crosswalk. If you can’t see to make a right-on-red, wait until you have a green light.

  2. NickS says:

    I have to wonder about what impact emergency services (Fire, Police) responses as well as responses by ESP (Sobering Center transport) will have on the extended bike lane between Yesler and Washington, given the location of the heavily used Union Gospel Mission in that block.

    Multiple times a day, Aid and Medic units must respond to emergencies at the mission, and typically must pull up against the curb to safely and efficiently transfer patients. Something that’s difficult with planters and a bike lane in the way.

    I hope that SDOT is coordinating with emergency services and private transport providers to make the interface with the bike lane as safe as possible for everyone.

  3. James says:

    I wonder what they’re going to do with the parklet just north of the current end of the bike lane…

    • DrewJ says:

      The parklet goes away. The owner of the adjacent building (who’s also the parklet funder) will be rebuilding on their property soon, so it would be removed then anyway.

  4. Chris Mobley says:

    There is a very simple connection opportunity here as a result of this work. The City’s plan to extend the 2nd ave PBL north to Denny will allow for a safe, low stress route to Seattle Center and lower Queen Anne, except it falls just 2 blocks short of the entrance to the Center. If the city could extend the bike lane 2 blocks north along 2nd ave and connect to the Center’s entrance at 2nd & Thomas, this would effectively extend the route through the center along the path between the KeyArena and the International Fountain. AND if we could get the two way cycle track to pick back up on 2nd Ave between Mercer and Roy (which has it’s own buffered bike lane), you have not only extended a critical piece of infrastructure, but have completed a part of a network.

    tl;dr: Extend it north 2 blocks along 2nd ave to Thomas street, and we get the route through the center for free. Extend it another block on the other side from Mercer to Roy and we get a new Bike NETWORK connection!

  5. Al Dimond says:

    The three blocks from Yesler to Jackson are each very important. This extension to Washington opens up a route to 2nd Ave from the southeast that avoids the hectic block of 4th Ave S just north of Jackson. An extension to Main makes this route significantly flatter.

    An extension to Jackson would mean putting in a missing crosswalk, improving access to Sounder, and giving people willing to ride slowly a connection to 5th/King (across the relatively spacious area around the Union Station building), and thus lower-stress routes through the ID, in both directions. But the extension to Jackson appears to have been cut in SDOT’s latest implementation plan revision!

  6. don says:

    I see the planter boxes are very dark. I am sure before long the plants will die and those dark boxes are hard to see on dark rainy nights. Would be better to have some lighter color or reflective features so those drivers and bikes don’t hit them. At least the white plastic posts did have reflectors before drivers knocked them down.

    We are moving in the right direction.

    • Josh says:

      The BMP requires meeting or exceeding standards and guidance, so yes, any obstructions beside the path should be brightly colored for all-weather visibility, and reflectorized for night-time visibility.

    • Josh says:

      The smurf turds on Broadway are a good reminder of why obstructions between lanes need to be conspicuous day or night — drivers routinely hit them into the sidepath because they simply weren’t readily visible when parking: too low, too dark, not reflectorized. I would hope those lessons influence the choice of planters for 2nd Ave’s buffer, something tall enough to be seen, colored bright enough to be seen on a rainy day. (Not necessarily safety yellow, they don’t have to be *ugly*, just *visible* — Talavera would be great…)

    • Al Dimond says:

      Fortunately the downtown streets have decent overhead lighting, so it’s not as much of problem as it might be in some places. Overhead street lighting fixes a lot of problems. If Dexter (my commute for the moment) was unlit, like most parts of most trails, the bus islands would be crash hazards and oncoming headlights would be seriously blinding (car headlights, which are aimed properly for flat roads, are very bright and can be seriously blinding at the wrong angle, and no road approaches Dexter on a plain). As it is, none of that is a big problem. And I don’t anticipate it being a big problem on 2nd.

    • Azimuth says:

      Could they bolt some parking wheel blocks down instead of the planters? While I’d love to have the planters I just don’t have faith in the city that they’ll be maintained. The city can barely keep the streets painted, much less properly paved.

      • Al Dimond says:

        Right, for parallel parking a curb is really ideal. Parallel-parking drivers are supposed to “bump up” against the curb to help align their vehicles; when parking on a slope drivers are actually taught to rest their tires against the curb before setting the parking brake. This requires a curb that’s low to the ground, with clear space above it, because the rear bumper will usually overhang the curb by a few inches during some part of the maneuver. Clear space above a curb also gives room for opening a door. I just moved out of an apartment where my (non-parallel) parking space was between two walls. It was a very wide space, and it had to be, both in order to maneuver in and out, and to allow the doors to open on both sides.

        “Smurf turds” and planters both have trouble because cars tend to hit them with their bumpers; some of the shock is taken by the suspension, but it is quickly re-applied, often near the top of the barrier where there’s a lot of leverage, so the barrier gets moved, toppled, or damaged (depending on how sturdy it is, how securely it’s connected to the ground, etc.). Curbs get hit by tires, where the shock gets taken by the air in the tires and by the suspension, so the force just pushes them into the ground; they force the car up, where the suspension is most effective, and gravity brings the car to a stop unless it’s got a ton of momentum. Jersey barriers do a better job than most kinds of barriers, since they’re fairly bottom-heavy and shaped to force the car up at least a little. Similarly, these guys have nice wide bases, and thus should be more sturdy than top-heavy planters; but even these might not stand up so well to parking. The mass of heavy, tall barriers (whether modular Jersey barriers, the more permanent type used on NE 65th, or planters) quickly turns from an advantage to a disadvantage if they’re dislodged.

      • Josh says:

        The down-side to lower separation is a greater crash hazard for people on bikes — low curbs are less conspicuous, but also, the low point of impact is more likely to pitch an errant cyclist over into traffic, while something tall like a planter can function more like a railing.

  7. Dave Parsons says:

    Glad to see this coming together, but disappointing that it’s over a year away. So we’re getting the Westlake bike path, and that’s it this year? What’s the status on Eastlake? It would be great to get a quarterly update on the bike infrastructure improvement projects.

  8. poncho says:

    I wonder if they might make any improvements with respect to the little branches off 2nd Ave PBB at both Yesler and Pike

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  10. Michael H says:

    I’m actually not real excited about the planter barrier between traffic and the bike lane from Yesler to Washington. The commotion that seems to always be happening outside the Gospel Mission Shelter seems to often bleed out into the street…usully in a way that is hard to anticipate (wonderers, not paying attention to traffic). At least if there is no barrier, there is an opportunity to take the traffic lane if needed.

  11. Michael H says:

    Also, it’s weird that the two way lane stops at Washington. Heading North it would be nice to have the lane extend to Jackson. Heading South I tend to go left on Main, right on 5th, and Left on Jackson to avoid the street Car tracks and stopped buses.

    But coming north, it would be nice to be able to turn right from Jackson to 2nd EXT, rather than go all the way to Occidental to come back up to 2nd or turning on 4th.

    Regardless, I would love to see a bike line with a queue jump bike signal coming south on Jackson at 4th between the right turn lane (usually occupied by buses) and the through lane. That intersection is a nightmare.

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