Bike News Roundup: ‘How highways wrecked American cities’

It’s time for the Bike News Roundup! Lots of good stuff floating around the web lately, so let’s get right to it.

First up, Vox created a short and punchy video report outlining “how highways wrecked American cities.” Definitely worth the 4:38:

Pacific Northwest News

Halftime show! Here’s a damn terrifying bike cam video from Shoreline. Person driving tries to kill a man riding a bike, who manages to escape unharmed by hopping over a traffic island and fleeing into neighborhood streets.

National & Global News

This is an open thread.

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31 Responses to Bike News Roundup: ‘How highways wrecked American cities’

  1. Folha says:

    Has anyone reported the truck in the video to the police? The license plate is clearly visible: AZJ2895.

    • Southeasterner says:

      The Chevron station should also have quite a few cameras that may have caught the image of the driver.

      I have to say the resolution on the Fly6 camera is pretty awesome. Does anyone have one and have any input on the battery life? Online reviews seem to run the gamut of a couple of minutes of battery life on a good day to more than enough for a few weeks of commuting.

  2. Matthew Snyder says:

    Anyone heard an update on potential work on the intersection of the Burke-Gilman trail, Stone Way N and N 34th St? It could definitely benefit from some cheaper fixes, like better pavement markings and improved timing of the lights during peak hours, as well as some more expensive fixes, like safer transitions from the street to the trail and some way to reduce the chance of right-hooks by cars turning right from eastbound 34th, across the trail, onto Northlake. I had hoped that with all of the construction work going on around that intersection, we’d finally see some upgrades there (and perhaps some lighting on the particularly dark section of the trail just to the east of that intersection, before Gas Works), but haven’t heard any updates.

    • Becka says:

      My pet peeve with that intersection is that despite the fact it services a huge (HUGE!) number of bikers and pedestrians, the “walk” light doesn’t go on unless you hit the beg button. I’ve been there so many times when there are so many people waiting that everyone assumes someone else hit the button, so the signal never activates.

    • ed brown says:

      That crossing is so awful (I live a block from there). So many bicyclists and pedestrians, but the walk signal doesn’t even last the full length of the green for cars (so everyone runs it anyway.)

      The light also doesn’t activate for cyclists if you want to take a left from N. Northlake onto 34th (as I do every day to get up to the Fremont Bridge.) So you’re stuck waiting there hoping either a car will come up to active the light for you, or try to run the intersection.

    • James says:

      It’ll be coming soon. The project recently went to bid.

      • Matthew Snyder says:

        James: that’s a different project. What you linked to is the installation of a cycletrack connecting the north end of the Fremont bridge to the Burke-Gilman via N 34th St between Fremont Ave and Phinney Ave — i.e., west of the bridge. I’m talking about the intersection of Stone and 34th, east of the bridge.

    • Kirk says:

      I take N. Northlake Way all the way from Aurora bridge to Meridian. That section of the trail is a nightmare.

  3. Al Dimond says:

    1. I-5 lid proposals spurred by convention center expansion are just like the recent 520 lids: sideshows distracting advocates’ attention from the worst and most expensive parts of the plan. In 520’s case the lids are mostly useless because (unlike the best of the I-90 lids) they’re either dominated by interchanges or located in very sparsely populated areas, and the biggest issue is the insane expansion of the Montlake interchange (and the whole freeway in its vicinity). In the convention center’s case… well, it’s not at all obvious why operating a convention center is even an appropriate job for the government, let alone why it justifies steamrolling every other transportation and land use plan in the area.

    2. Though the main arterial roads in and around neighborhood centers may have to move lots of cars as long as we can foresee, because they’re arranged in a network of arterial roads for the purpose of moving vehicles through, and may therefore require bike lanes of various sorts to accommodate through movements of bikes, the secondary roads of many neighborhood centers still ought to be a joy to roll down with no special bike lanes, just free, simple use of the main space. Woodlawn in Green Lake and 47th in the U District are two that I’ve used recently: streets that host a bunch of destinations but don’t carry much through traffic. Sometimes the main destination streets aren’t the main through streets, like The Ave or 152nd in Burien, creating similarly nice streets for easy rolling. Every small city or town where people bike around has streets like this. But even a small amount of car traffic can ruin them. Cars are too big and cumbersome to move smoothly in close quarters and at low speeds. Drivers accelerate and brake abruptly at every stop sign and crosswalk, so instead of a nice easy roll I’m subjected to a hectic stop-and-go when surrounded by cars. Wherever auto access dominates on the larger roads it seeps onto these smaller streets. And that’s just one more reason to end auto domination everywhere: end it on the streets you’d avoid to save easy rolling on the streets you like!

    3. There’s no secret to successful bike share. The challenges and limitations of the Seattle environment are far from secret, they’re in the open, plain to see for anyone that cares to look. The article portrays a Seattle beset by mysterious mistakes compared to more successful San Francisco (which is much denser, more cohesive around downtown, and less hilly as it’s actually lived) and Portland (which hasn’t even launched yet).

    4. Considering how many of Expedia’s employees live, broadly, east of downtown (whether Montlake, Capitol Hill, the Central District, or Lake Sammamish), waterfront routes to a waterfront office (i.e. from West Seattle) will only help a few of ’em. Bike routes to the waterfront from central- and east-Seattle neighborhoods, the I-90 Trail, and the transit core, all including critical east-west segments, will be paramount. Expedia, anyway, is just one company replacing another company in-place, and these are the same routes we need for our general cycling network. Unless they can build an extension to the helix bridge that’s suitably thematic… perhaps designed after an aircraft fuselage… but let’s have a “jet bridge” into Lower Kinnear instead of “air stairs”! Seattle could use some more googie architecture!

    • Alkibkr says:

      Please do not trot out that mindless meme again that bike share cannot succeed here because Seattle’s challenges are somehow special or different. Helmet laws, hills, bad weather and limited bike infrastructure do not prevent Seattle from having more bikers than most US cities, so why should these challenges be considered any kind of serious limitation to bike share? Our bike share system started very small and is still too small, with a limited number of useful destinations, for it to be more sustainable than it is. I would say Seattle’s special challenge is simply a shortage of desire or will to make bike share succeed. And people trotting out memes in the guise of analyzing the situation (when they really just don’t want bike share) will happily help to get rid of it in Seattle.

      • Al Dimond says:

        I don’t believe bike-share can’t succeed here. I do believe that the biggest things holding back bike share right now aren’t the station density and coverage of the system, and that a major public investment in these things is likely to be an ineffective use of public money compared to investments in (and attention on) other things.

        I believe the biggest thing holding back bike share right now that’s in our power to change is the poor state of the cycling network within the Pronto service area. I believe one big thing holding back bike share right now that will improve in the future is the incomplete development state of much of the area — when SLU fills in, 99 and waterfront construction finishes, and some Pioneer Square projects fill in, bike share will be more useful to more people, and will attract more usage!

        There are also several things that significantly limit bike share usefulness that we have little power to change at the city level in the short term. They aren’t enough to spell bike-share’s doom within the initial service area… but across the rest of the city there are only a few areas where we’d expect it to be effective based on what other cities have seen. That creates a real tension between effectiveness and equity (i.e. a bike share system managed to be effective will not be equitable) that can’t be solved by good intentions alone (i.e. a bike share system managed with the city’s ideas about equity may be neither effective nor meaningfully equitable)!

  4. Ballard Resident says:
    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      No.

    • Al Dimond says:

      After the Brooks HQ moved to Fremont I started seeing a bunch of contraflow bike-lane runners during rush hour on Dexter. As a runner and bike commuter I thought it was pretty rude, the sort of behavior that just doesn’t work if more than a couple people do it. I hear that a lot of them do it because they think asphalt is easier on their knees than concrete. Just wear cushier shoes, dude! Or, depending on your view of the physiology, wear less cushy shoes, and work on your form/strength/balance!

      I mean, I run in bike lanes on streets with bike lanes but no sidewalks. I run in the road on most Seattle side streets because sight lines are lousy on the sidewalks and I’m not really in anyone’s way. I’m pretty deferential to the occasional passing car or bike except on greenways, where it’s my patriotic duty to use the road. That’s all pretty reasonable, ‘eh?

      Also, apropos of a comment in the article, a runner’s right to jaywalk is covered by the Establishment Clause. This does not extend to joggers, who may have faith but lack works. It also does not extend to those chasing Strava KOMs, which violates one of the core commandments: THOU SHALT NOT RACE IN TRAINING.

    • Law Abider says:

      On the finished portions of the Westlake Cycletrack, I see about 2 or 3 blojjers a week. Not a problem…yet. Usually, I shoot them a look to let them know they are being jerks. I just hope their numbers don’t swell.

      The issue is, I don’t think they are doing anything illegal, as far as I can tell. But just because something isn’t illegal, doesn’t mean you aren’t an ass for doing it. They kicker, in both the link and the Westlake Cycletrack is that they are running LITERALLY adjacent to an adequate pedestrian path. I would compare this equally with cyclists that choose to use Westlake Ave or Leary Way; not doing anything illegal, but still being an ass.

      In both cases, I figure it’s people that feel they are too good to use the appropriated path designated for their current and feel as though they have some special privilege.

      • Al Dimond says:

        If you bike on Westlake or Leary you are not in any way whatsoever “being an ass”. Both streets have lots of destinations along them! And both are, in the abstract, urban arterial roads running next to flawed bike paths (all the off-angle intersections in Frelard, the Missing Link, parking activity along Ballard Ave). When I lived in Chicago I’d have taken the arterial in that scenario every time. Living in Seattle has re-trained me, because drivers here are extremely deferential at trail crossings but treat certain roads like extensions of the freeway. Of course, that’s on the drivers, not the cyclists. It isn’t always obvious which roads these are, and we only really find out by experience. Take N 40th through most of Wallingford, for example: who would guess that you’d face so much outright aggression riding a bike on such a modest road?

        Anyway, until the Westlake Cycletrack is finished even a Seattle-trained cyclist might reasonably choose to take the main roadway. Is it really safer to ride in a parking aisle or in a sidewalk next to heavy construction than to take the lane? To believe otherwise is at least defensible, and there’s no law here that says cyclists have to crappy infrastructure if they don’t want (this is a free country, it’s not Portland).

      • Law Abider says:

        I know I’m nitpicking here, but on Westlake, between the bridge and 9th Ave and Leary, between 11th and Phinney (what I would call the high speed arterial section where the BGT exists), there’s not really many destinations and the cyclists I see are very clearly through-cycling. Again, not illegal, but they definitely come off to me (and I’m sure many other people) as having some “too good for the common trail” complex. 40th is a different example. There’s no adjacent cycling infrastructure and it’s a collector, not an arterial (might be a minor arterial if SDOT has such a classification); drivers can chill their knickers.

        What other reason would they have than being an ass? They aren’t saving time or energy; plus it’s arguably more dangerous to ride these stretches. And in the greater picture, they hurt perception of cyclists. Part of my career is bike trail designing and during outreach (almost exclusively in the suburbs), a common complaint is “why should we build a trail when cyclists will just use the road”. There’s the correct answer (they have a right to use the road) and there’s the political answer (safety for all riders, only a few will choose to continue to use the roads, yadda yadda).

      • Al Dimond says:

        On Westlake, WHAT “COMMON TRAIL” ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT!?!?! The Cycletrack is NOT FINISHED!!!

        Before construction started, your options were:

        0. Go up the hill on Dexter, which a lot of people do, and is fine.
        1. The general traffic lanes of Westlake, which are flat and designed for through-travel.
        2. The Westlake parking lot aisle, which is not designed for through-travel, subjects cyclists to many hazards even at low speeds, and is specifically cited by local drivers as a grievance against cyclists.
        3. The Westlake “MUP”, which had many sections designed very poorly for bikes specifically, and which is right up against business and home entrances, causing cyclists riding at otherwise reasonable commuting speeds (even 12-15 MPH!) to be specifically cited by local residents, business owners, and customers, as a grievance.

        The reason some people choose the travel lanes of Westlake is that they’re designed for through-travel at non-crawling speeds, and the other non-Dexter options are simply not (at least until the Cycletrack is completed). They’re certainly saving time, they may be avoiding anger directed at them, and there’s at least an argument some of them are riding somewhere safer for them. They’re choosing their route for practical reasons, not out of spite for trail designers, for drivers, or anyone else, not for a feeling of superiority. That is their right, legally and morally.

        On the BGT, from 11th to Phinney or so, the trail is objectively flawed. It has many awkward off-angle intersections with poor visibility and a tight maneuver for a rail crossing. Though many cyclists go through those intersections pretty fast, common sense (i.e. the one thing that cyclists can count on to stay alive in this country) dictates approaching intersections no faster than allows you to react to typical cross-traffic. That means a slow ride with lots of braking and a few spots with potential for ambiguous interactions with large trucks. This is exactly the sort of trail writers like Forester criticize for specific, practical reasons, again, not for spite or superiority. I ride the Burke every time these days but when I first moved here I ended up on Leary all the way from Ballard to Fremont once just because it wasn’t obvious how to get on the Burke, and Leary was pointed the way I was going (by that point I’d lived here just long enough to know not to get dumped onto Fremont Ave and forced toward the bridge, and made the necessary legal traffic maneuvers to continue toward my U District apartment via 35th, where I finally met up with the Burke after going over a couple more hills than would have been ideal; YMMV, AYHSMB, HAND). Sometimes the routes that seem obvious to someone that knows the city well aren’t obvious at all to a newcomer. Another time I rode Boren all the way from Denny to 12th Ave after looking at a map with Chicagoan eyes and thinking it looked like the easiest route to Beacon Hill. And you’d look at me from out the window of your car and comment to whatever philistine motorhead is riding shotgun that I’m “being an ass”, or “too good” to ride whatever “common trail” you think is an obvious alternative. When I drive down Rainier or Aurora and see people on bikes (usually on the sidewalk, Davey Oil notwithstanding), this is not the comment I make to the philistine motorhead sitting next to me! And while there’s a decent case that I really am an ass, Davey Oil probably isn’t! But I digress; AYHSMB!

        The runners, similarly, are running off the sidewalk for a reason, not just to stick it to everyone, and in order to pass judgment on them we have to try to understand their real motivations, not just toss around insults. As I understand it, they’re running on the asphalt because they think it’s easier on their knees. As a runner, I think their reasoning is faulty, their behavior is selfish, the alternative (typically, using the sidewalk) is easily visible and actually adequate. But if we just assume they’re bad people, instead of normal folk with normal motivations acting a bit selfishly, there’s no sane response, just finger-pointing.

      • Law Abider says:

        As both a runner and an engineer, I can confirm that “flexible pavement” flexes at loads that near semi trucks. And people may have some reason in their head that justifies them running on a bike path, directly adjacent to a pedestrian path, but I’m going to stick with what I know for a fact: they are running on a path designated for cyclists.

      • Al Dimond says:

        So are you going to back off on accusing a cyclist choosing one out of three bad options on Westlake (or one of two mediocre options on Leary) of “being an ass”? We get enough of that everywhere else (no matter which we choose), I expect more a more understanding take from a fellow cyclist!

        (There are lots of places where it’s good and reasonable to walk or run on “designated” bike paths. The Missing Link, for one; the parts of the Burke in Fremont and Ballard with ineffective, illogical ped/bike separation lines for a second. Anyone that rides a bike in this country knows that doing so with the infrastructure we have often requires flexibility and good judgment. So rote condemnation of non-“designated” uses of bike spaces doesn’t fly with me. In most arterial bike lanes, and along Westlake, I agree that the runners ought to use the sidewalk. Asking them to do so with the word, “Please,” is probably appropriate… that’s how I ask drivers not to park in the bike lane, and only about a tenth of them rage out at me…)

    • RDPence says:

      The solution obviously is to create separate lanes for blojjers. Those folks have every right to safely use a public roadway, and they shouldn’t have to risk obstruction by bicycles or slow-poke pedestrians.

    • Ben P says:

      Blurring the line between satire and investigatory journalism. That was the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time.

  5. Law Abider says:

    I’m surprised there hasn’t been a whisper of the Westlake Cycletrack on here. The North section is complete, the South section is mostly complete and the Middle (and final!) section is under heavy construction. The parts that are completed have been life changing. You can bike at a higher comfort speed without worrying about cars backing out or flying in from the blind entrances to Westlake.

    That said, I was so focused on the billionaire yacht parking holding the City hostage over 2 parking spots, thereby forcing the City to build an unsafe stretch of 8 foot, 2-way trail, that I let slip the fact that the northern entrance/transition is terrible!

    Seriously, you come down an incline from the Fremont Bridge, veer to the left on a nice, new, swooping curve, cross the raised crosswalk (with a stop sign for the cars!) and then have to make an extremely sharp, dangerous right turn onto the new trail. Why would they bother reconstructing the first part of this curve and then do nothing for the second part? On one hand, it causes bikes to slow waaaay down to negotiate the separation of pedestrians and cyclists, on the other hand, it lures you into a false sense of comfort. I would have been fine with them leaving it as before, with two 90 degree turns, if this was the alternate.

    • Andy says:

      Making the Westlake Cycletrack unsafe to use above 15 miles an hour is an intentional design feature, according to SDOT’s consultant (Alta).

      It’s not intended to be used by anyone travelling more than 15 miles an hour – they’re expected to ride on Westlake or Dexter.

      • Law Abider says:

        The problem is, there is really only one pinch point (the north entrance) that limits you to (well below) 15 mph. Even the 8 ft wide section can tolerate a pretty high speed. Honestly, the one factor that may actually keep speeds to 15 or below is the fact that the cycletrack seems to be getting more and more populated as bikers discover it.

        Still better than the parking lot or Dexter!

      • Andy says:

        Should be helped if SDOT follows through on improving the connection to 9th at the south end that they mentioned at the last SBAB meeting.

        I don’t commute to downtown anymore, but it’d be a nice surprise if the cycletrack actually ends up being functional as a not-slow commuting route.

        From the design meetings, my concern with the cycletrack was sightlines for pedestrian interactions (dunno if that’s been improved in what was built) and that it was designed for less than 150 bikes per hour capacity – so you’re right that if it actually gets popular it’ll feel pretty unsafe.

      • Al Dimond says:

        As for 9th Ave N: There is no plan, and no intention, to fix the narrow (narrower than the old Westlake MUP that everyone complained about), oddly laid-out park paths that the Cycletrack will dump those “150 bikes per hour” onto at the south end. There is no plan, and no intention, to reduce the amount of time cyclists have to wait to get across Westlake and 9th if we ride all the way to the south end of the park, nor to cross near Aloha if the city’s route exits the park there (I used that crosswalk often until moving last month — the wait is stupefying).

        For going downtown, the existing signal at Highland already has a more favorable cycle, and the new one at 8th may also (because neither will be north-south road capacity bottlenecks regardless of their configuration, while the signals at Aloha and Valley are). The signal at 8th will be awkward to use for cycletrack access in either direction, but less so than the park paths. From either signal (Highland may end up working better in both directions, or at least heading south), the way downtown is 8th-Roy-Dexter. It doesn’t make sense for many SLU destinations, but should keep a big slice of those “150 bikes per hour” out of the park.

      • Andy says:

        The plan to improve signal timing for crossing at 9th/Westlake/Aloha was announced at last Wednesday’s SBAB meeting.

      • Law Abider says:

        I’ve solely used the signal at Highland. Although when they recently completed reconstruction of that intersection, they greatly increased the time it takes to trigger, from less than 10 seconds to probably closer to 30 seconds. Still waaaaaaaay better than crossing at Westlake/9th.

        This is the first I’ve heard of a signal at 8th. Is it being implemented solely for cyclists to cross? I see maybe 2 cars a week waiting at the stop sign on 8th, so it can’t be for them.

      • Al Dimond says:

        The one at 8th is not designed well for cyclists (the layout will be pretty awkward). I think it’s being added mostly to reduce the number of drivers that need to circulate back to Highland so they can turn left with a proper signal.

        As for Aloha… use of that crosswalk is mutually-exclusive with all of the vehicle phases at that intersection. They’re going to install an ITS signal, and its primary job is to keep traffic flowing. If phases get any shorter during busy times of day I’ll eat my hat.

  6. Ben P says:

    You’re amazing on KUOW. You should try to get on radio more often.

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