Work starts Monday on bike lanes to connect Burke-Gilman, Fremont Bridge

N34th_ParkingMapAfter more than a year of planning, SDOT is ready to begin construction on a short-but-key section of protected bike lane connecting the Burke-Gilman Trail to the Fremont Bridge.

People biking already make up nearly a third of traffic on the street during peak hours, and the upcoming opening of the Westlake Bikeway is only going to exacerbate demand for this connection.

The change will create a two-way separated bike lane on the south side of the street. General traffic will change to one-way westbound between Fremont and Phinney Avenues, and parking will remain. The bike lane will be designed so the Fremont Market can still set up the same way it does each Sunday. Of course, that means people biking will need to continue detouring off 34th during market hours.

Construction is set to start as soon as Monday, wrapping up in two to three weeks.

Here’s a section-by-section look at the bikeway plans (learn more in this construction notice PDF):

N34thStPBL_ConstructionNotice-diagramsThe project does not significantly address the problematic and complicated intersection at Fremont Ave just north of the bridge, essentially adding a couple green turn boxes. However, the Puget Sound Regional Council recently announced a $951,000 Federal grant for “N 34th Street Protected Bicycle Lanes and Protected Intersections (PDF).” We’ve asked for more details on that project, but the description certainly sounds promising.

More details on the work starting Monday from an SDOT email to project stakeholders:

Dear N 34th St Protected Bicycle Lane Project stakeholders,

Thank you for your involvement in the N 34th St Protected Bicycle Lane (PBL) Project. We appreciate the thoughtful suggestions voiced and emailed to us. We’ve spent the last several months reviewing community feedback and developing a design that create a 2-way protected bike lane for a more predictable, safer, and more organized environment for all travelers, maintains access and clearance for trucks, and minimizes parking loss on N 34th St.

Analysis

Since hearing from the community, we reviewed and analyzed travel patterns and found:

  • Traffic volumes: We counted the number of bikes and vehicles over various time periods and found that changing N 34th St to 1-way, westbound will have minimal impact on vehicle traffic level of service on N 34th St and the surrounding street network. Our counts showed high bike volumes, particularly in the evening peak hours when bikes make up over 30% of traffic on N 34th St between Fremont Ave N and Phinney Ave N.
  • Truck access: We discovered that truck drivers have trouble turning in and out of driveways on N 34th St. To better accommodate turning trucks, we’ll restrict a few parking spots on the south side of the street.
  • Parking and load zones: We recognized that on-street parking is in high demand here. We also discussed parking needs with adjacent businesses and property owners to understand how on-street parking can work best for the community.
  • Fremont Sunday Market: We understand the importance that new PBL could not conflict with the Fremont Sunday Market operations. In response, we’re using flexible delineator posts in the PBL buffer that will be spaced such that market booths fit between the posts.
  • Connection to the Burke-Gilman Trail: We reviewed the southeast corner of N Canal St and Phinney Ave N to see where the PBL would best connect to the Burke-Gilman Trail.

Street design

See the attached maps showing the design for N 34th St. The design includes:

  • installing a 2-way PBL on the south side of N 34th St from Fremont Ave N to Phinney Ave N that connects with the Burke-Gilman Trail at the ramp just west of the dinosaur topiary
  • maintaining an 11-foot wide vehicle travel lane
  • extending N 34th St as 1-way, westbound for vehicle traffic, from Fremont Ave N to Phinney Ave N
  • re-painting 4 crosswalks at the intersections of N 34th St and Phinney Ave N, Evanston Ave N, and Fremont Ave N
  • re-painting the back-in, angle parking on N 34th St between Fremont Ave N and Evanston Ave N
  • extending the right-turn lane from westbound N 34th St to northbound Fremont Ave N to accommodate the number of motorists needing to make this turn, and to improve sightlines and safety
  • preserving parallel parking on Phinney Ave N, north of N 34th St
  • modifying the on-street load zones and parking time restrictions to better serve the needs of the area (see the map below for how on-street parking will look after construction is done)

Evaluation, education, and enforcement

With any change, there will be a period of adjustment. To help educate people walking, driving, and biking, we’ll:

  • post signs that show drivers how to park next to the PBL
  • continue outreach in the week after the project is implemented; volunteer ambassadors will visit the area to answer questions and remind travelers how to navigate the new street design
  • post additional signs to remind people biking to dismount and walk their bikes between Evanston Ave N and Phinney Ave N on Sundays between 7 AM and 6 PM during the Sunday Fremont Market

One year after implementing these improvements, we’ll return for a follow up study. The study may include monitoring how many people comply with traffic laws, collecting more traffic counts, speed studies, collision analysis, or reviewing how parking is used.

Schedule and next steps

We expect construction will take place this summer but will share construction details when they’re available, likely in the next week. Work to restripe the street is expected to take 2-3 weeks to complete and be done before October 2016.

Thanks again for your ongoing engagement in this project. Moving forward, Rachel McCaffrey will be the primary point of contact as we approach construction and will post a project webpage this week. She may be reached at Rachel.McCaffrey@seattle.gov or 206-615-0925. You can expect to hear more from Rachel soon and see her in the neighborhood as construction gets underway.

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32 Responses to Work starts Monday on bike lanes to connect Burke-Gilman, Fremont Bridge

  1. Matthew Snyder says:

    Hopefully this redesign will help to reduce an awkward conflict I’ve experienced more than a few times in that area. If I’m cycling westbound on N 34th and want to cross Fremont Ave, continuing straight, currently I get in the rightmost lane (to the right of the bike lane), which is marked for vehicles going straight or turning right. Before I figured this out, I would use the bike lane to reach the green bike box, and then go straight from there. Drivers going straight (on my right) would expect me to be turning left, as I was basically in the left-turn-only lane, and I had a few close calls as a result.

    Now, it looks like the bike box for westbound cyclists will make a bit more sense. It’s still awkwardly overlapping with the left-turn-only lane, but at least cyclists will have to proceed at an angle, to the left, to reach the bike lane, which should reduce conflict with cars proceeding straight. Still not perfect, though.

    Would it make more sense to have a wider bike box (extending further to the north), by pushing back the stop line for the straight/right-turn lane? That way, cyclists could filter to the front, and then either move to the left in the bike box to turn left, or to the right to continue straight? I suppose this would piss off the drivers wanting to go right on red, but the intersection is complicated enough that right on red probably shouldn’t be allowed there anyway.

  2. weaksauce says:

    I’m a bit confused about the Sunday market. It looks like they are going to be using flexible delineator posts in the protected bike lanes, but will the booth interfear with the bike lanes? OR are they going to be outside of the protected bike lane? It also sounds like riders will have to dismount and walk their bikes in that section as well regardless.

    • Erik says:

      Based on the description, the booths will probably sit partly in the bike lane, so the PBR will probably close on Sunday along with the rest of 34th.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      The bike lane will close along with the rest of the street during market hours. There is definitely no room for biking during the market. It’s packed.

      • Law Abider says:

        This is why they need to build an access from the BGT to the east side of the Fremont bridge, similar to the Galer St overpass on 15th Ave. Something with slopes that allows bikes to go up or down without having to use the stairs.

        If I recall, it was originally on the docket for when they originally reconstructed the Westlake parking lot over a decade ago. Unfortunately, it got cut.

      • EA says:

        Re: Law Abider

        I agree, 34th between the eastern bridge crossing and the eastern portion of the BGT also needs PBLs. Access and safety in that area is not improved with this project so it does not really help those going between Westlake and the BGT as both the ship canal trail to the west bridge crossing and the intersection of the BGT and Stone Way are deficient for a number of reasons. It’s essentially another missing link and instead of a proper fix they are planning a part-time detour via a new Walk of Shame.

  3. Ryan Packer says:

    SDOT went with a 10-foot two way bike lane despite NACTO’s recommendation of 12 feet for comfortable riding. And that retains the massive travel lane and space for back-angle parking. Bummer.

    • Law Abider says:

      10′ is fine here. It’s not a high speed route, as you are going between a stop light, then stop sign, then another stop sign, before turning on the BGT.

  4. Skylar says:

    While I appreciate any bike improvements, I wish this money and planning had gone into improving N 34th east of Fremont, or the connection to the Ship Canal Trail south of the bridge. I would really like to see a two-way protected bike lane on Florentia, so that cyclists don’t have to navigate around a blind turn, squeeze onto the sidewalk and cut through a funeral home parking lot.

    • Daniel says:

      Agreed. If you are on the Burke heading west and want to go north on fremont you basically have to cut across traffic after jumping the curb to get in the bike lane on 34th before stone way. Zero flow

      • Al Dimond says:

        There’s no need to do crazy stuff like this instead of using proper intersections or crosswalks (unless you’re starring in a bikey remake of Speed). It’s true that transitions between the Burke, 34th, and Stone Way need attention, but there are reasonable ways to use the infrastructure as it is if you’re a little more patient about it.

      • Skylar says:

        I actually have never had trouble getting onto 34th from the Burke; I take one of the side streets by the old ISB building north of Gas Works, and hang a left. Traffic is never so heavy that I have to wait more than a minute.

        Now, the intersection itself has issues. I’ve frequently been honked/yelled at for being in the right lane (right-turn-only for cars, straight for bikes) because the bike lane disappears before the intersection. I think the best thing would be to have a motorcycle cop hang out and write tickets for harassment/improper horn use, but that would depend on a functional police force.

    • Randy says:

      The best way to get to the ship canal trail is to turn right onto Florentia, then right onto 3rd Ave N using the light.

      Using the sidewalk there is a bad idea. I get it is legal and all, but it is a blind corner and is no longer necessary since you aren’t on the cheese grater, but it is constantly packed during peak hours.

      I guess you can kinda skip the Florentia/Nickerson/3rd light if you do it, but that is the way it goes.

      I wish they would do something for those who continue up west bound on Florentia. Just a regular uphill bike lane would be fine, but with the crappy side parking (everyone up on sidewalks) and eastbound traffic typically backed up, you are always getting your butt ridden by a car or a dangerous pass, and I constantly fear for hesitant riders that ride in the door zone to make cars happy. The alternative is to take Nickerson all the way to 3rd Ave W, but that adds distance and a little elevation.

      • Paul Johnson says:

        Using the sidewalk’s a shitty idea anywhere. Granted, it’s less of a problem outside the pacific northwest, but that’s more or less because the PNW’s been going through a bicycle backlash for 40 years straight now, and where I’m at (Tulsa, OK, because of being a northwestern native), equestrians are still a thing. So assuming there’s people outside of cars is a thing that exists for the 45 states that aren’t the pacific northwest.

      • Southeasterner says:

        Yeah I don’t get why you would be on the Sidewalk and cutting through the parking lot there. Just stick on Florentia/3rd.

        A two way bike lane makes absolutely no sense as it would just encourage cyclists going North to use the Sidewalk on the West side of the Freemont bridge creating unnecessary conflicts.

        IF the West side sidewalk on the Freemont bridge were 15 feet wide then maybe you have a good argument.

      • Skylar says:

        I actually don’t take the sidewalk going west, but do take it east to avoid sitting in traffic trying to make the left turn. It seems that there’s no need for that one block segment of Florentia to allow east-bound traffic (it really only serves the parking lot for the Nickerson Saloon and the coffee stand), so why not shift the west-bound traffic lane north, and use the old west-bound traffic lane as a two-way protected bike lane to the trail?

        There’s already plenty of northbound cyclists on the bridge as it is, which is perfectly legal, and I have yet to see a conflict despite the narrow space.

  5. Al Dimond says:

    The obvious nitpicks are:

    1. Bike access to destinations on the north side of 34th, and turns to and from Phinney and Evanston to the north, is not provided. This includes PCC’s bike parking, the corral on Evanston, and two bike shops. Access will not be all that difficult (it will at least be easier than turning left from the Dexter PBL… what was SDOT thinking there?!?), but because it will contradict the lane markings we’ll all make our own way… and continue to appear unpredictable to both drivers and ourselves (the total anarchy of cyclists getting from the bridge to westbound 34th from every side and by every angle is seriously annoying, from the perspective of someone that’s almost always on foot or bike through the area).

    2. What will it take to get northbound-to-westbound vehicular left turns at Fremont/34th banned all day? Will someone have to get killed instead of merely being injured or having their belongings ruined? The way people try to accelerate through gaps in traffic, across more lanes than they can really keep track of, it’s gonna happen one of these days.

    • Law Abider says:

      1. I think the low volumes of bike traffic going to the north, coupled with the low volume of east-west vehicular traffic, sprinkled with the ability to use the 4-way stops to your advantage, made that a non-issue currently.

      2. A death/serious injury is exactly what it takes. Similar to what it takes to get a stop sign or crosswalk markings. Is that right? No, but that’s the system we currently have and DOTs aren’t known for progressively changing their methods.

    • Al Dimond says:

      Actually, I hadn’t thought of this, but this project actually won’t solve all the bridge-to-westbound bike craziness, because everyone that catches a red light at 34th will continue to do the crazy crap they do today to head west along 34th instead of waiting for two lights to use the turn box.

      Also the turn box probably doesn’t look like it will be big enough to hold all the bridge-to-westbound cyclists, so maybe it will be good that half of them won’t use it.

      Besides my personal interest (I work near this intersection) it’s an interesting one for testing whether we’re building infrastructure sufficient for a true mass cycling culture. Though we don’t have a true mass cycling culture in lower Fremont (more people are afraid to ride there than are willing to, by a large margin), because there are so many bikes going through in different patterns, there are about as many bikes as a more typical intersection would have in a mass cycling culture. Any arterial/business-street intersection in a peripheral neighborhood that isn’t right at a major cycling bottleneck, e.g. Alaska Junction, Alaska/Rainier, Ballard/Market, 125th/LCW, should eventually call for a similar level of bike infrastructure (if we’re successful in building a mass cycling culture)… so 34th/Fremont is an early test case for us. 34th/Fremont itself, in a true mass-cycling culture, would need more. A lane in each direction on the Fremont Bridge and its approaches, for one thing…

  6. Melinda says:

    Are the stupid armored cars gonna park in this one too all the time?

  7. Matthew Snyder says:

    Has SDOT announced what this project is going to cost? It’s potentially instructive for future advocacy to see what our dollar buys us in terms of infrastructure work.

  8. asdf2 says:

    34th west of Fremont Ave. is a pretty minor street. I realize it probably gets a fair number of cars during rush hour, but it’s all low speed, with stop signs every block, and doesn’t seem like it needs full separation.

    34th East of Fremont Ave., on the other hand, sees comparatively faster moving cars, and is still necessary to connect from the Burke-Gilman to the Fremont bridge going the other direction. Here, a two-way protected bike lane on the south side of the street would do wonders. Besides getting westbound bikers out of the door zone, it would also eliminate the need to wait for the light to cross 34th at Stone Way. The only problem is what to do about right turns onto 34th coming off the Fremont bridge. One option could be to eliminate the right-turn pocket and use the vacated space deposit bikers on the sidewalk, at the southeast corner of the Fremont/34th intersection, where they could use the crosswalks to get where they need to go from there (or, those headed across the Fremont bridge could just go, avoiding street crossings altogether).

  9. Danica Michaels says:

    While PBLs are always a good thing, installing them without infrastructure directing people across the bridge on the proper side creates a mess. I’ve had almost daily problems every summer with trying to navigate around salmon bikes going the wrong way across the bridge. The bike lanes on either end mostly line up so that you re-enter the street with the flow of traffic, but instead of taking the (admittedly obscure, inconvenient, you’d have to have studied a bike map to know they’re there) loops down to the BG, Ship Canal, or Lake Union cycletrack, a lot of people just ride on whichever side of the bridge is closest to the trail entrance they want (usually the wrong side), then ride on the sidewalk to the trail (or vice versa, ride on whichever side of the bridge is closest to the most obvious exit from the trail). And there is no signage or icons on the bridge itself to indicate there is a right or wrong way cyclists should be riding. This causes a lot of conflict with pedestrians and bikes going the correct way across the narrow Fremont Bridge paths. If you get lucky and manage to cross the bridge while there are no pedestrians, you can just squeeze past each other at 2mph and a toe on the ground. But throw zigzagging, two-way pedestrians into the mix, and it’s a malestrom of swerving, cussing (usually the salmon, ironically), freaked out pedestrians jumping out of the way, and broken bike bits.

    Three weeks ago, I had to swerve to avoid a salmon bike who rode full speed onto the bridge coming the wrong direction, even though there was a solid wall of bikes and pedestrians in front of him. I hit the railing to avoid colliding with pedestrians, shredded the grip off my handlebar (not my hand, luckily – took my hand away just in time!), and messed up my wheel. I had to do almost 30 minutes of on-street repairs to limp home. While this is the only time I’ve taken actual damage, I have close calls on the Fremont Bridge so frequently that I dread crossing every time I approach it, and I admit when a guy salmoned me on the bridge two days later, I snapped at him, even though he slowed down to pass me. (I can’t decide whether I feel bad about that or not.)

    Part of this is a matter of education, part of it is infrastructure. As a minority, mostly part-time bike culture, seasonal riders aren’t as aware of the rules for path use as they are in places where cycling is a year-round primary form of transportation. So it should be even more essential that the infrastructure clearly directs (and enables!) people to ride correctly when they *do* get out on their bikes. But our haphazard infrastructure around places like the Fremont Bridge is encouraging people to ride in a risky who-knows, just-go-for-it, if-you-can-bully-other-people-out-of-your-way-it’s-yours style.

    Putting up more infrastructure around the bridge is nice; but if the infrastructure *on* the bridge and coming up from the trails doesn’t flow into the infrastructure around it, we’re still going to have safety issues. And without some kind of indication for northbound bikes to use the east side of the bridge and then the turn box, this new PBL looks like it’s just going to encourage salmoning on the west side of the bridge.

    • Skylar says:

      Danica, the Fremont Bridge has no bike lanes except on the approaches. The bridge itself has sidewalks, and those sidewalks are open to pedestrians and cyclists going either direction. It’s not ideal, but I’ve never had trouble as long as I go slowly. I agree that the bridge needs actual bike lanes, but it’s incorrect to say that any cyclists are going the wrong direction.

      • Danica Michaels says:

        :( That’s even more broken. I thought, given the way the bike lanes feed into the sidewalks on/off the bridge, that they were multiuse paths, but that if you were paying attention there was still a clear direction bikes were supposed to go in order to prevent conflict with other bikes and pedestrians.

        Maybe it’s because I’m usually riding across the bridge during the evening rush hour, but it’s always crammed, there’s usually a jam in the middle where pedestrians are stopped to admire the view, and there really isn’t room for both pedestrians *and* bikes going both ways. On the rare occasion I ride off-commute, it’s usually fine. It’s possible the problem seems far worse to me than it is because of when I ride.

      • Skylar says:

        Definitely is broken, not going to argue that point. Mostly I ride across on weekends, although occasionally I’ll squeeze in a ride to Queen Anne or Magnolia after work. I think actually the people who contribute the most to the squeeze are the cyclists who walk their bikes thinking they’re being polite/safe, even though they now take up more space than if they were riding.

        The only saving grace is that at least it’s the shortest of all the bascule bridges, and the sidewalks are well-separated from the road. I’d say Ballard and Montlake need improvements before Fremont.

      • Danica Michaels says:

        Agreed. I’ve looked for alternatives to Fremont, but Eastlake to the University Bridge during rush hour is terrifying, and the Ballard and Montlake bridges don’t have anything at all. The commute hour bike traffic on the Fremont would probably be much more manageable if everyone weren’t being funneled onto that one bridge. Though I maintain that establishing directions for bikes on the Fremont would help with flow too.

    • Kirk says:

      Danica, for perspective, come ride the Ballard Bridge sometime. The sidewalks are half as wide as in Fremont, the traffic is twice as fast and the bridge and approaches are three times longer. But I never stress about the “wrong way” biker. We both have to use the crappy infrastructure we’ve been provided. You just need to slow down on the bridge and usually stop to pass. With the crappy infrastructure, the poor approaches and connections, it does make sense for some people to ride the “wrong way”.

      • Danica Michaels says:

        At the 6pm rush hour, it’s usually impossible to go faster than a rolling 2-4 mph on the Fremont. Speed isn’t the problem. Except for when you get that one guy who barrels onto the bridge at 10mph assuming people are going to jump out of his way. Then the bridge turns into a bowling lane. But most of the conflict comes from mixed traffic trying to go both ways on a sidewalk that’s only wide enough for one way. When you have pedestrians stopped along the bridge and other groups walking 2 or 3 abreast, the actual moving lane on the bridge is reduced from 5 or 6 feet to 3 feet. Pedestrians and bikes have to move to the left to get around the groups that are meandering or stopped, putting them in the path of bikes and walkers coming the opposite direction. Pedestrians *should* have priority on the bridge, but bikes can’t filter through pedestrian jams as easily as people walking. You have to wait for a gap in pedestrians to filter through that 3ft. It only seems to avoid conflict when the bike traffic is one-way.

  10. Michael H says:

    This is completely worthless… And to boot, they still have the bike box on the west side of Fremont Ave in the wrong place! The box should be in front of the striaght/right turn lane.

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