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Dexter cycle track plans changed, wide buffered bike lanes proposed

Commenter Andreas pointed out that the plans for Dexter have changed. Instead of placing cycle tracks between the parked cars and the sidewalk, the new plans place large buffered bike lanes between the general travel lanes and parked cars. Here is the old proposal:

The old proposal

The parking-buffered lanes drew safety concerns from some cyclists. Being separated visually from cars that may be turning into driveways, parking lots and streets while you are going 25 miles per hour downhill does seem rather dangerous. The new proposal includes incredible bike lanes that are six feet wide with a two or three foot painted buffer between car traffic and bikes. That amount of space should be enough to make bikers of all levels of experience feel safe while still allowing experienced riders to safely pick up speed on the downhills.

The biggest advantage I saw to the parking-buffered lanes, however, was that it helped transit move more efficiently. Currently, riders moving slowly uphill often slow down buses trying to pull over the pick people up. With the parking-buffered proposal, bus stops would be on islands between the general traffic lane and the bike lane, removing the constant bike/bus conflict there.

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Transit efficiency and bike safety are on the same team. The biggest impediment to each mode of transportation is the single occupancy vehicle. The more people who choose to either bike or ride, the more cars are off the streets. I hate climbing up Dexter knowing there is a bus full of people waiting for me so it can pick up people at the next stop. Sometimes, that bus will pass me, then I’ll pass it and get its way over and over.

The good news is that it looks like they may have been able to save that:

The proposal will also reduce conflicts between bikes and buses by installing the bike lane between the curb and the transit island at most locations where there is a bus stop.

SDOT will be showing the new plans at an open house August 19 from 5:30 to 7:20 p.m. at the Swedish Cultural Center.

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15 responses to “Dexter cycle track plans changed, wide buffered bike lanes proposed”

  1. eric

    why does seattle still believe that sending bicyclists over dexter hill is preferrable to westlake, a street with NO parked cars, much higher visability, and at grade? considering this is the one city sanctioned major bicycle thoroughfare from the north-end, you’d think grabbing one lane from the cars on westlake would make much more sense….

    Bike Lane on Westlake!

    1. At first, I thought they were just doing Dexter instead of Westlake out of a kind of dual inertia: on the one hand, Dexter has more cyclists today, and on the other Westlake is more like a highway so drivers will complain louder if that road is slowed down. But when I started thinking about it more, it made more sense.

      From a bike point of view: to get on to Westlake southbound, cyclists have to merge left across traffic coming off the Fremont Bridge that’s often going rather fast. To get onto it northbound, the choice is between dicing with the SLUT tracks or taking a kludgey crossing of Denny onto 9th Ave N (where one has to watch for left-turning drivers who *regularly* either don’t notice me on my bike or think they have priority), followed by jogging across onto Westlake after the tracks move. And then there’s the blind corner level with the 2700N block, which cars routinely take at 45mph+. I use Westlake some of the time, but the kind of cyclist who needs these improved bike lanes to feel comfortable with traffic is never going to feel comfortable with those things. On the other hand, Dexter gives us a straight shot, better connections at the bridge and over Denny, and the hill really isn’t that big.

      From a car point of view: because Westlake’s parking is all off-street along the lake, it’s inherently much better suited to being a high-speed road than Dexter is, so taking away lanes will entail a big fight with drivers.

    2. Andreas

      The SDOT rep at the open house said that Dexter was simply due to be restriped and SDOT decided to see what they could do with that paint besides just repainting the current configuration. I got the impression that the budget (or most of it) wasn’t discresionary money they could put wherever they saw fit; it was money for restriping Dexter, and it couldn’t really be used on Westlake. And there’s more to this project than just the bike lanes: there are bus islands to allow buses to stop in-line (buses on Westlake already don’t have to pull out of traffic to stop), and changes to improve pedestrian safety (which may be more needed on Dexter than Westlake, since the former is more residential).

      That said, when Westlake is up for restriping, maybe they’ll do a similar reconfiguration there. The SDOT rep I spoke to at the open house was clear that the changes on Dexter shouldn’t affect any future changes on Westlake. Of course, that’s easier said than done: you know drivers will rant and rave about why did they bother with Dexter if they’re just going to do the same thing to Westlake, etc.

      Though simply installing bike lanes on Westlake could be problematic given the heavy turning frequency due to the situation of off-street parking. (The risk of right hooks for SB riders is virtually nil, but for NB riders I’d say it’s higher than average.) But at the first open house, many cyclists (myself included) echoed your sentiments that the city should focus more on Westlake. I personally like the idea of keeping Dexter as a fast bypass route, and installing a wide multi-use trail on Westlake for more casual riders. Such a trail could be put in if/when a streetcar is routed up Westlake, which would necessitate a full redesign of the street.

    3. Tom Fucoloro

      At the Great City brown bag about cycle tracks, Phil Miller, one of the presenters, suggested that westlake might actually be a good place for a cycle track. There are practically no driveways or intersections and it is flat…

      I personally prefer to take westlake instead of Dexter unless I am in a hurry.

  2. I like this new plan a lot better than the previous iteration. My one concern is bus passenger safety if they do the island stops on the downhill parts – bikes are fast enough and quiet enough down that hill that I could see people stepping off a bus and into the bike lane before noticing someone flying towards them.

    1. Yup, definitely a hazard. I keep an eye out for zoobombing cyclists before I open the door. I get a funny look from passengers, like “Aren’t you going to let me out?” until they see the cyclist blast on by.

      This would be a good issue to add to Metro’s “Outhouse Safety Journal” as a reminder. I’ll see if I can figure out who the safety committee members are at my base.

  3. eric

    i do agree with your feelings about the *current* traffic on westlake, but infrastructure improvements (reduce traffic speed limits, signage, rubber fill-ins on the tracks, re-thinking the flow of traffic) would negate all your concerns. plus the addition of a “at grade” overcomes a huge mental block to new and recreational riders. the addition of bicyclists would pay off long-term and mean more to the safety of our rodes, than just improving a flawed route in the first place.

    as bicyclists, we shouldn’t just accept the scraps. we pay taxes. we deserve the prime roads just as much as cars. i could give a fuck if automobile drivers complain :)

    1. This comment and Tom’s longer one above have persuaded me that Westlake *could* be made into a good bike route, and the flatter grade is clearly an advantage. I’m still worried about it being done right though – piecemeal improvements risk ending up like that 2nd Ave bike lane we all love to hate….

  4. eric

    yikes typos!

  5. Hey Tom – any chance you can get a graphic of the new-new plan? I’m having trouble visualizing. That said, if I follow, it does sound like a workable solution. Look forward to seeing more

    BTW, I’m with Eric. Westlake is needs to be the future.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Working on it.

  6. Any chance the “buffer” zone could have rumble strips? I know rumble strips can be a safety hazard for cyclists, but maybe some “lite” rumble strips would work? I suppose the raised paint of a cross-hatched buffer strip might do the trick. Hmmm…

    1. Andreas

      Do you think Botts’ dots would work? Rumble strips just set off alarms, tho I know they can be installed so that they work with bikes. If installed here, hopefully they’d only be on the outer edge of the buffer zone, so that cyclists would only have to cross them if they’re moving into the regular lane, not if they’re simply passing another cyclist.

      1. Tom Fucoloro

        I hate those things, especially when going fast downhill (46 and aurora is the worst). I personally feel like the painted buffers are enough, but I would be interested in finding a study on the effectiveness of rumble/dots in protecting bike lanes.

  7. Ron Mason

    As frequent usuar of Dexter ave. N. I agree that the current situation as it now exists is less than ideal. But to remove the middle left turn lane would degrade what is already a significanlty degraded high volume arterial even further. Has ther been any consideration to possibly move the north south continuation down along Westlake Ave. where there would be more than ample space for a dedicated and separated bicycle expressway?

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