34th Ave N is getting some much-needed work, including a repaved surface and what could be the city’s most useful bike box yet.
The street is a major connection between the Fremont Bridge and the Burke-Gilman Trail, two of the most-biked facilities in the city. Aside from fixing the terrible pavement conditions, the project will also fix some confusing road design issues.
The biggest improvement will be the installation of a new bike box at Fremont Ave N, just north of the Fremont Bridge. Aside from improving safety for people crossing the intersection on foot, the box has the potential to help a number of confusing and unsafe traffic movements, especially for people headed north from the bridge and people headed west on 34th.
Here’s one example of how a bike box will help: Say you’re traveling north across the Fremont Bridge and want to go left on 34th to head west on the Burke-Gilman Trail. You will be able to ride in the curb lane on Fremont Ave after the crossing the bridge, then turn into the bike box. When the light turns green, you can head straight towards the site of the Fremont Market and the trail. Pretty cool, eh?
The project also includes green striping where motor vehicle traffic crosses the bike lane, which will help increase visibility for bicycle traffic.
And, for one more improvement: The project will remove the unused railroad tracks just east of Stone Way.
Using the road during construction is sure to be difficult. Be prepared to use a different route until early September. You can take the trail and go several easy blocks out of your way, take 35th Ave N or use the sidewalk (which can be a tight squeeze at points).
More details from the project website:
- Repaving N 34th St from Fremont Ave N to Stone Way N
- Sidewalk improvements and curb ramp upgrades
- New “green” bike lanes and bike box
- Removal of unused railroad tracks in the roadway to improve safety
Once completed this project will improve automobile, pedestrian and bicyclist safety.
This project is scheduled to start in early July 2011 and be substantially complete by early September 2011.
As a part of the 15th Ave NE Reconstruction Project, SDOT was able to take advantage of a competitive bidding climate and include this project in the same bidding package. Both projects are funded by the Bridging the Gap tax initiative passed by Seattle voters in 2006.
What to Expect During Construction:
- Lane closures – two-way traffic will be maintained throughout construction
- Pedestrian detours
- Bicyclists and vehicles will share traffic lanes
- Parking and loading restrictions
- Metal plates will be used to temporarily cover excavation areas
- Construction noise and dust
- Pavement grinding will result in grooved pavement
- All travelers should use caution and keep a safe distance from construction equipment
- Regular notices with more location specific information during construction
Improvements for Bicycle Travel
- Bike friendly drainage grates
- New green bike lanes highlighting areas where bicycles and cars cross paths
- New bike box at intersection of N 34th St and Fremont Ave N to provide a place for cyclists to wait for signal in front of vehicles
- New bike loop detectors to tell signal when a bicycle is waiting for the light to turn green
I’m particularly excited about the bike box at the north end of the bridge. I already use the crosswalk as a “bike box” when I’m going northbound and turning west to on 34th to the Burke-Gilman, and I occasionally see others doing the same. The improved markings will make it more comfortable for bikers and allow drivers to better understand what bikers are doing.
I got drilled once by a car while travelling northbound on N 34th and trying to enter the BG trail just on the east side of Stone Way. If I hadn’t anticipated a last second decision by the driver, it could have been much much more uglier. I don’t fault the driver nor myself. It’s one of those things we all need to be aware of. But w/o question this area can be improved. Seriously, apart from very bad pavement (some would say it’s like riding through a mine field), the bike lane could be a bit wider as this is a major route. I’m not sure what they can do, if anything but the other dangerous area are the cars entering/exiting 34th. It’s usually rush hour and everybody wants to get out (including me) and I’ve seen some cars whip out w/o looking or looking at the last possible split second after they’ve already made their move. Still anything here I’d consider a major improvement.
I use this route every day so I’m excited about seeing the finished product. I haven’t had any trouble waiting at the light to turn left onto the Fremont Bridge but a bike box will sure be nice.
For those of you wondering — this Portland website explains it pretty well.
Suzie Burke probably asked SDOT to not include it as an official optional route, but Northlake Way is a pretty fine alternative. The road’s a bit bumpy from Aurora to Stone, but traffic’s pretty light between Phinney and Stone.
Somewhat related, I got a response from SDOT about the possibility of adding warning signage and striping to the revamped rail crossing on the BGT. To wit:
So signage and lane striping that might prevent bicycle and pedestrian collisions are considered “obstacles”? Am I the only one who thinks this is completely ass-backwards? Didn’t they learn anything from the SLUT lawsuit?