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SDOT: 20th Ave NW before and after


SDOT highlighted the recent changes to 20th Ave NW in Ballard on their blog. I had the chance to try the new lanes out the other day, and the new configuration seemed like a natural fit for the street. They are nothing cutting edge (5-foot lanes, much of which is in the door zone), but it will likely feel safer than 24th Ave NW for many riders.

Interestingly, a neighborhood greenway is noted in the Bicycle Master Plan for 17th Ave NW (effectively one block from 20th Ave NW). Clearly, the funding for greenways is still an impediment to implementing them instead of bike lanes (17th would require several expensive crossing improvements).

From the SDOT Blog:

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The recent changes on 20th Avenue NW demonstrate how SDOT is better supporting cycling while still addressing the needs of drivers.  As part of Bike Master Plan implementation, we removed the center turn lane to install bike lanes while also preserving on-street parking.  These bike facilities run for a half mile in both directions on 20th Avenue NW from Market Street to NW 65th Street.

Why this approach?  20th Avenue NW carries a low volume of traffic (less than 7,500 vehicles daily at its busiest point) and our counts show a relatively small number of turning movements.  This provides an opportunity to improve bicycle access along the street without affecting vehicular traffic flow, inhibiting access to residential side streets or removing parking.

The best part is that the removal of the center turn lane on 20th Avenue NW doesn’t undercut roadway safety.  The road still features only one travel lane in each direction, so traffic will continue to move at the pace of the slowest car.  Given the low traffic volumes and adherence to the speed limit, motorists have sufficient gaps to turn left against oncoming traffic.

This street is yet another example of how SDOT can install bike lanes and, through careful examination of a road’s operation, still ensure that drivers can easily move around.

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10 responses to “SDOT: 20th Ave NW before and after”

  1. Todd Holman

    Incremental change is all we are ever going to see — minus the Mad Max apocalypse. While I probably will never use this because of it’s location, I welcome it.

    1. dan

      This is the exact problem with the entire city bike plan! I rarely see new bike lanes in use because people have better routes. The city needs to stop wasting money on ruining streets for drivers so they can create bike lanes that never get used.

  2. Shane Phillips

    I always feel like the picture quality itself is worse on the “before” pictures, which is unfortunate because it then looks like they’re trying to make the change look more grand than it really is. I mean, it probably wasn’t intentional, but I think to some it can appear like a petty trick which can undermine the actual message here which is simply: “hey, this street improvement is really great.”

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Ha! I guess the before photo is a little blurry. I just assumed that was an accident or that it was taken on a different camera (perhaps its an archive photo, since they may not have planned their blog post that far ahead). Something they should be more careful about.

      1. Shane Phillips

        Definitely. It seems to me if you took a poor picture of the road after improvements and called it “before” and a nice picture of the road before improvements and called it “after”, the changes are subtle enough that you’d still look at it and think it was a good change.

  3. Charlie

    I was just telling my wife the other day that I love having this lane to ride up to her work at the Loyal Heights Community Center (77th and 20th). The lane ends at 65th, but the street tees about a block up from that and then it’s neighborhood streets the rest of the way. These lanes make so much sense and are easy to ride, provided you stay out of the door zone.

    One thing I noted though: I came from Fremont on the BG Trail and rode 24th around Old Ballard to 20th, where I turned right. Then when I got to Leary, it was that huge, crazy difficult intersection (where Senor Moose is) and took forever to cross there (http://g.co/maps/vvgu).

    That road is so huge (four lanes) and that intersection is so weird (diagonal street that seems to be not lined up across Leary) that it all seems ripe for fixing. I was thinking a bike lane or at least sharrows on 20th South of Market all the way to 24th (aka The Missing Link) and something, like a LIGHT or a road diet on Leary in that area to make that crossing safer. It’s an unsignalized crosswalk across 4 lanes. Aren’t those against the rules now and the reason why they re-did Nickerson?

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      They are often considered non-standard, but I don’t know all the conditions required for a crosswalk that conforms to modern standards (do all 4-lane streets no longer conform, or are there other conditions? Something worth researching).

      SDOT’s traffic flow map does not have data on how many vehicles travel the section of Leary between Market and 15th, but I wonder if it’s significantly lower than the segment between Fremont and 15th (28,500 daily, which I find surprisingly high). Not that traffic volumes should always trump road safety in these decisions, but so far the city has been reluctant to do road diets on streets with much over 20,000 vehicles per day.

      However, since many opponents to the Burke-Gilman missing link have voiced their support for a cycle track design on Leary as an alternative, perhaps such a project would have more steam if it were proposed.

  4. Jake Jackson

    This is a great example of how the “road diets” really work. It’s not a matter of safety, or about “absording unused capacity.” It’s about putting bike lanes everywhere, and it’s especially about making it harder for motorists to get around. You despise cars and their drivers, and it shows.

    Elsewhere on this blog, you rattled on about how great it was to take a four-lane street (125th) and turn it into a two-lane street with a middle turn lane plus two bicycle lanes that are hardly ever used. All kinds of praise from you about that middle turn lane.

    But here, the middle turn lane was expendable. The only thing the road diets on 20th and 125th have in common is that the motorists whose guts (but not money) you and Michael McGinn hate with so much passion are squeezed, while bicyclists are favored.

    And you wonder why your boy mayor has a 23% approval rating, and why so many people in Seattle use the word “bicycle” as an epithet.

    p.s.: Now let’s see how long it takes you to erase this comment because it doesn’t toe your political line.

    1. dan

      One thing i LOVE about this blog, is us bike lane haters are totally allowed to vent our frustrations without fear of being censored as long as we keep our language in check and posts on topic.

      1. Jake Jackson

        Here’s something else you don’t care about: the environment.

        The cyclist crowd just loves to claim that re-engineering the streets to make it harder for cars will somehow benefit the environment. But it won’t. All it does is slow the cars down. Creates more congestion, more idling engines, more road rage among motorists and bicyclists. Check out Portland. Really check it out, if you dare, because that’s where their bicycle agenda has gotten them. Oh, and their mayor has already announced that he won’t run again.

        Not that you care about safety, or the environment. It is 1,000% about getting the city and its taxpayers to subsidize your hobby. Nothing more than that. The fortunate thing is that more and more people in Seattle are seeing what’s behind the “road diets” and your demands for new taxes on cars and more bike lanes, coupled with your cohort’s blunt and selfish refusal to pay your own way.

        You have peaked out. The backlash is here.

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