PI: Top five spots where people biking and driving collide

The Seattle PI has tracked down the five spots in Seattle where the most bicycle-car collisions have occurred in recent years. NE 45th Street in front of Dick’s took the top spot, which may surprise some.

But I fear that wide intersection full of drunk and/or hungry people turning in and out of the drive-in burger joint. In fact, I have witnessed an incident there myself. A car made a left in front of someone biking down the hill who did not have time to react and slammed into the side of the car.

Also noted as dangerous:

  • 15th Avenue Northeast and Northeast Pacific Street in the University District
  • 25th Avenue Northeast and Northeast Blakely Street, where the Burke-Gilman Trail crosses a busy arterial
  • Bellevue Avenue and East Pine Street on Capitol Hill
  • Eastlake Avenue East and Furhman Avenue East just south of the University Bridge

Here’s a map of the top five spots:

The city recently painted a green bike lane at Pine and Bellevue to remind drivers to look for people on bikes before making turns.

Meanwhile, Mayor McGinn announced that the first meeting of the city’s Road Safety Summit will be October 24.

From the PI:

SDOT is reviewing collision reports at 15th Avenue Northeast and Northeast Pacific Street. At 25th Avenue Northeast and Northeast Blakely Street, the city installed new signs and road markings, Sheridan said.

SDOT recently installed a green bike lane through Pine and Bellevue to increase the visibility of bicyclists heading downhill. The problem was bicyclists heading downhill and getting struck by drivers turning south onto Bellevue Avenue, Sheridan said.

“That is a very tangible example of the high-collision bike program at work. We went out and reviewed and created a solution that now will help address this issue,” he said.

A green bike lane with signs was installed at Furhman and Eastlake, he said.

At the intersection in front of Dick’s, eastbound bicyclists are heading downhill and right into a busy driveway. Most of the collisions involve drivers turning into the parking lot who don’t see the cyclist approaching, said Reiner Blanco, supervisor of SDOT’s Traffic Operations Investigation and Implementation group.

“We all go to Dick’s and there is a quick turnover of people coming and going regularly, so volume is contributing to it,” he said. “We’re looking at potential improvement there to let it be known to drivers coming into Dick’s that they need to look out for cyclists.”

Improvements could mean new signs or road markings. SDOT hopes to have a solution in place by the end of the year, he said.

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29 Responses to PI: Top five spots where people biking and driving collide

  1. pqbuffington says:

    Ha! I have no qualm with the top-spot rating as I was hit at the very place (east bound) by a driver turning frantically into the Dick’s parking way back in the summer of 2000…the classic left turn – in this case something between a head-on and a left-turn – that left me with a broken pelvis.

    • Morgan Wick says:

      The whole way people get into Dick’s from 45th needs to be re-assessed, especially since it’s a private business drive-thru, not a public right-of-way. Perhaps no left turns directly into the lot, or just pave over those ramps and force all cars to use 1st or 2nd (but not necessarily all bikes? :).

      Dick’s is in a really weird spot – close enough to UW to attract a lot of college students, but not close enough for it to be a quick jaunt like the one on Broadway. I think it was sited when it was the first one and they never could have known how huge it’d become, otherwise it’d be either closer to the heart of Wallingford, or on the Ave.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        How about an on-street bike parking rack on the west side of 1st ave NE to improve visibility of people coming down the hill? Would also serve as a bike parking hub for this stretch of 45th, which has Dick’s and the taco truck as popular destinations. Two birds with one … bike rack.

        I’m not sure what the Dick’s entrance solution is, but would it be safer to have only one exit? Maybe the city can tell which entrance causes the most wrecks and can work with Dick’s on an option that would encourage people to only use the safer one?

        I’m eager to see what the city comes up with, since few of our standard tools seem to be applicable to this situation.

        Also, and this is completely anecdotal, but Dick’s seems to be something of a late night drunk driving hub. I don’t know how many if any of these wrecks are due to drunk driving, but I simply avoid 45th entirely on weekend nights because there are so many hammered drivers on it (for many reasons other than Dick’s, as well). Maybe because it’s the main thoroughfare btwn Ballard/Wallingford/UW?

        BTW, my rubric for whether they are drunk is based on the number of people hanging out of the car windows yelling unintelligibly. I suppose they could have a designated driver, but I’m doubtful. Perhaps a visible drunk driving sting on 45th would be a good effort for SPD, especially at the start of a new school year (not to say it’s all students, but certainly some are).

      • Morgan Wick says:

        I have noticed plenty of hooligans throughout the U-District and even into Roosevelt at night. Another sign is when they squeal their tires and probably speed.

      • Morgan Wick says:

        Also:

        (Insert lame drive drunk/get caught pun here)

  2. doug in seattle says:

    I ride through two of these intersections every day: Dick’s and the U-Bridge.

    I often have a bad feeling while headed towards the multiple driveways at Dick’s. Usually I’ll move way out into the lane, slow down a bit, and get ready to slam on the brakes. Haven’t had even a close call yet, but it may be a matter of time.

    I’m guessing the danger at the U-Bridge is for northbound cyclists. I’ve been cut off multiple times there and I know several have been killed. Unpleasant.

    I’ve often thought that southbound cyclists would benefit from a bikes-only light that sends them out 10 or 15 seconds before the rest of traffic. Many cyclists on Eastlake are headed to Capitol Hill via Harvard, and if you’re caught at the light at the south end of the bridge you have to figure out a way to cross a lot traffic to make the left turn. It’s a lot easier when there’s no traffic flying south on Eastlake. In fact, it’s one of the few places where I consider running the red to be arguably safer than waiting for the green.

    • David says:

      Doug – I totally agree about this intersection for southbound bicyclists.

      An alternative to a bikes-only signal would be a leading pedestrian/bike interval for the southbound crosswalk, which would essentially serve the same purpose.

      Yet another alternative (or compliment) to a bikes-only signal would be a treatment further south on Eastlake to provide a two-stage left turn using the existing cross-walk at E Martin St. It would require some sidewalk widening and improvements, and some vegetation removal, but would be a welcome piece of infrastructure for riders who don’t feel safe or comfortable crossing two lanes of arterial traffic to get into the left-turn lane.

    • Morgan Wick says:

      The northbound bike lane at Eastlake and Fuhrman is painted green, which may or may not be helping.

  3. Gary says:

    I get off of Pine coming down that hill at either Harvard or Summit. Thing is you can get going pretty fast down the hill, but the cyclists ride the bike/door prize lane going downhill. There is as much danger of hitting pedestrians, or other nutty cyclists, who just wander all around the street as being whacked by a car on Pine. It’s dang busy. The adrenalin rush is fun but most days I’d rather not wake up to screeching tires.

  4. Al Dimond says:

    Does anyone have an idea what specific sorts of accidents are happening at the Burke and 25th? That intersection never looked all that bad to me. The major car traffic is on 25th, the major bike traffic is on the Burke, and because of the stoplight it should be completely unambiguous who’s going! Visibility is even pretty good there, at least for a Burke crossing (which is to say: visibility there is mediocre, compared to the average Burke crossing north/east of the University, which has criminally awful visibility). It isn’t like 15th, where there’s lots of turning traffic coming from a fast-moving street parallel to the trail.

    I’m also not exactly sure what sort of accidents take place just south of the University Bridge… I wonder if that corridor has a high rate of accidents generally, especially involving street parking.

    The Dick’s block highlights three things. First, that 44th is a superior option, even without any greenway treatment, for many people (including almost everyone going uphill). Second, that if you insist on taking 45th down the hill (as I do… whee!), you should take the lane for visibility. Third, that you shouldn’t go fast down hills without having some practice braking hard from speed, and that you should know how fast you can go and still stop quickly. If you’re looking for a great place to practice these things and don’t mind a trip to the eastside, eastbound Points Dr. NE has a huge downhill that’s closed to cars east of the Yarrow Point Freeway Stop (along 520).

    • Andreas says:

      I imagine the trouble at 25th/Blakely (and 15th/Pacific) is with turning vehicles crossing the BGT without sufficient clearance. Most of the traffic on Blakely in either direction turns onto 25th, which means SB drivers cross the path of the BGT. The lack of protected turn signals off of Blakely, combined with the heavy trail traffic (especially at the beginning of the light cycle), means that drivers wind up quickly turning whenever they detect the slightest break in traffic; those breaks are often not as large as drivers think they are.

      Also, a similar situation exists for cars turning right onto 25th as exists for cars turning right onto 15th from Pacific, namely that drivers don’t have the visibility to see bikes who are approaching the intersection from the same direction as they are, and approaching at 15 or 20 mph. Drivers can look their shoulders to see if anyone’s approaching on the trail behind them and not see anyone, but by the time they turn back to look for anyone coming towards them and then actually start turning, cyclists have magically appeared and they’re on a collision course.

      As noted in the PI and quoted here, SDOT recently installed new signs and markings. IIRC, these are along the lines of “Yield to bikes/peds when turning”. I doubt they’ll do much; most drivers are quite aware of the trail and that they should yield to folks in the crosswalk. The issue is that they simply overestimate how much time/space they have to make the turns, and underestimate how quickly bicyclists can appear.

      • Andreas says:

        And at 15th/Pacific an additional complication might be the curve of the trail on the west side of 15th. At both 15th and 25th drivers can’t see cyclists approaching from the same direction very well, but at 25th they can at least see cyclists approaching from the opposite direction pretty clearly. At 15th/Pacific, on the other hand, there’s that slight curve in the trail, heavily vegetated on the south side, that can hide approaching cyclists. Straightening the trail through there is probably out of the question, but I wonder if it wouldn’t be a good idea to remove some of that vegetation.

        Though again, even if drivers see us, they often think they can beat us through the intersection—which can just lead to further problems when they’re so focused on beating me that they don’t notice the cyclist or ped approaching from the other direction.

        This is why I generally slow down as I approach intersections. We all know to assume someone isn’t going to see you, but it’s just as important to assume that even if they do, they might still pull a move that could kill you.

      • Morgan Wick says:

        Perhaps the signs should say “Bikes are faster than you think!”

    • Biliruben says:

      Yeah, the 25th intersection should be our first expiremental bike light, with signalized hard red turn signals for cars. It’s a dangerous mess and is usually number 1 on these lists.

      It doesn’t help that most of those behInd the wheel and handle bars are young and immortal.

    • AdmiralWinfield says:

      I saw a guy almost get hit by a right hook. I myself was almost hit by a car turning left onto the 25th there.

    • doug in seattle says:

      RE: accidents on Eastlake and Furman

      I know one of the fatal collisions at Eastlake & Furman was a northbound garbage truck turning right onto Furman and running over a cyclist in the bike lane.

      There’s also the series of driveways for the stores and condos on the east side of Eastlake that have caused accidents. I’ve had at least one panic stop here to avoid someone turning into the driveway.

      Also, people headed south and turning left onto Furman can be problematic. I’ve had a few people cut it very close with their turns here.

  5. Andreas says:

    A note on Eastlake & Fuhrman. Like others, I assume the issue is folks trying to get left to turn up Harvard to get to the Hill. Personally, I often just wait at the intersection and take the crosswalk over onto the east sidewalk and head to Harvard that way. This eliminates having to merge across two lanes of traffic, and I also don’t have to wait for the left-turn signal onto Harvard. And since I usually follow the signed route, being on the east (left) sidewalk also saves having to make the unprotected left onto Shelby.

    While a leading bike signal would help those who wish to ride in the street, I wonder if a left-side bike facility on Eastlake & Harvard would be possible (maybe even simply widening the east sidewalk on Harvard to Shelby). Users could cross to the east side using the crosswalk at Fuhrman, then continue up Harvard to Shelby at a their own pace, with few vehicular conflicts. As it is, the bike lane on Harvard, with vehicular traffic whizzing by, the buses playing leapfrog, and the awkward left turn onto Shelby, isn’t very attractive to new or perspective cyclists (though it’s certainly an improvement on the previous state of affairs).

    • mike archambault says:

      Good thoughts, although I always take Fuhrman to Franklin and bypass that sketchy Harvard/Eastlake intersection entirely. This is definitely most beneficial (and a safer option, I feel) in the downhill direction, but I also use it when heading back up to Capitol Hill since it’s overall a calmer route.

    • Morgan Wick says:

      WHY does the route make that jog on Shelby and Broadway (also a problem jogging from Broadway to 10th on Roanoke, as I can tell without even seeing or experiencing difficulty)? The signed route to Pike/Pine via Lakeview even continues to follow Harvard to Roanoke, so it’s not the freeway onramp! It’s not like Roanoke is that different on the west side of Broadway than the east side!

      • Andreas says:

        Presumably the route jogs there to get cyclists off the arterial, and probably in particular before the I-5 entrance just south of Shelby. If Broadway continued further north to Gwinn or Allison, the route would probably jog over at those streets, but as it is, Shelby is the first street that cyclists can turn off of Harvard to get to a residential street that goes up to Roanoke.

        Personally I’m a big fan of the jogs, especially on the uphill. I don’t enjoy trying to keep up or merge with cars and buses on an incline, or worrying about being hit by folks trying to make that odd left onto the I-5 onramp. And the jog from Broadway to 10th is no problem since Roanoke has a wide sidewalk and reasonably-timed signals (for when traffic is heavy), or I can simply make the turn from Broadway to Roanoke if traffic is light.

  6. Todd says:

    — 25th Avenue Northeast and Northeast Blakely Street, where the Burke-Gilman Trail crosses a busy arterial

    This is where Counterbalnce bike shop is. I blame them! Actually I ride this almost every work day for the last year and a half and have found this area to be fairly safe. I actually don’t think it’s that bad and not really sure what kind of changes could be made if any. But the facts don’t lie. I’ll be a little more vigilant passing through here.

    • Todd says:

      Alright. Totally ignore this post because I was thinking 20th and Blakeley…. which explains why I didn’t think it was that bad. Still, I’m even a little surprised about the 25th street interesection — but will take extra care when travelling through here. I do know there is a HIGH volume of bike traffic that passes through here and wonder if that doesn’t contribute to the statistics? What the hell am I saying? There’s also a HIGH volume of cars that pass through here. But in general, I typically feel pretty safe going through here.

      • Morgan Wick says:

        I don’t think the trail even crosses 20th and Blakeley. Are you thinking 30th? adgk’levmbrsjdbjdthdeijoknjofinjogfgfiefijogkjobglgkjgkglglkjkgklgg;;lkpok;gklgbkp

  7. Todd says:

    From the article: “Any intersection that sees more than five collisions in three years involving cyclists qualifies for the city’s high-collision program, SDOT spokesman Rick Sheridan said.”

    While that’s 5 collisions too many, I’m not getting to fired up over this blog. With the number of bikers and cars that pass through these areas, I’ll take those odds.

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