W Seattle bike commuter explains danger posed near Terminal 46 (VIDEO)

Remember the scary tale by Kit Newman, who says he was nearly struck by a truck on S Alaskan Way near Atlantic? Well, West Seattle bike commuter Tom Furtwangler (from Bikejuju) made a video clearly outlining the problem:



As you can see, the problem of trucks driving on the wrong side of the roadway here is significant. The truck drivers must see little danger in it when oncoming motor vehicle traffic is blocked by the passing train.

However, people biking are not impeded by the train, and many of them will choose to ride in roadway instead of the skinny, poorly-paved bicycle and pedestrian path. This situation is exactly what Newman described in his story, and you can see from the video that there simply is not room for a truck and a person on a bike to use that lane at the same time.

Something needs to be done to make this block safer. It is a major bicycle corridor and should be treated as such, especially ahead of the upcoming Alaskan Way Viaduct closure when many more people from West Seattle are expected to try biking as a way to get around the expected traffic backup.

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23 Responses to W Seattle bike commuter explains danger posed near Terminal 46 (VIDEO)

  1. Tom says:

    Thanks for re-posting this. -Tom

  2. Gary says:

    Looks like a death trap to me.

    SPD could put a Motorcycle cop there, but the truckers would just alert each other to the cop’s location and then for that short time no one would pull out.

  3. LWC says:

    I called and emailed the port of seattle police about this a few weeks ago. No response. At least it’s on record so they can be held accountable when someone gets injured or killed…

  4. Rob Haberman says:

    City needs to make at least temporary adequate improvements to the surface on the safe side of the barrier, with the right signage to get bikes in there and off the road. Used to ride this stretch to work before construction. Sidewalk is not bad further down for riding on, if I remember correctly. I really hope it doesn’t take a death for the city to do the right thing.

  5. Kevin says:

    Someone just needs to drive out one morning on that same reverse-commute route. When a truck comes head on at you can just stop the car and call 911 to report the plate.

    Then get into a honking battle until he backs up.

  6. philD says:

    Take responsibility for yourself like a mature sensible adult would. If you see some poor late trucker trying to get around that mess, stop your bicycle, get off, climb over the barrier onto the bike path and ride home. QUIT SNIVELING. Even your voice makes you sound like some sniveling little wimp. Grow up. You speak as if neither the truck nor the cyclist has brakes on his vehicle! Both should and both can use them and then the cyclist, who is more maneuverable, can get out of the way. Problem solved without unecessary drama and whining. Done.

    • JAT says:

      I presume you’ve read the (admittedly melodramatic) account of the trucker barreling down the wrong lane that prompted this follow-up post. Getting over the barrier is not in the least easy.

      Snivelling?

      Aaaaagh! what a buttface.

    • Gary says:

      Dude! Get a grip, that’s a double yellow line there. The truckers need to wait for the train to clear or the state needs to widen the road so that folks waiting to turn right aren’t in the way.

    • AJL says:

      This dangerous situation is not caused by the legally riding cyclist, but the drivers who choose to cross the double yellow (illegal) and drive the wrong way (northbound in the southbound lane, illegal) and then often run the red light (in the northbound lane, illegal) to make the turn into the Port.

    • doug in seattle says:

      Actually, I would prefer it if the operator of the massive truck would obey the law. That is the safe and sand option.

    • wave says:

      Isn’t it funny when sarcasm doesn’t sound right when you can’t hear it being spoken out loud?

      Oh wait, that wasn’t sarcasm?

  7. Al Dimond says:

    Part of the problem is that there’s a bike path that’s supposed to be there, but there’s inadequate, illegible signage, and it’s BLOCKING THE ENTRANCE TO THE PATH. In fact, I’d say that’s 9/10ths of the problem. If the sign was at/near eye level, to the left of the bike path, and was simple and clear (how about a standard bike icon with a diagonal up-right arrow?) more people would trust the path and use it. I’m not applying a magic formula here — if people marking the bikeways can’t put themselves in the shoes of cyclists, perhaps they should imagine what signage a driver would need. Cyclists have almost the exact same needs. Sadly, a good sign here would be the exception, not the rule.

    Truckers that skip the queue are breaking the law, but I have a bit of sympathy for them — they’re doing the same thing I do when I run red lights because my bike isn’t tripping the sensor. It looks like they have a pretty orderly way of doing it; unfortunately the occasional through-going cyclist or driver on this road could really get in some trouble by following the normal rules of the road.

    • Andreas says:

      they’re doing the same thing I do when I run red lights because my bike isn’t tripping the sensor.

      Unless your bike weighs 40 tons, it’s really not the same thing at all.

      • Al Dimond says:

        Well, yeah, there’s that. Usually I’m the first person to point that out about passenger cars…

        I think the context of this area is a little different from the average road, and people treat it differently. But as I think about it more, as long as this road is connected to the public road network, and signed as a public road, it should work like a public road. Actually, it wouldn’t be that hard to implement queue-jumping in a way that was obvious and safe for all road users, if someone was out there directing traffic, like when one lane of a two-lane road is closed for construction. Given the sorts of traffic situations that occur here, it might make sense to do that until the road can be configured in a better way.

        If this were STB I’d make some comment about how certain types of delays in the DSTT could be relieved if the buses could queue-jump like this…

    • AJL says:

      The signage is not the only problem with that (optional – it’s not mandatory) detour route. The detour for cyclists heading westbound on Atlantic starts down at one street east of Atlantic. There, cyclists using the “detour” route can use the north sidewalk, cross the Atlantic/Alaskan intersection via the north side crosswalk (with the walk signal) and then cross again with the walk signal to then proceed south. SDOT blocked the former break in the barriers because the prior crosswalk was removed for the new system, which is cumbersome and annoying to use on a bike, especially when there’s a lot of pedestrian users as well.

      A cyclist can use the street heading west, and then they are routed more naturally to southbound on Alaskan way, otherwise it’s an awkward left turn into the narrow opening of the north end of the detour route (ever tried to get by when there’s peds/cyclists waiting for the walk signal as they head north?), against truck traffic heading east out of the Port.

      The detour route can be crowded at times with pedestrians and other cyclists. There’s poles, entry/exit points for people leaving the Coast Guard facility (I’ve had people step in front of me suddenly as they leave through a door) on foot, uneven/broken pavement and bricks, large puddles, trash, etc. in the detour route.

      The most problematic area is the south end of the detour route. Here, heading south, cyclists have to avoid a cement block and large pole and any oncoming peds/cyclists to exit. They are spit out directly into the intersection of Massachusetts/Alaskan – drivers turning onto and out of Massachusetts often are not prepared for cyclists “popping” out of the detour route. I personally feel much more safe out in the street where I can be easily seen by drivers rather than hidden behind the barriers.

      Heading northbound and using the detour is horrid. Riding the wrong way along the side of the street, riding the wrong way across Massachusetts (I’ve had close calls here and at least one cyclist has been hit by a turning car doing this maneuver) are incredibly dangerous. Staying northbound on the street is much, much safer as crossing the street is eliminated as are the wrong way riding and crossing the intersection the wrong way. I would only recommend using the detour northbound if one is riding very slow, is paying high attention to traffic/peds, or if the traffic is backed up northbound due to a train (I will not ride northbound in the southbound lane).

  8. AJL says:

    I have to make one more comment – the trucks are not riding the wrong way in an “orderly” fashion. I will assume you have not experienced a truck pulling out of the queue, as you are heading southbound, completely ignoring your presence on a bike. This also encourages other drivers to do the same thing. Drivers also make sudden u-turns, oblivious to oncoming traffic (bikes or no). There is no orderly method at all. It’s all about impatience and certain drivers who think their time is more important than anyone else’s (or anyone else’s safety).

  9. Sean says:

    The rough surface of the “sidewalk” isn’t the only issue. In the morning (when this is happening), the shelter (the giant concrete building adjacent to the road) opens up and there are dozens of people walking this path (usually 2 or three abreast). I’m not saying that bikes and walkers can’t peacefully occupy the same strip but I am saying that it’s an additional hazard and incentive to use the road.

    All-in-all I think the port trucks are pretty respectful – aside from this spot that is – and I understand their motivation and frustration. Like us bikers, it only takes a couple bad apples to give the group a bad reputation.

    The solution really is to provide a reasonably safe alternative to the street along this 500 foot stretch. Until then, the city needs to enforce the law down there…

  10. BDB says:

    The problem is that the turn lane that used to be there has been temporarily removed due to AWV construction. Hopefully it’s coming back soon. Agree that the City could help things by improving the surface of the sidewalk so that it is more friendly to cyclists.

  11. K Jones says:

    I ride this route almost every day. And I agree that riding with the trucks has its challenges and there are some pent up frustrations from the long spring/summer of crazy bike re-routes and disappearing bike paths during construction.

    That said, I feel like I have to stick up for the truck drivers here. This intersection is not the only one where bikers and truckers interact. Typically, the truckers are quite respectful and helpful (not all the time but the vast majority). We cyclists and truckers are put through several Frogger-like situations between the east side of the low bridge and this intersection at Alaska/Atlantic, where our glorious new, separated, well lit, smooth pavement bike path connects us to downtown.

    Most of the time, when I interact with the truckers they yield to me, honk and wave me across the street and generally look out for me. We have several interactions during my commute that are not street legal nor the ideal scenario- but we communicate and are trying to make the best out of a pretty crappy situation together. I don’t think it is fair to throw the truck drivers alone “under the bus” on this one.

    Remember when the temporary bike route made us go across the railroad tracks this Spring? I can’t tell you how many times I saw bikers running their bikes across the tracks, about to get run over, or doing any number of illegal maneuvers to get around the train. This intersection is horrible and has always driven cars, trucks, bikes and pedestrians to do illegal, dangerous things. Coordination of the train schedule, the port schedule and commuter traffic hours would make a HUGE difference here.

    We all have a responsibility to interact with civility and compassion on the roads. Until we start funding our city/counties so they can build decent bike routes, we’re going to be stuck with these kinds of situations. So, the more of us that work together, communicate and appreciate each other on the road- the more we will change those around us– the better and safer we will all be.

    Ride on!

  12. Pingback: #Viadoom nonsense and some real concerns « Cascade Bicycle Club Blog

  13. AJL says:

    http://seattlelikesbikes.org/wordpress/?p=918

    Update 10/21/11: Just spoke with Broch Bender about this area. the northbound traffic lanes have been widened to one right turn only lane to S. Atlantic St. and two left turn lanes into the Port of Seattle entrance. This is good news and should alleviate those wrong-way drivers. This is a temporary fix that was do-able because some of the Viaduct work to the east was completed. In the spring, the roadway will be narrowed again so that a more permanent road surface (concrete rather than blacktop) can be installed.

  14. SA says:

    Great video! This is a location that is unfortunately just asking for trouble right now. It takes a video like this if not a fatal accident to get their attention. When I spoke with someone about this the opinion was something like “the bicycles just got a new path built, what more do you want?” There is no consideration for the way the whole system performs at all.

    That said, I too agree with K Jones above. I ride this about three times a week and have for about 10 years now. I find the truck drivers to generally be professional and to stop at the crosswalks for me when I need to cross. I wave back and all is well. While I may be on my way to work, they are already at their office so to speak, and even one accident on their record could be devastating for their livelihoods.

    In general, the fault here is with WSDOT, SDOT, and the port for not considering how the temporary intersection facility would perform for all users.

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