At long last, city will repave bumpy Ravenna Blvd this spring/summer

In welcome news for many, many people who regularly bike on in the north end, the city will repave Ravenna Blvd this summer.

Ravenna is among the bumpiest arterial streets in the city, and it is a vital link in the bicycle network. But for the past several years, the deteriorated road conditions have made cycling a pain, and many of the bike lane markings have disappeared, creating confusion for people driving and biking alike.

The new road design plans are fairly similar to the way things are today, but many key issues will be addressed. Instead of having an extra-large bike lane — which some drivers mistake for a second general traffic lane — the bike lane will be protected by a three-foot painted buffer similar to Dexter Ave. The bike lanes will still be on the left side (next to the park median), but they will look a whole lot more like bike lanes.

(Note: SDOT plans shown in this post are subject to change. Also, engineering schematics often make things look more complicated and overwhelming than the final product will be.)

Among the trickiest parts of the design is how to handle left-turning cars. Today, the bike lane gets squeezed into a tiny waiting space, and transitions are uncomfortable. The new design will have a clear transition with the bike lane painted green where cars are meant to merge (similar to N 34th at Fremont Ave). The bike lane at these intersections will also be a little wider than they are today (though five feet is still a little skinney for some people to feel comfortable).

Also in the plans, that crazy five-way intersection at Green Lake Drive will have a huge new curb bulb, which will make it far more comfortable for people on foot.

So, that’s the good news. Now, the bad news. Ravenna Blvd will be under construction from early spring until early fall. Detouring could be a headache during certain phases, and there will be several weekend closures throughout the process. Since there is no route parallel to Ravenna Blvd, be ready for some round-about alternatives.

Though, as someone pointed out at the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board meeting Wednesday, if you are biking on Ravenna today, biking on it during construction really can’t be much worse.

Length of Ravenna Blvd to be repaved:


View Ravenna Construction in a larger map

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37 Responses to At long last, city will repave bumpy Ravenna Blvd this spring/summer

  1. Reading Out There says:

    I’ve been looking forward to this! Anyone know if signage for bike lines will also be improved? (I.e. actual 3D signs, not sharrows.) I think older signage is now gone, thus more drivers are driving cars in the bike line…at least, that’s my experience…

  2. S. Morris Rose says:

    I never know what to do when I get to the end of this bike lane headed east at Brooklyn. I guess it’s okay if you are turning left, but if you want to continue straight or turn south on Brooklyn- with the U to the southwest, let’s guess that’s most of us- when there are motor vehicles there, you are quite simply in the wrong place.

    http://g.co/maps/3f947

    The west end isn’t better. Most of us probably want to turn right onto Greenlake Way, but there is a line of motorists to our immediate right that don’t expect cyclists to cross in front of them.

    http://g.co/maps/sspcx

    Not clear how a new surface, bulbouts, and markings are going to mitigate this at either end.

    • basketlover says:

      At the Greenlake end use the stop sign at the bike shop to shuffle over to the right curb side. The stop sign helps with that slight break in traffic for a fairly easy lane shift.

    • michaela says:

      The planning for both of those areas needs to improve greatly. Eastbound at Brooklyn, I’ve seen bicyclists switch over to the westbound bike lane to avoid the cluster that happens between Brooklyn and 15th. And the only time I take that westbound bike lane by Green Lake is if I want to do a leisurely ride along the lake on my way home. Otherwise, I ignore it and get to the right of the cars. That’s a terrible intersection for all users.

    • Gary says:

      If I understand your question correctly you want to know where to position your bicycle in these intersections to go straight or turn right when the bicycle lane is on the left?

      In those cases, I would merge into the car lane, take up the whole lane by riding in the middle of it, and then either go straight or turn right.

      It’s a tricky maneuver because you have to judge traffic approaching from behind on your right. I generally wait until I’m at the point that I’m traveling the same speed as the traffic, wait for an opening. OR if I can’t get someone to open up, approach the intersection, move directly into traffic behind the first car that I come upon that is stopped in the lane, (signal, wave as if the driver behind is graciously letting me in) and then staying in that lane no matter how long it takes for the cars in front of me to do their thing, and go. It’s the essence of Vehicular Cycling at it’s best. Act like a car would here.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      That Green Lake intersection was the center of a lot of discussion at the SBAB meeting Wednesday. It definitely makes sense to have the bike lane on the left (I think) because the park median doesn’t have all the driveways that the curb lanes do (not to mention all the bus stops). However, it makes that intersection difficult. The city said they were going to put more thought into it and see if they can come up with something that works better, but it is definitely a tough spot.

      That said, I kind of like that intersection because it is so confusing. The chaos of everyone trying to figure out whose turn it is makes (almost) everyone extra cautious and slow-moving. However, it takes a level of assertiveness for someone on a bike to push their way into the intersection to take a turn. People who are shy may not feel comfortable doing this.

      • David says:

        At the SBAB meeting I suggested that the City also put more thought into the intersection of Brooklyn & Ravenna. My concern was mostly for north-south bike traffic, because crossing Ravenna along Brooklyn is pretty awful. A little paint could create some nice median “waiting zones” that formalize much more comfortable two-stage crossings.

        RE: S Morris Rose
        I think with a little creativity the treatment described above could make the east- to southbound movement at Brooklyn more comfortable, too, particularly for folks who aren’t comfortable taking the lane as Gary suggests. This could be accomplished by painting a bike box in the median waiting zone on the west side of the intersection. The bike box would serve two functions: it would give people traveling south on Brooklyn a two-stage crossing of Ravenna AND it would facilitate a “Copenhagen/jug-handle” two-stage right turn movement for eastbound cyclists who wish to head south on Brooklyn.

      • Steve says:

        Always thought a traffic circle would be perfect for Ravenna at Greenlake.

      • Al Dimond says:

        @Steve: Traffic circles are good at increasing vehicle throughput and reducing the number of stops; there’s necessarily a lot of merging involved. It’s hard to accommodate multiple lanes of traffic in a traffic circle, especially mode-separated lanes, so cyclists going through straight would definitely have to merge and ride like vehicles through the circle. That’s perfect for me when I’m on my bike.

        But this intersection is full of pedestrians and novice cyclists. That, plus the insane width of the intersection, is what makes it a challenge. Pedestrians, novice cyclists, joggers, people pushing strollers, rollerbladers, longboarders… will be worse served by a traffic circle than by the current all-way stop.

        I think that the physical size of the intersection really calls for a signal. It should have a short cycle — vehicle throughput is not the object here, or there wouldn’t be an all-way stop here in the first place — and pedestrians shouldn’t have to push any buttons to get walk signs. Actually, maybe a scramble cycle would be the best way to do it… I usually hate scramble cycles, but so many pedestrian movements here span multiple crosswalks, and lots of joggers run down the boulevard median, so a general “all walk” signal would be useful.

      • Al Dimond says:

        Forgot to mention: if there’s a scramble cycle, bikes coming from Ravenna Blvd and from the paths around Green Lake would be included in the scramble (this would be signaled by lights like the one for the contraflow bike lane on N 34th at Fremont Ave).

  3. basketlover says:

    Fantastic!! The FEMA money finally came through for Ravenna!!!!!

  4. michaela says:

    Sigh… Another summer of detours. The 3′ buffer is a much-needed improvement and will be great. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen cars traveling in the bike lane, thinking it was just another general purpose lane. One summer I even saw a car traveling in the bike lane in the opposite direction of the traffic! They were probably thinking the north lanes of Ravenna was a two-lane road. Looked up and suddenly there was a car coming at me in the bike lane.

    Having said that, the detours to get around this construction will be cake compared to what we’ve endured this past 9 months with the BGT trail closure.

  5. Jeff Dubrule says:

    I don’t end up biking around there all that much, but I’ve driven up there a few times, and I’d say, particularly at night, it’s basically impossible to notice that you’re in a lane that you are not supposed to be in. It’s practically unique in Seattle, there are no signs at all, it’s on the left side, and the pavement is worn enough that, at night (or, god help you, the rain), the lines are all but invisible.

    That said, it’s a pretty cool feature, and if I lived on it, I’d bike a lot more around the neighbourhood. As it is, I mostly commute by bike, but leave it parked at work or at home and walk to stuff.

    • LWC says:

      The only other place in Seattle that I routinely see cars in a bike lane is the transition from Dexter to 7th, heading south, just past Denny Way.

      • Kris R says:

        That’s probably why those little flexible bollards have now been completely destroyed at that intersection/transition.

      • AiliL says:

        Yes! I have almost been sideswiped there several times. I reported this area to SDOT and they replied by saying in a nutshell. “We don’t know what to do about this transition point and are reviewing the situation.” I would suggest contacting SDOT again and again about this problem spot.

      • Mike H says:

        I know this is slightly off topic but a potential solution at the intersection of Dexter & 7th Ave would be to make it more like a conventional T-intersection by “bending” 7th slightly. Then, install some curb bulbs down on 7th itself. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen motor vehicles use this as a bypass lane when traffic is bad. It doesn’t help that hardly any body parks there to prevent this.

  6. On your left! says:

    This is great! Looks like I’ll wait to buy a new headset after it’s finished.

  7. Yorik says:

    I bike this into work every day and I really wish they would keep the large bike lane. Bike traffic is high enough that even in the winter there’s a lot of passing that goes on and I’m not sure how bikes would pass each other in a skinny lane (use the buffer zone? merge across to car lanes?).

    I see cars use the lane every once in a while, but that could really be mitigated with better paint/signs. I’ve also come to realize over the years that it’s really not a big deal. If they’re in front of me they never wind up in my way (because they go faster) and it really only causes some grouchy feelings. If they’re behind me then they’ll just have to stay behind me (but they usually figure it out at this point and merge back in).

    All told I think the delay caused by making this a single lane will far outweigh the fewer instances of confused cars (which would all but disappear anyways with better paint/signage)

    • S. Morris Rose says:

      I wouldn’t pin too much hope on signs to keep cars out of the lane, if it’s wide enough for a car. People don’t see them. Paint can help (until it wears away). As for the buffer, I think it will make a fine passing lane for cyclists, though I’m never too keen on passing or being passed on the right. That’s another little problem with left-side bike lanes. They have their charms, though.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      It will still be very large. Eight feet plus a three-foot buffer, which basically makes it the largest bike lane in the city (if I’m not mistaken). Many city bike lanes are five feet, so including the buffer area, these lanes will be more than double that.

      The problem with today’s design (even ignoring the missing paint, etc) is that the single line is a little confusing. The buffers will hopefully make it more clear that it’s not a lane for driving.

    • Al Dimond says:

      @Tom: I know of one bike lane about as wide as the current lane on Ravenna (basically a standard-width lane), but it’s not in the city proper: 84th Ave NE in Medina, from 24th to 12th. They use a constant stream of lane-marker bulbs between this lane and the general-purpose lane, similar to how shoulders are marked off on a few other roads in the area.

      I’ve never seen another cyclist on it, but I’ve only used it a few times, all during the winter and mostly at night. Maybe it’s a common route for people riding between the Evergreen Point freeway bus stop and downtown Bellevue?

      • Steve says:

        I’d also think that having smooth pavement for the full width of the bike lane will make it feel bigger than the current lane where you’re dodging potholes all the time.

      • Al Dimond says:

        Yeah, smooth pavement will help a lot. FWIW, I don’t think we should worry about accommodating passing within a bike lane. If you need to pass someone ahead of you in a bike lane you can always make a proper lane change and use the general-purpose lane. I do this all the time — surely not every cyclist needs to have this skill to ride around town, but if speed is so important to you that you care about passing people it’s a skill you should learn.

        I don’t know how well the lane marker bulbs would translate to Ravenna Blvd — 84th doesn’t get much traffic at all and doesn’t have many important intersections, where Ravenna Blvd has quite a few intersections. I don’t know how long the bulbs typically last compared to paint or the road surface in general, and I don’t know how expensive they are.

        In this situation, the buffer is a fine solution (unlike on Dexter, where the actual bike lane is in the door zone and the buffer is the best place to ride).

  8. basketlover says:

    The sidewalks and median will still be useable for detours.

  9. AdmiralWinfield says:

    I bike there every day. What detours would I have to take?

  10. Andrew Squirrel says:

    FINALLY!

  11. Andrew Squirrel says:

    Also, they really need to add a stoplight or stop sign or something at Ravenna & Brooklyn. I live a few doors down and I constant hear honking and screeching tires from people who think there is a stop sign. Also this intersection is so physically wide with so many places to look for cars, cyclists and pedestrians that entering it is a daunting task.

  12. Chris says:

    I hate the Green Lake/Ravenna intersection – on car, foot, and bike – and go to great lengths to avoid it. I would really like to see a stop light installed there (and a traffic circle at the Ravenna/Brooklyn intersection). Thanks for reminding me to send a comment to SDOT.

  13. mike archambault says:

    Excellent news. Tom, do you have any diagrams of the Green Lake Way intersection redesign?

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      First page: http://seattlebikeblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/2012-AAC-Ravenna-Chan-Plans.pdf

      I didn’t include it b/c there are actually some missing crosswalk stripings and I didn’t want things to be confusing. Also, the bike facilities are all under review. But you can see the shape of the new bulb (where 71st meets Green Lake Dr) and assume there will be painted crosswalks across every street. And the bike lane on GL Dr will be there somehow, too. Unclear yet how that will work since the current lane is not up to the city’s current standards (other than the fact that the paint wore away years ago).

  14. Laura says:

    You mention that the SDOT plans are subject to change and there have been lots of suggestions and ideas in these comments. Will there be public forums or other avenues to solicit input? I am thinking of how the city managed the Dexter Ave construction with open houses where people could see plans at different stages and provide comments.

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  17. Westlake says:

    Ravenna Blvd is everything Westlake Ave could be if it weren’t for the damn streetcar. Diagonal, relatively flat, and leads directly to a park on a lake. Duh! SDOT needs to make it Transit + Bicycle only. Be bold fuckers!

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