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Guerrilla road safety group ‘politely’ installs illegal bike lane protectors on Cherry Street

Image from the Reasonably Police Seattleites
Image from the Reasonably Polite Seattleites

An extremely polite group of anonymous guerrilla road safety activists armed with $350 worth of reflective plastic pylons turned the painted Cherry Street bike lane under I-5 into a protected bike lane Monday morning.

The group—calling themselves the Reasonably Polite Seattleites—wanted to make a statement about how easy and affordable it would be for the city to use the method to make bike lanes safer all over the city. To stress how polite they are, they attached them using an adhesive pad for easy removal, according to an email sent to SDOT and Seattle Bike Blog.

The city has removed them, but responded with an equally polite email thanking them for making the statement, apologizing that they had to remove them and even offering to give the pylons back. Below are the shockingly polite emails, starting with the RPS:

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Tom, I’m an avid reader of your blog and avid cyclist. We’ve attended meetings together, though I don’t think we’ve ever actually met. I’m emailing because this morning a friend and I installed a string of plastic pylons along the Cherry Street bike lane under I-5. I’ve attached a couple of pictures. In New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, San Francisco, Portland, the city transportation department usually installs these things, which slow traffic to the posted speed limit, and afford cyclists some protection. Some might ask, very reasonably, how does a piece of cheap plastic protect you from a drunk or distracted driver in a two ton SUV? Based on my experience commuting in such lanes in other cities, 1) they slow speeding traffic by making the lane appear narrower (without actually reducing its size); and 2) it’s essentially a warning system for a drunk or distracted driver; once he hits one, he’s more likely to slow down, lessening the chance of hitting a cyclist or pedestrian down the road. This string cost about $350 in materials and required literally 10 minutes to install (admittedly, because SPD HQ is across the street, we hurried). SDOT will probably argue maintaining these things costs money, they complicate street cleaning, etc., etc. These are reasonable arguments, except that Chicago, D.C., San Francisco have confronted and overcome the same issues.

We chose this block fairly arbitrarily; we certainly don’t enjoy riding it, despite the fact the bike lane is relatively new–cars race past, gaining speed for the approaching hill, or to accelerate onto I-5. The grade is inclined, so cycling is slow–thus, as cars accelerate to 45 mph, we’re moving at 4 or 5. But this certainly wasn’t the worst bike facility in Seattle. Our intention was merely to demonstrate how an incredibly modest investment and a few minutes of SDOT’s time is capable of transforming a marginal, under-utilized and dangerous bike facility into one dramatically safer for cars, pedestrians and bicyclists. (This is not mere rhetoric; as you undoubtedly know, New York City’s investments in pedestrian facilities, bike lanes and cycletracks led to the lowest number of traffic related facilities in the city’s recorded history—not per capita, but in absolute numbers, despite exponential population growth; in other words, these facilities are safer not only for pedestrians and cyclists, but drivers.)

We sincerely hope the new master bicycle plan, which currently includes 137 miles of cycletracks, is fully implemented, though we’re understandably skeptical. While we’re waiting, many obvious, inexpensive, relatively non-controversial solutions exist, as we’ve sought to demonstrate here. We wish Mayor McGinn would explore such opportunities. We wish we didn’t have to spend our own money on common-sense, unobtrusive traffic calming treatments, and risk arrest installing them, in order to feel safe riding in this city.

PS: Because we we’re still polite Seattleites (even when we engage in acts of civil disobedience), we used an adhesive pad, which is removable, not epoxy, which is more permanent, meaning Mayor McGinn and SDOT can remove these in a matter of minutes, if they so choose.

Two days later, the group received an equally-polite response from SDOT’s traffic engineer explaining why the bollards had to be removed (and offering to give them back):

Hello reasonably polite Seattleites,

Thank you for pointing out some easy ways to calm traffic and provide more secure feeling bicycle lane on our streets.  Your sentiment of unease and insecurity riding on painted bicycle lanes next to high speed and high volume traffic is exactly what I am hearing from the our residents as we update our bicycle master plan.  This strong message to me and my staff that we have be more thoughtful on facility design and implementation is being heard loud and clear.  You are absolutely correct that there are low cost and simple ways to slow traffic, increase the sense of protection, and provide bicycle facilities that are more pleasant and accommodating for larger portion of people who ride bicycles.  I am truly appreciative that you care enough to take time, money, and risk to send your message to me and my staff.  It is my commitment to you that I will do my best to update our existing facilities and install new bicycle facilities that will be more thoughtful.  Some of these will be low cost, such as what you demonstrated on Cherry Street, while others will require more resources to implement.

The posts that you installed on Cherry Street will be removed and I am sorry about that.  The posts are 36 inches high and is higher than most road bicycle handle bars.  A rider can hit the post with their handle bar, which is a safety concern.  The bicycle lane narrow and is five feet wide.  The travel lane is 11 feet wide, which is what the State DOT permitted us to narrow the lane to.  Cherry Street is under the freeway and is owned by the State, so we do have to get their permission for reconfiguring the street.  If we had more lane width to work with, we could installed shorter posts.  Unfortunately, this is not the case here.  Please let me know if you would like the posts back and I will have the crew leave the post in a safe area for you to pick up. Thank you, again, for your thoughtful demonstration.


City Traffic Engineer
Seattle Department of Transportation
Traffic Management Division

Original images from the Reasonably Polite Seattleites
Original images from the Reasonably Polite Seattleites

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124 responses to “Guerrilla road safety group ‘politely’ installs illegal bike lane protectors on Cherry Street”

  1. Leif Espelund

    These type of posts have many additional benefits:

    1. They help to keep the bike lane clear because turning cars, taxis, and delivery vehicles will be less likely to block the lane.
    2. They help maintain the street paint longer as vehicles are less likely to stray over it.
    3. They provide a reflective effect as evidenced in the photo, making it less likely that drunk or distracted drivers will cross over into the lane.
    4. They continue to mark the bike lane even after paint has worn off or is covered by dirt, snow, or water.

    Seriously, these should be installed on all major bike lanes that aren’t directly against parking.

  2. A fantastic idea with a wonderful effect (even if they couldn’t stay). Excellent work!

  3. How utterly charming. Good work, RSP!

  4. X

    How serious is the stated concern about clipping a post with your handlebars? Does anybody have experience with having done that?

    1. Galen

      down here in salem, we have nothing like these posts… however, i’ve done a pretty intense amount of cycling through this and other towns, and i have definitely clipped posts like these. as long as there is no vehicular traffic coming up in front of or behind me when i do, the clipping is mostly just annoying; if there is traffic, however, this is really dangerous. i’ve been pushed into oncoming traffic by clipping a post with my handlebar, i’ve been thrown from my bicycle by clipping bridge pylons, i’ve broken my hand by clipping GARBAGE RECEPTACLES. the clipping seems innocuous, but it can be a real concern.

      those are just my two cents, the rest of the nickel goes squarely in favour of installing the posts everywhere.

      1. Brad

        Try not to consume alcohol before riding your bike.

      2. RadRacer

        These posts are not tall enough to connect with anyone’s handlebars.

      3. BlooEyedDevil

        Sorry, I don’t mean to come across as unsympathetic, but what you describe sounds like user error. A cyclist should be in control of his or her steering at all times vis-a-vis immovable objects that are clearly permanent fixtures or are otherwise obviously discernable. One could argue that if your handlebar found such an object but (or before) your eye didn’t, you should concentrate more on your cycling and look ahead.

      4. Richard B Miller Jr

        My Greenspeed trike doesn’t have handlebars. :-)

      5. Chazz

        Roads contain many design elements that are meant mitigate the impacts from user error. It’s why we have jersy barriers and rumble strips on freeways, for example. Its why we have shoulders on roads, and dont have hardscape walls but up right against the lane.

    2. I’ve clipped some of the ones installed on some lanes here in SF. The difference is that these are only used in conjection with *some* protected bike lanes here (because drivers still park or drive in protected lanes). I clipped one as I was passing another cyclist at polite (ah, I miss you Seattle) distance. It wasn’t enough to knock me off my bike, but I could see how these posts could cause an inexperienced cyclist to crash.

      I also want to say that I miss you Seattle. Your drivers are polite, and your cyclists are even more polite. I miss riding my bike within your borders, and I miss feeling safe on the road. SF has some neat new bike infrastructure, but is still way behind the Emerald City in safety and infrastructure. The fact that the DOT and a group of cyclists didn’t clash over this is actually blowing my mind right now. SFMTA would not have been so nice. I hope to see this attempted again in Seattle. Perhaps on another non-state controlled route with shorter posts. SDOT seemed sort of open to letting this sort of thing fly under the radar.

      Thanks and good luck! this was a brilliant idea.

      1. David B.

        I lived in the Bay Area for about a year about a dozen years ago, and one of the things that shocked me about the place was how much more aggressively everyone drove. I have to remember myself every time I complain about some Seattle driver’s antics that things could be much worse in this department.

    3. Angela

      This is the story that my friend won’t stop telling – the time I clipped the post with my handlebars. It wasn’t on a street trail but an off-street trail approaching a busy intersection. He was calling out to me that it was clear and to go and for some reason when I tried to weave quickly through the posts I hit one with the outside of my handlebar – I almost made it. Instead I was flipped sideways and my bike slid up the street. I wasn’t hurt too badly but I did end up having to get my knee and hip injected and rehabbed a bit. Hint: don’t land on your bent knee and then hip if you can help it.

  5. Garth

    Yeah, it’s hard to take the clipping-your-bars concern seriously when compared to that stretch of the Elliot Bay trail where the chain-link fence is higher than the trail is wide.

  6. Adam Robins

    Clipping the pole with handlebars? Unless you’re on a recumbent I can’t imagine that being an issue at all. Those posts aren’t that tall. Still, I’d rather clip a plastic pole with my handlebars than be clipped by a motor vehicle drifting into the bike lane.

    1. Gordon Padelford

      +1 Exactly

    2. MAWIL

      Me, too.

    3. Mike Smith

      Your comment got me thinking, so I went and measured the height of the handlebars on my bike. I ride a 56cm Surly LHT, with an un-cut steerer tube (which basically just means that my handlebars are significantly higher than those on the average 56cm bike). On my bike, the drops are 34.5 inches above the ground, meaning that my handlebars *would* clip the pylons, and unless you a) ride a bike that doesn’t have drop handlebars or b) are significantly taller than the average person, the pylons would clip your handlebars as well. I believe that 56cm is a pretty average height for a men’s bike, and significantly above average for a women’s bike. I would guess that >90% women’s bikes with drop handlebars would clip the pylons, and >70% of men’s bikes. With that said, installing a 24″ plyon instead of a 36″ one would solve that problem.

    4. Matthew

      These poles do help in changing the culture of the road by giving bikers a larger visible presence and slowing the overall traffic (I am just not sure this is the way to do that) It should go without saying but these poles are not going to stop a fat drunk never mind a motor vehicle (and I have found that it gives novice urban bikers a false sense of security)
      Making drivers more aware of a bike lane and thus less likely to swerve into a bike lane is a relevant point, except I suspect in most of the instances of vehicles swerving the issue is not due to the bike lanes visibility rather its some other impairment. A impairment that added bike lane visibility would not help significantly.
      From my experience intersections of the bike path and the vehicles possible path that are not obvious to drivers like an entrance to a store’s parking lot or opening doors etc.. Also road obstructions that limit the bikers mobility (like these poles, people/drunks in Wrigleyville , misc. debris, double parked cars etc..) both are more of an issue than a swerving vehicles from my experience.
      For people whom primarily drive imagine driving down a road with two Lanes in the direction of travel that has steel poles similar to fence poles somewhat separating the lanes. Now imagine the result if something enters your lane.
      I believe a lot of people in support of these “protected bike lanes” are not 24/7/365 bikers and their motives are to “feel safe”. I would hope we could accommodate everyone’s “feelings” so they participate and become hardened Bicyclists, but not at the expenses of everyone’s actual safety. (Plastic poles in most cases are just a cheap security blankets that makes everyone feel good but in the worst case there an obstacle). People need to be able to ride amongst traffic if they are going to ride in a dynamic urban environment. Bike lanes can be great, but possible obstacles and a large group of unprepared urban-bicyclists not so much. Bike lanes can help promote more diversity in our transportation options and more diversity means more freedom of choice. Bike lanes also represent investments in our community infrastructure which is something that gets passed over more and more. Let’s make sure were using the right tools for the job though (even plastic poles in some limited cases).

      1. Matthew

        Related links

        keep in mind unnecessary bike lanes could in our insane world lead to more bureaucracy and more restrictions on bike use i.e. bike use in lanes only, unfair taxes etc…


        More Education/Intelligent infrastructure definitely not more bureaucracy/bridges to nowhere



  7. Gene

    I love this. Thanks for posting this, Tom.

  8. merlin

    This is a charming action but in my opinion they chose the LEAST awful block of the Cherry Street bike lane to make their statement. Between 5th and 6th the bike lane is sandwiched between a lane of cars hurrying to go south on the freeway and a lane continuing on to go north. There’s paint on the road to tell people who drive cars that they shouldn’t run over people on bikes – but I’m dubious. Between 4th and 5th the lane is interrupted by driveways and right-turning cars and switches back and forth between a “lane” and sharrows, so if you’re riding a bike you most likely will have to start and stop several times on this steep hill. Forget it! I’m taking the sidewalk, thank you. And I’m towards the “strong and fearless” end of the cycling spectrum.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      I’m guessing the chosen location has more to do with the ample staging room and the relative cover from observation because of the highway overpass.

      1. merlin

        You’re right, of course. I’m just generally annoyed at the Cherry Street bike lane and took the opportunity to bitch about it.

  9. Peter W

    Love it!

    Any ideas on how the bike lane could be swept clear of debris?

    1. Becky

      I think this is a pretty important concern. They’d get pretty dirty and WOULD be difficult, or at least difficult given current practices, to clean. And it wouldn’t just be dirty with dirt – it’d probably be glass and other nasties also.

      Could there be an “adopt a bike lane” program? I’d get together 5 friends to go clean some bike lanes once a month or something.

  10. janel

    Seemingly reasonable technical excuse after excuse after excuse. Streets with no physical separation between autos and bikes are unsafe for cyclists (period). Install the posts, if it makes the bike lane more unsafe then remove them, but I seriously doubt it.

  11. cz

    Clipping the pole with handlebars? They should shut down the Ballard Bridge to bicycles then. While we are at it lets see what happens when everyone on a bike drives alone around the city it is a lot safer. SDOT does nothing more then they are required to do. The City of Seattle Bike advisory board are too busy sitting in meetings, while the city keeps them detracted with busy work. The only time something like this proven idea (other cities doing it) gets done is if the city spends a half a million dollars on a study that takes two years to complete. Sad very sad.

    1. Adam Robins

      We have the same problems in Portland. They’ll foot-drag forever, I guess hoping the issue goes away. Interesting how despite all the inaction on this officially, once activists put up the reflective poles they were removed almost immediately. The swift action was reactive and made the lane again less visible. [Sigh.]

      1. MAWIL

        That’s a good point. We can report legitimately dangerous locations multiple times at locations, and change fails to occur.

  12. Matt W

    I wish MY name was Dongho!

  13. Theresa

    I love this! What a difference in the before and after photos. There is a definite separation and would help make it feel safer. Handle bar clipping… the posts are flexible are they not? I’m with the above… I would rather clip one of these instead of a car. I can see these working on a lot of bike lines in Seattle.

  14. Ally Seidel

    Love this! Made my day. Shows how easy, quick, and cheap a safety fix like this can be. I wish we could do this now along my commute to work and back… may make for a less stressful ride.

  15. A

    Disappointing government reaction to say the least; just because their response was polite in tone doesn’t make their attempted nannystate excuse-making less asinine.

  16. someone had to say it

    “You Must Construct Additional Pylons!”

  17. Gordon Werner

    I’m not a cyclist … I’m a walker … But if someone would draft a ballot initiative requiring similar low/reasonably priced devices to be used whenever possible, I’d sign it in a heartbeat.

  18. Mark J

    This is a simply amazing and selfless act! Kudos to RPS. This certainly brought a little cheer and hope to my afternoon, as I sit here disappointed in our bicycle infrastructure.

    I planned on bicycling to work today, as I do every evening, rain or shine. But , today is a little different. My loving girlfriend asked me to take the bus to work for today. The reason is that I was struck by a car that merged into the bicycle lane while traveling parallel to me a few weeks back. Thankfully, despite a small amount of road rash and muscle ache, I arose relatively unscathed. It happened during the first rain storm after a few clear weather days. After speaking with a few coworkers, my girlfriend and some fellow bicycle commuters, we came to the theory that some drivers become more distracted than usual when a new rain storm hits the streets, rendering commuting hazardous. One coworker even told me that he has a personal rule to sway away from cycling during a new rain storm. I believe that if we install pylons around the city, these types of accidents would drastically decrease.

  19. Stephanie

    FYI, Dongho Chang is a good egg. And a former member of the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board, it should be noted.

    1. Shawn

      +1. I’ve met Dongho twice. He’s pro-bike and motivated to improve cycling in Seattle. He’s one of the good guys. It’s the bureaucracy that needs to change.

  20. Fantastic coverage of a fantastic guerrilla demonstration project! Reasonably Polite Seattlites deserve praise for presenting a constructive, practical, affordable idea to enhance safety and visibility in a delightfully creative way. Kudos to Mr. Chang for a polite and thoughtful response. It seems as if he’s opened the door to further dialogue by showing support for the pylon idea, but pointing out several parameters that need to be met in order for this to be a viable, city-funded solution (ownership of right-of-way, pole height).

  21. Matt the Engineer

    The issue is they’re too tall? I’d ask for them back, cut them a few inches, add more reflective tape, and reinstall.

    If the city comes back with more reasons to remove them, we know they’re just excuses.

  22. Matt the Engineer

    And it’s interesting that SDOT has to ask the state for permission to add something under their bridge, but doesn’t seem to have a problem removing something that isn’t theirs.

    1. Mr. Chang, as a public official, of course has to respect the State’s ownership of the right of way, so it follows that he’s obligated to remove street improvements not authorized by the State. His letter also mentions that the width of the street was a limiter, which leads me to believe that pylons like these can be installed under certain conditions (just not in this case).

      I think Chang deserves credit for engaging with RPS in such a respectful manner, and for sharing some of the design considerations that went into the bike lane construction at Cherry (which was just completed in 2011, I think). He and other SDOT officials must contend with a hugely complex system of regulations and guidelines in order to implement any bicycle infrastructure (for example, here’s a long list of standards that govern bike design in WA: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/bike/designing.htm); yet they have still managed to make reasonably good progress in implementing the City’s bicycle master plan (especially when you consider the funding situation of the past 4 years). Let’s remember that Chang and SDOT are our allies in improving the bikescape in Seattle, and bike infrastructure advocates can learn a lot from their technical expertise. Here’s a follow up question for Chang- would SDOT would consider doing some pylon treatments in a few locations as demonstration projects? What would it take to get this to happen?

      1. RSDO

        Mr. Chang is a person working for an agency that adheres to a standard of rules, a specific way of thinking, and a world view that conforms to promoting more of the same infrastructure that is one reason why we have an obesity health epidemic that is bankrupting this country. While he is nice, he is not the person who will change how such problems are solved on a larger scale. I would encourage Mr. Chang, however, to view the ample number of YouTube videos documenting alternative design realities. The people who are the true deciders are: voters who elect people to office who can steer funds to pilot projects, candidates who promote changes to major funding mechanisms, like the the state’s transportation budget. Thanks for this exercise in civic activism for highlighting how cheap and fast change can happen.

      2. Tom Fucoloro

        Give the guy a little bit more of a chance. He’s only been here a year: http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2012/02/02/new-sdot-traffic-engineer-is-excited-about-bike-facilities/

        He goes to all kinds of community meetings, walks, bike rides and more to hear from people about the specific issues that make their neighborhoods dangerous. Sure, he’s an experienced traffic engineer, but it seems to me like he goes above and beyond the call of duty.

  23. Daniel

    I like the sentiments of the demonstration. Nice one!

  24. John

    Clip bars? Hell, I’ve watched someone bite it hard after hitting one of those. Going down on tarmac, it’s a roll of the dice whether you’re going to break something. In traffic, you might get thrown under a bus.

    Oh yeah, they give great separation. Until you get to the intersection where you get ran over by a right turning car. See, these things force you to stay right and right turners to stay left until the last second. They channelize you under the turning car.

    Speaking of turning, how the hell am I supposed to turn left? Merging out of those bollards would be a real treat at any decent speed, and if you have the slightest wobble when you look back to check for traffic, a real hazard for throwing you to the ground. In the path of traffic.

    Seriously, are they politely trying to kill off commuters?

    1. Gordon Padelford

      “Speaking of turning, how the hell am I supposed to turn left? Merging out of those bollards would be a real treat at any decent speed”

      If you can do a decent speed up that hill I’d be very impressed.

      You’re totally right about turning and intersections. This is currently a major blindspot (no pun intended) in the bike master plan – I’m hoping for major in the next draft.


      1. Gordon Padelford

        *major improvements

    2. Gary

      never mind dodging crap in the bike lane. You can’t swing out to avoid it. Those bars are a visual deterrent but I’d rather not have them.

  25. RSDO

    Let’s see what the excuses were: 36 inches is not safe, we are powerless to do more because of another bureaucracy (the state). Did I miss anything? Since the design ideas embraced in Rotterdam (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQyea9aqbcQ) don’t conform to our engineering and political world view, we’ll continue to ignore them and come up with other additional excuses, or recycle the same ones — plastic barriers can hurt you, and we’re not allowed to do that or the state decides things, we don’t.

    1. I don’t see these as exuses, but as reasons why this design treatment wasn’t selected for that particular segment of the bike network. It seems pretty clear to me that pylons could be used in other locations in the city, it just wasn’t an appropriate design choice here. I’m also not saying that we are powerless- I’m saying we should get to know the current regulatory framework so we can know what can be accomplished with what we have, and what we need to change in order to get bigger changes implemented. Yes, Rotterdam’s separated bike paths are the gold standard- but instead of bitching about how we don’t have that, let’s figure out how to leverage our current reality and our resources (including traffic engineers who are bike friendly) to get closer to that ideal.

      1. RSDO

        Actually, I really do see these as excuses. I was once paid to write stories and interview well-meaning people who worked in many organizations, including planning bodies. I can assure you, there is a good and logical reason to prevent change for just about any good idea that emerges because it doesn’t conform to (fill in the blank). Actually, I am not “bitching,” as you suggest. I’m suggesting that one has to look beyond what comes out of people’s mouth and have a vision, which is what I see demonstrated by this exercise and by Rotterdam. And if you want, I’ll give you stats galore on why the “gold standard” will save lives, and dollars, too. In the U.S. a pedestrian is 23 times more likely to be killed than car occupants, and bikers 12 times more likely. On a per-kilometer/per-trip basis, U.S. walkers were three times more likely to get killed than German walkers, and six times more likely than Dutch pedestrians. So long as we don’t embrace a vision for healthier and more radical change, we’ll be happy accepting excuses. (Source: Pucher J, Dijkstra L. Promoting safe walking and cycling to improve public health: lessons from the Netherlands and Germany. American Journal of Public Health. 2003; 93:1509 –1516.)

  26. SpandexRanger

    make them 18″ high so they are well below handlebar height. Additionally, could equip the first and every 10th one thereafter with a low cost blinking solar* powered light. (*anywhere but Seattle)

  27. Rob

    What a fabulous idea. We need more guerrilla bike infrastructure. Seattle moves way too slowly. Just do something and see if it works!

    John has a point that the poles can be dangerous in several different circumstances, while the photos of before and after speak for themselves about how cars will be less likely to clip bikes. A simple starting point is to put up the poles on right-hand bends in roads where cars are likely to drift into the bike lane as they cut the corner of the road. I ride southbound Eastlake near ZymoGenetics every day. There is a very dangerous bend at the bottom of the hill that could sorely use these poles. On many days I am dangerously squeezed towards parked cars on my right by traffic on my left cutting the corner.

  28. Erik Griswold

    My jaw drops at the fact that WashDOT has any say over how Cherry Street is configured just because their neighborhood destroying free federal highway passes *over* it. 11 foot lanes have no place in a city. Tell the asphalt heads in Olympia to go pound sand.

    1. Nathanael

      “My jaw drops at the fact that WashDOT has any say over how Cherry Street is configured just because their neighborhood destroying free federal highway passes *over* it.”

      I’m not even sure that this is *true*. I’d suggest looking it up in the land records. Odds are it’s not true.

  29. Andy Morris

    No thanks,

    What happens at junctions, side road or when you want to turn left?

    I ride a bike 10 miles each way into work 4 days a week, this is one of the most stupid ideas I have heard of.


    1. Orv

      On an uphill slope where you can only make 5 mph, you should probably be turning left as a pedestrian, not a vehicle.

      1. Andy Morris

        Do you have a lot of 1 in 7 dual carriageways over there?

        If it is that steep, trucks wont be going that fast they can wait a mo.

        Or do you really feel that our prime duty is to not hold the traffic up?

  30. JCH

    People need to research before acting. Various barriers have been tried over the years on standard bike lanes and they have proven to be a net negative. The crash hazard is real. The trash/debris accumulation and sweeping becomes an even bigger issue. Passing other cyclists is a problem. Turning left is a problem. Right-turning vehicles becomes an even greater issue, since they can’t merge as is appropriate, and instead turn from their lance, increasing the chance for a right-hook. Other cities noted are NOT using them in this fasion, they are using them on buffered bike lanes or various cycle track designs which have more space and separation from the motor vehicle lane. This is largely a superficial feel-good solution.

    1. Dan

      Well said, I completely agree. People have an irrational rational fear of getting hit from behind, but the statistics show that is the least likely way to get hit – turning traffic is far more likely to hit you.

      So, these pylons add only a fraction of security to cyclists protecting them from the least dangerous kind of traffic while making it very dangerous to turn left or pass other cyclists. Looking over your shoulder and finding a break in traffic, swerve a bit and you’ll hit these pylons, and also if you do find a break in traffic it might be hard to get out of the bike lane to get into the traffic lanes.

  31. Mud Baby

    The reflective material on these plastic posts does a great job of delineating this bike lane, which brings up an important point about bike trail safety at night.

    Recently Seattle Parks and the Port of Seattle repaved and restriped the bike trail in Myrtle Edwards Park. Kudos to both agencies for making this bike trail smoother, safer and more pleasant to ride on! Unfortunately, the yellow paint they used is difficult to see at night. Because of this, SPR and POS missed out on a great opportunity to use reflective paint, which would have made the trail safer for cyclists and pedestrians on our long winter nights.

    I’ve given up hope that night lights could be posted along dark segments of Seattle’s bike trails–clearly, in SDOT’s view, street lighting is strictly for motorists, not for cyclists. It’s nerve wracking enough to ride at night and keep a sharp eye out for pedestrians in dark clothing, and other cyclists with no lights on their bike. Trying to discern the edges of the pavement of this somewhat curvy trail poses another element of challenge because the lane striping is very difficult to see in the dark. Hopefully, next time around DPR and POS will get it right by using reflective paint.

  32. Tom Karchesy

    This would be unnecessary if only both bike riders and drivers would simply be courteous to, instead of competitive with, each other. Drivers could be more aware and stay off their cell phones, and riders could stop being unpredictable by running stop signs and weaving in and out of traffic. But until everyone decides to resist being a self-absorbed fecal-exit, I guess these “this is my lane and that is your lane” preschool behavior modification tactics will have to do for now.

  33. Dana G

    I like the pylons, but this has me wondering if a road surface marker would be more suitable to the city. Bicycle lanes could be marked with recessed reflectors, such as used on some crosswalks or turning lanes through intersections. They would not interfere with snow removal or parking, so could be used along 100% of the bike lanes. They are less of a physical barrier, but at a 10′ spacing would be felt as a rumble to a distracted car driver. I’ve run over recessed reflectors with my road bike and they would not cause anyone to wobble let alone crash.

  34. Tim

    These type of posts were installed on the centre line of the Patullo bridge in Vancouver, BC. The lane widths are really narrow, around 9.5′ and 10.5′. In this story lanes are 11′ so width is generous compared to its use here.


  35. Jeremy Owens

    It seems to me the big hazard with clipping the handlebars is that doing so could forcibly turn the front wheel to the left, directly into the adjacent traffic, all by accident.

  36. CL

    Thank you RPS. Fantastic way to make a point and kick-start some dialog! :)

  37. As one who has been pushed into a curb by a passing bus there, I’d prefer the risk of bumping a plastic post.

    This is not the first bike safety improvement that SDOT has protected us from…

  38. Keith Walzak

    Good at ya polite cycling citizens of Seattle.
    Years ago when I was the multi-modal planner in Tucson, we installed these vertical lane delineators (affectionately referred to as donkey d*%#s). A great idea, but unfortunately they would last about a week as the kept getting clipped by vehicles…. after a period of time our supportive traffic engineering staff said enough… I haven’t seen them since…

    1. RSDO

      Let’s see, we’re replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct at a cost of, what, $3 billion (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alaskan_Way_Viaduct_replacement_tunnel), mostly to be paid by all of us? These cheap to install pylons cost what, next to nothing? Sure, let’s not install them because “they keep getting clipped.” I see plenty of expensive metallic stop and speed signs lining the sides of roads too, but somehow supportive traffic engineering staff rise to the occasion and replace those somewhat costly pieces of roadside engineering.

  39. joShu

    If reducing the likelihood of being hit is the goal, then lane-divider solutions, in descending order of effectiveness and cost, would be something like:

    Concrete barrier
    Plastic barrier
    Plastic Posts
    Reflective road-turtles
    Painted Line

    They each have pros and cons, but it seems like Plastic Posts (shorter ones) would have the best mix of effectiveness and affordability.

  40. Paul

    How about using road turtles instead of pylons? They could be spaced widely, like the pylons, so cyclists can safely pass between them as needed. They would provide an audio warning to drivers that stray into the bike lane.

  41. leo

    Maybe the next gorilla action will be a night raid at the bus barn to paint bike lanes down the center aisle to ‘protect’ them all the way to the back of the bus….

    Quit ruining the road for the rest of us- you don’t need that crap.

  42. Raf

    As an employee of a bike friendly city, traffic engineer, bike commuter, bike enthusiast, Cat2 Racer, these lane delineators do benefit likely a majority of cyclists, but they often cause more harm than good. They are not installed because it takes one cyclists to clip them (even lower height ones hit by pedal strikes), and a million dollar lawsuit. It sucks, but it happens. Someone thinks they can ride up a curb at an angle, crashes and immediately sues.

    Those posts won’t last but a few weeks, probably days until one or more are hit by cars, and you are left with a 3 inch black rubber stub sticking out of the ground with the white plastic post creating a separate obstacle further down the road. Now imagine you rotating through your paceline and and you run over a 4″ stump. You may not, but a small portion of cyclist will see the need to sue the City.

    Many of the obnoxious “know it alls” that think Cities are clueless are lame. Though slow and tedius, our decisions are made usually with much vetting and input from various cycling advocacy groups including the ones that really put time in and work with us. I consider myself a cycling “expert”, but I more than often have to take a step back and make sure my decisions are also proper for the weekend warrior that just got their first bike, and the 5th grader that rides their bike to school.

    If you really want to make a difference, get on your local bike advisory committee, advocacy group, etc, instead of complaining that someone else isn’t doing something “cheap and easy” that may be convenient to you.

    1. Nathanael

      So use the hinged “bounceable” pylons. Problem solved.

  43. […] Oregonian takes up bike commuting in response to rising gas prices. Seattle’s Department of DIY installs their own protected bike lane. An Anchorage man completes the 2,000 mile Iron Dog sled dog trail in 40 days on a fat tire bike. A […]

  44. RRRoubaix

    I well remember when PBOT installed some of these on Lovejoy, just east of the Broadway Bridge (in Portland). Despite being legally installed, auto traffic tore them out very very quickly.
    (This was exacerbated by the situation- there is one lane and it has streetcar tracks smack-dab in the middle, so drivers “naturally” move into part of the bike lane.)

  45. jfcaron

    A flexible plastic bollard like this is IMO worse than a solid steel one. The effect of clipping the handlebars (or any part of your bike) is the same regardless of the material of the bollard. The effect of a motor vehicle hitting one is very dependent on the material of the bollard. If they are flexible like these, a drifting/out of control vehicle will enter the cycle lane anyways. If they are metal and bolted into the ground or heavy concrete, the bollard has a reasonable chance of slowing or stopping the motor vehicle.

    Basically the flexible bollard has the benefit of minimal damage to motor vehicles while being just as dangerous to cyclists as the solid ones. I’d prefer the motorist to take damage if they are going to cream me.

    The same argument goes for the “raised” cycle tracks which are only a (usually curved) kerb higher than the main roadway. A motor vehicle can easily jump into the cycle track, but a cyclist basically crashes if they exit the cycle track accidentally. Maximum consequence for cyclists, minimum consequence for motorists.

  46. […] Guerrilla road safety group ?politely? installs illegal bike lane protectors on Cherry Street | Seat… […]

  47. bikecommuter

    The issue with bollard bike lanes that are only 5ft wide is that no street sweeper will ever get in there to sweep the lane – it looks dandy day one, but after a few months you will be down there hand sweeping glass and other trash out of the lane. Perhaps if they took out that huge concrete median wedge it would create a wider lane to share – who wastes that much concrete “guiding traffic” under a freeway anyways – that looks like the design problem.

  48. […] Awesome: Guerilla group literally makes biking safer in Seattle. (Seattle Bike Blog) […]

  49. Tonyguy

    It is difficult to tell from the photos, but it would appear that the lane width between the curbing is of insufficient width for a full size vehicle / truck / bus to share with a cyclist, (based on the tire marks in the roadway). Cyclists need 4 feet of space (width plus maneuvering room with a raised curb face , by AASHTO standards), three feet of safe passing buffer, and a full size motor vehicle needs another 8.5 feet for a total of approx 16 feet. Anything less than that is bad engineering. The knowledgable cyclist should therefore “take control” of the lane, positioning themselves in the center of the travel portion of the road for their own safety. Further reading may be obtained from http://www.iamtraffic.org, or http://www.cyclingsavvy.org. Only an ignorant cyclist would use an unsafe bike lane.

  50. JCH

    Recessed reflectors can indeed cause crashes, especially depending upon the type installed. I’ve seen it happen.

  51. […] Some examples of the progress Seattle has made creating safe separated bicycle facilities.  Though apparently the progress isn’t fast enough for some, who have taken matters into their own hands. […]

  52. […] rider numbers? Portland is working on building buffered bike lanes, while in Seattle a group of “polite guerrilla road safety activists” have taken bicycle awareness into their own hands by installing reflective cones on bike […]

  53. […] Reasonably Polite Seattleites recently made a guerrilla installation of reflective pylons on an unsafe bike line. Artistically inclined New York City cyclists paint bike lanes themselves. […]

  54. […] opinion, experiences, and feedback. For example, if you follow the link to the article on the Seattle Bike Blog, you'll find a wealth of feedback related to protected bike lanes. In the original article, […]

  55. […] “Bikes Belong” advocates for “protected bike lanes.” Recently in Seattle, guerilla cyclists installed pylons to separate a bike lane from the car lanes. Why do I call this […]

  56. […] The last bit of the cycle track has reflective pylons in the middle of the painted gutter between the parking lane and the bike lanes. I laughed when I first saw them because they made me think of the illegally-but-politely-installed bike lane protectors on Cherry Street. […]

  57. […] Remember when an anonymous bike safety group calling themselves “Reasonably Polite Seattleites” installed a series of plastic pylons on Cherry Street to demonstrate how easy it would be for the city to turn a regular bike lane into a protected one? […]

  58. This is fantastic – positive campaigning in action, nice to see.

    Just wanted to mention, in the Netherlands where such posts are used occasionally, they are intentionally high enough that if you hit them, it will be with your handlebars! If they were any lower, the first bit of the bike to hit them would be a pedal, which is much more likely to result in a worse crash. But i don’t expect the cops to know that. Still, good for them for supporting it!

    1. Andy Morris

      So they put in a facility that will cause crashes, but thoughtfully make it safe(ish) providing you ride slow enough that hitting the deck doesn’t hurt much.

  59. […] themselves the Reasonably Polite Seattleites built in the dead of night last April. In their email to the city, they explained the merits of such a project and noted that it had cost them $350 and taken 10 […]

  60. UNCOMNLY Polite activisme and institutional response. such a
    PLEASANT EXCHANGE should go on for another round.
    I HOPE ACTIVISTS will hear about the clever idea of painting a wider bike lane on the sidewalk. and therefor
    NEVER LISTEN TO ENGINEERS because as polite as they can be they sometime put rules and paradoxical legal matters before logic.

    ROUND 2: a wide painted bikelane on half the sidewalk.
    and by the way put the bike lane where the direction posts is, sending a response to DONGHO CHANG that moving the posts would be the cheapest and safest way to act than remooving the paint. ;)
    Here is a Quebec ref. for city engineer lovers:

  61. […] Paint a line on the side of the road and nail up a few signs. Some people in Seattle will even do it for free, and some folks out in Memphis are paying for their bike lanes with crowdfunding. Big companies […]

  62. […] of this kind of “bike lane.” It seems in Seattle they felt the same way. So, the Reasonably Polite Seattleites came up with an acceptable compromise and the city thought so too. Read the full story […]

  63. […] esempio dai cicloattivisti di Città del Messico, New York , Seattle  e disegniamo da soli le nostre piste ciclabili!  (e clicchiamo sui nomi delle città, […]

  64. […] works and they just nodded and went on with more pressing matters. Should you take matters in your own […]

  65. minos

    Hi, do you mind if I translate this post in italian? Of course I will give credit, linking this post. Thanks for replaying.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Go for it!

      1. minos

        Here it is: http://gis-niubbo.blogspot.it/2015/01/farsi-la-ciclabile-educatamente-diy.html
        I took the liberty to add the translation of the second post that told the happy ending of this story.

  66. R

    I wonder what would have happened had the guys who installed the delineators placed them in a buffered bike lane, less than 36 inches tall, maybe 28 inches, on a road SDOT owns, and if they bolted the flex bollards to the asphalt, or even if they just used sticky pads and left the materials needed to bolt them in in a marked pile at the end of the block.

  67. […] go seed bomb an abandoned lot, paint an “illegal” bike lane, and share our stories about how we protested outside a public […]

  68. […] That’s a perfect description of the “lean startup” ethos that is now near-gospel in tech land: Start with a minimal product, test it in the real world, learn on the fly, and be ready to change. Activists and nonprofits like Knight are pushing cities to be just as open to experimentation, by supporting temporary parks, pop-up street prototypes, and guerilla bike lanes. […]

  69. […] That’s a perfect description of the “lean startup” ethos that is now near-gospel in tech land: Start with a minimal product, test it in the real world, learn on the fly, and be ready to change. Activists and nonprofits like Knight are pushing cities to be just as open to experimentation, by supporting temporary parks, pop-up street prototypes, and guerilla bike lanes. […]

  70. […] That’s a perfect description of the “lean startup” ethos that is now near-gospel in tech land: Start with a minimal product, test it in the real world, learn on the fly, and be ready to change. Activists and nonprofits like Knight are pushing cities to be just as open to experimentation, by supporting temporary parks, pop-up street prototypes, and guerilla bike lanes. […]

  71. […] activists say they’re inspired by similar guerrilla actions in Seattle, Portland and New York, and that they’ve been spurred to action by the high number of deaths […]

  72. […] activists say they’re inspired by similar guerrilla actions in Seattle, Portland and New York, and that they’ve been spurred to action by the high number of deaths and […]

  73. […] activists say they’re inspired by similar guerrilla actions in Seattle, Portland and New York, and that they’ve been spurred to action by the high number of deaths and […]

  74. […] vehicle traffic. But bollards aren't just for marking entrances and exits to dedicated bike paths. These folks, The Reasonably Polite Seattleites,  took bollards to a whole new level, by installing them […]

  75. […] or biking. Witness the “Drive Chill Park Hill” traffic calming movement, or the Reasonably Polite Seattleites‘ guerrilla protected bike […]

  76. […] SFMTrA isn’t alone in staging these forms of direct action. Groups in Seattle, New York, Denver, and Boston have been making similar efforts, some even using crowdfunding […]

  77. […] who spent $350 of their own money to install these bollards in the dead of night, then sent the city an email to explain why. The coolest thing of all: after removing the temporary installation, city planners […]

  78. […] calling themselves the Reasonably Polite Seattleites built in the dead of night last April. In their email to the city, they explained the merits of such a project and noted that it had cost them $350 and taken 10 […]

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