SDOT makes guerrilla-installed protected bike lane permanent

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?

Well, the city took their advice and not only reinstalled a more resilient style of reflective pylons, but also extended the bike lane to connect downtown to First Hill via 7th Ave and Marion:



To recap, the anonymous group installed the pylons under the cover of night this spring. They then sent an email to Seattle Bike Blog and SDOT explaining why they did it and pointing out the fact that they used a simple adhesive to make them easy to remove should SDOT choose to do so.

In many other cities, such acts are met with scorn and threats of legal action from city officials. But Seattle’s Traffic Engineer Dongho Chang did not. Instead, he wrote an equally polite email back apologizing for the fact that they needed to remove the pylons, but thanking the group for making a statement about road safety.

Well, now Chang and the city have gone a step further. They have installed permenent pylons with safe clearance space for bike handlebars and extra buffer space on the roadway. They also completed a safer connection to First Hill by installing a bike lane on 7th Ave between Cherry St and Marion, which is a signed bike route across First Hill that will soon connect to the Broadway Bikeway when it is completed.

Here’s Chang’s email to the group and Seattle Bike Blog:

Hello reasonably polite Seattleites,

I have good news to share.  SDOT worked with WSDOT to reinstall your thoughtful protector treatment on Cherry Street.  SDOT and WSDOT agreed to monitor the installation to determine if additional changes need to be made.  We also took this unique opportunity to make additional improvements.  We installed a two stage left turn box on 7th Avenue for left turning bicycle riders who may not feel comfortable riding with car traffic, new bicycle lanes on 7th Avenue between Cherry and Marion, and bicycle lane on Marion Street between 7th and 8th Avenue.  Additional information on the two stage left turn box can be found at:  Thank you, again, for your suggestion.

Now THAT is how you respond to guerrilla road safety activists! Tacoma, are you taking notes?

Here’s the city’s full fact sheet:

Cherry St Fact Sheet

About Tom Fucoloro

Founder and Editor of Seattle Bike Blog.
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48 Responses to SDOT makes guerrilla-installed protected bike lane permanent

  1. merlin says:

    Now let’s hope someone does a guerrilla cycle track on Fourth Avenue! Or Pine!

    • Tom Fucoloro says:


      For all you potential copy-cats, a few points. One: This is technically illegal. Two: I think the key to this project was that it was easy to remove. The city might take a different tone if they had to spend a ton of money removing paint, for example.

    • Gary says:

      Well we could use the same paint that SDOT uses for bike lanes, it seems to wear off incredibly fast!

      As it is, I just take the bus lane on 4th, and ignore all those “right turn only” signs and what’s left of the “bus only” paint. If more of us just did that the city would get the idea that the shoulder with paint on the left side of the street was
      a) dangerous
      b) useless
      c) too narrow.

      I used to think that I couldn’t stay out of the way of the buses but they turn out to be really slow what with having to stop every other block, and the cars turning right block the buses, so it’s been easy to have a lane and not make the traffic worse for any other user of 4th.

  2. David Amiton says:

    I saw the crews installing this on the drive back from PDX yesterday afternoon. No lazy Sundays for SDOT!

  3. David Amiton says:

    Also, the fact sheet is excellent. SDOT really brought their A-game by syncing the graphics with the Bike Master Plan design palette and tying into the Be Super Safe campaign. Home run!

  4. Alexjon says:

    Now, if they could do something about all the red light runners at 7th and Cherry we might get the job done…

  5. Shirley says:

    I think it is great the city did this but it seems that it was only done after a guerrilla group showed them how easy it was. Makes me think that more guerrilla projects might be worthwhile.

    • A says:

      Taking the initiative versus submitting to a wasteful and demeaning bureaucracy is always more worthwhile. Only the red tape runners will try and tell you otherwise.

    • rob says:

      i seem to remember reading somewhere that one of seattle’s former mayors (schell?) got his start in activism by guerrilla installing traffic circles. i may have made the whole thing up in my mind though.

  6. Mickymse says:

    Isn’t there a camera there?

  7. Joseph Singer says:

    The new copy-cat pylons are nice, but when is something going to be done about the bike lane on 2nd Ave? It’s been dangerous for like forever.

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  9. leo says:

    That is not a protected lane.
    That will not stop or even slow up a car, but will trip me up if I have to get outta the lane for my safety.
    You either put a barricade up or leave it paint.

    • AndrewN says:

      It won’t stop a car, but it’s much more effective than only a line. Drivers won’t accidentially drift into the bike lane, like is common with just paint.

      It’s even common for cycletracks to not be fully protected. Many of Copenhagen’s cycletracks are not parking- or barrier-separated; they just have a one or two inch high curb between automobile traffic and the cycletrack. Again, it won’t stop a car, but is very effective at separating modes.

  10. josh says:

    Too bad that new bike lane on Marion, 7th to 8th, is entirely in the door zone.

    Suppose they could upgrade it to sharrows, or a compliant bike lane?

    • Stuart says:

      “Upgrade it to sharrows”? Are you mad? That lane is still way better than sharrows. Uphill, door lanes aren’t that bad since you are going a lot slower.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        I actually agree. I don’t see why they couldn’t move the bike lane a foot or two further out, but it’s still way better than sharrows.

      • josh says:

        Door zone bike lanes are great for the fearless or the clueless, but they mean that safety-conscious cyclists face more harassment from motorists for riding “in the middle of the road” when there’s a “perfectly good” death trap in the door zone.

  11. Brian says:

    I don’t want to rain on the parade, but the bike lanes next to the row of parked cars are pretty terrible. They are right in the door zone. Bad bike infrastructure is worse than none.

    The left turn box is pretty rad though. I’m encouraged that Dongho is willing to experiment with some Dutch style intersection treatments. Intersections seem to be the major problem with separated bike infrastructure so we need some solutions that will work for Seattle.

    On the whole, it’s a total win.

  12. Clark says:

    I’m speculating here but it could just be that the City had already been considering such a thing and this just made them bring it up the list. It may or may not be a good approach for everything though if you want results.

    Both this and a relationship with the city is needed.

  13. Emily Catherine says:

    SDOT, how could you overlook the danger of the door zone? This forces cyclists to choose between the very dangerous bike lane and provoking motorists by riding on the outside of bike lane. I believe the door zone is incorporated into federal guidelines for widths of traffic lanes. I’m guessing that SDOT doesn’t squeeze 8′ parking lanes directly adjacent to 9′ driving lanes. It isn’t just about being hit by doors; cyclists also aren’t visible to drivers backing into or pulling out of those parking spots, and are obscured by the parked cars when approaching intersections and driveways. I hope these are improved before we hear of an accident.

  14. Jen says:

    Were I more of an activist type, I’d go around marking the door zone on streets like 2nd Ave and 15th Ave S. It would be hard to find a color to make sure people know it’s not a bike lane. Maybe a spaced set of quarter-circles representing a door swing smacking into a bicycle symbol?

  15. Rick Gladwin says:

    Reminded me of this:

    The City of Hamilton is notoriously pro-car and terribly slow and inactive around improving road infrastructure despite available budgets and studies.

    This exercise in tactical urbanism worked though. Despite the initial “it’s vandalism… it’s dangerous” etc. from city officials, in the end the city installed taller (proper) bumpouts on the Locke St. intersection in question. And only a few weeks after citizens had installed them.

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  21. transitrider says:

    I think that, absent a bicycle lane in an adjacent, quieter street, impossible in many parts of Seattle, the protected bike lane is great! I support anything for bicycles that is viable for the masses of bicycle riders who presently avoid riding on short errands or further due to safety concerns, leaving the existing sharrows and bicycle lanes to the courageous and/or what I term the “professional bicyclists.” Obviously, to meet my support, my first choice would be a separated bicycle, paved bicycle path, like the Burke-Gilman Trail, but also obviously, that’s rarely viable. My second choice would be to use streets that are lightly-trafficked, but it seems the planners frequently choose the busiest streets, which IMO scares away the casual riders. My third choice would be these protected bicycle lanes. Fourth, unprotected. Fifth, sharrows. And, having a map of streets for bicycle travel (online and, for a fee, in print) would be helpful, if there’s not one already.

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  23. so fly. makes me wonder what other changes need to happen around here…

  24. Daniel Keough says:

    The door zone bike lanes look quite dangerous. I don’t bike in this area, but what is safe about setting someone up for a crash into a car door OR swerve in front of moving traffic due to opening car doors? There needs to be some hashed or blank space between bike lane and parked car doors.

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  28. Becka says:

    I emailed SDOT thanking them for the protected bike lanes. I would love for the short pylons and extra-wide paint to become the default.

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