Ravenna Blog: What’s the best NE 75th Street safe streets redesign option? (+ one of our own)

NE_75th_proposal_4The city announced options for redesigning the notoriously dangerous NE 75th Street recently. Prompted by the devastating drunk driving collision that took the lives of Dennis and Judy Schulte and critically injured their daughter-in-law and grandchild, residents demanded safety changes to the notoriously dangerous street.

A redesign option that includes adding five-foot bike lanes and a center turn lane is pulling ahead as the clear favorite option according to a poll on Ravenna Blog. Seattle Traffic Engineer Dongho Chang also told media and residents that it is initially his favorite option, though he is waiting to hear from the public before making a final decision.

Because the changes would essentially only involve some paint, they can be implemented swiftly. In fact, the city hopes to have the changes in place before the start of classes at nearby Eckstein Middle School.

While the turn lane option (Proposal 4) is certainly this blog’s favorite option of those presented, we urge the city to try to add some extra bike lane width or buffer space (or better yet, something like those bollards SDOT’s been experimenting with) to the proposed bike lanes. Every bit counts when biking next to busy traffic.

It would also be great to see plans for median islands of some kind to help people walking or biking across the street at non-signalized intersections. While the proposed lane design would dramatically increase crossing safety compared to the road today, it’s still not good enough on its own for all-ages-and-abilities without a little extra protection at the crosswalks.

Two upcoming public meetings will discuss the proposed changes:

Evening Meeting: Wednesday, July 24th, 7-9PM in the Fellowship Hall (downstairs) at Wedgwood Presbyterian Church (8008 35th Ave NE)

Daytime Meeting: Thursday, July 25th, 1-3PM in the Fellowship Hall (downstairs) at Messiah Lutheran Church (7050 35th Ave NE)

Proposal 5

We would also like to suggest a fifth proposal if for no other reason than to push Seattle’s thinking away from simple painted bike lanes (far better than nothing, but not good enough for all-ages-and-abilities) and toward options with more protection.

Here’s what Proposal 5* could look like:

Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 2.25.33 PMPeople concerned about parking might also like this option, since it preserves some on-street parking. And since it is just paint (or maybe paint with plastic bollards), the costs for stretches between major intersections would not likely be much higher than the other proposed plans. The costs for major intersections (like 25th Ave NE), however, would likely be higher since a bike signal would probably be required to safely manage conflicts with turning cars.

For people walking across the street, once they have passed the bike lanes and parking strip, they have already crossed about half the road width. That means the crossing distance would be only half the distance to cross compared to today, a huge safety and comfort increase (not to mention people driving are far more likely to stop to let people cross under this sort of configuration).

There are few bus stops on the section of 75th under consideration, but they could be handled in Proposal 5 somewhat like this (admittedly, these bus islands are not likely to be cheap):

Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 2.40.45 PMAnd if you have a location where a turn lane is needed due to high turning volumes, that can be included as well by doing something like this:

Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 2.49.32 PMBasically, the city needs to figure out more ways to increase protection for the bike lanes on our busy streets. Major cycle tracks downtown or through a particularly complicated area of the city (dealing with highway on-ramps, bridges, etc) are likely to be expensive. And the city shouldn’t cut corners if it would make the street less safe.

But for neighborhood streets and less complicated sections of roadway, we need to be figuring out some cost-effective ways to build more miles of protected bike lanes that more people will feel safe using.

* “Proposal 5” concept images made using Streetmix.

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39 Responses to Ravenna Blog: What’s the best NE 75th Street safe streets redesign option? (+ one of our own)

  1. Chris says:

    I thought it the woman was injured was the daughter-in-law, not step-daughter, of the couple who was killed.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Oh, yeesh. That’s totally what I meant. Wires got crossed. Thanks, I fixed it now.

  2. Ints says:

    Your proposed Option #5 would be the ideal solution in the “complete streets” sense of providing significant improvements in bike and ped safety, plus it keeps on street parking where feasible in contrast to the center turn lane model of option #4 which does reduce the number of travel lanes but also eliminates all on street parking. Not that I am pro parking but local residents do use it along the east-west arterials and it does provide a safe buffer for the cycleway.
    Gotta get option five up there as an alternative for SDOT to consider!

  3. Eli says:

    I guess I just don’t understand why the City would be proposing new plans for non-All Ages & Abilities infrastructure with a straight face in 2013.

    Is AAA actually the city’s direction for bike infrastructure or are we just pretending on paper?

    • Andres Salomon says:

      My hope is that SDOT is using these options to feel out the community. Does the community want things to stay the same, do they want more parking, do they want bike infrastructure + parking (but potentially worse traffic flow), or are they willing to forego parking to get better traffic flow plus bike infrastructure? The design options seem overly simplistic, but perhaps that’s the point. It might be worth asking SDOT tonight, I suppose.

      Tom, how well do two-way cycletracks work on steep hills? I can imagine that being a little uncomfortable, but I can’t think of any real-life examples anywhere. I had a suggestion of a cycletrack separated by parking, but a one-way cycletrack (the other side could have bollards or something).

      • David Amiton says:

        We rode on a steep two-way cycletrack in Vancouver (Hornby toward the south end) and it worked just fine. Great, even. It’s certainly not as steep as some of our hills in Seattle, but it’s on the steep spectrum…

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        I have searched and searched for studies about two-way cycle tracks on steep hills and have come up short. Honestly, this might be something Seattle needs to pioneer. If anyone has any examples of them working well/poorly due to hills, post them here.

        EDIT: Thanks, David! That’s definitely useful. I’ll have to investigate if they did anything to specifically address safety due to the hill.

      • biliruben says:

        If I could find the funding, this is the sort of study I would love to do.

      • Andres Salomon says:

        According to SDOT, they’re looking at the corridor of NE 75th between 15th and 35th. They need to reconfigure the street fast (plans are for this fall, I believe?), and for low cost, so they’re looking at just paint changes. No AAA infrastructure, since pouring concrete and modifying signals would be too expensive. They were open to the idea of separation via bollards. I left a comment also suggesting (paint) buffering.

        After 35th, the configuration changes back to 4 lanes with no bike lane (not exactly AAA). They’re looking at doing a project next year to connect to the 39th Ave Greenway (and hopefully go all the way to 55th, which is on the BMP update). That portion of it will probably have more flexibility, since it’s much less steep, there are large portions of it that don’t have driveways (Sand Point Country Club basically just has a giant wall on the north side of 75th). The lack of turn lanes there could become medians, or a stretch of rain gardens/greenery, or the travel lanes could move towards the center of the road and the bike lanes can get proper buffering/cycletrack treatment. Note: that’s my opinion, not SDOT’s.

      • Andres Salomon says:

        Oh, and something I learned yesterday – the cost of rechannelization per mile is roughly on par with the cost of a greenway. In other words, incredibly cheap (and therefore a very cost-effective way to improve road safety).

  4. Janine says:

    How about your alternative with cycle tracks instead of the regular bike lanes? I understand the City is looking at cycle tracks on 65th, a very narrow street with a concentrated commercial area between 20th and 25th. How about 75th instead, which connects with the 39th Ave Greenway ?

    • Al Dimond says:

      A commercial district is exactly the sort of thing a cycletrack needs to access. For utility to cyclists 65th is much more important than 75th; the attention on 75th is really more about the need for a road diet to limit excessive speeds there than anything else.

  5. Bilirubin says:

    75th has significantly higher car volumes and significantly lower destinations people on bike would be trying to reach. 65th makes much more sense if we had to choose.

    • JAT says:

      I absolutely agree. I’m all for road diets where appropriate, and for all the ballyhoo over 125th in Lake City, the lack of other through-street options made it a sensible approach. In View Ridge/Wedgwood, though think 65th!

  6. Maria says:

    Am I the only one who feels nervous about two-way cycletracks on steep hills? On the downhill side it’s easy to reach car speeds, and a 5′ lane starts to seem pretty narrow.

    Maybe I’d change my mind if I tried it. For now my instinct is for buffered bike lanes with bollards on the uphill side, and perhaps a bike lane with a dotted white boundary on the downhill.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      You’re not the only one. It’s a place where Seattle might need to be a pioneering city and try to find designs specific to hilly conditions.

      See a few threads up: http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2013/07/24/ravenna-blog-whats-the-best-ne-75th-street-safe-streets-redesign-option-one-of-our-own/#comment-617500

    • Peri Hartman says:

      I’m totally with you. On Dexter, for example, when I go downhill fast (near 30mph), I can move out into the traffic lane if I need to pass a slow bike. If I’m stuck in a cycle track, then what?

      Even on the flat, there’s the potential for a 50mph head on collision. 25mph each way on a moderately full cycle track with someone trying to pass and 10′ might not be wide enough, though I haven’t heard of such cases happening on the BGT. However, going downhill I think this is almost a certainty.

      I do like what Tom’s trying to do with option 5, though – provide some sort of bike lane plus keep some parking.

  7. Rich says:

    I remain concerned about how cycle tracks work at intersections. Take for example the cycle track recently installed on 65th between the Burke Gilman Trail and Sand Point Way. Traveling east bound, a cyclist crossing Sand Point Way from the cycle track needs to watch for right turning cars. Making a left turn is even more complicated. Before the cycle track, I would have just taken the lane. A bike box would have been a good solution here.

    It’s even worse going west bound. A cyclist coming from Magnuson Park has to cut diagonally across the intersection with Sand Point Way to enter the cycle track. My concern is that cycle tracks present some particular problems at intersections and end points. The Broadway cycle track design tries to address these issues with frequent use of bike boxes. We’ll see soon how it works in practice. Any cycle track design that ignores these issues doesn’t really provide safe connectivity.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      The 65th St cycle track should have a bike signal and specific turning phases at Sand Point. I agree that it’s not currently working with just a crosswalk sign.

  8. JAT says:

    Concerned is exactly the right word for how I feel about cycle tracks. Some people see a curb and call it a safety-enhancing buffer, others (me) see a curb and feel hemmed in and constrained from passing or being passed.

    As for two-way cycle track on one side of a two-way street? NO Thanks! Traffic is a system with known rules and patterns. Why inject an unintuitive kludge to a working system. By no means do I wish to disrespect the tragedy, but let’s not forget this is all coming about in (knee-jerk) response to a drunk driver hitting pedestrians.

    You can’t control for criminal negligence.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      A: Yes, we can decrease drunk driving. Other countries have.

      B: While having a safe street would not necessarily have prevented him from driving drunk, it would have reduced the number of feet the Schultes had to walk to get across the street safely. We can’t know if it would have prevented that incident, but we DO know that it will reduce the number and severity of collisions of all kinds on the street. Throwing up our hands and doing nothing because he was drunk is not an acceptable response.

      C: The ability for someone biking to pass another person on a bike is not my first concern. Safety and accessibility is. That said, ten feet is wider than many sections of the Burke-Gilman, so there’s plenty of passing room.

      • JAT says:

        I’m not advocating throwing up our hands and doing nothing. I’m just not persuaded that two way cycle tracks are good.

        Ten feet is the width of the I-90 ped and bike lane – that doesn’t feel safe enough for two way traffic and passing.

        Whether or not the Burke Gilman Trail is, as some sort of stipulated fact, wide enough for two-way traffic and passing is debatable, but where there’s a curb defining the space, as with a two way cycle track, a slight miscalculation may well lead not to the embarrassing crunch of gravel as you swerve onto the margin of the trail but to an almost certain loss of balance quite possibly spilling that cyclist face first into the road.

        We don’t KNOW that a particular piece of infrastructure will reduce the number and severity of collisions. All we can do is point to statistical likelihoods. You’re an advocate for a particular approach – it apparently now even has a catchy acronym: AAA. It’s your blog, you can do what you want, but I’ve been cycling in this city for a good long time – it feels to me like some things are getting fixes when they ain’t necessarily broke.

      • Karl says:

        “The ability for someone biking to pass another person on a bike is not my first concern.” If that ability isn’t there, then I think you are going to find some cyclists seeking alternative routes where they are available, partially defeating the purpose of the proposed changes.

        I live not too far from the new cycle tracks on the Interurban in north Seattle and find them incredibly confining. Not only am I trapped behind other cyclists who I can’t pass, but people pushing baby carriages and people in mobility scooters are both driving down the middle of the bike lane completely blocking it. I’ve given up on the cycle track there and now take the street adjacent to the west. The cycle track has already largely become another sidewalk.

      • ODB says:

        The I-90 comparison is interesting. I didn’t realize that the multi-use path across the bridge is an existing example of a 10-foot path. It has hills at either end, as well, although not nearly as steep as 75th. But it provides some idea about how it feels to go fast on a narrow path.

        I find the bridge portion of the I-90 path to be pretty close quarters at speed. You have to time your passing maneuvers carefully to avoid oncoming traffic and sometimes there’s no choice but to scrub all momentum before passing. Frustrating. Option 5 would compound these problems with the complication and expense of specialized cycle track signals at every intersection (per Tom’s suggestion), plus the general safety issue of drivers not expecting cyclists coming from two directions on the same side of the street.

        I’m for Option 4, which is more or less “existing technology” that we know will work. Not to be flippant, but to the extent that Option 4 isn’t AAA or AAAA(?) (all ages and abilities)-approved, isn’t that what neighborhood greenways are for–pleasant routes for slower cyclists and kids that are far from speeding cars–particularly in a case like 75th where there aren’t many businesses on the arterial that cyclists need to get to.

    • Al Dimond says:

      To be sure, though, speed on 75th is a pretty big issue generally. Anecdotally, as someone that rides 65th between Green Lake and Wedgwood pretty often, every time I find myself around 75th I’m surprised by how much faster and more aggressively people drive there. 65th doesn’t really have any intentional traffic calming but it does have business districts and more stop lights that keep things reasonable.

  9. Gordon says:

    Thank you for once again Tom for raising the bar for SDOT and showing the safety advocates the way.

    Option 4 works okay for people like me who already cycle. It doesn’t do much for people who access buses or want to cross the street as a pedestrian.

    Tom’s Option 5 is better for everyone. Car parking remains for people who need it, there is flexibility for turning, buses have efficient in lane stops, people walking have shorter crossing distances, and people biking have a facility that is actually separated from the fast moving cars. Clearly a two way cycle-track on a slope is going to take some clever design work, but I’m confident in SDOT’s ability to innovate and lead the nation if given the chance.

    If we want to call 75th a complete street, the City needs to step up and fund option 5 (or at least examine it closely and prove why it is unworkable).

    If we just want to pretend things can only get marginally less intolerable in this City than option 4 is better than the alternatives. Is that what we are aspiring to? Marginally less deadly? Marginally less unpleasant? Marginally less insane in front of a school? A few cranky neighbors (who WILL show up) should not drown out the chorus of neighbors that cried out when this homicidal street was complicit in the murder of two innocent people. We need to stop building streets for car L.O.S. (level of service) and start building streets to prevent the LOSS of people.

  10. Sergio Cataldo says:

    75th between 25th and 35th is too steep in both directions to provide a safe bicycling alternative. I can do it, and I have, but I choose not to because it is not safe, and whatever alternative is proposed will not make it safe….unless there are plans to dynamite the hill. This is not the street to go to war on to try and make it safe for bicycles. There are other places more deserving the limited resources available for cycling.

    • Andres Salomon says:

      You realize there’s a school there, right? And kids (and parents!) are wanting to bike to school? And some of them are doing so already, despite the awful state of the street currently?

      Also, I’m pretty sure there’s no war going on here. The majority of people (whether on the RavennaBlog poll, or at tonight’s meeting) seem to support the configuration with a center turn lane and bike lanes.

  11. Don_Brubeck says:

    This is my old neighborhood. I like option 4. There are few businesses on NE 75th without parking lots, and houses face the side streets. so loss of car parking should have minimal impact. It gives convenient bike lane access to both sides of the street, putting riders where vehicle drivers can expect and see them best. For riders less confident, there are immediately accessible parallel routes on residential streets for most of this stretch that could be improved with greenway treatment.

    A two-way cycle track separated by parking is worth considering, but I would be concerned about visibility of riders coming into intersections on a two-way cycle track behind parked cars on a fairly high speed arterial with as many intersecting streets and alleys as this one has. That setup works well on Alki Ave south of SW 60th where it is flat and there are no cross streets intersecting the path, but maybe not so good on NE 75th?

  12. Mike H says:

    I admit that when I heard that the city was looking at improvements, I was surprised that a cycle track didn’t come in some form. I understand and agree with some posters here who have concerns over the 2-way cycle track next to a 2-way street.

    One concern with Option 5 is that pedestrians are exposed to traffic much longer than Option 4. I don’t think most pedestrians have an issue with crossing bike lanes or would with cycle tracks. Eliminating the turn lane also takes away a refuge (provided no one is there at the time). I know we all are looking out for pedestrians *and* bikes but it could appear that we are forgetting the impetus for this action.

    How about an Option 5A? This option would make 75th have 1-lane in each direction with a center left turn at intersections. Bike lanes would still be there but, alas, only conventional ones. On the segments between intersections, the left turn lane would be removed. Instead, there would be one lane in each direction, a 3′ planter area (maybe raised planting beds similar to Vancouver) and a 6.5′ wide cycle track.

  13. Jill says:

    I really like option 5. And while I understand the bike access to businesses on 65th, I’m not sure I know how to maintain bike access, parking and deliveries for businesses, residents, schools, elderly housing, and adequate movement of bus and vehicle traffic. 75th seems like a safer and logical corridor for dedicated bike track.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      They are ten blocks away, so not interchangeable as bike routes.

      There are a lot of options for 65th once the city starts studying the street (there are no such plans yet). I’d wait to see what the options look like before being sure safe bike lanes won’t work there.

      • Jill says:

        True, but 65th is currently slated for a bike track and 75th is not. Are you suggesting both become bike tracks?

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        Well, that doesn’t appear to be on the table for 75th right now. If I had my way, all desirable streets would have safe bike lanes of some kind on them. I don’t see a safe bike lane ten blocks away as a good reason to not include one. Every street should be safe for everybody.

  14. Sergio says:

    I think it foolish to expend resources on trying to make NE 75th Street bike friendly. Those children who would bike to school are going to use side streets. 75th is too steep and too dangerous for all but the most experienced cyclists. Last evening, at the public meeting, I listened to a father, who lives on 75th, and is an experienced cyclist tell the city planner that 75th is dangerous, he would not let his kids bike on it, and that children bike to school already use side streets to get there….so how is a bike lane going to benefit anyone? Do the bike advocates ever consider that fighting over everything, no matter how foolish it appears, alienates the greater community? There are routes worth fighting for….such as 65th Street, but I maintain that 75th between 25th and 35th, is too steep, and too dangerous to expend resources creating a bike route on.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      I think you’re missing the larger point. Bike lanes are a way to make a street safe for everyone. Painting a bike lane is not always about creating a bike route, but rather about making a street safer and providing a safe place on the street for all users.

      Plus, I don’t feel like there’s much fighting going on here. Seems like everyone agrees the street needs to be safer, and there seems to be overwhelming support for Proposal 4 even from people who don’t bike.

    • Andres Salomon says:

      1) “Bike advocates” are not a single group. Some want bike facilities on 75th. Some don’t care, or actively don’t want them. I fall into the don’t-care camp myself, as I’m rarely biking near Eckstein (though I do want them east of 35th). However, if they’re going to be done, I want to make sure they’re done right. Poor facilities are worse than no facilities at all (see 2nd Ave downtown). I do care about calming the street, as I sometimes cross 75th near Eckstein (usually walking). And hey, if it becomes a more pleasant street, I might find myself biking on it sometime.

      2) The risk of alienating the greater community is not really something to be concerned with. When good, safe bicycle facilities are installed in a populated area, you know what happens? People use them. That grows the number of people who are actively biking, which makes things safer for everyone, and causes “the greater community” to demand even more safe bicycle facilities.

      3) Yes, 75th is dangerous in its current configuration. The point is to change that. This isn’t about a bike lane, this is about traffic calming. The sidewalks on 75th are narrow. If you don’t have bike lanes, you have traffic zooming by those narrow sidewalks. The bike lanes provide an additional buffer for pedestrians, even if bicyclists never use them. That sounds like a win to me. That’s actually one of the reasons why I wouldn’t want to see 2-way cycletracks on the street. If you try to protect the sidewalks with parking on both sides, you end up with car congestion due to a lack of turn lane.

      4) Calling proposal #4 “bike friendly” is a bit of a stretch. I would call it bikable (for experienced cyclists), but it’s certainly not “bike friendly” for all-ages-and-abilities.

  15. Chris & Colleen says:

    As 10+ year residents of the Wedgwood neighborhood, we’ve taken an interest in the traffic improvement proposals for NE 75th Street. We’ve identified an alternative proposal that was not listed but that we feel would best serve our NE 75 community. We’ve included a diagram, key features, limitations, and our concerns about the other proposals. After discussing our thoughts with our neighbors, we’ve decided to publicly post our thoughts in addition to forwarding to the mayor’s office.

    Our proposal is to have parking on the south side of 75th. We propose a center turn lane with two lanes of traffic (one traveling east, the other west). We support the Seattle Bike Plan which has routes on 65th and 85th. We do not believe that adding bike facilities on 75th is in the best interest of the community or safe for bike riders.

    —–Concern for #4: This will concentrate cycling on a busy city street with a very steep grade, instead of designated bicycle routes such as neighborhood greenways that already exist. The 75th bike route is not age appropriate and accessible (AAA) for all riders. 65th and 85th are more AAA for the community. The school-aged community would be better served if there were crossing guards for Eckstein on 75th.

    —–Concern for #4: The steep grade on either side of 31st on 75th cause concern for bicycles picking up high speeds. There are many streets and driveways that spill out onto 75th. It’s not appropriate or safe to have riders either 1) speed along the shoulder 2) have to ride their brakes until 25th or 35th.

    —-Concern for #4: These plans do not account for parking issues on 75th. The buses drop off and pick up students at Eckstein. Parents drop off students. Eckstein hosts many academic events throughout the school year. The parking lot at Eckstein can not accomodate the visitors. The Wedgwood Pool hosts events throughout the spring and summer that they cannot accomodate with their parking lot. The 5+ blocks around the pool compensate for their small parking lot. Many people park on 75th.

    —-Concern for #4: Morning traffic at Eckstein is not well-addressed in the proposed plans. The intersections on 75th between 30th and 32nd are congested with drop off blockages. Parents typically “park” at the stop sign on 30 west or east attempt to turn north on 30th.

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