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City finally starts work to close Roosevelt bike lane missing link

ROOSEVELT_Draft_20121916After years of delay and some significant changes in response to neighbor concerns, the city is finally completing the ten-block section of missing bike lanes on Roosevelt between 75th and 85th.

Well, more accurately, bike “lane,” not “lanes.” The project would continue the Roosevelt pattern of climbing lane uphill, sharrow downhill that was installed years ago north of 85th.

Initial painting work has started and King 5 reports that work is expected to be complete by the end of September.

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While this is not the kind of bike lane project that will be inviting to people of all ages and abilities, it will make the vital north-south route far more comfortable and safe than it is today. It also makes the road configuration more consistent and connects the University Bridge to NE 125th.

The project also makes it even more vital that the city creates a safe way for people biking north on 12th to cross over a block and continue north on Roosevelt. South of 75th, Roosevelt and 12th Ave are one-way streets, but north of 75th Roosevelt is a two-way street. Unfortunately, this is the current option for getting from the bike lane on 12th to the new bike lane on Roosevelt:

Looking west on NE 75th from 12th Ave NE. Via Google Street View
Looking west on NE 75th from 12th Ave NE. Via Google Street View

Photo I took in 2010 of parking utilization on Roosevelt.
Photo I took in 2010 of parking utilization on Roosevelt.

Despite the fact that it only took simple observation to see that almost nobody parks on Roosevelt between 75th and 85th, the city gave into neighborhood outcry about the proposed parking consolidation plans and delayed the project three whole years.

During that time, at least 10 people were injured in 46 collisions in the ten-block stretch (data is from the 3.5 years before June 2012, see document below). Two of those collisions included people on bikes, and two included people on foot.

The city conducted almost comically extensive studies of the street use, including exhaustive parking count data taken from all seasons and time of day. What did they find?

Almost nobody parks on Roosevelt between 75th and 85th. And at every single moment in time throughout a year, every car parked on the street could easily fit on one side of the street with room to spare. So they proposed implementation of a design that would include parking on the west side of the street only.

From an SDOT study using data collected May 2010, June 2010, September 2011 and February 2012
From an SDOT study using data collected May 2010, June 2010, September 2011 and February 2012. Yes, they studied the parking that many times.

The absolute worst case scenario is that someone might have to walk a block after finding a free parking space to store their car. But probably not.

Of course, that has not stopped at least one project opponent from claiming that the bike lane will destroy the neighborhood. Note to David and others who share his views: We can be allies! I agree with him that the city should install crosswalks. Stop making silly claims that bike lanes will destroy your neighborhood. Instead we can work together to make sure needs like crosswalks are included in these plans. Imagine if all that money SDOT wasted studying parking (non)use had instead gone to design and installation of crosswalks or neighborhood art, park benches, etc. People who ride bikes live in neighborhoods, too. Including yours!

While it’s exciting to see this project finally happen, it’s frustrating that it took so long that now the design seems rather out-dated. The draft Bicycle Master Plan update suggests that some kind of protected bike facility should be installed in the Roosevelt corridor, since it is the most obvious north-south bike route option in the area. The new climbing lane will be great for confident and moderately-confident people on bikes, but it leaves out people who want to bike but won’t feel safe screaming down a hill while sharing a lane with motor vehicles and buses.

Here’s a presentation of SDOT data on the project:

2012-06-19 SDOT Roosevelt Bike Lane 2 by tfooq

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26 responses to “City finally starts work to close Roosevelt bike lane missing link”

  1. Gary

    Better to scream down a hill in a wide car lane than in a constrained “bike” lane where cars try to pass you on the hill.

    1. Takin’ er easy

      Screaming isn’t necessary if the wide lane is wide enough (say 13 ft. or so) – stay far enough from the curb to avoid drains and glass and ride at any speed you want. I tend to take the lane when screaming at 20+.

      I find the the configuration south of 75th less comfortable than the current configuration north of 75th. The bike lane is only 4.5 ft wide between the stripes and next to a 7 ft wide parking lane. On my hybrid it’s impossible to stay out of the door zone without slopping over into the adjacent traffic lane, simultaneously risking being doored or sideswiped.

      The worst part of Roosevelt Way is between 43rd and 42nd where a busy medical clinic, a couple of parking garages, a bus stop and a 7 ft. parking lane cause a great deal of chaos on weekdays. Roosevelt, south of 45th should be restriped with a wide right lane with sharrows, encouraging cyclists to take the lane when necessary.

      1. Tom Fucoloro

        Yeah, the Roosevelt bike lanes are not adequate, I’d say from 50th to the bridge. The trader joe’s area is a mess, the issues you describe are bad, and the lane disappears right before the slight turn toward the bridge (then reappears after a merge across a lane of right-turning and often confused people in cars).

        It’s an example of “compromise” bike lanes, squeezed into whatever spare space the road has.

        However, I would say that the solution of going back to shared lanes is not adequate because it ignores all the people who would be interested in cycling if it weren’t so dangerous. Shared lanes might work for confident riders, but not everyone. We should be looking to higher quality solutions with more protection for people on bikes.

    2. Andres Salomon

      As a general comment, not everyone likes to “scream down a hill”. My wife rides her brakes the entire way. Dedicated lanes make sense for people who prefer to ride slow.

      1. Tom Fucoloro

        I like to cream down a hill when I’m in need of a rush, but mostly I ride slow. Safe bikeways are in part about the right to bike slow.

      2. Doug Bostrom

        The trouble with screaming downhill comes with the combination of vehicle doors and moving vehicles that are screaming downhill even faster.

        Also curb bulbs, for that matter, excellent though they are in many ways. If a screaming bike is squeezed into a bulb by an even faster-screaming car, bad things happen. We had a horrific accident occur just up the street from us at 35th Ave. NE and 105th, wherein a cyclist was pinched and in trying to evade then struck a crosswalk bulb with the result being a flight of many yards, before ending up in a heap on the pavement to be hauled away in an ambulance.

        More generally and leaving bulbs out of the picture, sharrows are a lousy substitute for a bike lane wherever curb parking is permitted.

      3. Doug Bostrom

        Amending and extending my previous remark, bike lanes are possibly even worse than sharrows when they’re squeezed against curb parking, something that I’m sure is wholly obvious to cyclists frequenting this blog. Going fast in such tight quarters is risky and frightening, yet sharrows are no solution.


      4. Gary

        Maybe I’m crazy but I feel safer the closer to the speed of traffic I can go. So screaming downhill is what I aim for. The faster I go, the more of the lane I take.

        When I ride slow and close to the right side of the road, cars try to squeeze past me with the least amount of lane shifting, with the result that each car behind them comes even closer. By giving none of them any room, I hold back the mass from passing too close. It must suck to drive behind me because the perception is that I’m holding up traffic, but I catch these same cars at nearly every light so in fact we are all going the same average speed.

        Also I ride with full reflective gear, and dual 400Lumin tail lights blazing.

        It may sound strange but riding reckelessly gets me more room on the road. It seems like the less predictable I look, the more room that cars give me. All sthose other cyclists who make a rukus seem to make most drivers wary about running into yet another crazy person.

  2. Jack

    Totally off topic, but related I guess.

    I ride down 25th Ave NE every morning and today I saw a sign encouraging folks to contact the Mayor’s Office in an effort to defeat bike lanes. It was taped to a light pole at the corner of 25th NE and NE 65th in front of the gas station. I’ve heard nothing about this. I don’t think it’s related to the diet on NE 75th Ave where that terrible accident happened, but maybe it is?

    Is the city considering a “street diet” on 25th Ave? Just wondering if you have any insight.


    1. Tom Fucoloro


      It’s about the bike master plan. There is a group of people who REALLY don’t want the city to even include NE 65th in the bike plan’s list of project to consider at some point in the future.

      So no, there is no bike lane project for 65th, but people are fighting it anyway.

      Some background: http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2013/08/09/mayor-mcginn-will-hold-monday-town-hall-to-discuss-ne-65th-street/

  3. daihard

    This is definitely a step in the right direction.

    On the other hand, the post KING 5 made about this on Facebook is filled with negative comments about bike lanes, cyclists, and Mayor McGinn making this project happen. As a new cyclist, I’m honestly shocked to see so much negative “vibe” about riding in this city. A lot of people demand that bikes be registered and cyclists be licensed so “they will behave properly on the road.” As if the motorists did!

    1. Gary

      Welcome to the “get off my lawn” crowd…. it’s not the majority of anyone other than old people who are afraid of change. Ignore them, they are dying off, and since they don’t exercise, faster than the rest of us.

      1. RTK

        Had to laugh. Generalizations tend not to be the way to look at people on either sides of these issues. Except after going to the Ravenna meeting on the BMP I was amazed by the number of very angry old people who had no understand of the facts at hand. They were seriously mad about something, primarily change.

      2. Andres Salomon

        It’s not just old people; change is scary for everyone. The NE 65th thing was particularly depressing, however. The business district is never going to be a welcoming place for people with the mindset displayed, causing me to think that perhaps I should be living in another part of town. :(

      3. daihard

        Andres, do you mind sharing with me what’s going on around NE 65th?

  4. […] spends years studying parking on a street to prove conclusively that few people are even using it (*cough*), a couple people will still get mad enough about parking removal that they attract TV news […]

  5. leo

    However, I would say that the solution of going back to shared lanes is not adequate because it ignores all the people who would be interested in cycling if it weren’t so dangerous. Seattle Bike Blog.

    Sorry, but I’m too experienced to buy into that. You are safer when you are seen, and riding in the lane if at the speed of traffic or even slower if the lane will not allow you to share ,will put you in a position to be seen. And yes, that is legal. Read the RCW.
    How you ever got the idea that bicycling in unsafe is beyond me. But you do us a disservice by writing that.
    Using the lane as I have described is what the leading bike education programs in the county have said for years. I’m referring to the League of American Bicyclist programs and Savvy Cycling’s programs. And yes, those programs also show how safe cycling is.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Is that what you would say to an eight year old? Ride with traffic, take the lane, etc?

      Vehicular cycling is a valuable survival strategy for cycling on streets without safe bike lanes. But it’s not a strategy for creating a city that is safe and inviting to people who, say, would feel comfortable cycling on the Burke-Gilman but not in the middle of the lane down Roosevelt.

      1. leo

        No, but that is what I would tell that child’s parent. Because that is how I rode with my kids when they were eight. Somehow I can’t quite imagine allow an eight year old riding any distance without a parent or guardian.
        And, that IS safe. My kids lived .
        Quit spreading fear, cycling is safe.

      2. Andres Salomon

        Well then, if your kids lived, it *must* be safe!

        I see 8 year olds riding on the Burke all the time. Their parents are there, but the kids are riding their own bikes. Heck, I see 4 year olds on glider bikes on there.

        I can’t recall ever seeing 8 year olds riding on busy arterials with their parents, taking the lane. When I do see 8 year olds on arterials, they’re riding on the sidewalk.

        Why do you suppose it is that parents feel safe letting their kids ride on arterial sidewalks and the BGT, but not in the middle of a 30mph general-purpose travel lane? Do you suppose we should just keep telling them cycling is safe as we’ve done as a matter of policy for the past 30 years, ensuring that cycling for transportation remains a small fraction of our total transportation? Or are you willing to admit that the reason various european countries have far surpassed us in terms of cycling modeshare is because they’ve spent the past 30 years designing separated, comfortable facilities?

  6. leo

    Sorry it took me a bit to get back to this.
    Two comments. Responding to the thread about bike lanes and sharrows, I would think that uphill bike lanes and downhill sharrows should be the default treatment.
    my rational is with the RCW, that riding less than traffic speed as cyclist shall stay as near to the right edge of the rightmost straight through lane as is safe. A proper bike lane, outside door zones, provides just that.
    Downhill, at the speed of traffic the RCW allows a cyclist to use the lane. A sharrow provides that as well. Nothing prevents a slower cyclist from using the as far right position f they do not want to ride at speed. I’d also want sharrowed areas to have signage to read, Bicyclists May Use Full Lane. I do realise that that could be interpreted that without the sign some uniformed motorists might think cyclists may not use a lane, but think that would not be an issue with education, a point I’d like to work with later in this post.
    Now about the idea that Europe is way ahead of us in modal share. Europe has had a long culture of cycling, we have not. You saw the streets in Denmark with adults cycling in the 50’s,60’s, 70’s. Not in the USA. We had, and still do have a very auto-centric culture. In the 50’s the interstates were built, gas was very cheap.I recall in the 60’s the Beach Boys musical group singing about cars, it was a rite of passage for a 16 year old to get their drivers license. Our gas was very cheap compared to Europe, they have no oil wells, and no government subsidy for the oil companies as we do.
    So…does infrastructure play a part in modal share? I would say yes, but very guardedly.
    Look what the Portland experience is , the last couple years the percentage of cyclists seems to have leveled off, even though they have more infrastructure.
    What I do think will bring more numbers to cycling is a cultural shift, which we are seeing right now , as our gas prices are close to Europe, and our cities have become crowded.
    What will help us is both infrastructure and education. And right now education may be the thing to bet on to increase numbers. Education for cyclists, those educational programs I mentioned in my first post, and education for motorists of what rights and laws cyclist do have. I’d be a little leery of infrastructure, simply because as Europe’s infrastructure has become more mature, and they have had time to really see trends, some of the things they have built have not been found to be as safe as thought. With limited monies we need to be very careful they don’t build ourselves into a corner.
    Tom, sorry about the long post, but this can’t be answered with a sound bite.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Don’t apologize for the long comment! I appreciate it. I completely agree that cultural shift and education are vital. And vehicular cycling skills are a big part of that. Even in the distant future when/if Seattle has a fully connected bike network, those skills will still be needed.

      Bike like a car is good advice. I just dream of a city where you can comfortably bike like a person. Damn, another sound bite :-)

      Thanks, Leo.

  7. I ride on a downhill bit of road with a door-zone bike lane on it (Fremont Ave between 43rd and 36th) all the time. It’s not the worst thing in the world, because I just move out into the general traffic lane anyway. If people want to ride slower in the bike lane that’s fine; I’d suggest people that go really fast in the bike lane rethink things a little.

  8. leo

    Tom, speaking of infrastructure, you might want to look at this.

  9. sean

    I’m with you Leo and Al. Boo to downhill bike lanes & separated facilities (downhill)–they constrain sight lines too much, constrain maneuverability too much. When I go downhill in this area, my 10 year old and I take 8th avenue–when I’m by myself I take the lane on roosevelt down, 8th ave up (who needs the fumes of roosevelt for a climb?). I agree–an uphill facility and downhill sharrow is the way to go for access to folks that need to make it to a meeting, if perhaps in addition to a neighborhood greenway in this case to provide facilities for all levels of cycling ability, speed, etc.

    On a related note, you remember Tom the reaction I got when I mentioned that I wouldn’t ride the Linden cycle track with my tandem–it goes too fast for some of the blind intersections when I’m late getting myself and my daughter to a soccer game, on a schedule and the like. Unmitigated anger is the term I would use for the auto driver reaction when I have to take the lane next to a separated bike facility for safety’s sake. Same reason I don’t use dexter anymore unless I’m cycling with kids on singles taking it down a notch in speed (I take the right lane on westlake solo both ways)–where I get going too fast for the separate bike lane and need the auto lane, I’m issued an impromptu death penalty by passing motorists who are ready to play judge and jury on that situation, RCW backup or not….”we paid all that money for that facility–get in it!” What happened to different facilities to cater to different ability levels? (varying muscle soreness being my varying ability level, as well as # of kids I bring with me).

  10. […] city this week is finally installing an uphill bike on Roosevelt Way between NE 75th Street and NE 85th Street. This closes a missing […]

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