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Broadway is the new face of complete streets in Seattle (VIDEO)

SDOT crews install finishing details to make the bikeway more intuitive to use
SDOT crews install finishing details to make the bikeway more intuitive to use

The city of Seattle opened the first section of the Broadway Bikeway this week, showcasing how protected bike lanes can work on even the most active streets in the city.

Broadway connects from Yesler Terrace and First Hill into the heart of Capitol Hill. It runs through some of the densest neighborhoods in the whole city and is lined with vital destinations of all kinds, from small businesses to grocery stores to major medical centers and colleges.

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In short, if modern protected bike lanes work on Broadway, they can work anywhere.

2011_0803_Seattle_StreetcarV4The city officially opened about a short segment of the under-construction bike lanes this week. Stretching about a third of a mile from Denny Way to Union Street, the bike lanes provide a low-stress space for people on bikes and are designed to prevent people from crashing on the new First Hill Streetcar tracks.

Soon, the bikeway will stretch from Denny Way to Yesler Way. Plans are also in the works to extend it at least as far as Roy and potentially even all the way down 10th Ave to Roanoke Park and the future 520 bikeway to the eastside.

With Denny Way closed on the east side of Broadway for light rail station construction, usefulness of the bikeway as a complete bike route is still a bit limited. But that will change in coming years, especially when the light rail station opens in 2016.

There has been some confusion in the first days of operation, with some people confusing parking lanes for turn lanes and others simply parking in the bike lane. However, the city is still finishing work on the project that should make it more clear to everyone how to use the new street. There is always a bit of a learning curve with new street infrastructure, and Broadway is showcasing all kinds of new elements.

Also called a “two-way cycle track,” the Broadway Bikeway includes bike lanes in both directions on the east side of the street. Sometimes a line of parked cars protects people on bikes from moving traffic. In other places, a concrete curb provides a barrier. People biking have their own traffic signals to protect them from turning cars, and green paint is used to remind both people driving and biking to look out for each other.

Transit islands give streetcars and buses a place to pick-up and drop-off passengers without pulling into the bike lanes. They also give people waiting for transit a place to stand that is not in the middle of the sidewalk, freeing up valuable sidewalk space.

Unlike typical bike lanes throughout the city, the Broadway Bikeway makes the safety and comfort of people on bikes a clear priority from beginning to end. No more bike lanes that disappear at major intersections or place people cycling directly in the path of opening car doors.

Protected bike lanes are more inviting to more people, and the city’s Bike Master Plan calls for many miles of similar lanes through downtown and connecting nearly every neighborhood. These bikeways, in conjunction with trails and neighborhood greenways, will form a network of bike routes that people of all ages, abilities and levels of experience will find comfortable and useful.

Broadway is a look at the future of complete streets in Seattle.

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23 responses to “Broadway is the new face of complete streets in Seattle (VIDEO)”

  1. james in the CD

    I am really happy out the new infrastructure and have already tried it out – it’s pretty exciting.

    However, I believe for awhile there are going to be some issues till people come to understand what the green means – as last night an elderly women (maybe in her 70’s) in a mint condition 80’s four door sedan must have gotten confused and was in the cycle track from “assuming” Union – she may have pulled out of the parking lot adjacent to Gilda’s Club – once she crossed Pike – she was able to pull into the Shell station where I think she was able to get her bearings.

    As a bike commuter with a short fuse and no patience for bad car drivers – I really felt for this lady as I know she was confused as all creation and had she known what was going on – she wouldnt have made this mistake. She was seemingly a very capable driver as she was able to handle the car fine with very limited right-of-way.

    Regardless – I hope SDOT reaches out to some of the businesses with curb/cycle track cuts – and lets them know they should be “educating” their patrons on what the green means.

    1. Matt

      I might have to educate a few cars myself ;)

  2. Brian

    I haven’t ridden the cycle track myself, but on the basis of watching a couple of videos of the demonstration section, I have some concerns about bike-car conflicts for bikes that are moving against the direction of car traffic on the 2 way cycle track . There is potential for someone coming out of the Shell station in a car, wanting to turn right into the traffic lane, to just look to his left before making his move. Looking to the right in a situation like this is sort of unprecedented as driver, so it’s easy to imagine that he might not look to see the cyclist bearing down on him from that direction.

    Obviously education and frequent use will help a lot, but it would be nice for the infrastructure to prevent these sorts of potential collisions via clever design. Traffic engineers are smart and know how to do this, but there frequently is neither political will nor money to produce the safest design, which would be to eliminate 2 way cycle tracks entirely.

    I hope this cycle track is seen as an incremental step towards a more bike-friendly city, not as a “perfect” street.

    1. Q

      God forbid anyone operating dangerous heavy machinery in public in close proximity to other people actually pay attention to what’s going on around them..

      1. Doug

        Well, a lifetime of habit can be tough to break.

        The issue described above is very common. If we commit to building cycle tracks is, we need to solve this very real issue. Snark will not create safer streets.

  3. Joseph Singer

    The signals are absolutely the same as for regular vehicular traffic. The only difference is the lamp holder lens has a representation of a bicycle. The timing and everything else is entirely the same. Also why are bicycle signals placed way up high when it should be at bicyclists’ eye level?

    1. Q

      The bike signals and crosswalks give a go signal a second or two before the automobile lanes.

  4. Sea

    Shoalers: See someone stopped at a light? Queue up, quit riding to the front. 99% of the time the people who do this also toodle along in the lane and drag brakes down hill. Pass (if you can) while we’re moving, don’t pass at a red light. Especially if I keep passing you when it goes green.

  5. RTK

    Back to one of my frequent concerns. We build infrastructure but don’t keep it up. I’m concerned that without some regular sweeping plan in place the cycle tracks will become full of leaves, garbage and glass. I noticed several places in the video where leaves were starting to pile up. Cars are big enough they tend to blow leaves away, and heavy enough with thick tires that they pulverize glass.

    I can’t begin to count the number of times I have seen private companies hired to clean sidewalks in front of businesses that use brooms or leaf blowers to just deposit everything over the curb onto the street (now onto the cycle track?).

    I rode the cycle track on 65th from Sandpoint Way up to the BGT on Tuesday. Between the tall curb on the south, and the concrete barriers on the north this region is now a leaf magnet. They were a few inches deep across almost the width of the trail. Fortunately they were dry at the time. Wet compressed leaves are one of the slickest compound known to mankind.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      I saw a mini street sweeper clearing out the Ravenna Boulevard bike lanes the other day, so I know the city has at least one. Maybe we should push for a defined sweeping policy for protected bike lanes to make sure they get some kind of priority or extra attention. As we add more lanes, we might need to buy another sweeper or something. But that’s a problem we can solve.

      Or maybe one of us should build a street sweeper bike and do a little community service :-)

      1. RTK

        It would be great if someone put together a street sweeping trailer you could check out and pull down your favorite bike lane / trail / cycle track. I used to commute regularly on the Interurban on the Everett to Lynnwood setion. Not a heavily used trail and a fair amount of glass in spots. I tried to stop and pick up big glass and sweep broom the rest away. I realized quickly it was a futile effort. Without some kind of mechanical sweeper you can’t really clear much at all.

      2. Mondoman

        Cool idea!

    2. Briana

      I was wondering about this too – yesterday I rode down the broadway cycletrack in the AM and it was full of leaves and other debris (garbage), especially near Seattle Central Community College. When I came home in the evening, around 6, the path had been (almost) cleared. For some reason a block in the middle still had many leaves. There was a cycletrack-sized debris-clearing machine towards the northern end of the cycle track, which presented a new issue – how to get out of the cycle track when something is blocking your way. I’m glad there isn’t a curb making merging back into traffic any more challenging. Overall, I love the experience of riding on the new cycle track – it makes me feel like a first class citizen, which is rare on the bike, and it makes Seattle feel more like a world class city.

  6. […] Hill Streetcar line. Drivers — and bikers utilizing the newly opened Broadway bikeway (“Broadway is the new face of complete streets in Seattle“) — should be aware of a few issues this […]

  7. daihard

    I got to ride on the new cycle track this afternoon. It was a nice ride, but like RTK said, there were a few locations on the track where leaves stacked up, especially on the northbound lane, forcing me to move to the opposite lane to avoid them.

    What I found dangerous was the section under construction – south of East Union. Since the streetcar track is in the right lane, I had to ride on the thin strip between the right track and the edge of the street for several blocks. Those who have rather thin tyres will have to be very careful not to be trapped on the gap created by the track.

  8. […] A portion of the new Broadway cycle track opened while I was there.  Design wise it is interesting since just about every block looks different then others.   Check out the snippets of video and photos I took above (again, note that some of this is under construction).  Obviously many challenges on this corridor with driveway access, bus stops, and – in parts – the University Link light rail, which is being tunneled as we speak. […]

  9. […] at 11:00 a.m. (come early if you want a pre-ride coffee) and head to Capitol Hill to ride the new Broadway cycle track and then have a post-ride coffee at Black Coffee […]

  10. JP

    I’m not so sure these 2-way cycletracks are a good design for bikers (kind of surprised you’re so gungho about them!). I’d much prefer standard 1-way cycletracks, one on each side of the road, so bikers could follow normal traffic flow.

    If you’re coming up Pike (east), and turning right on Broadway to go south, it’s not so easy to get into the cycletrack on the east side of Broadway. Last night I wanted to make a right on red (perfectly legal, and that traffic light is a very long signal), and only needed to go one block to Union, so turned right and rode next to the light rail tracks – but then wiped out when a front tire got stuck in the rail track (which were very slick from rain, and hard to see in the dark) – obviously a stupid move and normally I know perfectly well how to handle rail tracks, from experience with the SLU trolley tracks.

    My point is, those rail tracks are super dangerous, but the 2-way cycletrack doesn’t seem like a much better alternative – riding south on the wrong side of the road (left side) in a busy neighborhood with opposing cycle traffic seems like a really bad idea. The hill in front of The Garage south of Union is pretty steep, so even a non-speedster biker will have a hard time not moving 20mph when going north there. That puts southbound cycle traffic at risk because cars can and will pull into the cycletrack at driveways/intersections without looking.

    I hope the city keeps track of accident statistics, it’ll be interesting to see how things turn out 6 months from now.

  11. […] has now been three weeks since Seattle’s first separated cycle track on a central city street became operational. CHS cruised the Broadway bikeway on Day One – […]

  12. […] 17 riders gathered in Fremont yesterday for a coffee-shop-to-coffee-shop ride (Milstead & Co. to Black Coffee Co-op) to celebrate the last day of the Coffeeneuring Challenge and check out the completed portion of the new Broadway cycle track. […]

  13. […] Seattle and Sound Transit are employing a host of state-of-the-practice elements in their current work to redesign the Broadway corridor for all users, in accordance with the city’s 2007 Complete Streets ordinance. When finished, the corridor will host a new streetcar line, a protected two-way bikeway, and numerous improvements for those on foot. (Greater Greater Washington, Seattle Bike Blog) […]

  14. […] opening of a short section of the Broadway Bikeway has certainly been a learning experience in many ways for the city. Many of the early issues […]

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