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City will install two-way bikeway for part of the Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link

The city's plans for advisory bike lanes have been scrapped in favor of a two-way bikeway. Photo courtesy of Fred Young
The city’s plans for advisory bike lanes have been scrapped in favor of a two-way bikeway. Photo courtesy of Fred Young

The city will build a two-way bikeway this month in an attempt to increase safety on a notoriously dangerous stretch of the Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link in Ballard.

Previously-planned advisory bike lanes on NW 45th Street have been scrapped in lieu of a two-way bikeway that the city hopes will be safer. To make space for the bike lanes, the street will become a one-way street eastbound for motor vehicles between NW 46th Street and 11th Ave NW. This is somewhat similar to an idea proposed on this blog in August 2012.

The city’s plans are aimed at making it much easier and safer for people biking to and from the abrupt end of the Burke-Gilman Trail near Fred Meyer to Ballard Ave and the Ballard retail core. If all goes according to schedule, work should be completed before Christmas (best present ever!).

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Details from SDOT (UPDATED with slightly revised SDOT release and a map):

Shilshole Avenue Northwest/Northwest 45th Street between Northwest 46th Street and 11th Avenue Northwest is about to become one-way eastbound for motor vehicles, with a separate two-way bicycle lane to the north. The Seattle Department of Transportation is making the roadway change to address longstanding safety concerns.

Crews will install striping along the Shilshole Avenue Northwest/Northwest 45th Street segment and place new signage this weekend, Dec. 20-22. Westbound motor vehicle traffic will be detoured onto Northwest 46th Street at 11th Avenue Northwest. Eastbound traffic may experience intermittent slowdowns.

The one-way eastbound solution comes after collaboration with area businesses. Access to all businesses will be maintained, although some routings will change due to the one-way modification. New signage will direct those heading westbound on Northwest 45th Street, east of 11th Avenue Northwest, to head north to Northwest 46th Street instead.

The identified segment of Shilshole Avenue Northwest/Northwest 45th Street is one of the highest bicycle collision locations in the city and also a heavy industrial area. As part of this new plan, crews will also install all- way stops on 14th Avenue Northwest at Northwest 45th Street and Northwest 46th Street.

Other safety improvements made recently include:
·     Curb islands at bridge abutments at Northwest 45th Street and 15th Avenue Northwest under the Ballard Bridge
·     New intersection signage at Ballard Avenue Northwest and Northwest 48th Street, and at
Ballard Avenue Northwest and 17th Avenue Northwest
·     New speed limit sign on Shilshole Avenue Northwest and Northwest 45th Street between
Northwest 46th Street and 11th Avenue Northwest

The original South Ballard Corridor Safety Project called for installing advisory bike lanes and speed humps along Northwest 45th Street. Advisory bike lanes clarify with dotted lines where drivers can expect to see bicyclists within a driving lane. Because this roadway segment is so narrow, one-way motor vehicle travel with a separate bike lane was determined to be a better option.

Map of the planned bike lanes:

NW 45th St 121713 OneWay-Bike Map

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34 responses to “City will install two-way bikeway for part of the Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link”

  1. Lindsey

    That is great news! I was just talking about that this morning. I rode over to the old town yesterday to do some Christmas shopping and always forget how close the cars get to you on this stretch of road. I can’t wait for the trail to finished someday and it will no longer be an issue but this is a great start!

  2. Chuck E

    I really hope there is a physical barrier of some sort and not just line on the road. Might as well be the first cycle track in Ballard.

    Great to hear of this reasonable solution fir this horribly unsafe section of road. Now about the rest of the missing link…

  3. YEAH!!!!!! When? This news needs a parade, balloons, clowns!!!

    1. Andrew

      “Crews will install striping along the Northwest 45th Street segment and place new signage this weekend, Dec. 20-22.”

  4. Southeasterner

    So what happens at Shilshole and 46th? Hopefully they are putting in a four way stop sign otherwise crossing 46th, with even more Westbound traffic, will be a worse nightmare than it already is.

    1. Matthew Snyder

      Apparently they’re installing a 4-way stop at NW 46th St and 14th Ave NW, which is currently a 2-way stop for traffic on 14th. That might help matters a bit, and I guess it will slow traffic on 46th slightly, but it will still be a drag strip from that intersection westbound all the way along Shilshole. I agree with you that the intersection of 45th (or is it called Shilshole there?) and 46th is already a real problem spot that’s unfortunately not being addressed, despite obvious and cheap ways to make improvements — and, as you say, it’s likely to get worse with additional traffic routed that way.

      1. Bill Lemke

        The 46th Shilshole intersection absolutely needs an all way stop. I suggested the stop on as a high priority on my comments on both the first and new BMP. It has always been difficult to cross and if there is now a bike track ending there, it will be even harder to cross in any direction.

  5. Huzzah!

    Exactly what I’d been hoping for. All-way stop at 45/46/Shilshole will be interesting. That is the “Ballard freeway” right there. Plus wasn’t there going to be a stop or signal at 17th and Shilshole a block West? That intersection is misery, and many of us cut over to the east side of that intersection to get past folks turning left onto 17th.

    Next 2-way cycletrack in Ballard should be between the Bell Tower and Market on Old Ballard. Talk about lines of desire – cyclists constantly use that stretch and the crosswalk light on Market to navigate Ballard Ave-Market transitions, including riding the wrong way down that stretch of Ballard Ave.

    1. Matthew Snyder

      I haven’t heard anything about an all-way stop at 45th/46th/Shilshole. Where did you see that mentioned? It looks like all that intersection is getting is some new paint.

      1. Julian

        Ack. Misread the above:
        “As part of this new plan, crews will also install all-way stops on 14th Avenue Northwest at Northwest 45th Street and Northwest 46th Street.” 14th … not Leary.

        Why was that a priority, instead of helping folks cross Shilshole? 14th and 45th is fine as is (2-way stop). Now they’re just inviting “scofflaw” stop sign running, as other bogus 4-way stops (Mount Lake Terrace BGT, etc) do. It’s a freaking boat ramp access, doesn’t need a 4-way stop. Was that something the local businesses wanted?

      2. RossB

        My guess is they are related, but going in for different reasons. A stop sign at 46th and 14th makes sense because of traffic in the area. Folks leaving from Trader Joes try and make a left on 46th and that backs up 14th. Next thing you know it’s backed up all the way to Ballard Way and you have a mess on your hands. So, they put the stop there.

        The stop on 45th and 14th is a weird one. With the other stop, eastbound folks will want to avoid it, so they go cruising on 45th. So maybe the city put it in so cars avoid 45th in general, and save it for the bikes. I think that might actually backfire, as that means more people taking the angle left from Shilshole to 46th, which makes that particular intersection even nastier. If it becomes “the default” (everyone takes that angle left) then drivers don’t signal, and that isn’t good. So, yeah, other than a local business wanting everyone to slow down, I don’t see the value in the stop sign at 14th and 45th.

  6. Josh

    This may also be a more lasting solution than “advisory” bike lanes. “Advisory” bike lanes are not MUTCD-approved facilities, and don’t exist in Washington State law. FHWA has approved experimental installations of “advisory” lanes, pending safety study outcomes, but if safety results aren’t what experimenters hope for, the experimental facilities must be decommissioned after the approved experiment.

    For a similar example, consider the symbolic “right-turns-yield-to-bikes” signs. FHWA approved experimental installations of this style of signs, but those experiments did not support continued use of the signs, so they’re no longer approving new experiments, and old experimental installations must be removed. See http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/knowledge/faqs/faq_part9.htm#signsq2

    When you have a route that has been subject to so much controversy and so many setbacks, I think it makes sense to avoid experimental installations that might have to be removed in just a few years, which would give opponents a chance to reopen the entire can of worms.

  7. Shawn

    This is great news.

    Hopefully they’ll start enforcing the 20mph speed zone there, too. Cars can really bomb down NW 45th sometimes. And by ‘sometimes’ I mean ‘every time I ride there’.

  8. Anthony

    Vehicula cycling and expedient routing just took a major hit, this scares me to hear of va two-way cycle track that most likely will be too narrow.

    The one bonus it will providde is a safer route for those with baby-joggers, strollers, and bike trailers. If something isn’t done to curb the hogging of the trail by that crowd, we are in for some serious traffic jams.

    I sure wish the City would get some teeth and put in real bike lanes where we can ride alongside traffice safely, but that would mean enforcing good behavior among car-drivers. The City wants none of that and instead looks to ahalf-hearted solution, too bad, and nothing new.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      There isn’t room on the street for bike lanes and two-way traffic. That’s why the original solution was for “advisory” bike lanes, which are unusual here but are widely used in some European countries. Basically, they were bike lanes that cars can drive through, but where people biking have the right of way.

      By making the road a one-way street, room was made for proper bike lanes. But it would be a little odd to have bike lanes on each side of the street, with one general traffic lane running between them. I think two-way probably make more sense and will be easier for everyone to figure out. It will essentially feel like a continuation of the trail that we’re all used to.

      It will be interesting to see if people on foot start using the bike lanes. Technically, this would be illegal, but I would take it as a great sign that the design is, indeed, more comfortable.

      1. Jessica

        Huh, it didn’t even occur to me (as someone who uses the Burke Gilman for both running recreationally and commuting by bike) that it would be illegal to use these lanes on foot. I was picturing it as an extension of the “multi-use” trail. Including directional signage for people on foot would be super helpful to explain where you’re supposed to go if you’re not supposed to go here. e.g. how to get to downtown Ballard/the Locks/etc.

      2. Tom Fucoloro

        It would be a rather crazy thing to ticket someone for.

      3. Josh

        Not sure if it would be illegal or not… would depend in part on whether the bike facility is considered lanes of the street or an off-street trail/path.

      4. I’m not sure that it would be illegal — you’re not supposed to walk in the bike lane or the street if there’s not a sidewalk, but if there isn’t a sidewalk you’re not banned from walking entirely; I think there’s something in state law about keeping to the side, but you’re allowed to go on whichever side you choose, and the bike lanes would be a very reasonable choice in this situation.

        There aren’t very many streets with bike lanes and no sidewalks, so precedent may be hard to find. The only example I can think of is Windsor Road (west of Race) in Urbana, IL. My running club generally took the oncoming bike lanes (I don’t think we ever encountered anyone biking there but we’d have gone off into the shoulder if we had).

    2. Bruce Nourish

      “expedient routing just took a major hit”

      Meanwhile, on Planet Earth, expedient routing received a major boost. I’m certain I’m not the only person who bikes a mile out of their way to avoid this awful bit of road.

      My commute is northwest Ballard to Fremont. Today I ride 70th St to 5th Ave and then drop onto the trail at 8th & Leary. With this reconfiguration, I could ride 70th St to 20th Ave, cross Leary, ride Ballard Ave to 17th, cross Shilshole, and then be on protected trail. Additional suckiness of crossing Leary and Shilshole without a signal, versus crossing 8th Ave and 65th St without a signal, may well be offset by the expediency of this routing.

      The problems of people who want to do 30 mph on the Burke, and whine about other trail users to boot, are of approximately zero interest to me.

  9. Damon

    Why did they stick the bikes on the north side of the street? This preserves most of the danger of the diagonal intersection-crossing at 11th and 45th, by Fred Meyer… though it will be better without having to worry about cars continuing westbound on 45th.

    This solution also continues to butt cyclists right up against the train tracks, which have been catching tires on this stretch for years.

    I suppose, whether this was on the north or south side of 45th, bikes and cars would have to switch places in one spot or another. This way, we’ll have to do it eastbound, at speed, instead of westbound while making that horrible left onto Shilshole.

    1. Lisa

      I’m guessing the bike lanes on the north side of the street are to decrease confusion- make it more like a road than a bike path. The EB car lane and EB bike lane are right next to each other, so basically you have a one lane road with a bike lane and a contra-flow bike lane. If it were on the south side, you’d have the WB bikes sandwiched between EB car and bike traffic.

      I wish they’d fix the weird intersection at 11th and 45th, although at least everyone’s going slow there (unlike Shilsole and 46th).

  10. Jessica

    Super! I was there this weekend and will be excited to see this change.

    I’m not sure I understand Anthony’s comment that “expedient routing just took a major hit”– isn’t this an expedient route that we’ve been biking for some time, but now is going to have to be shared with fewer cars?

  11. This sounds like fairly good news. It will be interesting to see how the intersection at 45th/46th turns out. A map with lines that end just short of the intersection isn’t encouraging.

    One way to do the block of Ballard Ave between the bell tower and Market Street would be like 34th west of Fremont Ave in Fremont… move the angle-parking to the east side of the street and put a contra-flow bike lane on the west, lose 10-ish parallel parking spaces.

    1. On the 46th/Shilshole intersection at the western end of this… the need for truck access to the one-way street really complicates things. More vehicles, especially, trucks will need to make left the weird left turn from westbound 46th to eastbound Shilshole, with the risk of encroachment onto the bike lanes. And the place these vehicles would wait to yield is right in front of where westbound cyclists would wait to turn left.

      Squaring off the intersection and putting in an all-way stop (similar to NE 40th St and 7th Ave NE in the U District, which also involves a two-way bike path on a one-way street) might be a good idea. That would force trucks coming from the west on Shilshole to make a 90-degree right turn instead of continuing straight, so maybe it shouldn’t be squared off as much as it would be at an intersection without much truck traffic. Or maybe a roundabout would work.

      1. RossB

        Yeah, since 46th is one way to the east, they should basically eliminate the easy angled left turn to 46th from an eastbound Shilshole driver. At the big triangle (at 46th and Shilshole) carve out a left turn lane and a stop sign. Curve the bike path to be more perpendicular (north/south). Then add a stop sign for westbound 46th, just north of the only existing stop sign in that triangle (which will now only apply to bikers).

        This means that westbound vehicles on 46th, westbound bikes on Shilshole and eastbound vehicles on 46th all come to complete stop at 46th and Shilshole. This is mainly a nuisance for westbound drivers, but too bad, so sad. If you cross the Burke Gilman (or the local equivalent) you should come to a complete stop.

        If you are going eastbound on Shilshole, just keep going on Shilshole (no stop) whether a biker or driver. Once past the intersection, a biker just switches into the bike lane (there is no westbound car traffic at that point).

        As for trucks going westbound on 46th and then eastbound on Shilshole — I doubt it. That is essentially a hairpin turn while waiting for drivers going through. My guess is that trucks will simply take alternate routes (via Ballard Avenue, etc.).

  12. BallardCommuter

    Great news! This will be a huge improvement for a dangerous and unpleasant part of my daily commute. It’s also nice to see that compromise can be reached – all auto access is maintained (though access from the east will require a somewhat more roundabout route), and safety is improved for everyone.

    But there are a few details that worry me, all of which have been touched on above. Hopefully if someone from SDOT is reading they can address these points so we can better understand the thinking behind them:

    1) Will there be physical separation (curb, jersey barrier, etc. – anything more than just paint of flimsy bollards)? If not, why not?

    2) Placing the bike lanes on the south side of the road would make access to/from the Burke Gilman much easier (no north/south crossings necessary), and would also facilitate similar treatment on Shilshole in the future, with an easy future connection to the trail at the locks, which is of course also on the south side of the road. Is there any logic to the north-side placement?

    3) The stop sign at 14th seems unnecessary, and a 3-way stop at the west end of this lane (46th, 45th and Shilshole) is sorely needed. Traffic on 46th/Shilshole tends to move far above the posted limit and crossing can be treacherous. Can the superfluous and missing stop signs in this design be explained? Is there possibility of modifying this design before installation?

    Thanks to SDOT for making this happen, and I hope you can shed some light on your decision process. We all want to see this facility be as safe and efficient as possible!

    1. RossB

      I agree completely with points 1 and 3. Initially, I agreed with your second point, but I think I figured out why they did it this way. Doing it this way, with a one way eastbound street it makes it easy for eastbound drivers and bikers. There really is no reason for an eastbound biker or vehicle to stop at the 46th/Shilshole intersection (see my previous comment). An eastbound biker can then easily switch into the bike lane, since there is no oncoming traffic (except for bikers, who are in the far outside lane). I should mention that bikers need to own that lane. For westbound riders, there is no problem, as long as the changes are made to 46th/Shilshole.

      If you did it the other way, you would have to have everyone come to a complete stop at 46th and Shilshole or force westbound bikers to cross in front of oncoming cars. You are absolutely right, though, they will have to redo everything once they finish the Burke Gilman, but I think that is the plan anyway.

  13. RossB

    Oh wait, duh! The stop sign at 45th and 14th (which many, including me) have questioned is to avoid a left hook by eastbound drivers. They have been cruising along Shilshole oblivious to the bikers around them, and they take a quick left onto 14th and bam, hit a biker heading west. Safety first, I suppose.

  14. Brian

    Are there any photos of the completed bike lanes anywhere? No luck in finding anything on Google Images or Flickr.

    1. Saskia

      Are the bike lanes completed? They’ve put in plastic posts and have put up some temporary signs. Does anybody know when this is going to be completed?

      1. Tom Fucoloro

        Looking into it. Stay tuned!

  15. […] Kidical Mass ride took us to Ballard for our first look at the new two-way bikeway for part of the Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link. The paint isn’t down yet and I hope they’ll put more dividers in to make things […]

  16. […] New two-way bikeway along the Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link […]

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