CHS: Person struck trying to access Broadway Bikeway in construction zone

Approximate location of collision

Approximate location of collision

When the northernmost block of the Broadway Bikeway was closed suddenly in January to accommodate Capitol Hill Station construction, many people voiced concerns that the changes were dangerous and confusing for people on bikes.

Sound Transit responded by adding more detour signs to make it clear that the bikeway is closed, and that their preferred detour is for people biking to take 12th Ave.

Unfortunately, the changes may not have gone far enough. Not everyone is headed somewhere with easy access to 12th Ave, and fewer still will be willing to bike six blocks out of the way.

A woman heading south on Broadway was struck by a turning car at Howell Monday while trying to make it to the temporary start of the two-way bikeway. Luckily, she was not seriously injured, though her wrist was hurt and she had other bumps and bruises. Here’s what she told Capitol Hill Seattle:

SB cyclists on broadway have two ways to get over to the cycle track, and there has been no signage or direction to indicate what they should do since this block was re-striped (also with no signage or warning). You can ride up to the light and stop as if making a left turn to Howell, though there is no turn lane so cars coming around the construction sb have to squeeze by on your right.

I typically do this when broadway is busy. Other times I usually take the lane past Denny, signal left, and enter the single lane of the previous cycle track, thinking the sooner I’m in the lane the safer. Today I had done the latter. A nb car approached with its right turn signal on. I looked at the car, as I usually try to make eye contact when crossing a car’s path, but couldn’t see in the car. It seemed to be slowing down, so I mistakenly assumed they had seen me and continued through the intersection, where they hit me.

I think the current design there is very confusing for cyclists and drivers alike, and it doesn’t seem like a lot if thought went in to impacts up cyclists. I also think there I’d probably a lack of awareness about the two-way cycle track, and so nb right-turning cars might not be accustomed to checking for sb cyclists…

Of course in the eyes of the police the question is whether or not I was in the crosswalk and how fast I was going. Does cycle track in an intersection have any legal protection? And what about when that cycle track is hastily modified for construction?

The majority of the Broadway Bikeway is scheduled to open in May, stretching from Yesler Way to Seattle Central Community College. However, the construction at the north end will continue in some form for most of 2014.

The collision on Broadway was only one of several traffic injures on Capitol Hill Monday morning. CHS also reports that a person was struck by a car crossing 23rd Ave at Aloha. Fortunately, the person struck was not seriously injured.

This is the same section of 23rd that the city where the city currently plans not to improve safety as part of an upcoming high-budget repaving project.

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10 Responses to CHS: Person struck trying to access Broadway Bikeway in construction zone

  1. Gary says:

    As a “left hand turner” crossing a NB right hand turning car, you have no right-of-way rights.

    You must assume that the NB car will either continue straight, or turn right, in which case you can pass behind, not in front.

    This is no different that what a car driver has to do. The problem here is that the cyclist has missed out on the “Vehicular Riding” technique.

    I’m 100% sorry that this person got hit. I also will probably never ride this cycle track as there are so many other ways around this area, but I sympathize with those who want to use it.

    • LWC says:

      It sounds from the account that it wasn’t a “turning left in front of a right-turning car”, as much as a “going straight in front of a right-turning car”. If it happened in a crosswalk, the driver would clearly be at fault (WAC 132E-16-040 & SMC 11.46.020). The legal question boils down to whether the cycle track is treated as a crosswalk: what are the legal duties of drivers when turning across a counter-flow cycle track?

      • Peri Hartman says:

        I think the legalities are a secondary issue. If the track allows this situation to happen, it’s not even coming close to serving its purpose.

        How can we expect novice riders, children, and other people who aren’t comfortable in traffic to use the track if it isn’t better than riding in the regular traffic lane?

      • Gary says:

        Well they said they would install special lights for cyclists, it may be that the safest thing to do, is put a red for the cycle track, when the cars have green, and green for cyclists, but stop all auto traffic.

        Or when it’s done, have the cars stop well back and then have to route out into the intersection to turn directly toward the cycle lane…. which puts the cyclists directly in their view.

        But yeah, this is what Vehicular Cyclists complain about. (I do think that a well designed cycle track can work though.)

      • Josh says:

        On the legal question, cycletracks aren’t defined in the municipal code or the RCW, so it’s a gray area at moment. SDOT has signed it as a path, not a lane of the street. If that’s correct, then the State Supreme Court’s logic in the Pudmaroff ruling would suggest the entire width of the path is itself a crosswalk where it intersects a street.

        Bicycle-specific signal faces aren’t yet recognized by the municipal code or the RCW, though the FHWA has given interim approval for their use.

        The rules for bicycle-specific signal faces are different from standard traffic signals, so once they’re legal to use in Washington there will need to be some education for cyclists. (Not terribly complicated, just different — for example, you can’t have a green bike with a “no left turns” sign next to it; if there’s a prohibited movement, you have to have green arrows for the movements that are allowed.)

        One potential conflict on bicycle signal faces would come up if it’s determined that sidepath/street crossings really are crosswalks. A yellow bike signal still allows you to enter the intersection, but warns you that the light is about to turn red, just like a standard traffic signal. But under traffic rules for crosswalks, a yellow signal means it’s no longer legal to start into the crosswalk.

        When more serious accidents occur, it will be important to watch how the courts handle them since the law doesn’t currently recognize cycletracks or define right-of-way.

  2. Steve says:

    This detour should have been to close the southbound motor vehicle lane, detouring them around the construction are via Denny/Harvard/Pine. Most SB cars don’t really need to be on Broadway anyway. Leave a safe bikeway and NB vehicles and our some pressure on finishing the construction and detour. When have you ever seen a ‘detour’ that just dead ends a travel lane like this does to the bikeway.

  3. asdf2 says:

    I routinely do exactly what this person did to cut over to the cycle track – at Denny, take the lane and head south for one block, then start to turn left on Howell and cut over to the cycletrack to avoid the streetcar tracks. There’s not a good left turn lane to wait in without blocking traffic, for for those that are uncomfortable, turning left on Denny and taking the sidewalk for one block is certainly an option. In any case, detouring all the way to 12th is ridiculous.

    Of the course, even when the construction is finished, there’s still the reality that the long-term plan for a pseudo-left turn to cut over to the cycletrack at Denny isn’t really all that much better than the current situation. The fact that the cycletrack ends where the streetcar tracks end just because it was constructed as streetcar mitigation is silly – it needs to continue north along Broadway and 10th Ave. all the way to the Eastlake bridge into the U-district.

    As to the proposal for separate signal phases for bikes and cars, I don’t like the idea. Political pressure would inevitably give the cars almost all of the green time, leaving bikes sitting and waiting, even when nobody is actually turning. In practice, bikers would end up just running the red light when it’s green for cars, so you may as well just have shared phases to begin with.

    • Josh says:

      Separate signal phases are required if there’s potential conflict — for example, with a two-way sidepath, if contraflow traffic on the sidepath is allowed to make left turns onto cross streets, that can only be done while through traffic on those cross streets is stopped, or else cyclists will be turning in front of oncoming cars.

  4. Lindsey says:

    This is how I felt when I rode in the track for the first time headed sb in front of mud bay and had a car turned into the parking lot right in front of me and a block later a ped walk into the cycle track when we had the green light which almost made my cycle buddy and myself crash into each other. I have to drive once a month and my route home has me going nb and turning right onto Pike. I am always nervous about all you have to look for now while turning. With two lanes of bike traffic and a busy cross walk it is not the best design. I will not be using the cycle track as it seams like it is putting cyclist in danger.

  5. jam says:

    i almost died here yesterday to a road rager

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