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2nd Ave protected bike lane on schedule to meet bike share launch

2nd Av PBL Project MapIn a city known for it’s overly-laborious process for just about any significant decision, Mayor Ed Murray has given the green light to build an ambitious protected bike lane on 2nd Ave to be in place by the time Pronto Cycle Share launches in September.

The two-way bike lane will be a relatively low-budget pilot project meant to demonstrate the potential of having a network of protected bike lanes in the city’s center. It will also be a vital piece to the success of Pronto, since the bike share system depends on trips by people who would likely not find today’s downtown bike routes inviting or comfortable.

When the bike lane launches, it will not only attempt to fix the awful existing southbound bike lane, but it will provide a brand new northbound option that has be a vital missing piece to biking downtown.

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Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager Sam Woods briefed the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board Wednesday on the progress her team is making on the project, which is so far on schedule and getting close to full design. Outreach to 2nd Ave businesses and organizations has begun to help make sure everyone’s unique needs are met.

When the mayor announced the pilot bike lane in early May, it surprised even the most optimistic bike advocates in town. But with the Green Lane Project in town and experience from a growing number of example lanes around town and throughout the nation, Seattle has the ability to create a transformative bike lane in downtown with little time and funding in the existing Bike Master Plan budget.

2nd Ave will look nearly identical to Dearborn Street in Chicago. Image from SDOT.
2nd Ave will look nearly identical to Dearborn Street in Chicago (but with slightly wider bike lanes). Image from SDOT.

Because it is a low-budget pilot project, the lane will have very few bells and whistles. Unlike the Broadway Bikeway, there will be no cement curbs or planting strips. Instead, the lane will be separated from travel and parking lanes by paint and reflective plastic posts. The bike lane will be on the east side of 2nd Ave, so there will be no conflicts with transit and no need for floating transit islands. And the path will not be repaved (though any potentially dangerous cracks of seams will be sealed and smoothed out).

Essentially, it will look a lot like Chicago’s Dearborn Street protected bike lane. In fact, the city is using a photo of that project in their outreach materials. And it’s also worth noting that new (pending confirmation) SDOT Director Scott Kubly worked on that Chicago project, so he should have experience with to help make it work.

2nd Av PBL Aerial & Cross SectionsThe design essentially erases the existing and super dangerous door-zone bike lane, which has been the scene of at least 60 bike-involved collisions in just the past four years. Many more than that occurred but were not reported. Of those 60 collisions, half were due to a person driving a car turning left across the bike lane. The existing 2nd Ave bike lane is pretty widely considered the worst bike lane in Seattle.

The existing curbside parking lane will be shifted west to the other side of the bike lane and separated from people biking by a buffer space. This will help avoid dangerous situations where people exiting cars open their doors into the path of someone biking.

The parking lane space will turn into a left turn lane where left turns are allowed. During peak evening commute hours, parking will be restricted to allow more left-turning cars to queue up. Much of the existing traffic on 2nd Ave has nothing to do with capacity of 2nd Ave itself. Instead, it only gets really bad if the I-5 on-ramps are backed up through downtown, backing up those left turning cars. This project can’t fix that problem, of course, but it aims to provide a space so cars that are not turning can get through.

The existing bus lane will remain how it is today, providing movement for buses during peak hours, but changing to on-street parking off-peak.

To eliminate conflicts between left-turning cars and people biking and walking, left turns will be prohibited except on a left turn arrow. People walking and biking will get the red hand during the left-turn phase. Not only will this allow the bike lane to function safely, but it will also increase the comfort for people walking along the east side of 2nd Ave. People in cars trying to turn left will no longer be able to try to inch their way through a packed crosswalk, which is a problem today.

This brings us to one cost-and-time-saving element that is making it possible for the city to build the lane in time for the launch of Pronto: People biking will be directed to obey the walk signal. There will be no bike-specific signals, like the ones on Linden or Broadway, at least not when the bike lane opens.

Again, it is a pilot project that can be adjusted, improved or even redesigned at a later date. In fact, the city has grant money to develop a downtown protected bike lane network over the next couple years.

At the lane’s endpoints at Pike and Yesler, new all-way-walk phases will be created to allow people to transition in and out of the bike lane. The all-walk phase at Yesler will also be faster and better for people on foot, since that intersection is terrible and confusing today. The bike lane will also continue for a block or so on the north sides of both Pike and Yesler to help the transition.

Beyond bikes, the bike lane will also shorten the crossing distance for people walking across 2nd Ave. Today, the street is insanely wide, and people are often left in the middle of the street when the signal changes. This is especially a problem for people with mobility issue or who simply move more slowly than others. So having less distance to cross in front of cars will make 2nd a much more comfortable place for people on foot.

I can’t help but feel like this bike lane is the start of a new era at SDOT, with a little less talk and a lot more action. Obviously, there will still be a lot of talk (this is Seattle), but sometimes the city just needs to act, and act now. With bike share coming soon and downtown bike routes dangerous and uncomfortable, this is a time to act. It’s so refreshing to see the city rise to the challenge.

Here’s a letter SDOT is sending to residents, businesses and property owners along the route:

Dear Second Avenue Corridor Neighbor:

This fall, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is changing the current bike lane on Second Avenue between Pike Street and Yesler Way to a two-way protected bike lane.

Protected bike lanes physically separate people on bikes from people in cars through the use of parked cars, planters, posts or other similar treatments.

The Second Avenue Protected Bike Lane Demonstration Project will make Second Avenue safer and more predictable for everyone—not only people on bikes, but drivers and pedestrians, too. It will promote healthy lifestyles and help attract the many talented workers for whom safe and pleasant commuting options are a priority. And it is a significant first step toward constructing a Center City Bicycle Network, a planned series of high-quality bike facilities running throughout Seattle’s downtown core.

To implement the demonstration project, modifications will be made to parking and load zones on the east side of Second Avenue. Parking and load zones on the west side of Second Avenue will not be affected. Later this month, SDOT will be engaging businesses, residents and property owners on the east side of Second to learn more about their operational needs by making door to door visits. The information we collect will be used as we design the new protected bike lane and work to identify alternative load zones as needed.

Enclosed is a project brochure detailing how the protected bike lane will work on Second Avenue. For more information, please visit the project website at www.seattle.gov/transportation/2ndAvepbl.htm.

Your feedback is critical to ensuring a successful project that benefits all users. If you have questions or comments, or need to schedule a time to meet, please contact me by email at [email protected] or call 206-684-5189.

Dawn Schellenberg
SDOT, Community Engagement Liaison

Here’s the project brochure (more info and documents available on the project website):

14 07 10 2nd Ave PBL Brochure_Final by tfooq

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36 responses to “2nd Ave protected bike lane on schedule to meet bike share launch”

  1. Stuart

    Wow, this looks really good for a fast and dirty implementation. I hope SDOT goes overboard with public signage. Like a semi-permanent open house display near Pine that explains the project to new users and tourists and tells them about pronto, how to park next to a protected bike lane, and instructions on how to follow pedestrian signals on the cycle track. The goal should be to reduce confusion before everyone starts asking about what the heck it is, where they should park, and why there are giant blue smurf turds everywhere.

  2. Joel S.

    Nice. Run one on Pine or Pike St. next please.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Yeah, especially since 7th Ave protected bike lanes are queued up next (connecting to Dexter) and we already have lanes on Broadway, a Pike or Pine connection is vital.

      I suspect Pike will be easier to change, since Pine might be a bit skinny for two protected bike lanes and two-way bus travel. Also, I wonder if this is also a chance to speed up Pike/Pine buses at the same time.

      1. Matt

        I heard they just added a bus only lane on Pike downtown. Do you think this might make it more difficult to build a protected bike lane there?


    2. Matt

      I agree. First of all, I’m beyond happy about this project. I have to say though that the reality is that the city can build all the N-S bikeways it wants, but they will not be a “success” until Pike or Pine is made into a protected bikeway. Biking up or down 2nd is only going to get me so far if I still need to make it to Capitol Hill. I just hope they don’t take their time making pike or pine protected or else the N-S bikeways might not be nearly as utilized as they should be.

    3. Charles B

      I’d also like to see this get extended all the way up to LQA/Uptown and down to Jackson…

      1. Patrick

        Down to Jackson and with a revision to the 2nd Ave Extension/Jackson intersection. Someone’s going to get killed when they hit the rails at an angle, fall and their momentum rolls them into the outside lane under a car. It’s an insane way to end a major bike lane.

  3. Virchow

    This is great! Downtown needs all the bike help it can get! I agree that a Pike/Pink connection and a connection up to Eastlake would be welcome followup! Its kinda funny how our bike infrastructure functionality is the inverse of Sound Transit in many respects.

    1. Charles B

      I wish we had a Pink street, that would be fun. ;)

  4. Gordon

    Go SDOT go! :)

  5. Can we stop referring to this a a protected bike lane? What we’ve clearly seen from Linden and Broadway is that plastic stakes don’t do much to keep cars out. At best this is going to be “semi-protected.” Second Ave. is dangerous because the drivers are focused on turns and don’t expect bikes to be in the way. This set-up won’t fix that. It will bring more inexperienced riders into harm’s way way, though, and that is clearly a mixed blessing.

    1. Stuart

      I disagree. Did you not read that they are going to prevent left turns for some intersections? Those alone will reduce left hooks drastically, depending on the number of affected intersections. For the rest, turn lanes with protected lefts that are synced with bike/ped signals should be vastly better than the free for all that currently takes place.

      Also, as bike share in other cities have shown, getting more “inexperienced” riders on the road has increased safety quite dramatically compared to non bike share cities.

  6. How will turns work for people biking?

    1. asdf2

      Heading south on 2nd, a left turn will be easy – just yield to bikes going the other way and peds in the crosswalk and go. A right turn would be trickier. I guess you would be expected to pull into the east/west crosswalk and wait for the light to change.

      1. That’s about how I’d do it… but if there are lots of pedestrians in the crosswalks or oncoming bikes that sort of maneuver can get messy (heading northbound on Stone Way from the Burke on a busy day, for example, can be downright chaotic… whereas similar turns in Lake Forest Park are easy).

        I think it’s unfortunate that this is one of the few projects we’re actually doing with the primary stated purpose of improving cycling mobility, and there’s a clear design for how cars will turn but not bikes. Hopefully it’s not too long before turn boxes are installed…

  7. Matthew Snyder

    Hopefully this kind of prominent, downtown infrastructure project will be the impetus City Council needs to codify cycletracks into the SMC. Are they sidepaths, or are they part of the street? What are motorist responsibilities when crossing cycletracks? Much better to decide this and get it codified BEFORE the infrastructure (and bike share) is rolled out, rather than after.

    1. Josh

      SDOT pretty clearly considers this not part of the street if bikes are expected to obey pedestrian signals. By law, on the street, bikes must obey vehicular signals. Pedestrian signals only apply to bikes on paths or sidewalks, not bikes in the street.

      One down side to that is that at each intersection, the sidepath user is entering the roadway from an off-road facility, which has a different set of obligations and liabilities than simply riding through an intersection while already in the street.

      It also allows the city to get by with much lower safety standards for the facility, which clearly isn’t up to AASHTO or CROW or WSDOT standards.

    2. Josh

      Another point on codification — at present, nothing in the municipal code or state law restricts pedestrian use of segregated cycletracks, nothing says pedestrians have to use crosswalks to cross them or watch for traffic when entering them.

      SDOT says pedestrians “should” watch for cyclists when crossing the path, but that’s nothing more than a polite request.

      Where sidepaths run next to parked cars, besides watching for people getting to and from their cars, there’s the question of dooring.

      RCW 46.61.620 applies to opening car doors “on the side adjacent to moving traffic” — the parking buffers illustrated are considerably narrower than the door zone of even a compact car, so opening a car door next to the path will “interfere with” bicycles using the path, but are those bicycles “traffic” if they’re not on the street? Again, the municipal code and RCW just don’t say.

      Dooring a cyclist in a cycletrack may well be legal. Do we wait for an injury and lawsuit to set precedent, or can we get the City Council to acknowledge cycletracks in the SMC?

  8. mike archambault

    So great! How about some inexpensive planters in the buffer space like they have in Vancouver?

    Stating the obvious here, but this could easily be copied on 4th Ave, which would add off-peak parking on the west side of 4th Ave where there isn’t any parking at all right now. Could be a huge selling point to businesses and property owners on and near 4th Ave who aren’t sold on the benefits of protected bike lanes (yet)!

  9. Andres Salomon

    I’m so friggin’ excited that 2nd Ave will _finally_ be fixed. I might actually start biking downtown, rather than taking the bus.

    I do hope that the light timing is made such that people on bikes aren’t hitting a red light at every intersection.

    I’m also excited about the new SDOT director. This is an example of the things he’s been tweeting: https://twitter.com/skubly/status/487246151003824128

  10. jt

    A nice little start. But this phrase is mystifying: “pilot project meant to demonstrate the potential of having a network of protected bike lanes in the city’s center.” Sorry, this is not a network, so its success or failure will in no way reflect on a network’s potential downtown.

    A network is by definition connected, and even with this addition, our downtown protected bike lanes are anything but connected. A hodgepodge of 1-mile-long dead-end “pilot projects” scattered like a handful of tiny oases among the wild west of lawless car deserts downtown does not make a network.

    Our “pilot network” of bike lanes is like a chair prototype with only two legs — and when it topples over (has nearly zero riders) you can bet the Times editorial board will be crowing about all that “wasted” street space downtown they see next to them while they idle in traffic waiting to get on the interstate back to the eastside.

    If SDOT were actually serious about making a bike network they’d build a protected bike lane from downtown to the BG trail, or at least up Pine to the Broadway cycle track.

    According to google (note the key words: ‘intersecting’ and ‘interconnected’)
    an arrangement of intersecting horizontal and vertical lines.
    a group or system of interconnected people or things.

  11. Breadbaker

    The all-way walk at 2nd and Pike will be a godsend. During lunch hour, there are times when Second has literally no car coming southbound in sight and yet it takes a long, long time for that light to change. With the increasingly popular food trucks there, and my favorite teriyaki place (Osaka for the uninitiated), it’s an important corner during the day and the lights are timed for rush hour.

  12. […] Bike lanes on 2nd Ave: Protected bike lanes are likely to arrive just in time for the launch of Pronto! […]

  13. Seattle commuter

    I’m glad a cheap solution was found. However, I did not realize that it would mean shifting the parking to the other side of the lane. I am very concerned about it for this reason: 2nd Avenue is actually a hill (albeit a not-very-steep one) and bicyclists can get going pretty fast southbound without much effort. This means ped/bike conflicts, particularly in the dark. Note that the photo the model is based on shows a FLAT street.

    1. LWC

      @Seattle_commuter: I was initially concerned about this as well, but I’d offer two counterpoints:

      – The Broadway cycle track has some steep areas as well, and after riding those I’m not nearly as concerned about them. Being away from car traffic makes me feel much more relaxed, and much less in the “race mentality” of using a narrow bike lane near traffic.

      – I ride 2nd Ave often, and am one of the people purposely mixing with cars to stay out of the current bike lane/death-trap. I think part of my own impetus to go so fast comes from the stress of mixing with cars. I’ve found that on similar grades when I’m separated from auto traffic, I’m actually comfortable going more slowly, and naturally limit my speed to what’s appropriate to the facility. I’m optimistic that others will as well.

      I may be wrong on these points, but I think it’s worth a shot! And since this is paint only, it will be possible for the city to do a relatively cheap re-design if the experiment doesn’t work out as hoped.

      1. RTK

        I go “fast” down 2nd for a different reason. I ride all the way down 2nd from Belltown. If I ride with enough speed I can make it through all the lights. I suspect this might be the same reason many cars go at the speed that they do. It will be interesting to see what they do with the light sequences once bikes travel both directions. I could see going up second and getting stopped multiple times at lights.

    2. Zach Shaner

      Yeah, I think the lights are set for 20 or 25mph. When I drive a car down 2nd late at night, I drive a steady 25 and usually make it all the way from Pine to Yesler without stopping. When I’m on a bike, I ride 15-18mph and usually only make it to Marion before I have to stop for a light. Same goes for 4th Avenue in Belltown…I can almost make it from Pine to Denny without stopping if I push it, and driving a steady 25 hits every light.

      I’d love to see us retime some signals like they did on Valencia in San Francisco, and then advertise the signal timing to cyclists.

      1. Tom Fucoloro

        Absolutely. I think that should be within the scope of this pilot. Removing the incentive to go faster than is comfortable will make it work much better for everyone.

      2. In Chicago many downtown traffic signals are timed so if you walk at a purposeful pace (it’s not all that fast but it’s not a stroll) you’ll hit a green wave.

      3. RTK

        That is awesome, I’ve never seen signage to indicate the designed timing of the lights along a street.
        Correct timing could make it much safer for bikes and motor vehicles.

      4. BallardCommuter

        Portland times their lights for a much more humane 12 mph: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/328907

        I always get a kick out of watching cars accelerate hard and hit their brakes at every light, while I cruise along at a comfortable pace without ever touching the brakes (this applies both when I’m driving and biking there).

  14. […] forward on a two-way protected bike lane on 2nd Ave from Pike Place Market to Pioneer Square. As we reported previously, that pilot project bike lane is on track to be installed by the time Pronto […]

  15. […] As we reported previously, the city is moving ahead with a relatively low-budget pilot protected bike lane on 2nd Ave, which will be ready in time for the September launch of Pronto Cycle Share. These Federal funds will provide the resources to design and (help) build permanent protected bike lanes in the next couple years. […]

  16. […] This morning, I had the opportunity to sit down with KUOW’s Ross Reynolds and producer Hannah Burn to chat about 2nd Avenue downtown and the city’s plans to build a protected bike lane there by September. […]

  17. […] that, in a letter to council, Joncas also pointed to the department and mayor’s office ambitious acceleration of the 2nd Ave protected bike lane as one reason the implementation plan did not get done. Designing and implementing the downtown […]

  18. […] 2nd Ave protected bike lane project appears to be ahead of its original ambitious schedule, and Publicola reports that the lane […]

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