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.
Burn actually took an audio recorder with her for a bike ride down 2nd the other day and chatted with a couple people about their experience biking on 2nd. No surprise, nobody finds it safe or comfortable.
You can listen to the segment online.
Reynolds told me after the segment that he might even give biking on 2nd a try once the protected bike lanes are in place. What do you think?
I am excited to see something new and hopefully safer downtown. Thanks for repping the bike community!
I think it’s a bit precious the dangers of the 2nd Ave bike lane are now news. That thing has been a suicide trap since the moment it was painted.
I’ve biked 2nd Ave for about a week and half now and didn’t even know it had a bike lane until a couple days ago. Because I turn left on Bell right across to the right side of the road because that’s 1) where the bike lane has always been so wasn’t expecting a left side lane, and 2) I have to turn right later. Frankly, it was less terrifying when I didn’t use the bike lane, and its the only time I’ve felt laws about where you could bike, in terms of feeling safer, to make sense. Too bad the adjustments don’t start that far north (at least from the map posted last time), it’d be nice if it went from Broad or Denny all the way to S. Jackson or S. Main.
I’m totally impressed Tom. You nailed it.
Great interview, Tom – you nailed it! I’m really excited to see this issue recognized in a larger community in Seattle!
I ride 2nd on my commute several times a week. To stay safe, I never use the death-trap lane. Instead, I usually (illegally, I’m told) ride in the bus lane on the right-hand-side of the street. I find I can go fast enough there that I don’t interfere with the flow of busses, and I don’t have nearly as many conflicts with oblivious drivers. When poor street design necessitates a choice between riding safely and riding legally, I’ll choose safety every time.
I didn’t always do that – I was prompted to use that strategy by one of the scariest traffic experiences I’ve ever had. I was on 2nd up near Virginia, and riding in the leftmost general travel lane adjacent to the bike lane. Traffic was heavy but moving well, and I was pacing the car in front of me, about two car-lengths back. A cab driver (why is it always a cab driver?) started tail-gating me and honking. I wasn’t sure what he was up to, but before I knew it, he had accelerated around me *through the bike lane*, before moving quickly back into the lane in front of me. I had to swerve and break to not get clipped by his back bumper. I’d never seen such an egregiously illegal, aggressive, and dangerous maneuver by a driver. I imagine he thought I was in the wrong because I wasn’t using the bike lane next to me, though my actions were entirely legal… It struck me then that the bike lane there is not just dangerous for the people using it: due to ignorant and aggressive drivers like him, the very presence of a sub-par bike lane on the street makes it even more dangerous to legally take the lane nearby.
Anyway, sorry for the long essay. All this to say, I’m really glad this problem area is going to be improved, and I will no longer have to choose between riding safely and riding legally on 2nd Ave.
It’s not always a cab driver. Someone did nearly the same thing to me on 9th Ave SE heading south toward 228th near Canyon Park… except without the honking, at ~40 MPH, and in a shoulder instead of a bike lane. You might look at overhead imagery of 9th and think that’s a totally crazy thing to do, as there’s never really a paved shoulder for very long southbound, and you’d be right. But then a disproportionate number of the totally crazy things I’ve seen drivers do have been up in SnoHoCo.
SDOT has indicated that riding in the bus lane is okay.
I don’t know what you guys are talking about, I love starting my day with a video-game style battle for life and death. I’m going to lose my morning adrenaline rush with this new lane! Just kidding, really excited for it, and for the northbound part, too!
The only thing that I think will still hold people like Reynolds back are the connections to this lane. It needs to be connected to safe bicycle facilities on the north and south ends otherwise it will just be an incremental improvement. The thing is, all it needs are a few extra blocks. The intersection treatment (scramble phase) and Yesler will be great, but Yesler needs serious repaving and probably an all-ages facility to connect to the waterfront trail down to Sodo. To the north, completing the connection on Bell Street all the way to Dexter and 9th, and some facilities on Blanchard will do it. Neither of these projects are very hard, although Yesler re-paving could be expensive.
For those who use it currently, no longer having to worry about turning traffic and delivery vehicles will bring the morning stress level down quite a bit. I’m really looking forward to it!
Also, I always forget this will replace the 4th ave route going north. I’m looking forward to not having to choose between sitting in traffic and snaking through it illegally too.
It won’t remove the bike lane on 4th, but I think you’re right that it will attract a lot of those trips.
Don’t jet me wrong, I’m a big fan of hyperbole, but when Hannah says; “every car wants to turn left” it points out an issue many seem to be ignoring.
While having a left turn signal and prohibiting left turns while the cross walk has a walk signal will make pedestrians and bicyclists (who will be following the pedestrian signal) safer, those cars will still want to turn left (and they are of course the most important user of the roads), so one might expect those walk signal to be short and far between. So if you are going south bound I imagine you’ll be biking in the general traffic lane anyway. Don’t forget, you are not allowed to enter the intersection when the signal turns orange and the signal starts counting down, sure you can get across in 3 seconds on a bike, and the countdown may be showing, say, 12, but is still something one could get a ticket for. If a cop has the choice of ticketing one of the following, which do you think they’ll chose?: Auto driver that recklessly endangered a bicyclist, Pedestrian who enters the cross walk when the countdown is 2 and strolls across like they own the world, or the bicyclist who enters at 15 and is across before 10?
“lack of helmet a secondary offence” that just means one gets two tickets.
Hey, I already said I like hyperbole!
Not hyperbole in the slightest, actually totally precedented on both counts. Lake Forest Park cops went on a ticketing sting for cyclists on the Burke entering against the flashing hand on one of the biggest drunk-driving days of the year pretty recently. And a new cycletrack along a multi-lane downtown one-way… sounds like Dearborn in Chicago, which has exactly the problem you predict with unfavorable signal cycles.
Spray paint markings for the divider at at the intersections were on the street when I road down 2nd this morning. Looks very narrow for two way traffic.
Every day I use 2nd ave and every single day it is extremely dangerous and terrifying. Pedestrians and vehicles absolute ignore bicycles and I’ve had way too many bad experiences. When I noticed that they were doing some repainting I thought they were going to get rid of the bike lane, but now that I read this, it makes me happy.