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After 2 collisions at same 2nd Ave parking garage, city makes changes

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 12.39.33 PMAfter the second person in just one week was injured by a person turning across the 2nd Ave protected bike lane into a parking garage between Pike and Union, the city has made changes to improve visibility.

Most early efforts to improve the bike lane focused on the signalized intersections, which makes sense because that is how Sher Kung died just days before the new bike lane was installed.

But the garage entrances have been a different issue because they are mid-block and there are no signals. Instead, the city has used green paint and symbols of people biking to tell people they should look for people on bikes before driving across the bike lanes. But not everyone follows those rules, and obscured visibility does not make it easier.

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That could have been the issue Wednesday morning, when someone driving turned into the path of a woman headed south in the bike lane. She collided with the car and had to be hauled away in an ambulance. The Seattle Times reports that she “suffered hip pain but not serious injuries.” But it could have been a lot worse.

The city responded before the end of the day by pushing parking further back from the garage entrance to give people turning a better chance to see someone headed down the bike lane. They will also be adding signage to make it more clear to people turning into the garage that they need to look for and yield to people in the bike lane.

The garage entrances have long been an issue on the street, even before the upgraded bike lane. But while the upgrades addressed many other issues on the street, they did little to fix the garage entrances and may even have made them worse. During peak hours, attendants help guide cars in and out of many of the garages, as they did even before the bike lane. But that’s not a full-time solution.

Driveways are trouble in any dense area of the city and are awful for the walking environment as well as for biking. But where driveways must be accommodated, there are design elements that can help them work. The green paint is a low-cost way to make it clear that, as a person driving, you are about to enter a space dedicated to biking. If the bike lane were raised a bit, this effect would be even more clear since a person would have to drive over a small curb to cross the bike lane.

But, of course, it also requires people driving to recognize and respect that bike or walk space and yield, something that needs to become a part of our driving culture through education and extremely clear signage.

King 5 has a full report on the problem and got some good before and after footage showing the problem the city has addressed:

EDITOR’S NOTE: I am in St. Louis visiting family this week, so I apologize for being slow on covering yesterday’s collision. I will still be reporting from here, but breaking news coverage will probably be slower than usual through next week.

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43 responses to “After 2 collisions at same 2nd Ave parking garage, city makes changes”

  1. Josh

    Would be interesting to hear from SDOT what design speed was used in determining sight lines for these driveways when the cycletrack first went in, and what design speed they’re using now for the increased sight distances.

    There’s no separate speed limit posted for bikes, and ordinarily bike lanes have the same speed limit as the street, so I would hope they’re providing long enough sight distances for a motorist going 25 mph to see and avoid a cyclist going 25 mph down the hill.

    If it’s considered a separate path, BMP would require at least a 20 mph minimum design speed for bikes, since BMP facilities are required to comply with local, state, and national standards.

    What bike speed was used in the original design?

    1. Andy

      I am hopeful that SDOT actually designed these for a design speed, rather than simply using the numbers cited by NACTO, which are only applicable to facilities on zero grade.

    2. Andy

      The addition of Yield To Bikes signage directed to vehicles turning in to the driveway, and exiting the driveway, might be helpful, too, as described under “Recommended” here: http://nacto.org/cities-for-cycling/design-guide/cycle-tracks/two-way-cycle-tracks/

      This sign, but with the arrow directed to the left for this case: http://nacto.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/YieldBikes-R10-15.jpg

      1. Josh

        It may be in NACTO, but that’s not the approved R10-15 sign. BMP requires compliance with national standards on bicycle infrastructure, so I don’t think we should encourage the use of illegal signs.

      2. Andres Salomon

        I’m pretty confused as to what’s allowed and what’s not allowed when it comes to the Feds and NACTO.


        I would’ve thought endorsing it meant cities were in the clear to use it for design guidance, but according to that FAQ, that’s not exactly true.

      3. Josh

        As I understand it, NACTO addresses many design issues that simply aren’t covered by MUTCD, and provides more guidance on using other features that are allowed by MUTCD. FHWA is fine with it being used that way.

        But NACTO does not supersede MUTCD — if a facility uses traffic controls that are not approved, the facility still requires FHWA permission to experiment. For example,


      4. Josh

        If the prohibited signs in that FAQ look familiar, maybe you’ve seen them on Broadway…


  2. Andy

    I’m hopeful that SDOT will be able to learn from the issues with uncontrolled turning movements across protected bike lanes, and will avoid implementing them in the future in locations with substantially more mid-block driveways. This type of collision is the reason a protected bike lane on Leary or on 65th NE is ill-advised.

    While it will take substantially more expense and political will, if cycle tracks are going to be implemented safely they need to include either closure or signalization of mid-block driveways (at least to businesses, being higher traffic than residences).

  3. Of course, King 5 calls it a bike lane flaw. It’s not. It’s a driveway flaw. Driveways across sidewalks and bike lanes downtown have been lousy since they were built, and it took a high-profile bike lane for anyone to notice.

    1. Josh

      The driveway was there first, by decades… putting in a bike path without fixing the driveway intersection seems like a bike path flaw to me.

      1. Cheif

        A failure of people driving cars to not injure or kill reflects a flaw in the way the vehicle is being operated within the confines of the road, regardless of whether anyone things whether or not something being there “first” has anything to do with people crashing cars into other people.

      2. Josh

        Hiding cyclists from motorists by providing inadequate sight distances before known hazards greatly exacerbates the risk of driveways. That’s a clear flaw in the design of the path, even if the driveway already posed a risk.

      3. LWC

        Actually, the sidewalk was there first. But nice try.

      4. Josh

        I wasn’t aware the cyclist who was hit was on the sidewalk. That would certainly not be the place to be riding fast.

      5. jay

        I have to agree with Chief on this one. Presumably the sidewalk has been there as long as the driveway, so drivers know there are things they need to look for. Granted, the bike path adds to the list of things they need to look for, but the design of the bike path does not absolve drivers of the responsibility to not run people over.
        I wonder if just removing parking is really going to help, or if it might make things worse. With a car parked right next to the driveway a car needs to make a very sharp turn, at, one would hope, a very slow speed and fairly close to perpendicular to the bike lane/sidewalk. If the driver bothered to look out their side window they’d have a decent view North (presuming they are going very slow or stop). With the new space, if they were willing to run over the plastic pylon (if it is not already gone by now) then they could make a relatively fast wide turn. While they’d have a good view of North bound cyclists (who they may be trying to beat to the driveway) South bound cyclists will be more or less behind them, possibly in the “blind spot”.
        I think Kirk’s idea of a stop sign is a good one, and perhaps a solid bollard at the turn (like the ones we get to ride past on the BG) well, actually, a stop sign pole itself would do the job.

      6. The bike path goes straight, and its width is reasonable for its function.

        The fix for these sorts of collisions isn’t to remove bike lanes (as much as I question the recent trend to put lines of parked cars between the bikes and moving traffic) but to remove driveways.

        Conveniently, there’s already too much parking in greater downtown Seattle — enough that our street network can’t handle the number of people trying to drive in most days, and that’s a street network that’s truly overbuilt, with every avenue trying to be a little highway between the buildings. Removing every parking entrance across 2nd Ave would bring us slightly closer to balance, though we’d have to reduce parking elsewhere, and change a lot of plans in the Denny Triangle and SLU to actually get there.

    2. RTK

      Al – I like your way of thinking, but at this time our society isn’t willing to address the real issue at the root level. Hoping for my kids that day comes if they choose to live in a large city when they grow up.

      We just have to keep trying to get society to that tipping point in our own ways.


      1. DT cyclist

        The answer is pretty clear. Just ban cars from downtown. Problem fixed.

  4. Joseph Singer

    It would be nice if the video worked.

  5. Kirk

    For these turns into and out of parking garages, the parking should be taken away, as they have done, but that lane should then be turned into a left turn only lane, with a stop sign and stop line. Cars should have to come to a complete stop prior to crossing the bike lane. There should then be a protected lane for those coming out of the garage, so that there is a dedicated lane to turn into on second avenue, and autos don’t have to try to find a hole in traffic to fit into.

    1. RTK

      Thank you – yes!

  6. Van

    OMG, in the first 30 seconds of the video you can see the rampant failure to yield on 2nd & Union. I have hope this will be fixed soon, SDOT sent word via twitter they were going to be on that corner this week seeing what changes need to be made.

    Part of the problem, I feel, is that the bike lane is on the left. I’ve never felt comfortable biking on the left, as cars expect me on the right. And, I think its one of the very rare places where a cyclist is on the left, so I can’t be the only one uncomfortable. Its not just cars that can’t see you, I ring my bell ALL the way down 2nd, many pedestrians just run as soon as traffic is clear and can’t see me coming down the lane over the cars. Until I started ringing my bell like a crazy person I almost hit someone jay walking. I can’t really blame them, there’s a feeling of panic like you have to cross before a car is anywhere nearby, that prevails across most downtown sidewalks. Though pedestrian behavior on 3rd borders inexcusable as a result. Also, the person I almost hit was sight impaired, if the crowd moves forward, that’s the blind’s only indication to cross, I can’t get mad he jaywalked because other people let him think it was safe. Please ring your bells, fellow riders, for the sight-impaired and the plain old hurried pedestrian who can’t see over the cars down University.
    I think there’s a lot of changes that need to be made before we can call 2nd ‘safe’ or ‘friendly’ for bikes or pedestrians, but at least the city knows it and is working on it.

    1. ChefJoe

      See, I just noticed the unhelmeted bicyclist at 1:25 in the video. I guess you see what you’re trained to look out for.

      1. Van

        No, I noticed the unhelmeted people, but frankly I could care less. I’m not a huge fan of the helmet law, mostly because its just a heap of controversy, angst, and has nothing to do with safety and more to do with liability, IMHO. There’s a lot of arguing on both sides of the to wear or not to wear a helmet, and when I see someone not wearing one I simply do not care. I’m just glad they are cycling. But you’re right, if we aren’t looking for something we won’t see it, but if its what we’re specifically looking for, it’ll be incredibly obvious. Probably a combination of confirmation bias and our own human need to fix problems.

  7. RTK

    So the Seattle Times article states that SDOT will be adding signs to remind cyclists to slow down through that block. Car doesn’t yield, hit cyclists, yes let us add signs to tell those cyclists to slow down.

    1. Cheif

      And of course having the automobile traffic slow down to a speed at which the operators can actually process information and avoid killing and maiming people is somehow out of the question..

      1. Dave

        Well, if we want drivers to slow down we’d better hope that ISIS can sieze the Saudi oil fields and embargo oil to the US thus jacking our gas prices up to European levels. What an absolute blessing that would be!

      2. Joseph Singer

        You forgot about ISIS, Benghazi and Ebola. It’s about as relevant.

    2. DT cyclist

      If you are almost running down pedestrians, you are doing this whole cycling thing very, very wrong. There is ZERO excuse for barreling through intersections as fast as you can. If you are riding the streets, you are expected to follow the rules of the road, that includes not terrorizing pedestrians.

      1. Cheif

        Off topic much?

      2. jay

        “Off topic much?”
        Not too much, he was only 4 letters off topic CYCLing vs. DRIVing
        Oops, I missed one RIDing vs DRIVing, so make it 6 letters.
        Otherwise he had very valid points.

        The topic has been brought up before, but I haven’t seen a satisfactory answer, just what is the legal status of the 2nd Ave bike facility? is it closer to a sidewalk, or a traffic lane? “DT cyclist” wrote: “If you are almost running down pedestrians”. Is this a case where cyclists have the “rights and responsibilities of pedestrians” or are they “vehicles”? , in the former case then DT was on topic (except for those 6 letters) in the later case, perhaps not quite so much. But, even supposing we pretend this is an intersection with two “vehicles” approaching each other, the “woman headed south in the bike lane” would have been on the driver’s right, and therefore the driver should still have yielded to the other “vehicle”.

  8. […] – The bike signals on 2nd Ave are great, but I’m glad the city is also dealing with garages mid block. […]

  9. Rich

    About five years ago I used to be a regular commuter on Second. This was with the old dangerous bike lane. I remember this block. It’s the one where I took the lane for the whole block. Now with the protected bike path this is no longer an option. Somehow I don’t feel safer.

    1. DT cyclist

      I rode the new cycle track. The two-way cycling on the left is counter-intuitive to what everyone in this country has learned in driver’s ed, myself included. I definitely did not feel safe in either direction. While this is something of an improvement, I really hope it’s not the model for future bike lanes in Seattle, and hope it’s avoided whenever possible.

    2. Cheif

      You can still take the lane even though there’s a cycle track. Streets are free to use even if there is an adjacent bike facility. Kind of like how cars are allowed to use streets near the freeway instead of just being restricted to the freeway.

      1. Cheif

        Thinking about it, I’ve seen people taking the lane on 2nd being yelled at by people in cars because they think bikes are restricted to the cycle track. I’ve taken the lane on 2nd and been yelled at by people in cars for it because they think bikes are restricted to the cycle track. Where does this assumption come from despite that it obviously makes no sense?

      2. jay

        “where does this assumption come from”
        In some cities that is in fact the law, so some people from other areas may well believe that to be the case here as well (along with not riding on the sidewalk).
        Come on, you can’t really expect anyone to bother to learn local laws (even if they were born here or work at a local television station). And of course, there are plenty of people who just don’t think bicyclists should be on the street period. (to whom that assumption makes perfect sense)

  10. Good move in pushing parking back to increase sight line. Same situation exists, but worse, in the confusing mini-PBL on Yesler. That one has super-restricted sight lines exiting the garage. The PBL makes sightlines worse by putting riders closer to the curb with less room to manuever, and makes it more confusing (less predictable) because riders who will be in general purpose lanes or bike lanes depending on where they are headed. This could use another try.

    I agree with RTK that, “We just have to keep trying to get society to that tipping point…”, Kudos to Mayor Murray, SDOT, Cascade, and everyone riding downtown, however you are doing it, and whether your signs and signals meet whatever ancient standards or not. Let’s keep trying and expanding our tolerance and our actions, keeping our eye on the prize.

  11. jon

    Once again the answer is to focus on reducing speed on 2nd Avenue and making it less like a mini-freeway, the one way 3-lane timed-lights design still screams car is king on 2nd Avenue.

    1. Cheif

      Yup. 20 mph max with ticket cams at every intersection. Lights timed for 15 mph.

      1. Andres Salomon

        I think we’re (legally, due to WA state law) limited to 25mph on arterial streets without a longer-term expensive traffic study. Please correct me if I’m wrong on this.

        Even so, a 25mph speed limit on 2nd combined with traffic calming would still be a huge improvement.

      2. jon

        From April of this year, reckless drivers speeding down 2nd Ave collide and slam into store, then drive away. Hopefully no one was standing on that busy corner…
        City Target smashed in hit-and-run

      3. Dave

        Yes! Bravo!

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