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City will install temporary protected bike lane on Roosevelt + Neighbors urge city to extend plans further

Roosevelt PBL Fact Sheet - FINAL copy-mapFor much of northeast Seattle, Roosevelt Way is the primary bike route connection to the University of Washington, the University Bridge and beyond. Unfortunately, it is also a hotspot for collisions and injuries for people biking. Nearly 20 people have been injured in collisions while biking on Roosevelt in just the past four years.

As Andres Salomon noted in a guest post here in September, the city has plans and funding to repave Roosevelt Way and parts of 11th Ave NE. But early plans included few if any bike facility updates despite the street’s collision history and recommendations in the city’s Bike Master Plan for protected bike lanes.

Well, the city listened and is planning to try out a temporary one-way protected bike lane on Roosevelt between NE 45th Street and the University Bridge before paving begins. Crews are scheduled to install this bike lane in December and January.

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The current bike lane is a skinny, paint-only lane squeezed between fast cars and buses headed downhill and parked cars. Much of the bike lane is well within the door zone, meaning someone opening the door of a parked car could easily open it in the path of a person biking down the hill.

The city’s proposed temporary bike lane upgrade would move the bike lane to the curb and use the existing bike lane as a buffer space lined with reflective posts. Here’s what that would look like, according to SDOT:

pave_roosx1 pave_roosx2This is a huge step forward for the repaving plans, and University Greenways recently wrote a letter to city and SDOT leaders urging them to stretch the protected bike lane plans into the rest of the paving project area. They even created a petition you can sign if you agree with them:

Now we’d like you to continue your bold thinking. Under the current repaving plan, Roosevelt Way NE from NE 45th St to NE 65th St and 11th Ave NE will remain a dangerous and uncomfortable street for people of all ages and abilities where collisions are all too common. We ask that you create all ages and abilities, family-friendly biking and walking facilities on Roosevelt Way NE and 11th Ave NE as part of the already funded repaving project. This would best be accomplished by extending the planned protected bike lane from NE 45th St to NE 65th St, improving the experience for people walking along and across the road, and studying whether a rechannelization would make the street safer and more orderly for everyone.

You can also learn more and submit your feedback in person at an open house 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. November 17 at University Heights Community Center, 5031 University Way NE, Room: 108. The presentation will begin at 6:15.

Here’s the project flyer from SDOT:

Roosevelt PBL Fact Sheet – FINAL Copy by tfooq

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36 responses to “City will install temporary protected bike lane on Roosevelt + Neighbors urge city to extend plans further”

  1. bill

    I think it would be better to remove the west drive lane and expand the bike lane and west side parking into that space. Convert the east side parking to a drive lane if two are needed. I can only think SDOT has not considered the needs of the UW Roosevelt medical facility. A parking lane on the west side is essential for taxis and busses to drop off patients with mobility challenges. I wonder if the proposed configuration might run afoul of ADA requirements.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      From the SDOT flier:

      “The passenger loading zone at the University of Washington’s medical clinic and the bus stop at 42nd Street will not be impacted. SDOT will work with King County Metro and the University to develop a design for the permanent facility.”

      Not sure what those bike lane interactions are going to look like. Hopefully not just a shared lane where people biking will be expected to wait while a shuttle unloads.

      1. Tom Fucoloro

        I meant to add that I agree with you, bill, that I’d rather they kept the parking and got rid of a travel lane. That would make it a lot safer and easier to cross the street on foot. But if nothing else, upgrading the door zone bike lane is a big deal on its own.

        Daily traffic on the street really isn’t that high, and much of it is just trying to avoid I-5, anyway. So I bet the street could work well with one through traffic lane.

    2. The Broadway Cycletrack has some similar issues — though most of the hospitals are on the west side of the street there’s still a need for passenger pick-up/drop-off zones on the east side. One such zone is just north of Cherry. There the treatment brings the bike route up to sidewalk level and, in theory, indicates to cyclists they’re entering a space where they should be expected to yield to passengers unloading (as from the Access van currently shown on streetview there).

      I’m not sure if that treatment would be outside the scope of this project, though.

  2. Brian

    Roosevelt isn’t anywhere near my normal routes for riding around town, so I don’ t have any input on the details of the design. But I have to say this: I’m heartened by seeing an increasing number of reports like this where bicycle facilities are being incorporated into routine road projects. I’m sure there are probably a number of examples of road projects where the City doesn’t do this or does it poorly. The recently re-opened bridge comes to mind as a missed opportunity where they simply painted a lane on the bridge instead of shifting the sidewalk’s concrete barrier over a few feet. But, still, posts like this make me feel like we’re turning a corner in this City. I have to temper my good feeling with the reality of opposition on Westlake and routine aggression/obliviousness in drivers. And it still feels like table scraps when put in the context of the budget for certain bridges and tunnels. But…I’m choosing to see a silver lining in these low-budget, under-the-radar, reasonably effective improvements popping up all over the place.

  3. Virchow

    Its a great start. I will also be curious how the whole ambulance and access shuttle drop off/pick up will work for the Roosevelt clinic. It seems like UW probably should have built some sort of on site facility (like Swedish now has on Broadway on their First Campus) for this. But as things are now, there is a need for access and the current proposal kicks that can down the road. Still, as Brian noted, a welcome improvement over the scary status-quo.

  4. Robert Norheim

    Sounds like a helpful project. However, given the background: “But early plans included few if any bike facility updates despite the street’s collision history and recommendations in the city’s Bike Master Plan for protected bike lanes.” I have to wonder why someone had to raise the issue with SDOT; shouldn’t they have included bike facilities on their own initiative from the outset of the project?

  5. Doug

    I’ve ridden that section of road hundreds of times and it is indeed pretty terrible. I’m interested in how this turns out.

    Like others, I am concerned since it wont do much to actually fix my main beef with the road, which is cars and busses crossing the current bike lane. Seems like a textbook case of the main traffic lanes feeling safer. I have no issues keeping up with traffic there, as I currently take the lane anyways.

    1. Drew Dresman

      That’s great that you take the lane but it is also unacceptable that you should have to take the lane with cars that move as fast as many do on Roosevelt. I had to watch a couple people in a car berate a dad who was riding with his son on a trail-a-bike because they thought he was suicidal for taking the lane. As much as I was horrified at the people in the car, I can see why they think it is dangerous to ride on Roosevelt. It is. But, what are the alternatives? Meanwhile cars have all of I-5 along the whole corridor. It is time to set Roosevelt in its proper place as compliment to I-5. Roosevelt/11th, the University Bridge and Eastlake should not just be overflow space for frustrated cars trying to cut through. It is also the vital connector for bicyclists, pedestrians and transit riders from downtown to the U District and beyond. Setting aside safe right of way for these modes in vital corridors is the only true relief for urban congestion and the increased capacity we need to function as the growing city we are.

  6. asdf2

    I live near the U-district and Roosevelt->Eastlake is my preferred bike route to downtown. One of the big reasons I currently prefer to go down the hill in the right-hand car lane is that, when the bike lane ends at 41st St., I’m already in the car lane and don’t need to worry about merging over.

    From what I can see reading the diagrams, the new protected bike lane is going to continue to end at this same spot, and bikers in the bike lane will still have to merge into the car lane to continue on down the bridge. In other words, nothing will change, and for those headed to bridge, taking the right-hand car lane will continue to be safer.

    Even after the paving project is finished, it is not clear to me how they plan on fixing this. The 500 feet or so south of 41st St. already has no parking, and the street is simply not wide enough there to extend the protected bike lane to the existing bike lane across the bridge without taking way a lane of traffic. There is also the channelized entrance ramp from campus parkway, which cuts across the bike route at and angle encouraging high speeds, which really needs to be fixed.

  7. Bruce Nourish

    I know this is only tangentially related, but when are they going to put some kind of separation in for the bike lanes on the University Bridge approaches? There are no parking or transit conflicts there, except access to the bridge tender parking spots. Protection would make a long, exposed speedway with lots of bike traffic feel so much safer. It’s the easiest, cheapest, highest-impact bike upgrade you could imagine for the U-District.

    It seems blatantly obvious, why hasn’t it happened?

    1. Josh

      The bike lane on the bridge is too narrow for one cyclist to safely overtake another cyclist within the lane.

      As-is, with only a painted stripe, it’s safe and easy to merge into the travel lane to pass, then merge back into the bike lane.

      If they installed any sort of physical barrier, unless they could significantly widen the bike lane at the same time, they’d be setting up an environment for frequent dangerously close passing. (The bridge is much too long to reasonably expect all cyclists to travel at the pace of the slowest rider.)

      On a route like 2nd Ave, it’s easy for faster riders to simply use the street instead of the path, but the grated span on the bridge means fast riders have to be able to get into the bike lane before the span, even if they’ll get back into the travel lane after the span.

      Perhaps they could install barriers punctuated with frequent merge zones for faster cyclists to leave and re-enter the bike lane, to facilitate safe passing while still allowing faster riders to avoid the grated span?

      1. Bruce Nourish

        The barrier will need to have a large opening before the drawspan, to provide access to the bridge tender parking. Super-fast cyclists riding in the GP lanes can merge there.

        As for “dangerous close passing”, I’ll take close passing of bicyclists, or minor delay, over cars whizzing by at 30 mph within a couple of feet, no protection. The vast majority of riders will, I suspect, feel the same way.

      2. Josh

        What about the not-super-fast cyclists who don’t want to use the travel lane except when they need it briefly for passing?

        Do we expect a 15 mph commuter to stay in the travel lane all the way to the bridge tender parking if they don’t want to be stuck behind a 10 mph tourist on a Pronto?

      3. ODB

        This just illustrates that optimizing bike infrastructure for one group of cyclists can mean degrading it for others–a reality that few bike advocates seem willing to acknowledge. Reciting the mantra of “8-80” makes a nice sound bite, but the actual question is how much we should cater to preferences of the slowest and most car-fearing users if the result is less usable infrastructure for everyone else. At minimum, advocates for “protected” facilities that force bikes into narrow spaces that require close passing should not be heard to complain that someone in “spandex” passed them too closely–in other words, parricides should not complain of orphanhood.

      4. Tom Fucoloro

        The plans show a 7-foot bike lane with a 5-foot buffer. That’s not narrow. And if you see making biking more appealing to more people as “degrading” your biking experience, well, that’s kind of a bummer outlook on it. I think you overestimate how much “everyone else” enjoys white knuckle bike rides mixed with busy traffic. I love biking and will bike anywhere, but it’s not because I love the thrill of mixing with cars on streets without truly safe bike lanes. I will gladly dial it back a bit if it means a less stressful trip, and so will most of “everyone else.”

      5. ODB

        I appreciate the response, but my comment was directed to Bruce’s proposal regarding the bridge approaches. I think SDOT’s proposal should have adequate passing space. My larger point is simple and I think shouldn’t be controversial: if achieving some kind of physical separation from cars means forcing bikes into tight spaces this will indeed degrade the experience for everyone–though of course the biggest bummer will be for those who thought the facility was fine before the “improvement.” I’m a fan of this blog and I recognize that it is trying to emphasize the positive about bicycling, getting more people into it and pushing for improved infrastructure. These are all good things, which I support. At the same time, I’d like to see some recognition that not all of us have the same preferences and priorities–for example, not everyone rides a cargo bike from G&O Cycles–and a consequence of that diversity is that what is desirable to some might actually be a step backward for others. You are of course free to dismiss this as a “bummer outlook.” I’ll still enjoy reading the blog :)

      6. Tom Fucoloro

        My mistake, I mixed up the context of the comment, thought you were referring to the planned bike lanes on Roosevelt. I do think separation on the bridge approaches would be easy, and I bet the city can get some extra width to give enough space for passing by snugging up the drive lane widths a little.

      7. Josh

        I really *hate* white-knuckle cycling experiences, and there’s no calmer way to ride a bike than to plod along in my own lane and allow drivers to change lanes to pass, just like they would any other slow moving vehicle. I know that’s extremely counterintuitive to many people, but one of the advantages of age is having time to learn from experience.

        When I was young, fast, and immortal, adrenaline was always part of riding in traffic. I’d squeeze through next to the curb, take pride in how little space I needed, ride the white line and encourage drivers to pass if they followed me waiting for more space. I was always watching attentively for opening doors, for cars pulling out of driveways, for left crosses and right hooks. It was exciting, but after a while, exhausting.

        Now that I’m older, and slower, and things break when I fall, let alone if I get hit, I don’t need or want all that aggravation.

        If you want to build me a cycletrack with good sight lines and no more than a few intersections per mile, I’ll be happy to use it, but otherwise, I’ll be plodding along in the middle of my own lane, riding at a comfortable speed, outside the door zone, easily seen by drivers turning or pulling out of driveways.

        If you build a confined, substandard sidepath with little passing clearance and poor sight lines, please don’t take it personally if I choose my own safety and comfort over segregation.

  8. […] bike lanes: Roosevelt will get protected bike lanes as part of street improvements, neighbors want it go […]

  9. Andres Salomon

    I asked SDOT about doing something similar to a Dutch CROW-style of setback crossings (see http://wiki.coe.neu.edu/groups/nl2011transpo/wiki/ba51e/Dutch_Intersection_Design_with_Cycle_Tracks.html for a description) on this project. I was told that something similar is in the works for the (2015) repaving project, if I’m interpreting the response correctly.


    1. Josh

      As the article notes, these intersections are also designed to make bicycling slower, to avoid surprising motorists. Since bike lanes are legally optional for Washington cyclists, I’d expect this sort of design to see plenty of bikes going left around the corner islands, using the general travel lane rather than making the multiple turns to follow the intended route.

      In local context, that sort of design could raise some interesting legal issues. If the green intersection crossing not legally a separate sidepath, if it’s just part of the street, what law (SMC or RCW) requires drivers to yield as intended by the design? I know the answer for Dutch law, but I don’t see anything really equivalent here.

      I also wonder about the sign clutter and shy clearance for signs, since shark’s teeth yield lines can’t legally be used here without YIELD signs.

      Definitely a facility that could make a street more welcoming for slower riders, but obviously not an all-ages-and-abilities design — faster riders will still need to be safe riding in the travel lane if the corner-island diversions are to be safe for children and the elderly.

      1. Andres Salomon

        I would hope that someone who did not want to slow down would simply take the lane the entire way, instead of going left around the island. The slowing down isn’t simply to avoid suprising motorists; it’s also to give bicyclists additional stopping time for a car that has already started a left turn. One can pick up quite a bit of speed on Roosevelt. And you’re right, of course we need to ensure that Roosevelt’s general purpose travel lanes are safe for faster bikers. I still would like to see a road diet accompany this.

        As far as the the legality, it would be nice to have the crossing be part of the crosswalk such that bikes get the same protections as pedestrians. Obviously, it’s up to SDOT and the lawyers to figure out what that would look like. In my mind, it doesn’t even necessarily need to be painted green (though bike stencils with arrows over part of the zebra stripes would be nice). I made it green to show the desired path in my drawing.

        I don’t have an opinion on the sharks teeth and other elements of the Dutch design. The important thing is the setback due to increased visibility/decreased speeds (for both cars & bikes) at intersections.

  10. Michelle

    I’m glad to see this happening. When I used to ride this stretch for my commute, I’d get out of the bike lane and into the general traffic lanes every single time, it’s such a dangerous & clogged section of road. The new design still worries me, because the big hazards are delivery trucks, bus loading, and parking garage driveways, and all of those will still be there, but now pedestrians & delivery folks will be walking through the bike lane, rather than bikes going around the left side of the buses & parked trucks.

  11. J. Bader

    The University District Community Council has taken the position that it favors a bicycle lane on Roosevelt Way N.E. and on 11th Avenue N.E., each in accord with the one-way traffic flow. If a cycle track is installed, it opposes placing a streetcar rail on the same streets. The combination of the two would be too great a construction on traffic flow on those arterials around the University District.
    The mayor is now proposing a half million dollar appropriation in his 2015 budget to study the streetcar extension. That appropriation should be directed to other transit purposes and the streetcar extension to the University District be dropped.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Hmm, I don’t think it is wise to suggest that a decision on a protected bike lane now would preclude a streetcar later. Those are two different issues, and that debate needs to happen on its own if/when the city finds funding to study it. It doesn’t need to be either/or, and because there is no money to study the streetcar before the repaving happens, I think we have to move forward with the best street design we can get today and deal with the streetcar later if it gets funding.

  12. Lee Bruch

    First, this is not a suggestion, just purely a question.
    Has anyone ever explored the idea of creating major bicycle commuter routes on parallel streets to major arterials? Roosevelt and 11th could perhaps serve as an example..

    Brooklyn parallels the two streets only a couple of blocks away all the way from 40th or Campus Parkway to 65th. It goes right by the new University LRT Station. In such a situation, could such a roadway become primarily a bike way, with cars allowed only to use it for one block for local access with diverters preventing through traffic.

    I just use this as an example. And primarily as a question – would it work or be feasible?I’ve often wondered if in many situations such an alternative, using a parallel street instead of awkwardly sharing an arterial might be a decent solution to some highly trafficked dangerous messes like Roosevelt.

    1. Andres Salomon

      It has been suggested for this project. The problem is that all of the parallel streets have various issues.

      8th/9th are residential streets that could work if they continued through, but they don’t. They zig-zag back and forth. Possibly good greenway routes, but not a great high-speed commuter route.

      Brooklyn is closed for 7 years until the light rail station opens. It doesn’t connect to the bridge, and ends at Roosevelt High School to the north. It also carries some bus traffic on a few blocks. We’d like to improve bike infrastructure before 2021 in the area.

      12th Ave is the under-construction greenway, but also doesn’t connect through to points north and south. It also has some bus traffic, including a bus layover spot. That said, it’s currently the most promising alternative to Roosevelt.

      University Way is an arterial with lots of bus traffic. It’s also a pretty slow route for biking; my wife avoids it in favor of 15th, for example, because of how often she has to wait for buses, traffic, lights, etc.

      15th Ave is an arterial with buses. Frankly, given the topography of the area, it deserves its own protected bike lanes. That’s a discussion for another time.

      Anything east of 15th doesn’t continue through UW, or is below the hill.

      Roosevelt is what people coming from Maple Leaf take to get to the bridge. A parallel greenway is great for slower family bikers (which includes me), but many people want a quick way to get to the bridge. In general, people seem to want at least two alternatives; a slow, quiet greenway route, and a faster busier (but safe!) arterial route. People who live on residential streets really don’t like fast commuters zooming through their neighborhoods. People who want to be able to bike slow don’t like biking next to 30mph traffic.

  13. […] this lane almost immediately instead of waiting until the full repaving next year. This is a great victory for bicyclists both in the neighborhood and citywide, and illustrates how grassroots efforts can influence the […]

  14. […] this lane almost immediately instead of waiting until the full repaving next year. This is a great victory for bicyclists both in the neighborhood and citywide, and illustrates how grassroots efforts can influence the […]

  15. […] this lane almost immediately instead of waiting until the full repaving next year. This is a great victory for bicyclists both in the neighborhood and citywide, and illustrates how grassroots efforts can influence the […]

  16. […] As we reported previously, the city originally did not propose any upgrades to the existing bike lane as part of the repaving project. […]

  17. ron

    I used the new Roosevelt Way ‘bike track’ for the first time this morning and I can tell you I hate it! It was clearly designed by someone who doesn’t actually ride a bicycle nor understand how bikes and cars need to flow together!

    All they have done is take away parking spaces and create a bike lane that just ends and throws bicycles into traffic at the bottom of the street. There’s still the danger of medical clinic traffic merging in and out of traffic but worse is the way the bike lane ends and shoots bikers into traffic just as the lanes narrow for the bridge.

    It is a death trap in the waiting. Thanks for nothing!

    Ron Greer
    30+ year Seattle bike commuter

  18. The Roosevelt neighborhood is dying a slow death from a lack of parking. This will kill off many of the struggling business in Roosevelt. I know this as a business owner in Roosevelt. If this could wait until after the light rail station is finished it would not be an issue. At this time this is more than Roosevelt can handle.

    1. Andres Salomon

      Meanwhile, people who walk and bike are *actually* being maimed and killed on Roosevelt. It’s not a slow death for them. Not to mention the number of people who are injured in their cars driving on Roosevelt, or the people who are actually scared to _drive_ on Roosevelt.

  19. […] City of Seattle has started to install temporary protected bike lanes as a way to test out and build support for permanent street […]

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