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West Seattle traffic light is so long, bike commuter cooks breakfast burrito while waiting for it to change

I would have at least added some cheese.

This video features Don Brubeck of West Seattle Bike Connections. Clearly, people walking and biking are far from the priority at this terrible intersection where the Alki Trail, Chelan Ave, W Marginal, Delridge and Spokane all converge. People trying to get from the Alki Trail to the lower West Seattle Bridge have to cross this intersection, and it is a somewhat confusing and never pleasant experience. It’s so bad that fixing it is the top priority of WSBC.

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Councilmember Tom Rasmussen and SDOT held a brianstorming session with community members to find solutions to the problem in February. But there’s not yet a clear plan forward. But something’s gotta happen.

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35 responses to “West Seattle traffic light is so long, bike commuter cooks breakfast burrito while waiting for it to change”

  1. Brian

    There should definitely be more “brainstorming” sessions, but I’m obviously biased.

  2. Brian

    Err, that should read “brianstorming.” Damn autocorrect…

  3. Andres Salomon

    I just heard that the city’s proposed solution was to put a permanent breakfast burrito food cart here.

    I kid, I kid..

  4. JAT

    I went on along w Tom Rasmussen one week when he held a Bike to Work with a councilman deal a few summers ago – I was surprised that his approach to getting through the Chelan intersection was, as posted here, to become a pedestrian and wait for the walk signal.

    Bracketing the obviously fraught discussion triggered by the word vehicular,… I find I get through that intersection considerably faster if I take up a position in the lane with the cars. Of course that said SDOT has installed a median seemingly specifically to prevent cycles eastbound on Spokane from crossing the Northbound lanes of Delridge to get to the bridge, but probably to prevent scofflaw drivers from making U-Turns to get to the bridge.

    I just hate having to push the Sit-Up-And-Beg button to be deemed worthy (upon sufficiently demeaning wait time) to interrupt motorized flow in order to cross at a crosswalk.

    1. I do that, too, JAT. But it’s an awkward manuever requiring going out and around the island against traffic direction, and it does not work when there are vehicles already in the lane. The advantages: the pavement sensors seem more reliable, and by being in the right lane you can follow the direct crossing path to the opposite corner that drivers in the lanes take to the bridge on-ramp, without crossing over the path of vehicles going to Delridge. Most on bikes use the island, and should be able to do so. No one is begging. Its a reachable button. It ought to work.

  5. Another Brian


  6. AJL

    JAT – Yes, I see your point. And many people do the same heading westbound into West Seattle. It’s easier to access the street coming off the bridge and then wait in line (if you can get in line or if one knows where to position bike to trigger signal if no auto traffic, and then if the light will trigger for you anyway) than to use the crossing signals. It’s faster too.

    But, heading eastbound? I am an experienced cyclist and only rode the street there when I could get speed coming off Admiral. It’s difficult to use Spokane St. eastbound under the bridge if one is not comfortable with that mix of usually fast, aggressive drivers. The pavement isn’t exactly good (the path is much better) either. And how to intuitively cross against the crosswalk signal on Delridge or cross Delridge at the cut a little further up (or go against the traffic lane?)?

    There should absolutely be a good crossing for cyclists here, for those that don’t want to deal with the traffic mix. Or can’t. Or are scared. This is a reasonable request. It’s a major point of entry to a major neighborhood that is becoming more congested and it’s completely necessary to have good alternatives to driving, for more than those used to riding with mixed traffic.

    1. ChefJoe

      When they add more lanes to the high bridge I hope they add a bike lane just for you.

      1. Alkibkr

        My dream: a bike/pedestrian/electric bike lane suspended under the freeway connecting Fauntleroy to the Sodo Busway. Spurs connecting to Delridge, Admiral Way and Harbor Ave, please.

  7. Jason

    Great stuff, if the guy wanted to follow the law, he could cross the street and wait another 1-2 minutes to cross the Delridge St. intersection to get to Harbor bridge and actually have time to eat his burrito too. :)

    Of course nobody would wait up to 4 minutes at an intersection, most wait for the first light and go diagonal across the intersection watching for cars coming from Delridge.

    They should put in an “All-Way Walk” sequence in that intersection and let pedestrian/cyclists from all directions cross at the same time. Hit the button, wait for 2 directions of car traffic to go, then “All-Way Walk” sequence. Of course still a 1-2 minute wait but would be a safer way to navigate this busy intersection. 2 cents


  8. Marge Evans

    this is the worst ped/cycling intersection in the city. if you are an experienced cyclists you line up with traffic but as the others stated it doesn’t always work, depending on which direction you wish to go. I agree with Jason. A short term fix would be “walk/cycle all ways”

  9. Alkibkr

    Thanks, Don, for the great demonstration. Make mine another vote for SDOT to try a ped activated all-way crossing signal with plenty of time for peds, like we have @ Alaska Junction.

  10. Yes! I learned to avoid that stupid intersection. To add to it, you have to cross three streets.

  11. I rarely wanted to go to the Admiral area. I always wanted to get over to the Junction and areas over there. This is coming from Downtown Seattle. So like I said, I learned not to go down to that retched intersection and wait.

    Just stay on the trail and follow it around to the left as it becomes sidewalk. Then, yep, ride the sidewalk going the wrong way ’til you reach that intersection that always has the giant American flag. From there you have options like ride on back behind the fitness club and proceed up the hills to that street up there (Aurora?)

    Going to White Center instead? Do the same, but turn left where you see the “welcome to Pigeon Hill” sign and ride those streets on over.

    1. JAT

      Indeed, going the junction is MUCH better:
      Stay up on the trail, past the chickens under the bridge (do they still live there?) on to the extremely uneven and overgrowth-narrowed sidewalk (watch out for pedestrians and for motorists coming down from Pigeon Point looking back over their shoulder for a chance to get onto the Delridge on-ramp to the high bridge!)
      then somehow make your way across the street (riding all the way on the gravel-strewn sidewalk is an option), then muscle your way up Yancy like you’re Marco Pantani with a fresh transfusion and cross Avalon when there’s a break in traffic – Golden!

  12. Allan

    Going towards Alki I just get in the left line of traffic on Delridge. I don’t often go the other way, if I do I usually just wait for the lights but I have cheated on occasion.

  13. geronimo

    two words: traffic circle

    1. John Rawlins

      One word: roundabout

      1. ChefJoe

        one image: industrial, double-length dump trucks running over traffic circles and contents spilling

      2. JAT

        John Rawlins wins the one-word contest,and ChefJoe wins the realities of the situation award.

        but sometimes cycling bloggery isn’t just about how things are, they’re about how things could or should be.

        they could be better.

      3. Tom Fucoloro

        That’s an unfounded fear. A roundabout could be built with trucks (and bikes) in mind. If someone driving a truck can’t make it around a circle without losing their load, they probably should get a different job.

        We don’t yet have an example of a modern roundabout that takes biking and walking seriously in the Seattle area. They have lots of these in Europe. Maybe this is a chance to innovate.

      4. Chei

        Considering that truck drivers flip their trucks a couple of times a year right around that intersection as it is, “they probably should get a different job” is pretty much wishful thinking. Many of the trucks servicing the port are barely running and operated by amateurs. I’m surprised more people aren’t run over.

      5. Josh

        Modern roundabout designs are easily adapted for heavy truck traffic. Many already feature mountable curbs to avoid slowing down fire trucks. Even normal cars actually can mount the curbs in most cases, but it’s a fearsome-looking visual obstacle that keeps most small-vehicle drivers in the proper lane.

      6. Alkibkr

        Ha! Reminds me of the early 1980’s when my hubby and I biked around the 12 road circle at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris without knowing that the yield priority was opposite from the roundabouts in Germany where we were stationed. Those French drivers must have thought we were nuts (I am pretty sure we were to try it).

  14. […] I know that light very well. The worst is then if the bridge is […]

  15. Rick McKenney

    In Vancouver BC on the bike ways the light will change in 10 seconds or so after you push the button (same with crosswalks)!

    1. Meanwhile, all over Seattle, we keep throughput-oriented signal timings in effect even when there’s hardly any traffic at all.

      For all that people biking and truckers complain about eachother, peak traffic hours for the two groups actually don’t overlap much. Bike traffic volumes are mostly highest on weekends and peak-commute hours, while most local freight movements occur during the day on weekdays. If we had a button we could push to request a straight shot across the intersection, and it was given reasonably quickly (per-cycle would put it on par with what drivers get; next-phase with a max of once per cycle would be better), it would be activated often during the peak commute hours, which freight avoids because of car traffic volumes, and rarely midday when freight is most active.

      1. JAT

        Um, you been through that intersection at 7:15 am or 5:00 pm on a weekday? It’s gnarly. Having said that, with a few noteworthy exceptions the trucks that worry me aren’t the Kennilworths, they’re the Rams and F-15os…

  16. Mike Lindblom

    And the worst problem there isn’t even the five-way intersection, nor the long signal waits.

    From a safety standpoint, I dread the westbound spot where the low-bridge trail spills onto Delridge Way, right next to a high-bridge pillar and curve that block a cyclist’s and driver’s view of each other. An inexperienced bicyclist can easily coast into the car lane and be hit.

    1. That part freaks me out, too. I always ride on the sidewalk to that first intersection, then make a ‘left’ onto Delridge to give me enough of a view.

  17. SGG

    That’s on my commute and this video shows a good day. Sometimes it doesn’t trigger at all. The City of Seattle has been made aware of this problem for many, many years, and there is no political will to do anything about it. When a kink in the system such as this “doesn’t work” for the user, you see everyone treating this intersection for what it is. It is a “you’re on your own” experience. Most of us wait and dash across diagonally. Often heading westbound it is even worse. Several light cycles can go by without that signal allowing a pedestrian to cross. The City needs to hear from everyone that this needs a permanent fix that actually works!

  18. […] it a whirl. Turns out, so long as you don’t want anything fancy, the answer is yes.· West Seattle traffic light is so long, bike commuter cooks breakfast burrito while waiting for it to… [SBB]· West Seattle Bike Connections […]

  19. MikeC

    Separate bikes from traffic. forget about getting trucks through the traffic circle. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hovenring

  20. […] work. But it especially sucks for anyone walking or biking (remember that video of a bike commuter cooking a breakfast burrito in the time it took for the light to […]

  21. […] one state up the map, they have traffic control problems. West Seattle traffic light is so long, bike commuter cooks breakfast burrito while waiting for it to… Yes he did have enough time to finish cooking the contents of the burrito and wrap it up before the […]

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