Raised crosswalk, bike leaning rail, better signal timing coming to Burke-Gilman near U Village

This crossing will become a raised crosswalk soon, further signaling to people driving they have to yield. Image from Google Street View

This crossing will become a raised crosswalk soon, further signaling to people driving they have to yield. Image from Google Street View

The city will complete a series of bike/walk improvements to the Burke-Gilman Trail near U Village in the next couple months, including retiming the signals at 25th Ave NE and a new raised crosswalk at 30th Ave NE next to Counterbalance Bicycles.

The trail upgrades were identified in a 2008 transportation study of the area and will be paid for using mitigation funds from the University Village and the University Village QFC, as well as some funds from the city’s Pedestrian Master Plan budget.

UnionBlakeleyProjectMap30The single biggest improvement trail users will notice is a new raised crosswalk at 30th Ave NE. Like a speed hump, raised crosswalks require people driving to slow down before going through a crosswalk.

But raised crosswalks also give a spatial clue that people driving are entering a walking and biking space. Rather than have the trail or sidewalk lower to street level, the street rises to sidewalk level. It’s a not-so-subtle way of making it clear people need to yield for people walking or biking.

The city will also improve the sidewalks connecting to the trail and make sure there is finally a continuous walking connection to NE 45th Street.

Intersection with 25th Ave NE

UnionBlakeleyProjectMap-25The trail crossing at 25th Ave NE will also get some pretty big upgrades, including a protected trail crossing signal phase, new curb ramps and the city’s first ever bicycle leaning rails.

Today, trail users trying to cross the street have to compete with cars making turns from Blakeley. Not only is this uncomfortable, but the trail is so busy that it can be frustrating to find a chance to make a turn.

The city plans to install bicycle signals and add a phase where people can cross without turning traffic trying to squeeze through. Turning traffic will then get a right turn phase while trail traffic has a red.

Image from SDOT

Image from SDOT

But to put a little cherry on top of the project, the city will install Seattle’s first-ever bicycle leaning rails, which give people on bikes a comfortable way to stop and wait for the light without putting their feet all the way on the ground. The rail will also have its own push button to trigger the light.

But the rail is not only about luxury for people on bikes. It also provides people an incentive to wait in a location where they don’t block the sidewalk. Today, since the push buttons are all near the intersection, people biking tend to pile up at the intersection. And since trail use is so high, this can easily end up with people blocking the sidewalk.

Work on the project should begin this month and be complete in early 2015. Obviously, you should plan on some delays during construction. More details available on the SDOT website.

About Tom Fucoloro

Founder and Editor of Seattle Bike Blog.
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30 Responses to Raised crosswalk, bike leaning rail, better signal timing coming to Burke-Gilman near U Village

  1. Blaeloch says:

    SWOOOON! That is going to make my life and so many others’ so much better, and now I am feeling really ashamed at the extent to which I have accepted the status quo!. I had a double-near miss crossing 25th the other day. As I was going eastbound, a person in a car turned right from Blakely across the Trail crosswalk just after I entered it; I stopped inches shy of them, they did not stop; then a person turning left from Blakely from the opposite direction ALSO turned into the crosswalk and almost hit me. A protected bike crossing signal –wow!

    • Andres Salomon says:

      I have had so many close calls at this crossing of 25th! Especially from people turning left off of Blakeley onto 25th. I’m glad they’re finally doing this (I was at an RBCA meeting at least a year ago where this was discussed). Unfortunately, the last I heard they weren’t planning to do anything about left-turning cars from Blakeley. We’ll see how it goes.

  2. 47hasbegun says:

    I just wish they’d get rid of the nasty tree root bumps east of that area on the trail.

    • Ints says:

      From the looks of the locations and type of work being done, this appears to be an SDOT project. Much of the BGT in Seattle is under Seattle Parks and Recreation who are badly overextended and underfunded unlike city and state DOTs like SDOT. Since this situation does not look like it will change anytime soon, does anyone know of any other ways to get some of the much needed maintenance work done?
      Maybe with the new City Council rules requiring running and representing a specific district, maybe the council might be more responsive to these needs?

    • Erik says:

      The worst part about those roots is that the city had that section paved less than five years ago and the roots were back almost immediately.

      My uneducated guess is that the trail needs to be torn up and the roots removed, then a new gravel road bed installed before it’s paved again.

      This is assuming you’re talking about the section between the Children’s Hospital new access ramp and the stairs at NE 50th St.

  3. Jack says:

    I was under the impression that there was a Stop sign at the intersection by the bike shop. A raised trail crossing will be nice, but I’ve always yielded due to that Stop sign.

    The improvements on 25th will be great.

    • Stephen says:

      Yes, there are stop signs for the trail users where the trail crosses city streets: Blakeley, Pend O’Reille (UW), 40th Ave, 65th St, etc.

      • Josh says:

        Trail STOP signs are typically before the trail enters the sidewalk, though they can certainly be confusing when they’re poorly placed.

        There are three separate facilities in play here: the trail, the sidewalk, and the street.

        Stop at the STOP sign, before the sidewalk. Yield to any users on the sidewalk, then proceed onto the sidewalk.

        By the time you’re entering the crosswalk, you’re already well beyond the STOP sign.

        Your entry into the crosswalk is instead covered by

        RCW 46.61.235

        (1) The operator of an approaching vehicle shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian or bicycle to cross the roadway within an unmarked or marked crosswalk when the pedestrian or bicycle is upon or within one lane of the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning. For purposes of this section “half of the roadway” means all traffic lanes carrying traffic in one direction of travel, and includes the entire width of a one-way roadway.

        (2) No pedestrian or bicycle shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk, run, or otherwise move into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to stop.

    • Erik says:

      I wish we could move the stop signs the for the cars instead of the trail. It would make so much more sense and be less confusing for non-locals who may not expect to see so much traffic from a normal looking crosswalk.

  4. biliruben says:

    Wow. Totally awesome. 25th is currently a injury hot-spot and a really stressful place to cross – looking over your shoulder and hoping the drivers about to turn aren’t distracted. I’m not sure if it’s still the most dangerous intersection for bikes, but it used to be.

    The 30th crossing is the only place I have ever hit a pedestrian. It’s an awful feeling. She was gracious about it as I gathered her shoes, and completely understood that with 20 bikes and cars refusing to yield, and her trying to stay out the way and walking right in front of me as I tried to go wide all modes, it was unavoidable. It’s such a difficult place. I have gotten into verbal battles with cars refusing to yield and feeling entitled to run through the crosswalk “because bikes do it”. I hope unambiguous signage is going in there in addition to a raised crosswalk, giving priority to the modes with the highest volume.

  5. Al Dimond says:

    Glad to see we’re finally getting sidewalks in some places that need them.

    I’m a bit ambivalent about the signal changes at 25th. It sounds like a recipe for longer waits and shorter “go” phases.

    I truly don’t get leaning rails. If you want people biking to stop before the sidewalk just put a stop line before the sidewalk and put an in-pavement detector loop behind it, like on WB 34th at Fremont Ave (not that that intersection exactly leads the world in compliant cycling behavior). If I’m stopped I want my down-foot on terra firma for surest balance… and obviously anything that encourages clipless-pedal newbies to try to stay clipped in while stopped will surely cause some stupid-looking collisions come spring (I just hope they don’t take anyone else out).

    • Ray says:

      I agree! In my 50 years of cycling I have never come to an intersection and thought “oh, if only I had a leaning rail” I predict many Artie Johnson like slow motion falls. Let’s hope they don’t hit too many peds, kids and riders. This is a bad idea.

  6. Guy says:

    I know it’s well intentioned, but a “bicycle leaning rail” is money that could be better spent on any number of more critical infrastructure items. Each of us already has a bicycle leaning apparatus that we use at every other intersection in the city, it’s called a foot. In a world of limited resources, trade-offs have to be made and this one should have been cut early on.

  7. Blaeloch says:

    I wouldn’t use the rail, either. There is sure to be public vetting of the improvements, and we users should weigh in on the details.

  8. Dan says:

    These improvements are definitely welcome, but I’m pretty disappointed to see the beg buttons will remain.

    In the new configuration, the button should be needed only to notify that bikes/peds are waiting when no cars are there to trigger the signal. Otherwise the walk signal should always be part of the light cycle. That’s not quite the case today… at certain times of the day, the walk signal is automatic with every light cycle, but later in the evening it reverts to not automatically giving a walk signal on green, forcing bikes/peds to either dash across without a walk signal or smack the button and wait for a whole other cycle to complete.

  9. asdf2 says:

    The signal at the Burke Gilman and 25th has always felt like one that takes forever to cross, and I can only hope that the new signal phase won’t make things worse. The present timings seem to give heavy priority to cars going down 25th over trail users – even at times of day when there really aren’t that many cars going down 25th (but still enough to make jaywalking infeasible). That said, the ability to actually cross 25th at 15 mph on a green light, rather than treat the green light as a stop sign, just in case somebody is turning, will be much appreciated.

    Also, the gap between Blakeley and 47th with no crossings of 25th is too large. A lot of peds, bikes, and cars, cross 25th unprotected here while trying to get between the apartments west of 25th and the U-village east of 25th, and a signal would make things quite a bit easier and safer.

    As to 30th, a raised crosswalk is nice, but honestly, I haven’t really seen issues with the current design. Traffic on 30th isn’t all that much, and drivers seem to be pretty good about stopping for trail users, as is.

    As to the leaning rail, I don’t think it’s necessary. The trick is to place both feet flat on the ground (not one foot on the ground, with the other on a pedal), while still straddling the frame with your legs. It’s secure and comfortable, while still providing the ability to start moving quickly when the light turns green. And, if using the leaning rail means going forward first to push the button, then backing up, it is absolutely not worth it.

    • ODB says:

      Thank you for sharing this insight into “the trick” of putting both feet down “while still straddling the frame with your legs.” I was skeptical that this novel technique was even possible, but tried it today and it worked!

      Anyway, to address your concern about the proximity of the button to the rail, the article says “The rail will also have its own push button to trigger the light.” (Also depicted in the diagram with the label “Push button for bike crossing”).

  10. Alkibkr says:

    OK, I’m old, but last time I did a long ride on the BGT, when I came to an intersection with a 4 way stop sign and went to balance on my toes without hopping off the seat, I actually couldn’t reach and fell off my bike due to the uneven nature of the ground (curb cut). I would find a leaning rail helpful for something to grab onto at an intersection.

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  13. Stardent says:

    A long overdue and much needed improvements. The reason we haven’t had as many collisions with east-bound cars turning right on to 25th is because we have learned from close encounters to watch for cars trying to beat the pedestrians and bicyclists when the light turns green. A controlled right turn would help a lot. It also would help to separate pedestrian and cyclists at this point.

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