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Burke-Gilman Trail alerts: New 4-way stop near UW + Trail work near NE 145th St

UPDATE: Nevermind!

Image of the intersection before the changes, via Google Street View
Image of the intersection before the changes, via Google Street View

After many years of confusion and frustration, the UW has decided to turn the intersection of the Burke-Gilman Trail and Pend Oreille Road into a four-way stop.

The trail crossing is confusing because while it has a marked crosswalk, trail users have a stop sign while people driving do not. The law requires people biking to stop at the stop sign, but it also requires people driving to yield to trail users. So if someone biking and someone driving arrive at the same time, who is supposed to go first?

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In practice, most people simply treat the intersection as any other crosswalk, which means trail users go first. This means people driving usually stop, and people biking usually roll through the stop sign. This annoys some people who drive, who see it as an example of how “those bicyclists” never follow the rules. But one trip on a bike and you’ll understand why rolling that stop sign makes sense. Because it is a crosswalk, it delays everyone if the person on a bike stops before starting up again to cross first as typical crosswalk laws require.

Placing a stop sign on the trail breaks the normal order of traffic rules. If traffic rules were a computer program, the trail stop sign would be a bug. But in real life, this means that people largely treat it more as a “caution” sign.

The danger, of course, is that someone driving will not actually stop, and someone on a bike will get hurt. So the UW is turning the intersection into a four-way stop. This will hopefully address the danger of a collision, which is the most important goal of any road design project.

Here’s the thinking behind the project, from UW Senior Transportation Planner Elisabeth S. McLaughlin:

The stop is coupled with additional pavement markings on the trail. The reassignment is based on conversations with our City and campus partners who are staffed with experts in the field of traffic engineering and ped/bicycle facilities as well as UWPD. We will be performing a traffic study with a consultant over the next month to do trail counts at the intersection, study lighting on the trail leading to the intersection, and study impacts to traffic at the Montlake/25th intersection, Pend Oreille/BGT intersection as well as east into campus. We will be fine tuning the signage and pavement markings that were installed over the weekend to best communicate the reassignment and to support safe road and trail behaviors. Our goal, as I am sure you are well aware of, is to reduce the number of potential and actual collisions occurring at this intersection between trail users and vehicles.

Stop signs on a trail are a clumsy way of getting people on bikes to cross the street safely. Best practices say that trails should only have stop signs if there is some special circumstance that requires it, such as especially poor sight lines.

Even the nationally-focused AASHTO traffic engineering guide notes that people’s natural response to a stop sign on a trail that does not make sense is to treat it as a yield sign. This isn’t about “those bicyclists” having some innate disregard for the law, it simply feels like the natural way to treat such an intersection where the crosswalk gives trail users the right of way.

An unnecessary stop sign on a trail is an engineer trying to force irregular behavior onto people. It’s like building a wide, four-lane street and putting a 20 mph speed limit sign on it. Few people will drive that speed because it feels comfortable to go 35 or faster. It doesn’t work.

If only a handful of people are disobeying a traffic rule, they are likely scofflaws who should get a ticket. If nearly everyone disobeys it, you have a street design problem that is sending mixed messages.

A smarter design would embrace people’s natural flow through a space and work with it rather than against it. For example, a raised crosswalk like the one planned for 30th Ave NE would make it clear to everyone that the trail has the right of way. Safe, clear and logical for all users.

But until UW has the budget for a bigger solution, at least the new stop signs for Pend Oreille traffic should help avoid collisions, and that’s a big step forward.

Work on Burke at Seattle border

King C0unty will be working on the trail between NE 145th and 147th Streets just north of the Seattle border this week. So be prepared for delays up to 15 minutes. There will be a detour in place.

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71 responses to “Burke-Gilman Trail alerts: New 4-way stop near UW + Trail work near NE 145th St”

  1. Richard

    First several times I rode through that intersection, I adamantly refused to roll through. I was determined to be a bicycling paragon of lawful, considerate riding.

    Until I realized that in this case, I was actually making a hazardous situation worse. I would stop, then people would blow past me … Which got nasty once when I stopped, then a car waiting started to go through about the same time as the guy behind me blew past. Horns honked, guy yelled, nobody crashed but it was close.

    I cautiously and slowly ride through, now.

    Honestly, changing it to a 4-way probably helps a little, but it wouldn’t change the situation outlined above.

  2. biliruben

    Exactly. Ambiguity is dangerous.

    I’m guessing, though I don’t know for sure, that trail traffic is significantly larger than car traffic both at Pend Orielle and at 30th (this may depend on the time/season/weather). In that case, place signage which explicitly gives trail users the right of way. Anything less is opening yourself up for lawsuits, death injury and general mayhem and stress.

    I’ve had buses cruise through PO intersection and actually speed up – daring bikes and peds to get squashed flat. At 30th I’ve been threatened with murder by minivan by a stressed Mom with 4 kids in the back who was certain that I had to stop and she didn’t. I don’t plain her. The signage is ambiguous. At the same intersection, I’ve seen a whack fellow-bike rider sit at the intersection and hurl epithets and every bike and ped who didn’t come to a complete stop. He was already pretty horse. Ambiguity makes people positively insane!

    1. biliruben

      …blame her…

  3. sdv

    Can we also fix where the BG crossing Northlake (under the Aurora bridge) where cars in one direction have a stop sign, but cars in the other do not?

    1. It would be really nice if the trail was consistent.

  4. To me the 4-way stop is the second-best thing that could go at a surface intersection like this one (or like the intersection at 65th); the best is a 2-way stop prioritizing the trail. Just putting in crosswalk markings without a stop sign facing the road will never result in a high enough degree of compliance for people to roll on through the way people just roll on along arterials that cross side streets (the usual case for two-way stop or yield signs).

    Are people, especially people biking, going to roll the stop sign when there’s no cross traffic? Yeah, just like people generally roll stop signs all over town. Now it’s clear what order people should go through in, and I’m pretty sure we’ll mostly go through in the right order. We mostly go through in the right order on 65th.

    1. Andres Salomon

      I’m with you on this. A 2-way stop prioritizing the trail makes the most sense. My concern is that people will treat it like a normal 4-way stop intersection, rather than a 4-way stop + yield to people in crosswalk.

      If it were a normal 4-way stop intersection, a car crossing the trail would stop, a trail user would stop, and whoever got there first would go through. This isn’t that, though, and it’s not clear how people should behave at this intersection. Should a car that gets there first go through after a trail user stops? Should trail users even stop, if there are a group of them riding together, a crossing car has stopped, and each rider has a different idea about whether or not to stop?

      1. Andres Salomon

        Still, it’s an improvement; at least now crossing traffic will be slowing down, even if they’re unaware of the trail!

      2. jay

        “… whoever got there first would go through. This isn’t that, though…”
        I’m not so sure it isn’t. if you (on the trail) are stopped at the stop line, you are not exactly “upon or within” the cross walk yet. (see (1) below). I suppose there are varying interpretations of that, but as you point out, there is still potential for confusion.

        However, it is a step in the right direction, there have been times I have gotten (on the trail) to the intersection first, and waited for a car to pass, but they stop! however I have a stop sign, they do not and I’m not yet in the cross walk, also there is another car coming from the other direction and I don’t know what they are going to do, so I wait, the driver who stopped gets pissed off, but the driver coming the other way goes on his way without delay. With a four way stop, since I was there first, it would be clear that I could go, well, except for that car coming from the other direction that about as likely as not will run the stop sign.

        Requiring a bicycle to come to a complete stop seems anti-bicycle to me, some riders (AAA don’t cha know) getting up to balancing (say, walking) speed from a full stop takes a fair bit of effort/wobbling, or considerably more effort than the transition from walking speed to cruising speed.
        Seems to me either an “Idaho stop” or, possibly more palatable than a Idaho stop to the majority (who are not bicyclists, but who do roll through stop signs in their cars), just have stop signs for the traffic lanes (Pend Oreille in this case) and have signage and enforcement (if it could be done without abuse, probably not possible) of (2) below for the trail uses. That does get tricky with stop signs, since a car “will” be stopping at the stop sign regardless of any approaching pedestrian/cyclist, then it wouldn’t seem to matter much how fast the trail user was going, because, hey, the driver is stopped, “impossible for the driver to stop” does not apply. The more pertinent case would be when a driver stopped, determined it was clear of persons “upon or within” the crosswalk and then proceeded to move, only to be t-boned by a cyclist going 18mph with no lights at dusk. (I’m just kidding with that one, obviously the tree roots will have taken him out before that. But wait, since they have the tree roots (speed bumps), having stop signs too is just adding insult to injury! I say one or the other, (or neither) but not both! )

        At least on Pend Oreille their is significant auto traffic, there are places where the BGT in Fremont, or the ship canal trail, that have stop signs where the cross “street” is scarcely more than a parking lot, in those places I would not be so very surprised if the trail has an order of magnitude more traffic that the “street”

        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.

      3. @jay: That is, de facto, the situation now (and at many intersections where the BGT has a stop sign and a crosswalk across an intersection). People driving through behave in the wide variety of ways that people driving behave at crosswalks everywhere, and trail users try to slow down as little as possible without speeding out in front of someone that isn’t going to stop.

        That works to some degree where there isn’t much traffic. Where there is much traffic it becomes pretty chaotic. It’s not anti-bike to ask that people biking stop sometimes — that’s what we expect people to do at the bike-shaped traffic signals all over town (whether or not they have any legal force, per various legalistic comments around here), and I’ll bet you 5 brand-new inner tubes there’s not one in all of Seattle that shows green more often than red.

        Regardless of how you choose to interpret the law based on the presence of a crosswalk, the sensible thing for everyone to do at a 4-way stop is to take their turn in the order they arrived. Ride just a little northeast of Pend Oreille, to where the Burke crosses NE 65th Street, to see this in action.

  5. Vancouver WA

    “So if someone biking and someone driving arrive at the same time, who is supposed to go first?”

    Master the CX-style dismount-and-go ped crossing!

    1. Steve Campbell

      I’ve always wanted to try that at this intersection.

      1. Tom Fucoloro

        You would be a bike-hating comment troll’s wet dream :-)

  6. Jeff Dubrule

    In related news, the trail closure West of UW, between 15th & Brooklyn, is now clear; you can bike from Fremont to the UW medical buildings without interruption by construction.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Thanks for the update!

      1. kpt

        Really? So why not rereoute the detour to one of its earlier stages, so we can head back down to the trail? I may just do that on my own.

    2. Matthew Snyder

      Unfortunately, no, you can’t. It’s closed between 7th Ave NE and, uh, the street that becomes Cowlitz? I’m talking about the part of the trail that runs past the Wall of Death and the dorm that looks like an Ikea. That part’s closed.

      1. Rob Norheim

        The closure under the Univ. Bridge is undoubtedly the beginnings of the next phase of the SCL work: http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2014/05/28/think-the-uw-trail-detour-is-bad-city-light-work-could-detour-burke-gilman-into-traffic/

  7. ChefJoe

    See, I always figured that the large stop signs for BG traffic across Brooklyn Ave really helped set the precedent of the large stop signs for BG traffic across Pend Oreille.

    They’ve been planning this since 2011, btw.

    1. ChefJoe

      But I really don’t follow your suggestion that a car without a stop sign was required to stop for a bicycle on a path that had a stop sign. The stop sign on the trail made it a controlled intersection, afterall, like a two way stop is. The laws are written with the expectation that the party with the stop sign (be it a bike on a path or a car approaching the stop sign on a two-way stop sign controlled intersection) actually obeys it.

      1. ChefJoe

        Here we go, bikes need to obey all the applicable rules of 46.61, which includes stopping at stop signs marking an intersection with the road.

        Traffic laws apply to persons riding bicycles.
        (1) Every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this chapter,

        every driver of a vehicle approaching a stop sign shall stop at a clearly marked stop line

      2. ChefJoe

        Oh, and the RCW says bikes are “vehicles” in most cases.

        RCW 46.04.670 “Vehicle.”
        “Vehicle” includes every device capable of being moved upon a public highway and in, upon, or by which any persons or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a public highway, including bicycles. The term does not include devices other than bicycles moved by human or animal power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks. Mopeds shall not be considered vehicles or motor vehicles for the purposes of chapter 46.70 RCW. Bicycles shall not be considered vehicles for the purposes of chapter 46.12, 46.16, or 46.70 RCW.

      3. LWC

        Yes, but according to SMC 11.44.100, “A person operating a bicycle across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk shall have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances…”

        And according to WAC 132E-16-040, “The operator of an approaching vehicle shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross the roadway within a crosswalk…”

        My read of this has always been that when a bicyclist is in a crosswalk, the law treats them as a pedestrian and vehicles must yield the right-of-way, stop sign or not.

      4. ChefJoe

        Well, if you want to descend into the SMC, it sounds like they’ve created a law for bike path traffic control.

        Section 11.44.120 RIDING ON A SIDEWALK OR PUBLIC PATH. Every person operating a bicycle upon any sidewalk or public path shall operate the same in a careful and prudent manner and a rate of speed no greater than is reasonable and proper under the conditions existing at the point of operation, taking into account the amount and character of pedestrian traffic, grade and width of sidewalk or public path, and condition of surface, and shall obey all traffic control devices.

      5. Kirk

        The way it is supposed to work is that the person driving a bike on the path should stop at the sign, and then may proceed. After the person driving the bike has proceeded past the stop sign onto the crosswalk, any person driving a car approaching the crosswalk should yield to the person driving a bike through the crosswalk. It would be exactly the same as a person driving a bike down a sidewalk at an intersection with a two-way stop and crossing in the crosswalk.
        With the stop sign “on the trail”, the intersection appears to be an intersection with a stop sign, and that the driver of a vehicle stopped for a stop sign “on the trail” must yield the right of way to approaching traffic. This is why stop signs on a trail are a very, very bad idea. It creates to much confusion.

      6. ChefJoe

        Kirk, the bike should only enter the crosswalk when there is time to clear the roadway without interfering with vehicular travel on the intersecting road, just like a traditional two way stop.

        Maybe the intended design would have been clearer for drivers if they’d not painted the crosswalk for the trail in the roadway.

      7. Josh

        “the bike should only enter the crosswalk when there is time to clear the roadway without interfering with vehicular travel on the intersecting road”

        That’s not what the law says today.

        The bike should not enter the crosswalk in front of any vehicle that’s too close to safely stop, but the crosswalk definitely does require vehicles on the roadway to stop when the crosswalk is occupied.

        Typical STOP sign placement on an urban trail does not control entry into the street, it controls entry into the sidewalk.

        A cyclist on the sidewalk who is entering the crosswalk is already beyond the control area of the STOP sign, and is instead bound by
        RCW 46.61.235
        (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.

      8. Kirk

        Chef Joe, you see, this is why the stop sign on the trail is very bad. It’s confusing. Most people think that it is like a conventional two-way stop, but it isn’t. Because the trail is not a Roadway. As I mentioned before, it is akin to a person driving a bike down a sidewalk to a two-way intersection and crossing in the crosswalk. The person driving a bike needs to obey the traffic control (stop sign), but then may enter the crosswalk, as long as it is not impossible for a person driving a car to stop in time not to hit the person driving a bicycle in the crosswalk.

      9. LWC

        Joe: just to clarify, I never suggested that bicyclists on the trail don’t have to stop at the stop sign. I only pointed out that legally once they’re in the crosswalk, drivers have to yield to them as if they’re pedestrians. And nowhere does the law imply, as you do, that cyclists on a trail have a duty to wait for traffic to clear before proceeding. They only have the duty, as Josh points out, to not enter the crosswalk in front of any vehicle that’s too close to safely stop.

        The type of misconceptions and misinformation you’re displaying here is why stop signs on trail crossings are too confusing, and in my opinion should not be used.

      10. ChefJoe

        LWC, I think what everyone would prefer is a focused set of bike laws instead of “treat as pedestrian here, treat as a vehicle here, and bikes have their own signals here”. They wanted the sign to be treated as a two-way intersection but 61% of bikes ignore them on the BG at UW. The bikes want to become pedestrians, but not even stop most of the time.
        Maybe they should have just forgone the stop signs and put in traffic lights on the trail and the road with a push button on the trail ? You know, like most crosswalks.


      11. Josh

        There are many issues that the Legislature hasn’t bothered defining for bicycles, but I’m sure many advocates are leery of opening a can of worms that could lead to new restrictions and limitations on cyclists. The Legislature isn’t exactly a hotbed of pro-cycling enthusiasm these days. A few of the more significant issues the Legislature hasn’t yet addressed:

        Bicycle Traffic Signals – not yet defined or authorized by the RCW, which defines traffic signals by shape as well as color. A red bicycle does not mean STOP, a green bicycle does not mean GO. They have no legal meaning at all under RCW or SMC.

        Bike Lanes – can you find a definition of a bike lane in the RCW?

        What are the obligations of a motorist driving on a street with a bike lane?

        How should a right-turning motorist prepare to turn on a street with a bike lane? (Merge into the bike lane as required by UVC and assumed by AASHTO & MUTCD? Or stay out of the bike lane until making a right hook?)

        Why does the legal research service for cities and counties in Washington advise that parking in bike lanes is legal under state law unless there’s a local ordinance and frequent “NO PARKING” signs?

        Shared Lane Markings – not recognized in the RCW or SMC… if a sharrow is centered in the lane, because that’s the safest place for a cyclist to ride, does that waive the far-right requirement of RCW 46.61.770? (It should, but it’s not one of the exceptions listed in the law.)

        Cycletracks – The Bicycle Master Plan refers to them as on-street facilities, SDOT signs them as off-street “paths,” the law doesn’t recognize them at all. The rules of the road are quite different on a path than on the street or in a bike lane, which rules apply on a cycletrack?

        Passing over a double yellow line – The sight lines used to determine no-passing zones are based on full-lane-width vehicles making complete lane changes to pass vehicles moving just under the speed limit. It’s clearly legal to go over a double-yellow to pass an “obstruction” in the right lane, but is it legal to straddle the centerline to pass a bicyclist going 15 mph on a 50 mph road?

  8. BB

    How about a nice large roundabout

    1. Gary Anderson

      or, and over/under pass?

      1. Dan

        an underpass at Pend Oreille was planned as part of the TIGER grant that UW applied for but didn’t get:


      2. Andres Salomon

        As someone who uses that intersection to access UW Surplus by bike, I would be pretty sad if they made Pend Oreille inaccessible from The Burke. I’m assuming that would be the case with an underpass.

      3. David Amiton

        Andres — Surplus would still be accessible (as would upper/main campus). You’d have “fly-down” connections from Pend Oreille to the trail.

  9. kpt

    I assume it will take awhile for people to get used to it, but it was a mess this morning. Bike rider in front of me wanted to cruise through. Assistant standing there got his attention and made him stop. He, now blocking the trail, decided to engage the assistant in a discussion of whether this was the right thing to do.

    In the meantime, guy in a car starts yelling at assistant, demanding that he look at how far backed up the cars were, and wanting to know who’s dumb idea the whole thing was.

    Meanwhile, I’m trying to get the biker’s attention, and say “it’s a four way stop. It’s our turn now. Please go.”

    Hopefully everyone gets the idea in a week or so. Of course, better to just let the bikes cruise through with explicit signage for the cars.

    1. ChefJoe

      The stop signs on the BG are like bus bulbs…. they’re meant to calm traffic on the BG and keep things at a reasonable pace.

      1. LWC

        um… Bus bulbs are not a traffic calming measure. They’re to keep buses from having to take excessive time merging back into traffic.

      2. ChefJoe

        Bus bulbs are a sub-category of the traffic calming curb extension family.

        Curb extensions have multiple applications and may be segmented into various sub-categories, ranging from traffic calming to bus bulbs and midblock crossings.

  10. Doug Bostrom

    Call me Pollyanna but the intersection w/Pend Oreille has always struck me as kind of a bright spot; drivers usually very deferential to cyclists. Perhaps I’ve just been lucky.

    There’s another 4-way up the trail a bit (70th?) where motor vehicle drivers seem to be extremely conciliatory to cyclists.

    That said, I do agree w/remarks about the generally strange nature of a 4-way involving bikes and cars.

  11. Stuart Strand

    The 4-way at Pend Orielle is definitely an improvement for user safety and bicyclist equality. Elsewhere on the campus detour there is still no stop sign for south bound street traffic where the trail switch backs joins Mason Rd.

    UW should work with the city and make the trail crossings at 11th and Brooklyn 4-way , though 2 way with bicyclist priority makes more sense for all the reasons presented in Tom’s clear and well reasoned article. These mid-block crossings are particularly hard to spot for motorists unfamiliar with the area. Stop sign would make all the difference for safety and the perception of safety by cyclists. NE 40th crossing should also have stop signs for the street traffic.

    BTW, the trail between Brooklyn and 7th was closed this morning for some sort of construction near the Wall of Death. There was no prior notice that I am aware of. The reopening of the trail section between 15th & Brooklyn is welcome, but the surface is very poorly finished. There are longitudinal seams that will soon create tire traps. The trail entry on the south side of 11th is much worse than it was before, when it was merely a big bump. Now it is a rough edgy big bump. I hope it will be properly surfaced soon. Right now it does not meet any safety standards.

    1. Stuart Strand

      that should have been between Brooklyn and University is reopened with poor surface especially at the trail entry on the south side of University. sorry for the confusion.

    2. Skylar

      Nope, still closed today. Yesterday the closure appeared to be so someone could store a stack of signs in the middle of the trail. Now the stack of signs is off the trail, and there is a digger on the other side of the trail but not obstructing anything. Maybe sometime in the next few months they’ll get around to doing something to justify the closure.

      On that note, the pedestrian detour for this is pretty stupid – it involves walking up on the newly-painted bike lanes on Cowlitz Road, without any signage for bikes to indicate that they should expect foot traffic in the road.

  12. Stuart Strand

    ..between Adams Ln and 7th…

  13. David R Hiller

    Follow me here; bicycles are vehicles when used upon a roadway, which is the portion of the highway (public right of way) that is reserved for vehicular travel. A multi-use trail is not a roadway, because it is not – you guessed it – reserved for vehicular travel. Bicycle-users on trails, as with sidewalks, are pedestrians and enjoy the same rights and responsibilities under the law. Moreover, the legislature went so far as to give pedestrians the right of way at non-signal-controlled marked crossings in all cases except one – they cannot enter the crossing if it is “impossible” for the driver to stop.

    So, someone jogging at 10 mph can enter the crossing at speed if it is not “impossible” for the drivers to stop, but someone riding into the same crosswalk, at the same speed will get a ticket from UW’s finest. Makes sense to me.

    1. I’m a runner with a very good idea what 10 MPH feels like (it’s 6-minute mile pace, faster than what most would call “jogging”). If I entered a otherwise uncontrolled crosswalk at that speed without slowing at all I would not be able to determine whether I was putting a driver in such an “impossible” situation before I was out on the road, and if there was a sidewalk before the road, the same problem would exist where the trail crossed the sidewalk.

      A lot of people jog, and most people walk, at slow enough speeds that this is much less of an issue.

    2. sdv

      So all those yield signs on the Burke Gilman down in Fremont – are those legal?

    3. Kirk

      But to be clear, David R Hiller, this discussion is concerning a trail crossing that does have a traffic control device; a stop sign. Pedestrians would indeed need to stop.
      RCW 46.61.050 (1) The driver of any vehicle, every bicyclist, and every pedestrian shall obey the instructions of any official traffic control device applicable thereto placed in accordance with the provisions of this chapter…

      1. biliruben

        Uh huh.

        I am much more interested in what SDOT should be doing than what bikes and peds on the path should be doing, however.

        SDOT has set up a ridiculously confusing situation. Bikes, Peds and cars are doing their best to interpret and respond to that confusing situation. What they’ve done at 65th is default to the only reasonable course: Trail-users have the right of way due to the crosswalk.

        You can feel free to post all of what you think are the relevant RCWs, SMCs and STFUs, or sit there and swear at trail users until you are blue in the face, but it won’t change much.

        Just make SDOT create a non-ambigious situation that a non-lawyer can understand.

      2. Kirk

        Oh, and biliruben, I’m totally with you. All crossings of the BGT should have stop signs for vehicle traffic and trail users should have the right of way. It’s not like there are that many trails around. The few trails we have turn out to be bicycle thoroughfares and should be treated as such and users should be given priority.
        These intersections need to be made simple and obvious.

      3. biliruben

        {Virtual fist-bump!}

    4. Josh

      Bicycles are never pedestrians, even in crosswalks — bicycles have additional duties imposed by law that do not apply to pedestrians.

      For example, bicycles on sidewalks and in crosswalks are required to yield to pedestrians. If bicycles *were* pedestrians, that would mean pedestrians were required to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.

      Bicycles are also required to obey vehicular traffic control devices, such as STOP signs, that do not apply to pedestrians. (Pedestrians must obey traffic control *signals*, RCW 46.61.230, but at unsignalized intersections, pedestrian entry into marked or unmarked crosswalks is not governed by STOP signs, but by RCW 46.61.235 (2), which doesn’t require stopping.)

      RCW 46.61.750 explicitly states that traffic laws apply to bicycles apply wherever a bicycle is operated on a highway or on a bicycle path.

      1. Kirk

        Josh, actually, pedestrians have to obey traffic control *devices* which can include signals. RCW 46.61.050 “(1) The driver of any vehicle, every bicyclist, and every pedestrian shall obey the instructions of any official traffic control device applicable thereto placed in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.”
        Of course pedestrians can enter an intersection without a traffic control device without stopping, just as a person driving a bicycle or motor vehicle can.

      2. Josh

        Now you just have to find where the chapter applies STOP signs to pedestrians. (Traffic control devices “applicable thereto” — not all traffic control devices, only those that apply to the class of user.)

        The chapter specifically applies traffic control *signals* to pedestrians, but there’s no equivalent language for STOP signs.

      3. Josh

        WAC 504-14-940


        (1) When traffic control signals are in place at intersections, pedestrians shall be subject to them.

        (2) When traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation at pedestrian crossings, a vehicle must yield the right of way, by slowing down or stopping, when the pedestrian in the crossing is upon the same half of the roadway as the vehicle, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.

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

        (4) Pedestrians who are between adjacent intersections at which traffic control signals are in operation must not cross at any place except in a marked crosswalk.

  14. biliruben

    RE: 65th Street crossing.

    We should look very closely at the only other similar 4-way stop, and learn lessons from that.

    What happens now is not what comments above are suggesting. As someone who goes through there regularly, what happens is cars stop, bikes largely don’t. I have maybe seen 1 in 100 bikes come to a complete stop since the 4-way went in. This reinforces Tom’s point that this is traffic engineers trying – and failing – to force counter-intuitive behavior and users they simply don’t understand.

    That they are repeating the mistake at Pend Orielle is just bizarre.

    Unless PO cross-traffic is at a higher volume, causing back-ups, the trail users should simply be given the right of way, to conform with what’s going to happen anyway.

    1. biliruben

      What to do if the volume IS too high, I’m not sure. I’d suggest closing the road to all but maintenance vehicles, disabled and buses, except there is a monstrosity of a parking garage that people need to access, and UW, for better or worse, is still painfully car-centric. Chicken or the egg.

    2. It doesn’t matter whether people come to a complete stop. It matters that they ultimately go through the intersection in the right order (or get waved through by someone that thinks they’re doing the world a favor by behaving confusingly at an intersection). You don’t have to come to a complete stop to do that often, but you do have to slow down! If there’s someone already there you may have to come to a complete stop. If someone else is approaching you have to come close enough to stopping to communicate your arrival order.

      These things aren’t hard to do. I’ve been biking for transportation since I was a kid, and I can’t remember not knowing how to go through a 4-way stop. Nobody likes stopping when they’re moving, but it’s part of living in a civilization. I’ve gone through my share of red lights while biking, and when I’m running I jaywalk every couple blocks… but I’m damn sure not to put myself or others in danger doing it. Getting through intersections safely and politely is more important than the infantile quest never to unclip, which seems to be what drives a lot of bizarre Seattle behavior (like all these idiots that block crosswalks trying to track stand on road bikes while waiting at red lights).

      To be sure, there are lots of intersections with the BGT that absolutely should have two-way stop signs favoring the trail — most intersections that don’t have traffic signals are in this category. But there are a few where there are people traveling along the other street, too. Some of them are walking and biking, so even if you don’t recognize people’s need to get through an intersection while driving, think of people walking across!

      1. biliruben

        You don’t get it, or I wasn’t clear. At 65th, cars are generally always waiting when there are trail users there. Always. Regardless of whether they were there first. The cars are completely confused, because it’s a crosswalk and as such, they are supposed to yield to peds and bikes.

        So the defacto situation is not what you are suggesting it is. It is that trail users and always or almost always being given the right of way.

        Almost nobody, car or bike or ped, is treating it as a traditional 4-way stop as if it were two auto roads. Probably because it’s not.

        Go sit and watch one nice day. There is a bench there. Watch the behavior for 20 minutes.

        If the traffic engineers really wanted you to treat as if it were to roads, the completely failed. And that ambiguity is bad and dangerous, because those few cars that don’t yield to crosswalk traffic and going to cause a collision.

        Just give the trail the right of way.

      2. biliruben

        Boy do I need a self-edit function!

      3. biliruben

        The other reason it doesn’t work is that if a trail user does happen to stop, then go when it’s their “turn” what about the 5 bikes and peds that just came up behind her? Do they all sit and wait until it’s now their “turn”, or do they just go across as a group? We know the answer.

      4. ODB

        I agree that blocking crosswalks while trackstanding is bad behavior and it bothers me when I see people do it. But I think trackstanding in an appropriate spot behind the crosswalk should be encouraged. A person who has balance good enough to trackstand can ride slowly and politely on a sidewalk, where a cyclist without that sense of balance will wobble and veer and endanger pedestrians. In fact, a cyclist with good balance is safer in lots of situations. So I think the “infantile quest never to unclip” actually serves a useful purpose in training people to be safer and more competent riders (so long as it does not lead to rude or unsafe behavior). Plus, trackstanding is fun. It adds some challenge and interest to what can otherwise be a tedious experience of waiting for the same lights every day on a commute.

      5. LWC

        I often take a quiet, private pride in riding 15 miles across town, following all laws (and blocking no crosswalks), all while never unclipping.

        Now I find out that I’m just an infantile idiot. Bummer.

  15. biliruben

    Sharing of my personal observations of the new Pend Orielle 4-way stop crossing.

    From bike view yesterday – even trying to slow a bit at the “stop” prompted 3 bikers behind my to zoom around, and a honk from a car to just go already. Confusion reigned supreme despite (or perhaps because of) the old dude with a flag and a shiny yellow vest standing around giving little coherent direction.

    From the bus view today – my bus driver honked and waved several times, pleading with the dozen waiting bikes and peds to “just go”, with what appeared to be a more assertive dude than yesteday with flag and vest giving what appeared to be contrary instructions to wait for car and bus traffic to go through.

    Confusion was the again the word of the day.

  16. Alkibkr

    Please could they put those little “4-way stop” signs below the stop signs both directions to make it absolutely clear to everyone how they are supposed to behave? I rarely bike the trail in this area, maybe 1-2 times per year, so last time I encountered a 4-way stop that did not have the little signs, I found it confusing.

    1. biliruben

      The car direction, it has “all-way stop”. I can’t remember if the trail has that also.

  17. jay

    Doesn’t look like anyone has mentioned PUDMAROFF v_ ALLEN yet, so, there it is!
    (an all “all way stop” sign would not make absolutely clear, at least not until it got back to the State Supreme Court)

    Ironic that this fairly long thread could be summed up in one word:


    Confusing is bad, m’kay

    Seems to me there are about 4 options:
    First, perhaps best? certainly cheapest, 2 way stop with priority given to the trail/cross walk.

    Second, maybe just as good, or probably even better, it’s not like the majority of drivers come to a full stop at stop signs anyway; No stop signs in any direction, RFRB (is that the right acronym? Rapid Flash Rectangular Beacon?) to “protect” the cross walk, maybe with sensors that allow crossing at a moderate walking speed without having to stop. There is one across Alaskan Way somewhere near pier 63, with a passive sensor, I think it used to have a beg button, but now one can just walk across. It might be nice to push the sensors back a few feet further, but only a few, so one still has to be at “walking” speed, or better, add a second set of sensors, one for bikes and one close to the edge of the road so pedestrians traveling along Pend Oreille who then want to cross will also be detected (or a backup beg button with immediate response)
    Actually, even if one had (well positioned) beg buttons (no sensors) it would probably be better that what is there now, and with no active sensors it might be possible to power it with solar cells (like the trail stop signs), thus saving the very high cost of running power.

    Third; bad, but there might be some argument for it, I imagine there are those who would stop at a red light but ignore a RFRB; $ignal light, despite the cost that might be the most popular (not with readers of this blog of course, but we are a small minority) If it had, say, a three minute cycle, with a 3 second walk, Pend Oreille is not very wide is it? maybe an 8 second or less countdown? default to don’t walk, beg button with no priority, just gets one a place in the cycle, it would fit right in with many other intersections in the city.

    Fourth (pure snark); Close the trail and let people ride on Montlake Blvd/ NE 45th. where bicyclists would be using the “roadway” and thus subject to the same rules as cars, none of this crosswalk confusion. (actually, the last two options are essentially the same except for the cost of the light)

  18. […] that didn’t last long. We reported earlier this week on the University of Washington’s efforts to improve safety where the […]

  19. Rob Norheim

    This experiment is over:

    “Over the last week, the intersection of the Burke-Gilman Trail and Pend Oreille has featured a four-way stop as part of a traffic study to explore permanent reassignment of right-of-way. The study has been revealing. Since the stop signs were installed on Pend Oreille, automobile queues have been longer than modeling predicted and the delay extended onto 25th Avenue NE as motor vehicles were unable to complete turning movements to Pend Oreille – sometimes for multiple signal cycles.

    “The results have proven this treatment unsuccessful, therefore, we are returning to an intersection configuration consistent with the prototypical multiuse path crossing in this illustration from the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD):

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