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Seattle makes list of top ten best new bikes lanes. Twice. Again.

Screenshot from the Green Lane Project. Click to read the whole list.
Screenshot from the Green Lane Project. Click to read the whole list.

Seattle’s batting average for national bike lane lists leads the league.

Last year, Seattle made the Green Lane Project’s list of the top ten protected bike lanes for 2013 two times: Linden Ave was 5th and Cherry Street was 9th (more for its awesome origin story rather than actual quality).

Well, the city did even better in 2014. Once again, Seattle made the PeopleForBikes Green Lane Project’s top ten list two times, and this time the city placed a bit higher. The 2nd Ave bike lane clocked in at number 2 and the Broadway Bikeway came in at number 6.

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Of course, before we go all out on the self congratulations, the 2nd Ave bike lane has not been perfect. Aside from the fact that there are essentially no connections to this new bike lane from any neighborhood outside downtown, there were also issues with confusing signage and the design near parking garage entrances. One person was struck and injured near an entrance between Pike and Union.

To the city’s credit, they responded quickly to both issues. When the first week of use showed high rates of people driving turning across the bike lane at intersections, SDOT changed the signals and signage to make it more clear when people need to wait before turning. Within hours of the collision at the Union Street garage entrance, SDOT pushed parked cars back from the garage entrance to improve sight lines and make it easier for people turning into the garage to see people on bikes.

If I were to congratulate the city on any aspect of these bike lanes (other than the political will to make them happen), it would definitely be the city’s efforts to observe people’s behavior and make changes to get better and safer outcomes. If the city continues to learn, listen to feedback and improve their bike lane designs, Seattle will certainly continue to make these lists for years to come. But more importantly, our city will be a safer and more comfortable place to get around.

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19 responses to “Seattle makes list of top ten best new bikes lanes. Twice. Again.”

  1. Clark in Vancouver

    I agree, it’s much better to observe behaviour and design for it rather than impose rules that are awkward to follow and then have to enforce those rules.
    I haven’t been down to visit Seattle in a few years and have never cycled there but now I really want to go and check out the bike share bikes as well as these new cycle lanes.

  2. S. Sanchez

    I had a party to go to in Pioneer Square in early November and normally would have taken a bus because I dislike biking downtown so much. But because of the new bike lane, I hopped on a Pronto at Seattle Central and basically glided almost the whole way to the docking station at my destination.
    The only issue I had was merging into traffic at the end of the bike lane. It was downright dangerous as I had no idea I was going to be dumped into the street with buses merging and trying to turn around me. I honestly felt my life was in danger as I tried to get from the left lane to the right lane.
    I’ve been a city biker for years and am usually pretty fearless, but that ending is a horribly poor design that is putting people at risk.

  3. Cheif

    The 2nd ave bike lane connects to the broadway bike lane via Yesler. It is however still something of a disaster area thanks to oblivious parking garage users and left turners still somehow not understanding what “No Left On Red” could possibly mean.

    1. Andrew Squirrel

      I will give the drivers the benefit of the doubt based upon the stoplight confusion at many of the intersections along 2nd Ave.
      I can’t believe it was legal for SDOT to be so inconsistent with the stop lights along 2nd ave, half of the stoplights are on the side of the road while the other half are hanging above the road.

      I appreciate they gave us the upgraded red arrow for left turning auto traffic but they seriously need to move that horrible stoplight cluster from the side of the road to hanging above the intersection.
      Putting so many lights and instructional signs close to each other just confuses the issue. Even when I am approaching on bike I have to mentally exert myself to decode what 4 different lights are saying, remind myself which vehicle am I operating (bike or car) all while watching out for the left hook from a driver that is probably just as confused as I am.

      SDOT needs to simplify the intersection and put the bike signal above the bike lane in clear view. Put the car arrow signal above the car turning lane and put the standard circle lights above the non-turnign lanes. This will clarify these intersections immensely.

      1. Josh

        I think it might also help to use the larger of the two standard sign sizes for the bicycle signals. The signs are designed to let drivers know that’s not their signal, but honestly, try driving towards one of those signal clusters at even 25 mph on a rainy morning and tell me how far away you can actually read the “bicycle signal” sign…

        Maybe once bicycle signals are more common, the smaller sign would be enough, people would recognize it by its general shape without having to consciously read it. But for now, when bicycle signals are so new they’re not even legal in Washington State yet, they should be made as obvious as possible.

  4. Meg

    I agree that the majority of the 2nd avenue lane is a significant improvement, but the connection to Pike Street is really dangerous. In what world is it okay to simply dead-end a lane of traffic at an intersection? If the bike lane user is not paying very careful attention, they are spat out into ONCOMING TRAFFIC. I ride this most work days and cross at the crosswalk to connect to Pike, which makes the pedestrian angry as well. Also,what is up with the “SLOW” signs painted on the street at Madison and other areas?

    1. Cheif

      I agree about the SLOW pavement markings. Put those where the cars drive ffs.

      1. Tom Fucoloro

        Most of those are for the hotel loading and valet areas. A better-funded bike lane could turn those crossing areas into raised crosswalks, which would probably work better. It’s important to slow down through these busy areas.

  5. bragi

    I bicycle almost everywhere I go in Seattle, and I was prepared to like the 2nd Avenue bike lane, but I actually kind of hate it. As mentioned, it’s not long enough to be very useful, and it’s not connected to anything else; it’s just a ten-block showpiece in the middle of downtown, seemingly built mostly to allow Seattle bicycle advocates to brag when they attend conferences. In addition, the intersections are a nightmare; yes, the signals have improved, but not everyone obeys them (especially car drivers), so the intersections are kind of a roll of the dice at busy times. After a couple of tries, I now avoid 2nd Ave. at all costs when I’m downtown.

    1. After the changes to 2nd I still take 5th to go south… but I don’t use 4th to go north anymore. There are, of course, still trips where 1st or Western make more sense (or where I take ’em for the scenery). But I don’t miss 4th a bit.

  6. Josh

    Slight correction, in the first month of operation there were at least two confirmed car/bike injury accidents at the parking garage entrances on 2nd, not just one. Still, as SDOT noted at the time, the old Bike Lane of Death averaged an injury accident every month, so two injury accidents in the first month isn’t that big of an increase over the previous design.

  7. Hey, thanks for this post, Tom, and for the additional thoughts, everyone else.

    For what it’s worth, we’re definitely aware that 2nd Avenue has had design issues. Though our blurb on the post focused on Kung’s story because it’s so compelling, 2nd ranked highly for another important reason: the city moved fast on this and has been designing it iteratively: making its best effort, getting it on the street and responding immediately to problems as they arise.

    We’ve started to make this a core principle of our work: the idea that cities know the general goal they’re working toward (comfortable and direct Dutch/Danish-style separation of motor and pedal traffic on major streets) but that the last 30 years of American bike advocacy show the only way to get this done is rapid execution of incremental improvements. That’s exactly the approach Seattle has chosen with 2nd, and that’s a major reason we rated it so highly.

    As for the design of 2nd, the most remarkable factor was that it uses full signalized separation (which people clearly prefer but which is absent from a lot of protected lanes) to put a comfortable bikeway in the middle of downtown. It’s totally true that it doesn’t connect to anything yet, and we’re obviously eager for it to do so.

    To summarize: in addition to the Kung story, we think 2nd Ave is impressive because it’s one of the best examples in the country of a new and promising style of fast, iterative traffic engineering.

    1. Matt

      Thank you for choosing us! I agree with all of your points. 2nd and Broadway have a long way to go for them to be “great” bike lanes (mainly just because they don’t connect to anything). Both of these lanes represent a bold vision for our cycling future and I am proud to live in a city that is making these kind of investments.

    2. BikeShare

      What is “iterative engineering?” There’s really no such thing. What you described is called “trial and error,” and it has no place in the design of facilities for vulnerable road users. “Trial and error” is not engineering. It’s “design” by people who are using human beings test subjects. The problem is… those guinea pigs don’t know they are part of a very dangerous test.

      The hazards associated with various bike facilities are well understood by experienced bikeway designers and cyclists. And the crash types and locations associated with cycle tracks are easy to predict. This facility should not have been built in pieces while the designers waited to see where people would be placed in dangerous situations.

  8. Lulea

    As a counterpoint to all the 2nd Ave complaints, I really like 2nd Ave now. I never used it before as it was too dangerous and did not think the north bike lane was a good idea. Now on my way home instead of taking 3rd and jockeying with the busses I have a relaxing ride of the gentle grade of 2nd. (I don’t like 4th an only connect with it at the north end as the bike lane merge to traffic is messy and everyone drives so fast on it on the downhill and north of Westlake.) There of course are some curious transitions at Pike that are awkward but I do like the connection to pioneer square. I am still nervous taking 2nd south so often take the waterfront but I have been seeing increased driving compliance in general. For me it is an overall improvement to my work commute.

  9. Greg A

    I don’t mean to belittle the efforts of Seattle’s engineers and planners, or the work of PeopleForBikes or other advocacy groups.

    But I am sick and farting tired of seeing advocacy groups make excuses for endorsing garbage infrastructure. We’ve been patting ourselves on the back long enough, it is time to demand excellence instead of settle for mere signs of effort.

  10. Kim grabowy

    Congratulations! However, I would like to know the other 8 cities who complete the list.

  11. daihard

    Does anyone happen to know why Seattle chose to redesign the 2nd Ave bike lanes as a bi-directional bike lane, which, as far as I can tell, is considered highly dangerous for the cyclists? Granted the bike-specific lights may reduce the possibility of left hooks, did they have to choose this design instead of enhancing the two existing one-way bike lanes – for instance, SB on 2nd and NB on 4th?

  12. […] results.* Best place to get a job? Made that list. Best new protected bike lanes? Made that list. Twice. […]

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