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The interim Roosevelt bike lane upgrade is now open

IMG_0698The interim protected bike lane is now open on Roosevelt Way between NE 45th Street and the north end of the University Bridge.

This project is something of a demonstration for what a more complete Roosevelt bike lane upgrade could look like after the street is repaved and redesigned starting fall 2015. The city plans to complete a protected bike lane on the vital NE Seattle bike route stretching from NE 65th Street to the south end of the University Bridge.

Not so long ago, there was no bike lane on the street, requiring some scary lane sharing on the long, fast downhill commute route. In 2010, the city painted a skinny bike lane on the street, but it was not enough to make the street safe. See our coverage from one of Seattle Bike Blog’s first ever stories, and note commenter John C pointing out some of the safety issues. Turns out, John C was right. The bike lane design created new safety issues, such as placing people too close to parked cars and at risk of getting hit by people opening their car doors.

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Since the bike lane was installed, Roosevelt has remained one of the most dangerous streets for people biking in the city, clocking 21 collisions in just four years (October 2010 – October 2014).

The new bike lane design will separate people biking from car traffic and create a much more comfortable and inviting space to bike. It will also remove conflicts with transit by moving bus stops off the sidewalk and into the space between the general travel lanes and the bike lane, much like the Dexter Ave transit islands. You can learn more about the changes from our previous story.

Much of the interim protected bike lane is pretty great, demonstrating a dramatic change in comfort for what was previously a scary place to bike. But larger issues remain problematic. The final product after repaving will create a complete connection to the University Bridge bike lanes, but the interim bike lane spits people into a shared traffic lane right before the bridge. With people driving and biking both getting up some quick speed before getting to the merge point, it does not feel safe at all.

Without a planned transit island and loading space near the UW Medical Clinic, shuttles and buses will still load across the bike lane. So in the meantime, be prepared to slow down and be careful.

Have you tried out the interim lane yet? Let us know how it went in the comments below. Here’s the press release from SDOT:

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) today opened a new interim protected bike lane along the west side of Roosevelt Way NE between NE 45th Street and the University Bridge. Protected bike lanes physically separate people riding bikes from people driving and are distinct from the sidewalk, adding predictability. Protected bike lanes are especially attractive to people who might be willing to bicycle but are concerned about safely biking on arterial roadways

“This is a critical location for a protected bike lane,” stated Seattle Department of Transportation Director Scott Kubly. “Through collaboration with the Roosevelt Way community, we have been able to quickly install this interim bike lane well in advance of the repaving project’s permanent improvements.”
Between October 2010 and October 2014, 21 collisions involving people riding bikes have occurred on this corridor. The new facility will enhance safety through a seven-foot-wide lane with a five-foot buffer that includes white posts. Driving or parking in the new bike lane is not allowed and temporary “No Parking” signs will remain in place until permanent signs and remaining green bike boxes are installed.

In fall 2015, SDOT will start repaving Roosevelt Way NE and add important safety improvements from Fuhrman Avenue NE to NE 65th Street. Along with addressing basic maintenance needs, SDOT is creating a multi-modal corridor by: improving transit reliability through transit stop consolidation and the addition of in-lane stops (pending funding availability); repairing sidewalks and adding curb bulbs and wheelchair ramps; and making bicycling safer and more comfortable. The two existing general purpose lanes will remain, as well as on-street parking on the east side. These changes will make Roosevelt feel more like a neighborhood business street and less like an alternative to I-5.

The paving project will also improve the bike connection from Roosevelt on to the University Bridge by adjusting the medians between northbound and southbound Roosevelt to accommodate existing travel lanes and a continuous permanent bicycle lane. An in-lane bus stop and passenger load zone at the U.W. Medical Clinic will be constructed in a way that meets the needs of transit riders, medical clinic patients and people riding bikes. The permanent bike facility’s buffer will be reduced to four feet wide along the corridor, adding an extra foot to the east side parking lane.

Outreach is underway to residents and businesses along Roosevelt Way NE to understand their access needs and determine how they can continue to be met during construction and with the addition of a one-way protected bike lane. In addition to door-to–door outreach, one last drop-in sessions is scheduled today from 5:30 – 7 p.m. at University Heights, 5031 University Way NE.

For more information on the project please visit www.seattle.gov/transportation/pave_roosevelt.htm.

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29 responses to “The interim Roosevelt bike lane upgrade is now open”

  1. Bellinghammer

    I rode it twice in the past week, and it was a nice upgrade even with the No Parking signs still in the middle of the lane. :)

  2. I was on it about a week ago, when they were still finishing up, so maybe they’ve “fixed” this, but… the last part of it just kind of dropped out suddenly right before the driveway-like exit to 40th, merging into the car traffic as I was preparing to making the turn.

    1. They have not fixed that yet, but my understanding is that SDOT is planning to saw that curb away and generally fix the approaches to the U-Bridge so you don’t have the same frantic merge.

  3. Ben Leis

    I’ve watched it being installed via my bike over the last week but missed trying it out for real this morning. I have to say its a little nuts to do street painting in 50 degree or less weather with various amounts of rain coming down. Sections literally had washed out by the time I returned the next day and I’m certain that most of it will fade more quickly than if this had been done in proper conditions.

    1. Andres Salomon

      Luckily, it doesn’t need to last long. Just until around late this year, when repaving begins. :)

  4. Andrew Squirrel

    It’s too bad they fixed everything except the feature that actually needed to be fixed: The merge before the bridge.
    I would have preferred to wait on this unnecessary interim work and put real construction time & resources into removing that merge point.

  5. Zach

    I agree about the merge that everyone has already mentioned.

    I would also like to mention that there are no signs warning drivers of the dangers of a right hook. I almost got hooked by a driver turning right on NE 43rd on Wednesday and then this afternoon on NE 42nd. Thankfully I was being extra attentive to the traffic and saw both of the turns as they were happening and was able to slow down in time. Both times the drivers completed their turns without slowing, which leads me to believe they didn’t see me at all.

    With the understanding that a fix to the merge at the south end is in progress, some signage regarding caution on right turns is my only feedback that I could offer at this time about the path. The section around the hospital has worked out surprisingly well every time that I have ridden it, which is pleasant.

    1. RDPence

      This is my concern about this design. It’s the mirror image of 2nd Ave. through downtown, but without the special traffic signals and turn restrictions. On a downhill run like this, cyclists can overtake right-turning motor vehicles, with disastrous results.

      And it’s a tough look for motorists to turn their heads 120-degrees to see if there’s a 20-mph cyclist ready to cross his path. This configuration has tragedy written all over it.

  6. Kara Sweidel

    As Andrew mentioned above, the merge point at the end is still really dangerous, and I would add almost more so now since those plastic bollards are there. There’s less chance to stay as close to the right as there was before for those cyclists not confident to just take the lane.

    Also, last night when I rode this stretch, the plastic bollards at that right turn just before the merge point had clearly already been run over by cars. It looks like a pretty sharp right turn for a car with the plastic bollards in place, and I’m guessing not everyone is slowing down appropriately to take it.

    Another issue I have is paint related, but if I understand correctly, this current new set-up is sort of temporary? The parking garage exit right doesn’t have any of the green paint indicating that the lane when you first exit is a bike lane. This used to be my daily commute home from work, and nearly every single day a car would just pull out of the garage, completely blocking the bike lane (perpendicular to the road) and waiting for traffic to let up so they could actually pull out of the garage. Do they plan to paint the bike lane there to hopefully help prevent this? I noticed lots of green paint in other places, not sure why they didn’t include the parking garage exit.

  7. merlin

    I have to agree that the merge before the bridge is terrible, and strangely designed to make it also very difficult to take that sharp right just before the bridge. I rode it while sections were still under construction and hoped that something different would be done at the south end. When I rode it there weren’t any signs at all at that point. There should at least be huge flashing lights warning people biking and people driving that people driving CARS YIELD TO BIKES. The common signs that simply say “Bike Lane Ends” and/or “Bikes Merge with Traffic” imply that bikes somehow magically disappear, or at best are obliged to somehow speed up to the speed limit in order to “merge” with car traffic.

    1. Josh

      SDOT can’t just make up signs, though. We’d need a law that actually says cars have to yield to bikes before a “CARS YIELD TO BIKES” sign would be legal.

      As it is, when the right lane ends, vehicles in the right lane have to merge left, just like anywhere else.

      Current law would at least support proper “LANE ENDS/MERGE LEFT” signs ahead of the merge, and “BICYCLE MAY USE FULL LANE” signs at/beyond the merge so that motorists recognize they need to expect bikes to be in the lane.

      1. LWC

        Yes, but as you’re fond of pointing out in these comments, SDOT often does what makes sense, even if it does not meet the letter of the state & federal proscriptions. And, as I recall, you’re about the only person who ever complains about it :)

      2. Josh

        Do you want infrastructure that relies on rules SPD refuses to enforce because the law says something different? (SPD won’t of course make a public disclosure of what rules they can’t really enforce. But should transportation policy rely on public ignorance?)

      3. Stardent

        There’s a sign on 25th NE across Blakeley informing right turning cars must yield to bikes and pedestrians. That no one seems to over it is another matter.

      4. jay

        I believe the sign at 25th NE and Blakely is referring to yielding to people using the cross walk, which the written law does indeed require (of course the unwritten law is that right turning drivers don’t have to yield to anything except other cars, and if that other car is enough smaller than your car, you might be able to intimidate its driver into yielding to you as well).

        In the case of the merge Merlin mentioned the burden is both legally and practically on the bicyclist.

        Tom wrote: “The final product after repaving will create a complete connection to the University Bridge bike lanes, but the interim bike lane spits people into a shared traffic lane right before the bridge.”
        Once (if) there is a continuous bike lane, then automobiles crossing is will (technically) have the burden of yielding to vehicles (bicycles) already in the lane they are moving into. But the unwritten law will still apply.

        I’m having trouble finding an attribution, but I’m sure you’ve all heard:
        “This is the grave of Mike O’Day
        Who died maintaining his right of way.
        He was right, dead right, as he sped along,
        But he’s just as dead as if he’d been wrong.”

        Seems to be SDOT’s policy, to hell with the law (of course enforcing the law is not within SDOT’s purview). From a FAQ about the Roosevelt bike lane (emphasis added)

        “Q. How would pedestrians cross the protected bike lane?
        A. Similar to today, pedestrians will cross the street at intersections. At these locations, they can wait at the
        and move across the street when they are in no danger of people riding bikes, or driving. ”
        Of course that is common sense (see poem above), so my snark is perhaps undeserved. But still, I’m pretty sure most of the large percentage of drivers who will not stop while you are standing on the curb, will avoid actually hitting you if you make it clear you are going to cross (but as Mr. O’Day, learned (briefly) it only takes one)

  8. daihard


    I’ve had that happen to me a couple of times while riding on that part of Roosevelt Way. A car blocks the bike lane as it waits to merge into the traffic. I just direct my headlight at the driver and throw my hands up. Both times they backed off to let me through. I wish they had a gate at the garage exit that would only open when there’s no bike traffic in the protected bike lane…

    1. Kara Sweidel

      Your drivers have been nicer than mine. Usually, they just throw up their hands and look at me as if to say, “What am I supposed to do?”

      My response is an open-hand smack to the car as I slowly go around it.

  9. Andres Salomon

    Just rode the Roosevelt PBL for the first time. North of NE 42nd, it’s fantastic. A huge improvement! Excellent work on that, SDOT.

    South of 42nd, where it becomes an unprotected bike lane next to fast moving traffic.. well, that still sucks. And, the vans in the loading zone will sometimes block the return back into the PBL. Finally, the merge back into traffic as the PBL ends (https://twitter.com/NEGreenways/status/559835901505712128) is way too abrupt. If feels worse than before, as instead of having lots of space to slow down and time your entrance into the general-purpose lane, you now have to brake suddenly and then quickly speed up, or just throw yourself into traffic.

    Getting rid of the plastic posts between the bike lane and curb would fix the merge problem, giving people more space to merge. Or just completely get rid of the PBL south of NE 42nd; I’m not convinced the temporary lane is a win here, since it’s so short and involves so much merging.

    1. Andres Salomon

      Oh, my other experience south of NE 42nd; I shared the PBL with a very confused car driver. He was in front of me and going slow, so it wasn’t dangerous at all, but he had parked at the loading zone area in front of UW Medical Center and then pulled out straight into the PBL. His attempts to merge back into traffic were actually pretty humorous.

  10. bill

    I rode the new lane today. I think it is terrible. There are too many driveway crossings where a driver exiting has to block the bike lane in order to see around the parked cars. Cars entering cannot see into the garages until they are blocking the bike lane. I was delayed by a car that turned into a parking garage, but found its way blocked by another car. The driver could not see through the parked cars to safely back up into the traffic lane. A med tech I spoke to said lots of drivers are complaining about the lane.

    South of 42nd the lane was closed for construction, so I did not experience the merge. It looks bad.

    1. ODB

      That’s interesting because the lane earns Tom’s highest term of approbation, “comfortable”:

      “The new bike lane design will separate people biking from car traffic and create a much more comfortable and inviting space to bike. . . . Much of the interim protected bike lane is pretty great, demonstrating a dramatic change in comfort for what was previously a scary place to bike.”

      The question is “comfortable” to whom? It doesn’t sound very “comfortable” to me. Anyway, shouldn’t “safety” and “efficiency” rather than “comfort” be the operative parameters, just as they are for automotive transportation? I can understand that when it comes to mattresses or hemorrhoid ointment “comfort” is the paramount criterion. But I would like the city to invest in transportation facilities that can actually be used safely at a speed in excess of 10mph, even if they do not meet the utopian goal of being completely “comfortable” to the most fearful segment of the population.

      1. Andres Salomon

        I’m not sure modeling bike infrastructure after the way we’ve built car infrastructure is the way to go. By “safety” and “efficiency”, we’re talking about 30k to 40k fatalities per year. I certain’t won’t use bike infrastructure that makes the assumption that a few tens of thousands of dead people per year (including the operators of those bikes) is fine so long as we keep bikes moving.

        I’m not sure I see the problem with the driveways. Yes, they’ll block the bike lane.. just like they used to. The plastic posts are much easier to see past than parked cars, though, so sightlines should be improved quite a bit. Cars will pull out of those driveways without looking, just like before, so you need to be cautious and aware. You no longer need to worry about driveways plus car doors, though. It’s not Copenhagen-level facilities, but it feels like a big improvement over what we had previously (other than the newly awful sudden lane merge, that is).

        And if you feel like the need to be cautious is really crimping your style – take the lane. It’s legal here, unlike in Oregon; take advantage of that.

      2. The issue with driveways — and there’s a similar problem on uncontrolled cross streets on the new configuration of Dexter between Mercer and Denny — is that for drivers entering the road from the side, they’re the same distance from the lane they’re trying to enter as they were before, but what’s in between has changed. Parked cars are farther from the intersection but farther out on the road, so they’re at about the same angle — therefore drivers have to pull out equally far to see far enough down the road to safely turn onto it. As before, the first thing they cross is the crosswalk. In the old configuration the next thing they crossed was dead space that used to line up with parking, or right-turn pockets for drivers that weren’t going to cross their paths (so they might effectively pull past the crosswalk, and people would walk behind them, as is explicitly set out at some intersections in, e.g., Europe). Now the next thing they cross is the bike lane.

        Meanwhile cyclists, being closer to the side of the road, don’t get in a mutually-visible position with this cross traffic until they’re closer together. They also are hemmed in more than before, unable to move left (typically left, that is) to avoid an encroaching car, even one seen well in advance, until they’re almost on top of it.

        This is not a problem at intersections that are controlled in ways that eliminate these sorts of conflicts. That’s how the best cycletracks/protected lanes/sidepaths work: ideally no uncontrolled intersections or driveways cross them, certainly none that have much traffic. And no parallel parking closer to the center of the road, where vehicles can obstruct sight lines at the same angles as if they’re at the curb, even if they’re pushed farther from the intersection.

        The solutions to this problem, and the problem of cyclists turning left (usually it’s left — whichever direction is across the main roadway) from these sorts of facilities, are not easy. They require further reductions in parallel parking capacity, and even restrictions on private driveways — losses for some, compared to the status quo. This is because, fundamentally, the infrastructure we have in the present, that we built in the past, is unsuited to our visions for the future.

        We aren’t going to get all the changes we need tomorrow. There’s no great answer for Dexter or Roosevelt that we could do in a year. If I were Dictator of Seattle I’d call out the bulldozers at midnight and tear up driveways like Daley did to Meigs Field, but the republican form of government is a greater good than any bike lane. But that’s the vision to keep in mind, one change at a time.

      3. Josh

        If this were an automotive facility with a hazard that wasn’t completely obvious, they’d measure the available sight distances, do the math, and post advisory speeds for limited sight distances. Could they not do the same for this path? (Not an enforceable speed limit, black-and-white, but an advisory speed, black-on-yellow, like you see on corners with poor sight distances.)

        Perhaps also add “DO NOT BLOCK BICYCLE PATH” signs at the parking exits?

      4. If this were an automotive facility the hazard would of a different nature. It’s not just geometry, sight lines between the rider and cross traffic. It’s also the sight lines between drivers making turns and the lane they’re trying to enter, and the fact that turning drivers have to look at fairly different angles to see the two kinds of traffic. The frequency with which the driver switches between looking in two different places for cross traffic is not a question of geometry. Moving slow can increase the likelihood you’ll be seen, but drivers that run down pedestrians prove that it’s no guarantee.

      5. RDPence

        Last time I checked state traffic code, it said vehicles must not pass on the right. And code also says vehicles turning right must do so from the right-hand lane — but that can’t happen when that right lane is a protected bikeway.

        These two code provisions are there specifically to avoid right-hook collisions, yet SDOT designs streets that actually encourage them. I just don’t get it. These intersections are tragedies waiting to happen. Like 2nd Avenue before the lights were fixed to prevent left-hook collisions.

    2. Stardent

      I rode it and I liked it. Does it make bicycling carefree? No. Does it make it easier? Yes.

  11. Eli

    Tom, on a side note, did you re-read the last sentence of John C’s post from 2010?

    “I think a better choice would have been a bike boulevard on 12th south of Ravenna Blvd.”

    How perspicacious. (although south of 50th, I have to admit it could be a lot better.)

  12. […] city installed this short section of protected bike lane between NE 45th Street and the north approach to the University Bridge in […]

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