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After confusion over Burke-Gilman detour, City Light releases video

IMG_0691Almost immediately after the Seattle City Light Burke-Gilman Trail detour was put in place, readers started reporting confusion and concerns. Mostly, people were concerned about a multi-direction stop at 6th Ave NE where sightlines are limited.

City Light has since added some extra wayfinding signage to help people figure out the routing, but the 6th Ave NE intersection remains a bit stressful. This is especially problematic for the sometimes younger and/or less experienced users the trail attracts.

Work on the trail is scheduled to continue through mid-February, so trail users will need to get used to the detour. City Light released the following video explaining how the detour is supposed to work:

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It can be difficult for trail users and cars stopped under the bridge at 6th Ave NE to see each other.
It can be difficult for trail users and cars stopped under the bridge at 6th Ave NE to see each other.

As we reported previously, the original plan did not include a trail detour at all, and would have sent trail users into shared traffic lanes on the street. So the temporary trail is an improvement over that plan. There could be some ways to adjust stop lines at 6th Ave NE to improve sight lines, but users should definitely be prepared to be patient and proceed with caution.

Below is the detour map. What has your experience been with the detour?


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20 responses to “After confusion over Burke-Gilman detour, City Light releases video”

  1. Skylar

    I have yet to take the detour (I tend to take the upper fork of 40th anyways) but I think some of the confusion is probably who has right-of-way when a cyclist wants to go straight and a driver wants to make a right turn. In the absence of a separate bike signal (this intersection isn’t even signalized for cars or pedestrians), my experience has been that the safest thing to do is to let cars merge (safely! slowly!) into the bike lane (depending on the state, this might even be the law – I can’t speak to WA). This makes their intent to turn unambiguous.

    Unfortunately, this detour is designed explicitly to disallow a merge, and the video didn’t demonstrate how to deal with this scenario.

  2. Kelli

    If your detour needs a video for people to get it you are not doing it right.

  3. Ints

    It’s a detour, when you use it follow Tom’s words
    “… be patient and proceed with caution.” and it works just fine.

  4. bill

    Like I said previously, worst detour ever! 6th and lower 40th should be closed to cars. There are plenty of alternative routes for them.

  5. Skylar

    It’s also worth pointing out that SDOT has said for years that it plans to fix the unmitigated disaster of the intersection at 40th St NE & 7th Ave NE, and the lesser disaster of 40th St NE & 6th Ave NE. When I last emailed them a couple years ago, they said the plan was to put in a traffic circle in at 7th, and bike lanes on both the lower and upper forks of 40th between Latona and 7th. If these had been in, the BGT detour would not have been such a big deal.

    Given how SDOT implements non-car safety projects, I think we unfortunately will have to wait until a cyclist is seriously injured or killed before they take any action.

  6. JLA

    It would be helpful if there were signs on the road stating “Bicycles Merge with Traffic” so cars are more aware of the increase in cyclists.
    I biked through today for the first time and took it slow. If it’s dark, raining, cyclists don’t obey the stop signs or people are impatient and not paying attention, it could be dangerous.
    I’d also like to note that the other City Light projects along the trail have been extremely slow, they dig up the trail and then do no work for weeks. The most recent closure from Mercer Court to the intersection at 40th was scheduled to be done at the end of December and just opened last week.
    And as someone else noted in a previous post, there were City trucks blocking the bike lane on a blind corner between cars and cyclists. City Light doesn’t seem to be very mindful of their impact with these trail closures.

  7. Kara Sweidel

    I’ve ridden the detour twice eastbound (around 4:15 pm on a Monday both times), and once westbound (more like 12:30 am, technically Friday morning). It’s pretty ridiculous that they consider that tiny “lane” wide enough for 2 way traffic, especially in the area pictured (6th and Pacific, I think?). The first time I rode it going eastbound, bikes were heading westbound both in the detour lane and on the sidewalk. Peds on the sidewalk tried to step in front of me heading eastbound going downhill when they heard a bike behind them. The part where it meets up with 40th/Lincoln is sort of confusing too, so many cones and not enough signs. I didn’t notice any new signs today, but maybe I was just overwhelmed by the cones and people and cars.

    My westbound experience was nicer because it was late and no one else was around, but I did notice that the plethora of random cones at Lincoln/40th still don’t seem to make sense from that direction. I just swerved around some that seemed to be actually directly in what I would have assumed was the path.

    Good to know that this will last through mid-February. Now I’ll just go the long way and take Stone Way up to Ravenna and over. I feel sorry for those who aren’t able, for whatever reason, to avoid this detour. It’s horrendous.

  8. People often complain about Seattleites’ inability to navigate all-way stops, and I tend to oscillate between two points of view:

    1. It’s understandable because most of the all-way stops we have are at intersections that are funny-shaped, have obstructed views, or are just too damn big.

    2. Actually, no, we’re just inexplicably bad at it.

    The intersection at 40th/6th supports both points of view at times, both in its normal configuration and its current one.

    Of course, the situation here is also tied up in cyclists’ apparent inability to handle all-way stops (or, at least, to handle them the way drivers do). Part of that is that we are able to get through intersections really close together, which is always more efficient for us, and we’re accustomed to intersections where getting across in groups is also more efficient for traffic flow generally.

    One thing I just realized is that with this detour in place, some people heading east to southern/eastern destinations like the Montlake Bridge or UWMC may prefer to depart the trail at 6th rather than deal with the rest of the southern branch of the detour (especially the mess at the bus stop along Pacific). People that take the Burke every day might find that obvious, but I only go through there about once a week, and it didn’t occur to me my first time through, since I’m used to flying over that intersection, then under the U Bridge on the trail and breaking off much later.

    1. Brian

      Those two points of view are probably spot on. The additional difficulty arises where you essentially have two lanes (one motor vehicle and one bicycle) having to come to a stop at the same stop sign. Everyone has an additional moment or two of hesitation and confusion about whether both the car and bike can proceed at the same time, or who goes first when the car on EB 40th is trying to turn left across the bike lane onto 6th. The end result is a pretty poorly functioning intersection. I’ve only been through in my (gasp!) car, and it was really, really slow. It’s not a great situation for bikes or cars, but it’s also a pretty reasonable effort for a temporary detour.

  9. merlin

    Are we supposed to watch this while riding? I get dizzy watching it from the couch.

  10. kpt

    I take it every day, both ways. And it was a little confusing the first time, but I don’t find it to be that bad.

    I’d like to see the temp stop signs not actually on the street in the lane – that’s kind of a pain when there’s a bike going in each direction. And I’ve had a few times when people weren’t quite sure who goes next. But, everyone’s coming from a dead stop, so while it’s a little confusing, I haven’t felt unsafe.

    Given that for once, we actually have an announced ending date, and that this was pre-announced before it started, this is the least bad of the BG disruptions over the last year, IMO. But, maybe SPU/SDOT’s involvement has something to do with that. The fact that it’s both tolerable and UW is not involved, is not a coincidence.

  11. Joseph

    Interesting that SCL posted a video showing EB only.

    I led a group ride through here last week, and found the worst part was WB at 6th Ave intersection.

    It’s a completely blind spot where you can’t easily see cars coming NB on 6th, nor can they see you. You need to inch forward carefully, pause extra-long to be sure they’ve really taken you in and know what you intend, before crossing. In addition to not being able to see you, car drivers are distracted trying to figure out the confusion as well. Not easy, and not very safe.

    Have to commend SCL for even making the effort at a proper detour. On the whole I found it workable. Just wish they’d improve that 6th Ave intersection.

  12. Carson

    I work at a bike shop in Fremont, and on Friday we had two people within 20 minutes come in who had been in collisions at that detour (one with another cyclist and one with a car). I checked it out later that night, and definitely saw how confusing and dangerous it can be, especially for a less experienced cyclist who is used to riding exclusively on the Burke. I think they can and should design a much better detour.

    1. kpt

      Okay, I guess it’s worse than it seemed. :(

      If people are getting hurt, definitely needs more work.

  13. izzy

    I live down there (I commute by bike AND car), and the big problem is that drivers don’t seem to understand the sequence to navigate a 4-way stop sign (students?), let alone handle bikes. The orange posts are a good idea – but having so many of them creates a wall and it was actually hard to keep track of the bikers. I also did not see any sign for drivers letting them know that a bike lane was in the road, so that was a surprise…
    Still, I am glad they put some thought into it. Every BG detour makes the BG trail less clear, and then people go every which way, and that makes the powers that be decide bike trails “don’t work”!
    Stone & 35th is another bad intersection – I see a LOT of inexperienced newbie bike-riding families follow a Tour-wannabe right into the road on Northlake, instead of the path, because it’s not clear where BG is, or that it leads to Gasworks… Take back the Trail! INSIST on it – that million-dollar-way is YOURS! I don’t like to DRIVE on Northlake, let alone bike it (no shoulder, no sidewalk, no streetlights, narrow lanes, overflowing sewers regularly, and potholes two feet long and half a foot deep-no joke).

    1. I just avoid Stone & 35th.

  14. Based on my past experiences with SDOT detours, I just forego this one and do either this or this.

  15. Lucas

    The lanes are ok and the video serves to inform cyclists about the detour.
    However, the biggest issue is that DRIVERS don’t know how to behave because of the detour, and are constantly making unsafe decisions. I was almost hit by a car, after I stopped and signaled that was coming through.
    So I suggest they make a video to educate car-drivers as well.

  16. AW

    I go through there twice a day commuting and am not surprised that people are having crashes. Lucky for me I was out of town for 2 weeks but it is still a mess. Bikers need to learn to line up single file at the stop sign as it is a 2 way bike lane.

  17. […] detour was pretty rough for everyone, but City Light deserves credit for taking their original plan back to the drawing […]

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