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A block-by-block look at the planned Broadway Bikeway extension + Let’s connect to 520

From a recent SDOT/Alta presentation to the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board
From a recent SDOT/Alta presentation to the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board

As construction on Capitol Hill Station enters its final phases, the long closure at the north end of the Broadway Bikeway may finally open up in the next month.

But the true glory of the bikeway won’t be realized until it extends through the rest of the Broadway business district at least to E Roy Street. Plans for extending the bikeway are linked to the First Hill Streetcar extension project, which is now in the design phase.

That project construction remains underfunded, but the design for both the streetcar and bikeway will be shovel-ready in 2016. There are talks of filling the funding gap through a Local Improvement District, but that is still very much up in the air. See this Capitol Hill Seattle story for more information.

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Art Brochet from SDOT and Steve Durrant of Alta Planning + Design (the firm that also designed the existing First Hill Streetcar project) presented the updated design ideas for the bikeway element of the plan at a recent Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board meeting. Below is a block-by-block look at the plans as they are today, some suggestions for changes and a pitch to have a Roanoke connection ready to meet up with this project’s construction.

There aren’t many huge surprises, since the design is very similar to what already exists on Broadway south of Denny. But there are some subtle differences. For one, intersections will be marked using skipped green paint like the crossbikes on 2nd Ave. This will be inconsistent with other Broadway intersections (which are solid green), but consistent with the way the city plans to mark intersections going forward.

SBAB June 2015_Broadway Streetcar_rev_small-signalsAnother subtle-but-important change will be the location of the bike signals. After learning lessons from the existing Broadway Bikeway and 2nd Ave, the new bike traffic signals will be lower on the pole and a different size than the general traffic signals. This should help turning cars more easily decipher the signals and, hopefully, increase compliance with no-turn-on-red restrictions.

SBAB June 2015_Broadway Streetcar_rev_small-raisedThe design of the transit stops will also get a modification: People will be able to access them at-grade from a raised crosswalk. The bikeway will come up to sidewalk level at the crosswalk, encouraging people biking to slow down and giving clear priority to people on foot. This will be especially great for people in wheelchairs or who have other mobility issues.

The extended raised platform should also hopefully slow turning cars and, therefore, decrease the threat to people biking. The city should make these turns as tight as possible, maintain clear sight lines and provide enough space for someone to stop their car mid-turn and wait for people biking.

Turns from the bikeway will still be handled using turn boxes. People with regular-sized bikes seem to navigate these OK, though they can fill up quickly during busy hours. But people with big bikes (like family cargo bikes) sometimes have trouble getting into the boxes, a common complaint I hear about the existing Broadway design.

Bigger boxes would be a good idea, and providing as much protection as possible for people waiting there would also be good. Sometimes, it can feel like you’re sitting in the middle of the road if the box is only paint, which isn’t comfortable.

But the most glaring issue with the turn box plans is that they don’t include boxes at every intersection. The plans resented to SBAB only have a box at Republican, and only because it is noted as a potential neighborhood greenway. This is not a great way to look at bike connection needs on a commercial street like Broadway.

Every intersection is packed with homes and destinations, and the design should assume someone biking will want to turn at every intersection. Harrison, for example, has a major grocery store and a Pronto station. A ton of people are going to want to turn there. Olive Way is busy, but a lot of people are going to turn there anyway, including people starting their trips at Capitol Hill Station.

Here’s a look at the block-by-block plans. At the end, we’ll discuss the transition at Roy/Aloha and beyond:

SBAB June 2015_Broadway Streetcar_rev_small-denny SBAB June 2015_Broadway Streetcar_rev_small-olive SBAB June 2015_Broadway Streetcar_rev_small-thomas SBAB June 2015_Broadway Streetcar_rev_small-harrison SBAB June 2015_Broadway Streetcar_rev_small-republican SBAB June 2015_Broadway Streetcar_rev_small-mercerSBAB June 2015_Broadway Streetcar_rev_small-roy SBAB June 2015_Broadway Streetcar_rev_small-roy2 SBAB June 2015_Broadway Streetcar_rev_small-aloha

Let’s talk about the north end. First, there needs to be a clear way to turn onto westbound Roy from the bikeway. This area is constrained thanks to the shift in the arterial from 10th to Broadway, so providing turning space is no easy task. But a lot of people will be headed that way, and we don’t want to provide any incentive to bike on the tracks instead of the bikeway. That can be very dangerous, as we’ve learned over and over with our streetcar projects. Imagine, for example, someone biking westbound on Roy from Federal toward the I-5 overpass at Lakeview Blvd (a popular, though rather thrilling, route). How will this design invite them to travel a half block on the bikeway to make that connection?

Connecting to Federal Ave E, the south section of 10th Ave E and the switchback path through Lowell Elementary at Roy should also be considered in the bikeway design. Perhaps this is mostly in the form of signage and improvements to the gas station driveways, but I would love to hear if any readers have ideas. This is a cool little biking and walking route nexus that seems worthy of special treatment. Maybe this is also a great spot for some cool public art?

But the biggest challenge of the whole project is how to deal with the bikeway terminus at E Aloha Street. The current plans are definitely lacking, especially when you consider that it is very important to encourage anyone on a bike to use the bikeway before they get to the streetcar tracks. The gaps in the rails can grab bike tires and seriously injure people. Right now, plans are basically just to paint a turn box at Aloha and pray people use it. That makes me very worried.

Imagine you are biking southbound on 10th mixed with traffic, and you have a green light at Aloha. Do you stop in the green box and wait for the light to change, or do you keep going straight? A whole lot of people will just keep going straight, since that’s simply what you do what you have a green light and you’re biking in traffic. But that puts you on a collision course with the tracks.

Best solution: Don’t end the bike lanes

From the Bike Master Plan

Now, the project team has made it very clear that their project ends at Aloha, but that just means SDOT should start work on a new 10th Ave E bike lanes project to connect Broadway to the planned 520 Trail connection at Roanoke Park. It’s listed in the Bike Master Plan, but it’s not currently on the city’s five-year implementation plan.

With the 520 Trail connection planned to arrive at Roanoke Park in 2017 (pending funding and if there are no delays, of course) and the Broadway streetcar extension scheduled for completion around the same time (also pending funding), it seems crazy not to connect the two. These are two massive transportation investments separated by only one mile of missing bike lane.

Imagine a complete, direct and protected bike connection from Yesler Terrace to the Eastside, passing through the heart of Capitol Hill and including protected bike connections to downtown Seattle and the Montlake Bridge. There is nothing like this today, but it could be reality in just a few years.

The big question we need to figure out as soon as possible is whether the 10th Ave E bike lanes should be two one-way lanes or one two-way bikeway, since this could affect how the final block of streetcar should be designed. For example, if we are going to transition from one-way to two-way, it might be best if that happens at Roy rather than Aloha. At the very least, the unmovable elements of the project should be designed to accommodate either one-way or two-way bike lanes on 10th.

Here’s a very rough sketch of how a Roy transition could work if one-way bike lanes were built on 10th Ave E:

SBAB June 2015_Broadway Streetcar_rev_small-roy2-sbbYou can send thoughts on the project to SDOT’s Art Brochet at [email protected]. And, of course, let us know in the comments below.

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26 responses to “A block-by-block look at the planned Broadway Bikeway extension + Let’s connect to 520”

  1. Charles B

    Wait, how are the streetcars supposed to turn around at Roy? I don’t understand this design…

    1. Charles B

      Nevermind… I guess I was looking at this backwards. My brain assumed left was North for some reason. It makes more sense now that I actually read the map key.

  2. Richard

    I don’t think it is possible to overstate how critical to the overall utility of this bikeway the northern continuation is. Connection to upcoming 520 bridge trail, Redmond, Marymoor, Kirkland, Lake Sammamish Trail, Burke-Gilman, Fremont, Wallingford, U district, Portage bay, Montlake….. mostly without leaving dedicated bike trails. All it takes is linking northern end to 520 and the rest is already done or in the works. The interconnectivity of that link is effing HUGE.

    You’re absolutely right to call out the silly lack of bike boxes. I live on the eastern side of the new planned area, so I get an easy turn, but my neighbors across the street can’t use it unless they brave a very nasty turn, with structured (light-controlled) means of making that turn, across dangerous/tricky streetcar tracks. The thing that baffles me is, almost all the intersections south of Roy have the dead space for the boxes (basically only John/Olive would need some spatial changes to accommodate, the rest just drop right in!)

    Roy and northward, I really did not expect them to be able to come up with a simple/easy way to make it work, and no surprise, it’s a mess. Not saying I could do better, that 10th/broadway/roy intersection is crazy.

    How about this (just brainstorming):
    -At Broadway & Roy, there is already a dedicated left-turn light timing for northbound cars turning left on Roy. How about if there was a dedicated left-turn bike lane with its own turn light, timed to turn alongside the broadway turn signal, so that bikes and cars take lefts there simultaneously – then just have a short bike lane on Roy, with a marked instruction to merge, so that there’s a little extra time allowed to make merging easier? Roy at that point is running alongside a triangular traffic island, so no sidewalk or other usable space would actually be needed for the merge lane.

    For the next block north, I like your plan, assuming the bike lanes north from here are going to be 2-lane (which I strongly support – I love the feel of the broadway & 2nd ave bikeways, but terminations are always such a mess).

    1. Richard

      Quick correction of typo: (“…with structured (light controlled) means of making that turn…” should be *without*, not with)

  3. RDPence

    I don’t understand putting the northern terminus in 10th Ave. E. I believe it would make more sense to turn the tracks west at Roy St. to a short terminus on Broadway, where the existing turn-around buses stop. That would be safer for cyclists making the transition from southbound 10th into the Broadway Bikeway — no tracks to cross or get tangled with.

    1. Richard

      I think there would be several concerns… First, the bikeway is east of the street, but Broadway moves to the west at Roy, meaning the bikeway would have to cross the arterial and the tracks. Not insurmountable, but major design changes would be required. Also, keeping on 10th is sensible in preparation for the northbound co to nation of the bikeway. Broadway would be kinda ok for that for a little while, but (a) there are stops every single block, (b) you’d still have to go back to 10th (or further over) once Broadway ends a few blocks further north, and (c) the Broadway pavement north of Roy is SHITE :).

      1. RDPence

        Maybe I wasn’t clear. I was suggesting putting the streetcar terminal on Broadway west, not the bikeway. Turn the tracks west on Roy to the existing bus stop. It would actually be shorter than the current plan showing the terminal on 10th E., so no issue with fleet size, Gordon.

      2. Richard

        Nope, you were clear, I was just being slow :) Sorry – and yeah, that does sound like a great idea.

    2. Gordon Padelford

      According to SDOT the end point was chosen because if it were any further they would need to buy another streetcar to maintain the desire headway…and we know easy that procurement process has been.

  4. Josh

    Hope it’s just a sloppy update, but in that “Signal Placement” illustration, the “turning traffic yield to bikes” sign is a design specifically prohibited by FHWA due to adverse results in real-world testing — cities that had permission to experiment with the design are required to have removed them already, and new use is contrary to Federal law.


  5. Josh

    Will bikes be allowed on Broadway itself once the construction closure is over? The south end of Broadway still has temporary orange construction signs prohibiting bikes on the street.

    1. Richard

      Those are supposed to come down when the link station mess around Annapurna clears out. Sometime in the next few months…

  6. Harrison Davignon

    I think this a good thing as long as the project provides safe bicycle riding and allows traffic to flow smoothly. I don’t have a car, but when I had one, traffic jams were not fun. We should make sure all people have transportation options.

  7. ODB

    The point bears repeating, though it has been made many times in these comments (to no evident effect): two-way protected bike lanes are dangerous on fast downhills–and that would certainly include 10th northbound. How about this instead–preserve 10th as-is for faster riders who can easily keep up with traffic on the downhill and make Federal a very well-marked, pleasant and relaxing official neighborhood greenway for those less comfortable with traffic and/or going uphill. There aren’t that many business destinations on 10th that would be missed by a Federal greenway. The greenway could join the PBL at Roy with no need to cross the tracks. Much cheaper and easier and everyone is happy.

    1. Ben P

      Right. I completely agree. 10th is too steep. Experienced cyclists wouldn’t ride down in a two way protected thingy and inexperienced cyclists wouldn’t climb it. Traffic is only half the issue with tenth

    2. Jonathan

      I live on Federal and I like the idea of making it a neighborhood greenway. The whole street would need to be repaved. I am told that the city wanted to repave Federal in the 90’s but the neighborhood successfully opposed this in order to keep traffic slow.

      Downhill on northbound 10th is a fast trip, and many people ride it, but I find it too dangerous at the intersections because of oncoming cars left hooking, and cars in the side streets edging out. I count 10 intersections between Aloha and Roanoke, so I don’t see how a protected bike lane could possibly be safe. It would just force you into a fixed position vulnerable to the left hook.

      Two-way cycle tracks are never safe in our present urban setting. If every intersection had a traffic camera with a computer writing tickets, then maybe it would work. I only belabor this point because I am mad about nearly getting hit on the Broadway bikeway yesterday: someone was attempting to illegally turn his car right against a red light (with “no right on red” sign), and was not looking for me riding southbound on the northbound side of the street.

      1. Joe

        Federal as a green street makes so much sense! And with the new Portage Bay Bridge and lid, I bet it could slot directly into the new bike path to Montlake.

        10th is a terrible place for bikers. Bikes come screaming down the hill towards Roanoke and cars turning onto 10th have crappy visibility through the parked cars. Moving bikes over to Federal would be fantastic.

    3. clew

      Oh, I’d love that — I live on 10th but dislike bicycling on it. Mostly I’m scared of accidents, but breathing the fumes is dumb, too.

      I really liked bicycling in Berkeley and Oakland, where there was usually a bikeway in a quiet street — and I really loved *living* on the quiet bikeways! Federal’s pavement is charmingly rubble-like, I suspect on purpose, they might be OK with two bike lanes and nothing else repaved.

      I have a cunning plan for a bike-ped bridge connecting Federal to Roanoke Park but slowing bicyclists down enough to not endanger park-users.

  8. Ben P

    I really like your cross at Roy idea. The street already encourages it. I remember being really confused the first time I rode there. I didn’t know if I should follow the road right or continue straight into the side street.

  9. mike archambault

    Speaking of left turns, the current design will actually prohibit left turns for cars for the entire stretch between John and Roy, in an attempt to maximize street parking. I’m concerned that will result in a lot more drivers choosing to cut through along 10th Ave and/or Harvard, which could really hurt the bike/walkability of those streets. I gotta think, even just allowing left turns at Republican or Harrison would help keep Harvard and 10th from attracting all that cut through traffic.

  10. Southeasterner

    What is it with SDOT and their inability to connect bike infrastructure? It’s so frustrating when they build these great facilities like the Ship Canal Trail, Elliot Bay Trail (Port), or 2nd ave bike lanes and they just abruptly end and dump you into traffic, oftentimes not even at intersections. Then because of the short-sightedness we end up with things like the Missing Link where the city spends tens of millions on simple connections that would have cost a fraction of the amount had they completed the entire thing in the beginning.

    Please SDOT, get this one right and connect to the SR 520 trail (and BGT) and also please please connect the Westlake bike lanes with the Ship Canal Trail. I’ll help pay for the materials and volunteer my time!

    1. Matt

      I am so with you. We go half in on these great bike infrastructure projects that are basically cycling islands. Broadway and 2nd ave frustrate me so much because nothing connects to them and they are “barely” used. It’s all you hear from the drivers that complain about them–not enough people are using them. It’s an absolute disgrace that there is not a safe way to get from Elliott Bay or the Seattle Center to 2nd Ave. It’s a disgrace there is no way to get from downtown to Broadway. Don’t even get me started on the Missing Link and the Ballard Bridge. I do not have any issues with Mayor Murray but Seattle really needs a Rahm Emmanuel type that just gets thing done versus trying to please everyone.

  11. Todd

    I like the idea of extending this network to 520. Solid idea. Honestly, though, I question how many would use it — heading south anyway. Hills have a way of discouraging ridership.

    1. Richard

      The current lanes on 10th are some of the worst painted-in-the-door-zone lanes in the area, and in spit of that and the hill, they already get pretty heavy usage.

    2. Todd


  12. […] news: Tom at Seattle Bike Blog gets into the weeds of the Broadway bikeway extension on a block-by-block basis, highlights two Ballard greenways that will finally intersect, and breaks the news of a citywide […]

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