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Roosevelt bike lane plans inch closer to greatness, construction meeting Monday

The plans for a protected bike lane on Roosevelt Way NE from NE 65th Street to the U Bridge have been finalized, and the city is hosting a construction open house Monday to show off the plans and let people know what to expect during the major repaving work.

The open house is 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. (presentation at 6:15) at University Heights Community Center, 5031 University Way NE, Room 108.

Roosevelt is already a major bike route both for neighborhood trips and citywide commutes. But the existing paint-only door zone bike lane is sorely insufficient. So the city plans a wide protected bike lane with a healthy buffer between car traffic and people biking.

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roosXsections315New floating bus stops will avoid conflicts with bikes, similar to the bus islands on Dexter.

Roosevelt_IntersectionbyIntersection_FINAL_20150917-busThe new bike lane will also improve conditions for people trying to cross Roosevelt on foot. New islands allow people to first cross the bike lane, then wait in a relatively comfortable place to cross the now-much-shorter distance to the other side.

Roosevelt_IntersectionbyIntersection_FINAL_20150917-45thBut many intersections still don’t quite meet the standards of truly protected intersections. For example, right-turning traffic will cross the bike lane at NE 50th Street. Today, the bike lane disappears completely at 50th, so this is still a slight improvement. But it’s not the kind of bike lane many people would feel great letting a child ride on their own.

Roosevelt_IntersectionbyIntersection_FINAL_20150917-50thAnd though the barrier between people biking and general traffic will be designed to slow turning movements across the bike lane a bit, we hope the city watches these turns closely to make sure people are going slow enough to see people on bikes and stop in time to avoid dangerous situations. This is somewhat new stuff for the city, and this seemingly small detail is actually a very big deal. When people can make wide, fast turns, the dangers to people walking and biking increase significantly.

Roosevelt_IntersectionbyIntersection_FINAL_20150917-intersectionPerhaps the single biggest improvement in the whole project is at the north end of the University Bridge. Existing curbs will be modified to allow for complete and connected bike lanes both northbound and southbound. That’s right, no more merging out and into bike lanes at these sometimes scary pinch points.


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26 responses to “Roosevelt bike lane plans inch closer to greatness, construction meeting Monday”

  1. After some bad times on Dexter, I’m still not a fan of hiding bike lanes behind parked cars, out of the view of the general traffic lanes and right where drivers wait when entering intersections from side streets.

    1. Andres Salomon

      There’s no parked cars between the bike lane and moving traffic.

  2. Southeasterner

    On a slight side note why didn’t they do a similar intersection treatment on Leary & Dock where they are installing the Greenway. After a month of lane closures to improve the intersection I was positive they were going to add pedestrian bulbs at the corners and take away a few parking spots to improve safety and reduce the distance for peds to cross Interstate Leary. They did it a few blocks up. But instead it looks the same except now they have ADA compliant ramps that dump you right into traffic behind parked cars.

    Seems like a huge wasted opportunity and something to note on all future SDOT projects, including Roosevelt

    1. Ramps? What are ramps doing on a greenway?

      1. Josh

        Curb-cut ramps, not freeway ramps — new curb bulb-outs include ADA-compliant wheelchair access for the first time in many areas, but the layout of those ramps isn’t always ideal. (Many conflicting demands on ramp layout — access to both directions at an intersection, landing/clear space above the ramp, clearance to utilities and street furniture, slope of sidewalk and street…)

      2. Sure, but I can’t even picture how ADA ramps would “dump you right into traffic behind parked cars”. Aren’t the ramps just between the crosswalk and sidewalk? And if you’re biking along the greenway you won’t be anywhere near any ramps, right?

        Or am I misunderstanding the complaint? Is it that, with no bulb-out, parking is allowed right up to the crosswalk, so as a pedestrian you wait to cross where you’re not visible? In any case, the crosswalks looked really wide on the planning documents I saw, and you have a full traffic signal to help you across, so I think it should be OK.

  3. Josh

    Seven feet is certainly an improvement over minimal-width lanes elsewhere in Seattle, but realistically, it’s not wide enough for a faster cyclist to provide safe clearance while passing a slow cargo bike or child trailer.

    This sort of separated path by itself is not an all-ages-and-abilities facility, especially where downhill runs will have adults on road bikes traveling 20 mph+. Faster cyclists are safer in the street, with a full lane for sight distances and maneuvering room, and slower cyclists are safer and more comfortable without high-speed cyclists on the sidepath.

    For the safety of both faster cyclists and of slower, more vulnerable users, SDOT should take a cue from the Dutch Cyclists Union and encourage faster cyclists to take the street, not the path. (e.g., see CROW’s reporting at http://www.fietsberaad.nl/?section=nieuws&lang=en&mode=newsArticle&repository=Fast+bicycles+on+the+roadway )

    Unfortunately, many drivers seem to believe that where there’s a separated facility, all bicycles are supposed to use it. (See, for example, harassment of cyclists choosing to ride in travel lanes of Second Ave, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_K0GYGkbJU )

    Fortunately, there’s already an approved way to remind drivers and cyclists alike that bicycles are still allowed in the travel lanes — wherever SDOT constructs a separated facility like this, for minimal extra cost, they can include properly-centered shared lane markings in the travel lane of the street.

    Research released this week at the Transportation Review Board Annual Meeting shows that sharrows do improve safety for cyclists. (Despite the misleading headlines elsewhere, the study’s authors specifically say their study does not oppose sharrows: “While the conclusions of this work may be misconstrued by some as primarily a call to reduce the number of sharrows, the true goal of this research is to instead ensure that resources are focused on providing more bike infrastructure that has been proven to be effective at meeting its goals. This will most likely translate into more bike lanes in many scenarios.” The study itself shows sharrows do increase ridership and decrease collisions.)

    Research released last year shows sharrows are effective at reminding drivers that cyclists should be expected in the street, though they’d be more effective if they were accompanied by the “Bicycles May Use Full Lane” sign as suggested in MUTCD:

    Without any changes to the design of the new separated path, or any changes to the street, at a very modest cost, SDOT could make a true all-ages-and-abilities facility.

    1. Josh

      TL;DR version:

      Good design, but add sharrows to the street.

      You’ll reduce push-back from faster cyclists, make the separated lane safer for slower users, and remind drivers that bicyclists get to choose whether to take the path or the street.

    2. (Another) Tom


      The sharrows in the general lane next to bike lanes would go a long way towards educating drivers who think the existence of a bike lane somehow creates a prohibition on bikes in the other lanes.

    3. Andy

      Hear, hear!

    4. jay

      ” SDOT should take a cue from the Dutch Cyclists Union ”
      Sounds good on paper, just as long as our government does not take a clue from the Dutch government, well, actually it would be great if they took several clues, but read on… I thought this was interesting: https://departmentfortransport.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/german-cycleways-and-the-right-to-the-road/ the whole thing is interesting, but I’ll quote one little bit:
      “The two most successful cycling countries on the planet have a Pflicht. That’s right: our neighbours the Netherlands and Denmark both have compulsory-use cycleways.”
      One should read the next paragraph in that article, but it might be a bit much for me to copy it here.

      “Unfortunately, many drivers seem to believe that where there’s a separated facility, all bicycles are supposed to use it.”
      It is not all that unusual for that to be true. The more very visible bike infrastructure there is, the more there will be a call for that to be the case here. And not just by Rants (I know how he spells his name, that is supposed to be funny), thou he may lead the pack. http://mynorthwest.com/992/2886475/Seattle-DOT-suddenly-OK-with-bicyclists-riding-in-dangerous-parking-lots

      While the saying “Perfect is the enemy of good” is valid, when it comes down to “Good being the enemy of (a larger quantity of) mediocre/bad” I say that is a GOOD thing.

      That video you linked to is funny, while the wide camera angle make judging distance a little tricky, she does seem to be a looong way from the light when it turns yellow, it seems to me that driver really really wanted to run a red. Also he didn’t seem to have a front license plate (in violation of Washington law) It is possible he came from somewhere where bike lanes are compulsory, though that doesn’t forgive his hypocrisy.

      1. Cle

        I’d like to see BICYCLES MAY USE FULL LANE – WASHINGTON STATE LAW signs posted around town, both near separated facilities such as this one and 2nd ave, as well as where we’re expected to ride in the street alongside cars who think we have to hug the door zone and get out of “their” way at all times.

      2. Josh

        Yes, the mandatory sidepath law is what the Dutch Cyclists Union was working to relax, so that faster cyclists are allowed to ride in the street where they’re safer.

        We’re lucky that Washington has avoided mandatory-sidepath laws, despite the “Mutual Responsibility” fiasco a few years back, but many drivers have moved here from segregated states where cyclists are required to use separate facilities if they exist.

        It would be good if SDOT could take active steps to remind drivers that’s not the law here.

    5. chemist

      Not wide enough for passing ? 7 ft on a one way is as big as the current car parking lane and with the thin plastic dividers, you’ll have about 2 ft of space from the divider available there. If your fellow bike lane user is a lane hog you should remind them to keep to the right with a shout and a ring of your bike bell.

      1. Josh

        Two feet is only safe clearance at pedestrian speeds. Engineering standards say a person riding a bicycle needs at least 4 feet of operating space for safety, and that’s assuming a standard upright bike, not a trailer, tandem, cargo bike, pedicab, etc.

        Seven feet is wide enough for adults with group riding experience who are both on standard upright bikes. So it would be fine for club rides, bug not for open traffic on a supposedly all-ages-and-abilities facility.

      2. Andres Salomon

        Further compounding this situation – the PBL will be used in both directions. We already see that now on the demo portion of the PBL; people biking the wrong way because it’s safer/more convenient than taking the sidewalk, and they’re heading north to a destination on Roosevelt. I do hope people biking fast take a general purpose travel lane.

      3. Josh

        One other note, commercially-produced pedicabs are often 50 inches wide, as are some larger delivery trikes. And they won’t be operating flush with the edge of the path, they should be expected to keep at least a foot of shy distance.

  4. LOL @ “shared bus + drive lane”. Recalls the old Monty Python sketch… “Cars, cars, cars, buses and cars — that hasn’t got much cars in it!”

  5. sb

    Is this just a presentation or will there be a question/comments period?

  6. […] Incremental progress: Street improvements coming to Roosevelt Way NE could provide better facilities for bikes. […]

  7. Meanwhile, if you are headed south, once you make it across the University Bridge you will be greeted by some humungous bicycle-destroying potholes. It seems that SDOT just cannot keep up with maintain functional infrastructure

  8. Jack Nolan

    Hey Tom,
    I heard a rumor that the “multi use path” to be included on the new 520 bridge will not open until a year to a year and half after the bridge is open to traffic.

    Have you heard this?

    1. Andres Salomon

      That’s correct, and my understanding is that it’s related to the way they funded it (and as a result, the way they had to build it). The full bridge won’t be built in 2016 – drivers will actually be using part of the old bridge. Since the old bridge doesn’t have a multi-use path, it will just kind of dead-end on the Seattle side.


      1. Put that way, it’s clearly on the legislature. Our extremely responsible state legislature funded most of 520 but not the rest, so they could force Seattle to support the next big freeway package.

        But let’s not let WSDOT bureaucrats off the hook so easy! There’s no shortage of temporary ramps and roadways built to connect new pieces to old pieces until the work is done. Nobody has ever convinced me a temporary connection allowing the MUP to reach land somewhere in Seattle, would be any more expensive or technically difficult than the rest of the temporary stuff.

      2. Andres Salomon

        I hope you use the prefix “extremely responsible” every time you talk about the state legislature. :)

  9. […] As we reported previously, the plan for the bike lane on Roosevelt appears to be a big improvement from the existing paint-only door zone bike lane. But several major intersections will not get the fully-separated treatment, requiring users to mix with turning cars. […]

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