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Reopened street near Capitol Hill Station improves access to Broadway Bikeway

denny way open
Green lines: Quality bike access now open. Flags: Capitol Hill Station entrances to open later this month.

The north end of the Broadway Bikeway just became infinitely more useful as construction crews finally reopened Denny Way between Broadway, 10th Ave and Cal Anderson Park.

Closed for years to build Capitol Hill Station, this section of Denny Way opens a vital low-traffic bike route connecting Broadway and the western part of the neighborhood to Cal Anderson Park and calm neighborhood streets east of Broadway.

Due to the park’s limited bikeable access points and Seattle Central College’s multi-block campus, Denny is the first complete bike connection north of Pine Street. So while opening this one block may not seem like all that big of a deal on a map, on the ground it’s a huge improvement, especially for people trying to avoid the very busy Olive Way/John Street. To date, the Broadway Bikeway has effectively been a local-access-only dead-end north of Pine unless you are comfortable mixing with busy traffic on John/Olive or north Broadway. But not anymore.

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IMG_4066The newly-opened street also includes this high-quality access point to the northwest corner of Cal Anderson Park, making all the gravel bike connections through the park that much more useful.

IMG_4063IMG_4059The block of Denny between Broadway and 10th is one-way westbound, and there is no clear preferred bicycle path. As it is, the extra-wide sidewalk space will likely become a popular biking route. In lieu of a contra-flow bike lane, perhaps a simple “EXCEPT BICYCLES” addition to these signs would help clarify that people biking can use this connection eastbound. Or, of course, we could just make the whole block biking and walking only.

I should note that though the dark textured street divider may look like a curb in the photo above, it’s actually flat and safe to bike over. So people biking can switch between street and sidewalk space easily if need be.

IMG_4060However, more needs to be done to discourage eastbound car travel, or this people-friendly connection could quickly become a popular car cut-through. You don’t have to hang out long to see someone blatantly ignore the many one-way signs:

IMG_4056Travel patterns in this whole area are going to change dramatically when Capitol Hill Station begins service March 19. And in years to come, major transit-oriented development will continue to shape the space. The Broadway Farmer’s Market plans to move to this block, and city plans for the Madison BRT project show a neighborhood greenway on Denny from Broadway to 22nd Ave (PDF).

The city’s short-term bike plan includes an extension of the Broadway Bikeway from its current terminus at Denny to Aloha (though a draft update of the plan presented to the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board bumped this project from 2016 to 2017). A possible streetcar extension is also looking at financing options based on nearby property owner support.

This station and particularly this block of Denny is now at something of a nexus of neighborhood bike routes for Capitol Hill, making it vital that bike access is prioritized in all planning efforts.

More immediately, this block is also the best possible place for a Pronto bike share station. Let’s hope the City Council not only does the right thing by authorizing the Pronto buyout March 14, but that Pronto, Sound Transit and the city all work together to have a station here operational in time for the U Link party March 19. That way the crowds of people who show up to check out the new stations can also see how Pronto can be a convenient way to access them.

Years of work and planning are all finally coming together. This is going to be an incredible month for biking, walking and transit on Capitol Hill.

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19 responses to “Reopened street near Capitol Hill Station improves access to Broadway Bikeway”

  1. Ryan on Summit

    It would be very nice if the one way was made explicitly only for cars, perhaps with an “except bicycles” sign.

    1. Ryan on Summit

      Wow, I just reread the article and saw you said this. Missed it; sorry!

  2. Joshua Putnam

    Do people ignore the one-way signs, or just not see them?

    They’re relatively small, and set back a bit from the intersection in a visually-noisy environment.

    Should perhaps be large, conspicuous “one way” signs under the traffic signals, and the large, red “WRONG WAY” warning signs on the block itself, as used to stop drivers who drive the wrong way onto a freeway offramp?

    Non-compliance is often the result of non-intuitive facilities, not intentional misconduct.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      There are a lot of signs saying “DO NOT ENTER” and turn-only arrows. Much like the Bell Street Park For Cars, people just don’t take these signs seriously.

      1. Skylar

        They don’t take them seriously because SPD can’t be bothered to enforce them, except on the special days when they tweet about doing their jobs.

        Every time I bike on the Fremont greenway to the Interurban, I see a driver going straight despite the signs.

        Every time I bike on the Bell street woonerf (or whatever it’s called) I see a driver going straight despite the signs.

        Until SDOT finally (after years of “studying”) put bollards up on N 40th St where it goes under Eastlake, a least once a month I would see a driver go the wrong way directly into bike traffic, despite the signs, and the cyclists swerving frantically around them.

        You would think that ticketing these people would be easy money for the city (and we sure could use it, and not just for bike infrastructure), but I guess not.

        Until SPD actually gets motivated to enforce traffic laws, I don’t see this situation improving.

      2. Josh

        There are lots of signs in the city that never get seen.

        It’s as if people think text has a magical ability to leap into the mind without being noticed.

        People on 2nd routinely violated the no-left-on-red signs when they were inconspicuous. Compliance is much better where they’ve been upgraded.

        People routinely get parking tickets when signs prohibiting parking are small, inconspicuous, or lost in the clutter.

        Driving is a complex task even on a rural road. In a city full of visual distractions, Seattle really lags generations behind in ensuring that signs are not merely present, but relevant to the people who need to see them.

        As MUTCD says, “Movement Prohibition signs should be placed where they will be most easily seen by road users who might be intending to make the movement. If No Right Turn (R3-1) signs (see Figure 2B-4) are used, at least one should be placed either over the roadway or at a right-hand corner of the intersection.”

        In your photo showing the signal, why do we not see, on the edge of the right travel lane signal, a big, standard, conspicuous “No Right Turn” sign? R3-1 http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/htm/2009/part2/fig2b_04_longdesc.htm

        In your last photo, why is that pickup driver staring straight at a standard, big, red, “WRONG WAY” sign? R5-1a

        No, conspicuous signs won’t, by themselves, enforce compliance. But they certainly increase the rate of voluntary compliance by drivers who simply don’t see small, inconspicuous signs set far back from the intersection. (That’s going to be increasingly true as our driving population continues to age.)

        Simply checking the box that signs meet minimum standards doesn’t really ensure a safe intersection, any more than it does for bike lanes.

      3. Josh

        Oops… why isn’t the truck driver staring at a “WRONG WAY” sign?

      4. Capitol Hillian

        Josh the Bell St non-compliance is completely flagrant. I’ve stopped my bike and pointed out the signs to people and they just don’t care. We either need enforcement or engineering here.

  3. Joyce

    After E. Denny Way having been closed to traffic for so long, it would have been a great opportunity to reopen it to pedestrian & bike access only, and in doing so eliminate a corner where vehicles will be turning across the entrance/terminus of the bike path . And with that currently being the entrance/terminus of the path, it’s disappointing that the street reopened with no marked bicycle lane indications. Someone previously suggested that the E. Denny Way/Broadway intersection become an “All Ways Walk” intersection, making it a safer transition for riders to get from the north west corner of Broadway & E.Denny to the bike path entrance (on the south east side of the street)…anyone know if this is in the works?

  4. asdf2

    IMHO, the strongest argument towards keeping this block of Denny open to cars is that it’s a great place to pick up and drop off passengers riding the train. In particular, it allows drivers waiting for someone to park immediately adjacent to the station (in direct sight of the person hopping off the train), while not obstructing traffic.

    I personally don’t think pick up and drop off traffic is a big deal, since it’s all local traffic and nobody is going to be driving particularly fast. If thru drivers start using Denny as a cut-off road (to avoiding waiting for the signal at Broadway and John), that would be a problem, but in practice, I don’t see too much of that happening. Once you’re at Denny, you’re just one light cycle away from being able to turn onto John anyway, so using Denny as a cuthrough road doesn’t really gain you anything.

    Totally agree that the street should be marked as two-way for bikes, even if it’s one-way for cars. In practice, I expect bikers to routinely use Denny as a two-way street, regardless of the one-way sign.

    1. RossB

      I can see another reason why they would open the street, and open it in the way they did: Left turns. In general, left turns are bad. They are dangerous. It is often better from a traffic standpoint to simply force three right turns. If you are headed east on John (the main arterial) and want to take a left on Broadway, this gives drivers an alternative — you can take three rights. This gives the city a lot of flexibility — they can ban left turns from John to Broadway. This will move traffic better through there, and that includes buses.

      I would add another curb for that block, clearly separating the north lane for cars, and the other area for everyone else. That would pretty much eliminate someone going the wrong way (they would have to cut over to what appears to be the left lane). Even without a curb you could do that with paint, and my guess is the city will do so fairly soon.

  5. RDPence

    A single one-way street only a block long, in a location surrounded by 2-way streets, can seem a little odd. At least when there’s no engineering or traffic flow reason for it.

    1. asdf2

      I think the reason for the one-way-ness is to prevent drivers who would have turned right from Broadway onto John from using Denny as a cuthrough to avoid the traffic signal.

      1. RDPence

        Given the traffic mess at Broadway & John, SDOT should want to provide alternate routes for some of those automobiles.

  6. Joseph

    I just rode past there. I agree completely with RDPence and Josh. Whatever one-way signs they may have, they have done a GREAT job of making as INconspicuous as possible, just the opposite of what you need.

    I was headed NB on Broadway with no need to turn right, but nothing grabbed my attention and said YOU CANNOT TURN RIGHT HERE.

    In fact it looks like an inviting full-width road with crease down the middle of the concrete that looks just like a normal two-way street.

    Poorly designed. Hopefully SDOT will realize and will improve it.

    1. josh

      Have you ever been stuck on some application, trying to get something done, can’t figure out how to move forward, when finally someone says, “it’s easy, just click down here” and they click on a button you’d managed to miss despite searching everywhere on the page?

      That’s bad user interface design. And it’s SDOT signage.

      Advocates love to hate the long, cumbersome process of getting things added to FHWA’s bible of signs and signals, MUTCD. But there’s a reason it takes so long, innovative ideas often fail, so FHWA requires real-world experiments that track the actual outcomes of new signs, signals, or pavement markings.

      When MUTCD says that you should put turn restrictions where they’re most-visible to the people who might be making a turn, they mean it.

      When MUTCD says that you have to be especially careful to conspicuously mark one-way streets if their geometry doesn’t feel intuitively like a one-way street, they mean it.

      Infrastructure redesign can be slow and tremendously expensive. Enforcement requires manpower. Clear, conspicuous signs and pavement markings, in the scheme of things, are incredibly inexpensive. It’s worth doing them right.

  7. Joseph

    PS: I do agree it’s *lovely* finally having Denny open, and it really does open up some great connections on an otherwise overly long block between Pine and John.

  8. […] Bikeway access: With E Denny Way reopened near the Capitol Hill light rail station, access on the Broadway Bikeway is improved. […]

  9. […] Capitol Hill Station would be to temporarily move the 12th and Denny station two blocks west into the new Denny Way light rail plaza (as shown in the map above). There’s a ton of open space for a station, and it’s […]

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