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2nd Ave ‘pilot’ bike lane getting permanent treatment, expect detours

2016_0314_2ndAveMapWhen the 2nd Ave protected bike lane opened in October 2014, it was created using mostly paint and movable plastic posts because the city considered it a “pilot” project.

Well, it’s been about a year and a half, and now it’s hard to imagine what biking downtown was like without it. So it’s officially becoming permanent, and that designation includes some significant upgrades.

We’ve already reported that many of the plastic posts will be upgraded to planter boxes. This change hopefully will not only provide a little more separation from motor vehicle traffic but should also make the street look better.

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But perhaps the most exciting upgrade is coming to major driveways: The bike lane will be elevated a couple inches so cars turning into garages will need to mount a curb before crossing the bike lane. This is a big deal because one of the biggest dangers for people biking in the lane today is someone in a car turning across the bike lane in front of them. The curb will hopefully make people driving slow down and pay more attention before crossing. The raise in the bike lane will also help remind people biking to pay extra attention in case someone driving isn’t.

The bike lane will also be raised at loading zones with lots of people crossing, like hotel drop-off and valet areas. People on foot have the right-of-way, so the raised lane should help reinforce that these are mixing areas where people biking need to be ready to slow or stop. It will probably also help people with mobility issues get from a car to the sidewalk.

Unfortunately, this means downtown’s only quality bike lane will be closed off and on for the next month. If the city had installed protected bike lanes on 4th and/or 5th Ave during the past year and a half, people would have had a possible detour option. That’s one huge advantage of a network: It is resilient to construction or emergency closures because people can reroute. Instead, people biking will be detoured to 3rd Ave, which has no bike lanes and has heavy bus traffic. It’s going to be a rough month, but the upgrades should be worth it.

If you want to get involved with Cascade Bicycle Club’s efforts to support these changes and push for more downtown bike lanes, join their Connect Downtown team here.

More details on the changes from SDOT:

Upgrades include:

  • Planter boxes—Changing out many of the white plastic posts for planters in the bike lane buffer to beautify the corridor and to help clarify where the bike lane and the travel lane/parking lanes are
  • New traffic signals—Spanning the traffic signals across the travel lanes to make the signals more obvious to people walking, biking and driving
  • Protected bike lane extension—Extending the protected bike lane one block south to Washington St and adding sharrows and a short climbing lane on Washington St to 5th  Avenue
  • Raised passenger loading zones and driveway—Adding raised passenger load zones at the Marriott Hotel on 2nd and Cherry and The Metropolitan Grill on 2nd and Marion; and raised driveways at Benaroya Hall on 2nd and Union and the parking garage on 2nd Ave north of Union. Raising the area alerts people walking, biking and driving to a change and encourages travelers to look out for each other

Starting in late March and continuing through April, the upgrades will be installed along the existing 2nd Ave protected bike lane. During you can expect:

  • Parking adjacent to the passenger load zones and driveways being upgraded and on the block north will be restricted to allow space for construction as well as a smooth detour transition of people biking south into the general purpose travel lane. Parking restrictions and detours will occur Monday, March 28 through Friday, April 15
  • All people biking north will be detoured onto 3rd Ave at Yesler Way starting Monday, March 28 at 7AM through Friday, April 15
  • Planter boxes will be installed throughout the month of April
  • Traffic signals will be upgraded between April and July, with the exception of Columbia St and Cherry St. These two intersections are not being upgraded at this time
  • No impacts to general purpose travel lanes are expected

People biking are encouraged to plan their detour route in advance and make sure they identify locations where they are comfortable riding. SDOT would like to thank the public for its patience while this work is completed. If you are interested in knowing how SDOT is creating a Center City Bike Network that helps organize streets to add predictability visit www.seattle.gov/transportation/ccbike.htm.

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22 responses to “2nd Ave ‘pilot’ bike lane getting permanent treatment, expect detours”

  1. Joseph Singer

    Unfortunately, this won’t fix people who have not learned how to parallel park from moving/destroying the planters. We see how parking skill hastened the demise of the blue curly blue dividers on Broadway went.

    1. Josh

      The smurf turds on Broadway were seriously substandard for use next to parking — too low, not brightly colored, not reflectorized. Even people who know how to parallel park have trouble avoiding passenger-side obstructions that aren’t visible from the driver’s seat. That was clear before they first went in, existing standards said they should be taller, brightly colored, and reflectorized, but somehow someone decided artistic vision (they were supposed to be “stitches” tying the neighborhood together ) trumped safety standards.

    2. William

      It has nothing to do with whether one has learned to park – most drivers rely on starting from a consistent position relative to the parking spot and then use visual references such as lamp posts aand the tactile feel of the curb. If you take away visual references and the curb, it like asking somebody to hit a free throw with their eyes closed.

      Unless the planter boxes, smurf turds etc are higher than the window of a typical Sedan/SUV they are of marginal visual use for parallel parking – it is difficult to parallel park while looking in their passenger’s side wing mirror (after adjusting it to look down) If there is going to be parking next to the planter boxes then what is needed is a curb on the exterior of the planter boxes.

      It is not that expensive to install parking block sand they can be firmly anchored to the road. If this is not already part of the plan then one has to question how many fails SDOT needs before modifying their best practices.

      1. SRSLY. Curbs are used all over the world for cycletracks. Here’s a decent curb-separated cycletrack near University of Illinois. We could do a little better with a little more width and slightly taller curbs, but… as I understand it, this is basically in line with what the best cycling cities in the world have a ton of.

  2. Dana

    So they started to stripe it, but didn’t provide the lane yet, so people are just parking there, forcing everyone out into the lane for one block. Very poor planning for getting this incorporated.

  3. This announcement sounds great but there’s a big thing that’s backward about it. The bike path, which is a uniquely decent bike route in downtown, is to be closed, but general-purpose lanes, which are abundant and comprehensive, are left totally un-disrupted! Closing 2nd Ave completely to general-purpose traffic would be less disruptive to drivers than closing the bike lane is to cyclists (it would have significant transit impacts, but nothing impossible to work around)!

    But the real backwardness is what underlies this situation. Sometimes there will be construction projects that disrupt bike lanes. It’s a much smaller problem if the bike network is comprehensive, like the road network is. So instead of perfecting one bike route, we should first build a comprehensive network! Once that’s done, and cyclists have obvious, good options to get around construction, then we can put the finishing touches on.

    1. anonymous

      It’s time for a new Mayor. We have an awesome city council now. I hope someone good runs against Murray..

      1. Joe

        And dump Kubly for a real DOT director — unless he actually starts delivering.

        Hate to sound like a Seattle Times commenter, but sometimes they got it right.

    2. Conrad

      It is hard to tell if that thing on 2nd Ave is a bike lane or construction staging area. Like a lot of the so called bike lanes in this city. Still taking the lane…

  4. ODB

    “Raising the area alerts people walking, biking and driving to a change and encourages travelers to look out for each other”

    “Looking out for each other” in a “mixing zone” sounds compassionate and sociable, but I would prefer clear signals as to who has priority to avoid a series of ambiguous encounters that are inefficient and potentially dangerous.

    When lanes of traffic are running parallel, it is well understood that the burden is on the merging driver to make sure the lane he or she plans to enter is clear.

    I wonder how drivers turning across the bike lane will interpret the raised platforms. Since both bikes and turning cars will be equally burdened by the need to mount the platform, will this be interpreted as granting equal priority to both–like a four-way stop? The driver that got there first might feel privileged to turn in front of the speeding bike.

    Will bikes understand that when a raised platform is a pedestrian loading zone, the pedestrians have priority, but when a raised platform is a driveway, bikes have priority? Similar treatments, but different rules. Why?

    For driveways, I’d rather have cars forced to go over a small bump (like a speed bump running north-south) in order to cross the bike lane. Putting the burden asymmetrically on cars would reinforce that bikes have priority rather than confusing the issue.

    Bottom line: the more burdensome and unclear the bike path, the more bikes will prefer the street.

    1. William

      In a slightly different configuration, it certainly works where the Burke Gilman crosses NE Blakely St. Auto traffic treat the raised pavement as equivalent to a stop sign

  5. RDPence

    Planter boxes won’t work anywhere that parking is permitted on 2nd Avenue — driver’s can’t open their door if it’s blocked by a planter box.

    1. Josh

      They can just park a safe distance from the planters — if they’re so far left that the planter box would block their door, they’re close enough to the sidepath that today they’re a dooring risk.

      1. RDPence

        City is going to widen that travel/parking lane to make room for opening doors?

  6. Southeasterner

    It would also be nice if they resurfaced the thing. I don’t think I have ridden on bike infrastructure with as many potholes and large gaps between concrete slabs. Although parts of the Burke Gilman Trail in Seattle are almost as bad.

  7. Eli

    Are we actually making the two-way bike lane permanent?

    I thought it was just a temporary placeholder project for a one-way bike lane on 2nd and another one-way on 4th?

    1. Andres Salomon

      In my conversations with SDOT, it’s clear they prefer two-way PBLs on one-way streets. One-way PBLs on one-way streets result in salmon biking (you can see this in action on a regular basis on Roosevelt’s one-way PBL).

      1. Eli

        Thanks, Andres!

        But on Roosevelt, there is no one-way in the opposite direction on an adjacent street, right? ;-)

      2. Andres Salomon

        Correct – no one-way PBL in the opposite direction. There is, instead, a massively overbuilt arterial that handles far fewer vehicles than Roosevelt does, with a crappy door zone bike lane. Next to multiple other parallel arterials. Next to a freeway. Go us!

        Even with a PBL on 12th, there will probably still be people riding the wrong way on Roosevelt’s PBL, though. People want to get to the businesses on Roosevelt, and 12th has mostly homes.

  8. Well, here are the planters.

    I tend to think they have the same vital characteristics as the blue knots on Broadway, but we’ll see. I’m guessing a typical small car would hit one with the bumper around the top of the planter, tending to topple it over the curb and into the bike lane; maybe they’re heavy enough to prevent this in typical cases. A truck/SUV with high ground clearance might have or present interesting problems. Anyway, the ones pictured are next to a turn lane and not parking…

    1. Joseph Singer

      In my travels on the Broadway bikeway I’ve already seen casualties of the reflective posts. As I mentioned earlier many people just do not know how to parallel park. If they were planter boxes we’d have planter box casualties as well. I cannot say that I am surprised. Biking around just Capitol Hill I see many many cases of drivers doing stupid chit. Because citing motorists is not a priority I imagine it will not get any better.

  9. […] led us on a tour of Seattle’s latest and greatest bike-friendly infrastructure, including the 2nd Avenue protected bike lanes, Bell Street Park, the Mercer and 5th Avenue North bike lanes, and the 7th Avenue protected bike […]

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