City now requires 72 hours notice for bike lane or neighborhood greenway closures

A familiar scene on Seattle Streets. Image from Google Street View.

A familiar scene on Seattle Streets. Image from Google Street View.

In an obvious handout to the lucrative “notice of bike lane closure” sign-making industry, Seattle now requires 72 hours of advance notice before closing a bike lane or neighborhood greenway for construction.

This is obviously not a complete solution to the problem of bike lanes suddenly ending, requiring often stressful merges into lanes mixed with motor vehicles. But at least you should have some warning now if a bike lane you depend on daily is going to close soon. And that’s something.

We’re still waiting for better rules requiring construction work to provide temporary biking and walking paths of comparable comfort and directness. It is simply not acceptable that people walking and biking should have to assume added personal danger in order to accommodate a construction project for someone else’s profit. Inconvenience is acceptable because this is a city and that happens. But danger is not OK.

That’s the principle behind this graphic we put together two years ago using Streetmix showing the order that lanes should be closed for construction:

sample-street-under-constructionSince then, Seattle has made it a rule that closing a sidewalk without a temporary walkway can only happen as “a last resort.” But the same has not happened for bike lanes, as anyone who bikes on Dexter or 2nd Ave can attest.

More details on the new 72-hour rule from SDOT:

When you’re riding a bike (or traveling by any means, for that matter) an unexpected change in the path can be challenging to navigate. With our city in the midst of a construction boom, impacts to roadways, sidewalks and bike lanes are more common than ever. That’s why, starting this week, conditions for construction permit approval include on-site signage 72 hours in advance for work that closes or impacts a bike lane or trail.

We coordinate the work of contractors on both public and private projects, and require that bike lanes and sidewalks be kept open to the full extent possible during a project. We also require enhanced on-site notification of impacts.

The signs must be waterproof, have the project start date, end date, and, if the closure is not 24 hours per day, daily closure times, in accordance with the City of Seattle Traffic Control Manual for In-Street Work. That way, people riding bikes or walking in Seattle can plan alternate routes.

For work that will close or impact a Neighborhood Greenway or a non-arterial bicycle route, a “Road Work Ahead” or “Road Work (distance)” sign must be placed at the adjacent street intersections. The temporary signs cannot impede access or safety. Plus, if closure of a Greenway is longer than a calendar month, the contractor must contact Neighborhood Greenways at least 5 calendar days prior to the closure.

Permit applicants may want to consult the SDOT Neighborhood Greenways map in advance of work, to identify potentially impacted Greenways. For more information, see the Impact Notification Fact Sheet.

About Tom Fucoloro

Founder and Editor of Seattle Bike Blog.
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12 Responses to City now requires 72 hours notice for bike lane or neighborhood greenway closures

  1. Peri Hartman says:

    Not only is this good from the point of view giving cyclists more advanced notice, it also is a deterrent for builders to decide to block a route on moment’s notice. Now they have to, or are supposed to, plan ahead. That might mean fewer blockages.

  2. Bex says:

    If construction sites / developers don’t comply, how do we file a complaint? Contacting melody.berry at seattle dot gov or someone else at Permit Services?

    • Law Abider says:

      Good luck. I’ve complained about sidewalks being closed without a temporary walkway being provided (and definitely wasn’t a “last resort”).

      The responses I always receive were that the contractor wasn’t out of compliance because of *INSERT WEAK REASON HERE*.

      I think this is another one of those moments where the council gets to pat themselves on the back while the law goes unenforced.

      I guess at least the law is on the books for when the City decides to enforce it and the others it’s been passing?

      • Peri Hartman says:

        Call the street use inspector line and ask to speak with the inspector for the area in question.

      • Andres Salomon says:

        You definitely have to be persistent, that’s for sure. It just took me 3 weeks to get a sidewalk opened up on NE 47th in U District. When I first contacted SDOT, after ignoring me for a week, they told me that they couldn’t provide a temporary walkway because Metro uses the spot for bus layovers. After contacting Metro (who responded immediately and said that they could use a different spot), they coordinated and SDOT finally forced the contractor to provide a walkway. It’s definitely a case-by-case basis, though.

  3. Josh says:

    Will this be enforced any more reliably than 72-hour (or even 24-hour) posting of temporary no parking?

  4. Andres Salomon says:

    Huh. Interesting that the contractor needs to contact [email protected] for month-long greenway closures.

    Bex: As far as who to contact, I would start with SDOT Street Use (elizabeth.sheldon, daniel.conn, etc). They handle street/sidewalk closure inspections (and yell at contractors/builders), I’m guessing they’d be the ones to enforce your complaints.

    • Andres Salomon says:

      Hm, the SDOT blog post says they must contact Summer Jawson, the SDOT employee handling the Greenways program rather than SNG. Guess they changed the rules?

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  7. psf says:

    contact should be through find it/fix it app.
    thats the correct portal to get the city to take action on safety and blight issues.

    its a waste of sdot (and reporter) time to lookup special contact for each case.

    • Josh says:

      But response to Find It/Fix It varies dramatically by department. SDOT seems to be really fast, even for minor issues. Parks can take a year or longer and multiple requests to respond to safety concerns.

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