Watch out! Speed bumps added to Roosevelt Way bike lane near 43rd. UPDATE 2/5: They’re gone

UPDATE (2/5, 1:45 p.m.): The bumps are gone.

UPDATE (2/5): The speed bumps will be removed. This morning we received an update from SDOT’s Ethan Bergerson:

I want to give you an update that we are planning to remove this speed bump. Our City Traffic Engineer Dongho Chang personally inspected the location yesterday afternoon and, while the speed bump complied with official design standards, he felt that it was still best to remove it given the concerns we were hearing from riders because we want people to feel comfortable riding on our protected bike lanes. We’re considering other possible safety measures for this location, in addition to the safety features and signage that we have already installed.

Original post: Without any advance warning, the Seattle Department of Transportation has added “speed bumps” to the Roosevelt Way NE protected bike lane around the bus stop island near N 43rd Street. The two bumps are plastic with reflective tape on them, and come up fast on people biking. Per Dongho Chang, City Traffic Engineer, the bumps were installed in reaction to at least one bad collision between someone biking at fast speed and someone using the drop-off space here for UW Medicine.

Plastic bike speed bump in front of sign labelled Bike Speed Hump

The bike speed hump was installed in the past few days

We went out to inspect the bike speed hump after a reader tip came in overnight by reader Bob Vosper who didn’t see the bumps last night until the last second and ended up flipping over his bike. Thankfully, Bob’s okay. He sent us a photo of how the bumps look at night.

Bike speed hump seen above at night

There’s an advance warning sign a bit before the sign right next to the bump, but that advance sign is a lot higher off the ground. Dongho Chang told me that’s due to MUCTD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices) standards for sign height. But it may end up out of the field of vision for someone biking down Roosevelt at night with a bike light aimed lower.

person biking along next to advance warning sign for Bike Speed Humps Ahead

Chang was out inspecting the speed bumps today while we were checking it out, and told us they plan to replace the plastic dome with an asphalt hump like the ones more common around town. He also thought there were some immediate tweaks they could make to the approach to give people biking more warning that they’re coming up on a hazard.

More from SDOT’s Ethan Bergerson:

“We can say that this was one of several tactics intended to improve safety near the bus stop, loading zone, and main entrance to UW Medical Center a few feet down the road. People, including many hospital patients, need to cross over the bike lane in order to reach the bus stop and loading zone. In addition to being busy King County Metro bus stop, this is also the loading zone for several forms medical transportation such as King County Metro Access, DART, Hopelink Medicaid Transportation, and UW Medicine hospital shuttles.”

Bike/pedestrian collisions are a lot more rare than vehicle/pedestrian collisions, but if there was a hotspot in Seattle for crashes like this, it would be here. SDOT’s collision database shows at least 3 recorded collisions here since 2018. However, the design here looks like it makes the protected bike lane more dangerous for people biking. It seems like the best fix here would be to remove this plastic bump, which isn’t like anything currently in a PBL in the city, until another fix can be put in place.

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37 Responses to Watch out! Speed bumps added to Roosevelt Way bike lane near 43rd. UPDATE 2/5: They’re gone

  1. bill says:

    I’m not surprised. I ride there often. That loading zone is unnecessarily dangerous to everyone. The correct fix is to delete the right traffic lane, route the bike lane away from the curb, and put the loading zone against the curb.

    My sympathies to Bob. He (and the city) are lucky he is ok. Installing any device that threatens control of a bicycle in a bike lane verges on criminal. Bike lanes are supposed to be safe! The usual method of speed control is S turns, which again would require taking the rightmost traffic lane.

    • bill says:

      Ranting further, why does no one at SDOT look at a design and say, “This is prima facie dangerous!” Consider the downhill bike lane on Avalon. Drivers park all the way into the buffer zone, creating a guaranteed kill zone if a passenger opens a door in front of a bike. If you ride in the traffic lane for safety, drivers yell and honk.
      https://tinyurl.com/y2nwlo4q

  2. Peri Hartman says:

    I have found that, generally, the bike lanes are mostly useful for going uphill – slowly. Downhill, there are just too many potential obstructions and not enough maneuvering room.

    And speed humps, without shock absorbers ? Terrible idea. Easy to knock your hands off the handlebars.

    If SDOT keeps making bike lanes a compromise, who will want to use them ?

    • RossB says:

      It looks to me like you can just go around the speed bump, assuming you are going slowly (which is the whole point).

      I think the main (if not only) issue is visibility. This is new, and people won’t see it.

  3. Steve Campbell says:

    Does anyone know if the MUCTD prevents SDOT from installing a second sign at a height that someone on a bike might actually be able to see with their headlight?

    • Josh says:

      MUTCD says the way to provide advance warning of speed humps is with pavement markings. There are detailed specifications for how to mark a speed hump. This installation ignores them all – both the mandatory marking of the hump itself and the optional advance warning stripes.

    • Andres Salomon says:

      There’s also an accessibility issue. Part of the reason that signs are up high is so that people with visual impairments don’t run into them. They can detect the sign pole with canes and avoid those, but a low sign that sticks out won’t be detected with a cane. If that’s at head-level or lower, that’s an injury waiting to happen.

      An a-frame sign or something like that would take up more sidewalk space, but would be cane-detectable.

      • Steve Campbell says:

        Not to go down the rabbit hole too far since these have been removed, but protruding objects on poles (i.e. signs) with less than a 12″ projection into the path of travel are allowed between 27″ and 80″ above grade.

        That’s why the parking signs directly behind the now removed speed bump signs shown in the photos are allowed.

        If the projection is more than 12″ the sign can be a maximum of 27″ above grade or a minimum of 80″ above grade. In other words it can’t be in the 27″-80″ zone.

    • Patricia Kovacs says:

      The problem with low signs is pedestrians would run into them and hit their head. Particularly pedestrians who are blind. Signs must be 7′ high.

  4. NickS says:

    Speaking of obstructions in bike lanes, what’s the best way to report persistent blockage of a bike lane by parked cars? The start of the eastbound bike lane on S. Henderson St east of Renton Way (one block from Rainier Beach light rail station) is always blocked by parked cars.

    • Ballard Biker says:

      Same thing with bike lanes all over South Lake Union that are constantly blocked by for hire drivers using it as their own personal parking spot.

      If only Seattle would put as much effort into bike lane enforcement as they do installing speed bumps in bike lanes.

    • bill says:

      Call the SPD non-emergency line: 206-625-5011. Pick menu option 6. Then w…a…i…t. Once you get an operator request a parking officer. One will usually arrive pretty quick. If a car is occupied a sworn/armed officer will have to be despatched instead, and might never arrive.

      A parking officer told me it takes days for FindItFixIt reports to be routed to parking enforcement, so don’t use that.

      I don’t know what it takes to have parking enforcement regularly check a location. I’ve called in a particular location lots of times, and it’s still not patrolled.

  5. zooom says:

    I know SDOT is working on projects of all sizes every day, but is there a system in place to notify the public when they do things like this?

  6. BadBart says:

    The Roosevelt bike lane downhill from 45th to the bridge is one of the worst designed and least necessary I’ve come across. The downhill is steep enough to easily move with traffic–when I used to commute that way, it was brakes all the way down stay with the flow of traffic. The bike lane forces people entering and exiting the UW clinics to cross the bike lane just to get far enough to see if a car is coming, putting everyone involved at heightened risk.

  7. Gary Yngve says:

    The Roosevelt protected bike lane is absurd, given the already established conflict patterns. I wish SDOT made it easier to connect to/from 12th Ave Greenway or posted “bicycle may use full lane”. If the “protected” bike lane is intended to reach the extremities of 8-80, it is failing. Because it is downhill, one doesn’t need muscle to reach speeds to travel as traffic. And the intersection/driveway conflicts require 360 attention, and now further awareness and bracing for speed bumps.

    • dave says:

      How hard is it to understand that it isn’t all about the ability to keep up with the speed of traffic? Do you not realize that there are people (like kids and older folks) who are simply not comfortable riding in mixed traffic? That is what protected bike lanes are for. To make sure that everyone feels comfortable and safe riding a bike. That means separation from cars. Simple as that.

      • Joseph says:

        @Dave: the problem is that this particular lane is *separated* but by no stretch of the imagination is it that *protected*. It zigs and zags like a drunken sailor as you encounter obstacle after obstacle. Watch for that pedestrian! Watch for that inobservant car driver about to right-hook you. Watch for that car driver emerging from a garage with poor sight lines. Doesn’t strike me as what we should want for the kids and elderly folks that you mention.

      • Gary Yngve says:

        If you don’t want to ride in mixed traffic, then ride two streets over on the 12th Ave Greenway. It has a good connection under Roosevelt to the BGT or to U Bridge.
        But when you trade the risk of “hit from behind” to “hit from right hook or driveout” at a dozen different conflict points in half a mile, while you have to ride your brakes just to go slow enough to be able to gather what’s going on 360 and stop instantly, that is tradeoff of rational risks that many people believe is riskier than riding lawfully in the general purpose lane. To put it another way, if 12th Ave Greenway did not exist, and it were illegal to ride in the general-purpose lane, I would WALK my bike on the sidewalk for those three blocks because the “protected” bike lane is that bad.
        We have so many areas in Seattle, especially south of I-90, where there isn’t any bicycle facility. Here we keep dumping money and over-engineering these manufactured conflicts. Separation from cars is all fine and dandy until it is not. And with nonstop driveways and intersections between 45th and 42nd, you’d need to be an ostrich with head buried in sand to claim that it is not separated.

      • dave says:

        Protected bike lanes work just fine as long as you don’t go too fast. Obstacles such as pedestrians crossing the lane and cars turning across it can be dangerous, sure, but this lane is no different in that respect from 2nd Ave downtown or the Westlake bike path along the marina/parking lot area. It is dangerous if you’re flying along at 25 miles per hour because you don’t have time to react if a person walking or car crosses your path, and I’ve seen plenty of folks complain about that. But if you take it at a reasonable speed that is appropriate for the facility as it’s been designed, then these protected facilities are great and provide a much more comfortable experience, especially for those who are not in a hurry and would otherwise be terrified to ride in mixed traffic.

      • Gary Yngve says:

        Then Dave, what is the design speed for Roosevelt protected bike lane? And what speed do you feel safe in it? Personally, I wouldn’t feel safe in it going faster than a brisk jogging speed (maybe less if dark/wet), which would mean riding my brakes while simultaneously watching all around me for driveouts and right hooks.
        For example, here I am riding at a modest speed in a “protected” lane and a car driver passes me from behind and makes a right turn directly into me. This does not happen when I choose to ride in the general purpose lane. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=104Qb5SIabI
        Why not the greenways model? 12th Ave doesn’t have the inconvenience of distance and hill compared to 39th Ave NE vs 35th Ave NE.

      • dave says:

        Gary, yes it sucks when drivers do that. That’s why you have to ride defensively when you’re riding in bike lanes. Don’t go too fast (I would say 10-15 mph max) and be aware of cars coming along beside you that might suddenly turn in front of you (as well as people walking across). That’s the trade-off with riding in a lane as opposed to riding in mixed traffic. But, as I said before, there are folks who simply do not feel comfortable riding in mixed traffic. So providing a separated lane wherever possible, ideally protected with a physical barrier, will encourage more people to ride bikes. You apparently do not agree, but there is plenty of evidence that this is so. There are some good citations here: https://www.peopleforbikes.org/statistics/economic-benefits

        The cool thing that is that if you feel safer/more comfortable riding in mixed traffic, then you can do that! Nobody is forcing you to ride in the bike lane.

      • Gary Yngve says:

        Dave, I could care less about reading studies in aggregate about protected bike lanes or about protected bike lanes built elsewhere. I care about the context of a particular location. Downhill is trouble. Driveways are trouble. Look at 2nd Ave downtown. They needed to protect the intersections via bike-only signals. Yet still, one needs to go cautiously because of car drivers running the red left turn signal. And when the symphony is in session, they need a cop stationed there so that cyclists/peds don’t get hurt on the sidewalk or bike lane.
        The Roosevelt PBL has no means of protecting cyclists through the driveways or intersections because of paint. It is a design that looks good on paper that is forced into into a situation that is wasn’t meant for.
        Aside from the opportunity cost of building better bike infra elsewhere (like south of I-90 that desperately needs it), drivers harass and bully cyclists who ride in the general-purpose lane when there is unsafe bicycle infra adjacent to them.

      • dave says:

        Gary, sounds like we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this. Before COVID I was riding in the 2nd Ave bike lane every day and I can definitely say that it is safer than what was there before. Again, it’s just a matter of riding at a reasonable speed and being aware of your surroundings. And yes, when you’re going downhill you may have to use your brakes to maintain a safe speed. I don’t see a problem with that. For those who want to ride in mixed traffic, go ahead. But I think it’s ridiculous to expect everyone to do that.

  8. Daniel says:

    So who is organizing the weekly 530pm bike ride that circles around to this strip a few times? Video record the angry drivers.

  9. AP says:

    Bellevue built a floating bus stop to get around this bus stop problem. I’ve ridden it—it’s not bad. Regardless, it’s way safer than this.

    https://twitter.com/apardoe/status/1357493806711463936

    • bill says:

      That’s safer for bikes than the SDOT hazard but would not be safer for the sick and impaired folks trying to get from a car to the medical center entrance.

    • Andrew Sapuntzakis says:

      are speed bumps that serve as ped x-ings (vice-versa?) new to the US?

      the gap between the ramp and the curb seems very dangerous.

      yes, gutters are needed for drainage, but this is another accident waiting to happen

      ideally, the entire bike lane would be half a curb-height above the road / below the sidewalk, and the curbs would be beveled

  10. bill says:

    The only thing SDOT did right was build the hazard in front of a building full of doctors.

  11. AndrewB says:

    I first encountered thieve bumps on my morning ride this Wednesday, I could not see this small sign. That little section of the PBL with the drop off area, multiple parking garages and and right turn lane has been problematic and now includes bumps.
    Thanks for using my photo in this post!

  12. NoSpin says:

    This looks like an all-too-often example of how organizations like SDOT, WSDOT, and others hide behind the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) with a ‘we followed the manual’ attitude, rather that using ANY critical thinking skills to apply a functional solution to a real-world situation.

  13. Josh says:

    Despite SDOT’s comments about MUTCD, that sign is entirely noncompliant.

    Hazard warning signs are diamonds, not rectangles, specifically so they stand out visually.

    The minimum size allowed for a speed hump warning sign is 24×24 inches.

    Speed hump signs must include an advisory plaque identifying the safe speed for traversing the hazard.

  14. KAL says:

    This makes me wish once again that the city was willing to acquire buses with doors on both sides and had installed bus loading on the left of Roosevelt. Wouldn’t help with the medical center loading conflicts but would have removed bus platform conflicts. I’d love us to be able to think more outside the box on these things.

  15. eddiew says:

    A much less costly approach than new fleet of boutique buses would be to place bike lanes on the left side of one-way transit arterials per the SDOT streets manual. This would have required special signals at the south end and at NE 45th Street with its turn lanes.

  16. Christopher says:

    Before there was the bike lane I was riding down Roosevelt. There was a steel plate in the road which I didn’t see. Like Bob, I flipped over my handlebars. I wound up in Harborview with a broken elbow.

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