Seattle Neighborhood Greenways affiliate groups Beacon Hill Safe Streets and Central Seattle Greenways have jointly asked the Seattle Department of Transportation to take another look at the feasibility of adding bike facilities to a dangerous segment of 12th Avenue S, between Yesler Way and King Street. The letter, dated last month, comes as SDOT continues construction work on protected bike lanes south of King Street across the Jose Rizal Bridge.
This stretch of 12th Ave S is one of the most dangerous spots in the city for people biking. From the letter:
SDOT collision data shows that 66 cyclists and pedestrians were injured on 12th Ave S between E Yesler Way and S King St between 2004-2019, a rate of about four and a half injuries per year. We frequently observe even strong cyclists riding on the sidewalk along this stretch of 12th Ave S due to the stressful riding conditions, particularly northbound.
In 2019, a presentation to the bicycle advisory board stated that SDOT had modeled adding a protected bike lane to each direction of 12th Ave south of Yesler Way, and that “impacts to Yesler, Boren, and Jackson intersections add significant delay and queue lengths” and that the impact would “especially delay streetcar and transit”.
The letter asks for intermediate improvements that are not full bike facilities.
- 12th Ave S northbound: It appears there is sufficient ROW to accommodate a painted bike lane along the northbound section of the corridor, which is uphill and therefore the more stressful of the two directions when biking.
- 12th Ave S southbound: There also may be an opportunity to add a southbound bike lane for a portion of the corridor. Both of these changes would likely require some rechannelization of 12th Ave S between Yesler and Jackson.
- Pavement quality: The intersection of 12th Ave S and Boren Ave is desperately in need of repaving. Deep potholes in this area make for dangerous riding conditions.
Adding a safe bike connection to this segment would connect the protected bike lanes already in place on Yesler and Broadway; connecting existing facilities has been reiterated over and over again as a high priority for the expansion of the bike network by SDOT.
As SDOT moves forward with a proposed policy that would prioritize bike facilities in contested segments like the ones being discussed here only if they are deemed “critical” segments, this segment is clearly one of the most critical in this area of the city.
Before covid, this section was part of my commute for most of the past 6-7 years, and it always struck me as such a missed opportunity. It’s a perfect example of Seattle’s “look at all the bike lanes! (and ignore the small but massively intimidating gaps between them)” approach to claiming good bike infrastructure.
My experience actually riding it multiple times daily is actually pretty OK, the traffic speed there once you get to the stop lights north of the bridge is super low, and so many bikes run through there that I never had any issues at all… But if you’re not a confident traffic rider, it “feels”, it’s downright terrifying. There’s no way in hell my wife would ever ride it, even if she would be safe doing so. And even those riders that do, I’ve seen many of them take actions that reduce their own safety as a result of intimidation — For example, riding right on the curb heading north on 12th. There’s no way a car and a bike can safely ride in the same lane — and there’s no point; it’s 4 lanes so passing is easy, and the stop light density is so high it’s pointless anyway — but riders frequently do it anyway, which I have to assume is that they feel too intimidated to take the lane.
And it’s so frustrating that it’s so close to numerous facilities – yesler bike lane, broadway bike lane, mtn-to-sound trail, and so on – Just this one segment of a few blocks can connect SO MUCH…
I was a daily commuter through here pre-COVID. Northbound between Boren and Yesler has two lanes, but then cuts to one north of Yesler. The second lane’s ‘purpose’ is a right turn to Yesler. But aside from maybe 10 minutes at the peak of peak morning school rush to Baily Gatzert Elementary it’s more often used for cars to zip past the backup on the left and then cut in at the last minute. I’ve seen a few near-collisions and many road rage honk fests.
My other anecdote is that I’m a confident, year-round daily bike commuter and I only take this route northbound in the mornings. Southbound to Beacon Hill in the afternoon I loop out to Judkins Park/23rd to cross 90 and the back on the Mountains to Sound trail. I specifically do this because the stretch on 12th from Yesler to the Rizal bridge just seems too risky in ‘rush to get home’ traffic. I’ve been encouraged by the changes to the Rizal Bridge and the closure of the slip lane from Boren to 12th but until this segment gets further improvements I still see myself avoiding the most direct route.
This section of 12th definitely needs some sort of bike lane, especially northbound. When I bike through here on a busy day, I will sometimes just ride on the sidewalk if I don’t feel like riding in traffic.
An uphill facility from the bridge to Yesler and Broadway or Boren would be outstanding. I recall riding northbound up Boren last year, wondering why it was so many lanes and why folks are speeding 45 mph in a 25 mph zone. As an experienced savvy cyclist, I managed pretty well, but I wouldn’t expect less confident riders to do the same. Trickiest part was dodging the trolley tracks while maintaining left tire track. It came up on me fast and a taxi driver was tempted to overtake me as I zigged the tracks. Next time i would signal left turn before needing two hands on the bars to zig the tracks.
My experience is similar to Richard’s. I have often made trips between Pioneer Square and First Hill using 12th Avenue South. Traffic is slow. At Yesler Way, I shift to the second lane to avoid right hooks. The streetcar is in the center of South Jackson Street, so is not much of issue for cyclists. The fatalities have been on Yesler Way and at 14th Avenue South. The larger transit issue is the need for four bus stops at the intersection of 12th Avenue South and South Jackson Street to accommodate riders of routes 7, 9, 14, 36, and 60 and their transfers. Buses need to reach the curb; riders need to go between the curb and the bus. Pedestrians and transit riders are vulnerable users as well.
Yes, please. Just repaving the street alone would be a huge, huge improvement. Traffic in this section isn’t usually too fast, but it’s still really stressful when it’s busy.
Repave the intersection! It’s decrepit!