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Burke-Gilman detour planned as work on N 34th Street PBL begins

The Seattle Department of Transportation announced today that as soon as Monday they’ll be starting work on the long-anticipated N 34th Street protected bike lane between Stone Way and Fremont Ave.

The immediate impact of this is a planned 3-week closure of the Burke Gilman trail between Stone Way and Troll Ave during which people biking will be directed to N Northlake Way. People walking and using wheelchairs on the Burke will be directed to the sidewalk on N 34th, according to SDOT. That sidewalk is incredibly narrow compared to the amount of pedestrian traffic in the area, so this detour will not be great. There will also be a 1-week closure after that diverting traffic from the sidewalk onto the Burke Gilman, which should be less impactful.

map showing the detour as described in the article
Map showing the planned detour of people biking on the Burke Gilman onto Northlake Way.

From SDOT:


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We are dividing the initial sidewalk work into two phases so that we can create detours for people in the area. The detour route will affect people walking, rolling, and biking at the intersection of N 34th St and Stone Way N. We are prioritizing the safety of pedestrians during this time.

During Phase 1, which begins as early as March 8 and lasts about 3 weeks, about 300 yards of the Burke Gilman Trail will be closed.  

When approaching Stone Way N, people walking/rolling on the Burke-Gilman Trail will be directed to the sidewalk on the south side of N 34th St. People biking will be directed to N Northlake Way. All travelers can rejoin the trail at Troll Ave N.

During Phase 2, which will last about one week following Phase 1, the sidewalk on the south side on N 34th St will be closed for about 300 yards. 

People using the sidewalk will be directed onto the Burke-Gilman Trail. They can rejoin the sidewalk using a ramp to N 34th St 150 yards west of the work zone.

We’ve asked if there will be any separation on Northlake Way from traffic for people biking with kids and will update the post when we hear back. Update from SDOT:

We are not making changes to N Northlake Way during the detour period.

N Northlake Way is a relatively calm street, but we recognize that the Burke-Gilman trail is an all ages and abilities route attracting riders with a wide variety of comfort levels. We hope that riders will understand the challenges we face and that these detours are necessary so that we can build more protected routes and improve the bike network.

two lane road with some back angle parking on it
Northlake Way, the planned detour of the Burke Gilman for 3 weeks

When complete, the project will fill a noticeable gap in Seattle’s bike network for people biking between Westlake Ave, Queen Anne, and the heart of Fremont and the Burke Gilman heading toward UW.

Protected bike lane between just north of the Fremont Bridge on Fremont Ave and between Fremont and Stone on N 34th
Map showing extent of planned bike lanes on N 34th Street.

The design that SDOT is implementing sacrificed a lot of elements to accommodate the apparent needs of people driving in the corridor, and so may ultimately disappoint many who have been following the project for a while. It is exciting to see it finally implemented though.


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4 responses to “Burke-Gilman detour planned as work on N 34th Street PBL begins”

  1. Skylar

    Given the choice between detouring on the sidewalk (known to be dangerous even on a wide sidewalk, which this is not), I’m just going to take the lane on N 34th. If it weren’t for the fact that SDOT repeatedly makes ridiculously bad detour routes, I would be surprised that anyone would even think to recommend something like that next to a busy route like the BGT.

    Somewhat ironically, though, the detour will make a lot of my rides less stressful: pretty often I want to make a left-turn from eastbound 34th to northbound Stone, which requires getting from the bike lane over two lanes. Without the bike lane, I’ll just take the lane and just have to merge left when the left-turn lane appears.

  2. asdf2

    When I head east on 34th, in the unprotected bike lane, I typically try to merge with the cars before I get to stone way, in order to avoid the risk of a right hook.

    It sounds like the protected lane will prevent me from doing that unless I take the car lane all the way from the Fremont Bridge, leaving cars no room to pass me.

    Maybe they’re planning some Mercer/Dexter-style signals to mitigate that, but I have mixed feelings about it. Drivers are most likely to follow the rules when it’s a standard rule they see all the time, like a stop sign or red light. An situation where right turning cars have a red light while cars going straight in the same direction have a green light is not a standard situation, and when the bike signal is green, I don’t have a lot of confidence that drivers turning right will actually stop.

    In many ways, the vehicular cycling approach of merging with the right turners into a single lane before the intersection feels safer, as drivers can see what’s directly in front of them and not crashing into what’s directly in front of you is one thing every driver is trained to do.

  3. Thanks for infomation!

  4. The Dude

    asdf2 is right. At least they didn’t go with the stupid 2-way option, but I hope the bollards are spaced enough to be able to merge out at speed. Hopefully this will reduce the number of Ubers that stop in the EB bike lane across from Freemont Brewing.

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