Rider hit by car as she tried to use Broadway bikeway speaks up on safety issues

Construction has made accessing the Broadway bikeway from the north a dangerous undertaking (Image: CHS)

Construction has made accessing the Broadway bikeway from the north a dangerous undertaking (Image: CHS)

Monday morning, CHS reported on a small swarm of street issues around Capitol HIll including a car striking a bicyclist on Broadway along the bikeway. Fortunately, the rider suffered only minor injuries in the collision. With a sore wrist, she took the time and suffered through a little pain to tell CHS about the dangerous situation that has been created as the bikeway’s choppy opening has coincided with a major streetway construction project near Broadway and Denny that is slated to be active through summer. CHS wrote about the potentially unsafe situation here. Now, after her crash, the rider says more needs to be done:

SB cyclists on broadway have two ways to get over to the cycle track, and there has been no signage or direction to indicate what they should do since this block was re-striped (also with no signage or warning). You can ride up to the light and stop as if making a left turn to Howell, though there is no turn lane so cars coming around the construction sb have to squeeze by on your right.

I typically do this when broadway is busy. Other times I usually take the lane past Denny, signal left, and enter the single lane of the previous cycle track, thinking the sooner I’m in the lane the safer. Today I had done the latter. A nb car approached with its right turn signal on. I looked at the car, as I usually try to make eye contact when crossing a car’s path, but couldn’t see in the car. It seemed to be slowing down, so I mistakenly assumed they had seen me and continued through the intersection, where they hit me.

I think the current design there is very confusing for cyclists and drivers alike, and it doesn’t seem like a lot if thought went in to impacts up cyclists. I also think there I’d probably a lack of awareness about the two-way cycle track, and so nb right-turning cars might not be accustomed to checking for sb cyclists…

Of course in the eyes of the police the question is whether or not I was in the crosswalk and how fast I was going. Does cycle track in an intersection have any legal protection? And what about when that cycle track is hastily modified for construction?

We’ll ask SDOT if more can be done to mark the area for better clarity for both drivers and riders — not to mention pedestrians — so the soon-to-be-completed bikeway can be utilized as the construction project for Capitol Hill Station’s under-Broadway pedestrian crossing is completed. Nobody should want the bikeway closed down — it’s a necessary street feature to help riders avoid the hazardous First Hill streetcar rails.

SDOT’s planners should hopefully have a few ideas. If not, maybe they would like to talk with our injured Broadway bike rider . “I’m actually a transportation planner myself, though I don’t specialize in bikeway design,” she writes. “I’m very fortunate neither [of] us was traveling faster, and bystanders called help right away.”

UPDATE 3/13/14 9:05 AM: Well, this wasn’t exactly what we had in mind. Hopefully SDOT is only clearing off the portion between Howell and Denny where the Sound Transit construction is taking place. We haven’t heard back from the agency yet about plans to make the area safer but officials did follow up for more details after our initial email.

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19 thoughts on “Rider hit by car as she tried to use Broadway bikeway speaks up on safety issues

  1. I’m confused, she got hit by the cycle track at Denny by the construction? The same place where its currently “closed”?

    • Right now, the sign at that intersection as you’re going south is a large orange diamond with a picture of a bike and an arrow pointing to the left (toward the cycle track), then another smaller sign that says closed. Confusing and ambiguous is an understatement.

      Meanwhile I hear people complaining that the broadway cycle track was a waste of money because they see so few people using it.

      • so far, everything about the trolley/cycle track seems like one huge mess. Here’s hoping things will sort out once the streetcar is running, but the project seems to be trying to do too many things not very well instead of any one thing efficiently.

  2. It seems as if departments did not talk to each other. No sooner did they complete the bikeway from E Union St to E Denny Way it was decided to tear up the block between E Pine St and E Denny Way. That block of the bikeway should not have been opened in the first place if someone knew that they’d have to destroy it because of the station related construction.

  3. This past weekend we saw a car, turning left from Pine St, drive straight into the Broadway bike lane. They drove between the parked cars and the curb IN THE BIKE LANE heading north. Can’t they put a post between the two bike lanes to keep that from happening in the future. If there was a bike traveling south on Broadway, it could have been disastrous.

  4. It’s not “closed”, Adam, but it’s not exactly “wide open”, either. SB at Denny, Broadway auto traffic is directed to swing left around the construction (if you stay in the “regular” travel lane, it is labeled as a right-turn only onto Denny. Pedestrians are clearly directed to cross in the crosswalk to the far side. A sign not much more complicated than “Bicycles” and an arrow pointing left suggests the same, but can also easily be interpreted as swinging left with the auto traffic. To complicate things, the law discourages (but does not prohibit) bicyclists from using the sidewalk (we’re expected to defer to *everybody* – cars, pedestrians, you name it). Thus staying on the street, albeit going around the construction, might seem viable and what we are being directed to do. But it puts bicyclists squarely onto the streetcar track, precisely what the now-negated bikeway is intended to prevent.

    • In the linked previous article, it mentions at the detour was indeed to ride on the sidewalk. Hence my reference to it being ‘closed’ at that area.

      Either way, it’s a poor job all around for both the striping, the signage, and the general construction of the cycle track. I don’t get why the whole thing doesn’t have concrete separators, or the big concrete flower planters like the ones in Long Beach. It’d be safer, more distinctly show where the cycle track is, and look nicer than a bunch of banged up white plastic pylons.

    • I think that the cycletrack is officially closed on the blocks of broadway between howell and john. There is still a sign up at broadway and john that says broadways is closed to bikes.

      The opening of the cycle track only to have 2 key blocks of it shut down again was probably the stupidest transportation decision made in Seattle since the decision to build a street car (fixed rails, 19th century technology) rather than improve trolly bus service by shortening headways. But I digress.

      Left hand in this town doesn’t know what the right is doing, maybe doesn’t even know there is a right hand.

      The cyclist in question here seems to be explaining that she was crossing broadway so that she could ride in the wrong direction southbound for 1 block in what is now a northbound car lane?

      as for the intersection of pine and broadway (and pike and broadway for that matter) — some of the most confusing road markings in town. It doesn’t help that the broadway street car rails are laid in concrete setting them apart visually from normal road and leading an unfamiliar motorist to question whether they should be driving where there are tracks. Again, terrible design, and I am sure that these intersections will be the site of much confusion for years to come. A bollard in the bike lane might help, but it also might result in cars hitting the bollard.

      • As a note, the sign saying it is closed to bikes is right beside the sign with a picture of a bike pointing toward the cycle track.

      • It doesn’t help that the green-painted bikeway between Denny and Howell was only partially blotted out…it’s still very visible, giving the message that it is an active corridor for bikes, even though it isn’t.

        And if you think things along Broadway are a mess now, just wait until the streetcars start to roll…..it’s going to get exponentially worse. Really poor planning, all around.

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  6. The question of the legal status of a cycletrack within an intersection isn’t clear, cycletracks don’t exist in the municipal code or state law. SDOT’s signs call it a path, not a lane of the street, which would mean the path itself is a crosswalk where it crosses a street under the logic of the State Supreme Court ruling in Pudmaroff. But that’s not really clear yet, either. This sort of sidepath just isn’t legally recognized yet in Washington.

    • FYI, bicycle-shaped signal faces like the one shown in this photo are also not recognized in the Seattle Municipal Code or the RCW. (Code defines the meaning of red/yellow/green circles and arrows, but bicycle-shaped signals have no legal meaning yet. See RCW 46.61.055 and SMC Chapter 11.50.)

      Not surprising since the FHWA only recently gave interim approval for such signals, but one more thing to watch when the courts get involved in accident cases on experimental facilities.

  7. I came within an inch of my life when a NB car turned right in front of me at Howell as I headed SB in the bikeway. It would have been a combined impact of about 45mph. I believe there are no-turn-lights/arrows correct? if so he ran a red light… didn’t seem to care much either.

  8. Cars still turning left from SB Broadway at Pine, despite no left turns allowed too. I haven’t ridden a bike on Broadway for a couple years, but now it’s just a mess. Pizza scooters and cars in the bikeway aren’t helping either.

    They seemed rushed to show off the bikeway, maybe they should’ve waited until everything was finished. (Who are “they,” I dunno exactly. Lots of cooks in this kitchen.)

    The streetcar execution is somehow worse than the idea. Bummer so far.

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