A block-by-block look at the plan for completing the Broadway Bikeway

By Tom Fucoloro/Seattle Bike Blog, special to CHS

SBAB-June-2015_Broadway-Streetcar_rev_small-projmap-330x434 (1)As construction on Capitol Hill Station enters its final phases, the long closure at the north end of the Broadway Bikeway may finally open up in coming weeks month.

But the true glory of the bikeway won’t be realized until it extends through the rest of the Broadway business district at least to E Roy. Plans for extending the bikeway which provides a safer route for bikers away from the dangerous streetcar tracks are linked to the First Hill Streetcar extension project, which is now in the design phase.

That project construction remains underfunded, but the design for both the streetcar and bikeway will be shovel-ready in 2016. Planners are considering filling the funding gap through a Local Improvement District.

SDOT officials along with consultant Alta Planning + Design recently presented the updated design ideas for the bikeway element of the plan at Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board meeting. Below is a block-by-block look at the plans as they are today.

Here’s a look at the block-by-block plans for Broadway’s bikeway future:
SBAB-June-2015_Broadway-Streetcar_rev_small-denny-575x417SBAB-June-2015_Broadway-Streetcar_rev_small-olive-575x417 SBAB-June-2015_Broadway-Streetcar_rev_small-thomas-575x419 SBAB-June-2015_Broadway-Streetcar_rev_small-harrison-575x415 SBAB-June-2015_Broadway-Streetcar_rev_small-republican-575x416 SBAB-June-2015_Broadway-Streetcar_rev_small-mercer-575x417 SBAB-June-2015_Broadway-Streetcar_rev_small-roy-575x418 SBAB-June-2015_Broadway-Streetcar_rev_small-roy2-575x417 SBAB-June-2015_Broadway-Streetcar_rev_small-aloha-575x412

There aren’t many huge surprises, since the design is very similar to what already exists on Broadway south of Denny. But there are some subtle differences. For one, intersections will be marked using skipped green paint like the crossbikes on 2nd Ave. This will be inconsistent with other Broadway intersections (which are solid green), but consistent with the way the city plans to mark intersections going forward.

SBAB-June-2015_Broadway-Streetcar_rev_small-signals-575x429

Another subtle-but-important change will be the location of the bike signals. After learning lessons from the existing Broadway Bikeway and 2nd Ave, the new bike traffic signals will be lower on the pole and a different size than the general traffic signals. This should help turning cars more easily decipher the signals and, hopefully, increase compliance with no-turn-on-red restrictions.

SBAB-June-2015_Broadway-Streetcar_rev_small-raised-575x378

The design of the transit stops will also get a modification: People will be able to access them at-grade from a raised crosswalk. The bikeway will come up to sidewalk level at the crosswalk, encouraging people biking to slow down and giving clear priority to people on foot. This will be especially great for people in wheelchairs or who have other mobility issues.

The extended raised platform should also hopefully slow turning cars and, therefore, decrease the threat to people biking. The city should make these turns as tight as possible, maintain clear sight lines and provide enough space for someone to stop their car mid-turn and wait for people biking.

Turns from the bikeway will still be handled using turn boxes. Like the existing bikeway route, planners are not considering turn boxes at every intersection of the extension. The plans resented to SBAB have only one box at Republican, and only because it is noted as a potential neighborhood greenway. Other intersections could be considered. Harrison, for example, has a major grocery store and a Pronto station. E Olive Way/John is busy, but a lot of people are going to turn there anyway, including people starting their trips at Capitol Hill Station.

There are also other issues at play but one of the biggest challenges for project is how to deal with the bikeway terminus at E Aloha. The current plans call for only a turn box at the bikeway’s northern start and end point. One solution could be to simply eliminate the terminus. The project team has made it clear that their project ends at Aloha, but that only means SDOT would need to start work on a new 10th Ave E bike lane project to connect Broadway to the planned 520 Trail connection at Roanoke Park. The project is listed in the Bike Master Plan, but it’s not currently on the city’s five-year implementation plan.

With the 520 Trail connection planned to arrive at Roanoke Park in 2017 (pending funding and if there are no delays, of course) and the Broadway streetcar extension scheduled for completion around the same time (also pending funding), it seems like a missed opportunity not to connect the two. These are two massive transportation investments separated by only one mile of missing bike lane.

The result would be a complete, direct and protected bike connection from Yesler Terrace to the Eastside, passing through the heart of Capitol Hill and including protected bike connections to downtown Seattle and the Montlake Bridge. There is nothing like this today, but it could be reality in just a few years.

There are currently no scheduled public meetings about the bikeway planning but expect more discussion as the project firms. In the meantime, you can send comments on the project to SDOT’s Art Brochet at Art.Brochet@seattle.gov.

UPDATE: The city’s tracking of bikeway usage ended this spring but the trend on usage was rising — even with the bike route hobbled by its short course and construction-clogged northern terminus. By May 2014, the Broadway Bikeway was getting 500+ daily weekday rides thanks to commuters and warm(er) weather cyclists:

By September, the totals climbed above 600 trips per day.

And this year, trips were up 10% in the first three months of 2015 vs. the same period in 2014:

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37 thoughts on “A block-by-block look at the plan for completing the Broadway Bikeway

  1. Four percent of Seattle residents bike. The road structure won’t be able to handle the projected growth as it is and we continue to lose lanes and parking to bike nazis at City Hall. Let’s see how this pans out over a few years. (snicker)

    • Actually, no. 4% of trips to work are made by bike.

      The overwhelming majority of Seattle bikes. And they’ll probably do it a lot more once they have a useful network of streets that lets them feel safe doing it.

      • “The overwhelming majority of Seattle bikes.”

        What’s the source for that? I’d be shocked if a significant percentage of Seattle even owns a bike—we’re talking about people over the age of 25 too—much less uses it regularly in the city on our less-than-ideal terrain.

      • Overwhelming majority?? Wishful thinking, it’s a actually a very small minority of people riding bikes in any meaningful way for commuting purposes.

      • Keep fighting the bikes (please not the sarcasm). All of my friends do too, they bitch and bitch about the biking infrastructure and you know what? They are the same people who bitch about the traffic. It’s relatively simple: more bikers = less traffic. How are you so narrow minded not to see that? You want a better experience driving around Seattle, then support bike infrastructure. I don’t bike, but I am not dumb enough to fight it either.

      • No one is “fighting bikes.” They’re fighting directing resources at tiny, noisy minorities of commuters over the needs of the majority. Improving public transportation for the masses–i.e., making bus-only lanes instead of bike-only lanes–is a real solution for traffic issues. A single bus line down Broadway probably handles more commuters than these bike lanes.

    • regardless of the percentage … the solution is that we should remove on-street parking as that is not an adequate use of the street which is intended for transportation, which bicycles are I might add, and which car storage is not.

      • While that might be true, you should consult with businesses before removing all on-street parking.

        Throughout this blog, you see comments from businesses that they’re taking a hit because of construction and workers taking up parking spaces, and people here continuously suggest removing even more parking. The question is whether the supposed increase in bike usage—which is a theoretical—will offset the loss in business due to vehicle inconvenience—which according to the businesses interviewed here, isn’t a theoretical.

      • This idea of continually removing parking is ridiculous! If you’re not a young person with a bike (e.g., elderly, people with kids, etc), the parking allows you to patronize businesses on the street. I see more parking being removed for “bike parking” on 15th Ave E, and there are almost never bikes parked in these street bike parking areas either–they park right near the business that they are going to, locking to the nearest street sign the old-fashioned way!

      • To label street parking as “car storage” is disingenuous. In commercial areas, it is short-term parking….and, even in residential areas, alot of it is limited to 2-4 hours, or 72 hours at a maximum.

  2. This is one of the most frustrating places to drive in the city. I hope the local businesses are getting additional foot and bike traffic from these changes.

    • Its so confusing you can see the Celica in the video pull into the intersection to make a turn then reverse back into place lol :P

  3. Thanks for the update Tom. Had a great time riding Broadway last week with a 2 year old in a trailer. Thankful to have some protected bikeways we can enjoy together.

  4. As a resident of this specific area and a big supporter of light rail and streetcars generally, I can’t believe SDOT wants to extend the Broadway Streetcar. It seems like such a ridiculous waste of money. I legitimately want to know who is pushing for this project and hear their reasoning. Would rather see them complete a project like the dedicated bike lanes to 520 than send the streetcar up a few blocks further that are EASILY walkable. I don’t even ride a bike.

    • A Broadway streetcar extension should be low hanging fruit for a federal grant and shouldn’t compete with bike or other transit funds. Sound Transit paid for the original line, this is just the final piece to make it usable for the entire business district, which I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, is having a hard time of it right now. The one thing streetcars are good for is economic development.

      • I don’t really understand the idea of the street car being good for economic development. Street cars are competing with traffic and currently there is no additional lane to allow traffic to pass if a bus or car are blocking one lane in front of Seattle Central. Broadway is used for commercial, as well as residential transit which the businesses depend on. Why add a mode of transportation like the street car that does not increase the capacity of the road and restricts the ability of people to come into the neighborhood because they cannot park. I’d be all for the street car if it took an alternative route that did not restrict access to major streets which are already congested. I even bike daily to work and don’t really utilize the broadway cycle path because I find it tricky to navigate for already frustrated drivers.

  5. As simply a pedestrian improvement project this plan is worth its weight in gold. Olive Way’s intersection with Broadway needs some serious turn control measures: the sidewalk extensions and bikeway markings should seriously change the dynamics here. Same at Roy- tighten the turns, reduce the amount of huge open intersections where cars turning interact with peds. These are two of the most conflict-ridden intersections on Broadway.

    Oh, and there’s also space for bikes now!

    (Next step: Olive Way Road Diet)

  6. The Broadway streetcar has one beneficiary: developers. It will be paid for by taxpaying residents who will then be displaced by upscale development that will serve the very wealthy. Rents will go through the roof, property taxes will skyrocket and if you rent or own in the surrounding low rise, pack your bags cause you’re no longer welcome in Seattle. Bye bye Capitol Hill’s gay community, elders, families, middle class renters, long time residents. Think you’re safe in the single family zone? Make no mistake, they’ll come for you when it’s done. “We’ve spent millions in transit, we have to recoup our investment by increasing density.”

  7. While we’re at it, why don’t we close off MORE lanes for bikes and maybe some more for dog walkers. I mean, who needs their car anyway?! I get it, we all need to be safe and share the road, but there needs to be some serious strategy when it comes to people who need their cars for work, transporting their kids, etc. It should not take someone 2 hours to travel 5 miles. Hence, why many are moving out of the city. Thanks techies.

  8. In a city already “built in” like Seattle, we simply cannot have every mode of transportation on every street. You would think this obvious, but apparently it is not. Great resources are being squandered on the relatively few Seattlites who bike year round. You will first see the result as Broadway is about to become unnavigable with cars, bikes, buses, streetcars and pedestrians. Expect 12th Avenue to become very, very busy, something SDOT is not preparing for.

  9. As someone who commutes primarily by bicycle and transit, I would like to see this plan stopped. Anyone know who is organizing the opposition?

    The streetcar experience in Seattle has not been good. The tracks cause many injuries to people riding bicycles and the streetcars are slow and problematic to acquire and operate.

    The 2-way cycletrack is an attempt to mitigate the extreme hazard posted by streetcar tracks. It does not achieve this. People would like to be able to get to businesses on both sides of the street, therefore it is still necessary to get across the hazardous tracks at the centerline. Apparently the design expects us to get across by riding to the next corner and mingling with the pedestrians on the sidewalk? No one will do this.

    The 2-way cycletrack also creates its own hazards and traffic issues. It requires many fussy signals for “no left on green” and “no right on red”. Compliance with these signals is very poor, resulting in unsafe conditions for people riding on the cycletrack, especially those going counterflow to the traffic direction.

    Also the entire line extension is redundant with Metro’s #49 trolley route. I would rather support the electric trolley system.

    I’m sure I could think of other issues but those are the main ones.

  10. I have never seen that many bicyclists riding on Broadway, as indicated in the short video clip…. I frequently see none.

  11. The Broadway bike lane/streetcar has to be the worst mess I have ever seen! Some urban planning grad student with an expensive bike and no clue must be in charge here. I’m on Broadway every day and practically NEVER see a bike in it, the traffic flow destroyed, and the streetcar hasn’t even enter the picture yet to complete the total fucking mess! WOW!

  12. I wonder how much those guys got paid to ride those rent-a-bikes for this “film short.” Clearly that scene would never happen.

  13. These intersections and roads that try to cater to every mode of transportation are so asthetically ugly. It’s like bad graffiti with lines going in every which direction. So ugly.

    Oh and now that every road has it’s own bike lane can the pedestrians on feet have the Burke-Gillman back? So annoying to have those bikes race two inches past you at Mach 3. I saw one guy dressed like Lance Armstrong get decked after he hit someone. Pedestrians have the right of way, remember that bicyclists.

    • You’re 100% right. Pedestrians do have the right of way on the Burke…though it would be nice if they walked with the general flow of traffic, controlled their little kids, and kept their damn dogs on a leash.

      For what it’s worth, we cyclists also despise those Lance Armstrong types hauling ass on the Burke. I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve gotten a 1cm shave with zero “On your left!” heads up. We’re all victimized by idiots, not just pedestrians.

      Every road has its own bike lane? Wow, I’d like to take the same drugs you’re on. Sounds like a beautiful dream. Or maybe you’re mixing up Seattle with Copenhagen. People do speak with a Danish accent around here, true enough.

  14. So what about transfers between buses on Broadway and buses on John/Olive? There don’t appear to be any stops on Broadway remotely near John. I swear SDOT seems to really have it in for existing transit riders. It looks like they are going to replicate the way they worsened the transfer situation at Broadway and Madison here too.

    • I noticed this as well, there is a big gap for a bus stop on Broadway. While attending SCCC, you have to catch the 49 on Pine before it turns onto Broadway, and then the next stop is just North of John St. I thought it was due to construction, but it would be a long jaunt (especially if you’re disabled) or confusing to an out-of-towner trying to get around this part of the city. Lot’s of transfers from a bus to either a trolley above or a train below, or to a bike. Seems redundant.

  15. I bike commute, do not own a car and live on Capitol Hill near SU. I am not a techie and am 51. It would save mileage for me to ride the Broadway bike lanes, but I choose to drop down to 12th. The protected areas are great on Broadway, but the cars coming out of parking lots & disregard for no right turns terrify me. I need to get where I’m going mentally & physically intact. SDOT – put a counter down on 12th – we’ve got ‘bike congestion’ during commuting hours. Would love to see some numbers.

    • Your suggestion for a comparison between 12th and Broadway is an excellent one, and if our city bureaucrats were interested in actually measuring usage, this would have been done from the start. From observation of my own and people I’ve talked to, it looks like bike use has declined on Broadway and increased on 12th.

      And what about actual safety stats? I’ve seen nothing indicating whether riding on the Broadway bike lanes is safer, based on real data, than before. Also, what about pedestrian safety — does this arrangement make it safer or more dangerous for peds? You can argue this both ways; that’s why the city ought to be measuring this and telling us the results. It’s a big, multi-million dollar experiment following up on the failed waterfront trolley and the underperforming SLUT. So, let’s get some decent information from it, at least.

      • People here don’t like facts and data. They base thoughts and opinions on their feelings. “well it has buffers, colors and special lights so it must be safer”.

  16. Great, now the north end of Broadway will be just as cluttered/chaotic/congested/unsafe as the south end! And it will all get worse once the streetcars are added to the mix.

    The comments, here and elsewhere, from regular cyclists, speak for themselves. When even this group is avoiding the cycle track on Broadway, you know there is a problem. Wake up, city planners! Pay attention to voices other than the bike lobby!

  17. I’m a middle-aged bike commuter, and like SeattleCarol, I think these lanes are more hazardous than the simple lanes on 12th Ave. I agree with those who say it’s a waste of money, because for the same price, we could get a lot more streets like 12th (or even better, like 19th Ave). It doesn’t make sense to have these bike-ways on streets with so many signals and driveways and pedestrians — I feel like I have to be hyper-alert.

    BTW- like most bike-commuters, I also own and sometimes drive my car. So, I’m a driver, too. I live not far from Broadway, and I find these changes are making the area less accessible, in general. I can see how the plan serves the apartments and condos directly on the route, but it doesn’t seem to serve everyone else.

    If you agree with either point, please send a note to SDOT. I did.

  18. I also prefer 12th if headed south as there is quite a hill at the south end of the broadway bike lane (and 12 seems all down hill). I tend to use the Broadway bike lane when headed north. Neither 12th nor broadway feels safe to me however.

  19. What a waste of my money

    Why not make Broadway a pedestrian only open air promenade?

    Put a cover over I-5 and connect SLU and capitol hill build another Freeway park

    A gonadal from Eastlake to the North end of capitol hill would be cool The view would be incredible