By Tom Fucoloro/Seattle Bike Blog, special to CHS
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.
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.
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.
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: