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First ride on the Broadway bikeway

IMG_9116A 0.4 mile stretch of the Broadway bikeway is now open. CHS gave the route a spin Monday afternoon after the Seattle Department of Transportation declared the separated, two-way cycle track officially open:

The two-way Broadway cycle track is separated from motor vehicle traffic with a 2’ wide buffer, curbs or a vehicle parking lane. Safety features of the cycle track include intersection treatments such as bicycle signals, green pavement markings and traffic signs. Green pavement markings are also installed at driveways where vehicles and bicyclists will cross paths. Signage at driveways directs motorists to yield to bicyclists, while the signs and signals at intersections establish when each mode of transportation can safely proceed.

On CHS’s ride, we encountered a few opening-day glitches including a traffic issue involving two drivers that was being settled by SPD with both cars temporarily pulled over into the bike route and a customer at a Broadway glass and window shop who has now been informed (by CHS) that the curb in front of the business is for bikes, not parking.

The bikeway features side-by-side north-south lanes for bicyclists to utilize on the east edge of Broadway. There are bike-specific traffic lights to manage flow and markings, bulbs and bollards to further protect cyclists from the flow of cars, trucks — and eventually streetcars — on Broadway.

The introduction of bikeways also means new skill sets for riders — presenting the 2 Stage Left Turn for Bikes:

The short route that has initially opened is not the most connective path on Capitol Hill but will provide a protected bikeway free of opening car doors and with bike-friendly traffic lights through the core of the Broadway/Pike/Pine zone. SDOT says the rest of the bikeway’s southern extent down Broadway will open in spring with the accompanying First Hill streetcar project to follow later in 2014. CHS last wrote about the details of the bikeway project here.

The changes — including the eventual elimination of a significant portion of Broadway street parking along the First Hill streetcar route — are part of a broader set of priorities for the neighborhood’s streets at City Hall. Earlier, Seattle’s first parklet trading street parking for a public street park opened on E Olive Way.

UPDATE 10/22/2013 10:07 AM: We asked SDOT for more information about what is happening to help drivers sort out parking and the bikeway. Here’s an update in response to our questions:

1) SDOT is currently reviewing the signage along the cycle track to ensure that no confusion exists for motorists. We are still adding striping and other controls to help the cycle track and adjacent parking function appropriately. We will soon stripe parking stalls to highlight where parking is allowed and add extra delineator posts. We are also talking with adjacent businesses and properties to ensure they understand the rules for parking near the cycle track.

2)      The paystations will not be removed as parking is allowed on the eastern side – outside of the cycle track – from E Union to E Pike and E Pine to E Howell. The striping we are putting down this week will help clarify where drivers can park.

3)      We are not currently planning to use red curbing. However, we will evaluate the cycle track in the near future to ensure it is operating effectively.

UPDATE 10/24/2013 9:00 AM: As detailed above, SDOT has, indeed, installed additional bollards along the bikeway stretch south of E Pike — an area of confusion for many drivers. To help clarify if you find yourself considering a motor vehicle trip through the area, this stretch of the bikeway features a parking lane adjacent the cycle track — that’s why the parking signs and payment kiosks remain in the area. The far right northbound lane isn’t a turn lane for E Pike — that’s where you park. The green lanes? Those are for bikes.

Meanwhile, SDOT says to expect a few more tweaks:

While the Broadway Cycle Track is not the first such track to open in Seattle, it will be a new experience for many bicyclists, motorists, and pedestrians.  The density of Broadway presents challenges not experienced with the other cycle tracks, and like any new traffic revision, there will be a learning curve as each mode of transportation learns how the cycle track works.  SDOT engineers are monitoring its early operation and are making minor tweaks with signage and pavement markings to help people better understand its operation.


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40 thoughts on “First ride on the Broadway bikeway

  1. Bikers have never used Broadway – why does the city waste money on things like this? Put a lane like this on Pine to downtown and someone may actually use it. I work where I can see the lane, I have seen 2 bikers all day in it… while it has displaced approx 10,000 cars during that same time period. You gotta love public transportation budgets!

    • Bikers have not used Broadway because there has not been adequate bike facilities. What you’re saying is equivalent to saying that no one eats on a street when there are no restaurants.

      If you think there will not be demand for bikers on Broadway, give it time. I agree with you that there should also be a bikeway on Pine for it to connect to. But not in replacement.

      • I’m a fair-weather cyclist, but I’ve used Broadway well over a dozen times in the last few months just because it’s a main thoroughfare to where I want to go. A cycle track there will serve *and consolidate* the needs of many Capitol Hill cyclists (we are legion). This is 100% progress.

    • Nonsense. Broadway has quite a lot of bicycle traffic. “I’ve seen today” is not an effective measure of bicycle traffic.

      • Lots of cyclists use Broadway when getting to a destination on Broadway. This facility is local-access, not a through route. It’s designed to be comfortable at rolling-pedestrian speeds for people who aren’t comfortable riding on the street.

        If you’re riding at a commuter speed, a cycletrack on an urban street grid is not the place to ride — it’s not safe at those speeds, and it’s slower than riding in the street. (Most car/bike accidents are at intersections, and cycletracks significantly increase the number of conflicts since motorists are not looking for through traffic to their right, especially wrong-way through traffic.)

      • I think you are confusing “commuter” with “I’m in my spandex and forgot this is not the Tour de France”. Commuters use broadway and are totally happy with this bikeway. We can also watch for cars that don’t follow the law and take measures to avoid collisions (unless they plow into us from behind, which is the how most “conflicts” actually occur).

      • Plenty of non-spandex commuters exceed the safe speed of this facility. You can coast too fast for its design on the downhill directio if you aren’t riding your brakes.

      • The great majority of car/bicycle accidents are from intersection conflicts, not overtaking traffic. That’s true in Seattle, and throughout the country.

      • And you can see one of those conflicts right in that short video. The car coming out of the parking lot is surprised by the cyclist traveling the “wrong” way down the side of the street. In this case the conflict gets resolved without anyone getting hurt – though it clearly is awkward.

        It will be interesting to see how often people get hurt as a result of these conflicts. Hopefully it works out somehow, but I’d be happier if we weren’t having to experiment with untested designs like this one. (And no this doesn’t much resemble anything I’ve seen and liked in the Netherlands or Denmark. It’s definitely some sort of odd hybrid of American street-scape with an imported overlay.)

  2. Sorry I didn’t get that memo. I’ve been cycling on Broadway for years, typically the area between Thomas and Roy. Traffic is generally light and turns are easy.
    And if you don’t like Broadway traffic, Harvard,11th or Federal are excellent adjacent quiet streets.

    I must admit a certain trepidation at sharing an unseparated 2-way bikeway with cyclists on a mission flying past in the opposite direction.

  3. Broadway is my preferred commuting route, except for the recent streetcar/bikeway construction (it makes for 2.2 mile commute in a nearly a straight line). I’ll be giving the bikeway a try in about 1/2 hour.

    As to seeing “2 bikers all day on it”: a) only being open from Union to Denny makes it less useful – the fuller-length version will make it more attractive, b) I just found out this short section was open an hour ago, and c) give it time

  4. The bikeway could be great if it weren’t for FedEx trucks parked there or people from California not having a clue that they shouldn’t park in the bikeway. Other than that it looks good. I think we all know about FedEx and UPS who pretty much think they can park wherever they feel like parking with SPD never ticketing them. It’s going to be interesting when the tram starts operating to see where all the delivery trucks are going to roost.

  5. Broadway has been my main means of getting to and from the U-District, and an essential path to getting up to 15th (followed by a steep ascent of John).

    A point of confusion for me is how we are supposed to enter the bikeway from the North. Presumably you’ll have to make a left turn and enter, but it’d be nice if there was some indication of what to do.

    • And note (see photo link above) that for most of the now open section of the bikeway, all that separates southbound bikes from northbound cars is (wait for it…..) two lines of paint on the road!

      Maybe 20% of the route I cycled tonight had a low concrete barrier and maybe half of the areas with only a painted “barrier” had some wide-spaced flimsy narrow plastic bollards.

      So, the much-touted “separated” bikeway keeps bikes and cars separate with PAINT.

      • I agree Andrew. Watching the video, there are some areas where the bike lane is separated from traffic by a wide curb, but there are other areas where there is no physical separation at all (the green-painted areas where cars are allowed to exit from businesses), and others where there is just a low, narrow curb.

        This is a VERY dangerous setup. Southbound cyclists will inevitably loose control of their bike, either by colliding with cyclists traveling northbound, pedestrians jaywalking, cars exiting via a driveway, etc. And, when this happens, they will run straight into a head-on collision with northbound vehicles, which are just a few feet away.

        What were the “traffic engineers” thinking? The word “incompetence” comes to mind.

  6. I couldn’t control my smile as I rode on the new world class bike path on Broadway on Sunday. It is absolutely incredible and worth eve. I have seen movies of similar bike paths in Copenhagen, but didn’t realize we could have something like this in Seattle. I cannot wait to ride this route with my family for the rest of my life!

  7. I walked along this route this weekend with much sadness, it could have been engineered to help all modes of transport and humans – but at Broadway and Pikee in particular you can envision the future gridlock of just dead stopped cars, articulated buses and the trolley. Now that all are expected to be in a single lane moving north, and thanks to the bus island, there will be nothing but stopped vehicles waiting to get nowhere. The emission particles from idling vehicles will be out of control, all to be inhaled by walkers and cyclists. Poor plan, sad plan, that benefits the few and not the many.

  8. I’m a bit surprised they didn’t make a lanes on each side to flow with traffic. I’m guessing there are going to be problems with right turns not expecting bikers coming from the other direction and this is going to cause accidents. It also doesn’t seem like a good idea for bikers traveling at speed to be going opposite directions right next to each other. Hope this isn’t a vision of what the mayor wants, I’m honestly a bit disappointed in the final product.

    • Yes, this type of facility does increase intersection accidents. Recent data from Lusk et. al. in the American Journal of Public Health show that on urban street grids with high intersection density, cycletracks are more dangerous than streets without bicycle facilities.

      Overall, cycletracks have a good safety record, but that’s driven by cycletracks with much lower intersection density — waterfronts, rail-trails, or sidepaths on limited-access routes. Urban cycletracks are an order of magnitude more hazardous than low-instersection-density routes according to Lusk’s data.

      • The American what? No place in the US has decent cycle infrastructure, so I could care less what some study done here says. What does the Netherlands do? They’ve solved this problem. Lets ride on their success for free.

      • The narrator in the video is right, paint fades and curbed bike lanes would be more effective.

        In my limited experience with biking in The Netherlands, it seemed that the streets were laid out as: building – curbed sidewalk – bike lane (on street level) – narrow curb buffer – car parking – car/tram traffic.

        and everyone, including pedestrians, yielded to cyclists.

  9. I’m really not sure why we should think it’s a big deal to have “bicycle” traffic signals if the only big deal is a representation of a bicycle in the signal rather than as they do in other cities with signals actually put them at a level that’s specifically for bicycles i.e. at bicyclists eye level. All it is is cute but as for practicality for bikes it’s just not there. Bike signals are on the same timer as it is for regular motorized vehicles. I don’t get what’s the big deal.

    • Watch closely when the lights change. Bikes and pedestrians get a green before the rest of traffic…which gives them a head start to help them be seen by drivers.

  10. Cycletracks also have unclear legal status. Are they part of the roadway? Are they a separate facility? Are they part of the sidewalk? The municipal code doesn’t say a word about them; neither does the RCW. And that matters.

    Take a look at 0:11 in the video, a car pulling out into the street. It’s supposed to stop before crossing the sidewalk, and yield before entering traffic. Is it supposed to stop before entering the cycletrack, after stopping for the sidewalk? When it waits for traffic, is it supposed to wait before the cycletrack?

    Cyclists and motorists will have to be very careful using this sort of experimental facility until the rules of the road catch up to facts on the ground.

    • It was pretty clear to me that cars are not supposed to block cycle traffic while waiting to pull out into the motorized traffic lane. But it may well be awhile before motorists figure that out.

  11. I have biked on the bikeway three times in the last two days and each time I have encountered illegally parked cars. I have started to report this to the Seattle Police. Their parking enforcement hotline is 206-386-9012, which I have saved in my phone. I also take pictures of violators and submit complaints on the SPD website at I think we all need to do this which will hopefully lead to some action. I would also recommend writing to city council members and the mayor.

  12. That’s a lot of green paint to maintain every year. What’s the purpose of that? Cost? A standard bike symbol would be sufficient, no?

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