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Broadway bikeway — now serving 600+ trips a day — will help shape a safer 2nd Ave

Friday evening, a memorial ride and walk is planned to honor Sher Kung, the 31-year-old woman who died last week after being hit by a truck as she biked on the dangerous 2nd Ave in downtown Seattle. According to a city bike planner, learnings from Capitol Hill’s Broadway bikeway — currently serving more than 600 trips a day — will help make 2nd Ave a safer street for everybody.

Seattle Bike Blog has details of the planned 2nd Ave cycle track:

As we have been reporting for months (and urging for years), the city is in the midst of a safe streets project on 2nd Ave that will significantly upgrade the existing decade-old, paint-only bike lane squeezed between parked cars and moving traffic. The 2nd Ave bike lane is full of hazards, and cars and trucks often make left turns directly in front of people riding in the bike lane.

Currently scheduled to open Monday, the new bike lane will be protected from moving traffic by either a row of parked cars or a line of reflective plastic posts. At intersections where left turns are allowed, people biking and people making left turns in their cars will have separate signal cycles. So when someone on a bike has a green light, left turns have a red arrow and vice versa. So long as nobody runs a red light, the majority of turning conflicts should be eliminated.

City planner Sam Woods tells CHS that Seattle Department of Transportation observations and reports from riders of dangerous motor vehicle parking and loading in the bikeway have been one of the main Capitol Hill learnings planners attempted to address in the 2nd Ave design. On 2nd Ave, SDOT will increase the signage and add additional paint to “reinforce” where vehicles should not be parking and loading, Woods said.

Woods said that early issues with keeping the Broadway cycle track clean have also helped planning on 2nd Ave. She said the maintenance budget for the 2nd Ave route was boosted to keep the lanes clean after planners saw how quickly debris piled up in the Broadway bikeway before it fully opened in May.

Woods said that some of the enhancements on 2nd Ave like the increased load zone markings and signage will eventually be implemented on Broadway if they prove effective downtown. But she also said 2nd Ave is an easier fit for the two-way bikeway as the one-way motor vehicle traffic and lane-crossing turns are more easily controlled.

Woods said that other learnings will have to wait for both routes. One big change she says might be altering the size of the dedicated bike traffic signals so that they are more easily differentiated from the motor vehicle signals.

Broadway’s bikeway was installed as part of the Sound Transit-financed, SDOT-built $132 million First Hill Streetcar project as a necessary enhancement to move riders away from the two wheel-dangerous streetcar tracks. By 2017, it will be extended north on Broadway along with the streetcar.

image (7)

Earlier this year, CHS reported that early stats for the route showed the Broadway bikeway was serving about 460 trips per weekday in May. In August, SDOT’s data shows the weekday average climbed above 640 trips per weekday — and nearly 390 on weekends.

Weekday usage tends toward commute schedules with the busiest hours coming toward the end of the standard work day. We show the hour by hour trip tallies for two typical August days, below.

image (8) image (9)

Back on 2nd Ave, would a bikeway have prevented the death of Sher Kung? It’s likely. “We have known about the problem for years,” Seattle Bike Blog writes of the tragedy, “and we have also known the solution: Protected bike lanes with separate signals.”

Friday evening, riders will meet with walkers on 2nd Ave to mark her death and continue the call for safer streets in Seattle.

Community Memorial Ride & ServiceBlackBox-SherKung
In honor of Sher Kung and the many people in crashes while walking and bicycling on 2nd Avenue over the years, join us for a Community Memorial Ride & Service on Friday, September 5.

5:00 p.m. – Bicyclists gather at Westlake Park (4th Ave & Pine St), and ride down Pine Street and the 2nd Avenue bike lane.

5:30 p.m. – The public gathers at Benaroya Hall’s “Garden of Remembrance” Plaza (2nd Ave & University St) for a brief reflective statement, moment of silence, and a statement by an elected official.

6:00 p.m. – Bicyclists ride to Occidental Park via the 2nd Avenue bike lane and Yesler Way, and then hear what near-term tangible steps they can take to help improve bike infrastructure in Seattle.

This will be the last major ride down 2nd Avenue in its current configuration. The Seattle Department of Transportation will begin installing the 2nd Avenue Protected Bike Lane Demonstration Project on Friday at 8 p.m. The grand opening for the protected bike lane will be on Monday, September 8.


UPDATE: Here are daily Broadway bikeway trips as measured by a counter near E Union from January to May (when the full bikeway opened) to August:

Here is the monthly roll-up:

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13 thoughts on “Broadway bikeway — now serving 600+ trips a day — will help shape a safer 2nd Ave

  1. The box truck driver who turned across the 2nd Ave bike lane and killed a bicyclist goofed up. The correct method would be to do a lane change into the bike lane (by the process I learned in driver’s education of looking in the mirror, turning on the signal, head check, and then change lanes slowly.). Once the box truck driver was in the bike lane, then he could have made a safe left turn without having to look for bicycles (but he would still have to look for pedestrians in the cross walk.

    • I really doubt that most motorists know they can enter a bike lane at any point. I certainly don’t. It doesn’t sound like the method you describe is very safe. A truck would be just as likely to collide with a cyclist that way as when they take a left turn.

      Also, I’m just curious… is it that the 2nd Avenue bikeway will be installed over a weekend? The one on Broadway took months.

      • they spent a previous weekend marking it out in white spray paint. 2nd Ave will be more low cost and temporary, Broadway is much more permanent with poured curbs, planters and new pavement as part of the streetcar project.

      • The method described above is counterintuitive, and Washington state law is a bit ambiguous about it – but it is definitely the safest method.

        Merging into the bike lane forces drivers to acknowledge it as a lane, and go through the process of lane changing, which includes an explicit check of the contents of that lane.

        Compare that to just turning, the normal process is just to check cross traffic and pedestrians, and sometimes opposing traffic. Turning across a through lane going the same direction as you? It almost never happens, and drivers aren’t trained to make the appropriate checks. And face it, most people drive based on ingrained habits – accidents like this happen when the habits don’t cover the issue.

        So yes, merge-before-turn is much safer for cyclists.

        WA state law, btw, says drivers must merge into the closest lane before making a turn. The bike lane in this case would definitely be the closest lane — but state law also prohibits driving in a bike lane. So there’s two possible interpretations: one, that the ‘merge’ law trumps the ‘no cars in bike lanes’ law, or two, that the ‘no cars in bike lanes’ law trumps the ‘merge’ law. So there’s definitely some ambivalence.

        I believe WA Bikes is lobbying to have that clarified to explicitly require the merge in advance. I hope they succeed quickly; lives will be saved.

        As for broadway vs. 2nd ave, broadway was a huge project involving a lot more than just a bike track (trolley, wires, lights, physical separators, etc), where 2nd requires much less extensive changes… Though I’m surprised as well, since the latest I’ve heard is that there will be bike-specific lights as well — Are they actually going to be able to get the lights in this weekend?? Or are the lights going to be added later?

      • I don’t agree that the “merging into the bike lane” method is safer. The “blind spot”…..which is especially the case with trucks…will inevitably cause collisions. The merging approach would require a driver to be extremely careful and attentive, and most drivers are not. It also would take several checks during the merge to see if there was a cyclist there, and this would take the driver’s eyes off the road ahead and thereby be more likely to cause other kinds of collisions (with a pedestrian or another vehicle).

        A much safer way is to have separate lights for the vehicles and the cyclists, so that there would be no way a left-turning vehicle could hit a cyclist…..and this is what is planned on 2nd Avenue, I believe.

      • To clarify, merge turn is proven safer than what generally exists now; places like Oregon have tried it and found that it works. Blind spots are a problem either way, but drivers have deviled habits to deal with them when merging; they just absolutely are not accustomed to checking them when making a turn. Separate lights is with bike specific timing is another step better, but I think it unrealistic to expect bike lights at every intersection, so the best solution is to codify merge turn at all intersections, then put in bike lights everywhere possible (and clarify no merge at those by maintaining lane division all the way up to the intersection).

  2. What WA State needs is an aggressive bikers and drivers education course for everyone that is mandatory. If bikes are the future we need to educate both bikers and drivers on the “do’s and don’ts” of bike and vehicle safety.

    I’ve seen far too many near misses and it will only get worse as our streets become more crowded. Recently one of my friends was complaining about being ticketed for being in a bike box with his car, not he was supposed to be stopped outside the box at a red light.

    There is a lot of miss information and ignorance out there. Personally, I’d like to learn more so I can share the road as safely as possible.

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  4. The obvious flaw in “merge left to turn left” is that longer trucks often merge _right_ before turning left to be able to make the turn. It would be very difficult for them to turn left if they were up against the left curb in the bike lane.

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