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  1. #1
    Senior Member jputnam's Avatar
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    10 mph design speed for Westlake cycletrack in Seattle

    "Bicycle-friendly" Seattle has reportedly established a 10 mph design speed for its latest "protected bike lane" project, a sidepath along Westlake Avenue, a busy freight and commuter route.

    That means sight lines, stopping distances, and corners will be designed to be safe at 10 mph. That's lower than the design speeds allowed in *any* of the city's adopted design standards for bicycle facilities. According to AASHTO, ordinary non-cyclist adults ride 15 mph on level ground. AASHTO calls for an 18 mph design speed, CROW calls for 18.5 mph, WSDOT would call for a design speed of 20 mph for an urban sidepath.

    While marketing the facility as a "protected bike lane," the city appears to be planning a sidepath as narrow and unsuited to cycling as most sidewalks. And they're bragging about how bicycle-friendly they're being in the process.

    It was just a couple of months ago the City Council passed a resolution mandating that the city's new bicycle facilities would meet state and national design standards. Guess SDOT doesn't have much respect for the City Council's authority on transportation safety standards....

    I'm not some militant anti-facilities VC fundamentalist, half my commute is on properly-executed separated paths that have good sight lines and competent intersection designs. But 10 mph design speed isn't suitable for casual adults on cruiser bikes, let alone commuters.
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    I think this is the result of the rise of the Copenhagenistas and their militant view that bikes are a replacement for walking, not driving. Other consequences of this attitude is the abandonment of intercity and intercounty routes. Why improve something for distances that are not walking distances?

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    Quote Originally Posted by jputnam View Post
    "Bicycle-friendly" Seattle has reportedly established a 10 mph design speed for its latest "protected bike lane".....

    I'm not some militant anti-facilities VC fundamentalist, half my commute is on properly-executed separated paths that have good sight lines and competent intersection designs. But 10 mph design speed isn't suitable for casual adults on cruiser bikes, let alone commuters.
    I agree that the design speed is very low, but it might be appropriate, depending on the intended purpose of the path. While most experienced riders ride faster than that, I believe that the realistic average is nearer 12-13 mph than some of the figures you stated.

    If this is intended as a transit path, I agree that the speed is too low, and experienced riders will shun it. OTOH if this is a recreational path designed for casual riders and families taking their children out for a day in the sun (you do get sun there once in a while, don't you?), then getting faster riders to shun it might be part of the design goal.

    We have several park cycle paths here (Westchester Cty, NY) and while they're rideable for the most part a good speeds, they have curves that can't be taken at much over 10mph (if that) and it works because they're too full of children to be ridden fast safely. So while it's not a speedway the path here is still interesting riding off peak.
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    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jputnam View Post
    "Bicycle-friendly" Seattle has reportedly established a 10 mph design speed for its latest "protected bike lane" project, a sidepath along Westlake Avenue, a busy freight and commuter route.
    But 10 mph design speed isn't suitable for casual adults on cruiser bikes, let alone commuters.
    Exactly what militant pro-facilities at any cost fundamentalist leads to.
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    Senior Member jputnam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    I agree that the design speed is very low, but it might be appropriate, depending on the intended purpose of the path. While most experienced riders ride faster than that, I believe that the realistic average is nearer 12-13 mph than some of the figures you stated.
    Safety standards aren't usually designed around the average speed, but the 85th percentile -- designing a facility for the average makes it unsuitable for half the intended users. Designing for the 85th percentile leaves it unsafe for only 15% of users.

    Where you need to encourage slower speeds because of other constraints, you should do that with safe traffic calming designs, not simply making it dangerous for users to go their usual speed.

    That's especially true when you're dealing with vulnerable user groups like children or the elderly. You want fast riders to slow down, but you also want them to have excellent sight lines to see children ahead of them on the path. King County, which surrounds Seattle, insists on maintaining 20 mph sight lines and stopping distances even when the posted speed limit is 10 mph, because they recognize those faster riders won't all slow down, and shortening sight lines just increases risk for vulnerable users.
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    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    And speaking to the fact the bike lane is nothing more than a sidewalk, Hawaii has a bicycle speed limit ON SIDEWALKS of 10 mph, as does other locations.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jputnam View Post
    Safety standards aren't usually designed around the average speed, but the 85th percentile -- designing a facility for the average makes it unsuitable for half the intended users. Designing for the 85th percentile leaves it unsafe for only 15% of users..
    I don't disagree, but I don't have a problem with recreational paths designed around lower speeds. Often there are physical constraints which make faster design speeds difficult or impossible, so you can have a slow path or no path. As far as I'm concerned, I'd rather have a low design speed, than speed bumps or other ways of slowing riders down.

    OF course the above applies ONLY to recreational paths (family playgrounds) not paths intended for travel.

    Case in point. Here in Westchester they close a parkway for cycling on Spring and Fall Sundays. This is a 4 lane car roadway with a design speed of 45mph. Unfortunately far too many serious riders feel it's the perfect speedway, and despite good sight lines and good pavement width, serious collisions occur as these riders come upon children and/or slower riders who can't hold a line. The simple fact is that if you build it to make higher speeds possible, people will ride at those and above, and sightlines or no, will crash.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member jputnam's Avatar
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    As for the purpose of the facility, it's a relatively busy commuting route, 200+ bikes per hour at rush hour, currently split between riding on the sidewalk and riding through a long industrial parking lot. (Traffic survey didn't count cyclists riding in the street, the facility is specifically aimed at the users who aren't comfortable riding a 4-lane freight route.)
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    Quote Originally Posted by jputnam View Post
    As for the purpose of the facility, it's a relatively busy commuting route, 200+ bikes per hour at rush hour, currently split between riding on the sidewalk and riding through a long industrial parking lot. (Traffic survey didn't count cyclists riding in the street, the facility is specifically aimed at the users who aren't comfortable riding a 4-lane freight route.)
    Since my comments were about recreational paths only, maybe you need to speak to the decision makers involved and ask what they're thinking.

    For my part, I shun bike paths (unless they're unusually scenic or interesting), and would probably opt for a parallel route entirely. I find the mix of speeds on many paths to be far more of a problem than the mix of speeds on roads.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    Since my comments were about recreational paths only, maybe you need to speak to the decision makers involved and ask what they're thinking.

    For my part, I shun bike paths (unless they're unusually scenic or interesting), and would probably opt for a parallel route entirely. I find the mix of speeds on many paths to be far more of a problem than the mix of speeds on roads.
    Nobody has been discussing the problems that the path designers face, although there is a .pdf file on it. Westlake Ave runs along the east side of Lake Union, apparently with many businesses between it and the water. It has four lanes for motor traffic, with much parking to its east, that serves the businesses adjacent to the water. The .pdf file shows two options. On has the protected bike lane running just east of the motor traffic, so that all the parking traffic has to cross it. The other has the protected bike lane running adjacent to the businesses, so that all the pedestrian traffic from the parking lot has to cross it. Which do you want, crossing motor traffic at frequent intervals, or crossing pedestrian traffic all along the way?

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    I am very familiar with Westlake, its a unique situation, I can't see how it can be done to normal bike path standards. The 10 mph limitation doesn't seem out of line for the high concentration of cars, bikes, and pedestrians in an area that's also a main arterial and truck route, and lined with businesses and marinas.

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    Senior Member jputnam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kickstart View Post
    I am very familiar with Westlake, its a unique situation, I can't see how it can be done to normal bike path standards.
    Then someone should get the City Council to repeal the requirement that it meet standards. If it really can't be done, they won't have any trouble admitting they're expressly accepting a substandard facility.

    Simply ignoring the legal mandate to meet standards isn't a safe precedent to set.
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    Following Forester's post I looked at the satellite photos of the area. It seems that the path runs through or along a series of parking lots that cyclists have probably been cutting through all alone. Cyclists here do something similar, jumping off busy roads an hopping from on strip mall parking lot to the next. In some places they can do this for miles on end.

    So creation of the lane won't change much, and given what it runs through, I don't think it can assure any safety if ridden at speed.

    BTW- routes like this are a very good argument against "must use" laws. Hopefully Seattle doesn't have them
    Last edited by FBinNY; 05-24-14 at 10:40 PM.
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    Senior Member jputnam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Forester View Post
    Nobody has been discussing the problems that the path designers face, although there is a .pdf file on it. Westlake Ave runs along the east side of Lake Union, apparently with many businesses between it and the water. It has four lanes for motor traffic, with much parking to its east, that serves the businesses adjacent to the water. The .pdf file shows two options. On has the protected bike lane running just east of the motor traffic, so that all the parking traffic has to cross it. The other has the protected bike lane running adjacent to the businesses, so that all the pedestrian traffic from the parking lot has to cross it. Which do you want, crossing motor traffic at frequent intervals, or crossing pedestrian traffic all along the way?
    Personally, I'd prefer neither. It would take a little more room, and cost a bit more, but the city could channel pedestrian crossings with railings, just like it does along streetcar platforms and waterfront seawalls, so that there would be fewer, well-defined pedestrian crossings.

    Though I have to say, I'm not going to be using the facility either way. I'm more concerned with the SDOT's decision to defy the City Council's clear, binding requirement that bicycle facilities comply with safety standards. I've seen far too many substandard Seattle bike projects to believe the "something is better than nothing" trope. Either build it to meet minimum standards or find a route that can meet standards.
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    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kickstart View Post
    I am very familiar with Westlake, its a unique situation, I can't see how it can be done to normal bike path standards. The 10 mph limitation doesn't seem out of line for the high concentration of cars, bikes, and pedestrians in an area that's also a main arterial and truck route, and lined with businesses and marinas.
    Sounds like the roadway should have a 10 mph speed limit as well then.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post

    So creation of the lane won't change much, and given what it runs through, I don't think it can assure any safety if ridden at speed.

    BTW- routes like this are a very good argument against "must use" laws. Hopefully Seattle doesn't have them
    No, it won't change much, mostly it will better define the route. No way to make it safe for riding at speed, everybody needs to compromise some because its so congested by all user groups.

    No "must use" laws, but there are a few places cyclists must use alternative routes or segregated lanes for short distances, and are excluded from a few urban freeways, bridges and tunnels. Seattle Metro and Microsoft buses shuttle cyclists across the 520 bridge for free.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CB HI View Post
    Sounds like the roadway should have a 10 mph speed limit as well then.
    Problem is its the primary arterial and truck route connecting I-5 to North Seattle, West Seattle, and Ballards light industry, sea and fishing ports. That's just not practical.

    The Westlake Path is mostly for recreational use, the majority of cyclists use Dexter Ave a couple blocks west which has excellent bike lanes and far less traffic.

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    Senior Member jputnam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kickstart View Post
    The Westlake Path is mostly for recreational use, the majority of cyclists use Dexter Ave a couple blocks west which has excellent bike lanes and far less traffic.
    The majority of current Westlake bicycle traffic is at rush hour on week days. Odd recreational schedule in that part of town?

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    All I can say is I'd see far more cyclists on Dexter than Westlake during the day when that was my route.

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    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kickstart View Post
    Problem is its the primary arterial and truck route connecting I-5 to North Seattle, West Seattle, and Ballards light industry, sea and fishing ports. That's just not practical.
    Which means it is not practical putting in a crap 10 mph bike lane in. It is clear the only purpose is to force cyclists off the road and is not for cyclists benefit.

    Quote Originally Posted by kickstart View Post
    The Westlake Path is mostly for recreational use, the majority of cyclists use Dexter Ave a couple blocks west which has excellent bike lanes and far less traffic.
    This makes no sense with your prior claims. You put a recreational use bike lane on what you say is an extremely busy street, while claiming every one rides a much nicer route. Seems like more of the same double talk.
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    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kickstart View Post
    All I can say is I'd see far more cyclists on Dexter than Westlake during the day when that was my route.
    Once again, it sounds like you are talking about your truck delivery route rather than a cycle commute route that you were riding.
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    Senior Member daihard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kickstart View Post
    All I can say is I'd see far more cyclists on Dexter than Westlake during the day when that was my route.
    Two issues with the Dexter bike lanes. First, it doesn't take you everywhere Westlake does (and visa versa). Second, the hill on the north side isn't trivial. I'd venture to say that an average cyclist would take Westlake instead of Dexter if they can take either route to reach their destination and both are equally safe. I would.

    No way should the proposed Westlake bike track be designed as a recreational bike path. Sure, one could enjoy a scenic ride on Lake Union, but the primary use of the bike track will definitely be commuting. I'm not a fast cyclist by any standard, but I can easily average 15 MPH on Westlake. Ten MPH would be more appropriate for MUPs, if you ask me.
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    Quote Originally Posted by CB HI View Post
    Once again, it sounds like you are talking about your truck delivery route rather than a cycle commute route that you were riding.
    Why would what vehicle I'm operating change how many cyclists I'd see on a particular road?

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    Quote Originally Posted by daihard View Post
    Two issues with the Dexter bike lanes. First, it doesn't take you everywhere Westlake does (and visa versa). Second, the hill on the north side isn't trivial. I'd venture to say that an average cyclist would take Westlake instead of Dexter if they can take either route to reach their destination and both are equally safe. I would.

    No way should the proposed Westlake bike track be designed as a recreational bike path. Sure, one could enjoy a scenic ride on Lake Union, but the primary use of the bike track will definitely be commuting. I'm not a fast cyclist by any standard, but I can easily average 15 MPH on Westlake. Ten MPH would be more appropriate for MUPs, if you ask me.

    I would rather ride Westlake too if there were a decent bike path and I was just going through the area, but Dexter and west is the residential area where most of the local folks are.

    I wish my commute was as flat as Dexter or as bike friendly as either.

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    Senior Member daihard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kickstart View Post
    I would rather ride Westlake too if there were a decent bike path and I was just going through the area, but Dexter and west is the residential area where most of the local folks are.
    The SDOT have a chance of creating such a decent bike path on Westlake now. They are about to blow it, and that's the issue we are discussing here... right? I'm not sure how Dexter being a residential area is relevant to this topic. If the bike tracker on Fremont Bridge is any indication, almost all cyclists that ride on Dexter and Westlake are commuters that go through the area. They don't live there.

    I wish my commute was as flat as Dexter or as bike friendly as either.
    My own commute route is more hilly and less bike-friendly than Dexter, so there I agree with you, but as bike-friendly as Westlake? Where do you commute by bike?
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