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  1. #1
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    Seattle Times publishes list of bicycling danger zones in Seattle

    This article deserves to be memorialized for future reference.




    Bike to work with care: Key danger zones

    By Mike Lindblom
    Seattle Times transportation reporter
    In striving to be green, the Seattle area is faced with a safety dilemma.

    As politicians call for more densely populated communities, trying to reduce sprawl and carbon pollution, residents are encouraged to bicycle on urban streets that seem more crowded every year.

    This is National Bike to Work Day, a day that attracted 19,000 people in the Seattle area last year to the ideal of cycling more and driving less. Many of them are inexperienced riders.

    So what is a ridable route? It depends on who's riding.

    Bike ideology crosses a spectrum from confident cyclists who "claim the lane" in traffic, to the advice Seattle transport leaders heard a few years ago from Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia: "A bicycle lane that cannot be used by an 8-year-old is not a bike lane; you need a bikeway that's protected."

    The city of Seattle, which gradually is adding a mix of trails, signs and painted bike lanes, retained its "gold" ranking this week from the League of American Bicyclists. Washington kept its No. 1 state ranking, based on criteria such as policies and programs and bike-friendly trails and roads.

    Still, safety is an issue here. Five Seattle bicyclists died and more than 100 were seriously hurt from 2006-2008, city data show. At least four more died in Seattle last year, according to news reports. An elderly woman died last month after she was hit by a cyclist on a trail in Renton. And just Thursday, an accident left a bicyclist on Admiral Way in West Seattle pinned under a car.

    Riders or drivers get careless, official bike routes can sometimes be treacherous and off-street trails don't exist in most areas.

    We talked with avid cyclists and advocates to create this list (in no particular order) of places that are risky or too hostile for safe biking. Governments are aware of them, and in some cases are working on solutions.

    Ballard Bridge's south end

    A curb divides 40 mph vehicles from cyclists and pedestrians on the bridge, and the greatest test of will comes a few yards from the bridge's south end, where a cut in the curb channels riders directly onto 15th Avenue West. You have to "look for a big opening, where you're going to jump out," says cyclist Chris Phillips.

    Sightline Institute founder Alan Durning highlighted this spot in April 2007 for his essay series "Bike Neglect." The city has since added warning signs. "It gives us a false sense of security, thinking we can go out there and the cars are going to stop," said rider Jo Simonian.

    Solution: The city is spending $50,000 to study whether it can add width to bike lanes on the bridge, and improve safety at both ends.

    Ruts on Jackson Street

    The slope along the Chinatown International District is a rare central-city route that's neither a freeway entrance nor ridiculously steep. But potholes can send you flying. Cyclists and drivers have a common interest here.

    Solution: The concrete surface will be replaced in 2011-12 for the First Hill streetcar. Until then, the city will keep patching potholes, said Sam Woods, a Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) manager who oversees bike projects. Often, she'll bike on King Street instead.

    University Bridge's north end

    Barbara Culp, executive director of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, fears this place since seeing a woman thrown by cracks in Roosevelt Way Northeast earlier this year. Just to the south, two lanes of car traffic combine and merge left onto the bridge, while cyclists weave to the right to the bridge's bike trail.

    Solution: The city is studying some ideas, including possibly narrowing the car-merging lane, said Woods.

    Second Avenue

    The city refused to scrap this lane to make way for a proposed monorail. Near University Street, nine bicyclists were hit in 2006-08 €” six by left-turning cars. The bike lane is positioned on the left side of the one-way southbound street.

    Solution: SDOT has changed road markings and removed a parking space to improve sight lines.

    North Linden Street

    Shoreline's side of the Interurban Trail ends at a parklike, wood shelter €” then spills into chaos at the Seattle city limits. North Linden Street from North 145th to 128th streets fills with cars from countless apartment driveways and spillover traffic from Aurora Avenue. It also runs past Bitter Lake Community Center, where safer cycling would benefit young people.

    Solution: The city is studying ideas that include a separate bike lane to the west of parked cars, said Woods. Two miles south, bike-activated traffic signals are coming to Linden soon in the Greenwood area.

    "Missing link" of Ballard

    Seattle in 2008 finished the Puget Sound end of the Burke-Gilman Trail at Golden Gardens, a jewel for ex-SDOT director Grace Crunican. But for a mile in central Ballard, riders spill and swerve. Shilshole Avenue Northwest includes rails, dirt shoulders where industrial workers park cars and tankers making deliveries.

    Solution: Industries and the city agreed on most of the $14 million corridor, just east of the Ballard Locks. But a judge ordered more environmental study, rather than let the city "piecemeal" the bitterly disputed project €” which industrial advocates call a threat to Seattle's working waterfront.

    Six more months of study are needed before construction can start on most of the missing link, says SDOT spokesman Rick Sheridan. Even then, riders will be guided off industrial Shilshole Avenue and onto Ballard Avenue Northwest for six blocks as an "interim" segment until a final plan is made for those worst six blocks. Taking the calmer, tree-lined Ballard Avenue is already good advice but requires using arterials that can be dangerous for novice riders.

    Sodo bike trail to nowhere

    The north-south bike trail along Sound Transit's new light-rail line provides an oasis in Sodo, where the scent of baked bread is carried by the south wind.

    All of a sudden, the trail stops behind Franz Bakery, at three train tracks. Riders can shift to Airport Way South. Trail user Bryan McLellan, of Georgetown, says the trail works great for getting bikes off bumpy, truck-filled Sixth Avenue South, but "Airport Way is just a highway. At least once a day, I would have someone pull out and yell at me."

    Solution: The city holds out little hope to complete this trail, due to multiple land owners, including railroads. The cost of land means other trail investments could be a better use for city bike funds, said Woods. SDOT is thinking about improving Sixth.

    Burke-Gilman Trail at 25th Avenue Northeast

    On a warm day, more than 2,000 people bike or walk the trail. Local drivers generally look for bikes, but it's easy to be distracted by businesses, junctions and signs. Quick bicyclists and joggers routinely try to beat the flashing crosswalk light, just as a driver has finally been able to make a left or right turn.

    Aurora Burd, a bike-commuting graduate student, said it's a fairly good corner, but "if a car is trying to squeak through at the last minute, it's a bad condition."

    Solution: The city this winter banned right turns on red, and put up signs telling drivers to yield to walkers and cyclists €” "a pretty good help," said Woods.

    Bellevue gap in Highway 520 trail

    Bikes have their own path and bridges alongside the highway, but that trail heading west suddenly ends at Northeast 24th Street, dumping cyclists near four-lane Northup Way. "There's no good option there," says Rebecca Slivka, founder of bikewatchdog.org.

    Solution: A current repaving project will add bike lanes to a four-block stretch of Northup. Bellevue is studying other interim routes in the area until a nearby I-405 interchange is redone, which "will take a number of years," said Rick Logwood, Bellevue capital-projects manager. Next year, the city will begin building bike lanes linking this gap to downtown.

    Marysville to Everett

    Four bridges on Highway 529 were built in the early to mid-20th century. They lack shoulders, and riders heading south into Everett must cross 60 mph highway traffic to use a walkway on the left side.

    Solution: The swing bridge at Marysville will be replaced with a wider one, which fixes the shortest of the four crossings. No relief is in sight for the others.
    Regards, MillCreek
    Snohomish County, Washington USA

  2. #2
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MillCreek View Post
    Ballard Bridge's south end

    A curb divides 40 mph vehicles from cyclists and pedestrians on the bridge, and the greatest test of will comes a few yards from the bridge's south end, where a cut in the curb channels riders directly onto 15th Avenue West. You have to "look for a big opening, where you're going to jump out," says cyclist Chris Phillips.
    I was riding south on the Ballard Bridge on Tuesday. I took the side walkway to avoid traffic, because cars here are fast, and more aggressive than on most streets. This is true on most bridges ( and other bottlenecks ), but the sidewalk is really too narrow for bikes. I usually take the Fremont bridge and either the Burke or Ship Canal trail, but on Tues it was the bridge. At the south end, I came up on the "yield to bikes" signs at the intersection described here, and saw a group of cyclists waiting for a break in traffic because it would be unthinkable for a car to actually obey the law here. But a gap opened up, and we all got home.

    Quote Originally Posted by MillCreek View Post
    University Bridge's north end

    Barbara Culp, executive director of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, fears this place since seeing a woman thrown by cracks in Roosevelt Way Northeast earlier this year. Just to the south, two lanes of car traffic combine and merge left onto the bridge, while cyclists weave to the right to the bridge's bike trail.

    Solution: The city is studying some ideas, including possibly narrowing the car-merging lane, said Woods.
    Narrowing the merge lane would be a great help. Cars want to squeeze by bikes on this approach to the bridge, which forces us to the right; if you're coming from the north, this squeezes us into another lane of cars trying aggressively to merge. I ride through here most days ( I live almost a mile south of the University Bridge ), and would love to see this improved.

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    Okay, Seattle has 4 times the population of Eugene OR. and a lot more cycling per capita, but you have the same number of cyclist deaths per year. I'm just guessing here, but do you folks actually get a bit of traffic enforcement? In Eugene, it is against city policy for cops to write traffic tickets. I suppose it could be the generally higher education level in Seattle relative to Eugene or maybe riders in Seattle are just more adept at winning the dodge-car "game" than we are. Mind you, an average of two cyclist deaths per year is two too many, but it looks like your area has moved beyond the "aren't we so green, some of us cycle" stage of coverage and are getting something done. Good on all of you. I'm jealous, happy for you and impatient for results all at the same time.

  4. #4
    Climbing and Biking octopuswithafez's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
    Okay, Seattle has 4 times the population of Eugene OR. and a lot more cycling per capita, but you have the same number of cyclist deaths per year. I'm just guessing here, but do you folks actually get a bit of traffic enforcement? In Eugene, it is against city policy for cops to write traffic tickets. I suppose it could be the generally higher education level in Seattle relative to Eugene or maybe riders in Seattle are just more adept at winning the dodge-car "game" than we are. Mind you, an average of two cyclist deaths per year is two too many, but it looks like your area has moved beyond the "aren't we so green, some of us cycle" stage of coverage and are getting something done. Good on all of you. I'm jealous, happy for you and impatient for results all at the same time.
    I suspect our density also lends itself to lower overall car speeds , especially in the downtown core and other neighborhood cores ( e.g. Ballard ) so that the overall exposure to high speeds is lower per captia , but that's just a guess...

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    My daily commute takes me through two of these locations - the missing link of the BGT in Ballard and the gap in the 520 trail. I feel like the missing link has gotten so much press recently that people are hyper aware of cyclists, and i generally feel pretty comfortable. Although it is still pretty inexcusable for a major trail such as the BGT, that allows a safe, useful path for such a long distance, to basically just terminate at Fred Meyer.

    But the stretch that i take on Northup is sketchy as all get out. As the article notes, heading west the 520 trail just stops on 24th, but at least there is a bike lane on 24th until you run into Northup. Northup has little to no shoulder, and cars in this area are really focused on getting to or from work. Easily the most stressful part of my ride. It also has a fairly steep grade, downhill headed west, so i can almost get up to car speed. Maybe 1 in 4 cars is very respectful and keeps a safe distance back, and I am very grateful to these drivers. The others speed around me only for me to go right past them when they sit in the very long queue at the bottom of the hill as they try to get onto the parking lot otherwise known as 520.

  6. #6
    Senior Member BengeBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by drew3 View Post
    But the stretch that i take on Northup is sketchy as all get out. As the article notes, heading west the 520 trail just stops on 24th, but at least there is a bike lane on 24th until you run into Northup. Northup has little to no shoulder, and cars in this area are really focused on getting to or from work. Easily the most stressful part of my ride. It also has a fairly steep grade, downhill headed west, so i can almost get up to car speed. Maybe 1 in 4 cars is very respectful and keeps a safe distance back, and I am very grateful to these drivers. The others speed around me only for me to go right past them when they sit in the very long queue at the bottom of the hill as they try to get onto the parking lot otherwise known as 520.
    I agree, that's a mess.

    I think that's generally true w/cycling in Bellevue -- the bike-friendly lanes and zones stop and start with no real warning. You can be riding along on an OK street and then get dumped into a horror show. "Suburban drivers in a hurry on a 4 lane road" is always asking for trouble. I just picked up another copy of the Bellevue city bicycle map the other day -- if you study it closely you can see how many gaps there are around Bellevue. In addition to color coding the streets, they should put little skulls and crossbones on some of the places you should avoid...

  7. #7
    Senior Member Tom Pedale's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BengeBoy View Post
    I agree, that's a mess.

    I think that's generally true w/cycling in Bellevue -- the bike-friendly lanes and zones stop and start with no real warning. You can be riding along on an OK street and then get dumped into a horror show. "Suburban drivers in a hurry on a 4 lane road" is always asking for trouble. I just picked up another copy of the Bellevue city bicycle map the other day -- if you study it closely you can see how many gaps there are around Bellevue. In addition to color coding the streets, they should put little skulls and crossbones on some of the places you should avoid...
    Bellevue's street layout and driver behavior reminds me of LA..a city not conducive to walking or cycling. Chi-chi cars generally still rule the day. There are plans to improve this..but it looks like a 10 year window before it will have an impact.
    "Learn how to handle hot things. Keep your knives sharp. And above all, have a good time" - Julia Child

  8. #8
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    Thats interesting, the Bellevue core is beginning to feel like downtown beverly hills with a lot more new jersey housewife thrown in. traffics not nearly as bad as in LA IMO. but riding the roads of greater Bellevue is an exercise in stalwart determination. Nothing like riding into downtown bellevue on Bel-Red road or taking Bellevue Way at rush hour in the rain to keep you on your toes, and those seems not too bad compared to some of the routes over there.

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    Squeaky Wheel woodway's Avatar
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    I ride the "Bellevue Gap" in the 520 trail to the south side of downtown Bellevue to/from work almost every day. Not sure what the big deal is? I rarely have any trouble with drivers not giving room or being respectful. Wish they would fix the pavement on 116th and 110th though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by woodway View Post
    I ride the "Bellevue Gap" in the 520 trail to the south side of downtown Bellevue to/from work almost every day. Not sure what the big deal is? I rarely have any trouble with drivers not giving room or being respectful. Wish they would fix the pavement on 116th and 110th though.
    the only part for me that is worrisome is the 1-1.5 mile stretch on Northup, and that's mostly due to the lack of shoulder. but i've managed fine so far, just not something i look forward to. i could also see how it could easily discourage someone that's new to riding. i'm probably just spoiled with the BGT on the seattle side, which basically takes me from my place in ballard to the montlake bus stop almost worry free. so maybe i should just look at Northup as adding a little adventure to my day...

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    Having ridden in the Seattle metro area since the '70s, I find it interesting that there has never been any evidence that city planners in downtown Bellevue have thought about cyclists at all. This is particularly glaring in that arterials and residential roads surrounding its core are well set up for riding. This has gone on so long I suspect that the "powers that be" in downtown Bellevue are passively, if not actively, anti-cyclist. There's really no reason why it should be such a cycling wasteland.

    My commute often takes me right through downtown Bellevue, and the only comfortable way to transit the beast is on Main Street. Even there, the westbound stretch between 112th and 106th is dangerous for a slow climbing cyclist and I take the sidewalk- which I do nowhere else.
    Last edited by rnorris; 06-01-10 at 01:28 PM.

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    Squeaky Wheel woodway's Avatar
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    Why ride Main? Just move over a block and ride NE 2nd. Much less traffic to deal with.

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    I had the "pleasure" of riding through Bellevue in the heavy rain on my way back from Marymoor a few weeks ago during my Seattle trip. It was pretty rough from the end of the 520 trail, along Northrup and then south on Bellevue Way. I used to ride through it a different way before the 520 trail, which was new to me, but I can't remember the details. Northrup wasn't so bad, but Bellevue was horrible. Once I veered off onto 104th(???) I was relieved, but still wet.

    It was never a good place to ride and I always used to avoid it. I thought maybe it would improve over the years, but it hasn't. The 4 lane roads with no shoulder are just plain dangerous for bikes.

    I just checked the map and I'm surprised there isn't at least one way through from 520 to I 90 on a less heavy street. And I think I used to ride Bel-Red road based on the map, or sometimes I would ride along Lk Sammammish and then ride some back roads back to the I90 bridge. Maybe next time I'm in Seattle I'll try that, but I won't hold my breath. It was 1987 that I last rode a bike in the PNW.
    Last edited by zacster; 06-01-10 at 07:30 PM.

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    The lame thing about that Northup stretch is that there is enough real estate to make paved bike lanes from the WSDOT/Bellevue Rentals to almost 116 Ave NE. The next time any substantial paving is done they should address the situation.

    When I ride up that hill, I just ride the fogline, but there are always inept motorists who can't judge the width of their own car and the road lane width and stay behind me, holding up traffic.

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    Squeaky Wheel woodway's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zacster View Post
    I just checked the map and I'm surprised there isn't at least one way through from 520 to I 90 on a less heavy street. And I think I used to ride Bel-Red road based on the map, or sometimes I would ride along Lk Sammammish and then ride some back roads back to the I90 bridge. Maybe next time I'm in Seattle I'll try that, but I won't hold my breath. It was 1987 that I last rode a bike in the PNW.
    From the 520 trail:
    - Left on 24th, down the hill
    - Right on Northup
    - Left of 116th
    - Once past SE 1st, look for a path on the right that will take you down to SE 8th
    - Left on 118th and down to I-90

    That short stretch of Northup can get busy, but I have never had a problem just signalling and taking the lane to get into the left turn lane to turn onto 116th. You can use the pedestrian crossing/light if you are not comfortable manuvering in traffic.

    116th is plenty wide and I rarely have trouble with cars not giving enough room. The worst part is the broken pavement that needs to be replaced.

    Bellevue Way is about the last road I would consider going north/south in Bellevue.

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    If I had a map, and if it weren't pouring down rain, I'd have looked for a better way. I was relying on my sense of direction in a place I hadn't been in 23 years.

    Bellevue Way is pretty bad. I'd rather ride down 2nd Avenue in Manhattan in rush hour, which is exactly what I do every day that I commute by bike. It sounds crazy, but there's plenty of room to ride. Most Manhattan streets have lots of room.

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