Dexter Ave PBL
The Dexter Avenue protected bike lane today; no posts separate it from parking.

The protected bike lane built by the City of Seattle on Dexter Ave in South Lake Union (located between Republican Street and Denny Way) has created a challenging situation for parking despite the best of intentions. The parking lane is now further away from the curb while the bike lane is immediately next to the curb. The opposite is true on many other Seattle streets where parking is next to the curb and bike lanes are sandwiched between parked cars and traffic lanes.

When installing the Dexter Ave bike lane, the City did not place plastic posts between the bike lane and the parking lane. This makes it very unclear as to where the bike lane is, which has led to some clashes between cyclists and drivers. It has also led to unnecessary delay for bicyclists (I personally stopped and told four drivers that they were parked in the bike lane on Sunday afternoon).

7th Ave
7th Ave protected bike lane (First Hill) with plastic posts.

Even though the City has installed signs telling drivers where to park, the signs are quite small. Add to the fact that the bike lane is essentially the same width of the parking lane and has small bike lane markings (see photo above), it naturally makes it hard to discern from any other parking lane. Drivers shouldn’t always be blamed for their mistakes due to this unclear signage and redesign of the right-of-way. The Seattle Police Department has said that they will insist more on enforcing the rules of the road, but most people in this case do not actually think that they are doing something wrong. Fixing the design of the bike lane and street will help to ensure that most people park in the correct place.

Separating the bike lane from the parking lane with plastic posts (sometimes referred to as “bollards”) will make it clear that people driving are not supposed to cross it and park in the bike lane. This system doesn’t always work out — some people still manage to park in the bike lane on 2nd Ave and Broadway — but putting up plastic posts will keep 99% of parking offenders where they should be, thus making the bike lanes actually protected. It should also be mentioned that the Dexter Ave bike lane is intended to be protected by parked cars, but since the road has such a low parking utilization rate, the lane isn’t adequately protected most of the time. Adding posts would solve this problem as well.

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Guy is a high school student in Bellevue with a strong desire to become an urban planner. Before moving to Bellevue, he grew up in the Paris metropolitan area where he fell in love with and learned from some of the best rail systems in Europe. Translating his experiences from abroad to Seattle, Guy is now passionate about improving this region's public transit (especially marine-based transportation) and cycling infrastructure. Aside from the technical side of things, Guy also enjoys photography and music.

17 COMMENTS

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  2. The Absent Game

    Involving me and my husband we’ve owned extra MP3 players over the years than I can count, such as Sansas, iRivers, iPods (typical & touch), the Ibiza Rhapsody, etc. But, the last few decades I’ve settled down to one line of gamers.

  3. Traffic code says drivers must make a right turn from the right-hand lane, but that’s hard to do when the right lane is a bike lane protected by bollards. This setup invited T-bone collisions between turning vehicles and bikes. Not safe at all.

    • At every intersection there are clearly defined lines where the motor vehicles and bikes converge into one lane that is all the way to the curb for a turning motor vehicle. The bollards would be just stop where the mixing lane begins.

  4. “Even though the City has installed signs telling drivers where to park, the signs are quite small.”
    They’re the same size as every other parking sign in the city – all the “2 hour limit” signs, all the “no parking except by ZONE X permit” signs. All the metered parking signs. People see them fine. They just have zero incentive or disincentive to encourage them to actually follow what they signs say. So they do what they want.

  5. I’m sorry, but it is NOT “very unclear” where the bike lane is. The problem is simple – drivers are not paying attention or doing whatever they think they can get away with. It’s why people interpret “hands free” as “holding my phone below the level of my windows on speaker.” It’s why they drive 5 over the limit and don’t signal and fail to yield and don’t come to a stop, etc. They don’t pay attention because they feel they don’t have to. They just drive.

    There is LITERALLY A GIANT PICTURE OF A BIKE WITH AN ARROW and a stripe painted on the pavement. That’s not ambiguous and it’s not easy to miss it. Unless you just don’t care and there isn’t literally a barrier between a driver and whatever they want to do. if you can’t pilot your car through 2 lanes clearly marked on a street, you shouldn’t have a driver’s license.

    When a cyclist breaks a limit/sign/whatever we hear about how they’re all “scofflaws.” When a driver does it, it’s the sign’s fault. Unreal. AS A DRIVER, I’m sick to death of this “oh, gosh, maybe the sign is the problem.” No, it’s not. It’s yours, you’re doing whatever you think you’ll get away with, and there’s nothing wrong with the sign.

    • I agree that people driving are often careless or shed their responsibilities when they manage their vehicles. I rarely give people driving a pass for their poor behaviours. But, I think that Guy has a very good point here.

      Design of streets matter. Posting a sign that people aren’t looking for all the way at the edge of the right-of-way as opposed to immediately adjacent to where they’re supposed to park is problematic. If say, I assume that the street wasn’t redesigned or was just a bit wonky and random like so many other streets in Seattle, why would I bother to look for another sign beyond the standard parking sign? Heck. I may not even look for that! The street never changed, right?

      The markings and paint could be much better, the bollards placed in the street, and signposts actually on the street as opposed to the sidewalk. If we’re redesigning streets, we need to assume people are completely ignorant and account for that by making it stupidly clear. Ideally, there would be full separation or even grade differences, but that’s costly. Guy has inexpensive, quick fixes, and that’s the point.

      • The collective first reaction of people to bikers or pedestrians not following the law is to call them scofflaws. Our collective first reaction to drivers not following the law on the posted sign literally painted on the road in front of them should not be to say “it’s the sign’s fault.”

        Could it conceivably be MORE clear. Sure. I can’t think of a sign on the road that couldn’t be improved a LITTLE BIT. But that’s not going to fix anything. The problem is drivers in this city are entitled to their disobeying of everything from speed limits to stop signs, and they need to be reigned in for safety’s sake.

        Just this morning I drove on the freeway where a HUGE ROW OF LIGHT UP SIGNS THAT SAID “SPEED LIMIT” on them all read 40. We were all driving 55, right underneath them.

        Signs are not the problem.

    • The “bike with the arrow” sign isn’t “giant”, it’s in fact much smaller than standard-sized ones you see all over Seattle. See the picture above.

      • If you can’t see that while driving your car, then you’re just not looking for signs and things that direct how you should be driving. It’s not hard. People are just not paying attention because their inattentive driving, inattentive parking, and inattentive general operation of their vehicle are not sufficiently punished by law enforcement. It’s EASIER than reading a parking sign which people seem capable of doing while driving all over the city. BUT THAT’S BECAUSE THEY HAVE AN INTEREST IN DOING SO (getting the spot with the right amount time on it, paying less, not getting a ticket).

        I think it’s absurd that when other users don’t follow the signs on the road, people say they’re scofflaws, and when drivers don’t follow the signs on the road, it’s the sign’s fault. Ridiculous.

  6. I always advocate for PBLs like Dexter’s, it feels so much more comfortable to be next to the curb.

    “…since the road has such a low parking utilization rate, the lane isn’t adequately protected most of the time”. Do you know how often that is a problem with other parking-protected bike lanes?

  7. Drivers coming in from cross streets also tend to stick their noses way out into the bike lane while waiting for a break in traffic. Some green paint on the ground at these intersections might help with this.

    • The trouble is that when there is a big car parked close the intersection, drivers really have to pull out like that to see. It’s definitely a problem for the bike lane, but I’m not sure nudges like paint will make a difference if drivers feel they have to pull forward to be safe. It’s making me wonder if part of the PBL spec should be that every cross street needs a traffic light and no turn on red.

    • There’s spray paint markings at intersections that probably mean we’ll see green paint soon. They make out the green crossing pattern already seen on the 2nd Ave and Rossevelt PBLs.

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