The Seattle Department Transportation is moving forward on making significant changes to NE 65th Street in North Seattle after asking for feedback on several options this spring. We outlined the different options then, and encouraged the department to be bold and follow through on its vision to remake the corridor as a safe place for people to walk and bike. The resulting proposal, which will be constructed in late 2018 or early 2019, will represent a big improvement over current conditions but also reveals telling facts in the department’s approach to Vision Zero and creating multimodal streets out of car-centric spaces.

The main street segment, the crash-prone stretch between Roosevelt Way and Ravenna Boulevard, is slated to get protected bike lanes, one lane in each direction in the direction of traffic. The remainder of the street will go to one general purpose lane in each direction, which buses will use, and a center turn lane.

The design here mirrors the changes made to Rainier Ave S in Columbia City in 2015, except here we get bikes lanes instead of parking lanes. Currently 65th street only has a center median painted on the street in most places, with no turn lane and extra wide travel lanes. Even when drivers stop for pedestrians at an unsignalized intersection along 65th, there is a real danger of another driver passing the stopped vehicle and striking a pedestrian.

NE 65th Street is a major bus corridor: the route 62, 64, 72 and 74 all travel a significant portion of their routes on the street, with the 64 and 72 only running during peak periods, and the 45 also travels on 65th for a short period. Transit lanes were not proposed for the main segment, though we did toy with the idea in a post earlier this year, but what was on the table was a proposal for Dexter Avenue-style bus stops that stop directly in the travel lane. This saves buses from spending time trying to merge back into the single lane of traffic. In-lane bus stops paired with stop consolidation (reducing the number of stops along the route) should prevent any negative impact to transit speed.

Cars pass a stopped bus at the collision-prone intersection of NE 65 St and 25th Ave. (Photo by Doug Trumm)

In this case, the alternative selected will eliminate the center turn lane at bus stops to allow room for a vehicle to pass a stopped bus. Apart from adding possible delay due to the bus waiting to get back into traffic in order to avoid a collision, this also can create a danger for pedestrians crossing nearby. Again, with two ill-defined travel lanes, drivers will be more likely to pass vehicles stopped for a pedestrian, endangering that pedestrian. Thus, the crossings near bus stops will need to be designed to make people crossing more visible than they are now.

This plan also proposes to create the space for protected bike lanes, a transit island, and three travel lanes at bus stops by eliminating the planting strip between the bike lane and the sidewalk. Depending on how this is designed, it could lead to pedestrians walking in the bike lane, particularly in areas where the sidewalk is narrow. As I said in May, it’s incredible that we do not have enough space on a road as wide as 65th for the design we want without taking out a planting strip, but if that’s the case then so be it.

At the area around the under-construction light rail station at Roosevelt Way NE, there was an option on the table to provide transit lanes only between Roosevelt and 12th Ave. This would force people on bikes into the transit lane, and many would chose to use an already narrow sidewalk instead. This option was discarded, and the bike lanes will continue all the way between Ravenna Boulevard and 20th Ave NE. In this stretch, because the turn lane is required, buses will stop in the through travel lane.

At 20th Avenue NE, however, just outside Ravenna’s main business district, the protected bike lanes will terminate. The only change that will take place along the stretch from 20th to 39th Avenue is the parking lanes will be painted. The travel lanes will stay extra-wide, and where the parking lanes are empty drivers will drive in them. East of 25th Avenue, where there are few businesses, on-street parking utilization is unexpectedly low. Peak parking restrictions, ostensibly in place to ensure that peak-only buses can move more freely, will ironically be removed to encourage on-street parking to make the roadway safer. This is completely upside-down.

People on bikes will instead be routed to the parallel greenway on 68th Street. Riders trying to get to the business district will probably just end up using the sidewalk, I guess.

Corridor improvements proposed for 65th Street, in the order as presented here. (SDOT)

In addition, SDOT is only proposing intersection improvements at two intersections along 65th street, at 15th and at 20th, with no improvements east of 20th. While it’s true that a majority of collisions in the past five years have been west of 20th, there are still collisions east of 20th. There is a full signal at Ravenna Ave NE, and one at 25th Ave NE, but the only marked crosswalk between Ravenna and 35th Ave NE is at 32nd.

Total collisions along 65th Street, past 5 years. (Click to enlarge) (SDOT)

In the past five years, five cyclists have been hit on 65th Street east of 20th Avenue, and three pedestrians (one of those at 20th). The status quo is not acceptable east of 20th either. Keeping parking along a stretch where it will clearly be underutilized will not help safety.

5 year map of vulnerable users along 65th Street (Click to enlarge) (SDOT)

Light rail is coming to Roosevelt and 65th Street in only a few years–and transit-oriented development along with it. The time to make changes to improve safety on 65th Street is now: on the entire corridor. Half a Vision Zero project is better than no project at all, I guess. Those who advocated to #fix65th, however, deserve better.

Read more about the full project at SDOT’s page.

NE 65th Street Vision Zero Concepts Unveiled

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Also 63rd from 15th to 23rd nearly impassible for bikes. It is degraded asphalt over bricks, potholed out and needs to be fully replaced… presently not a viable parallel corridor.

  2. Thanks for the very good article. I agree with all of your points. This really is a very bad plan, that ignores the importance of the corridor from a transit perspective, while providing very little for bike riders.

    I think the city has this all wrong. They are ignoring some changes that will occur once Northgate Link gets built:

    1) Roosevelt Station is a very important station from a bus standpoint. It is the only station between Northgate Way and 45th. Northgate Way is a very difficult station to get to, especially from the west. Buses from various directions will inevitably serve the station, making it rival Northgate in terms of bus connections. Buses serving 85th to the west (e. g. the 45) already serve this corridor and the bus will become increasingly popular once the station is added. Ridership will also increase from the east (e. g. the 62) as getting to this station makes a lot more sense than getting to Husky Stadium (which has a horrible transfer experience). Thus it is quite likely that you will see a major increase in bus traffic along 65th.

    2) I think you will also see an increase in car traffic along 65th, with “kiss and ride” and cab to bus riders.

    3) Traffic is bound to be bad from Green Lake to around 15th, but then ease up eastbound. There just aren’t that many people (or destinations) to the east. There are also plenty of alternative arterials if you are driving (75th, 55th, etc.). On the other hand, you can expect traffic westbound to back up quite a ways, as traffic has nowhere to go.

    4) A lot of bike riders hate riding for blocks and blocks along a busy street. They would prefer a safer, quieter alternative. At the same time, walking a bike a couple blocks (or even riding on the sidewalk) isn’t that bad, as long as it is close to your destination. Fremont Avenue, for example, doesn’t have bike lanes, despite thousands of bikes in the area. People who visit those shops either battle the traffic (and buses) or walk their bike a couple blocks.

    Instead of this mess, the city should do the following:

    1) Build bus lanes on 65th both directions from 15th to Ravenna Boulevard. This will allow bus traffic to avoid the worst congestion in the area both directions.

    2) Add a westbound bus lane on 65th, east of 15th. A traffic study would have to be done to determine how far you need to extend this lane, which would allow a bus to skip past the traffic that builds up westbound.

    3) Build bike lanes (both directions) east of 15th. There should be enough room for bike lanes and a single bus lane if you remove the parking.*

    Extend the 68th bike path east to Green Lake as follows:

    4) Extend the 68th bike path to 15th.

    5) Add protected bike lanes on 15th between 68th and 66th.

    6) Add bike lanes on 66th between Weedin and 15th.

    7) Add protected bike lanes on Weedin under the freeway from 68th to 66th.

    8) Add bike lanes on 68th between Ravenna Boulevard and Weedin.

    Now build the same sort of thing, but south of there:

    9) Add a bike lane on 63rd, from Ravenna Boulevard (to the west) to Ravenna Avenue (to the east).

    10) Add bike lines on Ravenna Avenue, from at least 68th to 66th.

    At this point, you have two very good bike paths to the north and south of 65th. You also have at least one bike path connecting them (at Ravenna Avenue). To make this work, you need a lot more signals for bikes (on 68th and 66th). You also need to add protected bike lanes on many of the arterials, along with painted bike lanes on the side streets (66th and 68th). You would have to take a lot of parking, but that is it. There would be no major reduction in traffic flow (no four lane roads are being converted to two).

    * If it turns out that item number three is not possible (that you can’t add a bus lane and bike lanes) then shorten the bike lane or bus lane depending on need. At worse you extend the bus lane to Ravenna Avenue, when the bike lane would then take over. That still gives you a very good bike network.

  3. The current lane configuration 20th to 25th is a failure! The narrow parking lanes only function as peak travel lanes for the most aggressive drivers willing drive along the curb. This make the pedestrian experience on the peak direction sidewalk very uncomfortable. And when the Eastbound curb lanes revert to parking at 6 PM, the first car that parks close to 65th backs up eastbound traffic multiple light cycles once the left turn queue extends beyond the first parked car. Seems like the City either got a bunch of pro-parking comments from business owners in Ravenna, or the cost of reconfiguring the 65th intersection for dedicated lefts was too costly. In either case, this is a big FU to pedestrians and peak bus commuters and does not meet VISION ZERO.

  4. You’re exactly right on the section between 20th and 25th.

    Imagine riding in a PBL east on 65th to 20th then being detoured up a hill to 68th to reach the business distinct that is just a couple blocks down hill ahead of you. Parking wins out again and cyclists will ride the sidewalk.

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