New Bike Lane Aims To Prevent Burger-Related Collisions

SDOT added a bike lane in front of Dick's Burger's in 2017, but more are needed along the corridor including on the bridge over Interstate 5. (Photo by Stephen Fesler)

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) installed a new bike lane in Wallingford a week ago. The one-block bike lane should provide a welcome measure of safety to people biking in front of Dick’s Drive-In, a bustling burger joint. The bike lane, located on the south side of NE 45th St, heads in the eastbound, downhill direction.

The short bike lane segment was a high priority for SDOT due to the unique conditions of the street.

“This location was identified as a high collision location for bicyclists,” said Karen Westing, an SDOT communications specialist. “There was a pattern of vehicles turning into bicyclists coming down the hill on 45th at the driveway of Dick’s Drive-in, which has a high volume of visitors. We installed a buffer to formalize the lane where vehicles should be, create a space for bikes, and added green paint at the driveway entrances to identify the conflict zone and alert drivers more clearly of the presence of bicyclists.”

Looking back up the hill.
Looking back up the hill.

The spot improvement had been marked on the street for well over a year, but full thermoplastic markings were not installed until Saturday October 14th. SDOT said the delay was related to poor weather conditions after the initial sketch markings.

“SDOT crews did layout in 2016, however, due to the extended period of wet weather, the installation was delayed until we could ensure the treatment could be appropriately installed,” Karen Westing said.

The project cost was fairly minimal at just under $4,200 for the full-block installation. While the spot bike facility should improve safety on this portion of the NE 45th St corridor, the remainder of the corridor lacks any similar treatments. Plans to further improve the corridor are a few years off yet, SDOT said.

The Bicycle Master Plan identifies bike improvements across I-5 on NE 45th St in and around 2021. The implementation timing mirrors the planned construction timing for the Market RapidRide bus corridor. That line would run between Ballard and the University District largely via N/NE 45th St. Planning for the corridor is slated to begin next year, which will undoubtedly involve discussions for how bike facilities should be accommodated.

Getting The Bike Master Plan Back On Track

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Stephen is an urban planner with a passion for sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He is especially interested in how policies, regulations, and programs can promote positive outcomes for communities. Stephen lives in Kenmore and primarily covers land use and transportation issues for The Urbanist.

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Darn it SDOT, you repainted the same unsafe design you put in four years ago! Simply adding new paint doesn’t prioritize people who walk or bike at all.

Let me explain. The current design asks people on bikes heading quickly downhill (going east) to veer closer to the Dick’s driveways for a single block and then veer back into traffic after passing the Dick’s property. These two sudden movements are recipes for car-bike conflict. The uphill bike lane (heading west) stays in a straight line as a sharrow. Any sharrow is rarely ideal, but still provides predictable and consistent movement.

This block also has a fair amount of pedestrian traffic — many people drawn by the burgers and nearby taco trucks. There’s not even a nod to that late night foot traffic.

So what would I suggest to prioritize walking and biking here? Close one of the two wide Dick’s driveways or at least narrow them. Put down bright, textured strips and put up signs in the driveway to alert young and often distracted drivers that people who walk or bike might be crossing. Don’t force people on bikes to swerve twice but keep them in a straight line in the downhill direction.

I know this is a high conflict area — I live close by — but putting bright colors on a previously deficient design doesn’t do much to increase safety for all road users.

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Al Dimond

Heh, I came here to basically write a dumber version of everything you just wrote :-).

Daigoro Toyama

I agree with Cathy. In my opinion, to make walking/biking safe on that part of NE 45th requires removal of all the major driveway conflict points, including the driveway in and out of Dick’s.

Mike Carr

Without the driveways at Dicks, would you still call it “Dick’s Drive In”?

Daigoro Toyama

They can always change names if they wish. 🙂