With the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) working to implement safety improvements on NE 65th St between Ravenna Boulevard and 20th Ave NE in 2018, the department has modified some of the designs revealed last year to respond to issues raised by advocates. In an email sent Wednesday to those involved in the project, SDOT listed concerns and how they have addressed them through design changes. But in some cases, the modified design may actually make the plans less safe.

The email update states that SDOT will be “piloting” an alternate design for transit stops along NE 65th St, only between Ravenna Boulevard and 12th Ave NE. Instead of space for a transit island, bus riders would enter and exit buses directly from the bike lane, and queue for the bus behind the bike lane. They included a design that is meant “for illustrative purposes only” that cites the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) as the source for the design.

Initially, as we reported in December, the design for the street at transit stops reduces the width of the sidewalk to four feet in order to accommodate space on the street for protected bike lane, transit island, and an entire lane for vehicles to pass stopped buses. This is in contrast with other streets in Seattle with similar designs, like Dexter Avenue N, where vehicles cannot pass stopped buses. In addition, the bike lane was planned to be four feet, below even the five minimum width specified by NACTO. Moreover, NACTO recommends seven foot bike lanes in areas with high bicycle ridership. NE 65th St will be the primary corridor connecting much of Northeast Seattle to the Roosevelt light rail station opening in 2021.

Old design from last year. (Seattle Department of Transportation)

SDOT admits the new design relies on users being on their best behavior in the email:

The design includes an 11-foot sidewalk next to a 5-foot bike lane, both at an elevated grade. Busses stop outside of the protected bike lane, in-lane with traffic, and passengers will cross the bike lane and load onto the bus. People getting off the bus cross the bike lane to get to the sidewalk. While this strategy provides more continuous space for people walking and waiting for buses, it relies on people biking to slow and stop for people getting on or off the bus.

The improvements and bus stops between Roosevelt Way NE and 12th Ave NE are part of a long-term, phased approach in coordination with Sound Transit that extends beyond the scope of this project. The interim design includes buses pulling to the curb and merging with the bike lane for loading and unloading. Implementation of a permanent design will coincide with the Link station opening.

The official NACTO page for this design notes that “[s]hared cycle track stops are an important retrofit option for constrained transit streets with in-lane stops, especially of streetcars, if a boarding island configuration does not fit in either the street or the sidewalk.”  In earlier designs, SDOT calls the bus stops near Roosevelt station “in-lane” but includes a left turn lane for eastbound traffic, allowing some passing to occur.

SDOT’s earlier in-lane transit stop design for between Ravenna Boulevard and 12th Ave NE included a left turn lane. (SDOT)

Merging bus loading space with a key segment of the bike network is clearly a recipe for disaster. The design has never before been implemented in Seattle and inherently leads to conflict between users of different modes and difficulties for people with mobility challenges. How would blind users navigate this design? Will people waiting for a bus leave room for the bike lane or queue up in it? Since the first step a person exiting the bus makes is into the bike lane, it will require cyclists to be vigilant. In some ways the updated design may be worse than the constrained sidewalk layout before in that the purposes of each section were clearly delineated from one another.

On the subject of a lack of additional NE 65th St crosswalks, which many advocates have cited as a major issue with the design, SDOT confirms that they are citing low pedestrian volumes attempting to cross a fast-moving arterial with two de facto car lanes as the reason that they will not be adding crossings:

We understand safe arterial crossings are fundamental elements of a pedestrian network, but our traffic studies revealed that pedestrian volumes are currently under the threshold for adding new marked crosswalks and existing crosswalks are well-spaced in the corridor. We don’t plan to include additional marked crosswalks as part of this project but that does not preclude future improvements in the area as new development shapes the neighborhood. We’ll refresh striping at existing marked crosswalks to improve crosswalk visibility.

The project is zooming ahead toward construction, which SDOT says is currently scheduled to start in either this spring or summer, with completion estimated at this fall. As I have stated before, the designs on NE 65th St are not setting the corridor up for multimodal success. The design will fail to be the access point that the city is going to demand when Roosevelt Station opens in just a few years.

SDOT’s email for this project is NE65VisionZero@seattle.gov if you’d like to submit feedback on this final stage of design.

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30 COMMENTS

  1. Why are the simplest and most practical safety changes so difficult for this department? They’re going to basically ruin the street and set it in concrete for 30 years.

    • Exactly. Better to do nothing at all and at least have the street be obviously awful. At least then people will know to avoid it if possible. This is like setting a booby trap for cyclists.

  2. You know how terrifying it is to be doored while biking, or even the risk of being doored? SDOT is piloting a brand new feature, the experience being “bused” – the act of having someone run or jump out in front of you while biking next to a bus. Oh, you didn’t know there was a back door on this bus and now suddenly there’s a person in front of you? Surprise! Someone just went in to ask the bus driver a question, discovered that the bus isn’t going where they want to go, and suddenly pops back out into the bike lane? Surprise!

    • If you’re a person on a bike and clearly see a large bus stopped at the bus stop, it’s pretty dang easy to determine what to do: stop and yield. Unlike a surprise dooring, which involves a car door very suddenly opening in front of a cyclist, a slow-moving bus is extremely large & obvious, and when docked at a bus stop, common sense dictates people will be getting on/off the bus. If a person biking can’t determine how to interact with a bus stopped at a bus stop, then it’s on the cyclist here for not responsibly knowing how to ride. It’s on the cyclist to behave and respect the rules of the road and yield to pedestrians, who have the right-of-way. This layout is far from difficult to figure out.

      Note this design has been deployed throughout Europe and is seen frequently in Toronto. We also have a similar stretch along Gilman Ave now.

      • People waiting for the bus are going to randomly step into the bike lane without looking, just like they do on that useless little bike lane on Blanchard. Combine that a decent downhill heading west, and someone is going to get clobbered.

        • Well perhaps people standing there shouldn’t cross the bright yellow tactile strip with warning posts into the green area without paying attention. Call me crazy for thinking people should act with some common sense and not randomly walking into a clearly different space.

          • People don’t pay attention when walking — nor should we design as if they’re going to. People will generally be oblivious to their surroundings. A curb may get their attention, but not much else will.

            The previous design was way better and had the added advantage of avoiding conflicts between buses loading/unloading and people biking.

          • While I understand the need to deploy safe and easy-to-understand infrastructure, if people aren’t paying attention to their surroundings, that’s on them for their personal choices. Whatever happening on a phone or other device isn’t that important as safety. Next, do we have to design for people walking around with VR goggles? At what point do we have to say “ok folks this is getting ridiculous”?

            The downside with the previous design is it forces people biking and walking into a narrow and confined space, with physical barriers on both sides. I see more safety issues and challenges with that design as it effectively creates one bike path and one walking path.

          • So the person riding a bicycle that gets knocked into traffic by the oblivious pedestrian is making a bad personal choice?

            I mean I guess so — riding in this bike lane is a mistake. Better to take the lane and deal with pissed off motorists.

      • But the environment won’t say “stop and yield” to people. It will say “here’s a bike lane, keep going”. Remember, there’s a passing lane for cars here; so a bus will be waiting at the stop until it’s safe to go. So are people actively getting onto and off of the bus, or is the bus just waiting until it’s safe to go?

        As far as “it’s on the cyclist to behave” – that only works if facilities are designed for biking. With these sidewalks (how wide is that between the bus shelter and the bike lane?), people are going to be walking in the bike lane. Guaranteed. Right now, they walk in the road because the sidewalks are too narrow. So people on bikes are going to need to be on high alert all the time, and that means it will be easy to miss a slippery spot, a curb (which this design adds), a fallen-over construction sign, or any number of things.

        If you think everyone’s going to behave all the time and no one makes mistakes, then I won’t convince you otherwise. But if you believe that high-stress bicycle facilities (and walking or driving facilities) leads to mistakes, injuries, and deaths – this will be a high-stress facility.

        • Except for the green paint signifying a conflict area, sign that says “bikes stop for people in cross walk”, “slow” marking and rumble paint, 3x crosswalks, and bringing people on bikes up to the pedestrian plane with a ramp. That’s all designed to say something up ahead is different, pay attention.

          I’m not convinced by your arguments and “what ifs” that this should be classified as a high-stress facility as there isn’t sufficient evidence presented. Do you have any proof, studies, facts, and/or data to back this conclusion up? Besides presenting a few unanswered questions, the burden of proof as an author is on you to prove this is, as you call it, a high-stress, unsafe facility. Keep in mind this IS a NACTO recommended facility with very reasonable design justifications.

          • The NACTO recommendation for this design is where there are in-lane transit stops and where space is tight. There’s no in-lane stops, so right off the bat – SDOT is straying from NACTO recommendations.

            NACTO references the MassDOT guide for this design. That design guide shows a design that includes a “DO NOT PASS WHEN BUS IS STOPPED” sign. That’s not shown in the NACTO or SDOT’s design.

            I can’t say for sure until I see a final (actual) design, but SDOT winging it does not give me confidence. But whether or not it’s a high-stress facility, what I can tell you with 100% certainty is that SDOT is making unnecessary trade-offs in bike & ped safety (and transit efficiency) just so car drivers don’t have to wait behind buses. I’m sure this design could be made reasonably safe (if not comfortable) with enough effort, but the compromise itself doesn’t make any sense. It also makes it clear that SDOT is prioritizing cars over safety. NACTO makes it clear that this is a compromise in constrained space situations.

  3. I, for one, support this concept and look forward to its deployment. The temporal separation between people using transit and people biking reduced the total number of conflicts overall as the bus only occupies this space during a very short period of time. As long as people biking are following the rules of the road and behaving, no problem.

    Some other questions using traditionally-designed bus stops:
    1) How do blind people know not to walk down a bike lane which wraps behind a transit stop?
    2) What abound the constant conflict between people walking and biking when a bike lane wraps behind a combined stop and sidewalk? (Whereas this design only has a conflict when a bus is docked.)
    3) What prevents people walking and waiting for the bus from standing in the wrap-around bike lane?

    We could go on forever with “what if’s”

    • This is directly in front of a light rail station. This will not be a random bus stopping for a very short period of time – there will be a TON of foot and bus traffic. AND bike traffic.

          • The “Bus Station” in the first example is a facility that will soon be closed and moved. International intercity buses were not a thing in Copenhagen until the recent past, and this location used to see no more than 1-2 buses at a bay at a time. Domestic intercity buses were heavily regulated and used other stations to collect passengers, so were spread out around the city. Key issue there now is the number of foreigners (and foreign bus operators) who are not up on Danish laws and customs.

            In the second video, the person filming and bicycling is also obviously a visitor as the Dane next to him shows the proper method: Stop and wait.

            The third video is a lovely facility, but it did help to have a wide boulevard created when the building to left, a government office built in the 60s, was created on the site of older houses that were torn down. The right-of-way had been considered for a freeway in future.

          • Whatever the circumstance, the configuration in the first two video is what led to a staggering ~2000% increase in collisions. There’s no reason for Seattle to go forward with a design that is known to be that absurdly inferior. If they’re not willing to take out a general travel lane to create the proper bus stop bypass, then they should just refrain from building the bikeway at all.

  4. This design is asinine, implement the high schooler’s design already. Make Roosevelt a neighborhood and not a thoroughfare.

  5. This design is a PROVEN safety hazard. If there’s high bus usage, then having bus passengers disembark into a bikeway is simply. not. acceptable, especially if said bikeway is a high-volume route as mentioned in this piece. SDOT needs to go back to the drawing board on this one and come back with something that isn’t scraping the barest of minimums. If that means no travel lane for motorists to pass a stopped bus, so be it. But the safety of people biking and walking should NOT be second-fiddle to motorist convenience. That’s how we’ve arrived at the present in the first place.

  6. I’ve seen these in Europe and Canada. Granted it is new and takes getting familiar with, but I don’t see what the big fuss is, especially if we are trading preserving the width of the sidewalks.

  7. Is SDOT trying to make each proposal worse than the last in the hopes that eventually we’ll just tell them to give up and go home, and they can get out of doing any work at all? Sharing bike lanes and bus boarding zones is a recipe for serious injury, and might be even worse than what we have now.

    What happened to “all ages and abilities” when it comes to sidewalk and bike lane design?

  8. Just want to point out that this whole conflict between optimizing bike/transit vs SOVs is a product of Sound Transit locating the Roosevelt station on a constrained major arterial adjacent to I-5 ramps.
    This exact conflict is repeating itself at 145th and likely will up and down the I-5 corridor as ST3 is completed. Until we have a better discussion of neighborhood station transit/ped/bike connectivity up front during station planning this will continue to be a problem.
    The station locations for Ballard to West Seattle are being decided this year. I would hope we can bring a long list of lessons learned to the upcoming outreach events to push ST toward detailed thinking on accessibility – Not just magical 1/4 mile / 1/2 mile walkshed / bikeshed circles.

  9. Given how the bike lane on 7th in front of Amazon is filled with people on foot, I won’t have high hopes for this revised design.

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