Bike lane changes proposed for Ballard Bridge

Updated: The Seattle Department of Transportation is preparing to make some changes to the bike lane along the south end of the Ballard Bridge.

The bike path currently curves along the exit at West Emerson but SDOT is proposing several options improve both bike access and truck turning movements. Michael Snyder emailed us, “Cyclists have long complained about how horrible the Ballard Bridge is to cross. This is SDOT’s attempt to make it easier to merge in and continue south on 15th.” Aaron also emailed us, “Personally, I’m a little concerned by this. Drivers for the most part are accustomed to being able to make that right hand turn onto Emerson without yielding to crossing pedestrians or cyclists.”

SDOT met with a 15 member committee consisting of freight, bicycle and pedestrian advocates, to develop this plan. Dawn Schellenberg with SDOT says that they’re looking for input. You can leave comments here until August 12 so the changes can be made by the beginning of September. (Copyright photo by Michael Snyder is republished with permission. More photos here.)

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blueben
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blueben

Oh thank God. Finally! Hauling a bicycle up and down those steep stairs is a recipe for disaster.

boardbrown
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boardbrown

I agree there is a huge problem to solve there, but the fix marked out on the asphalt doesn't look safe to me at all.

boardbrown
Guest
boardbrown

In fact, it looks exactly like the interchange near the Aurora Bridge where a cyclist was hit last month…

nwcitizen
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nwcitizen

I'm hoping they will put up much better and larger signage and make the lane crossing the intersection out of that green material that is being used downtown to alert drivers to crossing bicyclists.

A pushbutton stop light would be even better.

thebeastgirl
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thebeastgirl

I think there is a problem but am a bit concerned about their supposed solution. I think there should be an easy ramp under or over but there are going to be deaths with the lane headed straight into turning vehicles.

chopper_74
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chopper_74

Nice catch and photo Michael. This doesn't look like a very safe fix as it's laid out. I'm surprised they don't have a biker silhouette chalked out as well…

NoraBell
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NoraBell

My God, do they really think this is a solution? Yeah, let's lead the bicyclists straight into the path of a car turnoff. News flash: cars don't usually slow down when they're turning off.

Guest
Guest
Guest

What is the law regarding who has to yield in such a situation…the bike crossing the street or the car making the right turn?

Morgan
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Morgan

Just to show how long it takes for something to happen, here is a link to a Stranger article written in 2005 about this exact location.

http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Content?oid=

This is not a change to the current bike path that goes down Emerson, it is an improvement to the frightening curb cut that allows cyclist to continue down 15th.

I ride this exact route up to 3 days a week and I'm scared to death everytime I have to merge into traffic at this location. To me, this will be a major improvement, but it still will remain a dangerous intersection that all cyclist will have to take great care at. The photo does not show the existing curb cut that cyclist have to use, nor does it show the recent sign that was put in place to attempt to alert drivers of merging cyclists.

Now we just need the bridge itself to have proper bike lanes.

facebook-25906957
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The car would yield to the bike as it's crossing the bike's lane of traffic.

Jeff
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Jeff

I ride to that spot every weekday across the bridge. I always take the stairs. Rarely is there a gap in traffic big enough to get across safely. This is just SDOT window dressing, it is not a solution to this problem.

A real solution would be to widen the sidewalk on the bridge to 6-8 feet with a high rail guard along the entire length. Then install a ramp system to glide under the bridge at the south end there.

Mondoman
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Mondoman

First, thanks to MS for spotting and reporting this!

Second, I agree with Jeff and the others about a “real” solution, but what about this in the interim: install bright yellow speed bumps on either side of this proposed “bike crosswalk”. If drivers turning right (west) down the ramp and drivers coming up the ramp to merge into 15th knew they would have to cross 2 speed bumps right next to each other, they would naturally slow down.

What do you all think about this proposed improvement?

admc
Guest
admc

I ride this every day as well, and now wait for a break in the traffic going straight and turning at the current ridiculous curb opening. I think this will be a fine solution, because it will allow me to go for sure when there are cars going straight and to attempt to assert my right of way over turning cars. I don't plan to charge blindly into the path of a turning car, assuming it will stop, however.

Deal
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Deal

What a nightmare. This is going to be so dangerous. Bicyclists and the city government won't be happy until every roadway in this city is made wretched and treacherous to traffic.

It creates a huge hazard as people turning in fast traffic have to watch for pedestrians and cyclists too. It is already a dangerous turnoff just from having people slow down to make the turn, much less stop.

And where are the bike lanes going to go on the Ballard bridge? Are you going to leave one lane of traffic going either way in order to allow bike riders to lollygag down 15th in their own lane? Ride in the pedestrian lane. Or walk your bike. Do you think I care if you have to slow down for five minutes?

Edog
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Edog

I guess it’s the best they can do at the moment, but it looks like disaster waiting to happen.

Bottom line is the Ballard Bridge is bad news for pedestrians and cyclists. Its an old system that does not apply to our new solutions.

gurple
Guest

A step in the right direction. Something needs to be done to get drivers to slow down sooner if they're going to make that right turn, so that they're not slamming on the brakes at the last minute to avoid hitting a cyclist (who, of course, has right-of-way).

Mondoman's suggestion of speed bumps seems like a good idea. Maybe a big flashing light or two.

JohnF
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JohnF

This is ridiculous. After all the 'missing link' talk the city is going to willfully build a bike path that is ten times as dangerous? You've got to be kidding me. What I worry about here is not the handful of folks who navigate this section today and know how to handle it but rather the newer cyclists who will go charging into this path.

I would rather see it left as it is today because now every cyclist has to dismount and wait for a gap in traffic to cross or take the stairs. I do not feel bad for folks having to take an extra few minutes to cross over. At least they have to consciously make sure it is safe. No amount of signage or traffic lights will stop high speed traffic from making the right turn at speed.

I'll say it again, the 'missing link' is nothing compared to this disaster.

Edog
Guest
Edog

Speed bumps in the middle of a 4 lane road that services buses and trucks sounds flat out nuts to me.

gurple
Guest

I may have misunderstood Mondoman, but I interpreted his suggestion to be speed bumps that only the right-turners would have to cross. Since that's a big commute route, most people making that turn would be aware of the speedbumps and would slow down ahead of time, but people going straight through wouldn't have to, unless someone slowed down ahead of them.

With the laudable goal of, you know, not killing people.

gurple
Guest

I don't buy it. With or without this change, the Ballard Bridge is still a cyclist's nightmare. The bike lane is way too narrow and flanked by concrete at exactly the wrong height. This isn't any kind of “bike path”… people aren't going to be rushing to this route just because it's slightly less deadly now.

Edog
Guest
Edog

Laudable goals indeed.

I take on look at the bridge it is now, and think people are gonna die. I take one look at this solution, and think people are gonna die.

Sigh…………. probably in 20 or 30 years it will be rebuilt into the super bridge of the future, but until then…………….

motorrad
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motorrad

Wow. So to not cost you 15 seconds and to not inconvenience you by making you actually look before you make a high speed right turn (your words), many other people need to be inconvenienced.

I do not feel bad that you will be inconvenienced and should have to look before barreling around a corner. I do feel bad about your obviously self-centered view.

JohnF
Guest
JohnF

Easy dude. I have driven a car three times this summer and have never made that righthand turn at that corner. I also commute 200 mile a week to work so I have the opportunity to experience a lot of crossing on a bike. I can tell you this would be the most dangerous crossing I have seen. Cars have been making that turn for years and years and some will slow down and a lot will continue to be oblivious.

I think the folks who jump over the barrier and cross on a regular basis would be fine. It's the 'weekend rider' I worry about. I actually like riding the bridge on the weekend and I see newish riders all the time on it. It's these people I fear would see that crossing and not have the experience and ability to cross it.

I agree with gurple that this does not open up a new popular route but I feel it creates a dangerous situation nonetheless.

Allie
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Allie

Allie from SDOT here – we do have info online about this: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/ballardbr

You can see the proposed design (green bike lane, raised pavement markers, etc) and current conditions there.

If you want to share your comments about the design with us, please do so at:
http://sdotblog.seattle.gov/2009/07/30/input-ne

Thanks!

fuzzbeans
Guest
fuzzbeans

Here's the comment I left:

I am very glad to see the bike crossing at the South end of the Ballard bridge finally being addressed. I am concerned, however, about bike safety (although in that location I’m usually driving a car).

I think the green bike lane strip will certainly help, but I also suggest the following measures:
1. clear signage for cars and trucks warning them of the crossing; perhaps flashing lights could “ignite” when a bike crosses a sensor?
2. clarify for drivers the yield as they ENTER 15th from the west (from W Emerson); this yield has always been confusing since it’s a new lane.