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Bike lane changes proposed for Ballard Bridge

Posted by Geeky Swedes on July 30th, 2009

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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81 reader comments so far ↓

  • 1 Ernie_98107 // Jul 31, 2009 at 1:30 am

    I stop, or slow dramatically there all the time to let cyclists out of the little notch. If people behind me don't like it, to bad. As noted several times above, bikers have to wait FOREVER to get out of there.

    I'm not sure how I feel about this idea. I think it will definitely make it easier for an experienced cyclist to cross because the notch further around the bend will allow them to judge which cars are going straight and which are turning, but on the other hand they will be crossing what is essentially a freeway offramp and I think that an accident there will have the potential to be really horrible.

    I would be cool with the jump idea too.

  • 2 bbb1 // Jul 31, 2009 at 1:44 am

    Representatives from BINMIC, North Seattle Industrial Assn., Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Boards, SDOT Traffic Engineers, SDOT staffers, Manufacturing and Industrial Council reps. The full gamut of freight, ped, bike community.

    No one has been asked to send their kids down this route. It is recognized that the sidewalks are narrow, and negotiating this crossing is not for the faint of heart. This was identified early on in the process as a real 'conflict' zone between ped/bikes and vehicles, so folks talked through a bunch of low cost solutions, and it appears SDOT has costed out some high end big ticket options as well.

    My hats off to SDOT for this slow, vetted process of improvement.

    Slow Down…You're in Ballard

  • 3 bbb1 // Jul 31, 2009 at 1:46 am

    Might need a hydraulic slingshot ejector starting a bit farther back to get up enough speed to get over those 18 wheelers!!

  • 4 Sammy1981 // Jul 31, 2009 at 2:20 am

    Well, sorry if you're impatient.

  • 5 BTown // Jul 31, 2009 at 2:35 am

    Dumbest city planning department ever.

  • 6 eric // Jul 31, 2009 at 2:48 am

    i know the jump may not work for everybody, but i think its worth a shot.

    couple hundred bucks for supplies – badda bing badda boom, problem solved.

  • 7 Mondoman // Jul 31, 2009 at 3:26 am

    THE best and 2nd-coolest solution (coolest is the bike jump over Emerson):

    Get a few of the tiny double-ended ped/bike ferries that Vancouver BC uses in False Creek and run them as a water shuttle between the 14th Ave boat ramp (Ballard) and Fisherman's Terminal (Interbay). The former should (eventually) be easily accessible from the BG “Missing Link”, and the latter provides decent connections to the Interbay bike trail and onward along Elliott Bay *without* having to ride on 15th.

  • 8 JohnF // Jul 31, 2009 at 3:32 am

    Ok, I rode home tonight from Bellevue and thought a lot about this issue and then went the extra mile to check this section out. Here are my thoughts:

    1. One of the hardest things to do riding a bike is to look behind you and judge the distance and approaching speed of oncoming traffic. I've been riding for years and I am still not great at this. The proposed curb cutout makes everyone perform this action and while there are surely some of you here that can judge perfectly each and every time most of us cannot.

    2. Another difficult thing for many cyclists is starting from a dead stop, which is what they will have to do at this intersection. With what I mentioned in #1 and the general speed of traffic this is very dicey.

    3. I also walked down the stairs and across and up the other side of Emerson. While the steps are steep this is not impossible. A decent solution would be to pave a ramp in the middle of the steps so cyclists can walk their bikes. I thought of this because a few people mentioned that it's a pain to carry their bikes up and down the steps. I agree with you and I bet paving a ramp would cost less than cutting the barrier and installing turtles and lights to try and slow down cars.

    4. I also am sympathetic to the median problem for trucks. I've been on the 17 bus when it's had troubles making the turn. Please go ahead and make that median smaller so traffic can get through.

    5. It also wouldn't hurt to install a couple of lights in the underpass to make people feel safer walking through it.

    6. As for pedestrians I feel if they can walk across the bridge they can take the stairs and use the underpass. This is a common solution in most cities for this scenario.

    I hope you will see this as thoughtful input for the safety of everyone. I love Ballard and plan to live, cycle, walk and occasionally drive here for a long time.

    Have a good night everyone,
    John

  • 9 kim1234 // Jul 31, 2009 at 4:34 am

    agreed. too many people in too big of a hurry here.

  • 10 fuzzbeans // Jul 31, 2009 at 5:01 am

    Are you suggesting the that cyclist wait until after rush hour to cross?

  • 11 lovetheparkingchange // Jul 31, 2009 at 5:58 am

    It's not perfect but at least it will be better that what's there currently. I ride there everyday and half the time people don't yield. It doesn't matter how the signage is people are either impatient for the few seconds it takes to clear the gap, texting, applying make-up, too dumb to read the sign or they just want to intimidate bikers.

    Regarding the actual photos, the slot in the wall looks too short, it needs to be longer by a few feet to the north. I can see someone snagging a pedal because of the way you turn to get through the slot.

  • 12 lovetheparkingchange // Jul 31, 2009 at 6:06 am

    xtev the right of way is not changing, drivers are already supposed to be yielding to cyclist entering the road from the bridge.
    Do you even live in Ballard? Despite your inconvenience bikes are allowed on almost every road in the state. Bikes and cars can use the same roads so long as drivers remember it's not a video game and there are lives at stake.

  • 13 lovetheparkingchange // Jul 31, 2009 at 6:14 am

    That is incorrect, currently cars are supposed to yield, the current configuration makes many cyclist not want to use thier right of way because drivers are awful at merging. I signal, make eyecontact and keep moving. The speed limit is 30 on the bridge and most cars are slowing down to make the right. The worst problem I've had is from the folks who are not turning, they charge up to 60 miles an hour.

  • 14 lovetheparkingchange // Jul 31, 2009 at 6:21 am

    Nora, we know you don't ride a bike so pipe down!lol

  • 15 MichaelSnyder // Jul 31, 2009 at 6:58 am

    I see 30 mph at the bridge itself, but heading southbound, just past the bridge and about halfway down the approach, the speed limit changes to 40.

    With the previous design, before they added a new sign (I think earlier this year), there was nothing to indicate to drivers that they need to yield to cyclists.

    Also, in the few hours that I was doing the bike count, I only saw two cars yield to cyclists, and they were already nearly stopped for the gridlock of turning traffic headed over to SPU.

  • 16 MichaelSnyder // Jul 31, 2009 at 7:12 am

    There is some (hard to find) signage for pedestrians on the east side and on the south side, but I don't remember seeing any signs (even for pedestrians) about the stairs at this corner.

    …and stairs usually aren't considered a bicycling facility. There are some bikes (hand crank bikes for parapylegics, or electric bikes with 50 pounds of batteries for example) which aren't practical or physically possible for their operator to carry down the stairs.

  • 17 bbb1 // Jul 31, 2009 at 7:31 am

    Excellent!!

  • 18 Ballard_Curmudgeon // Jul 31, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    That's because it is NOT meant for bicyclist. It was built for pedestrians, bicyclist have appropriated it and caused no end of headaches and created a very dangerous situation. Bicyclist have to accept that some older bridges were simply not designed for bicycles. It should be illegal for them to ride on the sidewalks on that bridge.

    If you want to rebuild the bridge, I'm all for it, but what you've done is made an old bridge very very dangerous for bikes and pedestrians.

  • 19 gurple // Jul 31, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    Interesting thought — I wonder if the city /could/ make it illegal for bicyclists to ride on Ballard Bridge. I don't think they should, but it would be interesting to know if there's any legal way to do that.

    Barring such an extreme “solution”, it seems like what needs to be done is to make the bridge as safe as possible. I think these changes help.

  • 20 bbb1 // Jul 31, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    Interesting. So for persons in Ballard who want to get south, they would cross at the Locks (not possible after dusk) or go to the Fremont Bridge (or the new bug ferry!).

    Alternative is to ride in motor vehicle lanes of course, but very narrow and sure to induce anger on driver's part.

    Ballard Curmudgeon – what do you propose? Fremont Bridge, or can the bicyclers go on the roadway?

  • 21 Ballard_Curmudgeon // Jul 31, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Here's a novel idea: walk your bike across it.

  • 22 SeaSpider // Jul 31, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    They probably could. As a reference look at how it's illegal to ride on many freeways.

  • 23 SeaSpider // Jul 31, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Personally it's never been an issue for me. When I ride downtown I turn right and continue on Emerson over to Gilman and then to the bike path along the waterfront. It's a far more scenic and relaxing ride and adds less than 5 minutes to my commute (fewer traffic lights to wait at). I can't understand why anyone riding downtown from Ballard would want to ride all the way down 15th/Elliott after the bridge. If I were heading to Queen Anne I'd go over the Fremont bridge.

    It's like people who whine about the tracks on the missing link/45th while ignoring the fact that there is a perfectly safe, track-free route a whopping one block away. I think it's because most cyclists are also drivers and when they're on the bike they tend to navigate as if they were in a car ignoring that cars and bikes are not the same in traffic. Roads that are slower for a car are often faster for a cyclist – amazing how many cyclists fail to grasp this concept!

    It's an old bridge and I'm hard pressed to think of any solutions that would actually be cost effective. In a more perfect world they tear the bridge down and replace it with a new bridge featuring wider sidewalks for cycling, light rail lines, and no loss of car lanes. Sadly, this is Seattle and that would involve numerous elections, community meetings, lawsuits and take at least two decades!!!

  • 24 stopthebuzz // Jul 31, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    i wouldn't send my kids across that intersection the current way either.

  • 25 stopthebuzz // Jul 31, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    couple hundred bucks? in my day we scavenged for ramp making items! all you need are random boards and some junk to prop them up on! :)

  • 26 Freddie // Jul 31, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    Wait until there's a break and you can cross safely. What's so complicated about that?

  • 27 eric // Jul 31, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    yeah, my day too – but thats why this will work; i'm all about putting a couple hundred into it so its done with quaility supplies!

  • 28 bbb1 // Aug 1, 2009 at 12:42 am

    You mean walk my bike across the bridge, using the sidewalk? Or the roadway?

  • 29 Ballard_Curmudgeon // Aug 1, 2009 at 1:29 am

    Now you're just yanking my chain.

  • 30 bbb1 // Aug 1, 2009 at 4:18 am

    No, I'm not. You're saying bicyclists should walk their bikes on the sidewalk, not ride their bikes?? Yes?No?

  • 31 squintstopher // Oct 12, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    What would it take to get a new pedestrian bridge across the canal? Could it be cheaper than doing a major retrofit on the Ballard Bridge? There are plenty of precedents for well-designed pedestrian drawbridges.

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