I had a close call while riding home from Eastlake the other day. I had just reached the west end of the pseudo-bike path/sidewalk that runs along Valley St. The pedestrian signal to cross Westlake was green so I started slowly wheeling my way into the street. As my front wheel touched asphalt, a car roared around the corner. I hit the brakes, he kept moving. Luckily, I knew to approach the crossing at a snail's pace because I've experienced plenty of close calls there before. Had I taken my right-of-way any faster I probably would have been squashed.

It's tempting to just blame drivers for being inattentive (though that's no doubt part of the issue), but the problem is really a symptom of roadway design.

The South Lake Union trolley tracks run between the street and sidewalk along Valley which makes it harder for drivers to see the cyclists and pedestrians. The tracks then turn left on Westlake which extends the corner and makes it even harder to see the crosswalk.

The path is an important resource for bikes and pedestrians. It connects Eastlake and Dexter Aves, both of which are major cycling arterials. Despite being on the narrow side (the path is more than a little crowded when people get off the trolley), it's better than riding on Valley which has no shoulder and always has heavy I-5 traffic.

The Mercer Corridor redesign looks like it'll fix this particular issue, but that's years away from reality. In the meantime, some simple signage would do wonders for improving the safety of cyclists and pedestrians at that crossing. A big, bright sign placed before the turn saying something like "Watch for Bicycles and Pedestrians  in Crosswalk" would heighten drivers' awareness and (hopefully) slow them down.

As far as I know there haven't been any accidents yet. Several people have reported the spot as a hazard on Bike Wise (which theoretically means it's been reported to the City). It's not hyperbolic, however, to say that it's only a matter of time before someone gets seriously injured or killed at this spot. Though that would definitely expedite a redesign of the corner, it's probably better if everyone just rides and walks with caution and assumes they're as invisible to cars as they likely are.
Filed under
Show Comments