At last night's meeting of the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board, Brian Dougherty from the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) unveiled preliminary plans for Seattle's first "parking-protected" cycletrack ---essentially, a segregated bike lane separated by a painted buffer and parked cars from traffic---on Dexter Ave N from Nickerson St to Mercer St.
Piggybacking on a scheduled repaving of Dexter in early 2011, the bike project will help address insufficient bike lanes, high traffic speeds (the 85th percentile of cars drive 41-42 mph) and a narrow northbound lane that doesn't meet Metro's width standards. Dexter's current bike lane--which had the city's highest ridership in the 2009 bicycle count--does not meet SDOT's (or federal) guidelines. It is, in essence, a widened parking lane with a single white line and painted bicycle symbols.
SDOT's conceptual drawing.
The "cycletrack concept", as SDOT is calling it, would differ slightly from the traditional European cycletracks that have cement barriers between the bike and car lanes. SDOT's design calls for six-foot bike lanes, two-foot painted buffers, eight-foot parking lanes, and two 11-foot travel lanes. The parking lanes will be replaced with 10-foot, raised transit islands at bus stops along the route. The center turn lane will be removed to accommodate the additional width needed for buffered bike lanes, though dedicated left-turn lanes will be retained at key intersections.
SDOT studies have found that the center turn lane on Dexter is underutilized (and in some cases is even used as a delivery truck loading/unloading area for retailers).
One of the major concerns about cycletracks is the possibility that cyclists will be hit at intersections because drivers won't see them. In the current design, SDOT attempts to deal with this problem by removing parking within 40 feet of intersections and driveways, making it easier for drivers to look for (and see) cyclists before making their turn.
New York City has been a pioneer of sorts in building cycletracks in America. Studies of the 9th Ave cycletrack in Manhattan have found a 56 percent reduction in injury-causing collisions, a 29 percent reduction in pedestrian collisions, and a 57 percent reduction in bicycle collisions on that corridor.
The project is still in the very early design stages. SDOT is holding an open house on June 29 in the Seattle Center Northwest Rooms from 4:30-6:30 p.m. to give the public a chance to review the designs and provide feedback. The city's goal is to have have the designs finalized by October of this year and begin construction in February 2011.