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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

In Other Bike News

Posted by on Wed, Dec 3, 2008 at 4:57 PM

Did you know that Rainier Avenue South is 30 times as dangerous for cyclists as the Burke-Gilman trail—site of the city-identified "most dangerous" spot for cyclists in Seattle, the intersection of Northeast Blakely Street and 25th Avenue NE? That intersection has seen seven serious bike-car collisions in the last four years. Adding in the rest of the Burke-Gilman trail gets you to 35 major collisions a year. That sounds like a lot, until you consider that the Burke-Gilman sees between 2,000 and 2,500 cyclists a day. Rainier, in contrast, has about 140 cyclists a day—and 25 major crashes a year, according to the Cascade Bicycle Club, which did the analysis. That's an "exposure rate"—bike-nerdspeak for crashes per rider—nearly 30 times as high as the Burke-Gilman, a corridor of roughly equal length. The fact that Rainier is so dangerous is one obvious reason you don't see more cyclists on it—but it also makes the city's apparent decision to shelve a proposal to shrink a long stretch of Rainier from four lanes to three, adding bike lanes and calming traffic, all the more indefensible.


Comments (33) RSS

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No doubt, riding on Rainier is some scary shit. I'm a lazy motherfucker but rather than get passed at 45 by a big truck in a skinny lane I bike along Lake Washington and UP MT. BAKER (!!!!!) through the bike tunnel and back down again. I hate it, but I'd rather be alive and sweaty and bitter than to my destination 15 minutes faster and scared shitless.
Posted by Jessica on December 3, 2008 at 5:08 PM · Report this
It's also a fairly terrifying stretch of road to drive.
Posted by Jigae on December 3, 2008 at 5:11 PM · Report this
Erica Darling, you know I love you. But restricting Rainier Avenue is a really, really, really dumb idea. It is the Aurora Avenue of the southend, the only real arterial in some spots.

Also, it's full of idiot drivers, bunches of buses, and pedestrians who randomly wander out into the street. No need to add to the confusion.
Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay on December 3, 2008 at 5:20 PM · Report this
Do we have any evidence yet showing what effect other shrinkage implementations have had on bicycle usage? On Stone Way, perhaps? Because I drive Stone every day, and I haven't noticed any significant increase in bike traffic on it.

I agree that attacking these major arterials is a poor way to go. These roads are how the city moves around, like it or not, and a tiny handful of cyclists shouldn't take precedence over the entire rest of the city.
Posted by Fnarf on December 3, 2008 at 5:40 PM · Report this
You forgot to mention that Rainier is worst for all types of accidents not just with bikes. I find it funny that they would try to shrink the lanes. Where would the thousands of rush hour cars go? On the side streets I suppose.
It is spelled Blakeley not Blakely nad it is dangerous by design. They have tried to improve it but you can only do so much.
Posted by Bill W. on December 3, 2008 at 5:49 PM · Report this
There are a ton of great options that are not Rainier for getting north from SE Seattle. Granted, none are as flat or direct, but you can't ride on I-15 either... tough shit. Roads are built for cars and some do not adapt well to adding bike traffic. Rainier is one of those. Reducing lanes is only defensible if the road is underutilized by vehicle traffic (which clearly Rainier is not) and has a lot of demand from cyclists (140 a day is paltry compared to drivers/transit riders).

If you commute by bike, you should be in reasonable shape, take an alternate route. There may be a hill involved, but you'll come out better for it.
Posted by meks on December 3, 2008 at 5:54 PM · Report this
You ever try riding on a side street?
Posted by elswinger on December 3, 2008 at 6:24 PM · Report this
Bikes need to stay on main streets because they need controlled intersections. Trying to cross a main road at an uncontrolled intersection is suicide on a bike (or a car, most of the time).
Posted by Fnarf on December 3, 2008 at 6:34 PM · Report this
You'd have to be out of your gourd to ride a bicycle on Rainier for more than a block or two. I suspect you were no math major ECB, but even you should know better than to try and make this crappy comparison. You should be comparing the single-most accident-prone location or intersection on Rainier (rather than the entire length of it) with the intersection in question on the Burke-Gilman.
Posted by Good Grief on December 3, 2008 at 6:46 PM · Report this
drop a lane for 140 bikes a day?

what's that 20 per hour at rush hour?

Posted by McG on December 3, 2008 at 6:53 PM · Report this
Fnarf, do you even ride a bike? Of course side streets are safer, even with the crossings. Suicide? Try holding your lane on Rainier! I also don't understand why that intersection on the BG would be the most dangerous spot in town. It is well marked with a traffic light, walk signals, etc.. I would imagine foolish cyclists run that light, or don't even pay attention enough to notice it. I think there are many more dangerous intersections that lack control devices.
Posted by seattle bike guy on December 3, 2008 at 7:09 PM · Report this
@11 perhaps side streets are safer if you treat every uncontrolled intersection as a stopsign (as legally you must!) I prefer to be able to ride more than 1 block before hitting the brakes.
Posted by Andrew on December 3, 2008 at 7:24 PM · Report this
Andrew, I'm sure you sit around at empty intersections waiting for the walk signal, too.
Posted by seattle bike guy on December 3, 2008 at 8:37 PM · Report this
Hardly. I jaywalk with abandon. But there have been three collisions in the uncontrolled intersection my house is on in the two years I've lived there, and I've been hit by a car while biking (without yielding or really looking--my fault) through such an intersection so it's a pretty reasonable paranoia in my view.
Posted by Andrew on December 3, 2008 at 8:50 PM · Report this
First: Rainier probably has the most automobile on automobile accidents in the entire city.

Second: I've ridden Rainier. Drivers are often times hostile. But much of the road allows a cyclist to keep up with traffic, which calms drivers a bit. However the space between Massachusetts and Dearborn is both a traffic engineering masterpiece and a disaster. It's dangerous for a cyclist because cars are allowed to pick up their speed to (I'd guess) about 50mph and are supported by those exiting the highway at higher speeds. One suggestion I would have is to change the exits to have traffic lights at the end. It would slow the drivers on Rainier and those coming from the highway.

Third: There's not a lot of side streets go through/over/under I-90. But I have used some of the side streets south of the highway. There's not a whole lot of them and it's not always possible as Rainier is diagonal to the surrounding roads (duh).

And a special note to any hostile drivers reading this post: Honking at me because I'm "in your lane" only causes me to slow down, keep to the middle and maybe swerve a little. Oh, sorry, you're upset? Bummer.
Posted by mattro2.0 on December 3, 2008 at 9:00 PM · Report this
If you think Rainier is bad, try riding your bike on I-5.
Posted by seandr on December 3, 2008 at 9:09 PM · Report this
"There's not a lot of side streets go through/over/under I-90."

MLK does the trick, and it even has a bike lane.
Posted by seandr on December 3, 2008 at 9:10 PM · Report this
I have biked down Rainier Avenue many times. On the sidewalks. It's legal, and there are rarely pedestrians. Nobody is walking on Rainier Avenue sidewalks. Not many, anyway. Sure, it's not ideal to bike on, but it's better than pretendng that a bike can somehow share that road with cars and trucks and busses.
Posted by homage to me on December 3, 2008 at 9:13 PM · Report this
@11, not any more, but I did bike commute year-round in Boston for several years, a city with worse traffic, crazier streets, and fewer bicycle amenities than Seattle. I held my own.

And I can tell you that at uncontrolled intersections where side streets cross heavily-trafficked streets, it doesn't matter whether you stop or not; you're going to die, because there are rarely gaps in traffic to cross on. The only way to do it is to turn right into the traffic, go a few blocks until you can manage to squeeze over into the left lane to try a left turn, and zigzag back and forth like that. Brutal. If you're in the heavy traffic yourself, you have a measure of control if you behave sensibly and clearly.
Posted by Fnarf on December 3, 2008 at 9:18 PM · Report this
@11: If you're any sort of bike guy, you'd know that the most likely cause of accidents at Blakeley and 25th is cars that turn from Blakeley without stopping for bikes in the parallel BGT. Almost every time I'm waiting to head east there is a line of cars turning right on red, and when the light turns green the first one usually goes without considering the bikes. Left turning vehicles also seem similarly clueless.

Compare this intersection with the similar one of Pacific/15th/BGT. Again, the BGT is parallel to a busy street, but there the left turns have a dedicated signal, and the right turns have a green arrow when the traffic heading south on 15th does. I don't see nearly as many conflicts at that intersection.
Posted by Greg Barnes on December 3, 2008 at 9:33 PM · Report this
As a transplant from a state without uncontrolled intersections... wtf? Wouldn't having a stop sign on one street make a lot more sense? Is it a deliberate tactic to slow the flow of traffic by making everyone terrified of being crashed into?
Posted by Jigae on December 3, 2008 at 9:37 PM · Report this
To summarize all comments on this thread including Erica's original post: I think public policy should be designed to accommodate me - whatever mode and route I choose to get from where I live to where I work.
Posted by Lionel Hutz on December 3, 2008 at 10:12 PM · Report this
It saddens me that people would seek to limit my access to public rights of way simply because my vehicle is non-motorized.

If I take Rainier, I can get from Columbia City to Lower Queen Anne in less than 30 minutes if I really hustle. If I take one of the hills and avoid Rainier, it takes twice as long. Imagine if cars were required to take the long route? Hmmmm....
Posted by Brad on December 3, 2008 at 11:16 PM · Report this
it's spelled AND not NAD
Posted by john on December 4, 2008 at 12:16 AM · Report this
Cripes, if you think biking down Rainier is bad, you should try walking it. I become a Catholic again whenever I'm in a crosswalk along Rainier.
Posted by Sister Mary Pedestrian on December 4, 2008 at 4:09 AM · Report this
The "steps" that the city has taken are pretty lame. "Sharing" the road with cars using the street "chevrons" is no solution. Other dangerous locations are 23rd Avenue. Not only are there no bicycle lanes it's not even safe to ride on sidewalks since the sidewalks are so narrow and for much of 23rd Avenue there are not even any dropped curbs. The city spends many $$ on adding *additional* dropped curbs where there are already dropped curbs in place (such as Broadway and Denny where they thoughtfully added fashionable nubby footplates.)
Posted by Joseph on December 4, 2008 at 5:33 AM · Report this
Thanks for a great analysis, Cascade and Erica.

FWIW, best routes in the SE are Lake Washington Blvd and hopefully, still, Beacon Hill, if you live on top.

Sound Transit didn't do much to make MLK way more bike friendly, but that probably wasn't possible.…

Best solution is likely to work on making the Lake route even better, perhaps especially a connection at I-90 to downtown and inclusion of Bike Routes from the arboretum to the UW in the 520 rebuild.

Posted by Douglas Tooley on December 4, 2008 at 6:12 AM · Report this
Sometimes it seems like cyclists believe they don't have to follow the smae rules that drivers do, and maybe they don't, but when I see some biclyst blow through a seop sign or cut through a gas station parking lot, I'm not sure how much sympathy I would feel if they got hit (I;d feel some. I do stupid shit too).

It's a given that drivers need to be more aware of ctclists and they have shared the road with each ther for around a hundred years. But, the law says, that if I drove a car as slow as a bicyclists (i.e. slower than the speed limit) average speed, I would have to pull over to yield to the traffic behind me.

I think the city does not do enough to make the streets safer for cyclists, and if ECB, or someone else, wants to put forth an initiative to do so, I'll sign the petition and vote in favor of it. Until then you just got to make do with what we have.
Posted by elswinger on December 4, 2008 at 8:09 AM · Report this
Lets just build an elevated system of bike lanes that only bikes may enjoy. I think if you take the doomed Monorail map that would be a good starting point. We'll have to make sure to keep the walker and rollerblade crowd OFF our special pathways, but we deserve these special lanes. Its our right!
Posted by fairytale on December 4, 2008 at 8:19 AM · Report this
Erica you are such a tool

Yeah let's close 1 full lane of traffic to make it "better" for 200 bicyclists who might randomly use it throughout the day. I'll even spot you 500 bicyclists per day, and that still doesn't even begin to cover the 10,000+ vehicles that use that road every day...

You never cease to amaze at the liberal garbage you spew....

It's ultra libs like you the give the rest of folks a bad rep, and makes it impossible to defend more common sense change that is needed.

Pick your battles ECB...

Moving on...
Posted by Reality Check on December 4, 2008 at 10:31 AM · Report this
I'm still far more worried about car doors opening unexpectedly and trucks in that area which don't check their blind spots than I am about any lane striping.

Want safety? Have a literally separate bike lane.

Nothing less will work.
Posted by Will in Seattle on December 4, 2008 at 10:41 AM · Report this
People who complain about the small number of cyclists are retarded.

The reason there aren't many cyclists is because the roads are too dangerous you stupid tools! Make cycling semi-reasonable and more people will bicycle. A lot more people.
Posted by big time shiz nasty on December 4, 2008 at 12:51 PM · Report this
Thank you for pointing this out, i was just thinking as i read the P.I. article that they were blatantly ignoring the South End. To take it one step further the city's Bicycle Master Plan is clearly racist and classist in the fact that all but perhaps one of the improvements lay in the north end, where for the most part only wealthy white fair-weather riders live and have control over things like the BMP, and are probably members of Cascade Bicycle Club.


oh, and i got hit on rainier too.
Posted by rose on December 4, 2008 at 12:57 PM · Report this

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