Second Avenue has long been a Bermuda Triangle for Seattle cyclists. More

Second Avenue has long been a Bermuda Triangle for Seattle cyclists. More than 60 crashes involving bicyclists have taken place on this busy downtown thoroughfare since 2010—the most horrific of all on Aug. 29 when Sher Kung, a 31-year-old attorney and mother, was killed by a large box truck turning left at Second and University. Few places in the city better exemplify the uneasy relationship that exists between motorists and bicyclists. This past weekend, the street was dramatically revamped with new dedicated lane markings, bike signals, and a row of plastic bollards stretching from Pike Street to Yesler Way, all designed to separate bikes from other traffic. But naysayers abound. Here are the concerns they’re peddling, and whether they hold any ground.

Separation anxiety There is a fear that the dedicated bike lane will give cyclists a false sense of safety and security. At the same time, by changing the bike lane to allow cyclists to pedal north and south, there exists the ever-present specter of a head-on collision, which happened earlier this year on the Interstate 90 bridge bike trail. Also, there are worries that cars pulling out of driveways will accidentally strike a cyclist, or that people will get hit by walking from their parked vehicle into the bike lane. Eventually, though, we will all get used to it. “With any roadway change, there’s a period of adjustment,” says Seattle Department of Transportation spokesman Rick Sheridan.

Signs of trouble What with three kinds of lights instead of one, the new signals are going to be confusing, at least for a while. It will take some getting used to, this new alignment: separate traffic lights for bikes and left-turning cars on the left, while drivers in the center and right lanes are expected to obey signals on the right side of the street. But don’t worry, says Sheridan, for it won’t take long to figure out. And besides, “This type of improvement, both nationally and internationally, has been proven to enhance safety, and we believe that will be in the case in Seattle.” Feeling better now?

Congestion suggestion People are afraid the bike lanes are going to make traffic worse. They will cause even more congestion, some say, with drivers and bikers moving more slowly as they grapple with navigating the new infrastructure. The $1.5 million in safety features is a waste of taxpayer money, opine others, saying that would be better spent on fixing potholes. Or, as one commenter at seattletimes.com puts it, “You can’t yield to what you can’t see. Downtown is a Boolean nightmare for drivers. If they were serious about traffic flow and safety, they would make much of downtown a right-turn only… If this is such a good idea, why didn’t they do it on First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Avenues?” Fumed another skeptic: “If bike riders followed the rules of the road, there would be no need for additional bike lanes or special signals.” Says Sheridan: “There is nothing special or unique about this. These [signals] are standard equipment used in other cities across the country.”

econklin@seattleweekly.com

Art Credit: Anxiety by Alex Kwa, Traffic Light by John Caserta, Traffic by Laurent Canivet from The Noun Project


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