The Northwest’s First Cycletrack

Two weeks ago, while in Vancouver BC for a Institute of Transportation Engineers conference, I was lucky enough to go on a technical tour of the Carrall Street Greenway. Carrall Street is located in East Downtown (which is the only land connection between Downtown and the rest of Vancouver) and has the Northwest’s first cycletrack. The project’s main goal is to complete downtown Vancouver’s seawall loop path, which is a shared use path that rings downtown. Another goal is economic development. East Downtown is Vancouver’s (and BC’s?) poorest district and has significant drug problems (while on the tour, I saw people on the street shooting up; no joke).  Needless to say, the city is hoping that by developing this path, thousands of cyclists will pass through the neighborhood, improving conditions. Go here for detailed drawings and plans.

 

 

I was happily surprised by the quality of the street, bar a few glaring issues. The design emphasizes flexibility of use. The city wanted to be able to easily close down the street and use it for community events and celebrations. Each side has full sidewalks as well as a 6 ft (I believe) smoothly paved grey cycletrack. Parking is provided on the west side of the street on pervious brick which is separated from one 10 ft travel lane in each direction by a 3 in rollable curb. This narrows the vehicular zone of the street significantly and makes it feel closer to a shared space than a normal two lane street.

I had three major issues with the project. First were the absolute twigs that they called “trees”, used on the first few blocks. Second, the cycletrack on the east side of the road was not protected. As you can see in the pictures, multiple people were parking or waiting on the cycle track, forcing bicyclists into the road. This problem might go away when construction is finished and the greenway is complete, but if it doesn’t, the city is going to need to do something. Third, there was no consistent way of alerting drivers and cyclists about points of conflict. They painted one whole area next to parking because they said that band RVs will park there, yet a few feet away, they did not mark an entrance to a surface parking lot with 15 or so parking spots. The scariest thing for an engineer is not to know what to expect, and I think that played out here.

Overall, it was great to see this development, and it will be a good learning experience for engineers and planners in the region. Portland will be building its first cycletrack near PSU over the summer. Check out Bike Portland for details. As for us, I don’t see a cycletrack in the cards for a while, although I hope I’m wrong.

Comments

  1. barman says

    This looks a lot like the redesigned bike/ped/auto corridors being build all over Paris. It’s a great design and Seattle should take note.

  2. jonglix says

    This type of bike path seems questionable to me. It makes cyclists less visible to turning vehicles, and they are the real danger

    • Erik says

      P.S. Right Turn on Red is not allowed in Europe.

      But it is in North America BECAUSE WE HAVE TO MOVE MORE CARS THROUGH THE INTERSECTIONS!!! AND DO IT FASTER!!!

      (See State DOT planning flowchart in earlier thread)

      • says

        Seattle may start restricting rights on red once the Pedestrian Master Plan is adopted. Stay tuned.

        For anyone who attended Helle Soholt’s talk at UW a couple weeks ago on walkability, she’s a big proponent of cycletrack and poked a lot of fun at Seattle’s sharrows. Frankly I suspect there’s some calcified resistance at SDOT.

  3. AJ says

    Shows you how much they care about bikes when the only place they can find the will to put this is Downtown Eastside

  4. ted says

    The design is okay, but it might be better if the took out one travel lane (making the street one way), put a wider bike path on one side of the street and parking on the other (more preference for bikes).

    But if they wanted to go the extreme: close the street to all vehicular traffic, just like in Europe!

  5. says

    I’m not sure that building a bike track will solve a drug problem – it may drive it away but “solving” is a different challenge.

    • Adam B. Parast says

      Yeah this is a pretty big problem. I think the city is trying to ignore it for now until the whole corridor is done and then clamp down when the project is completely open.

      • says

        Frankly, pictures of cars in bike lanes really piss me off. The owners of those vehicles don’t understand, or don’t care, that they are putting somebody else’s life at risk. Woe to these bozos if I ever follow up with my plan for a 3rd career: Seattle Parking Enforcement Officer on bike… You’d better believe I’d be the #1 PEO in the city. (Oh, and watch out if you park in bus zones – you’re next on my list)

  6. Madisonian says

    If Seattle had the will to build a cycletrack, where should the first one go?

    • says

      Main in Bellevue (part of the Lake to Lake trail) is slated to undergo a major make over in the next 1-2 years. There is an open house next Tues. The plan now is three lanes with a 3′ bike path on each side plus a 2′ door zone separating the on street parking. Parking will be 10′ wide with the hope that will further increase the buffer of bikes. That’s a lot of pavement and I’m afraid the bike lanes lack visibility plus the planned right turn lanes look like a “right hook” waiting to happen. I’m forwarding the pictures from Vancouver to the Senior Planner. With the planned sideways and other ROW there would be room to divert the bike lane to the sidewalk side of the parking. However, I believe a center median with a center bike lane like Ravenna to Green Lake would be better. Thoughts?

      • Mike says

        Hmm, those dimensions seem a little off from a typical engineering perspective. 3′ can hardly be called a “bike lane” as AASHTO standards (one of the many standards used by engineers) is 5′ when adjacent to a curb or 4′ minimum otherwise. I would hope that the 2′ buffer would be designated as the bike lane as well.

        Also, 10′ wide parking is asking for trouble. Again, the typical standard for parking is 8′ wide. This is often acceptable when you have standard passenger vehicles using the parking but may be tight when you have a large number of trucks using it. In fact, Seattle has somewhat adopted a standard of 7′ wide parking lanes. Motorists generally follow the lines, so the tighter you make the parking, they will try to park within the lines. Give them extra and you will likely see parking along the line.

        Bernie, if you go to the open house, ask them to stripe both sides of the bike lane (if they don’t already plan to). One stripe should be between traffic and the bike lane while the other should separate the bike lane from the parking. It’s one extra stripe but the benefits far outweigh the costs.

      • says

        I could be off on the 3′, it might well be 4′. The 2′ door zone was to be cross hatched in the rendering I saw. I agree that the 10′ parking spot is asking for trouble. It was Cascades bike club told them it was a good idea; they always seem to think more for bikes is better. If drivers do park against the curb they won’t be able to see traffic when pulling out. My fear is that they just treat the bike lane like a shoulder and nose out into it before they look back for traffic (bikes or cars). My other concern is that being parked off to the side some cars will be 2′ farther out than others and as a bike rider you won’t be able to see if there are people ahead about to open a door or pull out.

    • Paul says

      Actually, Seattle already has a cycletrack, don’t we? It’s along Alki. It’s not very long, and it’s for recreation rather than commuting, but it does fit the definition, I think.

      • Mickymse says

        Yes… and no. If you pay attention to the size of the lane, it’s wide enough for vehicles. I imagine it does meet the definition, but the lane exists there so that they can quickly move emergency vehicles through there if necessary on a busy summer day.

  7. alexjonlin says

    Unrelated but I thought this was interesting:http://psrc.org/projects/mtp/projectlists/app9.pdf. It’s a list of possible projects put out by the PSRC for Destination 2030. The main things that caught my attention were rough cost estimates of several link extensions like Burien-Alderwood via 405 and South Bellevue to I-90 in the last section of the document, and a little thing that mentioned “people mover” with no explanation in a project about Edmonds terminal relocation Phase II.

  8. Mike B says

    I was just up there over the weekend and took a look at it. Pretty sweet. Very close to a SkyTrain station too. I’ll upload some pictures to Flickr and link them tomorrow!

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