UPDATE 9:19 a.m:
The Seattle DOT is filming an instructional video along Second Avenue this morning, and handing out about $250 in privately-funded gift certificates to drivers and cyclists “being awesome” by obeying the traffic signals. The certificates are for use in Second Avenue restaurants and cafes.
Nonetheless, a young woman was nearly hit at 8:45 this morning when she failed to notice the red bike icon, and rode downhill near a left-turning car at Spring Street. She shrugged as if to confess her mistake, and continued south. A couple minutes later, a driver stopped for the red arrow, then illegally made the left turn.
Original post Tuesday afternoon:
The new, separated bikeway on Second Avenue attracted 1,100 cyclists per day in its opening week, triple the number who used the previous bike lane alongside moving traffic, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation.
The counts were taken Sept. 9, 10 and 11, using rubber tubes across the bikeway on the left side of the southbound street.
There are two main features. Bikes are divided from moving traffic by plastic bollards or a row of parked cars, and new traffic signals stop left-turning cars while bikes have the green light to go straight.
After rampant confusion, city traffic engineer Dongho Chang had the signal bulbs changed to clarify which traffic lights govern the left-turn lane, and which lights govern southbound cars. Afterward, a brief observation at Second and Spring Street found that 50 of 52 observed vehicles obeyed the red left-turn arrow by staying out of the bikeway until their arrow turned green, the city said.
“A better organized Second Avenue means a more predictable roadway for cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians, and makes it safer for all users. Signals and signs make the rules of the road more clear,” according to a statement by SDOT director Scott Kubly. The new lane opened Sept. 8, and its setting resembles a project Kubly oversaw in Chicago.
There are still kinks in the project. New traffic signals haven’t been installed yet on Second at Pike Street, but Chang says those are coming soon.
Also, there were many instances last week of valet parkers, or cab drivers, backing or stopping cars in a crosswalk, while trying to serve early-evening customers. Commuters seem confused by load-zone markings, sometimes driving into a parking area that looked like a travel lane.
Jessica Szelag, director of the business-supported Commute Seattle organization, said she likes the new bikeway, but points out that the corridor is attracting mainly those people who are already willing to brave the traffic downtown. Szelag points out it’s still difficult to reach Second Avenue from surrounding streets, where bicyclists roll shoulder-to-shoulder next to general traffic. “Right now, it’s a bit of an island,” she said last week.
The solution, said Szelag, is to keep extending the separated bike network, one block at a time.