Green Lanes and the Right Hook in Seattle

greensign.gif The Seattle Times had a big article on bike safety and infrastructure yesterday. The focus was mostly on the danger cyclists face from traffic turning right at intersections – see collisions #3, #4, and #5 at BicycleSafe.com for drawings. This is the danger that killed Bryce Lewis in September last year. It looks like the city’s taking a few experimental steps to deal with these types of issues, including some Green Lanes, known as Blue Lanes in other civilized portions of the world, at a few intersections. Great news says I, but why so slow?

According to the Times we’ll be getting 4 Green Lanes to go with the dotted line bike lane markers on Stone Way:

The sites are southbound Dexter at Denny Way, both ends of the Fremont Bridge, and North 145th Street where Shoreline’s new Interurban Trail meets the city limits.

Presumably the city will be monitoring these intersections to see how much of an improvement (if any) the new lanes are. The article notes that Portland, which has been using blue lanes for more than 15 years, noted that the lanes have changed motorist and cyclist behaviour but not always for the better.

City officials videotaped traffic and found that motorists yielded far more often to bikes in marked blue lanes – and that cyclists glanced at cars less often, a problem. Still, drivers and cyclists said the streets seemed safer.

I’ll be interested to see the results of the investigation, and it sounds like the Eastlake and Furhman intersection is next on the list for improvements.

It’s great to see that the City’s taking action here, however embarrassing it is that we’re more than a decade behind our sister city to the south on this front. The optimist in me wants to believe this is the first of many improvements from the Bicycle Master Plan, and that things will move along quickly. But for the pessimist in me, the word that stood out most strongly in the times article is ‘gingerly’. I can appreciate a a prudent approach, especially where one risks making things worse through change. I’m not sure Seattle runs that risk.