Since there isn’t much traffic on 124th Avenue and it doesn’t generally go anywhere useful, Bellevue decided to put a bike lane on it. That isn’t quite fair. There numerous houses in that neighborhood, so if you live there and are commuting into downtown here’s the baffling situation which will greet you as you approach 8th Street. Rather than do something logical, like put up a sign that says “bike lane ends” and simply stop the lane marker, they chose to instead force cyclists towards the curb, twice! Since the bike lane marker doesn’t end properly, car drivers get no indication that they may actually need to expect bicyclists to merge with traffic in order to get to the intersection with 8th St, so they zoom right past blissfully ignorant of your plight. So really, this bike lane translates to “get off the road”, but that title would get monotonous.
NE 8th Street is pretty frightful place to ride, with the worst part being the I-405 overpass which I generally call a “wrongful death lawsuit waiting to happen”. Fortunately for the inevitable victims, Overlake Hospital is right next door. But once you get to the other side of the freeway there are fragments of bike lane! One helpfully appears on the westbound side at 120th Ave, right as you begin scaling a steep hill. But once you get to the top, around 123rd, the bike lane gradually loses about 1 foot of its width, which means you’re just a hair’s breadth away from the Mercedes SUVs piloted (to use the term very loosely) by the gesticulating, bluetooth enabled maniacs.
Something tells me that with my bike buckets and produce box (see photo), I’m wider than that lane. Retreat to the sidewalk!
Our oh so brief sojourn down 106th Ave comes to an abrupt end at 4th Street. Of course it isn’t enough to simply bring the bike lane to an end, but to re-assert the God-given supremacy of the automobile. Rather than just paint the line straight to the crosswalk, they swerve the line over, squeezing cyclists and making it rather hard to continue up 106th Ave. The implication is that you should instead, turn right… though watch out for the Hummer taking advantage of those extra couple of inches to accommodate their bulk as they proceed around the corner.
As we labor up the hill on 106th Ave NE, towards 4th street we are presented with this odd situation: for no readily apparent reason, the bike lane briefly shrinks to about 1 foot wide, and then back again. I suddenly remember yoga class. Inhale! Hold! Exhale!
We continue south on 106th Ave NE towards Main Street, and here we are greeted an opportunity to do a magic trick! Make a bicyclist disappear, which is the apparent intent of this bike lane as in gradually narrows into nothingness.
It is too bad the bike shop moved from the storefront on the right, as they were conveniently located to commence repairs on bikes whose riders did not succeed in the vanishing trick, and instead ended up in the lane with the drivers, who, around here, don’t tend to notice cyclists until they bounce off their windshield.
This is the latest capitulation to the automobile taking place in Bellevue: They have decided to widen NE 8th Street, for two blocks! I am uncertain how these two blocks will do anything for the unfixable traffic situation, other than move the head of the traffic jam two blocks farther along.
A long time ago, city hall made the decision to only include half the streets in downtown Bellevue. So unlike the gridlock that occurs in most cities, in Bellevue it has to happen with half as many streets. There is no fix other than getting people out of their cars. So adding an extra lane for two blocks is useless at best. It is just another futile attempt to appease an insatiable tyrant (hence the title).
While riding down 114th Ave NE, near SE 2nd St, I spotted this amusing juxtaposition. Just in case you can’t tell from my terrible photography, there is a sign helpfully indicating that the bike route for the Lake Washington Loop is straight ahead. But from this angle, directly ahead of that sign is a “dead end” sign. Maybe this is a different definition of “loop” than I am accustomed to.
But the bike route actually does go down that road, which is only a dead end for cars, a short bike path connects the end of that street with 112th Ave right before the nightmare of 8th Street (more on that later).
However, in a city that considered bicycles real vehicles, there would be a sign below “dead end” which said “except bicycles.”
Here we are at 118th Ave SE, approaching SE 8th Street. The “motorcycles” warning sign wasn’t there last time I rode through here, otherwise you could more easily see the irony here. The small sign is a route marker for the Lake Washington Loop bike route, which helpfully indicates that the route is straight ahead. Of course the temporary warning sign is not just blocking the bike lane, but also obscuring the fact that it narrows down to nothing. Nothing says “bike route” like vanishing bike lanes.
116th Ave NE is Bellevue’s “auto row”, and, ironically, has a nice wide bike lane along the uphill side of an otherwise rather busy four-lane street (though it only extends about 6 blocks). But then it is abruptly tapered down to nothing just before the intersection with the unbelievably hostile 8th Street (more on that in future posts). The red and grey sign on the right is for the local Hummer dealership whose driveway is right where the bike lane ends. So this is obvious attempt to make me turn right and trade in my bike for an SUV so that I will fit in more amongst the botox and silicone laden, cell-phone wielding, trophy wives in their Lexus SUVs who menace the streets of Bellevue.
If you look at the Bellevue bike map, you’ll see 118th Ave marked as a bike route (the map does not distinguish bike lanes from bike routes as it would show how few of the former exist). After leaving downtown 118th Ave does have a couple miles of bike lanes. But at the intersection with SE 8th Street bicyclists are apparently expected to jump over the curb extensions on both sides of this intersection. So, mountain bikers will get a bit of jumping practice, but those of us on road bikes or recumbents are left in a position where we will undoubtedly have to stop and wait for traffic to clear, and, if the light is still green, proceed. A harsh reminder to bicyclists of their second-class status in the eyes of car drivers and road designers.
Are we at Gandhicon three yet? We now have two cases of anti-bike people demanding environmental reviews of facilities for bicyclists, one in San Francisco and one in New York City. (of course the supreme irony is that these people probably would have fought environmental reviews for car-oriented facilities). Whatever, I’m looking forward to Gandhicon four.
As I ride my bike I notice some odd traffic features, and one day I thought that all the lane markers and signs communicate an action, “don’t cross this line”, “stop here”, &c. So I started thinking about what bike related markers were communicating to me. Since Bellevue is, relatively speaking, pretty hostile to bicyclists, what they communicate is often hostile or at least confusing. So in this and any subsequent “translation” posts, will share such things.
I happened upon this on a residential street as I was going to pick up my CSA share (this is on 128th Ave NE around 1st St.)
I guess this is a weird variant on traffic calming: make the cars slow down, but make the cyclists either do a dangerous swerve or stop dead until traffic clears. At least the ditch looks soft…
This passage is from a recent op-ed by David Brooks:
The high point of his campaign, so far, has been his energy policy, which is comprehensive and bold, but does not try to turn us into a nation of bicyclists. It does not view America’s energy-intense economy as a sign of sinfulness.
While I seriously doubt that any mainstream candidate intends to turn us into a “nation of bicyclists,” I have to ask… what’s wrong with that?
The leading causes of death in this country are, for the most part, caused by poor diets and lack of exercise, so bicycling would fix half of that problem. The leading cause of death for young people is automobiles, bicyclists wouldn’t pose the same threat to our kids. Recent studies have shown that particulates emitted by vehicles contribute to heart disease and strokes, bicycles don’t emit such particles. I fail to see any negatives there.
When I envision the city streets around me filled with bicycles instead of cars, I see nearly empty streets with happy people socializing with one another instead of being isolated inside several tons of steel. I see people living closer to their workplaces, grocery stores and schools. I see people talking to one another, building communities, rather than focusing their frustration and isolation on others in the form of road rage.
I will grant you that a bicyclist may arrive a bit sweaty, but installing shower rooms at workplaces is not beyond our technological know-how. I think humans have a fair grasp of indoor plumbing.
The only downside is that we have structured our lives around automobiles and virtually free energy, and that bicycling may be difficult for some of them. But this structure is doomed, and a forward thinking energy policy will face these hard facts and help these people and their communities rebuild.
But if I’m wrong about this and, after doing the work rebuild our landscapes to human scales, we discover endless supplies of cheap oil, the world will be a better, happier and healthier place. What if you’re wrong, Mr. Brooks?
Years ago I went to a bicycle legal clinic where I first heard cyclists called an “embattled minority”. Since that time I have ridden many thousands of miles in many cities and found it to be true in a variety of minor ways. One of them is parking. The condo complex where I live has such a policy. Let’s review… here’s what car drivers get:
Here’s what bicylists get:
I don’t know about you, but that looks like a second-class situation.
My wife, who is on the condo board, made an attempt to change this, but it became clear that residents here are neither willing to allow bikes to be parked on decks, nor give up a single uncovered parking space for a bike rack. What’s truly sad about this is that we live in a downtown area, and most necessities of life are within a mile or two. Most everyone here could use a bike for much of their transportation, but few will because they don’t want to have their bikes in their living room or undertake the effort (as I do) of shoving their bike into a small closet.