The recent “Viadoom” week put bicycle/pedestrian commuting in a brighter spotlight than it had had for a while – including one hazard along the way between West Seattle and downtown – a spot where non-motorized traffic is supposed to use a “roundabout,” which means they wouldn’t have to cross the road. You can see it at :57 into Seattle Times (WSB partner) reporter Mike Lindblom‘s helmet-cam video of his bicycle commute that week – his narration calls attention to it:
This is apparently the same vicinity in which West Seattle resident Tim Nelson was hit by a truck two weeks ago while running to work. West Seattle bicyclist Eric Shalit, who publishes Tubulocity, e-mailed us about it, saying the safe path is not well-marked; we suggested he contact City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who chairs the council’s Transportation Committee and commutes by bicycle on occasion. Eric’s letter has yielded positive responses from both Councilmember Rasmussen and SDOT leadership – read on to see the letter, and the replies:
First, Eric’s letter:
I originally wrote this to Tracy Record of the West Seattle Blog. She wrote back “If there is a signage problem, I would suggest a note to Councilmember Rasmussen, who is Transportation Cmte chair as well as a West Seattleite and a sometime bicyclist. Seems like signs are fairly cheap to put up!”
Here’s what I wrote:
I somehow only just saw the article about the runner who was nearly killed by a truck while crossing against the light at the east side of the WS Bridge.
There is a roundabout that should always be used instead of crossing that road. It’s a wonderful piece of infrastructure, but somehow is counter-intuitive and not well marked with signage. THERE IS NOT REASON TO CROSS THE ROAD AT THE EAST SIDE OF THE BRIDGE.
A good friend of mine led the Cascade Bicycle Club Bike Train to downtown and was initially unaware of the roundabout. I was unaware of it for a long time. She and I talked about the need for better signage there.
Here’s what it does.
Heading east toward downtown, at the foot of the bike/pedestrian path, continue right. The path loops under the bridge and puts you on the north side of the road. You NEVER have to cross the road. The bike/pedestrian path is a continuous loop.
This near fatality is evidence of the need for clear signage. Signage should be on a post as well as painted in orange directly on the path. It’s all that’s missing from an otherwise great piece of safety infrastructure.
I did not want to post this to the article about the injured runner.
Here’s a similar comment someone else made there:
“Yesterday I rode my bike through that intersection and noticed many bicyclists making that dangerous diagonal dash across traffic and ignoring the stoplights and crosswalks. Same again this morning. I think it would be beneficial if some of these roving SPD foot presence would station themselves at the bottom of the east portion of the low bridge to remind people that this is the safest option for crossing here. There is no good reason to not use the pedestrian / bicycle path that goes back under the bridge and avoids the need to make that dangerous diagonal crossing as many seem to want to do. I have no idea what the circumstances were for Tim’s accident, but I have been riding this section for many years now and have always felt there was a bad accident waiting to happen.”
Councilmember Rasmussen’s response:
Eric: I am familiar with the area you are describing. The roundabout path is much safer and when I bike I use it. It is a little longer ride and more circuitous but in my view much safer. I think that some people cross the road because it is more direct. But I find that route to be very daunting due to the traffic. However, it does look like the diagonal crossing is a legal and permissible crossing for pedestrians and bicyclists.
I will ask SDOT to install informational signs to point the way to the route under the bridge in case people are unaware of it.
SDOT director Peter Hahn was cc’d, and directed the letter to three of his managers, saying:
Here’s a suggestion for safer signage. Let’s look at this right away.
We’ll watch to see what transpires – let us know if you see signs before we do! P.S. While this doesn’t necessarily qualify as an emergency road hazard, if you do encounter one (tree falls onto a road, chuckhole so deep your wheel got stuck in it, etc.), or have something else you want to report to SDOT, make note of their hotline – 206-684-ROAD (online reporting of non-emergency problems is also available here).