Crossing NE 40th St on the 520 trail in Redmond

To be honest, I don’t recommend it.  This intersection is not designed for people despite the large number that walk and bike through it, and it’s only a matter of time before someone is hurt or killed.  But here’s what you’ll find.

First, let’s orient ourselves:

Yes, that’s a lot of road.  The north side of the intersection is a 520 off-ramp.  The south side is a 520 on-ramp.  The trail runs along the west side of the intersection.  Many are going to Microsoft, which often means heading east along 40th.  The south side of the bridge has a fairly wide ped/bike path.  The north side has a narrow sidewalk.  The bridge at 36th is much nicer to use since there isn’t a highway interchange.  The bridge at 51st has no bike facilities.  That intersection has most of the same problems as at 40th.  However, it can be used to access the northern reaches of the main Microsoft campus.

The (north-south) trail crossing is given an approximately 3 second green signal at the beginning of the off-ramp (facing south) vehicular traffic’s green light.  There is then a 30 second countdown where it is illegal to enter the intersection on foot or bike, but then it’s an entire cycle until the next 3 second chance.  Most ignore this law.  Drivers often assume it is followed.

There is no north-south crossing on the east side of the intersection.

The east-west crossing on the south side is given a slightly longer green signal while the east-west vehicular traffic also has green.  The green and ensuing countdown are shorter than the east-west vehicular green light.  There is also a period where the eastbound traffic is stopped and a left arrow is given for westbound traffic to turn onto the on-ramp.

The east-west crossing on the north side is given a green signal during the entire east-west vehicular green light.  However, this is only really useful on foot.

Right-turn-on-red is allowed for both of the possible right turns and is the biggest problem.  Drivers turning right onto the on-ramp often stop on the crosswalk rather than the stop line, assuming they stop at all, before looking for vehicular traffic blocking their turn.  Drivers turning right off of the off-ramp will pull far enough forward that they no longer can see people waiting on the corner.  Then when the light turns green this right turn conflicts with the trail crossing.

Crossing southbound:

There is usually a driver waiting for an opportunity to turn right on red when the cycle changes to green for the off-ramp and trail.  This driver often won’t look and would run over anyone entering the intersection immediately.  Unfortunately, once this car has cleared, the trail will already be on the countdown timer, so legally it is impossible to cross.  The next car will be in a better position to see the trail traffic and usually, but not always, will wait.  After this, the issue is traffic that is approaching the intersection during the green light.  They will be moving at highway speeds and since 40th is so wide they can physically navigate the turn at high speed as well, and some do.

At the median, there might be a car blocking the crosswalk in the first lane of eastbound traffic.

Lastly, it is common for a driver in the right-turn lane (so, the last lane to cross for southbound pedestrians and bicyclists) to blindly pull through the crosswalk before looking for anything.  Always slow and peek around the cars in the next-to-last lane.

Crossing northbound:

Of course northbound has the same set of obstacles as southbound, though they present themselves a bit differently.  When the crosswalk signal turns green, cars in the right turn lane will be seeing the first break in traffic from the cars turning left onto the on-ramp (since the light has just turned red), so expect one to make this turn without looking for trail traffic.  On the other side, cars may be moving after the southbound trail traffic has cleared, and the drivers will be eager to go.

[Edit: The signal phasing has changed so that the left turn onto the 520 on-ramp is now at the beginning of the east-west phase rather than the end.  In practice this means the right-turn lane onto 520 might be empty at the beginning of the north-sound phase, so it sometimes removes a conflict.]

Crossing east-west:

If you are a pedestrian going between the northwest and southeast corners of the highway exchange, you can avoid the two miserable crossings by using the north side of the bridge.  The crosswalks at 156th are much more pleasant.

The south side’s east-west crossing has the problem of conflicting with right-turning traffic onto the on-ramp.  (“Conflicting” here means both groups have green lights at the same time.)  So the green pedestrian signal is hardly a promise of safety.  On top of this, drivers find all sorts of ways to abuse the left turn onto the on-ramp.  A lot of it stems from them getting blocked from making the turn while they have the green and then just doing it whenever the blockage clears.

Commentary:

It’s a complete embarrassment that WSDOT allows right-turn-on-red at this busy intersection.  I can’t take anything any of their officials say about safety seriously while they let this abomination continue.  The city of Redmond should be pushing hard for this as well but does not.  Stopping right-turn-on-red wouldn’t be a complete fix, but it would help a lot.  Stronger measures should probably also be taken (e.g., raised crosswalks, separate phase for pedestrians/bicycles), but they will never happen because WSDOT prioritizes the movement of cars to the meter on the on-ramp or the next intersection where they will need to stop again anyway.

There were recent small modifications to the intersection.  The turning radii for the problematic right turns were slightly reduced.  However, both right turns end on such wide roadways that it hardly matters.  Some bicyclists have reported that the geometry is somewhat improved so that they are in a better position to be seen before entering the intersection.  This isn’t something that I’ve noticed, but hopefully it’s a little better.  The new median seems to only provide a chokepoint for the trail traffic as well as confusing a few drivers about where the stop line is.

The long-term hope is a tunnel under the intersection for the trail and a separate bridge over 520 for access to Microsoft.  These are expensive but probably the most realistic option.  And they should be quite nice to use.  Unfortunately they will result in this intersection getting even crazier, so pedestrians will be forced to the tunnel or 152nd and vehicle collisions will probably increase.

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Vehicular Pedestrianing

Fight for Your Right to Pedestrian Properly!

The right of pedestrians to travel properly and safely is disappearing. If you don’t fight to preserve it, it will disappear.

Since 1912 and more so in the mid-twenties, American society has disapproved of lawful, competent pedestrianing. It was then that pedestrians were confined to crosswalks, removing them as a main mode of transport and prohibiting them from exercising the full rights given to drivers of vehicles. Then, new laws prohibited traveling away from the edge of the roadway, from traveling outside of sidewalks, or for using the roadway at all if a path usable by pedestrians was nearby. The sidewalk system was devised by motorists to provide the physical enforcement of these laws that, motorists think, make pedestrianing safe by keeping “their” roads clear of pedestrians. The environmentalists were suckered into this bogus safety argument and now demand sidewalks to make pedestrian transportation safe and popular. With the government spending more and more money on sidewalk and path programs, lawful and competent pedestrians are being more and more limited to operating on paths that are unsuitable for lawful and competent pedestrianing.

Most of the rest of this blog post explains the advantages of lawful, competent pedestrianing and the engineering and safety defects inherent in doing anything else. That is all support for what must be done now, fighting for repeal of the three discriminatory anti-pedestrian traffic laws. Vehicular pedestrians and path pedestrians must join forces to reform the national policy for pedestrian transportation so that it serves pedestrians rather than serving the convenience of motorists.

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Perceived Distance (or Time)

I completely forgot to write about what was probably the most interesting part of my little shopping trip earlier today.  The reason that I even made the stop, besides the obvious errand grab, was that I could “take advantage of already being near the Safeway”.  This store is barely more than a half mile from my office!  Sure, it was an opportunity to save some time, but it felt like this great “don’t miss it” opportunity.  Why was that?

In thinking about it, I’m convinced that it’s because the route is boring.  City designs for pedestrians include getting interesting storefronts right up to the sidewalk rather than suburban setbacks that lead the sidewalks past parking lots.

Here’s the route:

And here’s what you see:

Well, even those construction cones are gone now, and the right side development hasn’t added much.

And when you get to the sidewalk on the left side in the distance, you find that it overlooks a… highway.

I would have estimated this trip at around a mile, maybe a bit more.  I’m actually pretty good about these estimates from running around, and I would have missed this by a factor of two.  And that’s why I haven’t found myself just walking down there.

A Route to Crossroads Mall

I’ve written before that we pretty much avoid Bellevue as much as possible.  It turns out that Crossroads is actually a fairly reasonable destination, despite the fact that 156th Ave NE and NE 8th St are typical poisonous Bellevue roads.  It’s a combination of a few decent pieces of infrastructure combined with using residential streets over the arterials.  Here’s the approximate route:

Before I go into details, I need to correct that map:

  • Don’t ride a bicycle the wrong direction around a traffic circle
  • A bicycle or pedestrian can go straight across Bel-Red Road in the crosswalk
  • I think the satellite imagery at Crossroads Park is a bit out of date.

Details follow:

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weather, illness, bus

Last week was a good week not to have a bike. Last week it rained, really rained. Most of the time in the winter here it’s not too hard to go outside because even if it’s raining you don’t get all that wet. But last week it was really raining, and I was thinking that I was so glad not to have to go out in it. I considered taking the kids somewhere by car, but then realized that I didn’t want to go out in the rain in the car either! Not only did I not want to drive in it, but once we got to where we were going, we’d still have to walk in it from the parking lot. At least with the bike we are dressed for the weather wherever we go. So we mostly holed up at home and watched the rain and played with finger paint and the lentil bin. Hooray for homeschooling!

For the most part, the farthest we got was the construction site down the street.

WP_20150209_003

This week we’ve had the stomach flu. Also a good time not to have a bike, since we weren’t going anywhere anyway. Wednesday evening I was grumbling to myself as I was walking back from the store carrying a baby and pulling a grocery cart, exhausted after having been up all night with sick kids and cleaning up all day and not feeling so well myself (turns out I was just hungry), but then I realized that even a car was not a magic device that would make my life easier at that moment. I was thankful that we were so close to the store, making that errand much faster and simpler than it could have been.

Yesterday, everybody feeling much better, I had some errands to do in downtown Kirkland, and was able to do them all alone. I’d normally take the big bike, since there’s enough of a hill that it’s nice to have a motor coming home, even if the only cargo is myself. But we also have a bus that’s about as convenient as a bus can be, so I found my ORCA card and went. I haven’t yet figured out the logistics for four kids on the bus, so I’ve hardly ridden the bus recently. The bus was a great mode for this trip. If I’d driven, I would have parked in the library garage, which is right next to the bus stop I used. I might have walked to City Hall anyway, but I would have been tempted to drive because City Hall is just far enough to want to. If I had driven between them, I would have grumbled about the driving instead of walking.

Instead, I had a nice walk, and found a new-to-me bakery and a marionberry croissant. I sat on a bench outside in the almost-sun, picked up our library books, admired the Pump-to-Gram at the bus stop, and then rode home.

 

Disappointment at Kirkland

On September 15th, Kyle Warnick was tragically killed by a driver of a car while walking in the Kingsgate neighborhood in Kirkland.  This month, the city of Kirkland has started releasing details from its investigation and joined the ranks of cities that apparently accept pedestrian death as a necessary side effect of transportation – even lowering the standard for negligence to an absurdly low level to avoid pressing charges.

It makes it hard to accept Kirkland’s claims of wanting to be a walkable city (or already being one, but that’s another discussion).  It certainly makes any support of Target Zero seem like fluff.  Washington adopted Target Zero is 2013, and Kirkland currently plans to do so in the 2035 Transportation Master Plan, but evidently it’s not important yet.

The facts of the case come from the Kirkland police report and the prosecutor’s note, and I have no reason to dispute them though of course can not vouch for them myself.  More documents are forthcoming.  The Kirkland case number is #14-43885.

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