Monday, September 8, 2008

12th Ave

As I rode in to work this morning I passed a bike accident on 12th Ave just south of Jefferson. Bike, blood, and Ortlieb bag were on the pavement. My prayers are with the rider, and I hope that he or she is not seriously injured. I don't know any of the circumstances of the accident, but I'm motivated to post because I've had a sick feeling about this intersection for a long time. I recall saying to Vaughn and Andrew that if I die on a bike in Seattle, it will be at 12th and Jefferson. Here's why this intersection is so dangerous:

  1. ARCO - The southbound bike lane on 12th Ave passes directly in front of an ARCO station (that incidentally has some of the cheapest gas in the city). I have been cut-off within inches of my life as I've passed this staion, both by southbound cars turning right 6 feet in front of me, and northbound cars turning left 6 feet in front of me.
  2. Parallel parking on 12th Ave - This is related to the ARCO. There is parallel parking along southbound 12th Ave between the bike lane and the curb. It's such a highly trafficked gas station that there are ALWAYS people getting in and out of parks cars, and pulling in out of the parallel spots. The parallel parking also inhibits visibility of drivers entering and leaving the station driveways. The parallel parking situation renders the bike lane useless, forcing cyclists into the car lane to pass this area safely.
  3. Cab Drivers - I don't know why, but this area has an inordinately high number of taxi cabs. The cabs hang out in the area (I don't think they do much business in the area, but it's where the drivers go to park, eat, buy gas, etc), and generally drive as though they rule the roads. I would say this is true of 12th Ave from Jackson up to Union. In my experience, cab drivers are good drivers. They are professionals, they know the roads and they know what's going on. A good lot of them also regularly disregard other drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians, and demonstrate some dangerous and anti-social tendencies. If a cab driver cuts you off and nearly kills you, it's not because they were not paying attention, they just didn't care.
  4. High Traffic - During morning and evening rush hour, bike speeds along 12th Ave can be greater or equal to car speeds. The means that bikes are keeping up or passing traffic. This is ALWAYS a dangerous situation, as cyclists must be aware that drivers in the car lane do not notice cyclists behind or along side them in the bike lane. Even if some do, you must assume they do not. Even if drivers do see you, they notoriously misjudge bike speeds and are prone to turning into or in front of you.

What can be done to make the area more safe for cyclists and everyone else?

  1. The parallel parking in front of the ARCO needs to be removed.
  2. Add a curbed lane divider that prevents left turns into ARCO by northbound drivers (probably wishful thinking).

Even if you don't bike along 12th Ave, it pays to remember that bike lanes around the city are never inherently safe for cyclists. In many locations they may be terribly unsafe; remember your right to take the lane.

1 comment:

SeattleM&M said...

Thanks for posting this. I work at 14th and Jefferson and bike commute daily past that Arco station. People frequently drive in and out of the Arco lot at high speed, apparently without looking.

Almost -- if not equally -- as bad is the stretch of 12th between Yesler and Jackson St., both north- and south-bound. Chaotic cross traffic, no shoulder, bottlenecks, and people racing to pass traffic on the right. As I like to say, any day I get past 12th and Jackson without being decapitated by a forklift is a good day.

A witness I spoke to said he believed the cyclist was "left hooked" by an SUV, and went through one of the vehicle's side window. Hope and pray the cyclist will recover, and that the city will deal with some of the hazards on 12 Ave. as it nears Jackson.