Seattle’s transportation department has already changed several signals and signs along the upgraded Second Avenue bike lane, after just three days, to reduce confusion.
A green straight arrow was installed Thursday to replace a solid green circle, in a traffic light that governs motorists’ through-lanes.
And a “NO TURN ON RED” sign replaces a sign which indicated turns were allowed only on a green arrow.
The goal is to avoid situations where a confused driver tries to turn left, while bicycles in the left-side bike lane are continuing straight. Vehicles may turn left only during a green left arrow.
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“When you go out there and watch traffic, there’s a huge improvement now,” city traffic engineer Dongho Chang said Thursday afternoon. “People don’t turn across [bike] traffic.”
As soon as the $1.5 million safety demonstration project opened Monday morning, the signals sowed confusion among drivers.
Some stopped on the red arrow, then turned left while the bikes had the right of way going straight. Other drivers didn’t stop. Some cyclists blew through a red bike icon on the traffic signal.
Chang quickly noticed the dilemma when he biked and walked the corridor Monday, while hearing complaints and suggestions from users. Drivers got a mixed message, because the red left-turn arrow appeared next to a standard, solid green light.
A green straight arrow, he said, would help drivers understand which lights govern through-traffic and which ones govern the left-turn lane.
With thousands of cars and hundreds of bikes on Second Avenue each day, it only takes one mistake to cause an injury crash. So it behooves the city to adjust quickly.
The refashioned bike lane has separated bicycles from moving traffic with plastic bollards or a parking lane. From 2007 through August 2014, there were 66 bicycle crashes, most causing injuries, on Second between Pike Street and Yesler Way, a Seattle Times map shows.
Also, two weeks ago, bicyclist Sher Kung, a 31-year-old mother and lawyer, was killed in a crash with a turning truck at Second and University Street.
One way to make the new signals even clearer would be to mount traffic lights above the lanes they govern, as in a similar Dearborn Street project in Chicago. In the future, Seattle may wind up hanging overhead signals from wires across Second Avenue, said Chang, but that requires more cash.
No crashes have been reported in the new lane, Chang said. Bike use on Second has greatly increased, and the city expects counts by Friday.
Staff reporter Justin Mayo contributed. Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or firstname.lastname@example.org.