Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Burke-Gilman instersections

The Burke-Gilman Trail has some truly puzzling intersection treatments. As a former freight rail line (and often being located next to what's essentially a cliff face, at least partially man-made), it isn't crossed by a lot of side streets. When it crosses arterial roads typically traffic on the trail sees a "Stop" or "Yield" sign while traffic on the road sees a crosswalk, which technically means, "Yield," and practically means, "Yield if you feel like it." Under the law, two people coming to this intersection are like Zeno's Arrow, unable to move. Both road and trail traffic know that both they and their cross-traffic counterparts are bound to yield; both (rightly) distrust the other to do so. If there's any traffic at all, the lack of clear rules leads people to behave sort of like they do at all-way stops, except less efficiently and consistently. If you've never biked on the BGT you might think nothing could be less efficient and consistent than behavior at an all-way stop sign in Seattle.

These intersections are ridiculous, but they don't bother me as much as some intersections farther north, where trail traffic is signed to yield to side streets that are effectively private driveways for lakefront homes. Any rudimentary analysis of traffic volumes and road function would clearly indicate that the trail is easily a more important and heavily traveled route than every road it crosses from at least NE 70th St. in Seattle to 68th Ave. NE in Kenmore (in the summer you could pick an even wider range), and that its cross streets should naturally stop and yield at it. Instead, yield signs facing the trail put the onus of responsibility on trail users and we have to ride at a snail's pace past all these intersections with awful visibility. Anyway, yesterday for the first time ever I actually saw someone driving on one of these roads approaching the trail. I stopped to yield for him and... the driver also stopped and waved me through.

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