Making streets safer for bicyclists is headline news in Seattle

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“Seattle has banned drivers from turning right at one of the city’s busiest intersections, to protect the thousands of bicyclists passing through.” — Seattle Times

That temporary right-turn ban during road construction at the busy Mercer Street-Dexter Avenue intersection warranted front page play above the fold in this morning’s Seattle Times.

Mercer/Dexter map

Mercer/Dexter map

Making a road safer for the bicycling public is still so unusual that it’s news. I wish it were more commonplace.

The ban affects drivers heading south on Dexter Avenue and turning right onto westbound Mercer Street. Two injury collisions involving cars right-hooking bicyclists last week led to the right turn prohibition on July 29.

The potential for a right-hook is a common problem wherever cars are able to cross a bike lane to make a right turn. Over the years, street designers have tried putting right-turning cars to the right of the bike lane, creating a green “bike box” that allows bicyclists to pass through the intersection first, or even giving bicyclists their own signals at intersections.

Motorists will not be allowed to make right turns across the bike lane until the construction is complete, sometime in 2015, according to the Times.

Banning right turns is “unprecedented.”  The Times said that representatives of the League of American Bicyclists and Washington Bikes hadn’t heard of a city creating a right-turn ban to protect cyclists.

News of the action by the Seattle Department of Transportation has unleashed the expected torrent of email to the newspaper — 174 comments by mid-morning,

There were the usual cranks who wrote that bikes don’t belong on the road, bicyclists don’t pay their own way, and anything favoring bicycling is some kind of plot.

Others actually addressed the issue and made suggestions for solutions that would make the intersection safer for bikes and cars.

The Seattle Bike Blog says that anyone with a suggestion or observation about the Mercer – Dexter intersection should contact the  Mercer project team at or by calling the 24-hour construction hotline at (206) 419-5818.

Maybe there will be a day when a traffic change to make a street safer for bicyclists won’t be front page news.


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