The BGC improvements will significantly improve the safety of all bicycle and pedestrian users of the trail, and the vehicles that intersect throughout. In the past decade, 71 collisions involving pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists have been reported along UW’s 1.7 mile segment of the Burke-Gilman Trail. The highest concentrations of collisions have occurred where the trail cuts through four major arterials. These collisions have resulted in 45 injuries caused by poor sightlines, failing intersection design and outdated signalization. Within the same 10-year timeframe, 14 accident reports have been filed through UW’s Online Accident-Reporting System due to injuries attributable to the poor physical condition or traffic of the trail. If asked, any user of the trail will report countless near misses. The actual number of collisions is widely believed to be significantly higher than the number of reported collisions.
Last summer, I saw a biker get hit by a car in the intersection of the trail and Brooklyn Ave. While it is important for cyclists to be aware of cars when they are on the streets, intersections like this one make me not want to use the trail for fear of my own safety.”
— Jessica Thompson, trail user
The BGC will significantly reduce the risk of collisions, injuries and fatalities at arterials by improving intersection design in several important ways:
- Sightlines will be improved by squaring intersections, creating more generous queuing space and eliminating visual obstructions like invasive vegetation and drastic grade changes.
- The mid-block crossing at Brooklyn Ave NE will be raised and realigned to improve vertical sightlines and slow approaching arterial traffic. Right of way will be reassigned to prioritize the greater volume of traffic on the trail as compared to the street.
- Signal phases with parallel arterials will be separated and reinforced with “No Right On Red” to prevent frequent right hooks that occur as vehicles turn north off of NE Pacific St.
- Two signalized perpendicular arterials will receive “No Right On Red” treatments to prevent cars from queuing in the trail crossing as they prepare to turn west onto NE Pacific St.
Where the BGC intersects other high-volume paths, a suite of design treatments will minimize conflicts between bicyclists and pedestrians traveling along and across the trail. Safety improvements will include tabling the BGC’s bicycle path to passively calm speeds, opening up sightlines by removing adjacent invasive vegetation and concrete abutments, and installing visual and tactile warning strips at intersection approaches.
Eliminate at-grade crossing
The BGC’s most intensive intervention is the grade separation of the trail crossing at Pend Oreille Rd. This poorly aligned mid-hill intersection is the site of frequent near misses and collisions, as trail users and motorists either do not see one another or misread one another’s intentions. Anticipated changes to bus transit routing and private vehicle circulation will only increase the volume of traffic at this already dangerous crossing.
The design of the undercrossing of Pend Oreille Rd. takes advantage of the existing grades to preserve a sense of openness and light, minimizing the length of the actual underpass while allowing for gradual transitions within ADA guidelines.
In addition to the underpass itself, the BGC will provide new spur connections to the intersection of Pend Oreille Rd. and 25th Avenue NE, a key arterial and desire line connecting the trail and light rail station to the nearby University Village, one of the nation’s most productive retail complexes. A new connection to westbound Pend Oreille Rd. is also provided, improving the ability of trail users to safely and efficiently access the University’s north campus.
I was hit by a car traveling into campus at the intersection of Pend Oreille Road. This was after I had stopped at the stop-sign and been waved on by a stopped car traveling the other direction. Riding the Burke-Gilman Trail should be safer than riding on the road, not the inverse!”
— Sam Cook, trail user
Foster a safe multimodal transportation system
Upon project completion, the BGC will be elevated to one of the safest transportation facilities in the region, serving some of the most vulnerable transportation users. The BGC is at the confluence of 175 miles of regional trails and 18.7 miles of light rail that will be open in 2016, with 18.3 additional miles of light rail opening within the following seven years. By resolving the safety concerns plaguing the current trail, the BGC will strengthen the safety performance of this entire multimodal transportation system. Not only will injuries be prevented, but the BGC will open up new opportunities for active transportation – directly combating several of our biggest national public health crises including obesity and its associated diseases, urban air pollution, and global climate change.
Enhance public safety
The BGC is designed employing the principles of crime prevention through environmental design. Where vegetation has created pockets that invite illicit activity, visibility to adjacent traffic will be improved. Lighting is improved throughout the corridor and the number of emergency phones with broadcast capability located along the trail will increase from five to ten, allowing both calls for help and public alerts in the case of emergent situations. Data infrastructure will also be included to accommodate the possibility of video cameras throughout the corridor.