When drivers were told by the Seattle Department of Transportation that they could not turn right on Mercer, traveling south on Dexter, it seemed like it was a decision made out of the blue. As it turns out, very little time went into the decision.
According to Richard Sheridan, communications director for SDOT, the right turn restrictions were due to two instances in which "vehicles struck bicyclists and so based on that, we knew that we had to make a change in order to ensure that everyone could be safe at that location." When asked why not restrict right turns during times of heavy bicycle traffic, Sheridan told me "it's one we did consider... but the advice of our traffic engineers, people that study things like signage and driver compliance, their thought process was that a part-time restriction would be less effective and create confusion..."
How long did SDOT deliberate over how to accommodate both bicyclists and drivers at this busy intersection? Less than a day. Predictably, the drivers were the big losers.
The Jason Rantz Show has learned that the two collision incidents occurred on July 29. Neither resulted in a police report and Sheridan says he doesn't know if there were any injuries. In fact, we don't even know if it was the bicyclist that was to blame for the collision. The assistant resident engineer for the Mercer West project reported these two incidents after two construction workers witnessed the occurrences. On the same day of the minor collisions - and that's what they appear to be if authorities weren't called - a traffic engineer put in place the right turn ban that supposedly will stay in place until mid-2015.
How is it that in a matter of hours SDOT was able to seriously consider alternatives to banning right turns? Did "traffic engineers, people that study things like signage and driver compliance" actually look into this issue or was it the one traffic engineer? I invited Sheridan back on to my show, but he passed on the invitation.
That SDOT put less than a day into a decision that impacts thousands of drivers - and without driver or bicyclist input - should concern you. Dexter Ave has been seen as this utopian street for the bicycle commute; they've gone to great lengths to transform what was once an easily traveled street to a nightmare for drivers. It seems like SDOT was looking for any reason to shun drivers to make it easier on bicyclists. And perhaps that's noble to some; there's no doubt that bicycles are better for the environment than cars. But why not just be transparent about it? By omitting the timeline on how long it took to make this decision, SDOT misled the community into thinking they spent a lot of time thoughtfully and considerably deliberating this particular issue. If only they could fix the Mercer Mess as fast as they can make decisions that hurt drivers.
Unfortunately, this whole incident furthers the 'War on Cars' narrative that we're told doesn't actually exist. Yet, let me ask you this: if a bicycle gets hit by a car while riding in a bike lane, but they don't stop at the stop sign, do you think SDOT gets rid of the bike lane for everyone's safety?