DONGHO CHANG: Coolest City Traffic Engineer Ever


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On 1 April 2013, a guerilla group advocating road safety for bicyclists in Seattle, Washington, used $350 of materials including plastic pylons (the pylons are plastic sticks that stick up in the air and clearly show car drivers where the car lane ends and the bike lane begins) to turn a Cherry Street (under I-5) bike lane that was merely painted into a protected bike lane. The guerrilla group calls themselves the Reasonably Polite Seattleites, and one of them emailed Tom Fucoloro, a writer for the Seattle Bike Blog, to inform him of what they had done and to explain why they had done it. The writer explained why the plastic pylons improve the safety of the bike lane: “Based on my experience commuting in such lanes in other cities, 1) they slow speeding traffic by making the lane appear narrower (without actually reducing its size); and 2) it’s essentially a warning system for a drunk or distracted driver; once he hits one, he’s more likely to slow down, lessening the chance of hitting a cyclist or pedestrian down the road.” Being Reasonably Polite Seattleites, they made the plastic pylons easy to remove. The writer explained in a postscript to the email: “Because we’re still polite Seattleites (even when we engage in acts of civil disobedience), we used an adhesive pad, which is removable, not epoxy, which is more permanent, meaning Mayor McGinn and SDOT [Seattle Department of Transportation] can remove these in a matter of minutes, if they so choose.”

The city of Seattle did choose to remove the plastic pylons, but City Traffic Engineer DONGHO CHANG, PE, PTOE, gave good reasons for so doing in a communication that was posted on the Seattle Bike Blog:

“Hello reasonably polite Seattleites,

“Thank you for pointing out some easy ways to calm traffic and provide more secure feeling bicycle lane on our streets.  Your sentiment of unease and insecurity riding on painted bicycle lanes next to high speed and high volume traffic is exactly what I am hearing from our residents as we update our bicycle master plan.  This strong message to me and my staff that we have [to] be more thoughtful on facility design and implementation is being heard loud and clear.  You are absolutely correct that there are low cost and simple ways to slow traffic, increase the sense of protection, and provide bicycle facilities that are more pleasant and accommodating for larger portion of people who ride bicycles. I am truly appreciative that you care enough to take time, money, and risk to send your message to me and my staff.  It is my commitment to you that I will do my best to update our existing facilities and install new bicycle facilities that will be more thoughtful.  Some of these will be low cost, such as what you demonstrated on Cherry Street, while others will require more resources to implement.

“The posts that you installed on Cherry Street will be removed and I am sorry about that.  The posts are 36 inches high and [are] higher than most road bicycle handle bars.  A rider can hit the post with their handle bar, which is a safety concern.  The bicycle lane [is] narrow and is five feet wide.  The travel lane is 11 feet wide, which is what the State DOT permitted us to narrow the lane to.  Cherry Street is under the freeway and is owned by the State, so we do have to get their permission for reconfiguring the street.  If we had more lane width to work with, we could [have] installed shorter posts.  Unfortunately, this is not the case here.  Please let me know if you would like the posts back and I will have the crew leave the post in a safe area for you to pick up. Thank you, again, for your thoughtful demonstration.



“City Traffic Engineer

“Seattle Department of Transportation

“Traffic Management Division”

But now things get really good. Seattle installed permanent pylons that have a good height that allows for handlebar clearance. Seattle also made other improvements for bicycle safety in Seattle. Mr. Chang emailed both the Reasonably Polite Seattleites and the Seattle Bike Blog:

“Hello reasonably polite Seattleites,

“I have good news to share.  SDOT worked with WSDOT [Washington State Department of Transportation] to reinstall your thoughtful protector treatment on Cherry Street.  SDOT and WSDOT agreed to monitor the installation to determine if additional changes need to be made.  We also took this unique opportunity to make additional improvements.  We installed a two stage left turn box on 7th Avenue for left turning bicycle riders who may not feel comfortable riding with car traffic, new bicycle lanes on 7th Avenue between Cherry and Marion, and [a] bicycle lane on Marion Street between 7th and 8th Avenue.  Additional information on the two stage left turn box can be found at: 

“Thank you, again, for your suggestion.”

For Further Information: Tom Fucoloro, “SDOT makes guerrilla-installed protected bike lane permanent.” Seattle Bike Blog. 15 July 2013

For Further Information:  Tom Fucoloro, “Guerrilla road safety group ‘politely’ installs illegal bike lane protectors on Cherry Street.” Seattle Bike Blog. 4 April 2013

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1 Response to DONGHO CHANG: Coolest City Traffic Engineer Ever

  1. Pingback: An interview with Dongho Chang, Complete Streets engineer | Smart Growth America

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