Don’t listen to the Allstate haters, Seattle drivers, you’re actually pretty great ❤❤

heartwEvery year, Allstate releases its “America’s Best Drivers Report,” which claims to rank our cities from best to worst. Seattle placed a dismal 184 out of 200 this year, our worst score yet. And every year, news sources in those cities eat it up.

“Seattle drivers among the very worst in the nation” reports KOMO. “It’s official: Seattle drivers really are terrible, study confirms,” says Geekwire.

Don’t listen to these haters, Seattle drivers. We here at Seattle Bike Blog wouldn’t trade you for drivers from any other American city. ❤❤❤❤❤❤

For example, when friends from my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri (Allstate’s 85th safest drivers in America) visit Seattle for the first time, I like to show them a magic trick: I start to enter a crosswalk and the busy traffic actually stops to let us cross.

Now, I know people don’t always stop — we still have to work on this, Seattle — but back in Missouri, essentially nobody ever stops. I’m pretty sure most people driving there don’t even know you’re supposed to stop for people in a crosswalk (for years I thought crosswalks were just to tell people where to cross, and I scored very high on the driver’s test). When people do stop, it’s more of a friendly courtesy thing than basic rule following.

And it’s not just crosswalks. When I’m on my bike in Seattle and I arrive at a traffic circle or four-way stop at the same time as someone driving, the person driving nearly always pauses to let me go first. This drove me crazy when I first moved here. “If it’s your turn, just go!” the Missouri driver in me wanted to yell.

But I’ve grown to understand that Seattle’s passive, deferential driving style is actually wonderful, especially compared to the alternative. A person driving defensively might annoy you, but a person driving aggressively might kill you. And most people in Seattle drive very defensively. I now show my appreciation with a big smile and wave.

I know, I know, anecdotes are not data, and the Allstate data appears to show that Seattle drivers suck real bad. Well, let’s look a bit closer. Continue reading

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Bike share can flourish in Seattle

With the City Council debating whether to buy out the 54-station Pronto Cycle Share system already in need of a buyout, the main question on people’s minds is: How do we know it will be successful going forward and worth that investment?

Bike share in Seattle absolutely can succeed and flourish, but it’s not guaranteed. A financially sustainable system is going to take realistic planning and hard work selling sponsorships, winning grants and expanding ridership.

In other words, it’s going to take require both skillful management inside the Pronto office and bold bicycle network improvements on the streets.

In our previous story, we dove into some of the management problems and miscommunications within the non-profit Puget Sound Bike Share and the City of Seattle that led to this Council buyout showdown. In our research, we learned that ridership did not meet the (likely inflated) budget projections, but necessary work to sell sponsorships and win grants to fill those budget holes also did not happen. So that’s a somewhat easy fix: Adjust the budget based on our more realistic ridership numbers and do the fundraising work necessary to make ends meet.

The ultimate way to increase success is to expand the system to increase the network and the number of destinations it connects. The city is currently developing an expansion plan with hopes to launch it in 2017.

Below are some other ideas for getting a handle on the existing system and better understanding what’s holding it back. Continue reading

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Political firing of Sec. Peterson is Washington State’s loss

LynnPeterson2_200As of Friday, Lynn Peterson is no longer our state’s Secretary of Transportation. And that’s Washington State’s loss.

Peterson came on board with our state’s biggest highway megaprojects already in trouble. And on top of those challenges — including a stalled SR 99 boring machine and cracked 520 Bridge pontoons — an oversized truck struck and collapsed an I-5 bridge over the Skagit River, and a community was devastated in the Oso landslide with vital access cut off when the collapsing hillside also destroyed the highway.

By all accounts (including by Senate Republican leaders, whose Transportation Committee unanimously recommended her confirmation last year), Peterson handled these and other challenges as well as any DOT leader could. Finding quality, competent leaders is hard work, so it’s not usually a good idea to just toss them out without cause or warning.

But Senate Republicans made a clearly political move Friday by surprising everyone with a sudden confirmation vote, effectively using their majority to fire her (the vote split along party lines). She didn’t even get a chance to defend herself or answer any questions. She only had one hour of notice before she lost her job. Continue reading

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LATE NOTICE: Redmond Bike Plan open house is tonight

Email-Invite-BikingStrategicPlanOpenHouseApologies for the late notice, but Redmond is hosting an open house tonight (Monday) to get feedback on the city’s Bicycle Strategic Plan.

Feedback at the meeting will help “generate at least 2 different investment scenarios,” according to the meeting details. The open house goes from 5 – 7:30 p.m. at Redmond City Hall.

“We’re looking to get our Connect Eastside members and supporters out to support what Redmond is doing around safe protected bike infrastructure,” said Cascade Bicycle Club’s Eastside Advocacy Director McKayla Dunfey.

Redmond has done some great work in recent years expanding its biking and walking trail system, including the excellent Central Connector. The first phase of the trail opened in 2013, and the second phase should begin construction soon.

But there are still many missing links and dangerous streets in the city that limit bike access and comfort, so there is a lot more work to do. Help encourage the city to be bold and innovative.

Details from the City of Redmond: Continue reading

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Bike News Roundup: Police lay down the law on kids playing basketball in the street

It’s time for the Bike News Roundup! Here’s a taste of some of the stuff floating around the web that caught our eye.

First up, this Gainesville Police officer responded to a complaint of teens playing basketball in the street too loudly. Justice was served.

Better yet he kept his word and returned for a rematch, but he brought along a ringer: Shaq. Continue reading

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Pronto needs city buyout before end of March, how did we get here?

Pronto and the 2nd Ave bike lane launched around the same time. Neither has since expanded as planned.

Pronto and the 2nd Ave bike lane launched around the same time. Neither has since expanded as planned.

The hard deadline to save Pronto is March 30.

With more than 30,000 people taking 144,000 trips in the first year of operations, supporters and City Councilmembers are scratching their heads trying to figure out how Pronto got into such a dire situation with hardly any warning to the public.

Ridership in the first year was lower than projected, though many people involved are now questioning how realistic those projections were. A little over half of operating costs are paid by user fees, less than was planned. That’s a problem, sure, but likely not insurmountable through adjustments in station locations, expanded marketing, winning grants, growing sponsorships and/or city investment.

So here’s where the story gets very frustrating. How did a solvable problem turn into a do-or-die budget showdown in City Council chambers? The answer depends on who you ask.

SDOT staff, led by Chief of Active Transportation Nicole Freedman, blamed the budget gap on the amount of funding Puget Sound Bike Share (“PSBS,” the non-profit that owns Pronto) borrowed to launch the system, payments that now sap the budget.

“[Pronto’s operations] would break even today if it were city run and there were no debt payments,” said Freedman told us last week.

But former PSBS Executive Director Holly Houser disagrees with this characterization of the loan.

“They’re making it sound like we took out this huge loan, ” said Houser, who says it was actually a fairly standard loan against the sponsorship. So basically, if Alaska Airlines puts up $2.5 million over five years, you take out a loan to get the money up front, then use the subsequent sponsorship payments to pay off the loan.

The biggest cause of the showdown, Houser said, came from city delays and miscommunications in taking over the system that have left Pronto in a leadership (and revenue search) limbo.

“Our hands were essentially tied.” Continue reading

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KOMO: Man injured in terrifying hit and run wants person responsible to apologize

The suspect vehicle is a white Subaru Outback wagon, maybe with a plate starting "AWL." Anyone with info should call the Kirkland PD tip line: (425) 587-3515

The suspect vehicle is a white Subaru wagon (Legacy or Outback), maybe with a plate starting “AWL.” Anyone with info should call the Kirkland PD tip line: (425) 587-3515

A person driving a white Subaru wagon (Legacy or Outback) took a wide, fast turn into a Kirkland parking lot and stuck John Sullivan who was riding his bike the morning of January 22. But that was just the beginning.

After dragging the man, the person driving stopped and backed up over Sullivan, then went forward and ran over him a third time —this time over his head — while fleeing the scene. The person driving made no attempt to render aid or call for help.

Sullivan was seriously injured with crushed bones and a lot of pain, but incredibly he escaped without more critical injuries like serious head trauma. He is in a lot of pain and has a long recovery ahead of him. Though the person responsible can’t undo his injuries, Sullivan and his wife told KOMO News they want the person who fled to come forward, apologize and take responsibility.

From KOMO: Continue reading

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