Vote Yes for the Parks District + other bike-partisan election guidance

Screen-Shot-2014-06-04-at-10.01.37-PMSeattle votes yes for the parks levy every time. So why do we keep asking if Seattle voters want to renew it? Yes, of course we do.

The Parks District (Prop 1 on the Seattle August 5 primary ballot) creates a permanent funding mechanism for maintaining and improving parks, something we have made very clear we want as a city. With more funding, parks can do all kinds of great stuff, like keeping community centers open for full hours and in good repair, maintaining the park grounds better and expanding programs. But the need that catches this blog’s eye most is the chance to improve access to all park neighbors, regardless of age and ability.

Many Seattle parks are wonderful, safe and comfortable spaces one you get to them, but they are bounded by busy streets with few comfortable or safe crossings. If a child grows up near a park but cannot get to it due to a lack of safe crossings or routes, that is a huge shame and a waste of park resources. Every home near a park should have safe and comfortable walking and biking routes so kids and adults with mobility issues can enjoy and feel invited to be part of these vital public spaces.

Today, the Parks Department does not have the means to do much parks access work. They pretty much spend their funds on the areas inside park boundaries, but the Parks District measure is a chance to change that. If it passes, the district will have the means to collaborate with SDOT on improving access to — and sometimes within — parks for people walking and biking.

That’s why it has the support of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, whose Executive Director Cathy Tuttle praised the initiative in a letter: Continue reading

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I-90 ‘carpocalypse’ largely avoided on first morning commute

Screenshot from Seattle Times story than ran on the front page

Screenshot from Seattle Times story than ran on the front page

It’s becoming a pattern. Every time a major freeway work project closes all or most the lanes, a media firestorm compares the upcoming commute to the end of the world.

All but one westbound lane on I-90 is closed as the state replaces aging expansion joints in the bridge between Bellevue and Mercer Island. Ahead of the work, The Seattle Times ran a front page story that suggested people just stay home (partly smart, but also somewhat defeatist). One particularly spastic radio personality got so worked up that he declared the road work a conspiracy by the state to force “every single person” in the region to get a Good To Go pass for paying the 520 bridge toll.

But when the day arrives — likely thanks in part to these apocalyptic media reports — it’s really more like a traffic jam that’s a little worse than usual. Today, many commutes took a little longer during the peak morning rush, but nothing terrible. For example, here’s a tweet from just after 8 a.m.: Continue reading

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Fremont Bridge bike counts continue big year-over-year rise

fremont-chartBike counts over the Fremont Bridge continue to significantly outpace 2013, with June counts up more than 14 percent year-over-year.

In the first half of the year, people made 486,798 bike trips across the bridge. That puts us on pace to break one million bike trips over the bridge in 2014, since fall bike ridership is typically higher than winter.

Even with two very rainy winter months slightly below 2013 levels, overall year-over-year bike trip levels are up 11 percent.

For more in-depth analysis of the Fremont Bridge bike count data, make sure you read Mike Logsdon’s June statistical series. If you are even more technically-minded, Jake Vanderplas has a Python-powered analysis here (I assume it’s great, but I would be lying if I said I totally understand it … haha.)

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City working on northbound U Bridge bike lane late Friday

Image from SDOT

Image from SDOT

The city is making repairs to the University Bridge late Friday and early Saturday, and the northbound bike lane will be closed.

Workers will help people on bikes get across the bridge, so there’s no need to detour. The work will go from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Here’s the news release from SDOT:

Roadway Structures crews from the Seattle Department of Transportation plan to close the northbound bike lane at the northeastern corner of the University Bridge from 11 p.m. on Friday, July 18 until 4 a.m. on Saturday, July 19. The closure will allow the crews to safely perform maintenance work on the bridge.

In other U Bridge news, SDOT says they will start counting bikes there later this year, joining the growing number of bike counters around town.

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More details on planned improvements at Rainier and Dearborn

Image from Google Street View

Image from Google Street View

Yesterday, we posted about the city’s planned Neighborhood Street Fund improvements. Among the list of new sidewalks and better street crossings was this item:

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 10.35.07 AMDearborn and Rainier is an absolutely terrible intersection, and a big problem spot for a major bike route into downtown. The city already has plans for a neighborhood greenway on Hiawatha, a low-traffic street that connects to the I-90 Trail.

The NSF project is not the high-budget remake of the intersection that is needed, but it’s a nudge in the right direction.

From the Bike Master Plan

From the Bike Master Plan. Rainier is the blue line parallel to Hiawatha.

Dearborn has inadequate paint-only bike lanes for such a busy street with freeway ramps. The Bike Master Plan calls for protected bike lanes on the street, which will likely be a major project.

In fact, after downtown itself, protected bike lanes on the north end of Rainier (MLK to Jackson) and the Dearborn connection to downtown might be among the most important major projects in the entire master plan. It would open up a lot of Rainier Valley bike route options that do not exist today, and it would make a very dangerous and uncomfortable street safer for everyone.

The Neighborhood Street Fund improvement will not fix the problem, but it will make the northeast sidewalk much more comfortable and make it easier for people on bikes to trigger the light.

Here’s the project description from SDOT spokesperson Rick Sheridan: Continue reading

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Balk: Seattle car ownership is down, but it’s up in places you’d least expect

K. Potts / The Seattle Times. Used with permission. Click for interactive graphic.

K. Potts / The Seattle Times. Used with permission. Click for interactive graphic.

You almost cannot stand anywhere in the city center or Capitol Hill without seeing construction cranes. The number of residences in these walkable, bikeable and transit-rich areas is rising fast. It’s clear that people want to live where they have more transportation options.

But analysis by Gene Balk at The Seattle Times found something interesting: The population growth is outpacing car ownership growth in nearly all of King County, but not in the Seattle city center.

First, a note about the data. The map compares the percent change in the adult (18+) population to percent change in car ownership by zip code between 2010 and 2013. The city center zip codes had the lowest car ownership rates in the region. So while it would take a lot of new residents to grow the population percent change, it takes relatively little growth in car ownership to register as a big percent change.

But it’s still a little troubling to see such growth in car ownership in the exact areas of the city where living car-free is easiest. Continue reading

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Was this item delivered by bike? The next step in product labeling

Image from Freewheel.

Image from Freewheel.

You’re just trying to pick up some coffee from the grocery store on your way home, but now you find yourself overwhelmed with options. This bag is organic, these are Fair Trade, the beans in this one are green (I don’t think my French press can handle those).

That’s when you notice a label next to a bag from Middle Fork Roasters: “This product was delivered by a bicycle.”

As we reported in April, Freewheel is a young company that makes deliveries using a cargo-hauling electric-assist box bike (technically, a tricycle). While making deliveries by bike is nothing new, Freewheel’s highly visible bike and big cargo space make it stand out and expand the number of things than can be effectively moved by bike. Continue reading

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