If you want this district elections thing to work out, you have to vote today

Center column: "Active registered voters as of August 3, 2015" - Right column: "Ballots returned" as of press time.

Center column: “Active registered voters
as of August 3, 2015″ – Right column: “Ballots returned” as of press time.

District elections sure sound like a good idea. You get candidates who live in every part of the city, and someone’s path to office could depend more on knocking on doors and shaking hands than big money advertising campaigns.

But district elections could also open the door for candidates who fear change, members of the Not-In-My-Backyard Party who would have been laughed out of town in a citywide race. This is the worst-case scenario. Our leaders need to be bold and willing to take drastic action to address our city’s biggest problems, including safe, efficient streets.

That’s why you can’t skip today’s primary. I know August is a terrible time to have an election with so many people on vacation. But people who generally resist change are reliable voters. If you want the city to have bold leaders, you have to vote for them today.

Get your ballot to a King County drop box by 8 p.m. or get it in the mail early enough to get a postmark from today (as the day gets later, this probably means swinging by a post office). Continue reading

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Right now, crews are making big fixes to Seattle’s most dangerous street

RainierValleycombined-timemapIn an attempt to stop the flow of people from Rainier Ave to the emergency room, crews are finally out redesigning Seattle’s most dangerous street to be calmer, more efficient and more intuitive for everyone.

The changes were announced last week at a packed (and swelteringly hot) community open house (see this South Seattle Emerald story for coverage of that meeting).

And on Monday, just days later, crews were already out working to repaint the roadway and make other safety improvements.

It’s kind of hard to believe changes are really happening on Rainier. Though people have been asking for safety improvements for a long time, demands for real action always seemed to just bounce off City Hall. Rainier, it seemed, was just too big to fix. City leaders were either too scared to push for meaningful changes or they just didn’t care.

But that changed when neighbors got organized and got loud. With organizational leadership from Rainier Valley Greenways, Bike Works and Cascade Bicycle Club, the call for safe streets in Rainier Valley got far too loud to ignore. Councilmember Bruce Harrell — who is currently in a race for the city’s Council District 2 that includes Rainier Ave — made safety on the street a priority.

Mayor Ed Murray and his transportation team also took the job on through the city’s Road Safety Corridor program, which studies the city’s most dangerous streets and outlines immediate and long-term changes to improve safety. Those changes began Monday, with a pilot section (one mile from S Alaska St to S Kenny St) scheduled for completion by August 14. Continue reading

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Community unites to buy honest stolen bike buyer an even better ride

Image from the GoFundMe crowdfunding page.

Image from the GoFundMe crowdfunding page.

What started as yet another stolen bike story morphed into a wonderful tale of a guy who simply did the right thing and a community that came together to thank him … and then some.

Yang bought a $500 bike on OfferUp — a free classifieds website based in Bellevue that has become a hotbed for selling stolen bikes. It was a nearly new Kona, which Yang wanted to use as a commuter to get around town.

But the bike he bought actually belonged to Brock Howell, the Policy and Government Affairs Manager at Cascade Bicycle Club who had paid $2,000 for it a few weeks earlier. Howell spotted his bike on OfferUp, but it had already been sold. After pressuring OfferUp staff to contact the likely buyer, Yang got in touch with Howell through his Bike Index listing.

“He found that it was in fact my bike — the bike that was stolen from me on July 4 and that I had purchased just three weeks prior for my ride on Cascade Bicycle Club‘s Seattle-to-Portland ride,” Howell wrote. “Yang immediately emailed and called me.

“I was just a block away when he called. I walked over to his home, and he gave me the bike right then and there.”

Yang was honest and awesome, but he was also out $500 and didn’t have the commuter bike he was looking for. So Howell decided to reach out to the community at large to see if anyone wanted to help out. He posted the story to a GoFundMe campaign with the goal of raising the $500 Yang paid. He also offered to help Yang find a bike more suited for the commuting Yang wanted to do (the Kona was a bit big and designed more for fast riding).

Within hours word had spread, and people had donated $500 to the effort (Howell put in $250 of his own to get things started). But the cash kept coming in. As of press time, $1,235 has been donated. Continue reading

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Pate: Borrow-a-Bike helps riders fund cancer research, heal

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks to Leigh Pate for this story about Obliteride — a Fred Hutchinson fundraiser she supports — and a program to help folks borrow a bike for the fundraising ride. Note that the deadline to borrow a bike is today (my bad). Leigh is a Seattle-based writer, consultant, breast cancer survivor and second-year Obliteride rider. You can learn more about why Leigh rides here.

Claire and family

Claire Reinert, right, with her father Bill and mother Nori.

“Just six weeks ago my father rode a hundred miles. He was so strong — at age 67 his younger friends couldn’t keep up with him,” said Claire Reinert of Seattle.

“A few days ago he just got his second round of chemo for pancreatic cancer. It just came out of the blue. He was signed up to ride the hundred-mile Obliteride route. This ride meant a lot to him. Now I’m riding in his place.”

Claire is joining hundreds of other riders participating in Obliteride on August 9 to raise money for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Like most other riders who have asked their friends for donations and spent hours training, Claire is driven by the urgency to find a cure faster. It’s personal.

Claire is also one of the riders who signed up for Obliteride’s Borrow-a-Bike, a new project for riders who don’t have a bicycle or who are traveling and can’t afford the expense of transporting their own bike to Seattle.

Borrow-a-Bike is courtesy of Obliteride partner Bicycle Adventures of Redmond, a bike touring company offering fully supported multi-day cycling tours in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Spain and Taiwan. Continue reading

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Want safe streets in Rainier Valley? Get to this meeting tonight

There have been more than 60 collisions on Rainier Ave since May 20, when a group of neighbors held an afternoon of protests calling for a safer Rainier Valley for everyone.

So far this year, the street is keeping its normal pace of one collision every day. Sometimes people involved get away with just property damage and higher insurance rates. But sometimes, people are seriously injured or killed. It’s a roll of the dice on Seattle’s most dangerous neighborhood street.

But the city is finally taking safe streets in Rainier Valley seriously, and they have a whole bunch of different projects in motion to address the problem both short-term and long-term:

You can learn more about all of them at an open house 7–9 p.m. today (July 30) at the Rainier Community Center. Continue reading

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Gov. Inslee saves bike/walk/transit funding, will create carbon cap rather than swallow ‘poison pill’

AboutJayIt was a weird day when biking, walking and (some) transit advocates were arguing against clean fuel standards, but that was the trap political opponents of Governor Jay Inslee set in the state’s new transportation funding laws.

A so-called “poison pill” inserted into the law said that if the Governor takes executive action to enact a clean fuels standard, about $2 billion in multimodal funding would go to the highway fund instead. That money includes an unprecedented $700 million for walking and biking safety and access projects like Safe Routes to School, funding for the Northgate Station Bridge, money to completely remake the Burke-Gilman Trial through UW and much more (see the full lists in these PDFs: Walk/bike and transit).

When Inslee announced he would sign a transportation package that included the poison pill so legislators could move forward in their late session, most assumed he was giving up the clean fuel standard. So it came as a surprise to safe streets and multimodal transportation advocates when he told the Seattle Times that he was considering swallowing the pill. After all, more biking, walking and transit are good for clean air, too.

Washington Bikes — with the support of Transportation Choices Coalition, Cascade Bicycle Club and this very blog — launched an all-out campaign to get Inslee to drop the clean fuels standard to save the funding they worked hard to staple onto the massive highway spending bill. $700 million might be unprecedented state funding for bike/walk projects, but it’s pennies compared to the total $16.1 billion price tag, most of it for new and expanded highways.

Inslee announced Tuesday that he’s going a different direction on reducing carbon emissions. Rather than a clean fuels standard (already in place in Oregon and California), he’s going to develop a regulatory carbon cap. Though it would not be a complete cap-and-trade system (that would take an act of law, not just executive action), it “would force a significant reduction in air pollution,” according to an official statement. Continue reading

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King 5: Seattle should follow Vancouver’s lead on downtown bike network

King 5’s Chris Daniels recently reported from our neighbor to the north on something Vancouver, BC, has to help people get around their downtown: A comfortable and protected network of bike lanes.

As Seattle finally kicks off work on a network of protected bike lanes downtown, it’s wise to look to Vancouver to get a glimpse a few years into the future. I wish all transportation reporters who will be covering Seattle’s bike network had the chance to go bike around Vancouver. It’s invaluable context for what Seattle is trying to do here.

So are the bike lanes increasing safety? Are more people biking? Did they make car traffic worse?

Yes! Yes! No!

In fact, as Daniels reports that collisions are down 17 percent. The CBC reports that bike traffic in June broke records in the city, with some Fremont-Bridge-style bike counters recording 200,000 trips monthly.

And since the bike lanes have gone in, traffic congestion downtown has dropped 20 percent. Though other factors are certainly at play in this reduction in congestion (like the city’s transit improvements), it should help allay fears that bike lanes will cause a traffic crunch here. Continue reading

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