Rutgers Professor and longtime bike researcher John Pucher is in town for the Bicycle Urbanism Symposium.
Pucher’s research and the book he co-authored, City Cycling, has been influential on shifting North American thinking about cycling away from fit, brave people biking in traffic or on skinny painted bike lanes toward people of all ages and abilities biking on low-stress streets and bike lanes. He has extensively studied what cities need to do to encourage more cycling, and he was not impressed with downtown Seattle.
Here’s how he described his experience cycling in downtown Seattle to KPLU:
Pucher spent the past week in Seattle and Vancouver, and says his recent ride into downtown Seattle proved highly stressful.
The main marked bike way, a shared lane on Second Avenue, gives riders a false sense of security, says Pucher.
“I found it extremely dangerous. It’s an accident waiting to happen. We almost got doored several times; there were people trying to parallel park their cars right into the bike lane,” he said. “What is there now is more dangerous than nothing.”
While this revelation is not going to be news to anyone who has used the 2nd Ave bike lane (widely considered the worst bike lane in Seattle), it is somewhat sobering to hear such a review from a fresh and well-respected point of view. After experiencing the protected bike lanes in downtown Vancouver on a recent study trip organized by Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, Pucher returned to Seattle find our city disappointingly behind.
And he put the blame squarely on a lack of political will to do what Vancouver has accomplished.
“I think it’s a pity. There’s so much potential here in Seattle. And it’s going lost, because there doesn’t seem to be the political will to implement these things,” he said.
The city is working on a plan for protected bike lanes downtown, and Amazon has agreed to fund much of a 7th Ave protected bike lane through the Denny Triangle where they are expanding their campus. However, as Vancouver expands their protected bike lane network this year, Seattle is still in the early stages of even planning something similar.
For more on Pucher’s take on growing cycling, here’s a more than two-hour video of his Tuesday talk at UW from Seattle Neighborhood Greenways: