How to organize a walking school bus or bike train to your kid’s school

With very little warning, Seattle Public Schools announced Friday that 142 school bus routes would be cancelled as of today (Monday). So many families in our city had to scramble to find a way to get their kids to school. Many parents are missing work because they just don’t have another option, yet another hardship on top of all the other challenges to parenting during the pandemic.

There has never been a better time to start a bike train or walking school bus at your kid’s school. As the late, great Clint Loper wrote on Seattle Bike Blog back in 2013, biking to school can be a way to help empower kids, and organizing a bike train can help more kids bike to school with trusted school parents even if their own parents can’t join.

Seeing parents out riding with their kids and leading by example in this way can be the initial impetus for other families to give it a try too.

But for a school-biking program to grow, sometimes it helps to create a bit more formal structure. In this way a larger group of children can ride along with a few parents or other adults. It’s even better if these adults can help the kids develop bike handling skills and road sense. The kids can learn basic riding skills even if their parents aren’t comfortable themselves on Seattle neighborhood streets, or if they can’t make the time commitment to ride to school.

The simplest idea to get started is the walking school bus. The idea is pretty simple: The group walks the same route at the same time every day, picking up more and more kids on the way to school just like a regular school bus. Kids get exercise and a chance to socialize before school, and not every parent needs to join the walk every morning. Parents and school officials interested in starting a walking school bus should check out the detailed guides from The National Center for Safe Routes to School and The Safe Routes Partnership.

A bike train is a very similar concept to a walking school bus, except with bikes. Bike trains can travel longer distances and cover more homes, but they do require a little more planning and preparation. Those interested should check out the guides from The National Center for Safe Routes to School (PDF) and The Safe Routes Partnership.

Who knows? Maybe a couple families biking to school will snowball into something very big:

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Endorsement: González for Mayor

Ballots are in the mail and the drop boxes are open. If you don’t receive your ballot or forgot to update your address, go the King County elections website to update your info or request a replacement. If you are new to town, you can register to vote online until October 25. After that, you can register in-person at an election center up until and including election day November 2. If you’re not sure about the status of your registration, you can check online. For more guidance on the election, see our compilation of 2021 general election endorsements from a number of transportation-focused groups.

The 2015 Move Seattle levy was sold as focusing mostly on walking, biking and transit improvements, and by a landslide 17-point margin voters said, “Hell yes!” Unfortunately, we have yet to have a mayor who has been committed to the voters’ mandate. The city front-loaded the very expensive cars-and-freight-centric Lander Street Bridge in Sodo, then cut the walking, biking and transit promises. The new mayor will have a very difficult task in front of them. They will need to find ways to win back voter trust in the Department of Transportation by delivering on promises in the final years of the Move Seattle Levy, they will need to demonstrate a bold and achievable vision for Seattle’s future, and they will need to package that vision into a measure voters will pass in 2024. That’s a lot of work, so Seattle will need to elect someone who has demonstrated they can get a lot of work done effectively and decisively.

M. Lorena González is the leader for this moment. There is no question about it, which is why Seattle Bike Blog endorsed her in the primary. Her Council office has successfully passed many ambitious pieces of legislation that many considered impossible in Seattle. González does not shy away from an idea just because the “conventional wisdom” in town says it can’t happen here. She asks pointed, often challenging questions to make sure the ideas are sound, then she takes decisive action. This is the leadership style Seattle needs right now.

We have had a half decade of rudderless, indecisive and dysfunctional mayoral leadership, and it has been very damaging to city departments and to the general population’s morale. The 35th Ave NE fight is a very instructive example of a pattern that has played out around many other issues and communities across the city in recent years. It took Mayor Jenny Durkan more than a year to make a decision that could have been made in a day, waiting until the last possible second before ultimately choosing to undermine SDOT staff. So throughout that whole year of indecision, neighbors argued fiercely with each other about it, concocted propaganda, organized roadside pickets and tried to get local businesses to pick a side. There are many community wounds that still haven’t healed and maybe won’t ever heal because of this completely avoidable year of fighting. The 35th Ave NE fight was simply about how to repaint the lines on a street. Her indecisiveness has been much more harmful when it concerned more complex issues that affect even more of the city.

González will make decisions, and Seattle Bike Blog believes she will stand by the many bold plans, policies and goals the people of Seattle and the City Council have approved. This includes the Bicycle, Pedestrian and Transit Master Plans as well as the Climate Action Plan and the Vision Zero Plan. She will also be a visionary leader in the city’s efforts to update these plans as needed early in her term to get them ready before the 2024 transportation measure. Continue reading

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The 2021 election will determine Seattle’s transportation future + Endorsements roundup

In 2024, voters will likely be asked to fund Seattle’s renewed vision for transportation. The 2015 Move Seattle Levy will be set to expire, and it will need to be replaced by a new measure. Ballots are in the mail, and Seattle voters will elect the leaders who will craft that new transportation vision. Every mayoral and council election is important for safe streets, but this one is especially important.

So if you don’t receive your ballot in the next week or forgot to update your address, go the King County elections website and request a new one. If you are new to town, you can register to vote online until October 25. After that, you can register in-person at an election center up until and including election day November 2. If you’re not sure about the status of your registration, you can check online.

Below is a roundup of election endorsements from some transportation-minded organizations in the area: Seattle Bike Blog (SBB), Washington Bikes (WB), The Urbanist (U), The Seattle Transit Riders Union (TRU) and Seattle Subway (SUB). More write-ups are coming for Seattle Bike Blog endorsements in key races, so stay tuned.

Seattle Mayor

M. Lorena González: SBB, WB (dual), U, TRU, SUB

Bruce Harrell: WB (dual)

Seattle City Council Position 8

Teresa Mosqueda: SBB, WB, U, TRU, SUB

Seattle City Council Position 9

Nikkita Oliver: SBB, WB, U, TRU, SUB

Seattle City Attorney

Nicole Thomas-Kennedy: SBB, U, TRU

King County Executive

Dow Constantine: WB, SUB

Joe Nguyen: SBB, U, TRU Continue reading

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Seattle’s first downtown bike path (1898)

I am briefly emerging from my work on my Seattle bike history book to post this map I found buried deep in the archives of The Argus, a weekly Seattle newspaper co-owned by an early Seattle bicycle booster. It’s a map of the bicycle path the city constructed in 1898 to help people connect to the city’s bike paths along the east side of Lake Union and through Interlaken Park to Lake Washington.

The bike path was constructed because wagons, horses and livestock kept destroying the dirt roads, making them impossible to bike on. So people biked on the sidewalks, which were already well-used by people walking. So in order to get people off the sidewalks, the city built a bike path, outlawed animals and wagons from using it, then banned bicycling on adjacent sidewalks. By reports it worked…OK. The intersections were still very difficult to cross because of all the deep ruts in the road. Oh, and people kept crashing on the streetcar tracks.

I had never seen this map in this detail before. This is a better route than any downtown-to-Eastlake route Seattle has today. Someone alert the Convention Center expansion team that they need to add a bike route through the center of the building. I’m sure they’ll love that idea.

Map of the bike route from 8th and Pike to Lakeview Boulevard, travelling along Pine, Terry, Minor, Denny, and Eastlake.

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Pardon the radio silence while I work on my Seattle bike history book

Hello, dear readers. I am currently working hard on the second draft of the book I’m writing for UW Press about bicycle history and culture in Seattle. I was initially hoping to be able to keep the blog going through all of this, but it’s proving more fruitful for me to stay focused on the book. So I apologize for this unscheduled quiet period on the blog. It will be worth it, I promise.

Also, in the process of doing research, I have digitized much of the “Cycle News” column in Seattle’s old Argus weekly newspaper from the turn of the century. It’s sort of like Ye Olde Seattle Bike Blog. Do I know anyone who would want to help me figure out a way to publish this archive on the site? I have a stack of PDFs with character recognition, but I’m not sure the best way to make this usable and searchable on a website. That could be a fun project for after I finish this draft. Email me at [email protected].

For a taste of what’s in this column, here’s how these “wheelmen” reacted when a major bike shop brought a gas car to town:

The Fred T. Merrill Cycle Co has received an Olds gasoline mobile. The machine runs smooth and develops a high speed, and is noiseless. It is a Iuxury to ride behind an Olds mobile.

Don’t fall under its spell, you fools! From the July 26, 1902 Cycling column in the Argus.

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The John Lewis Memorial Bridge to Northgate Station opens October 2

Invitation image with an aerial concept image of the bridge. Text: Grand opening october 2, 2021. The Northgate bike/walk bridge finally has both a name and an opening date. Officially named the John Lewis Memorial Bridge, this biking and walking bridge connecting North Seattle College across I-5 to Northgate Station has a lot to live up to. It is shaping up to be a very useful and eye-catching bridge, and despite many lengthy delays construction will barely finish in time to open alongside Northgate Link light rail October 2.

The bridge took many years of advocacy and a partnership across many agencies, including the city, state and Sound Transit. The bridge was expensive because it crosses a stretch of I-5 that is slightly elevated compared to street level, requiring the bridge to climb extra high to get proper clearance over the freeway. But the difficult crossing was worth it because there are so few quality options for people walking and biking to get across the expansive freeway in this area. The bridge will dramatically expand the walkshed and bikeshed of Northgate Station, meaning far more households and destinations west of I-5 will be within a short walk or bike ride.

Maps showing the increased walkshed and bike shed with the Northgate Bridge.

Maps from Cascade Bicycle Club visualizing the increase in easy walking and biking access.

So hey, you now have a fantastic excuse to ride the light rail on opening day of the Northgate Link extension. Take it to the end of the line, then walk across the new bridge to find the opening celebration in the North Lot of North Seattle College starting at 10 a.m. and going until noon. Or you can bike there and use the new 1st Ave NE bikeway to access the bridge.

Details about the opening celebration from SDOT: Continue reading

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Vashon and West Seattle Water Taxis can now take wide tire bikes (but still no long bikes)

Photo of a bike with wide tires secured in the Water Taxi bike section.

Photo from King County Metro.

The King County Water Taxi bike racks can now take bikes with tires as wide as 4.6 inches, nearly double the size of the old bike racks. This should significantly expand compatibility, especially as many of today’s most popular bikes (such as the Rad Power e-bike featured in King County’s blog post) have wide tires. The number of bike spaces remains the same at 26 per sailing.

This news comes on the heels of another great Water Taxi announcement: SDOT is funding an effort to maintain the Water Taxi’s summer service schedule through the fall and winter. This means service will continue its mid-day and weekend sailings. Combined with the better bike racks, more people in West Seattle will be able to rely on the bike/Water Taxi combo year-round.

While the new racks can accept wider tires, long bikes (including many family cargo bikes) are still not allowed on board. That limit is imposed due to the space available on the deck and the need to maintain accessible walking space.

“While we are now allowing wide tire bicycles thanks to the newly modified onboard bike racks, we still cannot allow bikes longer than 73” or wider than 15”, because they impede access to: wheelchairs & other mobility devices, passenger boarding ramps, and emergency life raft loading stations,” said King County Metro.

More details from King County Metro: Continue reading

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Publicola: What the e-bike boom means for Seattle

E-bike sales are outpacing electric car sales two-to-one in the United States, and e-bikes now make up 20% or more of bikes sold in Seattle bike shops. And as Josh Feit (with Maryam Noor) wrote for Publicola, all signs point to a continued increase in e-bike use.

Feit recently bought an e-bike after a friend offered him a chance to try his bike “like we were 14, and he was offering me my first hit of pot.” Like so many people, that’s all it took to be convinced. E-bikes can flatten the city in a way that makes many more trips in our hilly town both practical and convenient.

I was one of several people Feit spoke with for the story, and it was a great excuse to think about how much has changed in recent years. For many years in recent decades, people prognosticated that e-bikes were about to break into the mainstream. But it just never seemed to happen at scale. That has finally changed. The real question now is: When do we drop the “e” and start just calling them “bikes?” I already sometimes refer to non-e-bikes as “pedal bikes” or “pedal-only bikes,” and I often hear people call them “acoustic bikes.” The electric assist will someday be considered just another optional bike component, like having a multi-gear drivetrain instead of a single speed.

All those Lime and Jump electric bike share bikes probably also supercharged interest in e-bikes in Seattle. Everyone who rides one for the first time is also sort of test-riding the idea of e-bikes. We already noted (before the pandemic) that Fremont Bridge bike trips continued to grow even after bike share trips leveled out, and a promising hypothesis was that many people discovered (or rediscovered) city cycling through bike share and then went out and bought their own bikes. It makes sense that people have done the same with e-bikes.

But maybe the most interesting realization I had during our conversation was how far we’ve come from the days when you couldn’t have a conversation about e-bikes without someone calling them “cheating” or “lazy.” Resistance to e-bikes from people who already bike has really melted away in recent years, and now it’s at the point where hating on e-bikes sounds antiquated or pretentious. I like how Maya Ramakrishnan put it in a recent tweet: “You can’t cheat at transportation because it’s not a competition. It’s good that more people are able to use Not Cars to get around and do errands.”

Be sure to read the whole story on Publicola, which includes wonderful quotes like:

“When someone says, ‘Oh, you know, cycling is great for people who don’t have children,’” Davey Oil, owner of G & O Family Cyclery in Greenwood, quipped, “I’m just like, ‘Hold my juice box, I have three kids on this bike.’”

and

While $1,500 for a bike still might seem Team Bourgeois as opposed to Team Budweiser, “it’s also a lot less expensive than a car,” said Anna Zivarts, local bike advocate and Director of the Disability Mobility Initiative at Disability Rights Washington. “And,” she added, “it is my car.”

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Alert 9/10-12: Contrary to original plans, bike/walk access will be maintained during Montlake Bridge weekend closure

Photot of workers underneath the bridge.

Photo from WSDOT.

We have a good news update about the ongoing Montlake Bridge rehabilitation work. The first of several weekend closures is still scheduled for this weekend (September 10–12). But despite original announcements, the west sidewalk will remain open for walking and biking after all.

Crews recently finished replacing the metal decking on the bridge, which required major car and bus detours. The next phase of work is focused on the mechanical elements that raise and lower the historic bascule bridge. Some of that work will likely require keeping the bridge in the up position, which will obviously mean no biking or walking. But not this first weekend, which is great news for people looking to bike to the Let’s Move Redmond open streets festival Sunday.

From WSDOT:

  • Until further notice: Pedestrians and bicyclists should expect regular closures of one bridge sidewalk. Access will be provided on the opposite sidewalk during closures.
  • 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 10 to 5 a.m. Monday, Sept. 13: The Montlake Bridge will close to vehicle traffic for the first of five scheduled weekend closures. Pedestrian and bicyclist access will be maintained on the west side of the bridge during this first weekend but may be restricted at times during the following closures.

So this means people walking and biking shouldn’t need to worry about big detours until the second weekend of October. And even then, some accommodation for walking and biking may be possible. Stay tuned. From the project page: Continue reading

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Sunday: Let’s Move Redmond open street festival spans from Central Connector to Downtown Park

Cartoon map of the festival area.

With a pop-up bike protected bike lane, a kids bike rodeo, a roller disco dance party and more, the streets of downtown Redmond are set to be the place to be Sunday. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. between the Central Connector trail and Downtown Park along 161st Ave NE.

And no, I’m not just saying this because my wonderful spouse Kelli is one of the organizers of the Let’s Move Redmond open streets festival (though she really is wonderful). Open streets events are the best, and it’s always very exciting to see a brand new effort get going.

More details from Move Redmond:

This Sunday, 161st Avenue and Cleveland Street in Downtown Redmond will be open to people walking, biking, roller skating, scooting, and playing. The ‘Let’s Move Redmond’ open street festival will connect the Redmond Central Connector with Downtown Park along 161st Ave and fill the streets with fun activities for the whole family. Open Streets events are celebrated around the world and focus on opening streets so people can move and play. This is the first Open Streets event in Redmond, WA.

“Opening up our streets to people biking, walking, and rolling is a great way for those who live or work in Redmond to connect, play, and reimagine our streets as safe places for people,” said Kirk Hovenkotter, Executive Director at Move Redmond.

‘Let’s Move Redmond’ celebrates movement, transportation, and play. Attendees will get the chance to move their bodies and get active in fun ways, with a group run, classes like yoga, Zumba, and Dance Fitness. There will also be a kid’s bike rodeo, where children can practice their bike handling skills. Be sure to grab your roller skates or rollerblades for a roller disco dance party at 1:30.

This event will also encourage people to try new ways of getting around. ‘Let’s Move Redmond’ will feature a pop-up protected bike lane so people can feel what it is like to ride bikes and scooters in a low-stress bike lane. Participants will also learn more about Move Redmond’s campaign to build a protected bike lane network that will link trails to key destinations to the places people need to go. Attendees of ‘Let’s Move Redmond’ can test out a Spin Scooter, practice putting their bike on the bus with a demonstration bus bike rack from Sportworks.

There will be booths showcasing community partners, local businesses, and organizations that are supporting ‘Let’s Move Redmond’ including: 425 Fitness, AKT Dance Fitness, Briora Ballroom Dancing, Cascade Bicycle Club, City of Redmond, Complete Streets Bellevue, Eastrail Partners, Evergreen Health,  Edge & Spoke, Hopelink, Indian American Community Services, iCode, Mayuri, Kirkland Greenways, Kiwanis, Semilla Flamenca, Spin, Sportworks, WSP

Move Redmond would like to thank the sponsors who made this event possible: Microsoft, Amazon, Sound Transit, King County Metro, Mayuri, 425 Fitness, Eastrail Partners, One Redmond, Signarama, WSP, and ZICLA

More information about the event can be found at Moveredmond.org/letsmoveredmond. Bring you mask! We will share one with you if you need it.

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Help family of man killed while working on the Beverly rail-trail bridge

Looking down the under-construction bridge surface. There are no side rails yet.

Photo from Kittitas County.

Last month, Gabriel Zalaya was working on the state project to rehab the Beverly Bridge over the Columbia River when he fell and was killed. He was 39.

Our condolences to his friends and family.

A contractor for the State is rehabilitating the historic Beverly Railroad Bridge as part of the state-spanning Palouse-to-Cascades Trail. The bridge was heavily damaged by a wildfire in 2014, and is scheduled to reopen very soon. The opening celebration initially scheduled for September 13 has been postponed in part due to Zelaya’s tragic death.

A GoFundMe has been set up to support his three kids and their mother, according to her brother Manny:

Gabriel Zelaya had big dreams of buying a home for his kids, giving his kids a bright future, a life he never had as a kid, he had a rough life as he was growing up in California. He decided to move to Washington state 3yrs ago to give his family a better life. 3 weeks ago he decided to switch to a better job, working in bridge construction and maintenance, just to have a horrible accident, falling off a 70 foot bridge. He never made it home to his kids that tragic day. My sister is not receiving any pension due to not being legally married so its not a lot of help she is receiving.

The Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office and the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries are conducting independent investigations of the tragedy.

More details on the fatal fall, from Kittitas County: Continue reading

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Disability Mobility report makes a powerful, story-driven case for transit and street improvements across Washington State

Disability Rights Washington released a report this week that is so good it should be considered mandatory reading for everyone working in transportation in our state. The word “report” doesn’t really do it justice because “Transportation Access for Everyone: Washington State” is filled with personal stories from people all over the state who are being left behind or seriously inconvenienced daily by our transportation infrastructure and services. The report then summarizes some of the issues people face and provides a non-exhaustive list of recommendations for politicians, transportation departments and transit agencies.

But even if you aren’t a politician or transportation staffer, the personal stories are very compelling. The term “disability” covers such a wide range of lived experiences, and the barriers people face are often caused by a lack of consideration in planning and implementation of policies, priorities, services and infrastructure design. Simply following the bare minimum to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act legal requirements is not good enough. Earmarking some funding for paratransit in a budget overflowing with highway spending is not good enough, either. Instead, we should work towards “radical inclusion,” which means being familiar with and serving as many people’s needs as possible. From the report authors:

We did not intend to create an exhaustive list of the needs of transit-reliant disabled people or a complete set of policy recommendations. Instead, this report should
be viewed as a starting point for policy- makers, elected officials, transit agencies, transportation departments, transportation advocates and civil and transportation engineers, and those in related fields, to humbly perceive their ignorance of the daily experiences of people who live differently than them and understand the urgent need for “radical” inclusion of disabled nondrivers in the planning processes across every level of our transportation systems and to begin, with urgency, to practice that inclusion.

While the report has a lot of recommendations, it makes two “major actions”:

  • Shift resources to prioritize funding accessible pedestrian infrastructure and reliable transit service.
  • Look to nondrivers as transportation decision makers and experts.

Big thanks to Disability Rights Washington and its Disability Mobility Initiative, led by Anna Zivarts, for this report. Thanks also to the more than 125 disabled nondrivers who shared their stories with the report’s authors. Check it out here.

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Decades-long private encroachment along Burke-Gilman Trail finally cleared to make small lakeside park

Before and after photos showing the new lake view from the trail.

Images courtesy of Stuart Strand.

For decades, a small public space along the Burke-Gilman Trail just north of the Seattle city limit has been hidden behind a private fence. But no more.

It took a remarkable amount of work to open this small space. Volunteers on a county advisory committee learned about the illegal fence and other private structures a decade ago when King County was preparing for its major 2011 remake of the trail from the Seattle border to Log Boom Park in Kenmore. Those volunteers — including Stuart Strand, who alerted me to the project and sent the photos — urged the county to take action to reclaim the space, resulting in a court battle that ultimately went in King County’s favor.

The space between the trail and Lake Washington just south of NE 151st Street became public property in the 1974 when the county acquired rights to the old railroad right of way from Burlington Northern. But it has been closed off from public access since 1979 when nearby property owners constructed a fence with a locked gate preventing public access to the space between the trail and the lake. They also built a shed and some stairs and maintained a lawn as though it were theirs.

But it wasn’t theirs. It belonged to all of us, as King County argued in court (counter-claim PDF):

“Plaintiffs have erected a fence across King County’s property, which blocks King County’s access to a portion of its property and prevents public enjoyment of a portion of that property.”

Continue reading

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Memorial ride for Max Kullaway August 29

Max holding a bike frame.

Max Kullaway. Photo from the event page.

Expert bike builder Max Kullaway passed away earlier this month after a long battle with cancer. Kullaway was the force behind 333fab bicycles. For years Max made bicycles in a Fremont shop alongside Bill Davidson before he and his spouse Tarrell (formerly a Cascade Bicycle Club staffer) moved to California. I highly recommend reading this 2012 interview in The Bicycle Story.

The morning after he passed away, the kid and I were listening to KEXP while biking to preschool, and the DJ read a long memorial note for Max. It was a reminder that a single life can touch so many others. We are sending our love to Tarrell and all Max’s loved ones.

Seattle friends are hosting a ride August 29 in his memory. Details from the event page: Continue reading

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Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board seeks 3 new members for pivotal term

The Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board is seeking three new members to start two-year terms in the fall. This term will cover some very important decisions for Seattle’s transportation future, including development of the next big Seattle transportation levy likely headed to the 2024 ballot. Apply online by August 27.

The volunteer board is purely advisory and does not have any direct authority, but their work does help the department of transportation craft planning documents and prioritize projects to some extent. This work is especially important in the run-up to a major levy because the department and city political leaders will be using these plans when setting the scope and funding priorities that will be sent to voters.

No professional expertise or transportation planning experience is required. In fact, the most effective board members tend to be people with a desire to learn and a willingness to ask down-to-earth questions that engineers may not have fully considered. You just need to be a Seattle resident who wants to help the city increase bicycling and bicycle safety.

The time commitment includes attending evening meetings the first Wednesday of every month as well as some time spent reading relevant documents or working with small task forces as needed. Meetings are currently held virtually online, but some day will go back to being in-person in Seattle City Hall or the Municipal Tower downtown. More details from SDOT: Continue reading

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U.S. Bike Route System grows in southeast Washington

Map of existing and proposed US Bike Routes in Washington.

Existing and proposed U.S. Bike Routes in Washington (PDF).

WSDOT has started four new U.S. Bicycle Routes in southeast Washington, establishing Clarkston along the Snake River and Tekoa along the Palouse to Cascades Trail as long-distance bike route nexuses.

The US Bike Route system is a vision for a connected network of bicycle routes spanning the nation, making it easier to travel by bike and encouraging economic activity in communities off the beaten path. Being designated a USBR is largely symbolic, though there are hopes it will someday be much more than that. Official designation does make them “eligible for national and global promotion,” according to the WSDOT press release. It also allows the state to install official USBR signage. But it doesn’t mean USDOT is sending money to upgrade their bike facilities.

The longest of the new stretches, USBR 81, connects Clarkston to Tekoa, passing through Pullman (and Washington State University) on the 104-mile segment. Riders can also take the alternative USBR 281 for a shorter route between Clarkston and Pullman. From Clarkston, just across the border from Lewiston, Idaho, people can head west on USBR 20, which will someday connect to the Tri-Cities, Kennewick and Columbia River routes toward Vancouver, Washington, and beyond. For now, it reaches Lewis and Clark Trail State Park about 77 miles west of the Idaho border.

The shortest of the four new routes is a 2-mile stretch of USBR 40 between Tekoa and the Idaho border. But this route is also one of the most exciting because the bulk of the planned 400-mile route in Washington follows the car-free Palouse to Cascades Trail. Long stretches of this rail-trail are very remote and rough currently, but the state is investing to rehabilitate key trestles and bridges. This work is worth a post of its own, but the next year should be very exciting for this trail and the future USBR 40. So while the USBR designation is not exactly a source of revenue, it does help add to the list of reasons the state should invest in them.

Washington State added its first route to the national network in 2014 with much fanfare. USBR 10 crosses the state along US Highway 20. The national network is also building out slowly, though Washington’s neighboring states do yet not seem in much of a hurry to link up. Oregon does have its own Scenic Bikeways, though they are often loops or short segments and are not in the USBR System.

More details from WSDOT: Continue reading

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Watch: Searching for the 125-year-old Interlaken bike path

In 1896, Seattle city crews and a group of volunteers worked together to build a bike path from downtown to Lake Washington. They made it quickly, following the terrain around the north end of Capitol Hill to find the easiest route. They cleared the skinny path and dug as needed to make it mostly flat, then they covered it with cinders and ash. For less than a decade, biking out on this path was a very popular activity, and it helped promote the city’s first major bike boom. But by 1905, most of the route had either vanished or was being developed into a boulevard.

One of the most iconic sections was through what is now Interlaken Park. It was not unheard of for people to encounter a bear while biking through the deep woods of Interlaken, and much of the route of the old path was immortalized when the Olmsted Brothers used it as the guide for Interlaken Boulevard.

But a path paved with ashes and often routed through private property did not last long. Property development closed some sections while nature took care of others. Still, I was curious if I could find any hints today that the old path ever existed. Jonathan, a Seattle Bike Blog reader, sent me an old hand-drawn plot city engineers used to construct the 1896 path. I traced that plot into a Google Map that I could follow on my phone, and then set out to follow it.

Did I find the old path? Watch the video to find out.

Old photo of a woman with a bike on a winding path.

Woman with bicycle on the Lake Washington bicycle path, 1899-1900. Photo by John P. Soule.

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Initial drop of primary results suggests very close races for Mayor, Council Position 9

Seattle’s November election for Mayor and City Council Position 9 are going to be very close.

King County Elections will drop more ballot results around 4:30 p.m. every weekday until they are all counted. Because later votes in Seattle tend to skew younger and more progressive, the final tally will likely bring both primary results much closer as more ballots are counted over the next week or so. So Tuesday’s count is probably as good as it gets for leading candidates Bruce Harrell and Sara Nelson. If past patterns hold true, Lorena González and Nikkita Oliver will close the gaps in their races to within a few percentage points.

Perhaps the most important data point won’t be the final vote leads themselves but voter turnout. As of Tuesday’s count, turnout was only 18%. That number will climb as more ballots are counted, but will it reach previous mayoral years? Turnout in 2017 was 19% on election night but grew to 41%, a high level that was likely a response to Trump’s election. But if turnout this year can’t even reach the 35% turnout in the 2013 mayoral primary, that’s probably not a good sign for the more progressive candidates. Older and more conservative voters vote earlier and more reliably, so a bigger turnout usually means more young people and a more progressive outcome.

One thing is almost certain: Teresa Mosqueda will keep her City Council seat. She had an overwhelming lead on election night of 55% that will likely grow further. Her leading opponent Kenneth Wilson, who owns a structural engineering firm that worked on the Northgate bike/walk bridge, is a far distant second with 18%. You can see updated results on the King County Elections website.

Position 8 results. Continue reading

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Vote! How to find a drop box, replace a missing ballot, register + More

Photo of the author, spouse and 3 year-old in front of a ballot box. The 3 year-old is holding a ballot.

Map of ballot box locations.

Look at all these ballot drop boxes! You can also mail it, but drop box will get there faster.

The primary election is tomorrow (August 3), and turnout in King County was sitting at a mere 13% as of Friday evening. That’s too low.

But you are a Seattle Bike Blog reader, so you are engaged and vote in every election already (you do, right?). So what we really need is for you to personally contact friends and family members to make sure they vote, too. And if they say something like, “Oh, I don’t know where my ballot is,” tell them they can still vote.

It’s not even too late to register. Just head to a voting center (including Lumen Field in Seattle) during open hours (King, Snohomish, Pierce). You can register and vote at the same time. You can also simply head to a voting center if you didn’t get your ballot and don’t feel like navigating the elections website to figure out how to print a replacement.

If you do have your ballot sitting around the house, don’t let it go to waste! Summer primaries have a way of sneaking up on people. But it’s a short ballot without many difficult decisions. There are a lot of really great people running for very important offices, and this is our chance to make sure the best possible slate of candidates are on the November general election ballot. Low-turnout elections tend to over-represent conservative voters, and your vote could easily be the one that decides who gets the second spot on the ballot. That’s a big deal.

And hey, biking to a drop box is a great excuse for a ride.

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Alert: Montlake Bridge east sidewalk closed Aug 2-6 + Weekend closures coming in the fall -UPDATED

Photo showing a cracked section of bridge decking.

Yeah, they should probably fix this. Photo from WSDOT.

The state is starting work on a significant Montlake Bridge repair project, which includes replacing all the metal roadway decking and maintaining the moving mechanism. This will lead to major closures for cars and buses. But because crews will keep the sidewalks open when the bridge deck is closed, there should only intermittent and limited closures for people walking and biking.

First, work crews “will restrict access on the east bridge sidewalk from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.” August 2–6. So plan for a little extra time in your trip to cross to the west sidewalk at the E Shelby Street signal. That sidewalk will likely also be more crowded than usual.

But it is great news that the sidewalks will remain open during the 26-day full closure to motor vehicles starting August 9. The bike detour options for the Montlake Bridge are really tough, especially because heavy traffic makes biking on Boyer Ave E to the U Bridge even worse than it usually is. So to whoever made sure the sidewalks were open during this work, thank you for making that a priority.

If you rely on any of the buses that cross the bridge, however, be ready for a major disruption and significant rerouting. Or bike if you can.

There will be a series of four full-weekend closures in September and October when the bridge will need to be held in the raised position so crews can maintain the mechanical components. From 11 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday during these weekends, people biking will unfortunately need to detour to the U Bridge:

  • Sept. 11-12 (UPDATE 9/10: WSDOT now says the west sidewalk will remain open during this work)
  • Oct. 9-10
  • Oct. 23-24
  • Oct. 30-31

The SR-520 project will take advantage of the closed Montlake Bridge in August by conducting a major soil rehab project at the location of the old gas station at Montlake Blvd and Lake Washington Blvd. This work will close the west sidewalk and all but two lanes of traffic there, but it appears the east sidewalk should remain open.

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