Watch: Best Side Cycling tours the new 15th Ave NE bike lanes + What can we learn from its shortcomings?

The new and improved 15th Avenue NE bike lanes opened last month, and much of the project is excellent. But the opening celebrations have been a bit dampened due to the city’s decision to ignore people’s requests to help them cross the biggest barrier to biking on this route: Lake City Way.

I have been a bit slow to write about this project because the city has put safe streets advocates in a bit of an awkward bind here. On one hand, they did build nearly one mile of new protected bike lanes. As important as it is to watchdog transportation projects, it is also important to celebrate wins. This is a mile of bike lane that is now part of our city, and that’s great. People will be able to travel by bike more comfortably and, hopefully, more safely. The bike lanes also significantly reduced the crossing distance for people walking across this street, which is far too wide for the relatively low amount of car traffic it carries. Bike lanes are not just about biking, they are part of a complete street that is safer for all users.

It is worth celebrating every time the city makes our streets significantly safer than they were before, and most of this project does so. I feel like I need stress that there’s a full stop after this sentence, even though I know you can sense the word “but” coming soon. This street is safer, and if this project works as well as we all hope then as many as 10 people will be spared from serious traffic injuries or death every year from now on. That’s a huge and very real improvement.

But (there’s that word) the project has some major shortcomings that undercut the effectiveness of the rest of the improvements, and it’s difficult to want to heap too much praise on the city because of them. However, the problems happened during the previous administration, and I hope that SDOT and Mayor Bruce Harrell can learn from these issues and avoid them in the future.

The highest-level takeaway is that SDOT and the mayor need to listen to advocates, who were genuinely engaged in this project’s design process. Mayor Jenny Durkan chose to completely shut out and ignore community members who volunteered their time and energy to engage with this project and suggest improvements. This was a major problem with Mayor Durkan’s leadership in general, and it’s consequences show up once again in the way this project turned out.

Project shortcomings

Design plan showing four general traffic lanes with no bike lanes between 80th and Lake City Way.

The paving plan near Lake City Way.

The biggest and most obvious problem with the street’s design is that all safety improvements end one block before reaching Lake City Way, one of the most dangerous streets in Seattle. The paving project continues all the way to the busy street, but the bike lanes and their related street safety benefits end at NE 80th Street. As the new roadway approaches Lake City Way, it balloons out from two general traffic lanes to four despite the fact that traffic volumes actually drop from 10,000 vehicles per day to 8,000 according to the city’s 2020 Traffic Report (based on pre-pandemic 2019 data). Even 10,000 vehicles per day is not much at all for an arterial street, and 8,000 will easily fit in two lanes. As the new lanes are added, all safety elements disappear. It is an enormous missed opportunity to keep people safe.

But to make matters worse, people made it very clear to the project team during the design phase that this was not good enough. Two years ago, when there was definitely enough time to make changes, I summarized what I had been hearing: Continue reading

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The Bikery’s free Help Desk is here to answer your Seattle bike commute questions

Bike Commute Help Desk logo with a pictogram of a person on a bikeThe volunteer-powered Bikery has long provided resources for people to obtain and learn how to repair bikes. Their 30 or so regular volunteers share their bicycle mechanic knowledge with the community through the shop on Hiawatha Place S near S Charles Street. But the organization’s latest service hopes to reach beyond the mechanical to help answer people’s other questions about bike commuting, like with route to take or what kind of bike they need.

“There are probably some barriers keeping people from transitioning from car to bike,” said project founder Jordan Sampson. Yet the Bikery’s volunteer base was full of people with lots of experience getting around the region on bike. “There’s knowledge about urban cycling that we weren’t really tapping into.”

The Bikery’s Bike Commute Help Desk is a “100% free service” (though of course donations are always welcome) designed for people who are considering trying to commute by bike or who struggled with their first attempts and would like advice. Send an email to [email protected] and ask your questions. The Help Desk will work to get you answers or connect you with a volunteer in your area who can help.

Most people who are biking now got started with help from someone who was already familiar with biking. It’s so much easier to have someone guide you through the process of getting started than to try to figure it all out alone. It would be amazing to see the Help Desk serve that function for people who don’t have a close friend who’s already into biking.

What the Help Desk needs most now are users. So help them out by spreading the word. If someone you know is interested in bike commuting and you aren’t in a place to advise them, point them to the Help Desk. You could also spread the word at your workplace.

If you’re interested in volunteering with The Bikery, email [email protected]. They are always looking for people who help staff the shop, though they also have other events and tasks. And then maybe you’ll be able to help someone through the Help Desk, too.

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UW Press committee has approved my Seattle bike history book

The UW Press faculty committee has unanimously approved Pedaling Uphill In The Rain for publication. If all goes according to plan, it should be available in spring or summer of 2023.

Big thank you to everyone who has supported my work during the past couple years. I think the book is really good, filled with forgotten stories that might shift your perspective a bit on the role biking has played in the development of Seattle. I can’t wait for you all to get the chance to read it.

Thanks also to all of you who continue to read Seattle Bike Blog even though posting has been slower than usual. Writing a book is a lot of work, it turns out. The longer it gets, the more unwieldy it gets, and seemingly small tasks can easily take hours just because there’s so much material to work through. So when days go by without posts here, it’s probably because I’m working somewhere deep within the manuscript.

I have learned a lot about how my writing mind works through this process. People might think that writing is the act of sitting down at a keyboard and typing out letters, but that’s not true at all. Much of my writing happens in my head as I bike around town or while I’m reading source material. During that time, I am constantly thinking about the significance of information and stories and how they connect together. By the time I am sitting at the keyboard, I already have most of what I’m going to write figured out. Due to this, I have found it more difficult than expected to split my daily writing time between the book and the blog. It’s not as simple as minimizing the book document and opening the new post page because the bulk of the work behind writing doesn’t happen while I’m sitting at the keyboard. To get out a quality post, I needed to be thinking about it on my bike ride to pick up the kid or while drinking my morning coffee. I was able to balance the two some days, but on days where I was really focused on the book, I had to let the blog go quiet. So for anyone who has been wondering why the blog’s been a quiet, now you know.

The manuscript is with the publisher now. I’m not completely finished with it yet, though. It will go through copy editing, which will surely require more work. I also still have a lot of work to do organizing images and figures as well as a long list of miscellaneous tasks. But I can see the finish line, which feels great after nearly three years of work.

Stay tuned for more book news, and take care.

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Last chance to comment on the scope of the Seattle Transportation Plan

Friday (July 29) is the last day to comment on a key phase in the development of the extremely important Seattle Transportation Plan. Comments on the scope of the plan will help guide the environmental review process. We need to make sure this plan is as bold as possible to set the stage for major investments in walking, biking, transit and safety.

This is different than the plan’s survey and comment map, which will accept submissions through the end of August.

If you haven’t commented yet on the environmental study scope yet, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways has created a handy form you can use to support their list of 5 suggestions. Their sample letter:

Dear SDOT,

Before moving forward with SEPA analysis for the Seattle Transportation Plan, please revise the proposed alternatives in the following way:

  1. Delete Alternative 2 which would be a failure of our necessary climate goals. Seattle must be a leader on a just transition to a sustainable future, and failing to do so by 2044 should not be studied as an option.
  2. Add a bold Alternative 4. We need a new alternative that makes bold progress in the next decade, rather than waiting for 2044. We need an alternative that rapidly makes walking, biking, and transit the most convenient, safe, and comfortable ways to get around Seattle. Let’s plan for an accessible city for all where sidewalks and crosswalks are ubiquitous. Let’s plan for a bike friendly city where every street is safe to bike on. Let’s plan for a city where frequent transit is prioritized over the movement of cars. Let’s plan for a city where our streets are recognized as public space for play, community building, trees, gardens, cafes, and so much more! In short, let’s plan for a future that is more sustainable, equitable, safe, affordable, healthy, accessible, and thriving.
  3. Plan for an affordable 15 Minute City. Please revise the alternatives to plan for a city where everyone has an affordable home, and where daily needs are within a short walk or roll. These strategies must be developed in concert with the land use plan to be effective and equitable.
  4. Improve the “themes” used to evaluate the alternatives. Please improve the universal design theme away from app solutions and towards the needs of non-drivers and people with disabilities. Please add public space, kid-friendly, elderly-friendly, and noise pollution as new themes to better help understand the outcomes that different alternatives would create.
  5. Reduce the over-emphasis on vehicle electrification: The draft alternatives envision a large role for the City of Seattle in promoting private electric vehicles. SDOT should instead focus on what it has the most control over: prioritizing investments and street space so that walking, biking, and transit are the most convenient, safe, and comfortable ways to get around.

 

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Mayor picks LA’s Greg Spotts as next SDOT Director

Screencapture showing Greg Spotts speaking at a podium.

Greg Spotts. Screen capture from Seattle Channel.

Greg Spotts will be the next SDOT Director, taking over the department in September. Mayor Bruce Harrell announced the decision on Beacon Hill today, describing Spotts as “a champion for innovative thinking, sustainable solutions, collaborative partnership building and transparent public engagement.”

Ryan Packer was at the mayor’s press conference announcing the pick, and reported for The Urbanist that Spotts described himself as a “creative change agent to help make Seattle more walkable, bikeable and transit friendly.” He also put a major emphasis on Vision Zero.

“One of my first priorities will be a thorough review of our Vision Zero efforts to reduce traffic-related injuries and deaths,” he said.

The Seattle Department of Transportation has been very quiet since the December departure of Sam Zimbabwe, seemingly operating under a “don’t make headlines” mentality. Few controversial projects have moved forward during the first half year of Mayor Harrell’s term, similar to the beginning of Mayor Jenny Durkan’s term. However, Durkan inexplicably waited more than a year to replace the SDOT Director, leaving Zimbabwe with no time to prepare ahead of a tumultuous year of transportation impacts that started in early 2019, including the closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and major disruptions in the downtown transit tunnel. Harrell has moved more quickly to pick a new Director.

SDOT functions best when it has clear direction from the top supporting its safe streets mission. The department has a lot of smart staff who truly want to make the city safer, more accessible and more sustainable. But they need to know their leaders will support them in that work.

Spotts will also oversee the development of the Seattle Transportation Plan, which will form the basis for the next major transportation funding package to replace 2015’s nine-year Move Seattle Levy. The next levy would need to be in place by the end of 2024, creating an incredible opportunity for Seattle to put a truly nation-leading transportation funding measure on a high-turnout Presidential election ballot.

We wish him the best and look forward to covering his Vision Zero review.

Watch the press event: Continue reading

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Washington’s streets continue to fail kids like Mikey Weilert

Michael Weilert photo.

Photo from a GoFundMe for the family of Michael Weilert.

Michael Weilert stopped, pushed the button to make the crosswalk lights start blinking, waited to see that cars were stopping, then rode his bike across busy Pacific Avenue S in Parkland last Tuesday. But even though other people had stopped their cars at the clearly marked crosswalk, a 27-year-old woman drove a Jeep straight through and killed him.

He was only 13.

Our deepest condolences go out to his friends and family. They held a memorial (KING 5) over the weekend at the crosswalk where he was killed. You can contribute to a GoFundMe to help support his family through this time.

Mikey’s death is devastating. Several systems failed him and his family. The road is designed dangerously, the driver behaved negligently, and the police added pain and suffering after the fact.

Dangerous by design

The road, which is also State Route 7, is wide and hostile with multiple lanes in each direction. Even this crosswalk, which had been upgraded with a median “refuge” island and blinking lights, was not enough to make crossing the street safe. It is one of so many busy streets in our state and across the nation that prioritizes the fast movement of cars over the safety of anyone who needs to get across. As is clear from Smart Growth America’s new Dangerous By Design 2022 report, this is a problem across our nation that is getting worse.

Pacific Avenue has inherent safety deficiencies that are well-known to traffic engineers. In this case, the collision seems to stem from its “multiple threat” design failure in which even if one driver stops, there is no guarantee that the driver in the next lane will also stop. Here’s how Seattle’s Safe Routes to School Engineering Toolkit illustrates the problem:

The good news is that we know how to solve this problem: Reduce the number of general traffic through lanes. Highway-style designs have no place on streets that go through communities. Traffic engineers across the world have found that one lane in each direction with turns lanes where appropriate can carry a large number of vehicles per day far more safely. WSDOT data shows that this section of Pacific Avenue (near 134th Street S) carries about 30,000 vehicles per day, which is a few thousand more than Rainier Ave S. Rainier was formerly State Route 167 and has been one of the city’s most dangerous streets thanks to its highway-style design. Seattle conducted a full before and after study (PDF) demonstrating a successful 2015 safety redesign on a stretch of Rainier. It found that the number of serious injury or fatal collisions plummeted in large part due to the elimination of the multiple threat problem. It took about a minute longer to drive on the street, but serious injuries and deaths went from 10 per year to 0. That is well worth a minute.

Mikey’s family has also called for what they are calling “Michael’s Law” improving the safety of crosswalks in the state, according to King 5 News. They don’t want anyone else to have to go through what they are going through.

But unless the state and local agencies put in the work to redesign streets, this will keep happening again and again on Pacific Avenue and other streets across the state that have the same problems.

Negligent driving

Continue reading

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Obituary: Robert J. Mason (1958-2022)

UPDATE: A GoFundMe has been set up to support Robb’s family.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thank you to Judi for sending this obituary and photo of Robb. You can find out more about this incident in our previous stories. The July 29 Critical Mass ride has become a memorial ride for Robb. Critical Mass meets 6:30 p.m. at Westlake Park downtown the last Friday of every month. Ride starts at 7.

Headshot photo of Robb Mason.

Robb Mason. Photo courtesy of his friend Judi.

Robert J. Mason, “Robb”, aged 63, residing in Seattle, WA, passed away on July 15th, 2022 after having been the victim of a hit-and-run driver while commuting home on his bicycle.

Born in Van Nuys, CA, Robb graduated from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA with a BFA in Communications & Broadcast Journalism. Later in his career, Robb discovered his true calling and retrained as a massage therapist at the Brian Utting School of Massage in Seattle. He opened his own practice, RMBodyWorks, in 2003 as a licensed massage therapist. He also completed additional training at the National Academy of Sports Medicine, with an emphasis on core fitness and balance/stabilization techniques.

In addition to his private practice, Robb also worked at Highline Physical Therapy in West Seattle. As a massage therapist, Robb saw his role as that of a facilitator for positive change and healing, using his massage techniques and listening skills to make a positive difference in his clients’ lives. He was seen by colleagues and clients alike as an astute and caring clinician.

A sports and physical fitness enthusiast throughout his life, Robb enjoyed track, baseball, skiing, cycling and golf. In later years, he became an avid hiker, enjoying multiple trips to the Alps in Switzerland to hike with members of his extended family. He marveled at the beauties of nature on these trips, and they served to deepen his reverence and respect for the environment.

Robb and his wife sponsored a child, Alexander, in Ecuador.

He is survived by his wife of 18 years, Claudia Mason (née Perotto) and by his sister, Faith Mason. He is predeceased by his parents, William and Imogene Mason, and his brother, Charles.

A private memorial service for Robb Mason will be held on Monday, July 25th, 2022 for relatives and close friends.

Due to the tragic circumstances of his passing, a memorial vigil ride in honor of Robb Mason will be organized by Seattle Critical Mass on July 29th, 2022 from downtown Seattle to the site of the collision on SW Spokane Street, just east of the West Seattle low bridge.

The Seattle Police Department continues to investigate this collision and have asked anyone with information about it to call the Violent Crimes Tip Line at (206) 233-5000.

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Man struck and killed on Harbor Island identified. RIP Robert Mason

Map of traffic deaths and injuries in Seattle 2019-2021

Data from 2019-2021, from a June SDOT Vision Zero presentation (PDF) to City Council.

The man struck and killed while biking on Harbor Island Friday has been identified as Robert Mason, West Seattle Blog reports. He was 63.

We send our deepest condolences to his loved ones.

Police are still looking for the person driving a white or silver sedan who struck and killed Mason while he was crossing Spokane Street just east of the low bridge to West Seattle. Witnesses told police the suspect did not stop.

Anyone with information should call the SPD Violent Crimes Tip Line at 206.233.5000.

West Seattle Blog reports that Robb was a massage therapist, and the comments are filling with people talking about how he helped them through difficult times.

This is not the first time a driver has struck a person biking in this location and then fled the scene. A similar hit-and-run collision left a person seriously injured in 2014, the Seattle Times reported.

The fatal collision also adds to a troubling trend of bicycle injuries and deaths in Seattle’s industrial areas. Just two months ago, Gan Hao Li, 73, was killed while biking near 4th Ave S and S Holgate Street. Another man was killed a block away at 3rd and Holgate in January.

SDOT has proposed some “rapid response” changes to 4th Avenue in response to the recent traffic violence and pressure from safe streets advocates and District 2 Councilmember Tammy Morales. But there is so much more to be done.

We know how to make streets safer, but Seattle has lost the sense of urgency we need to fix dangerous streets before the injure and kill more people. We need that urgency back. This is a public health emergency.

Chart showing rapidly increasing deaths for people walking and slightly increasing deaths for people biking.

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Driver kills person biking near Spokane Street Bridge then flees the scene

Someone driving struck and killed a 63-year-old man on a bike at the east end of the Spokane Street Bridge to West Seattle Friday evening. The suspect then fled the scene in a white or silver sedan.

Our deepest condolences to this man’s friends and family.

Seattle Times reporter and West Seattle resident Mike Lindblom was at the horrible scene shortly after it happened and posted a photo (Caution: It is not graphic, but may still be troubling to view). The person on the bike ended up just east of the crosswalk to the east of 11th Ave SW, a commonly-used route for people biking from the Spokane Street Bridge bike path to the bike path that connects to E Marginal Way. SPD has since confirmed that the suspect was driving eastbound.

Though the exact circumstances of the collision are not yet clear, the crosswalk serves as the shorter option for people on bikes crossing the Duwamish River. There is also a winding trail that loops around and under the Spokane Street Bridge, avoiding the street crossing but also taking extra time. Both options are popular along this heavily-used bike route.

Photo from Google Street View of a person biking in the crosswalk.

Google Street View happens to show someone on a bike using the crosswalk.

Tragic news,” wrote Seattle Neighborhood Greenways on Twitter. “Our hearts break for this person and their loved ones. This is the key bike route connecting West Seattle to the rest of the city, and must be safe for everyone.

Sincere condolences to friends and family of the person killed biking on the West Seattle bridge trail this evening,” Cascade Bicycle Club wrote. “As people who bike, we’re in this together. This is a gut punch to anyone who bikes in the city.

More details from SPD:

Detectives are investigating after the driver in a hit and run collision struck and killed a man riding a compact electric bicycle Friday evening near the Spokane Street Bridge.

At 6:55 p.m., police and firefighters responded to Southwest Spokane Street and Klickitat Avenue Southwest for a collision. According to witnesses, the driver of a white or silver sedan traveling eastbound on Southwest Spokane Street struck a bicyclist that was crossing the road. The driver then continued eastbound and fled the scene.

SFD medics attempted life-saving measures on the bicyclist, but the 63-year-old-man was declared deceased at the scene.

Detectives with SPD’s Traffic Collision Investigation Squad responded to process the scene and begin their investigation. They are asking anyone with information about this collision to call the Violent Crimes Tip Line at (206) 233-5000.

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West Seattle Blog: Wittmier completes cross-country ride to raise money for childhood cancer foundation

Seattle’s Ray Wittmier and his friend Gene Woodard just completed a cross-country bike ride as a fundraiser for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a childhood cancer research organization based in California. They rode in honor of Maya, a family friend who developed cancer at age 7. She is now 13. You can still donate to their fundraiser.

From West Seattle Blog:

They made the trip in 49 days – an average of 70 miles a day – in “every kind of terrain,” from the Rockies to the Plains and beyond. Did we mention, Wittmier is 67 years old, and Woodard 68?

They are thankful for good health throughout their ride; Wittmier jokes that they “never dipped into our Medicare benefits” along the way. Besides funding progress toward fighting childhood cancer, he hopes their ride also will inspire people their age to get up and get moving – whatever their challenges (within the past year, Wittmier had a knee replacement and Woodard had a hip replacement). He recalls that one day, Woodard complained mildly about a particularly hilly stretch – and a family member reminded them, “Think what Maya went through,” especially in her grueling early treatment … and they “never whined again.”

Read more…

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Two days before Cascade’s 206-mile STP, ride the much easier Seattle to Bainbridge with Bike Works

Cascade’s Seattle to Portland ride returns this weekend for the first time since 2019. The legendary double century leaves UW starting at 5 a.m. Saturday with most riders finishing Sunday in Portland.

If it’s your first time riding such a long event, Hanoch Yeung posted a great video on Best Side Cycling looking back on a video he made during his first STP. It’s full of useful advice.

But if 206 miles sounds like a bit much or if you want a little warm-up, Bike Works is hosting the less ambitious Seattle to Bainbridge Thursday, a 6.80-mile ride across Bainbridge Island to Eleven Winery. You’ll have to pay for your own ferry fare, and 10% of what you spend on wine will go to Bike Works. Register online.

More details from Bike Works:

Join Bike Works for a relaxed, no-drop ride on Thursday, July 14th, from the Bainbridge Island Ferry to Eleven Winery at 7671 NE Day Rd W, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110.

All cycling styles are welcome. You can expect to ride 6.8 miles each way with 448 feet of elevation – you will need to be able to ride up and down some hills. (See the route here.)

Please plan to meet at the Coleman Dock Ferry terminal in Downtown Seattle by 3:30 to catch the 3:50 PM ferry to Bainbridge Island. 

Suggested donations will help cover the costs of pizza, salad, and non-alcoholic beverages, but not ferry fare or wine purchased by the glass or bottle (valid ID required). 10% of all bottles purchased at the winery will support Bike Works programming, as will any registration donations beyond the cost of this event.

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Bainbridge Ferry bicycle waiting area changes + How to stay updated on construction

Map of the walking and biking route changes.

From WSDOT.

Map of the future walkway.Starting this week, construction work to replace the old Bainbridge Island Ferry Terminal walkway will cause some changes to how biking on the ferry works. The biggest change is that folks may need to wait in lane 6 rather than the covered area near the ferry ramp.

The new elevated walkway will pass right over the previous bike waiting area, so there will be construction activity there for a while. Later this year during the off-season, there will be some significant closures for a couple weeks including a week with limited walk-on-only service. You can sign up for the project newsletter to stay up to date on changes going forward.

From Washington State Ferries:

Construction work brings changes for pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles

Construction crews are onsite at the Bainbridge Island terminal to replace the overhead walkway leading to the ferry. That means changes for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists, along with intermittent lane reductions. The first lane reduction will happen the week of July 11 as crews remove part of the barrier between the exit lanes and lane 1.

Pedestrians
The pedestrian ramp and stairs leading to the current overhead loading structure will be closed starting July 18 to create a construction work zone. All pedestrians must use the enclosed overhead walkway to board and exit the ferry throughout construction. The green line above shows the pedestrian route, which is a change for many.

Bicycles
All cyclists must use the designated bike lane (above in blue) to access and board the ferry. Bikes will stage and board from lane 6. The area below the terminal building where the bike rack was located will be closed on July 11. That bike rack has been moved to the eastern part of the parking lot near the motorcycle parking.

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On vacation

A kid on an adult's shoulders walking next to a creek. Will return next week.

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Deadline to apply for the Bicycle Advisory Board is June 26

The deadline to apply for a spot on the volunteer Bicycle Advisory Board is Sunday, June 26.

This term on the Board may be particularly impactful since the Board should play a significant role in crafting the Seattle Transportation Plan, which will guide the city’s Comprehensive Plan and the next major transportation funding measure.

The SDOT Blog has more info and directions for how to apply. Or you can jump straight to the application page via the Boards and Commissions website (select “Apply to a Board or Commission” then follow the link to “submit your application.”)

Spots are also open on the Transit and Freight Advisory Boards.

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People For Bikes ranks Seattle as the #3 bike-friendly big U.S. city

Only Brooklyn and San Francisco ranked higher than Seattle in the 2022 list of the most bike-friendly big (300,000+ population) U.S. cities by national non-profit advocacy organization People For Bikes. Portland, Oregon, ranked 5th behind Queens.

These rankings are of course a rather imperfect science, but they’re interesting (NOTE: The Seattle page says it is the #4 big city, but their list of big cities puts Seattle at #3. I’m going with #3 since I can’t figure out what the 3rd city in front of Seattle would be). People For Bikes created a list of criteria based on the existing bike network, ridership, safety and some community response elements such as “how safe people feel riding a bike in their city.” Here’s a visual of Seattle’s results:

a diamond-shape graphic showing seattle as better than average in awareness, network, ridership, and safetyThey also have a bike network analysis tool that spits out a map of “how well bike networks connect people with the paces they want to go.” That’s a pretty tough goal to reliably measure, but it’s interesting to explore their results:

Continue reading

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Do Not Hold The Doors (a Sound Transit music video)

I made a Sound Transit piano. I don’t know why I did it, but I did. So then I wrote a song. Then I made a video for that song. I have no regrets.

The samples were from a public disclosure request by Kevin Wallace back in 2016. He requested all the audio files from Sound Transit’s light rail service, and then posted the files online. I for some reason took those files and dropped them into the Cubase drum sampler Groove Agent so that I could play Samantha’s robotic voice on my piano. My train-loving four year old had a good time playing it. So did I.

After spending some time with the tracks, I realized that Samantha sure talks a lot about doors. So I made a song about them. Then I took videos from the Sound Transit YouTube account and mixed those into a music video.

Here’s a making-of video about the process:

If you make your own Sound Transit song, be sure to post it in the comments below! I’d love to hear it.

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Add your ideas for improvements to the Seattle Transportation Plan map

Screenshot of city comments map.

Screenshot of the map as of June 16. From what I can tell after clicking around randomly for a while, nearly every comment is about safety, walking, biking or transit. Add your comments here.

The city is currently developing a major, all-inclusive transportation plan they are calling the Seattle Transportation Plan. The plan covers “more than just roads,” according to the city’s online engagement tool. It also includes “sidewalks, bridges, stairways, transit, paths and trails, bike lanes, crosswalks, public spaces like street cafes and benches, and much more.”

The plan could supersede the Bicycle Master Plan, which passed in 2014 after years of development and public outreach. It will also form the basis for the next major city transportation funding measure to replace the Move Seattle Levy, which expires at the end of 2024. The scale of the unfunded needs identified during the Transportation Plan process will likely form the basis for Move Seattle’s replacement. So because we need our city to go big and bold on walking, biking and transit investments, we first need to make sure the Plan identifies these needs.

This is where you come in. You can go online right now and add comments to the city’s map of “challenges and opportunities.” Even if your idea is already there from someone else, add it again in your own voice. There are already hundreds of comments, and nearly all of them are about making streets safer or more welcoming to people walking or biking. Let’s keep that going. You can also leave a general comment if you don’t have particular spots to identify.

The city is also hosting a virtual meeting 6 p.m. June 21. Details:

Join us for a virtual meeting on June 21, 2022 at 6 pm!

This meeting will be an opportunity to share your ideas for the future of transportation in Seattle and to share your comments on the Environmental Impact Statement.

How to participate:
https://us06web.zoom.us/j/87467428442

Seattle has an incredible opportunity here to lead the nation in making transformative investments in walking, biking and transit. With a potential funding measure due up during a Presidential election year, the city could go really big with its dreams as the high voter turnout helps push the measure over the top. But they will need big, attractive goals to secure the votes needed, and this plan can set those goals.

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How to bike naked in the revamped Fremont Solstice Parade 2022

Solstice bike route map.

From the Solstice Cyclists website. Visit the site for a more specific description. Or just show up and follow the crowd.

For the first time since 2019, the Fremont Solstice Parade is back. And of course that means hundreds of people are getting ready to strip down Saturday (June 18), paint their bodies and ride their bikes ahead of the official parade. And this time, the meet-up is happening at Gas Works Park.

Crashing the Solstice Parade with a naked or body-painted bike ride has been a tradition since the early 1990s, but the ride gained popularity in the 2000s and 2010s as the number of riders increased to hundreds or even thousands some years. I highly recommend the documentary Beyond Naked, which covers the history of the event in the lead-up to the 2011 ride. That film is also a good reminder that even somewhat chilly and drizzly weather won’t stop the Fremont Solstice Parade.

The 2022 parade route has significantly changed, and so has the biking plan. Perhaps most notably, there is still no big 2022 paint party location. “We do not yet have a paint party location that will accommodate the bulk of the riders for this year,” notes the Solstice Cyclists website. You can check back there to see if this changes, but you should plan on another option. Just, you know, make sure you help your friend clean their backyard when you’re done.

Here’s the schedule for participation in the bike ride:

Morning: Paint up, then ride to Gas Works Park.

1:00 -1:25 Form up at Gas Works

1:25-1:45 Ride from Gas Works Park to parade route

1:45-3:00? Loop on parade route as desired, then exit to Gas Works or beyond.

If you have never ridden in the parade before, the Solstice Cyclists FAQ is full of helpful information and advice. But here are some major items to know:

This event happens in public, obviously, so that means people will be taking photos. So take that into consideration with your costuming. It’s not in the spirit of the event for creepy dudes to be taking lots of photos, but it could happen. Also, don’t be that guy.

The best “paints” to use are face paints and theatrical make-up liquids and cakes. The Solstice Cyclists list these brands as popular options:

  • Mehron
  • Diamond FX
  • Wolfe FX
  • Kryolan Aquacolor
  • Ben Nye
  • Snazaroo

Many riders have used acrylic paint in years past, but just know it’s not meant for use on bodies. And don’t bother trying to use tempera paint. It will flake off.

Apply sunscreen and give it time to soak in before applying paints. It’s the afternoon of Solstice weekend! The strongest sunlight of the entire year.

Make sure you have a way to carry your clothes with you on the ride so you can get dressed at the end.

A plastic bag or saddle cover for your bike seat is a good idea.

Be creative, express yourself and have fun!

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Thorness: Celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Lake Washington Bike Path

Newspaper clipping headline: Bicycle Path Is No More

From the June 23, 1905 issue of The Seattle Daily Times. Male newswriters back then were seemingly incapable of writing about bicycling without saying something pervy about women who biked.

The Lake Washington Bike Path turns 125 this year! Or it would if it weren’t torn up in 1905 to build Interlaken Boulevard.

Bill Thorness, author of “Cycling the Pacific Coast” and “Biking Puget Sound,” wrote a story for the Seattle Times about the history of the old path. Thorness also spoke with yours truly to fill out some of the history:

In a way, said Tom Fucoloro of Seattle Bike Blog, “bike paths themselves shaped the city.” The city’s roads, its neighborhoods, and parks like Roanoke Park got their start thanks to bicyclists.

Fucoloro, whose book on Seattle’s cycling history, “Pedaling Uphill in the Rain,” is due out from University of Washington Press next year, said that, as the last decade of the 19th century began, “Seattle was behind the bike craze because there wasn’t anywhere to ride your bike.” A bike path network was envisioned. Cotterill, who would later become mayor and was also a leader of the Queen City Cycling Club, traced 25 miles of paths around the city.

Fevered bike club members raised money, volunteered labor and lobbied for progress. Along with the trail to Lake Washington, another traced Magnolia Bluff to what is now Discovery Park. They encircled Lake Union, went to Fremont, linked to Ballard, then went on to Green Lake and circled that, too. Many of those areas had yet to be platted for homes.

Read more…

Thorness is leading a Lake Washington Bike Path history ride June 19, and there are still a few spots left. Tickets are $50, which will go to the Phinney Neighborhood Association.

If you’re into the history of this path, you should watch my video where I searched for remnants of the old path route.

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How To Bike In Seattle: Finding a good route

This is part of our ongoing How To Bike In Seattle series, a collection of posts to help folks get rolling around this beautiful place.

OK, so you’ve decided you want to start biking around Seattle for transportation. But how do you find a good route to ride?

By far the best way to find a great route is to ride with a friend who knows the area. So for all you who are already familiar with biking in town, offer this to your friends. Leave early, communicate clearly and ride at whatever speed the new rider feels comfortable. Riding with someone makes the whole experience of getting started much less intimidating. Many people just need to ride a route one time before they feel reasonably comfortable riding it on their own.

If you don’t have a friend to ride with, the fastest and easiest way to get started is to plug your destination into Google or Apple Maps, select bike directions and follow those. These services rarely pick the best routes, but they usually spit out usable options. If they lead you to a street that looks too busy (for example, they both tend to suggest busy sections of Rainier Ave S), stop and re-map from your new location to see if they suggest an alternative.

If you want to do a little more research into routes before you get started, there are a handful of helpful tools to get you started. You can find an updated list of area bike maps on our Seattle Area Bike Maps page.

Let’s start with the official 2022 Seattle Bike Map (PDF):

2022 Seattle Bike Map. Continue reading

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