Wheels will be allowed again on Green Lake inner loop path

The Seattle Parks Department has decided to go back to the lakeside path’s pre-pandemic rules, which allowed people on “wheels” to travel counterclockwise on the path.

The decision, approved by the Board of Park Commissioners, follows a series of public meetings discussing whether 2020-era rule changes on the path should continue. The impetus for the change was that, at the time, we did not know whether people using a crowded outdoor trail would spread COVID-19. So the rule was in place to help people spread out on the often-crowded path. However, the rule has remained in place even after outdoor recreation settings like the Green Lake path were generally deemed low risk for transmission, especially compared to indoor spaces.

The ban was initially put in place with little public input, which made sense at the time. But it was not revisited until this year.

“I was skeptical of this ban in October and I’m still skeptical now because it sets a really bad precedent,” Board of Parks Commissioner Marlon Herrera said, according The Seattle Times. “As our city grows, will we have a wheel ban at Alki, at Seward Park and at the Burke-Gilman by Gasworks? From a safety standpoint I’d like to see the data before we make a decision that large.”

We argued that wheeled users should be allowed as before, especially since the under-construction outer loop bike path could relieve some of the longstanding pressure on the inner path. Anyone trying to bike fast will likely have a much better time of it on the outer path, which also better connects to other streets and bike routes. If conflicts remain an issue, then it could be worth exploring rule changes again in the future.

More details from Seattle Parks:

Green Lake Park’s Inner Loop path has been a valued recreational amenity for decades. Prior to 2020, the path was shared among pedestrians and wheeled users. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Seattle Parks and Recreation limited use to only pedestrians, strollers, and uses protected under the ADA. On September 22nd SPR recommended, and the Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners agreed, to return to the historic use guidelines for the Inner Loop, once more allowing wheeled users.

SPR is currently working on an implementation plan to return to shared use of the path no later than November 1, 2022. The BPRC urged a thoughtful return to these guidelines to reduce confusion and conflicts. The plan will look at signs, pavement markings, outreach, and education and ensure that when the regulations are implemented certain key elements will be in place.

SPR appreciates the hundreds of comments we have received about the Inner Loop’s use guidelines. The experiences shared provide valuable information and perspective to help ensure this shared use path is safe and enjoyable. If you have ideas about ways to make the Green Lake Inner Loop work well for all users, please send them to [email protected] by October 10th. An implementation plan will be presented to the Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners on October 13, 2022.

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Park District Board approves Lake Washington Blvd. path funding 7–1

Screenshot from the Park District Board meeting showing the amendment text and an image of Tammy Morales speaking.

You can watch the meeting on Seattle Channel. Discussion of this item begins around 42:00.

The Seattle Park District Board approved funding a path on Lake Washington Boulevard, voting 7–1 to include $404,000 to the 2023-24 budget plan.

The historic boulevard is one of the city’s original Olmsted Boulevards, which were constructed in the early 1900s as Parks projects. Even though it looks like a regular street, the boulevard is still Parks property, so funding for the biking and walking project would go through the Park District budget rather than the city’s transportation budget.

“This funding will help allow all users to enjoy the boulevard,” said Board Member and District 2 City Councilmember Tammy Morales, the sponsor of the funding amendment. All City Councilmembers are also Park District Board Members. “This is a follow-up to the budget item that we got in last year’s budget to do equitable community outreach and visioning for Lake Washington Boulevard. The idea is for this funding to be used to construct the option that’s chosen through that process.”

The idea faced nearly universal support except from Board Member and at-large City Councilmember Sara Nelson, who argued against the project on the basis that District 2 is getting too much funding from the Parks plan. She also voted against other Morales amendments. Nelson argued that she was standing up for “constituents across the city who want to see fairness and equity as we determine our investments.” She then argued in favor of “geographic equity.” District 5 Councilmember Debora Juarez bristled at Nelson’s suggestion that District Councilmembers don’t consider the whole city. Morales also countered Nelson’s argument by saying that “we are considering the notion of targeted universalism, which is that those areas—those people—who have been the least invested in for generations do get some prioritization. […] That’s how we start to repair the harm done to some of these communities.”

District 4 Councilmember and Transportation Committee Chair Alex Pedersen abstained from voting and did not speak to it.

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Morales proposes funding for a walking and biking path on Lake Washington Blvd. – UPDATED

UPDATE: It passed by a vote of 7-1 (Nelson no, Pedersen abstain).

After a series of successful and popular experiments with extended car-free days on Lake Washington Boulevard in recent years, District 2 City Councilmember Tammy Morales has proposed $404,000 in Parks District funding in 2023 and 2024 to construct a permanent biking and walking path on the historic lakeside street from Seward Park to Mount Baker Beach.

The budget amendment language (PDF) does not specify design details, noting only that it would “add $202k in 2023 and $202k in 2024 for protected path on parks property that can accommodate people using mobility devices, riding bicycles, and walking along Lake Washington Boulevard from Mount Baker Beach to Seward Park.” Every City Councilmember is also a member of the Seattle Park District Board, which was created as a special funding district by a 2014 ballot measure. The Park District Board is scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. today (September 27) following the City Council meeting.

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways put together an online form people can use to support the project and the Parks District funding amendment. Though they note that “the exact design will be determined through an equitable engagement process,” they provided some concept images to show one potential option with a car-free street from Mount Baker Beach to Genesee Park and a protected bike lane or trail from Genesee to Seward Park.

Two photos of the roadway with people and barriers added. A 2021 survey found overwhelming support for the city’s car-free Lake Washington Boulevard experiments with a majority of respondents preferring permanent walking and biking space on the three miles from Mount Baker Beach to Seward Park. This stretch of roadway has been home to the city’s car-free Bicycle Sundays program since 1968, so people are very familiar with how the street works with limited car access.

But people need to be able to safely bike every day, not just on select Sundays during the summer. Ever since the first Bicycle Sunday in April 1968, people have been saying that it be like this every day. “Let us hope we can avoid ‘only on Sunday’ bicycling and enjoy it day in and day out during the year,” wrote R. Stuart Thompson in a letter to the Seattle P-I May 7, 1968, (PDF) following the first every Bicycle Sunday. Hey, better late than never.

Chart showing about 70% support for a permanently car-free option. Chart showing about 60% support for car-free option form Black, Indigenous or people color Chart showing about 60% support for car-free option form people living in 98118.

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Friday: Memorial ride for Robb Mason starts at City Hall

event poster with a photo of Robb and his wife Claudia.

Family and friends of Robb Mason as well as advocates for safer streets will hold a memorial bike ride Friday from Seattle City Hall to the crosswalk near the Spokane Street Bridge where he was killed. The ride starts at 5:30 p.m.

Someone driving a white or silver sedan struck and killed Robb as he biked across a crosswalk just east of the Spokane Street Bridge July 15. He was 63. The person responsible remains at large after fleeing the scene.

Claudia Mason holds a photo of Robb during a Critical Mass memorial.

Claudia Mason holds a photo of Robb during the July Critical Mass memorial ride.

Critical Mass held a memorial ride in his honor as part of their July ride. This time, local political and transportation leaders will join the memorial, including new SDOT Director Greg Spotts. Some of Robb’s loved ones will speak.

Claudia Mason, Robb’s wife, shared her heartbreaking story in a powerful op-ed for the Seattle Times.

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways is organizing the memorial, as they have done for years when the loved ones of traffic victims request it. Details from SNG:

Please join us for a memorial bike ride to honor Robb Mason’s memory, and raise awareness of the need to invest in traffic safety improvements on the streets of Seattle. We will ride slowly to the crash side at the base of the West Seattle Low Bridge.

We’ll be joined by Seattle Department of Transportation Director Greg Spotts, and have invited other officials and members of the media.

You may meet us directly on the east side of West Seattle Low Bridge if you prefer not to bike with us.

Robb was a loving husband, a caring friend, and a gentle soul.

He was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver near the Spokane Street Bridge while biking home from work on July 15.

A massage therapist by profession, Robb was regarded as an astute empathetic clinician who made a positive difference in his clients’ lives. A sports enthusiast throughout his life, Robb enjoyed all sports, especially track and field, and spent countless hours cycling, hiking, and skiing through his beloved Pacific Northwest.

Robb is greatly missed by his family and friends. They will speak at the crash site and there will be a moment of silence.

Friends have set up a GoFundMe to support his wife Claudia in this difficult time.

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After a decade of community organizing, city will officially open the Cheasty mountain bike and hiking trails October 1

Event poster with photos of kids on mountain bikes.The Cheasty Mountain Bike and Pedestrian Trails project first won grant funding to clear out invasive greenery to create a recreation area between Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill in 2013, and supporters have been bushwhacking through the Seattle Process ever since.

One decade later, Seattle is finally ready to cut the ribbon on the South Loop of the trails vision, which includes paths both for mountain biking and walking. Supporters and the city will celebrate 10 a.m. October 1 as part of Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day.

The dream of this project was to create an urban mountain bike park that could expand access to the sport by creating a space that does not require a long drive to the forest. Instead, trails could be constructed within a forested hillside greenbelt within easy biking distance of southeast Seattle homes, schools and community organizations like Bike Works. In the process, trail supporters have pledged to hold volunteer work parties to help clear out invasive plants like ivy, which was a huge problem in the greenbelt that threatened the health of the trees.

But the project quickly met the first of many hurdles: Seattle Parks Department rules. Then there was political opposition to overcome, including resistance from then-City Councilmember Bruce Harrell who ultimately abstained from voting to approve its grant funding in 2014 saying, “For me, this was less than a perfect process.” The project vision shifted around this time from being mostly about mountain biking (it was originally called “Beacon Bike Park”) to also include hiking trails that could engage more of the community. Then there was an extensive environmental review process. Every step pushed the timeline further into the future. But supporters have persevered, and the trails are finally becoming reality.

The trails were built under the guidance of Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, which has a long history of helping to maintain trails across the state. Here’s an overly-detailed map of the South Loop design plan from the technical documents:

Topographic map of the south trails plan.The park is set to double in size when the North Loop trails are completed. “[Parks] will be monitoring the south loop trail usage while constructing the north loop,” the city said in its press release (see below). The North Loop timeline is still listed as “TBD” on the project webpage.

Congratulations to everyone who worked on this project in the past decade, whether you attended the many, many meetings about it or whether you joined a volunteer work party in the park. Having a forested mountain bike park within a busy urban area is very rare, and this park is set to become yet another thing that makes Seattle such a special place.

Details on the celebration from Seattle Parks: Continue reading

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Photo: Biking downtown

Photo looking down the middle of the two-way bike lane on 2nd Ave. A person on a bike is moving past.I took this photo the other day, and I’m fairly happy with how it turned out. I’ve been really enjoying photography in recent months, so I figured I’d share any bike-related experiments with you all.

Also, biking downtown is so much fun. I know the 2nd Ave bike lane is old news at this point, but it is such a great part of our city. It’s also a reminder of the kind of safety-focused changes we can make to our streets when the excellent engineers at SDOT have full political support from City Hall. If protected bike lanes like these can work in congested downtown Seattle, they can work anywhere.

As for the photo, I’m still learning what’s possible with “modern” cameras and editing software after more than a decade of only having my phone’s camera (I put “modern” in quotes because I bought a used Sony A6000 from 2014 and am repurposing lenses from my 1970s Canon film camera). You still can’t beat a phone camera in terms of practicality, but I’ve been trying to bring my other camera with me more often.

This photo took a long time to get, and my method was funny and perhaps not the best. I tried to use the yellow plastic post as a tripod and then use the timer function to take a motion-blurred photo as someone biked by. Focus is a tiny bit soft because I think the plastic post moved in the wind ever so slightly. It also would have been a lot easier to time the shots if I had a shutter remote. Instead I had to try to estimate when someone was 10 seconds away.

My camera set-up on top of the plastic post.

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I-90 Trail will remain open during weekend westbound bridge closure

The I-90 Bridge will remain open this weekend during expansion joint work on the Homer Hadley Bridge that will close all westbound lanes.

We reported last week on a series of tough planned trail closures on the larger of the two floating bridges between Mercer Island and Seattle. WSDOT later apologized for the poor communication about the trail work and worked to find last-minute ways to minimize the impact on people biking and walking who cannot easily reroute around the closed bridge.

Now WSDOT has announced that the trail will remain throughout the work, which is set to run Thursday through Sunday.

This is fantastic news. Instead of a trail closure, we might get the most pleasant weekend on the I-90 Bridge in recent memory. It’s not often you get to experience the bridge without the constant rush of nearby cars kicking up dust and making noise.

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A Week Without Driving starts today + Read this excellent op-ed

A Week Without Driving is fairly straightforward: It’s a challenge that asks people who typically drive to go a week without using their car. It can be a powerful experience for individuals who take it on.

But the Disability Mobility Initiative at Disability Rights Washington is not only challenging the general population, they purposefully reach out to people in positions of power over how our streets, transit systems and budgets work. They also center the action around people across the state who cannot drive, whether due to disability, age, income or any other reason. This gives the challenge a different feel than similar efforts like Cascade’s annual Bike Everywhere Challenge, which encourages people to choose to try biking. For A Week Without Driving, it’s about people who don’t have that choice.

There are people in every Washington community who cannot drive. While there are pockets of the state with quality transit, biking and walking conditions, people everywhere need access to convenient mobility. So Disability Mobility Initiative did not only reach out to political and transportation leaders in dense urban areas. They reached out to leaders in suburban and rural areas as well. This could be a great opportunity for folks to engage their local leaders on issues affecting people who don’t drive, so check your local leaders’ social media pages to see if they are taking the challenge.

You can sign on to the challenge online. I also highly recommend reading this excellent op-ed by Disability Mobility Initiative organizer Anna Zivarts in the Stranger:

Rather than minimizing the mobility needs of those of us who can’t or don’t drive, we should be celebrating and encouraging nondrivers, especially those young people who understand the extraordinarily high costs of car dependence and who are choosing not to feed into this dysfunction.

For people who have spent decades centering their lives around vehicle ownership, it may be impossible to imagine our country without car-dependent mobility. But those of us who are nondrivers are already working towards a different future. A future where you don’t need to worry that your car payment eats one-third of your paycheck, where you can let your kids walk to school on their own because there are sidewalks the whole way, where the light rail station is surrounded by affordable apartments rather than parking garages. A future where you could get from one rural community to the next because we run rural bus routes or rebuild our rail network, where you can still get to all our national parks even if you don’t have a car.

Read more…

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Help WSDOT’s Active Transportation Plan defeat a bunch of highway plans to win a national award

Can a Washington State plan centered around walking, biking and accessibility defeat a bunch of highway and bridge projects to win the 2022 America’s Transportation Award? Well, it can with your help.

Remember those annoying “people’s choice” competitions that were everywhere like a decade ago where you had to vote every day in order to help your favorites bakery or whatever win? This is one of those, except it is sponsored by AAA, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (“AASHTO”). This award usually goes to highway megaprojects like the 2020 winner: The SR-99 highway tunnel. So yes, I am suggesting that you should bookmark this page and vote every day until October 21 for the “Active Transportation Plan 2020 and Beyond.”

No, this award isn’t the biggest deal in the world, but it would be delicious for this kind of plan to defeat a bunch of major highway projects. It could also bring some much-deserved attention to the plan, which got buried in the news thanks to the pandemic and, you know, everything else that was happening in 2020 and early 2021 when it was seeking public feedback and attention. The plan is really great and attempts to quantify something that most states have never considered: What would it cost to make all state-run highways safe for people walking and biking? The answer for Washington is counted in billions:

Cost estimate summary tables showing billions for sidewalks, retrofits, trails and more.These totals are simultaneously a lot of money and also not too out of place among the typical highway megaproject. For the cost of the SR-99 tunnel and the 520 Bridge Replacement Project, Washington State could pay for the entire statewide Active Transportation Plan. With pedestrian fatalities skyrocketing across the nation and especially in Washington State, the pricetag looks reasonable. Since you can’t really buy something without a pricetag, we have this plan to thank for putting some numbers and strategies behind the problem.

Perhaps the top reason for voting for this plan is that the national attention could encourage other states to create their own active transportation plans and come up with their own lists of costs and strategies. It’s long past time for states to put the same kind of serious money behind walking, biking and accessibility as they do for highways.

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Trail Alert 9/16-19 and 9/23-26: I-90 Bridge Trail will be closed between Seattle and Mercer Island – UPDATED

UPDATE 9-21: The trail will remain open during the September 23–26 work.

Map of I-90 closure near the west approach to Mercer Island.

Map of the closure from WSDOT.

WSDOT sent out an alert today that the trail across the I-90 Bridge will be closed most of Friday and all weekend as crews work on an expansion joint on the Homer Hadley Bridge, the wider of the two parallel I-90 floating bridges.

The trail will be closed starting at 10 a.m. Friday (September 16), so you will need a different way to get home in the evening if you bike across it in the morning.

People biking and walking will need to route either around the lake or to the 520 Bridge. There is no official detour route, though the Lake Washington Loop is a popular option (Cascade Bicycle Club has created a map for reference). There is also a popular route through Bellevue and Medina that sticks closer to the water. If you ever need to detour along an unfamiliar route, you can find popular routes by checking out the Strava and Ride With GPS heatmaps. Just note that both these routes between the bridges require riding in mixed traffic.

Details from WSDOT:

Sept. 16-19 closure
The first weekend’s work requires crews to close the West Mercer Way on-ramp to westbound I90. People on Mercer Island still will be able to get onto westbound I90 via the East Mercer Way and North Mercer Way on-ramps.

In addition to closing the West Mercer Way on-ramp on Friday, contractor crews also will close the right lane of westbound I90. The right half of the expansion joint runs across the right lane through the on-ramp and across the bike path, which also will be closed for the weekend.

Sept. 23-26 full closure – two lanes closes Sept. 22
This closure actually will start with westbound I90 reducing to one lane on Mercer Island at 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22. All lanes will then close at 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 23 (the on-ramp from West Mercer Way will remain open to westbound I90.) All lanes will reopen by 5 a.m. Monday, Sept. 26.

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City set to begin work to complete the Green Lake Outer Loop, should open by December

Concept image of the Aurora bike path with crude drawings of people biking within a barrier-protected lane.

Green Lake & Wallingford Safe Streets created this graphic to show their concept. Now it’s happening for real.

It’s happening. Work to complete the Green Lake Outer Loop will begin “this month” and should be open by December.

The community-generated concept would repurpose a non-continuous lane along the east side of Aurora Avenue, turning it into a walking and biking trail with a sturdy barrier protecting it from Aurora traffic. It will at least partially restore a route that has been missing for nearly a century, ever since traffic engineers tore through Woodland Park and the side of Green Lake to build Aurora Avenue. The bikeway will also make the gravel and dirt pathway next to Aurora a lot safer and more comfortable for people walking and running by creating a barrier and buffer space.

You can find detailed designs in our previous post. But once complete, people will be able to bike a full loop around Green Lake, which has long served as a nexus for north end bike routes. The Outer Loop will only make that role more clear and will open the bike network to more neighborhoods west of the lake. It could also take some pressure off the lakeside path, which had long had crowding issues.

Green Lake & Wallingford Safe Streets deserves a lot of credit for promoting this idea and organizing support.

This project is a very worthy improvement to the bike network. But we need this same urgency and creative repurposing of existing infrastructure in South Seattle, too. Lake Washington Boulevard is the most obvious place to start, but there are many opportunities to make improvements that will help people bike and walk safely and comfortably even if they don’t live near Green Lake. It’s not a zero-sum situation where Green Lake got bike lanes at the expense of South Seattle, but can you blame people for perceiving it that way? The problem isn’t a lack of funding, it’s a lack of political will. The city needs to see that SDOT and city political leaders are serious about making equitable investments in safe streets.

Bike advocates have been arguing consistently that the city needs to prioritize bike network improvements in the south end. It’s been a monthly refrain out of the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board for at least a decade. Under Mayor Jenny Durkan, advocates had to drag the mayor and SDOT kicking and screaming toward a more equitable bike plan, which they got thanks to Council action. It’s not a bad thing that Green Lake is getting a full bike loop, but it’s extremely frustrating that there is so little urgency to make similar improvements in South Seattle. There are some good things happening, like the Georgetown to Downtown bike route, but that won’t even break ground until 2024. People need safer walking and bike routes now. Investing equitably means that places like Rainier Valley that have been historically under-served by city and state safe streets improvements need even more attention than places like Green Lake with a long history of such investments.

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SDOT survey asks if they should improve the bike lane south of U Bridge (yes, obviously) – UPDATED

Diagrams comparing the painted bike lane option 1 to the buffered bike lane option 2.

The answer is obvious. Take the survey and support Option 2.

Whatever you are doing, stop and fill out this quick survey to support safer bike lanes on Eastlake as part of the RapidRide J project. You can also attend one of two virtual community design sessions Wednesday from 12–1:30 p.m. or 6–7:30 p.m. (register here).

There are three major questions pertaining to bike safety in the survey. But let’s start with the highlight: The block south of the U Bridge. The current plan would maintain the existing skinny, paint-only bike lanes, and we have written repeatedly arguing that the project needs to add more protection. So it is very exciting to see Option 2, which widens the bike lane and adds some buffer space. This would be a huge improvement over the previous plan, though it would be best if there were some protection to prevent people from parking in the bike lane.

Maps showing bike intersection options. The survey also presents four options for the intersection at 11th Ave NE and NE 43rd Street. At this point, the bike lane had been planned to switch from the right side of the one-way northbound street to the left side, though that decision was made when the RapidRide line was going to run all the way Roosevelt Station or even Northgate Station as was the original plan. The idea was to reduce conflicts with the RapidRide bus stops and the bike lane.

However, the bus line now ends at NE 43rd street, which calls into question whether the bike lane should switch sides at all. Unfortunately, that is not one of the options presented. If nothing else, this intersection change requires the city to also have a full 11th/12th Ave NE bike lane ready to build at the same time that will need to reach NE 75th Street, where the bike route shifts to two-way on Roosevelt. If the left side bike lane doesn’t reach 75th, then there will need to be another transition somewhere along the way, which would be absurd. Continue reading

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Weekend Guide: Open streets festival in downtown Redmond, Tour de Cookies + more

Let's Move Redmond event poster with drawings of poeple biking, playing with sidewalk chalk and reading.As always, you can find more bike events on the Seattle Bike Blog Events Calendar as well as the Everyday Rides Calendar.

Some highlights for this weekend:

World Naked Bike Ride harvest moon ride. Meet 8PM Friday at 2nd Ave N and Mercer Street. “Adorn your bicycle with blinkies and leds and get ready to impress Seattle’s night life. Bare as you dare.”

Tour de Cookies. Meet 10AM Saturday in the UW Quad. “Join us in celebrating the JOY OF COOKIES! We will be biking between some of the best cookie shops in Seattle.”

Let’s Move Redmond: An Open Streets Festival. 11AM to 3PM on 161st Street between Downtown Redmond Park and the Redmond Central Connector. “an Open Street Festival that promotes healthy, active transportation by transforming 161st Street into a place where people can bike, walk, scoot, roll and play.

Feel free to add more weekend bike events in the comments below.

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Seattle Parks forgot to make Bicycle Weekends car-free, so riders moved the signs themselves

Labor Day weekend was supposed to be the penultimate Bicycle Weekend on Lake Washington Boulevard for the year, a chance to experience the storied lakeside street without cars. Bicycle Weekend is an expansion of Seattle Parks’ Bicycle Sunday program, which has been opening this street for people outside of cars since 1968.

But when people arrived, they found the streets still filled with cars because none of the road closure signs were in place.

After realizing that none of the signs were in place more than 12 hours after the scheduled Friday evening start time, people stopped waiting and moved the signs themselves. After a lot of confused and frustrated social media posts, SDOT and Seattle Parks finally sent staff out Saturday afternoon to check on the signage. Many people assume SDOT is in charge, but Lake Washington Boulevard is one of the city’s classic Olmsted boulevards. SDOT and Parks typically partner on matters related to the street, but the event falls under the purview of the Parks Department.

Luckily, there have not been any reports of injuries during the failed car-free event. But considering that this is a kid-friendly event that attracts people of all ages and abilities, including people who do not feel comfortable biking in mixed traffic, this was a significant mistake. Seattle Parks acknowledged the mistake Tuesday.

We are trying to figure out why the barriers went up late,” the department wrote in a reply to Seattle Bike Blog. “We apologize for the inconvenience. We’re working to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

The final Bicycle Weekend of 2022 is September 16–19. Hopefully.

Showing up to a car-free event to find the streets still filled with cars is a demoralizing experience. It also highlights once again why the city needs to come up with a permanent solution for the street. People need to be safe while biking on Lake Washington Boulevard every hour of every day, not just on select days or weekends. It would be less confusing for everyone, and it would provide a much-needed safe bikeway in southeast Seattle. The city is supposed to be conducting a “visioning process” for the future of the street following public outreach in 2021 that overwhelmingly supported making the street car-free permanently.

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Parks banned bikes from Green Lake without public outreach, now they’re asking if they should be allowed back

Photo of a sign that says "pedestrian use only, no wheels"

Photo from the Parks Department.

Seattle Parks and Recreation banned all bicycling, skateboarding, roller skating and scootering from the inner loop trail around Green Lake in March despite there being no viable alternative along the west side of the lake.

The decision to restrict wheel use on the often-busy path was initially part of the department’s scattered reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, such as closing the playgrounds, drinking fountains and bathrooms. The idea back then was to limit crowding on the path back when we didn’t know much about how the virus spread. Outdoor activity like walking or biking around a lake has since been largely considered a low-risk for transmission, but we didn’t know that at the time.

However, instead of reverting the path rules back to how they were before, the department decided to keep the ban in place on a “long-term temporary” basis, whatever that means. They even changed all the permanent-looking signage to reflect the rule change. And as noted in a October 21, 2021, memo to the Board of Park Commissioners (PDF) that Ryan Packer uncovered through a public disclosure request, the department had “not conducted any community engagement specific to this issue” before making their recommendation.

After some significant backlash, Parks is now hosting a series of “listening sessions” September 7–9 that are separated by mode of use. These sessions “will provide a way for the public in different user groups to share feedback on what works well and what could be improved to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience on the Green Lake Park Inner Loop,” according to the project webpage. The dates:

September 7 – Bikes

September 8 – Small Wheels

September 9 – Pedestrians

Questions may be directed to Todd Burley at [email protected]

Continue reading

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BikeLink cards now get you into Sound Transit bike cages (after an extra step)

One bicycle in a room full of empty bike racks.Biking to light rail is often the fastest way to get around Seattle. For riders who live beyond a short walk to the station, biking is a great way to skip the slower local bus connection (if there even is one) and head straight to the train or express bus. If your destination is near a station down the line, then it’s much easier to lock your bike before boarding rather than trying to bring it on board.

However, leaving a bike locked up all day outside a station makes it an appealing target for theft. One classic option people have used is to have a crappy (or crappy-looking) light rail bike with a very good lock. The idea is to make your bike appear to have little value in the hope that any thieves will find a more appealing and easier to steal bike nearby. This is fairly effective, though it merely deflects the problem onto someone else.

A more sustainable and fair solution is for Sound Transit and King County Metro to build secure bike parking at major transit stations and hubs. Both agencies have been experimenting with different options for years, and Sound Transit’s newest stations include a mix of regular bike racks, bike lockers and bike cages. There are currently cages at Beacon Hill, Angle Lake, Tukwila Sounder, South Bellevue, Roosevelt, U-District, and Northgate Stations. Three more are planned along East Link, including Judkins Park, Bellevue, and Mercer Island.

But until very recently, getting access to each could be a bit complicated and inconsistent. Now most of the secure bike storage options are accessible through one service: BikeLink.

An open bike locker with a bicycle and child inside.

The bike lockers are quite spacious and can even fit many cargo bikes. They also double as child care in a pinch!

BikeLink is a California-based company that makes on-demand bike storage solutions. Bike lockers installed at Sound Transit stations since 2020 have been BikeLink lockers, but now the agency’s bike cages also use the same BikeLink cards. Both the lockers and the cages cost 5¢ per hour. It’s great that the paid secure bike parking options are finally unified under one service, but users will need to jump through some significant extra hoops to get access.

The biggest impediment to using the lockers is that you need to order a BikeLink card online and load it with at least $20 just to get started. Once it arrives in the mail, you can start using it to access the bike lockers. But if you want to use the bike cage, you’ll be greeted with this message:

Screen explaining the free text verification process.It definitely feels weird to text a photo of you and your ID to a random phone number to access a piece of public infrastructure. But I did it, and it took about an hour or so before I received a message that I was verified and could use the cage.

I have been using the U District cage for a while now through the previous system managed by Sound Transit staff, which was also somewhat laborious to set up. I have never seen another bike inside. I am hopeful that the BikeLink system helps more people get access to the cage so that it gets better use because it is pretty great once you get inside. There is a lot of space for bikes, giving these stations room to grow as more people bike to transit and learn how to use the cage. I even really like the upper-level bike racks, which are spring-loaded to make them surprisingly easy to lift into place. I do wish there were spaces for cargo bikes, though I’ve made it work. My suggestion would be to replace one of the hanging spots with a few standard staple racks. And maybe an outlet for charging an e-bike?

A bike on the upper rack.A cargo bike next to a bike rack.

The problem, though, is that BikeLink simply is not convenient as implemented here. It’s an extra card you have to carry around and another online payment account to manage, and you lose the value on it if you lose the card. Especially since ORCA just launched the long-awaited second generation of its unified transit payment service, it’s frustrating that accessing bike parking was not just integrated in some way into ORCA. You also cannot load money onto your BikeLink card using the brand new ORCA vending machines. BikeLink does integrate with the Clipper Card in the Bay Area, so integration is possible.

But the Clipper Card does not with with the Bay Area’s bike cages yet, highlighting an additional complication: Identity verification. A bike cage is only secure if access is somehow limited to the bike owners using it. If anyone can go inside, then it would probably be safer to just lock your bike outside the cage where more people can see it since it is easier to steal a bike where nobody is looking. So how do you make it easy for people to get access while also making it difficult for thieves to get in? That’s why BikeLink requires the ID verification process, allowing them to know who accessed the cage in case of theft. It’s an imperfect solution to a problem without an obvious solution.

There’s no question that requiring a third party service will limit use of the BikeLink services. A lot of people will continue locking their bikes to outdoor racks because they are free and don’t require a card. But the lockers and cages are great once you jump through all the hoops to get access. I worry that low use may send the wrong message about the demand for secure bike parking at transit stations. Lots of people are biking to light rail stations, and they don’t want their bikes to get stolen. Widespread use of any service requires as little friction for potential users as possible, and especially for the cages the BikeLink system has too much friction as it is implemented in the Seattle region today.

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In response to Bike Board letter, CM Pedersen says he doesn’t see SDOT deleting Eastlake bike lanes

The Eastlake bike lane plans are still moving forward with the RapidRide J bus improvements project, but bike advocates in town are not taking their eye off the project until those bike lanes are on the ground.

City Councilmember and Transportation Committee Chair Alex Pedersen (D4) made comments during an Eastlake Community Council meeting that spooked the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board enough that they penned a letter (PDF) this week strongly supporting the project and the planned bike lanes.

“SBAB requests that SDOT, council, and the Harrell Administration complete the RapidRide J project as shown over the last several years including the fully protected bike lane,” the Board wrote in the letter addressed to Mayor Bruce Harrell, the Seattle City Council and SDOT. “We, along with numerous individuals and organizations in the city have supported the project with the understanding that it would include protected bike lanes. To remove them at this point would be a betrayal of trust as well as counter to our city’s council adopted Bicycle Master Plan, Climate Action Plan, and Vision Zero commitments.”

The comments were actually from an April meeting about the project, but many people didn’t see them until Ryan Packer noticed a recap of the meeting in the summer edition of the Eastlake Community Council’s newsletter Eastlake News (PDF). During the meeting, Pedersen reportedly said that he wished SDOT would consider “a creative sharing of the road” and that he anticipated an uproar similar to people opposed to the 35th Ave NE bike lanes a few years ago.

“It was very disheartening to read in the summer 2022 edition of the Eastlake News that the head of the Seattle City Council Transportation Committee appears to be seeking to water down this vital project,” wrote the Bike Board. “35th Ave NE represents a failure of the city to follow through on its adopted climate and Vision Zero policies. To hear 35th Ave Northeast referenced as a template for the future trajectory of the Rapid Ride J project is incredibly disappointing, and frankly unacceptable.” Continue reading

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Nearly-final plans show Green Lake Outer Loop bikeway is still on track

Project map.

The official project map is actually a little out of date because there are now bike lanes on 15th Ave NE, too.

SDOT released the 90% design plans for the Green Lake Outer Loop, and they show that the bikeway is still on track to finally complete a biking and walking route 112 years in the making.

1910 Olmsted map of Green Lake showing a full boulevard loop.

1910 Olmsted Brothers plan for Green Lake Boulevard.

The advanced design document shows a bikeway very much like the one SDOT showed the community back in a February open house. The city’s plan is to repurpose an abandoned transit-only lane on Aurora to build a two-way biking and walking path along the west side of Green Lake Park. (CLARIFICATION: As pointed out in the comments, this section was not a transit lane, but the sections immediately before and after are. Because of this, the lane serves little to no car traffic purpose because anyone who merges into it will just need to merge back a few blocks later.) This section was originally supposed to be part of the city’s park boulevard system, but the construction of SR-99 took over the space after cutting through Woodland Park. This project will not completely heal the wound created by the park-splitting highway project, but it will at least give people a space to walk and bike.

The project got an extra kick in the pants in the spring when the Parks Department inexplicably banned bikes from the Green Lake Path even though there was no alternative along the west side of the lake. The lake path was never a great transportation option because it can get so busy and was technically one-way for wheels, but since March people have been forced to either break the rules or find some kind of detour on their own. Riding around the lake is an obviously desirable route. Once this bikeway is complete, people won’t be able to imagine our city without it.

Below is a look at the 90% design plans (PDF): Continue reading

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Cascade lists their 5 top-priority Seattle bike projects

Cascade Bicycle Club recently posted their top 5 Seattle bike improvement priorities, though it’s really more like like 4 projects and a citywide plan.

They go into more detail about each in their blog post, so go check it out. Here’s the list:

  • Georgetown to Downtown Bike Connection
  • West Marginal Way Bike Connection
  • Seattle Waterfront Bike Connection
  • Burke-Gilman Missing Link
  • Seattle Transportation Plan

Two of the spots are in industrial districts, which have seen far more than their share of bicycle injuries and deaths. Until now, safe streets improvements in Seattle have largely ignored the industrial areas, but that was a terrible mistake. People like in and bike through SoDo and the Duwamish Valley, and they need to have a safe place to do so. We can’t change the past, but we can make safe industrial areas a priority now. (Note: I updated this section 8/25 to clarify location names as noted in the comments.)

It’s sad that the waterfront bike connection needs to be on this list, but it does. I cannot believe the city is going make advocates fight for a safe and direct bike lane to connect the existing Elliott Bay Trail with the under-construction waterfront bikeway. It is so obviously in everyone’s best interest for this bike route to be connected in a safe and direct manor that it really shouldn’t have to be said. Yet here we are.

No more words need to be said about the Missing Link, but they gotta stay on it until it is finally completed.

The Seattle Transportation Plan is not exactly a project, but it’s very important that the final plan reflects the people’s vision of a safer, more equitable and more sustainable Seattle.

What would your top 5 list look like?

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Riding a folding bike with a kid to camp the Palouse to Cascades Trail

The author, spouse Kelli and four year old with loaded up bikes. The kid is on a seat on the author's folding bike.

My lovely spouse Kelli carried the heavy, dense stuff while I had the tent, sleeping bags and kid. We were also so loaded down with old and new Swift Industries bags that we could have been named MOSAI: The Museum of Swift and Industries.

Like so many adventuring plans, this wasn’t how we originally saw it going. But somehow I ended up biking myself and our kid on a gravel path up mountain using a folding bike. And it was great.

The Palouse to Cascades Trail is an incredible place, and I can’t recommend it enough. This was the first time we’ve done it with the kid, which did present some additional challenges. But it was worth it.

The trail starts at Rattlesnake Lake. If you have access to a car that can carry bikes, that’s one option of getting to the start. There is a parking area for the trail, though parking can get tight because Rattlesnake Lake is so popular.

If you don’t have a car (or don’t want to use one), then you have some options. The Trailhead Direct runs weekends and holidays through September 11 this year. From the North Bend Park-and-Ride, you have an eight-mile bike ride to Rattlesnake Lake almost entirely on the wonderful Snoqualmie Valley Trail. If Trailhead Direct is not running, you can also take Metro’s Route 208 from Issaquah Transit Center to North Bend. However, the 208 has limited runs and does not run at all on Sundays. If you take the 208 and want a longer bike ride, I recommend getting off near Snoqualmie Falls, then riding to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail via Mill Pond Road.

Bikes leaning against a stone in front of rattlesnake lake with mountains and clouds.

At Rattlesnake Lake before the ride.

We were initially planning on taking our full-size bikes on the Trailhead Direct, then biking up to Middle Fork Campground. But right before we left, we saw a Q13 News report that rangers had closed the campground and nearby dispersed camping areas due to bear encounters. So we switched our destination to Carter Creek Campground about 13 miles from the start of the Palouse to Cascades Trail. But then our friends decided to join, and they have a car with a bike rack for three bikes. So that’s how I ended up on the Brompton, which we folded up and stashed in the back with the rest of the camping gear. Continue reading

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