FreeRange Cycles’ new owner continues woman-owned legacy

As Emry was transitioning out this summer, FreeRange sported an all-woman staff: Moira ó Cearnaigh, Shawna Williams, Kathleen Emry.

Kathleen Emry is calling it quits. After 21 years of owning and operating the quaint FreeRange Cycles bike shop in Fremont, she has handed over the keys to Shawna Williams.

Emry had been talking about a potential retirement for a while now so at first, I didn’t quite believe it. But in June, the 700-square-foot shop was already showing signs of change. There was a new face behind the counter and the space, once teeming with 21 years worth of trinkets — art, postcards, stuffed animal, photos — felt surprisingly bare.

“One day I came in and found all my stuffed animal chickens piled up in the backroom!” Kathleen Emry said with laugh. “That’s good though. I want Shawna to make it her own. I want the shop to represent her vision.”

The little shop that could

For Emry, her vision for a shop started in the 1980s. She hadn’t grown up biking. She and her three sisters had shared one Western Flyer among them as kids, and she didn’t start biking again until well into her adulthood. But after stepping foot into Wright Brothers Cycle Works for a bike fix, she knew she had found her calling.

Intrigued by bicycle mechanics, Emry signed up for some bicycle maintenance classes and found herself working for Wright Brothers before long.

“I remember walking in and taking classes and thinking, ‘I love working with my hands’,” Emry said. “At the time I had just completed a Masters in ministries and had come to the realization that being an out queer in the Catholic Church wasn’t going to work. My philosophy is to be one’s authentic self in the world today and for me, the best way to do that at that time was to nurture my gifts, and that was working with my hands.

“But things brew with me. It takes time for me to manifest things.” Continue reading

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Man killed while biking on Rainier Ave, suspect arrested. RIP Alex Hayden

Photo of Alex Hayden from a GoFundMe campaign set up to support his family.

Alex Hayden was a husband and father of two who Gray Magazine described as “kind, funny, creative, and a true editorial photographer” in a memorial post.

Someone driving a pickup truck struck Hayden from behind while he rode in the bike lane on Rainier Ave just south of the Seattle city limits Saturday. The person driving fled the scene, dragging his bike down the street. Hayden died Tuesday from his injuries.

Our deepest condolences to his friends and family.

The King County Sheriff’s Office says a 51-year-old woman suspected in the hit and run has turned herself in. She has not yet been charged, and the Sheriff’s Office is still searching for a passenger who was reportedly in the truck at the time of the collision.

Hayden has not yet been identified officially, but word of his death has spread quickly as people impacted by his life learned the terrible news. Friends established a GoFundMe campaign to support his family.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Hayden was biking south on Rainier Ave S in Skyway around 4:30 p.m. when the person driving the pickup struck him from behind in the 10600 block. The suspect then continued a little further before turning onto S Lakeridge Dr. Officers later found the pickup in SeaTac. A suspect was turned herself in Sunday, about 20 hours after the collision. We are not naming the suspect because charges have not yet been filed. She is in King County jail on $100,000 bail for investigation of felony hit and run.

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Help push to get the downtown bike network back on track in 2019

Map of the planned downtown bike network. Routes included in the City Council resolution are highlighted in peach.

The downtown bike network has been significantly delayed so far under Mayor Jenny Durkan’s administration, but there is hope to turn things around and get major pieces of the network constructed in 2019.

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways and Cascade Bicycle Club are gathering support for a City Council action to require SDOT to complete bike lanes on 8th Ave, 9th Ave N, Pike and/or Pine St, 12th Ave S, King St, and a south downtown pathway between 2nd Ave and the International District. The Transportation Committee will consider the resolution noon Wednesday at City Hall.

Some of the projects would be pushed ahead of schedule, though the 4th Ave bike lane planned for this year will remain delayed. But if SDOT can deliver the proposed set of projects by the end of 2019, downtown would become accessible by bike to many more neighborhoods at a time of serious traffic and transit constraints.

The text of the City Council resolution calls for completion of these segments “by no later than December 31, 2019.” So SDOT could deliver segments much earlier than that if the department puts its heart into the work and gets the political support to make it happen.

Where construction activity limits the ability to install permanent bike lanes, the resolution calls on SDOT to “make every good faith effort to establish “all ages and abilities” temporary connections.”

More details from SNG: Continue reading

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Bike share carried 209K trips in May + A look at the city’s updated permit rules

Seattle’s bike share ridership keeps climbing. Image: SDOT.

People in Seattle took more than 208,849 bike share trips in May as use of the bikes increased steeply throughout spring. In total, people took 1.4 million rides between late July and mid-June, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation (PDF).

To build on this astounding success, SDOT is updating its permit to allow four companies totaling 20,000 bikes, about double the number on the streets today. And the increase comes with some extra permit fees to vastly increase the amount of designated bike parking space in the city to help make sure bikes are parked appropriately.

The permit plan heads to the City Council Transportation Committee Tuesday. If approved, it is then scheduled to go before the full Council for a vote July 23 and would go into effect August 31. Here’s a look at what is in the new permit rules: Continue reading

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Year-long Elliott Bay Trail detour near future Expedia campus starts Aug 1

The most significant change to the existing trail will be an expansion of the park space and rounding of the trail route at the mouth of Smith Cove. Design image from Expedia.

Concept image of the rebuilt trail, from Expedia.

Construction of the huge new Expedia campus along the Seattle waterfront includes a rebuild of a section of the Elliott Bay Trail as the path transitions from industrial Interbay to the waterfront.

The new trail will soften what today is a sharp turn in the trail at the mouth of the Smith Cove Waterway, which should be a significant improvement to the trail, creating separate walking and biking paths and expanding the surrounding park space.

But trail and utility work will require a detour for more than a year. Originally scheduled to begin in mid-July, the detour start has been pushed back to August 1. Expedia has also made changes to the initial detour plan, which now includes a temporary trail along the low-traffic Alaskan Way W between W Galer Street and the grain silos. Though the detour route is less scenic than the current trail, it is actually a little bit shorter: Continue reading

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Intermittent Sammamish River Trail closures for river bank work start Wednesday

Photo from King County Parks.

Work to repair river bank erosion will require crews to close the Sammamish River Trail for periods of 30 minutes or less starting Wednesday. Work will continue for the rest of summer.

The erosion zones are just east of I-405 between Bothell and Woodinville. Peak commute times, evenings and weekends should be open. But if you are traveling through between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, give yourself an extra half hour just in case.

More details from King County:

King County will begin repairing two sections of bank erosion along the Sammamish River on July 11, requiring brief, rolling closures of the popular Sammamish River Trail until the project is completed in September.

Closures are expected to last no more than 30 minutes and will occur on weekdays only between 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be no detours during the brief closures. Continue reading

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Lime: People in Seattle have taken 1 million trips in 11 months

The ceremonial unlocking of the first LimeBike July 27 in Seattle. 999,999 more would follow in just 11 months.

People in Seattle have taken one million Lime bike share trips in about 11 months, the company announced Monday.

This astounding number of rides comes from just one of three companies currently operating in the city. And because the company launched initially with only 500 bikes, gradually scaling up to 4,000 around the New Year, they will likely hit the next million even quicker.

These bike share services have significantly changed transportation in Seattle in a very short period of time. There are few urban transportation advancements in modern history that have had such a big impact so quickly. Lime essentially went from an idea to 1 million Seattle rides in a year and a half. That’s more trips than the total number of bikes crossing the Fremont Bridge, the city’s busiest bike route pinch point. And they’re just getting started.

SDOT is in the process of revamping its bike share permit scheme to update the pilot permit that went into effect July 2017. That pilot permit became a model for cities across the nation, helping to lead a new bike share movement. Seattle should be proud of this success. We should be celebrating.

We’re just seeing the beginning of e-assist bike share with Jump already itching to start operating. ofo says they are also planning to add e-asisst bikes to their fleet in late summer. In other cities, shared electric kick scooters are all the rage, though they are not yet allowed in Seattle and it isn’t clear if city leaders are interested in them. Major investments continue to pour into these companies, and it’s hard to know where it goes from here. But Seattle is well positioned to continue leading.

From Lime: Continue reading

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The Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board needs you, apply by July 4

If you join SBAB, you will get bike news before anyone else. And sometimes you get to question elected officials like Mike O’Brien.

The Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board is a group of volunteers individually-approved by the City Council to help guide the city’s bicycle investments and policies.

You do not need any kind of special insider knowledge or professional skills to apply. In fact, it might be better if you don’t have any. In my years observing this Board, some of the best input comes from people sharing their experiences and conversations with their neighbors. You just need to be a good listener who wants the city to be a more inviting place for more people to bike more often.

More details on the gig from SDOT:

The SBAB is a volunteer board created by the Seattle City Council in 1977 that plays an influential role in implementing Seattle’s Bicycle Master Plan. The board advises the Mayor and City Council, participates in planning and project development, evaluates policies and makes recommendations to all city departments including, yours truly, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).

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35th Ave NE safety changes still on track + How can the city avoid such divisive neighborhood fights?

The plan for 35th Ave NE, from SDOT.

While I was on family leave this winter, a seemingly routine repaving project in Northeast Seattle somehow became a flashpoint that has divided neighbors, spilling gallons of red and green sign-making ink and even drawing competing streetside protests.

It has been frustrating to watch this debate unfold, especially since paving projects like 35th Ave NE are such obvious opportunities to build sections of the Bicycle Master Plan. If the city is going to tear up a street and rebuild it, then it costs very little to rebuild it with the bike lanes called for in the City Council-approved bike plan. This is not only fiscally responsible, it is also a vital strategy for building a complete bike route network that people of all ages and abilities will feel comfortable using.

And with 113 collisions reported in just five years, it would be irresponsible to invest in a complete rebuild of the street without making safety improvements for all users. 35th Ave NE is far from the most dangerous street in Seattle, but that says more about those other streets than it does about SDOT’s plan to improve safety on 35th.

So far, city leaders are still standing behind the project. Cascade Bicycle Club put together a handy online form you can use to thank Mayor Jenny Durkan and Councilmember Rob Johnson for their support:

But before I get into how project opponents (“Save 35th Ave NE”) and supporters (“Safe 35th Ave NE”) differ, it’s important to restate the points where nearly everyone agrees. Continue reading

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Uber-owned Jump wants to launch its e-bike service in Seattle

No new companies have received permits to operate bike share services in Seattle since the autumn, but Uber-owned Jump is hoping to be next.

The city is waiting to approve more companies until their revamped bike share permit is ready. The City Council Transportation Committee was scheduled to review the permit rules in June, but that report has been pushed back to the committee’s mid-July meeting (there’s no meeting in early July due to the holiday).

I met with representatives from Uber and Jump recently to go for a test ride and talk about their hopes to launch in Seattle. First, let’s talk about the bike.

The single biggest difference between the eye-catching red e-bikes and the already-operating Lime-E bikes is how you lock them. With Lime-E, riders can park near bike racks or in the furniture zone of sidewalks. Just lock the back wheel and you’re done. But Jump bikes must be locked to a city bike rack using a metal locking bar that attaches to the rear rack.

There are pros and cons to this difference. One pro is that bikes locked to bike racks are less likely to block walkways or get tossed into bodies of water. Improper parking is a common complaint about the bikes in operation today. But the bike rack requirement also limits the places you can lock a bike because there are not always bike racks available nearby, especially in residential neighborhoods (Seattle’s bike rack policy is focused on business access). And, of course, many places already don’t have enough bike parking for people who ride their own bikes, let alone a surge of bike share bikes.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t work. Even without Jump, there have already been discussions about the need to dramatically increase the city’s bike parking to help maintain bike share order and improve bike access to businesses. Concepts for on-street bike corrals could include space both for bike racks and space marked for free-floating bikes. Providing space on-street would also be a great way to help keep busy sidewalks clear. Continue reading

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Lower West Seattle Bridge reopens, but closure highlighted major need for Sodo bike lanes

Map of trip starts from an SDOT presentation on the bike share pilot. Sodo is a major source of bike share trips.

The lower West Seattle Bridge has reopened following a more than five-day emergency repair of the vital biking and walking connection between West Seattle and the city center. The swing-style bridge was closed in the “open” position for maritime traffic during the work, forcing people biking to follow a miles-long detour to the 1st Avenue Bridge that required navigating industrial streets through Sodo that were in no shape to serve as a trail detour.

SDOT did run commute-time shuttles during the weekdays to help some people get around the closed bridge. But a shuttle is no replacement for a bridge, and people traveling outside commute times (or who did not know about the shuttle) were left with few good options for crossing the Duwamish River. And people who have never biked through Sodo before discovered just how neglected the bike network is in that major job center.

Of course, none of this is news to people who bike to work in Sodo or live in Georgetown, South Park, Allentown or many other South Seattle and South King County neighborhoods that require them to bike through the area regularly. And early bike share trip data highlights Sodo as a major source of rides. This data points to a big blind spot in local bike advocacy, which tends to focus on office job centers, retail businesses and neighborhoods rather than industrial areas. A ton of people are biking in Sodo despite the lack of safe routes.

The official bike detour for the bridge closure sent people down 1st Ave S, a very wide street with no bike lanes. To get a taste of how uncomfortable that route is for people biking, Robert Svercl made a little video: Continue reading

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Bike Happy: Summer is here

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks again to Brock Howell of Bike Happy for putting together this comprehensive weekly newsletter.


TOP THINGS TO KNOW & DO

  1. Summer is here and so are summer’s major event rides. This Saturday you can join the following organized rides (or could have if they weren’t already at capacity): RCC’s Mazama RideTour de Blast near Mount St. Helens, the Spoked to Ride to Remlinger Farms, Ride the Willapa in Chehalis, Swift’s Tolt MacDonald CampoutPedals & Pints in Cle Elum, and an all-night ride in Port Townsend. Plus, the Randonneurs start their insane Cascade 1200ride/race.
  2. Voting opened for Seattle’s Your Voice, Your Choice program, which funds community-generated ideas for $90,000 improvements to parks and streets.
  3. The Lower West Seattle Bridge closed for emergency repairs. For the next week, bike commuters are now being rerouted to Georgetown and up 1st Ave S. Yeah, I did that once when the bridge was out of commission. Sorry West Seattleites. However, SDOT will also be providing a shuttle van for bicyclists during peak commute hours, which is pretty cool.

Continue reading

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Lower West Seattle Bridge closed for emergency week-long repair – UPDATED

The lower West Seattle swing bridge closed Wednesday evening for emergency repairs, SDOT announced just hours before crews were planning to take the bridge out of order.

The bridge will be in the open position for marine vessels, unusable for people biking, walking or driving for as long as a week.

People biking or walking Wednesday evening will find a van service to help them get around the closure. UPDATE 6/21: SDOT will continue commute-time van shuttles, according to a new blog post: “Shuttle vans are staging at the approaches to and from Spokane St Swing Bridge. Shuttles for bicyclists will run during heavy commute hours: 6 to 10 AM and 3 to 7PM.”

Other options include taking the King County Water Taxi from downtown to the Alki Trail or biking through Sodo to the 1st Ave Bridge connecting Georgetown to the Duwamish Trail. Buses are also an option, though there are only spots for three bikes on each bus. SDOT says there may be other efforts to improve bike access to West Seattle, but details are not yet available. I will update when I learn more.

The official bike detour requires riding on 1st Ave S, a busy industrial street that, like essentially every street in Sodo, does not have bike lanes. I encourage anyone navigating this detour route for the first time to give themselves lots of extra time to find the somewhat hidden entrance to the 1st Ave Bridge sidewalk (it begins underneath the bridge on S Front St) and in case they feel they need to take the sidewalk. From SDOT:

For those riding around the Duwamish:

From West Seattle:

  • Detour signs are placed at the West Seattle Bridge Trail, to head south along West Marginal Way; crossing SW Michigan St onto 1st Ave S

From SODO:

  • Detour signs are placed along 1st Ave S to continue south, to SW Michigan St

 

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Bike News Roundup: Seattle Channel dives into the Move Seattle ‘reset’

It’s time for the Bike News Roundup! Here’s a look at some of the transportation stuff floating around the web (somewhat) recently.

First up, Seattle Channel’s City Inside/Out dedicated a half hour episode to the Move Seattle levy and Mayor Jenny Durkan’s proposed “reset.” It is great.

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Bike Happy: Ride naked & in circles

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks again to Brock Howell of Bike Happy for putting together this comprehensive weekly newsletter.


TOP THINGS TO KNOW & DO

  1. Today is the 30th Annual Fremont Solstice Parade, which comes with the well-attended unofficial pre naked/painted bike ride.
  2. Also today: the Taco Time NW Volunteer Park Criterium. Watch people ride in circles very very fast.
  3. Mayor Durkan may have pulled back on the 4th Avenue Protected Bike Lanes, but Seattle Neighborhood Greenways reports that she has committed to building out protected bike lanes on Pike and Pine in 2019 and are asking folks to write a thank you letter.
  4. The Seattle Colleges Board of Trustees approved an easement agreement with SDOT that will ensure the Northgate Pedestrian Bridge that will connect the North Seattle College to the future Northgate light rail station can get built by the station’s opening in 2021.
  5. Biking is up 37% on the 2nd Ave Protected Bike Lane this year, thanks to extension and dockless bikeshare.

Continue reading

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Biking on 2nd Ave downtown is up 37% as bike share and bike lanes expand

The number of people biking on 2nd Ave in downtown Seattle is up an average of 19 percent year-over-year since the July 2017 launch of private bike share services. And the trend appears to have accelerated as SDOT opened a vital extension of the 2nd Ave bike lane through Belltown in January and companies added more shared bikes throughout fall 2017, eventually reaching 10,000 by the end of the year.

So far in 2018, 2nd Ave bike counts are up an astounding 37 percent. These increases are far beyond the expected year-to-year variations due to weather or special events.

The combination works. When the city builds downtown bike lanes that more people feel safe using and people have convenient access to bike share, more people will bike.

Seattle has all these pieces working together right now. All the city needs to do is keep it going. Keep adding more connections to the downtown bike network, and keep working with private companies innovating ways to improve access to bikes. Every time the city makes a new connection, the whole downtown bike network becomes more useful for more trips.

And private bike share companies, operating at no cost to the city, are like adding carbon-free fuel to that fire by dramatically increasing the number of people who can take advantage of these new bike lanes. People across the region no longer need to get their own bikes downtown in order to bike there. In a recent survey, about three of four bike share users reported using the bikes to access transit. The bike network and bike share and working together with transit to move people to and through downtown.

But new bike lane connections that should be under construction right now are delayed, as Mayor Jenny Durkan’s administration has pushed back key bike lanes in the near-term plan to improve mobility downtown by several years. People clearly want to bike downtown, but a single safe street just is not enough. Continue reading

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No matter how you feel about the head tax, the Council should not start selling vetoes

Regardless of your opinion on the city’s employee head tax to fund affordable housing and homelessness solutions, repealing the tax one month after unanimously passing it is effectively handing Council power to wealthy people and businesses. The repeal in the face of a likely voter referendum opens a new pathway for monied interests to effectively veto Council action, and this one will have a clear price tag.

We won’t know the exact amount of money it took to pay for enough signatures to get this referendum on the ballot until all the campaign disclosures are in. Filings by the No Tax On Jobs campaign so far show costs at a shade under $300,000. So is that the new price to veto Council action?

People and businesses with money already have all kinds of ways to influence politicians. And when that doesn’t work, they have other tools to stop or delay changes anyway. The Queen Anne Community Council sued the city, using the state’s environmental impact laws to delay common sense rules to make it easier for more people to build backyard cottages, for example. And, of course, a handful of businesses in Ballard have successfully delayed the Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link for more than a decade by using those same environmental review laws.

The vast majority of people do not have the money to file project-delaying lawsuits or spend $300,000 on signature campaigns. People experiencing homelessness certainly don’t. But the people should have the City Council.

If the Council hands their keys to the membership of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce or whoever else has enough money, what lever of power do the people have left? Continue reading

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Op-ed: Bicyclists should support I-1631, Protect Washington voter initiative

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following op-ed is written by Chris Covert-Bowlds, M.D., a person who bikes, is a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility, and supports I-1631.

Washington state bicyclists should support I-1631 — the Protect Washington voter initiative. With a carbon dioxide emission fee paid by the producers to tackle climate change, I-1631 will fund non-motorized transportation, healthy forests, and clean air, water and energy investments.

Seventy percent of the funding would be dedicated to clean air and energy projects, of which non-motorized transportation would be eligible, potentially resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in walking and biking infrastructure.  In practice, these investments will go to multiple strategies, recommended by the board, but there is a preference for “strategies that reduce vehicle miles traveled.”

As a Seattle family doctor, daily bicycle commuter, and father of two 20-something-year-olds who bike frequently, I know we need safer roads for people who bike.

We also need clean air, water and energy, and healthier forests, to address the health dangers already caused by climate change.

A broad coalition of groups representing health care, the environment, unions, people of color, and tribes created I-1631 as an equitable way to tackle climate change.

I am gathering voter signatures for this initiative because it is very good for the health of the people of Washington, including our kids and grandkids. Continue reading

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Bike Happy: This weekend, Ballard Crit & Evergreen MTB Festival

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks again to Brock Howell of Bike Happy for putting together this comprehensive weekly newsletter.


TOP THINGS TO KNOW & DO

  1. The Evergreen Mountain Bike Festival is on Saturday and Sunday. Go to Duthie for the jump show, skills clinics, 50+ vendors, new bike demo rides, and more.
  2. The 25th Annual Ballard Criterium is on Saturday.
  3. Seattle’s bikeshare systems are a big success.
  4. Expedia will rebuild the Elliott Bay Trail near its new headquarters.
  5. The bike network should be built with repaving projects, says Andres Salomon.

Continue reading

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Survey: Ahead of bike share permit update, survey says Seattleites are very supportive

From a survey of Seattle residents’ attitudes about bike share and biking in general (PDF)

From a June 5 presentation to the City Council Transportation Committee (PDF).

The $1 Spin, Lime and ofo bikes around Seattle are very popular, appeal to wide demographics and are very often used to access transit. These are some of the findings from Seattle’s bike share permit pilot, setting the stage for the creation of a permanent permit scheme in June that could go into effect by the end of July.

According to a (perhaps too*) positive survey by EMC Research (PDF), 74 percent of Seattle favors the bikes. Thirty percent strongly favors them while only six percent strongly dislikes them.

I would love to believe the results are accurate, but the more I ran the numbers, the more I suspected the survey sample over-represents bike share users. So while it is safe to say an impressive number of Seattleites ride bike share, I suspect the survey’s estimates are a bit high. So keep that in mind when you digest the results. See the footnote* below for more about the survey discrepancies.

“Regardless of their own interest in becoming bike share users,” according the EMC report, “Seattleites recognize the positive impacts to the broader community of having bike sharing (e.g. environmental benefits and reduced traffic), as well as the benefits to users themselves.”

But beyond just public opinion, the bikes are getting a lot of new people riding. Survey results estimate that one third of Seattle adults had already given them a try as of February when the survey was conducted. Another third said they were interested in trying them. If that figure is accurate*, that’s more than 196,000 Seattle adults riding bike share with another 196,000 potential adult users, and that doesn’t even count all the teenagers, tourists and regional riders who live outside the city limits. And that survey was taken before the introduction of e-assist bikes and the recent record-breaking numbers on the city’s bike counters, which include even more new bike share riders.

Continue reading

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