The Daily: UW program offers students quarterly bike rentals

Photo of a bike at a bike rack.

Photo from U Bike. Grocery basket is optional.

Imagine if instead of buying the cheapest bike you could find on Craigslist for getting around as a college student, you could rent a quality Kona complete with helmet, lock and lights all for just $75 per quarter. Well, UW students now can thanks to the U Bike bicycle library program.

This is a pretty solid deal, especially for students who aren’t sure whether they are going to bike enough to make buying a bike worth it. Throwing down the $600 a bike like the Kona Dew would cost new is a lot of money for many college students. Sure, DIY-minded folks can piece things together with much lower-cost used bikes, but many people aren’t interested in learning bike maintenance. They just want a fun, reliable and affordable way to get around.

The program grew out of a senior project in Community, Environment, and Planning by alum Cole Laush, according to The Daily:

“By providing students [with] a quarterly bicycle rental service, we hope to educate users on how a bicycle can fit into their everyday life,” Laush said. “I believe this experience will encourage users to continue cycling into the future, or at least give a user insight into the barriers cyclists face.”

While operating within the UW campus, the program’s overall purpose is to contribute to the growth of Seattle’s cycling culture, leading to a more equitable, livable, and sustainable city.

“More bikes on the road means a reduction in emissions, more connected cities, healthy citizens and safer streets,” Laush said.

Read more…

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King County takes legal action to clear illegal use of East Lake Sammamish trail corridor

Photo of a newly-paved trail with homes to the right.

The North Segment of the E Lake Sammamish Trail was completed in 2015.

Map of the trail with the final section highlighted.

The County is preparing to construct the final section of the trail.

Last week, King County took action to reclaim public land in one of the wealthiest areas in the state: Sammamish. The County fought and won a very difficult legal battle to determine that, yes, the public does own the entire rail corridor along the east side of Lake Sammamish. And as it prepared to construct the final section of the East Lake Sammamish Trail, the County is trying to get lakeside homeowners to clear any structures or personal property from County land.

This is a persistent problem across Seattle and King County, especially near very valuable shorelines and parks. Sometimes, adjacent homeowners try to reserve public land for their own private use, and it’s often hard for the public to know when their land is being illegally seized. There may even be times when homeowners thought that public land belonged to them, and are dismayed to learn the truth.

But it’s hard for me to imagine fighting to keep public land for myself. Then, after losing a long and difficult court battle, to go to the Seattle Times and try to pretend that letters from the County telling me to move my stuff off public land within 9 months were “heavy handed.” The county is giving them until the end of September, which is frankly far too generous. This land is not just theirs, it belongs to all of us. How selfish can they be?

When people who have nowhere else to live set up a tent on public land, Seattle policy gives them 72 hours of warning time to remove their belongings before bringing in crews to throw everything they own in the garbage. Often, the city doesn’t even give that much time. These sweeps are ineffective and cruel. But isn’t it strange that people with million-dollar homes to live in get 9 months to move their decorative landscaping or whatever, but people who have no homes get 72 hours (at best) to move their whole lives? The disparity in how people are treated in our county based solely on how much money they have is galling.

My willingness to have sympathy for Sammamish property owners who have to move their things off public land ended when a group of them tried to blow up “rails to trails” nationally by challenging it at the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court decided not to hear their appeal, luckily. But wow. Rail-trails have done so many wonderful things for so many communities big and small across our nation. To attempt to undercut the entire concept just so you can keep your damn cabana on King County land, that’s downright evil. Continue reading

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Councilmember Pedersen outlines his vision as the new Transportation Committee Chair, offers an olive branch to safe streets advocates

Official photo of Alex Pedersen.Alex Pedersen won District 4 by 1,386 votes, narrowly defeating Seattle Bike Blog’s endorsed candidate Shaun Scott in one of Seattle’s closest races in the 2019 City Council election. In addition to this site, Scott was also endorsed by Washington Bikes, Seattle Subway, The Urbanist and the Transit Riders Union. That’s a pretty wide coalition of groups working to support more and safer transit, walking and biking.

But the election is over, and Pedersen has since been named Chair of the newly reformatted Transportation and Utilities Committee. Combined, Transportation and Utilities are responsible for more than half the city budget.

I sat down with Pedersen at Irwin’s Cafe in District 4 to talk about his vision for the committee and how he plans to build bridges to folks like Seattle Bike Blog readers and transportation advocates who may have supported his opponent during the 2019 campaign.

“I am really excited now as Councilmember to let my actions speak for themselves,” he said. “I will be doing a lot of things in favor of transit and environmental policies.”

An early win he hopes will bring people together is an environmentally-focused idea Seattle Neighborhood Greenways Founder and 2019 District 4 primary candidate Cathy Tuttle has proposed: Require all proposed city legislation to include a memo about it’s impact on the environment.

“Not only how would it impact emissions, but would it allow us to adapt?” he said, describing the intent of the proposed rule. And no, we’re not talking about “environmental impact” the way Washington’s State Environmental Policy Act (“SEPA”) does, which considers things like slowing car movement as an environmental negative. This memo would focus on the actual environment, meaning “carbon and climate resiliency,” he said. Continue reading

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People who don’t let snow stop them from biking offer some advice

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is by Emma Scher through our partnership with UW’s Community News Lab journalism course.

Photo of a person unlocking a bike from a bike rack with snowy ground in the background.

MBA student Vehro Titcomb unlocks his bike and prepares to commute from the University of Washington to pick up his three-year-old daughter from preschool. He was one of the many Seattle bicyclists who chose to commute through this week’s snowy weather conditions, an option that SDOT has recommended over driving. Photo by Emma Scher.

Heather Eliason wore spikes on her shoes to help her slow down and gain traction on the ice when she biked on snowy and icy Seattle streets in years past. Eliason used her bike as transportation around Seattle almost exclusively before moving to Germany last year. She also kept her tires deflated to increase traction when biking in winter weather and knows other Seattleites who have begun using studded tires.

“If it was too slushy or icy I’d go in the car lane and typically go in the middle. If you go too far to the right they will pass you too closely but if you go in the middle, they’re more likely to go completely around you,” she said.

This week’s snowy forecast doesn’t mean you need to stop biking to work, but locals and experts recommend using caution, bundling up, and buying appropriate gear to make your commute successful.

SDOT spokesperson Ethan Bergerson said to slow down, be cautious of lower visibility, and be aware that drivers may be navigating unfamiliar conditions. He also noted that as temperatures drop below freezing, black ice may be a cause of increased concern for both bikers and drivers.

“One of the biggest concerns over the next few days is going to be ice,” he said. “This morning we had a lot of bare and wet pavement which means that the roads and bike trails were wet but didn’t have snow accumulated on them, which is good for right now but when the weather drops below freezing black ice can be really dangerous.” Continue reading

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The streets Seattle plans to plow + City site tracks which streets have been plowed recently

Are you waiting for SDOT crews to clear your street? Well, you should probably check this map to see if they are ever coming:

SDOT weather response map.

See the map in more detail in this PDF.

Photo of a cup of coffee with snow and a bicycle in the background.

My “office” today.

SDOT also has an interactive map that will be updated to let you know which streets have been cleared recently.

The snows so far have not been completely debilitating to travel in Seattle proper, though the Eastside and some areas north of Seattle have had a lot more snow. But a night in the 20s froze a lot of side streets and sidewalks early Tuesday. There were some sketchy moments biking across Wallingford, though it wasn’t too bad once I got on the arterial streets SDOT crews had cleared. You still need to be on the lookout for slick patches and steer clear of metal surfaces like manhole covers and sewer grates.

Biking in Seattle when there’s snow on the roads can also be a bit harrowing, of course. But it can also be beautiful and fun. And unlike driving, you don’t become a sliding multi-ton block of steel if you lose traction. Just take care and don’t expect to get places too quickly. And be prepared to turn around and go home if it’s not going well (or lock your bike to the nearest bike rack and start walking). When I lived in Denver, a very flat city with powdery snow, I had a pretty good time getting around in the snow on my bike. But add a hill and a layer of ice, and it gets a lot harder. Be careful out there.

If you really do need to get somewhere and don’t feel comfortable biking, walking and transit are really your best options. But add a ton of time to your expected transit trip, and be aware that many bus routes change when there is snow and ice. So check the King County Metro service alert website to make sure your bus stop is still being served even if you know your bus route is operating (for example, the 5 is skipping Dayton Ave N as of this writing, the kind of change that could happen to your route if there is more precipitation).

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Funding, legalizing the ‘safety stop’ on WA Bikes’ agenda in Olympia

Photo of a bike next to a stop sign on a street in Interbay.With voter approval of I-976 hanging over the 2020 state legislative session, there’s no doubt that funding will be the top priority for Washington Bikes this year. Even if courts strike down the law, which is very possible, there is a lot of political pressure on state leaders to enact some kind of transportation funding change anyway.

The stakes are big and largely unknown. What specific funding will be at risk? Biking and walking is a very small percentage of the state’s transportation budget, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe. From WA Bikes:

The state’s approach to filling the funding shortfall created by I-976 is still in flux, but one thing is clear: I-976 will require state legislators to make hard decisions this session in order to cover an anticipated and significant hole in the multimodal transportation account.

The multimodal transportation account dedicates funds for transportation including rail, ferries, transit, biking and walking. It’s the primary state funding source for biking and walking investments and contains projects funded through the 2015 Connecting Washington transportation package, which allocated historic levels of funding for bike and pedestrian infrastructure, as well as Safe Route To School, Bike and Pedestrian grant programs, and the Bike and Pedestrian project list.

And state law also governs what kinds of revenue local governments and agencies can collect, so changes could impact SDOT, King County Metro and Sound Transit even if the lawsuit is successful. But beyond current budgets, Seattle and King County are both due to run Transportation Benefit District renewals this year, and state law outlines the revenue options for these vital packages. Seattle’s Transportation Benefit District currently relies heavily on vehicle license fees and largely funds transit service. At a time when we need to continue going big on transit service, walking and biking to continue growing our ridership, we need powerful options to offer voters. Our investments are working, we can’t go backwards now.

The ‘safety stop’

Continue reading

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Where 2018’s bicycle collisions happened + More from the Traffic Report

Chart showing bicycle collision rate per 1,000 commuters. the trend is down from 2009 to 2018.Biking is getting gradually safer in Seattle with the rate of collisions involving people on bikes per bike commuter dropping to a new low point in 2018, according to the annual Seattle Department of Transportation Traffic Report.

The report, released two weeks ago, does not include any 2019 data. It offers a detailed look at transportation trends in the city, including safety. Here are the streets where collisions involving people on bikes occurred:

Map of 2018 bicycle collisions.And here’s a map of the year’s serious injury and fatal collisions: Continue reading

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Shortcut: Only 1 person died in Oslo traffic last year, a city comparable in size to Seattle

People sometimes argue that Vision Zero is unrealistic. That getting to zero deaths and serious injuries due to traffic collisions will never happen.

Tell that to Oslo. The Norwegian capital (population: 680,000) had just one person die in traffic in 2019 when a person crashed their car into a fence, according to Aftenposten (translated). This is down from more than 40 in 1970 and an average of 10 to 15 per year in the early 2000s.

Seattle’s traffic death count in the past decade is similar to Oslo’s in the 90s and early 2000s. But in 2019, our city took a big step in the wrong direction while Oslo went the other way. Early counts put Seattle’s 2019 at 20 or more people, though the official count won’t be in for a while.

Chart of Saettle traffic fatalities by year.

From an SDOT Vision Zero presentation (PDF) to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Boards.

Seattle is a leader in safe streets among large U.S. cities, but that’s an unfortunately low bar. In order to approach zero traffic deaths by 2030, one piece of the city’s Vision Zero goal, Seattle needs to do in 10 years what Oslo did in 20. This is not impossible, and it doesn’t require any magic. Instead, it requires a dedication to safety as the city’s true top transportation priority, significant investment in safe streets infrastructure and efforts to significantly limit the number and speed of cars, especially in our busy business districts.

But that’s not all. Oslo has also been pushing hard to reduce car use to near zero in its city center. Like in Seattle, cars are Oslo’s most stubborn source of greenhouse gas emissions. A recent plan to ban cars entirely from the city center was scaled back following backlash, so the city instead banned on-street parking and has been working to pedestrianize downtown streets.

And it’s working.

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Watch: Guide to biking around the downtown light rail closure

Sound Transit’s downtown light rail service restriction started this week, and people with bikes must exit trains at International District/Chinatown Station northbound and University Street Station southbound.

The good news is that SDOT completed the south downtown bike connection in time to help riders get around the closure, and it’s really great. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Robert Svercl created this video with friends Bri and Nick to walk you through the whole process from train to train:

People bringing a bike on the train into or through downtown will need to do this for the next ten weeks into March as Sound Transit works to connect the East Link tracks to the existing line. In order to avoid a long complete closure, Sound Transit is essentially single-tracking trains in and out of Pioneer Square Station. So trains arrive at the station, passengers cross a new temporary center platform to swap trains, the the trains reverse and go back the way they came. Bikes are banned because that center platform gets really crowded during the swap: Continue reading

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Seattle’s 2019 bike boom in 6 charts + Where should Seattle’s next bike counters go? – UPDATED

UPDATE: I have updated some of the data in this post with official numbers from SDOT. An earlier version of this post had data from that for some reason didn’t match with SDOT’s official numbers. As of this update, much of the figures now match SDOT’s numbers. The 2nd Ave section of this post has been changed most dramatically.

Photo of a person biking past the Fremont Bridge bike counter, a tall black structure with thermometer-like lights up the front tracking annual totals and a display of numbers counting the day's total.The counts are in, and Seattle didn’t just see increases in biking, the city absolutely smashed all previous biking records. We leveled up.

We’ve already written several times (and even made a video) about what happened this year on the Fremont Bridge. So many citywide and regional bike routes converge at this bridge that it sees the highest counts of any other single counting point in town. So it is an exciting point to track.

And the physical display ticking away in real time helps give people the feeling that they are part of something bigger. A number readout shows the counts that day while a thermometer-style gauge tracks the counts for the calendar year. Though perhaps Cascade Bicycle Club made a mistake in 2014 when they donated a counter that only goes to 1 million because Seattle topped out in October this year, months earlier than ever before. The grand total: 1,187,146.

Column chart showing Fremont Bridge bike counts by year. 2019 is by far the highest.So I wondered, was this just a Fremont Bridge or North Seattle thing? Unfortunately, we don’t have high quality data from all parts of the city. SDOT installed many low-budget counters years ago that have since gone dark due to vandalism or mechanical failure, so they are of little help. But we do have six counters in the city that are ticking away and have what should be mostly consistent and quality data (though it is harder to trust counters that don’t have the real-time displays, which also help make sure people are counted properly). The charts in this post use information directly from SDOT, and I did look for major data gaps (at least a month in duration) so I could note them. I also removed the walking counts for the counters that track both walking and biking (though, hey, someone could have fun analyzing that data, I’m sure). Let’s take a look.

Column chart showing Spokane Street Swing Bridge bike counts by year. 2019 is the highest. Continue reading

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Bike News Roundup: America’s pedestrian safety crisis

It’s time for the final Bike News Roundup of news from the 2010s!

First up, if you didn’t catch Angie Schmitt’s recent talk about America’s pedestrian safety crisis, Rooted In Rights was there to record and stream it:

Continue reading

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Seattle’s bike movement reinvented itself in 2019

Photo from a Seattle Channel video. Two people in City Council chambers use a handheld paper shredder to shred the Bicycle Master Plan, the Vision Zero Plan and the Climate Action Plan.

In early April, Tamara Schmautz and Apu Mishra brought a hand-cranked paper shredder to the podium and proceeded to shred the cover sheets to the Bicycle Master Plan, Vision Zero Plan and Climate Action Plan.

Eight people standing next to the Fremont Bridge bike counter cheering.

Cheering people on to celebrate 1 million 2019 Fremont Bridge bike trips in October, a new record.

2019 was a red letter year for biking in Seattle. The number of trips people are taking by bike broke through some kind of barrier in the past year, and bike counters across town are clobbering previous records (we’ll have more on that in the new year when the final numbers are in, so stay tuned). So some combination of bike network improvements and bike share and e-bike sales and bike culture have all worked together to make 2019 the bikiest year in Seattle history.

But back in the spring, it hardly felt like this would be a successful biking year for Seattle. Despite signs that the city’s bike investments were working, Mayor Jenny Durkan canceled the 35th Ave NE bike lanes at the last minute even though they were already designed and contracted for construction. She also released a new bike workplan that dramatically scaled back the city’s previous ambitions, especially in the southend. Her decisions triggered a big backlash and a protest at City Hall as people challenged what they saw as her abandoning the city’s Bicycle Master Plan, Climate Action Plan and transportation equity.

This energy flipped the year around. 2019 started with delays and cancellations, but it is ending with record ridership, major bike lane construction and big political momentum. You all did this.

For her first year in office, there was a lot of uncertainty. SDOT went a year without a Director, and projects were getting delayed. In many ways, Mayor Durkan’s springtime anti-bike decisions reignited popular energy in support of the Bike Master Plan, both for the sake of making biking easier and safer and as a way to combat climate change.  The city’s biggest transportation advocacy organizations, including Rooted In Rights, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, Cascade Bicycle Club and the Transit Riders Union had recently joined together as the Move All Seattle Sustainably (“MASS”) coalition. MASS organized a rally at City Hall and ride down 4th Ave to demand that the city build the biking and safety projects in its transportation plans, including key parts of the downtown bike network like 4th Ave.

The City Council passed a bike safety ordinance all but requiring SDOT to build the projects in the Bike Master Plan during repaving projects. If there are serious reasons why they can’t do so, they need to explain themselves to the Council’s Transportation Committee. This doesn’t guarantee that projects won’t be canceled in the future, but no Seattle Mayor should be able to simply cancel a bike lane project on a whim again. It will require explanation to the Council and the people first.

People also organized to support budget additions for funding key south Seattle projects, including the Georgetown to South Park Trail and a north-south bike lane on either Beacon Ave or MLK. The City Council approved these additions in the final budget. Continue reading

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Lime will shut down Seattle bike service at the end of 2019

Photo of a group of people watching as a man unlocks a limebike with a phone.

The ceremonial unlocking of the first LimeBike July 27, 2017 in Seattle.

Lime announced today that they will be pulling their e-bikes from Seattle streets December 31.

This follows a week and a half of rumors that the company was shutting down, rumors the company denied to both Seattle Bike Blog and The Urbanist. As recently as December 15, a company spokesperson told Seattle Bike Blog that Lime would remain in operation until at least March, around the time when the long-awaited scooter pilot is due to be rolled out.

But an email to users on Christmas Eve, Lime announced they would, indeed, be shutting down service, though they “remain very committed to working with the City of Seattle to create a robust mobility program in the Spring that includes a mix of free-floating scooters and improved bike options that are a priority to the City.”

Lime was the last of the original three bike share companies to launch in Seattle in the summer of 2017. Spin, one of the other three original companies, has since switched to scooters and has stated in the past that they are interested in operating scooters in Seattle.

The loss of Lime comes just as Sound Transit is preparing a major multi-month service reduction on light rail service downtown as they work to connect the East Link tracks to the existing line. Bike share could help relieve pressure on the crunched downtown trains, so let’s hope JUMP sticks around.

More details from Lime: Continue reading

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Starting Jan 1, drivers must change lanes when passing people biking or slow down and give 3 feet + More

Some of the most significant changes to Washington State’s rules of the road in recent history will take effect January 1, when SB 5723 becomes law.

Perhaps the biggest and most exciting change is that people driving will now have clear instruction on how to safely and legally pass someone on a bike (or riding a horse, a carriage or tractor):

  • If there is more than one lane in the direction of travel, people driving must “completely” change lanes to pass.
  • If there is only one lane in the direction of travel, people driving must slow to a safe speed “relative to the speed of the individual” and only pass once there is at least three feet of space between their vehicle and the person biking. If three feet is not available, people driving must change lanes into the opposing lane when it is safe to do so.

The new law also clarifies the responsibilities for people biking. If there is enough space in the lane for safe passing, people biking must ride to the right to allow passing. But you are not required to squeeze to the right if there is not enough space in the lane for safe passing or if “other conditions make it unsafe to do so.” So if there is debris or damaged pavement or parked cars with doors that could swing open at any moment or another road user, you are not required to move right.

The law passed during the 2019 legislative session with wide bipartisan support (70-26 in the House, 43-5 in the Senate) and is in large part thanks to the advocacy work of Washington Bikes.

These changes are very favorable to people biking and set a new standard for safe passing laws in the U.S. They make it clear that a person’s safety is paramount. No, they won’t suddenly make it super comfortable to bike on the many streets and highways in our state that have no bike lanes or adequate shoulders. But they at least remove a lot of the doubt about what is legally expected of everyone.

Of course this brings us to the big questions: Will people know the law has changed? And will it be enforced?

You may bike in the right turn lane even if you aren’t turning

Continue reading

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Shortcut: King County kids are not getting enough exercise

UW Researcher Julie McCleery says she has found that King County kids are not getting the hour of exercise per day that the CDC recommends. She also found that girls are less likely to get their exercise than boys, and kids from immigrant families are being left behind.

McCleery is largely focused on how organized sports can help kids stay active, and that’s great. But her story should also be a guide for safe streets advocates and departments of transportation. Because a sport is one way to get exercise, but walking, biking and generally playing outside work, too. And unlike with sports, walking, biking and playing outside don’t require joining a team or following a schedule.

“Further, we learned that children being raised in immigrant families were less likely to play at parks near their homes,” McCleery wrote. She does not talk about bike lanes or trails, but that is worthy of future study.

It’s hard to think of many things more important than the health of children. Part of the safe streets vision is that neighborhood space could return to the neighborhood kids. Everyone should feel safe letting their kids play outside their homes, and people driving should feel like guests on streets the neighborhood kids own. But aside from just creating infrastructure, we also need to make sure everyone has a sense of ownership of our public spaces, whether that’s a park or a bike lane or a street.

From The Conversation: Continue reading

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Shortcut: Construction on the Northgate bike/walk bridge will begin next month

Editor’s Note: This post introduces a new type of post on Seattle Bike Blog I am calling a “shortcut.” Shortcuts could be many things, but they will all be short. They could be a quick link to a survey or advocacy alert. Maybe there’s a project update that doesn’t need much new reporting. Or maybe another news outlet has reported something I think you should all see. I am hoping that Shortcuts will be a way to get more news to you more quickly and create more prompts for comments and conversation, but in a way that differentiates these quick posts from my longer posts with more original reporting or commentary. So let me know what you think in the comments below.

Concept image looking east across the future bridge. It is one wide space shared by people walking and biking.It’s really happening! Work is just weeks away from starting on the Northgate bike/walk bridge over I-5, and the goal is still to have it open by the time Northgate Station begins light rail service in September 2021. It’s a complicated project, so it could be cutting it close depending on construction delays.

The start of the project has already been delayed several times, including a major redesign after the original design’s bids came in much higher than budgeted. The trail will be 16 feet wide and connect the station to North Seattle College, dramatically increasing the number of homes west of I-5 within a short walk or bike ride of the new light rail station.

SDOT is hosting a series of open houses the second week of January for people who want to learn more about the project or project construction. Details from SDOT: Continue reading

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You won’t be allowed to ride a shared scooter on Seattle sidewalks + Combined bikes and scooters capped at 20K

Photo of a Spin scooter in front of Denver's Union Station.

One of so many scooters around Denver’s downtown Union Station.

When (or if) Seattle launches its scooter share pilot in early 2020 as planned, users of the shared scooters will not be allowed to ride on the sidewalk like people biking can. That’s just one of the interesting bits of news included in the city’s recently-released environmental checklist and reported by the Seattle Times’ Heidi Groover.

The city is also going to place a 20,000-unit combined limit on the total number of shared bikes and scooters allowed to operate in the city. That could put companies in a position to choose between bikes and scooters. So this could be bad news for bike share, since bikes reportedly get fewer rides per day than scooters and several companies have been closing down bike operations in other markets in favor of scooters.

I can’t say that bike share has been a big business success, but it has been very effective at increasing the number of trips people are taking by bike in our city. I hope Lime, JUMP (and maybe Lyft?) find a way to keep bikes in operation alongside scooters.

Bike share in Seattle has also been very safe despite the relative lack of helmet use, the city notes in the environmental checklist:

“SDOT’s pilot evaluation for free-floating bike share found the following: 24% of riders reported wearing helmets, five riders reported collisions, and that out of 96 bike-related injuries only three occurred while using bike share (conducted by researchers at the University of Washington).”

It’s not yet clear how scooter share safety will compare to bike share safety. They are fundamentally different vehicles, and scooter safety studies have been sort of all over the place so far. An Austin Public Health study (PDF) found pretty grim results, especially for first-time riders. But Portland didn’t find results all that different from bike use. Scooter designs are also evolving quickly, and hopefully user control and stopping ability will have improved since scooters first launched en masse a few years ago. Hopefully companies are also better at instructing first-time user on how to ride. Continue reading

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Arena’s plans for Denny Way and 2nd Ave move Seattle in the wrong direction

Map of the traffic plan for 1st, Warren and 2nd Avenues N, including two new parking garages that empty onto 2nd Ave.

The car traffic plan for the arena’s new parking garages. From a presentation to the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board (PDF)

As part of the transportation plan for the new arena in Seattle Center, developers and the City of Seattle are currently planning to delete the north end of the 2nd Ave protected bike lane and steal crossing time from people walking on Denny Way, all in a hopeless effort to move more cars.

These plans, first reported by Ryan Packer at The Urbanist, go against our city’s transportation and climate policies and goals, fly in the face of clear community concerns about so-called “adaptive” traffic signals and would rewind some of the incredible bike progress our city has made thanks in large part to the 2nd Ave protected bike lane. City leaders should demand SDOT and the arena team come up with a better plan that encourages biking, walking and transit rather than driving cars.

Driving will never be a good way to get to Seattle Center. Even if they follow through on their plan to cut down on biking and walking access to try to squeeze a few more cars in and out of the area, they will fail. This isn’t theoretical. There is no path to success if they are defining success as moving lots of cars through Uptown, South Lake Union and Belltown. They will fail, 100 percent guaranteed. But they can succeed in making it more difficult, dangerous and time-consuming to bike, walk and take transit as their current plans would. We should not let them.

Don’t delete our city’s premiere bike lane

Since this is Seattle Bike Blog, let’s start with the 2nd Ave bike lane. In order to better serve people who drive cars all the way to the new planned garages just a block or two from the area, the plan would delete a section of the most successful and impactful new bike lanes in the whole city in order to create a second lane for cars on 2nd Ave at Denny. Instead, people biking would be routed onto an almost-certainly crowded sidewalk. So people biking and walking get squeezed together in half the space they have today while people driving get double the space.

Map of the concept for deleting the 2nd Ave bike lane to add another car lane just south of Denny Way.As we have reported, biking is booming right now. The number of trips by bike this year is obliterating the previous records, and this is in no small part due to bike improvements like the 2nd Ave protected bike lane. To replace this bike lane so that parking garages can empty out faster following events is simply wrong. It is backwards. It must be stopped.

The arena plan does include a new protected bike lane that winds blocks out of the way to 1st Ave and Queen Anne Ave (1st is two blocks from 2nd here because lol Seattle streets). Those new bike lanes would be great for serving the Uptown business district and beyond, but they are far less direct for people heading to Seattle Center. And Seattle Center is not only a pretty big destination, it is also a wonderful and popular bike cut-through for people heading to various places, including 5th Ave, the Mercer Street bike lane under Aurora and, soon, Thomas Street to South Lake Union.

People who drive to the parking garages for an event can just wait their turn to get out using the lane that exists. It should be expected that if you drive to a Seattle Center event, it’s going to take some time to get out of the parking garage at the end. We should not destroy our best bike route in a vain attempt to let them get out a little faster. Pacing the cars leaving the garages might even help alleviate the traffic problems on other streets in the area, so it’s not a bad outcome.

The 2nd Ave bike lane helps move people 24/7. It is absurd to ruin it so that very temporary event crowds a few times a week can drive away a tiny bit faster. It doesn’t even play a role in pre-event traffic, only post-event.

Instead, they should extend the 2nd Ave bike lane two more blocks north to connect seamlessly to Seattle Center’s car-free center. That would have a more tangible and positive impact on all-way, all-day mobility on this street and it would be an investment in a future that we want, not an investment in furthering the traffic-clogged nightmare we already have.

Don’t repeat Mercer’s mistakes on Denny

The city’s so-called “adaptive” traffic signals on Mercer Street have been the subject of intense scorn from neighbors and advocates for more walking because they basically just steal time from people walking and give it to people driving. I think the designers and promoters of this system think they are being more sophisticated than that, but they aren’t. Their fancy systems don’t count pedestrian delays, they only count car delays. In order to cross the street, you have to push a button to get a walk signal at all, then you have to wait. And wait. And wait. The more car traffic there is, the longer people walking are forced to wait. That’s the “adaptive” part. It adapts to bad car traffic by making people who are not contributing to car traffic wait more. And in case you haven’t noticed, traffic on Mercer is still terrible. The adaptive signals just make sure it’s also terrible to walk there.

Well, it worked so poorly on Mercer that the arena team and Seattle are currently planning on doing the same thing on Denny Way. Denny Way is full of cars. Nothing can be done to the signal timing to change that. The only fix for Denny is to prioritize more efficient ways to move people on that street.

Established city transportation policy, codified in just about every document approved by the City Council in the past decade, is that our goal is to move people and goods, not just cars. The current plan for Denny is so blinded by the goal of moving cars that it is destined to to fail everyone, people driving included.

Denny has a major bus route, King County Metro’s Route 8. It’s one of the busiest routes in the entire county. And everyone who has ever ridden it knows the 8’s nickname: The Late. What if instead of trying to cram more cars onto a street that’s already full of them we try to liberate the 8 from traffic and make it the obvious best way to get up and down Denny Way? Denny is diagonal street that breaks the grid, which makes it extremely important for transit and walking especially. A fast, reliable bus on Denny would be transformative to our city. Driving will never be a good way to get around the Denny Triangle, Belltown and South Lake Union. There’s nothing the city can do about that. But the city can build bus lanes and free the 8.

Money planned to go to Denny Way adaptive signals should go to transit improvements instead. Again, this would be the option consistent with our city’s transportation and climate policies and goals.

Seattle does not want more car infrastructure. Our city has been very clear about that through our major votes for levies focused on transit, walking and biking, and our votes for leaders who prioritize transit, walking and biking. And we are not afraid to invest in a vision. We care about the climate. We want better transit. And we want to improve safety for people walking and biking. The points in the arena traffic plan that go against these priorities should be abandoned and replaced with investments in the city we actually want.

Mayor Jenny Durkan made a pretty strong statement this week in support of safe streets. And during her talk, she said, “If you don’t have to drive, do not drive. Get out of your cars. If you can get on a bike, if you can walk, if you can bus or light rail, please do that. If you have to get in your cars, slow down. You are not going to get there that much faster by going faster.”

Right on, Mayor. I think the arena traffic plan team needs to hear this message from you, too.

I hope she directs SDOT to revisit these two car-blinded elements of the arena plan and come back with investments that align with our city’s vision for big increases in walking, biking and transit. Because that vision is more important than reducing the wait time for people trying to drive out of a garage immediately following an event. This process has gone sideways, and we need city leaders to recenter it on our city’s real goals. Let’s move more people safer and more sustainably.

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As city adds lots of bike parking, audit finds fewer poorly-parked bike share bikes + More bike share updates

Map of new or planned bike parking additions.

SDOT has been adding a ton of additional bike parking. Could that be part of why poorly parked bikes are becoming less common?

The city’s quarterly audit of bike share parking (PDF) found a massive 57% drop in the percentage of Jump and Lime bikes parked incorrectly.

Of 756 bikes audited (approximately half Lime and half Jump), staff found only one (0.1%) that was an “ADA-prohibited obstruction hazard,” basically bikes that don’t leave a minimum of four feet of walkway space. This is way down from the 13 (1.6%) found in the second quarter of this year. 5.3% of bikes were deemed “obstruction hazards,” meaning they were obstructing a walkway or curb ramp, but not completely blocking it. This is down from 17.4% in the second quarter.

What could explain such a big decrease in poor parking? I can’t say for sure, but I have some theories.

Rooted In Rights produced a great video for SDOT explaining not only where to properly park a bike, but also why poorly-parked bikes create such problems for people with disabilities. It’s been viewed 5,000 times on Youtube, so that’s pretty decent exposure. And while I’m sure the video inspired some people to do a better job of parking bikes, I bet it also inspired people to move poorly-parked bikes when they encounter them.

Continue reading

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After pushback, city will complete Columbian Way bike lane at Beacon Ave

Top-down design concept showing the bike lane extending all the way to the intersection.

From SDOT.

Photo looking east from the newly-constructed bike lane on Columbian Way. The lane disappears for half a block before the intersection.

Photo taken May 31 shows that the bike lane ends before the intersection.

Here’s some great news for southend bike riders: SDOT has decided to complete the westbound S Columbian Way bike lane at Beacon Ave after all.

As we reported in June, neighbors of the major Columbian Way repaving project were surprised to see that the brand new protected bike lane ended about a half block early, leaving an uncomfortable uphill gap used by people driving turning right on to Beacon Ave. The bike lane, the biggest bike infrastructure improvement in southeast Seattle this year, was supposed to be a complete connection all the way to 15th Ave S, serving Mercer Middle School and Jefferson Park. There was no mention on the project website that the bike lane had been cut back half a block, and advocates were caught unaware. Even some SDOT staffers didn’t seem aware of the change.

Needless to say, people were pretty upset, yours truly included. As I wrote:

“A bike route is only as comfortable as its least comfortable section. A missing gap like this is likely the difference between whether a family will use the lane with their kids or not, for example. This is the route from Columbia City to Jefferson Park and Mercer Middle School, for example. So eleven-year-olds are now supposed to just merge with car traffic every day while biking up a major hill to school?”

Well, SDOT listened, and they are fixing it. Right now. Continue reading

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