Watch: Biking from Gas Works to Pike Place using only trails, protected bike lanes and very slow streets

In the middle of the 2020 COVID shutdown, Seattle missed an opportunity to celebrate a remarkable achievement. With completion of the Bell Street protected bike lane and implementation of the Stay Healthy Street through the Bell Street Park, Seattle had fully connected a downtown protected bike route. For the first time, it became possible to bike all the way through the heart of downtown without needing to mix with car traffic.

Unfortunately, there was bigger news at the time, and many downtown workers were working from home. So this monumental achievement many years in the making went by without fanfare. But it’s still an incredible asset to our city, and one deserving of a belated celebration. Because there are a lot of people in our city who are not interested in mixing with cars in busy downtown traffic, and they may be very excited to learn that they no longer need to.

The protected bike route network through downtown keeps growing, with 4th Avenue now connected through Bell Street, providing a connection to City Hall. And the connection from 2nd Avenue to 5th Avenue in the International District brings the downtown network very close to the new Jose Rizal Bridge bike lanes to Beacon Hill and the Mountains to Sound Trail. The Pike Street bike lane are still missing a couple blocks near the Convention Center, but then they connect all the way to the Broadway Bikeway, which goes all the way to Yesler Terrace. It’s becoming a real network.

To highlight one example of what is now possible, I created this short video of a bike ride from Gas Works Park to Pike Place Market. The entire trip takes place on trails, protected bike lanes and very slow streets like the Bell Street Park and Pike Place. I think this route is viable for people of all ages and abilities. Think about that! This was barely a dream ten years ago. And thanks to an enormous amount of work by a lot of people, now it’s here.

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Survey: Seattle voters overwhelmingly support safe streets, bus lanes and bike lanes

Pie chart showing strong support for bike lanes.The vast majority of Seattle voters support the city’s safe streets efforts, including pedestrianized streets, on-street café seating, bus lanes and bike lanes. According to a recent survey commissioned by the Northwest Progressive Institute in partnership with Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, it’s not even close.

The survey, conducted online by Change Research (methodology), asked likely voters in Seattle how much they support various value statements, infrastructure changes and policy ideas. And the results are very vindicating for the city’s safe streets movement. Opinion is not actually very split about many concepts that people assume are controversial, such as bus lanes, bike lanes and even fully closing streets to cars. People are confidently for them. I wish we had survey results for these questions from 10 years ago, because I think public opinion has massively shifted.

Among the infrastructure questions, support for protected bike lanes was the most divided, but even those had 71% support versus 26% opposed. Of course that 26% can still be very loud, which is why organizing to support bike lane projects is still so important. But it is important to understand where the majority opinion lies.

Interestingly, people were also very supportive of moving traffic enforcement duties from the Seattle Police Department to the Seattle Department of Transportation. 73% supported the idea while only 17% opposed it (10% were not sure). Many instances of police violence start with a simple traffic stop, whether it’s “jaywalking” or biking without a helmet or driving with a broken taillight. It is very encouraging that Seattle is ready to make a dramatic change to the way we enforce traffic safety laws. I hope Mayor-Elect Bruce Harrell and the City Council see this result and are encouraged to take bold action.

From the Northwest Progressive Institute: Continue reading

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Watch: Fixing a flat the lazy way

Seattle Bike Blog does not usually do bike tutorial stuff. There are many other excellent YouTube channels and online resources if you want to learn about bike maintenance and such. However, the vast majority of YouTube fix-a-flat tutorials start by having you take off your wheel. There is an easier way.

So when I got a flat biking my kid to the playground recently, I figured that was a good opportunity to show you all my favorite method for fixing a flat. This method is easier than replacing the tube and chucking out the old one. It’s also a lot cheaper and saves a tube from going into a landfill. It is even easier than rolling your bike to a bike shop unless you just happen to be very close to one.

The total time for me to fix the flat and record this video was 15 minutes, and the total cost was 20 cents for the patch (assuming you already have levers and a pump). While you probably could remove the wheel, replace the tube and put it back on in less time, this method completely avoids dealing with the chain, the brakes, the quick quick release, and all the other frustrations that come with taking a wheel on and off. So I think this is the easiest method for fixing a flat, even (or especially) for beginners.

This method only works if the location of the puncture is obvious. If you pump up the flat tire and can hear air escaping from a puncture, then this method is perfect. If the hole is so big you can barely get it pumped up before it goes flat again, then the hole is too big to patch and you need a new tube. If it is a slow leak that goes flat overnight, then you will probably need to spend more time finding the hole and are best taking the wheel off. However, if you picked up a piece of glass in the middle of a ride, chances are good that this method will work.

What do you think?

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Vital E Marginal Way bike route to West Seattle is fully funded

Project design map.

Excerpt from the project design (PDF).

With $20 million in federal funding, Seattle now has enough money to complete a long-planned E Marginal Way rebuild in SODO. Final design is scheduled to be complete in early 2022, with work beginning later in the year. Construction should be complete by 2025.

The funded phase stretches from S Atlantic Street near T-Mobile Park to the West Seattle Bridge, and there is a continuous and protected bikeway the entire length connecting the downtown Alaskan Way Trail at the north and the West Seattle trail network at the south. Plans for a multi-use trail between the West Seattle Bridge and Diagonal Ave S in Georgetown have been moved to a later Phase 2.

The $20 million in federal funding comes from the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program, and an additional $7.1 million comes from the Move Seattle Levy. The Port of Seattle and the Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board will also contribute funds to the project.

“The grant funding will enable us to do both the safety improvements and the road reconstruction at the same time,” SDOT wrote in a press release. “This means that there will be fewer disruptions to freight traffic during construction.”

The project has such a high price tag primarily because the entire roadway will be reconstructed to accommodate heavy trucks from the Port. The existing sidewalk will also be reconstructed and brought up to accessibility codes. The new protected bike lane will travel along the east side of the roadway for most of the route. Between S Horton Street and the West Seattle Bridge, an additional two-way bikeway will travel along the west side of the street to connect the West Seattle trail network to the new bikeway.

If we zoom out a little bit, the implications of this project are remarkable. When combined with the under-construction downtown waterfront bikeway, the E Marginal Way bikeway would create a fully complete and protected bike route from Alki to downtown Seattle and beyond. If the waterfront bike lanes are indeed connected to the Elliott Bay Trail like they should be, then there will be a connection through Interbay to the Ship Canal Trail (and therefore the Burke-Gilman Trail) and the larger regional trail network. Then if the Duwamish Trail is finally connected to the Green River Trail, wow. In a few years, it should be feasible to bike more than 50 miles from the northern border of King County in Woodinville to the southern county line beyond Auburn almost entirely on trails or protected bike lanes. Suddenly, connecting the Foothills Trail in Pierce County to the Centennial Trail in Snohomish County feels within reach.

Combined with the EasTrail work underway over the next few years, the number of new additions and connections for the regional trail network are enormous. So many people have worked on so many different pieces of walking and biking improvements across the region, and they’re all coming together in the next few years. Get ready.

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Action Alert: Eastlake Ave needs protection for planned bike lanes near U Bridge

Screenshot of the action alert website. Text: Protected Bike Lanes Are Needed for ALL of Eastlake Green Bike Lane at Eastlake and Fuhrman Avenue East, Seattle, WA | National Association of City Transportation Officials Designs for protected bike lanes along Eastlake are inching forward, but currently the physical protection between bikes and fast moving vehicles will stop one block short of the University Bridge, right where it’s needed most.

Screenshot of the Cascade action alert.

Today is the final day to submit comments on the revamped Environmental Assessment for the RapidRide J project, which includes a redesigned Eastlake Ave E. There are a lot of excellent improvements included in the project, which would finally build desperately-needed bike lanes on this vital bike route along the east side of Lake Union.

But the design is still sorely lacking at one of the most important places: The south end of the University Bridge. The current design would make essentially no improvements to the existing skinny, paint-only bike lanes. Perhaps more importantly, it would do little to improve the intersection with Fuhrman Ave E, which is an intersection of multiple bike routes. It is an excellent candidate for a protected intersection.

I talked about the lack of protection in this area in a long video about the Eastlake design plans back in early 2020 (starts at 15:49). There are definitely options for recapturing the space needed for protection here, the project team just needs to genuinely prioritize safety. The current design prioritizes car movement, which is not acceptable.

Today (November 22) is the last day to submit comments about the Supplemental Environmental Assessment for the project, and Cascade Bicycle Club has a handy online tool you can use to voice your support for better bike lanes on this block. Seattle Neighborhood Greenways is also calling for more protection on this block. Here’s the text of Cascade’s sample letter:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Supplemental Environmental Assessment for the RapidRide J-Line. I am writing to request that protected bike lanes extend along the full length of Eastlake Ave E, including between Harvard Ave E and Fuhrman Ave E.

This project and its accompanying multi-modal improvements serve an important role in connecting major hubs of our city, and we want to ensure its implementation improves safety and mobility for all people biking, walking, rolling, and taking transit in this area.

The protected bike lanes along Eastlake Avenue fill an essential missing connection for people traveling between the University District, Eastlake, and downton and to the homes and businesses along the way.

However, I am concerned to see that the lane protection currently ends prematurely at Harvard Avenue. This means that for the last block of Eastlake, people on bikes are required to ride on a striped bike lane, with no physical protection from vehicles. Dropping the protected bike lane in this area is especially concerning due to the volume of vehicle traffic that travels at high speeds in connection with the I-5 highway on-ramp.

Bike routes are only as comfortable as their scariest section, and dropping the protection for people riding bikes in the most dangerous intersection will deter even experienced riders and will not encourage new riders. It also presents a real safety risk for vulnerable road users, at a time when the number of people losing their lives while walking and biking in our city is going up, not down. Fully protected bike lanes are critical for maintaining safety throughout the entire corridor, creating better bike network connections, and ultimately increasing ridership.

Every effort should be made to increase the utility, safety, connectivity, and attractiveness of the city’s bike network to make bicycling a viable option for more people, and more trips. We appreciate the work that has been done to this point to plan for a designated bike route along the Eastlake corridor: there is much to like about the designs to date. With a small fix to this one block section, Seattle will have another world-class bikeway that prioritizes safety.

Thank you for prioritizing the safety of vulnerable road users in this project.

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Hey District 3, vote NO on the Kshama Sawant recall

This election is only open to voters who live in Seattle’s City Council District 3 (PDF map), encompassing Capitol Hill, the Central District, and some surrounding areas. If your registration is up-to-date, you should have received your ballot in the mail this week. You can check the status of your registration or update your address via the King County Elections My Voter Information website. That site also has a tab for “December 2021 Recall Election,” which will tell you if your address is included.

District 3 map.

Detailed District 3 map (PDF).

Even if you don’t like Kshama Sawant’s politics, District 3 voters should say NO to the special recall election underway now through December 7.

Recalling her would set a terrible precedent to set for our city’s elected government system. Sawant won the 2019 election, and was elected to serve a full four-year term. People who don’t like that’s she’s a socialist or whatever can support a different candidate in 2023. That’s how our city democracy works.

There is too much real work to do in our city to spend a ton of energy on mid-term recall elections like this. A recall is a BREAK GLASS IN CASE OF EMERGENCY kind of tool for when the public has no other means to prevent an elected official from further harming our city or as a response to a particularly egregious malfeasance. None of this applies to Sawant.

The supposed “charges” that form the legal basis for the recall are very flimsy. For example, she used City Hall printers to print materials supporting a Tax Amazon ballot initiative that never happened. This was not an appropriate use of public printers, but she owned up to the mistake and paid a fine. Don’t tell me you’re going to recall our most senior  Councilmember over the use of a printer. Other charges say she participated in a summer 2020 protest march that went by the Mayor’s house and she opened the City Hall doors to another protest group. I would say that supporting protests against police brutality was a good thing for a Councilmember to do, and opening the doors of City Hall to the marching public was an effective and way to make her point that our city government belongs to the people. Even if you don’t agree with her tactics, these are not reasons to recall a Councilmember.

Seattle Bike Blog has endorsed Sawant many times. She is the senior member of the Council, and she has been a consistently positive vote for biking and safe streets efforts. But again, these aren’t even the most compelling reasons to vote NO. This election is not asking whether you like her politics, it’s asking whether we need to disrupt our government and the four-year term cycle in order to cast out someone who was legitimately elected in 2019.

Additionally, it is concerning and undemocratic for the recall campaign purposefully delay submitting their signatures until after the deadline to put the issue on the higher-turnout general election ballot in November. They are hoping that fewer people vote because then they have a better chance of sidestepping the younger voters who have long been strong Sawant supporters. If they were really so concerned about harm from Sawant’s ongoing presence on Council they would have tried to get the recall onto the ballot as soon as possible. Instead, they delayed in an expensive effort to get a less democratic process. No voter should support these tactics.

Vote NO.

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Green Lake bikeway would help restore the original Olmsted park plan

“The Aurora Avenue extension, if authorized by the voters, must be paid for not in money alone, but in the blood of the children who are entitled, first to safe passage to their schools and second, to safety in their parks—a thing which this speedway would absolutely deny.” — Front page editorial in The Seattle Times, November 2, 1930.

1930 map arguing against the Aurora Extension.

From a front page editorial in The Seattle Times, November 2, 1930 (PDF).

Despite the rather desperate pleas from residents in Fremont, Wallingford and Green Lake as well as the entire Seattle Park Board and The Seattle Times, King County voters in 1930 approved plans to extend Aurora Avenue through Woodland Park and along the planned pathway for Green Lake Way. The decision set in motion the creation of a pseudo-freeway that destroyed hundreds of homes, divided Woodland Park, separated neighborhoods and become the most deadly street in Seattle. We are still dealing with the negative consequences of this decision to this day.

But a small, relatively low-budget project currently in development could help fix at least one of the many problems the Aurora Extension created by reconnecting the biking and walking loop around Green Lake. The west side of Green Lake is baffling to new riders trying to navigate their way around the lake. The bike route just sort of disappears, dead-ending into a freeway. The only option is to take the very busy path around the lake, but signs say anyone with wheels can only go one-way. A one-way bike route doesn’t work. What is going on here?

The problem is that in addition to digging a trench through Woodland Park, the Aurora Extension also demolished the west segment of Green Lake Boulevard, which was a vital part of the Olmsted Brothers’ design for the park.

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

1910 Olmsted Brothers plan for Green Lake Boulevard.

SDOT’s Green Lake Outer Loop project, urged by a community campaign by the Green Lake and Wallingford Safe Streets group, would utilize an extra lane on Aurora to complete the two-way bike route around the lake. SDOT’s plan is to install a jersey barrier to protect the bikeway from highway traffic, then connect the bikeway to the recently-completed bikeways at the north and southwest sections of the lake.

The project team is collecting feedback on the idea via an online survey that you should definitely complete.

Below is a look at the plan for the Aurora section of the bikeway and three options for West Green Lake Drive N. Continue reading

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Seattle Cranksgiving 2021 rides with Bike Works November 20

Cranksgiving logoFor Seattle’s 12 Annual Cranksgiving, let’s ride bikes together.

Rather than the usual scavenger hunt, Cranksgiving 2021 will join up with the good folks at Bike Works Saturday, November 20, to collect donations for Rainier Valley Food Bank before going on a nice, long no-drop community bike ride to celebrate Major Taylor’s birthday.

Download the donation list (PDF or JPG), acquire your donation items on your own time, then bike them to the Bike Works shop (3709 S Ferdinand St) at 11 a.m. We will gather there for coffee and mini pies before heading out at noon for an 11.3-mile no-drop community bike ride, rain or shine. The ride will end back at Bike Works at 1 for pizza and beverages outside. You are welcome to donate and swithout joining the ride. To go on the ride, please register online with Bike Works (free to ride, but there’s a suggested donation of $13 to benefit Cascade’s Major Taylor Project).

I started planning a scavenger hunt style event, but I just didn’t feel comfortable sending lots of riders out to make an unnecessary number of trips into busy grocery stores. I was also a bit concerned about trying to host a warm and dry afterparty without having an indoor party. So when Bike Works reached out to talk about their plan to host their annual community ride to celebrate Major Taylor’s birthday, I realized this was an opportunity to rethink the 2021 event. We have never before been able to ride as a big group on Cranksgiving because riders scatter to the wind as soon as it starts. So while the scavenger hunt part won’t happen this year, we finally get ride together.

Also, Casey Lougheed is organizing a White Center Cranksgiving Sunday if you are really itching for more of a scavenger hunt style event (or if you want to ride all weekend). That event benefits White Center Food Bank. See the event listing for more info.

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With University Bridge stuck open, here are your bike detour options (none are great) – UPDATE: Open!

UPDATE 11/14: The bridge is open!

Traffic camera photo of the bridge stuck in the up position.

From from SDOT.

The University Bridge got stuck open Friday morning, and it has remained stuck into the afternoon. SDOT does not yet have an estimated time for it to reopen, so it may be wise to plan for a different route this evening. I will update this post when I learn more, but you can also check the @SDOTtraffic Twitter account for the latest.

Unfortunately, there is no great detour option south of the Ship Canal for people biking or walking. If you are heading north from downtown and are not familiar with biking to the Montlake Bridge, consider taking the Fremont Bridge instead even if it adds significantly more distance. It is the most intuitive and comfortable bike route option, and those extra miles are mostly on comfortable bikeways and trails.

If you are already in Eastlake near the south end of the U Bridge, the only option that doesn’t involve going all the way back to South Lake Union is to travel to the Montlake Bridge. Unfortunately the bike route options kind of suck. The only flat and somewhat direct option is to ride on Boyer Ave, which does not have bike lanes and will be extra busy due to the closure. Take a left on E McGraw Street, then left on 18th Ave, then right on E Calhoun Street. At the end of the street, there is a trail to the left that travels along the side of the field. That is called the Bill Dawson Trail, and it goes under SR 520 and spits you out onto the west sidewalk of Montlake Boulevard just south of the Montlake Bridge.

Another option for people starting downtown or on Capitol Hill is to take Melrose Ave to  Lakeview Blvd to Boylston Ave, then turn east on Roanoke until it curves right and turns into Delmar Drive E. That will intersect with Boyer at a confusing traffic oval thingy. Go straightish and make your way to E Calhoun Street and the Bill Dawson Trail like above. Or if you really want a much longer and more scenic ride, take Interlaken Boulevard instead of Delmar, then connect to the Lake Washington Loop at 26th Ave E (the trick is that once you cross busy 24th Ave E, you have to veer left and take this little alley down to 26th Ave E because Seattle bike routes make no sense sometimes).

Boyer Ave really needs bike lanes because these bridge closures require such an uncomfortable detour and Boyer is the only flat option to get between them.

Do you have a route suggestion I missed? Let us know in the comments.

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Lake City’s newest street mural is amazing

Aerial photo of the mural.

Mural at 32nd Ave NE and NE 140th Street. From SDOT: “The large piece is a Tlingit ocean monster that was used by the Shatx’Heen Kwaan and the smaller designs are Chilkat blanket sections. Artist Romel Da Vinci Belleza’s intentions are to uplift native youth and honor his Indigenous heritage. Photo: Stuart Danford”

Street murals are wonderful, and the newest one in Lake City is one of the best in the city. Designed to be part of the Little Brook Stay Healthy Street, Romel Belleza’s mural is the product of a partnership between SDOT, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and the community organization Lake City Collective.

Street murals may have a traffic calming effect, but they are more than that. They are a way for a community to define a space that otherwise looks like every other intersection. Now it is special, and it tells a story.

“This is my way of giving back to other communities who respect our struggle for our Tribal Sovereignty and that we are the children of the land and the oceans we fish from and the true owners of this territory where people don’t acknowledge this,” said Belleza in the city’s press release.

The process of creating and celebrating the mural is also a big part of the benefit. It is a community-building exercise full of positivity about their neighborhood. Congratulations to everyone involved. SDOT is collecting feedback on the short Little Brook Stay Healthy Street through November 17.

More details from SDOT: Continue reading

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New 2.5-mile section of EasTrail now open between Renton and I-90

Map of planned EasTrail segments with expected opening dates.

Segment A is now open.

A 2.5-mile segment of the EasTrail is now open between the Seahawks training facility in Renton and Coal Creek Parkway in Bellevue. The very wide trail replaces the old Lake Washington Loop Trail, which is being swallowed up by the state’s $705 million I-405 freeway expansion project.

This significant segment of the trail keeps the full visionary project on track for a major series of openings in 2023 and 2024, connecting Eastside communities and East Link light rail stations in a way that is almost unimaginable today. This trail and light rail will revolutionize non-driving transportation on the Eastside. It will rival the Burke-Gilman Trail, especially if the neighborhood connections are designed well.

The paved portion of the new trail is 12 feet wide with additional gravel paths on both sides. The newly completed section meets up with the existing trail connection to Gene Coulon Memorial Park in Renton, though people biking will continue using Lake Washington Boulevard to connect to the trail (unless you want to walk your bike through the park).

The new segment was funded in part by the state’s I-405 project and in part by the voter-approved King County Parks Levy. King County even took some great drone footage to show it off: Continue reading

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Congratulations Mayor-Elect Bruce Harrell

Then-Councilmember Bruce Harrell at a protest for a safer Rainier Ave.

Then-Councilmember Bruce Harrell at a 2015 protest for a safer Rainier Ave.

Congratulations to Mayor-Elect Bruce Harrell on a convincing win. If past voting patterns hold true as the rest of the ballots are counted, Harrell is positioned to win the Mayoral race by a wider margin than Jenny Durkan did in 2017.

Lorena González not only lost the election, but she also will no longer be on City Council. We wish her the best on whatever she pursues next, but it feels like a big missed opportunity for our city government to lose someone who has been an excellent leader in very difficult times.

Biking and transportation in general did not play a significant role in this election, though it should have. It was barely discussed in debates, and a pre-election opinion poll Crosscut commissioned put transportation at 7th out of 8 issues tested. Homelessness, policing, crime and even residential zoning placed significantly higher. Regardless, the Harrell administration will have an enormous impact on Seattle’s transportation future. He will lead the effort to replace the Move Seattle Levy due to expire at the end of 2024, a once-in-a-decade opportunity to significantly alter transportation funding in the city.

Seattle Bike Blog did not endorse Bruce Harrell, but that does not mean Harrell will be anti-bike once in office. He received a dual endorsement from Washington Bikes, and his campaign platform included: “Continue investing in safe sidewalks and bike lanes while implementing Vision Zero concepts that will help keep every commuter safe.” Though he said during a televised debate that he “won’t lead with bikes,” he voted in favor of Seattle’s ambitious Bicycle Master Plan as a City Councilmember. His name is attached to that plan just like it is on the Move Seattle Levy, Vision Zero Plan, Climate Action Plan and many other bold and progressive Seattle policies developed during this time on Council.

Harrell should be a significantly better mayor than Durkan. He is a longtime politician and pragmatic leader who responds to and celebrates community organizing. He is also very familiar with how the City Council conducts its business and how transportation plans and priorities are created and funded. While Mayor Durkan had no problem ignoring Council-approved plans and policies, Harrell understands all the work and public outreach it took to make them. He also knows how persuasive and organized safe streets and bicycling supporters can be, and he has a big incentive to bring them into the coalition to pass an ambitious and successful transportation levy in 2024. Continue reading

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Scaled back Missing Link plans could put the trail on budget and sidestep lawsuits

The Missing Link appellants have won! But not really.

The Seattle Department of Transportation announced today that they are prepared to submit a significantly scaled-back version of their plans to complete the Missing Link of the Burke-Gilman Trail through Ballard. The trail connection remains, but many of the extra elements included with it have been cut. The result is a project that costs less, can be constructed faster, and should be small enough in scale to be exempt from the State Environmental Policy Act’s requirement for environmental review.

“Completing the Burke-Gilman Trail missing link is an important and too long delayed piece of safety infrastructure in Seattle,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan in a statement. “By redesigning the missing link we will finally be able to give the bike, walking and rolling community a safe route to enjoy the treasure that is the Burke-Gilman trail. After continued legal challenges, these next steps will bring us tangibly closer to finishing this crucial project.”

The design proposed in SDOT’s massive 2016 environmental impact statement was a full-scale remake of the entire corridor, complete with new traffic signals, a realigned railroad, and a lot of new pavement. Much of the cost of that design was from an effort to win over appealing businesses along the route through a community design process. Some of those businesses appealed the design even after the community process was complete, and they have successfully tied it up in court for years. Though the project’s latest court loss was completely unrelated to the trail design (more on that below), it would likely be impossible to complete that version of the trail before the 2024 expiration of the voter-approved Move Seattle Levy, which specifically earmarked funds to complete the Missing Link.

The new design will retain the safety benefits of the previous design, SDOT staff stressed during a call. But it won’t be as polished as the big-budget version. For example, the previous design would have paved a buffer space as wide as 5 feet for the entire length of Shilshole Avenue. The trail will still have three feet of buffer space separating it from general traffic. Many of the curb bulbs and other design elements that were planned to be fully constructed will instead be created with low-cost paint and posts.

Another major change is that because SDOT cannot move the railroad tracks, NW 45th Street will have to remain a one-way street. Originally, the design called for opening the roadway to two-way traffic plus a trail, but they cannot do so without moving the railroad tracks. So if anyone has a problem with this, they can file their concerns with the Ballard Terminal Railroad. Not moving the tracks has the added benefit of significantly reducing the scope and cost of the project. The trail will still be moved to the south side of the roadway as previously planned, and a new railroad crossing will be constructed west of the Ballard Bridge.

The last major change is that three planned traffic signals along Shilshole Ave NW have been removed from the design. Instead, the department will place an all-way stop at Shilshole and 17th Ave NW, which is a high-demand crossing for people accessing Ballard Ave. They will also install new crosswalks with rapid flashing beacons at NW Dock Pl and NW Vernon Pl. The signals previously planned were not warranted, SDOT said, but were included due to feedback from the community design process. They could always be added later in a different project.

So it won’t be as nice looking at the city wanted, but Ballard can thank the Appellant group for that. Their lawsuit successfully stopped the big budget version from going through before the levy ran out. SDOT really did try to deliver the full-build version. Instead, this version prioritizes the vital work of keeping people safe and connecting the city’s busiest biking and walking trail. People keep crashing on the Missing Link, and the injuries won’t stop until the city completes this project. We can’t wait any longer.

(CORRECTION: A previous version said SDOT will file a “Determination of Nonsignificance,” but that was an error. They will file for the environmental permits they need to begin work. Opponents will have opportunities to take legal action if they choose to.) This time, SDOT says they believe the project is too small to fall under the requirement for a full environmental review. If they are right, then they should be able to get through the courts easier and more quickly this time and begin construction in 2022 or 2023.

So let’s all hope they are right, because I am sick of these delays, and I’m sick of writing about this project. There’s so much more work to do in this city. We need to finish this one and move on.

Here is a look at the new project design details, from SDOT: Continue reading

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Seattle can elect transformational leaders, but only if you vote

Seattle voters have the chance to elect transformational leaders, but only if voter turnout increases dramatically before 8 p.m. Tuesday. So tell all your friends.

If you have your vote-by-mail ballot, return it to a King County ballot drop box. You can also mail your ballot, but the post office must postmark it by Tuesday to be valid. If you still need to register, you can register and vote in-person at a voting center such as Lumen Field Event Center. If you have lost your ballot, you can either go to a voting center to vote or you can complete your ballot online, print it out and then return that printed version to a ballot drop box or mail it in. To check the status of your registration or print out a new ballot, use the King County Voter Information site.

The choices this election are clear. We previously compiled the regional and statewide endorsements of Seattle Bike Blog (SBB), Washington Bikes (WB), The Urbanist (U), The Seattle Transit Riders Union (TRU) and Seattle Subway (SUB). Below is the Seattle Cheat Sheet:

Seattle Mayor

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

Bruce Harrell: WB (dual)

Seattle City Council Position 8

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

Seattle City Council Position 9

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

Seattle City Attorney

Nicole Thomas-Kennedy: SBB, U, TRU

King County Executive

Dow Constantine: WB, SUB

Joe Nguyen: SBB, U, TRU

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Seattle Neighborhood Greenways: ‘With your help we can triple the Vision Zero budget’

The Seattle City Council is currently considering some significant budget additions to combat the terrible increase in traffic deaths and injuries in 2021. Seattle’s increase is part of a horrible nationwide trend, and the city should be a leader in finding solutions that keep people safe.

“Seattle has committed to Vision Zero, the goal to eliminate road-traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030,” wrote Seattle Neighborhood Greenways in a blog post. “But we are failing to reach that goal. One big reason why is that the Vision Zero program has been chronically underfunded. Decades of neglect have created a huge backlog of high-speed streets that see crash after crash, and often lack basic safe places to walk, roll, or bike. Right now, with your help we can triple the Vision Zero budget, and invest in safety projects like sidewalks, safety redesigns, crosswalks, and traffic calming where they are needed most.”

You can voice your support for the various budget actions by using their handy online tool to contact Councilmembers. Here is the text of their form letter:

Dear Seattle City Councilmembers,

Thank you for reviewing the mayor’s transportation budget and making improvements to better match our city’s goals around equity, safety, affordability, climate stability, and health. Please support the following budget priorities:

  • Vision Zero: Increase funding for our Vision Zero program, which has strong equity and safety prioritizations. I support both the Mayor’s Vehicle Licsensing Fee spend plan proposal, and the idea to increase the Commercial Parking Tax to fund Vision Zero.
  • Solidarity Budget: Defund the Seattle Police Department and reinvest in communities.

Specifically, please support proposed amendments for:

  1. Safe Places to Walk: Increase funding for sidewalk construction along critical transit corridors and Home Zones for non-arterial neighborhoods, improving safety and access for disabled people, elders, and others.
  2. Prioritize South End Investments: Including park space for people on Lake Washington Boulevard and street safety on Martin Luther King Way South.
  3. Remove Data Collection from the Police: Ask SDOT to analyze what it would take to collect street safety and crash data in order to move this work away from the Seattle Police Department.
  4. Smart Planning: Demand accountability for the “Citywide Integrated Transportation Plan,” which may undercut efforts to make safer streets.
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Alert 10/22-25: 520 Bridge closed, Montlake Blvd and the trail to the Arboretum will remain open

Beginning at 9 p.m. tonight (Friday), crews are scheduled to close the 520 Bridge, including the trail across Lake Washington. Montlake Boulevard and the underpass trail to the Arboretum will remain open.

More details from WSDOT:

Heads up, travelers: Crews will work around the clock this weekend to remove the old Montlake Boulevard overpass and support structures. This removal over SR 520 will make room to build a new crossing and highway interchange. Crews will begin closing roads and ramps on Friday night, Oct. 22 and reopen by 5 a.m. Monday, Oct. 25.

Please note, we originally planned to close Montlake Boulevard and the Montlake Bridge, but those roads will remain open this weekend. Check the Construction Corner as we fine tune the details for the moving parts of this weekend!

Between Friday night and Monday morning at 5 a.m., the following ramps and roads will be closed:

  • Beginning at 8 p.m. on Friday:
    • The on-ramp from Montlake Boulevard to eastbound SR 520
  • Beginning at 9 p.m. on Friday:
    • All lanes of eastbound and westbound SR 520 between I-5 in Seattle and 92nd Avenue Northeast in Clyde Hill
    • All SR 520 on- and off-ramps to and from Montlake Boulevard and Lake Washington Boulevard
    • The SR 520 Trail for bicyclists and pedestrians across Lake Washington
      • Note: The trail under SR 520 to the Arboretum will be open

Pedestrian and bike routes

Pedestrians and bikes will be able to travel north and south on Montlake Boulevard and across the Montlake Bridge. For safety, please follow the marked path on Montlake Boulevard. The SR 520 Trail across Lake Washington will be closed, but the pedestrian and bike path under SR 520 to the Arboretum will be open.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Endorsement: González for Mayor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seattle Mayor

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

Bruce Harrell: WB (dual)

Seattle City Council Position 8

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

Seattle City Council Position 9

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

Seattle City Attorney

Nicole Thomas-Kennedy: SBB, U, TRU

King County Executive

Dow Constantine: WB, SUB

Joe Nguyen: SBB, U, TRU Continue reading

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Seattle’s first downtown bike path (1898)

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

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

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

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

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