Lower West Seattle Bridge closing for emergency week-long repair

The lower West Seattle swing bridge will close at 8 p.m. Wednesday for emergency repairs, SDOT announced just hours before crews were planning to take the bridge out of order.

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

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

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

For those riding around the Duwamish:

From West Seattle:

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

From SODO:

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

 

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

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

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

Pacific Northwest News

Halftime show! With a pending subway closure on the horizon, New York City’s TransAlt is organizing bike trains to help subway users travel the L Train route by bike:

National & Global News

This is an open thread.

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Bike Happy: Ride naked & in circles

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


TOP THINGS TO KNOW & DO

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

Continue reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


TOP THINGS TO KNOW & DO

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

Continue reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading

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Bike Happy: Long live the ‘Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail’

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


TOP THINGS TO KNOW & DO

  1. Yesterday was the last day of Bike Month.
  2. They’ve finally done it: the John Wayne Trail is dead. Long live the “Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail.”
  3. Pierce County mayors are headed to Copenhagen to learn how to build bike-friendly communities.

Continue reading

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We are building a backyard cottage, and city rules make no sense + Hearing Thursday

Home sweet home.

Our daughter Fiona will not have a closet in her room growing up because city rules for building backyard cottages require us to build an extra car parking space for a car we don’t own.

Debates over building codes and zoning often get bogged down in acronyms and percentages that lull most people to sleep. But the ongoing effort of trying to navigate today’s backyard cottage rules to build such a home in our friends’ backyard has made the effects of those obtuse codes and rules concrete for my spouse Kelli and I. And we’ve found that many rules just plain make no sense.

The good news is that the city, led by City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, is trying to change the rules to make it easier for people to build homes in their backyards. The bad news is that the Queen Anne Community Council successfully sued to delay these changes, requiring the city to spend years conducting an environmental megastudy (PDF) on the effects of such a rule change. The initial draft of that study is now out, and there will be a public hearing and open house about it 5:30 p.m. Thursday at City Hall. You can also comment online.

Here are just a few rules that could be changed, some of which I learned from the Beyond Backyard Cottages group and some of which my family and our friends discovered first hand:

  • Remove the parking requirement. Why would a city that claims to want to reduce driving and greenhouse gas emissions require people to build car parking spaces whether they own a car or not? In our case, the extra car parking space is taking away both indoor square footage (so long, Fiona’s closet) and garden space.
  • More height for green roofs. Don’t we want people to help retain stormwater during big rains? Plus, they’re cool. But current rules make it hard or impossible to build a comfortable two-story house with a green roof.
  • Don’t count a garage as house square footage. If you build a home above a garage, why should the garage space count against the maximum square footage of the house? Cars are really big, so once you subtract their space from the house, you really don’t have much room left for living.
  • Allow multiple in-house and detached units. Why can’t a property have both a backyard cottage and a basement apartment? Or two in-house apartments and a backyard cottage? Are we worried about creating too many homes for people to live?
  • Get rid of the unrelated occupants limit. Why should the city care or have any say in how many of the property occupants are related to each other? Yes, this really is a rule. It’s none of your business who is related to who, Seattle!
  • Streamline permitting. Why does it take so long to process building permits for such relatively small projects? By the time our house is finished, we may have spent as much time waiting for permits as we did building the thing. There must be a way to streamline this.
  • Remove the owner-occupancy rule. Why should the city have a say in whether the property owner lives there? Life happens, circumstances change. If someone needs to move from their home for some reason (job, longterm family emergency, financial changes, because they want to, etc), should they have to evict residents and board up their backyard houses? Renters are just as valuable to a neighborhood as homeowners, and the rules shouldn’t treat them differently.

Continue reading

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The Urbanist: Womxn’s Bike Month Happy Hour is Thursday

Womxn are leading the modern urban cycling movement. When a group fighting a safer 35th Ave NE said single moms don’t bike, biking moms of Seattle took action and refocused the debate over that street’s design on people of all ages getting around their neighborhood safely. People are organizing more WTF (women/trans/femme) spaces and groups to invite more people to feel comfortable biking. Demographically, people who identify as women on the Census make up a huge percentage of Seattle’s new bike commuters.

Want to meet more womxn interested in bike advocacy? Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, Cascade Bicycle Club and the Urbanist are hosting a Womxn’s Bike Month Happy Hour Thursday evening. Details:

Womxns’ Downtown Seattle Happy Hour – there’s an Advocate in all of us!

When: Thursday, May 31, 5:00 – 7:00 pm
Where: Elephant & Castle (1415 Fifth Ave Seattle, WA 98101)

Join Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, Cascade Bicycle Club, and The Urbanist for a happy hour that’s just for womxn who like bicycles, or want to!

Hear from rad womxn leaders in bike advocacy and close out Bike Month in style.

The happy hour comes after a forum for women Cascade hosted in March. Kelsey Mesher (formerly with Cascade, now with Transportation Choices Coalition), Vicky Clarke (Cascade) and Keiko Budech (TCC) wrote about the forum and the upcoming happy hour at the Urbanist. Here’s an excerpt of some takeaways from the forum: Continue reading

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Bike Happy: It’s the Last Week of Bike Month

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


TOP THINGS TO KNOW & DO

  1. A cougar killed SJ Brooks, co-founder of Friends on Bikes.
  2. The Seattle Times broke down how the 2nd and 7th Avenues protected bike lanes were expensive, but were more than just bike projects. And Seattle Bike Blog highlighted how “bike lanes are for cars.”
  3. On Thursday, there’s a Womxn’s Bike Month Happy Hour.
  4. This is the last week of Bike Month. Get out there!

Continue reading

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What Seattle needs from the next SDOT Director + Take the mayor’s survey

Mayor Jenny Durkan announced a national search for the next SDOT Director this week. Interim Director Goran Sparrman will serve in the role through the end of August.

The Mayor’s Office is collecting feedback through an online survey, saying that survey results will guide the candidate interview questions. It’s also a chance for you to think about what you want most from an SDOT Director.

The job could be a pretty tough sell because it might be nearly impossible. Buses are getting kicked out of the downtown transit tunnel next year, and current leadership seems to be bailing on bold plans to get downtown ready. So unless city and transit agency leaders get big plans in the works ASAP, the next director will be walking into a downtown transit crisis.

On top that that monster of a challenge, SDOT is in turmoil. Perhaps the simplest way to put it is that the Move Seattle levy has put more money and more responsibilities on the department than it was prepared to handle. Big projects are spinning out of control, and leadership is already preparing the public for disappointment as they try to walk back many promises to voters for bold walking, biking and transit improvements.

The way I see it, there are two strategies for a new leader to deal with this situation: Continue reading

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Bike lanes are for cars

The opening of the 2nd Ave bike lane.

People do not need bike lanes to ride a bike. People driving cars need bikes lanes to protect them from intimidating or harming people on bikes.

The laws in Washington State are clear. Bikes are vehicles, so people are legally allowed to bike on any street or highway that is not a limited access freeway (I-5, I-90, SR 520, the Viaduct, the Battery Street Tunnel, the upper West Seattle Bridge). You can go out and bike down the busiest street in your neighborhood or downtown or wherever you want at whatever speed you feel comfortable going, and the law says you are doing the right thing.

Let’s wave a magic wand and change people’s driving habits so they fully respect the rules of the road and always pay perfect attention. In this world, even an eight-year-old kid can bike to school going eight miles per hour down 4th Ave or Rainier Ave or 1st Ave S or 35th Ave NE, and every person driving would slow down and patiently wait for opportunities to pass her safely. She wouldn’t be afraid to bike because everyone follows the rules so perfectly. And she wouldn’t need bike lanes. This is a wonderful “vehicular cycling” utopia. Unfortunately, it is fantasy.

In real life, you’ll likely be in for a stressful ride on these busy city streets. People might blare their horns at you. Some may even make a close pass to “teach you a lesson.” Others may pass closely or narrowly avoid hitting you because they are simply not paying attention or for whatever reason don’t feel they need to slow down and wait for an opportunity to pass safely. All these intimidating or dangerous actions are illegal, but the odds the person behaving this way will get a ticket are extremely low. Just because you have a right to bike there doesn’t mean people in bigger, more deadly vehicles will respect that right. For some reason, even otherwise friendly and loving people are capable of treating fellow human beings with such ugliness once they are behind the wheel of a car.

As you might expect, biking in these conditions does not appeal to very many people. In places where biking to get around requires you to bike on such streets, biking rates are very low.

This is where bike lanes come in. From one perspective, a bike lane designates space on a road for people to bike. From another perspective, a bike lane is just enforcing the rights of people biking to safely get wherever they are going without fear that someone driving a car will infringe on those rights. From yet another perspective, bike lanes are necessary mitigation for a destructive and dominating car culture that has overrun our public streets thanks to a century of unbalanced investments to prioritize car supremacy.

If there were no cars, we wouldn’t need bike lanes. Therefore, bike lanes are for cars. Continue reading

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‘Everybody bikes differently.’ RIP SJ

UPDATE: A GoFundMe has been started to help Izzy through recovery, and the WTF Bikexplorers have started a scholarship fund in SJ’s honor to help more people attend their summit.

SJ Brooks was the Founder of the Seattle chapter of Friends on Bikes, a group focused on creating space for women/trans/femme/non-binary people of color to enjoy biking together. Brooks was tragically killed over the weekend in an internationally publicized tragedy.

SJ’s death is a huge loss to our city. At 32 years old, they had so much more to do in this world. Our deepest condolences to their loved ones. And our best wishes go to Izzy, who is recovering. Izzy served a term on Seattle’s volunteer Bicycle Advisory Board a few years ago, helping to guide the city’s bicycle planning.

“Everybody bikes differently,” SJ told Seattle Bike Blog in an October interview about the launch of Friends on Bikes. Looking back through my notes from that interview, that quote really stands out to me as a perfect three-word summation of what bicycle culture should be all about. SJ worked in the bicycle industry on both coasts, from Montreal to Boston to Seattle, and that’s the insight they were hoping to bring to our city through Friends on Bikes.

SJ was scheduled to speak about Friends on Bikes at the WTF Bikexplorers summit in Montana later this summer. The Portland chapter of Friends on Bikes wrote the following about the late leader of their Seattle chapter:

Deeply heartbroken for the loss of SJ Brooks. No words can describe how much they will be missed in FOB, Seattle and the community at large. They were a positive light who worked tirelessly to create change. We’ve suffered a great loss. Please keep their family and loved ones in your thoughts. As well for Izzy who is still recovering. Keep your loved ones close, life is precious.

While media outlets are fascinated by the rare circumstances of Brooks’ tragic death, Seattle needs space to talk about SJ’s life. If you have any stories or remembrances you want to share, either leave them in the comments below or email them to me at tom@seattlebikeblog.com and I will add them to this post.

UPDATES: Continue reading

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Howell: Vaccinate your bike

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Brock Howell of Bicycle Security Advisors. The group is launching a campaign to fight bike theft by getting more people to register their bikes online with Bike Index.

Bike theft is a major problem in Seattle — and I didn’t have to write this sentence for you to know it.  That’s why there’s now a campaign to vaccinate bikes this month, and volunteers will be at fourteen Celebration Stations on Friday morning to register bikes.

Every year, more than a 1,000 bikes are reported as stolen to the Seattle Police Department.  Far worse, based on federal crime reports, the number of bikes actually stolen is likely five to six times what is reported to the police.  With seven percent of people never replacing their stolen bike again, this is a real issue for increasing the number of people who bike.

From May to October, Seattle experiences epidemic levels of bike theft.

Average Number of Bike Thefts by Month, 2008-2017

This isn’t too surprising.  These are the months that people are biking and so their bikes are more vulnerable to theft.

It’s a little like how people are more susceptible to the influenza virus in the winter because their immune systems are weakened by the weather.  Which brings us to how we can attack our seasonal bike theft epidemic. Continue reading

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Bike Everywhere Day is Friday + Where to join a morning ride to City Hall or visit a ‘Celebration Station’

Bike to Work Day 2011 at the Fremont Bridge

The happiest rush hour of the year is just two days away! Bike Everywhere Day 2018 (formerly known as “Bike to Work Day”) is Friday, and the city will be flush with snacks and swag and group rides and smiling faces.

There is usually an extra surge of people in the city’s bike routes, and there is no better day for someone to give biking to work (or school or the park or wherever) to give it a try. Biking gets safer and more comfortable as more people do it.

One great way to participate: Join a group ride to City Hall. Rides are starting all over the city. Details from the event listing:

  • Beacon Hill, Beacon Hill Light Rail Station, Beacon Ave S and Lander St (meets at 7:30 am; departs 7:45 am)
  • Columbia City, Bikeworks, 3709 S Ferdinand St (meets at 7:00 am, departs 7:15 am)
  • Fremont, Florentia & 4th Ave. N. (meets at 7:15 am, departs 7:30 am)
  • Ravenna, Third Place Books, 6504 20th Ave NE, (meets at 7:15 am; departs 7:30 am)
  • West Seattle, Beneath the West Seattle Bridge (meets at 7:15 am, departs 7:30 am)

Or you can make your own way to the 8 a.m. rally outside City Hall, which will include a “surprise action.” Continue reading

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Party for Bike Month Friday, bike for Mighty-O Donuts Saturday

Happy Bike Week!

As Seattle Neighborhood Greenways suggested in a post here Friday, this is a great opportunity to (politely and non-judgmentally) reach out to a friend and offer to help them get on a bike. Maybe that means helping them buy or borrow a bike. Maybe it means helping them get their old bike fixed up. Maybe it means offering to plan a safe bike route from their house to work or wherever they are trying to go. Maybe it means offering to meet them at their house and bike with them.

Or maybe your friend would be more motivated by bagels or donuts or a party. Well, your friend is in luck! All of those are happening this week. Continue reading

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Seattle Neighborhood Greenways: Save the Basic Bike Network

EDITOR’S NOTE: With Bike Everywhere Day a week away, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways has some ideas for how you can get engaged to help get the downtown Basic Bike Network back on track. If nothing else, scroll to the bottom to see their action items. This is a cross-post from their blog.

May is National Bike Month. A month when everyone is encouraged to dust off their bike, pump up their tires and try biking to get to work, school, local businesses, or just for fun. Everyone who wants to bike should be able to because biking can make us happier, keep us healthier, save us money, and reduce pollution.

But right now, too many people find biking to where they want to go scary or uncomfortable. In fact, a lack of safe streets is the number one reason people in Seattle don’t bike more.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Way more people bike in cities that have safe, comfortable, and convenient bike networks. Around the world, cities like Vancouver, Calgary, New York and London have all implemented connected bike networks and seen ridership exploded. Even here in Seattle, when the 2nd Ave protected bike lanes were connected to Pike and Pine, ridership jumped 30% on 2nd Ave. But we still have a long way to go in Seattle.

That’s why we created a vision of a bike network that connects all neighborhoods, starting with our fastest growing “Urban Villages.” Continue reading

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Bike Happy: Flash Mob for Donuts today, & Bike Everywhere Day is next Friday

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


TOP THINGS TO KNOW & DO

  1. This afternoon at 4pm, SDOT is holding a bike+donut flash mob at 2nd Ave & Bell Street. First 200 people on bikes get mini-donuts.
  2. Bike Everywhere MonthWomxn’s Bike Month, and Bike to School Month all continue.  Next Friday is Bike Everywhere Day (formerly “Bike to Work Day”), and there are many celebration stations, rallies, and after parties planned across the city and region.
  3. Sooo much good bike stuff is happening on Saturday.  Two bike movie nights are planned for Tuesday.
  4. The fight over the Burke-Gilman Trail got physical.

Today (5/10), 4pm, 2nd Ave & Bell Street.
First 200 people on bikes get donuts.

Continue reading

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