Mayor proposes smaller transit-funding measure to replace expiring 2014 tax

Following the exciting passage of JumpStart Seattle revenue package, which levies a tax on high-end salaries at large companies to fund an array of COVID-19 recovery and affordability programs, the details of the city’s plan for Proposition 1 to renew the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (“STBD”) is a splash of cold water. While JumpStart Seattle is a bold an progressive measure to invest in the community in new ways, even a successful Prop 1 will be a cut in transit service.

The 2020 Prop 1 measure’s 0.1% sales tax is expected to bring in about half the funding of the previous iteration that voters passed overwhelmingly in 2014. And its primary leaders both opposed JumpStart Seattle. City Council Transportation Chair Alex Pedersen was one of only two “No” votes on JumpStart Seattle, and Mayor Jenny Durkan has opposed the JumpStart Seattle measure.

However, this shortfall in isn’t really the fault of Councilmember Pedersen or Mayor Durkan. The 2014 measure, which expires at the end of the year, included the same 0.1% sales tax in addition to a $60 vehicle license fee that could largely become illegal if the successful I-976 statewide initiative makes it through the courts. The outcome of that case is still up in the air, so it would likely be unwise to pursue a new measure that assumes the courts will overturn the initiative. And the State Legislature failed to provide any new revenue options for transportation benefit districts during their 2020 session, leaving the city with sales tax as the only option available.

Seattle could increase the sales tax to a maximum of 0.2%, but the idea of increasing the most regressive tax source we have at a time when people and small businesses will be struggling financially also seems unwise. So we’re left with simply renewing the sales tax portion of the 2014 measure, and then figuring out how to cut the transit budget even further. It’s a stop-gap measure to try to ease the pain, not a visionary measure to improve how people in Seattle get around.

There was also hope that King County would run a similar ballot measure county-wide, but the county declined to do so. This leaves Seattle to try to save what it can using a limited city-only measure.

There are so many things that are frustrating about this situation, but the biggest frustration is that the STBD was working. In 2015, only a quarter or households in the city were within a short walk of a bus or train that arrived every ten minutes or less. In 2019, that figure was up to 70%, largely due to STBD-funded bus hours. It’s likely that number will go back down under a smaller STBD. And the measure didn’t just add hours, it also invested in capital improvements like bus lanes so that buses that are running are faster and more reliable. Continue reading

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E Marginal Way remake and bikeway heads into final design, construction could begin in 2021

With the fate of the West Seattle Bridge still unknown, SDOT is fast-tracking projects to improve other connections to and around the bridge. That includes the long-planned E Marginal Way remake, which has been a priority for both the Port and people biking and walking between downtown and the lower West Seattle Bridge.

The primary route between West Seattle and the Duwamish Trail and places north of Spokane Street, E Marginal Way can be a scary street to bike on today. It is one big reason more people don’t bike to and from West Seattle more often. Riding on extremely deteriorated pavement with only a painted line between you and big trucks from the Port just is not comfortable for a lot of people.

And those fears are sadly not unfounded. Lance David was killed in 2013 in a collision at S Hanford St with someone driving a semi truck. David’s tragic death and the public call for safety fixes was a major reason this project became a priority for the city, both in the form of some immediate bike lane improvements and adding the street to the Move Seattle Levy for the bigger rebuild they are working on now.

The major design elements are pretty much in stone now that the project is at 90% design, though SDOT is seeking feedback on smaller details like wayfinding and such (survey closes TODAY, July 6). From the Alaskan Way Trail terminus at S Atlantic St to S Horton St, there will be a two-way bike lane on the east side of E Marginal Way. Heading southbound at Horton, people biking will have the choice of either crossing the street at a new traffic signal to a two-way bike lane on the west side of the street to connect to the lower West Seattle bridge or continuing straight to head toward Georgetown:

Design concept of the S Hanford St crossing.The design is the result of a ton of public outreach and conversations with the Port. It may be unusual, but it has buy-in from the Port and local bike advocates like West Seattle Bike Connections.

SDOT hopes construction can start in early 2021 and finish in 2022.

The survey also discusses some rough construction detours. There will be a period of 10-12 weeks when people biking will either need to ride in mixed traffic or share an eight-foot sidewalk with people walking. But the pay-off will be so worth it. Continue reading

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West Seattle safe streets archaeologists unearth long-lost sidewalk

Screenshot from the video. Image shows a person holding a pickaxe standing in the uncovered pathway.

Screenshot from a West Seattle Bike Connections video about unearthing the path.

Safe streets archaeologists in West Seattle made an astounding discovery this month, unearthing a long-forgotten sidewalk and path connecting the Duwamish Trail to some greenbelt trails off Highland Park Way SW.

While waiting for city plans to help ease the negative impacts from increased traffic on Highland Park Way SW due to the West Seattle Bridge closure, neighbors Jodi and Craig started to suspect that the nearby greenbelt may have swallowed a sidewalk many years ago. So they headed out with a shovel and struck concrete (gray gold!) several inches down.

So folks from the Highland Park Action Committee, West Duwamish Greenbelt Trails and West Seattle Bike Connections worked together to excavate the old path, which is gravel in some places and concrete in others.

“While we’ve been waiting for SDOT and SDON to reveal a glimpse of their neighborhood traffic plans and engage us in discussions about biking and walking improvements for the neighborhoods most affected by the West Seattle Bridge closure,” Don Brubeck of West Seattle Bike Connections said in an email, “several people from Highland Park Action Committee, West Duwamish Greenbelt Trails Group and West Seattle Bike Connections have being doing DIY improvements on Highland Park Way. We uncovered a long-buried and forgotten sidewalk that links the West Duwamish Trail to the trails in the greenbelt that go up to South Seattle College and other trailheads.”

New sidewalks can cost millions of dollars per block, so these neighbors just unearthed a public good that is very valuable. How cool is that? Big thanks to everyone involved.

Of course, the forgotten sidewalk is woefully unfinished, lacking accessible ramps or a quality crossing at W Marginal Way. There is not even a connection to crosswalks at the intersection, which suggests that even the engineers who designed the intersection did not know the path was there (or they knew and didn’t care). Continue reading

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What could traffic enforcement look like with no or fewer armed police? SNG task force wants to find out

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways logo, featuring an outline of a tree, a person sitting on a bench, a person running with a dog, a kid riding a bike and a parent riding a bike with kids.Seattle Neighborhood Greenways has created a “Re-Imagining Traffic Enforcement Task Force” to research best practices and organize with community to develop ways to enforce traffic safety without or with fewer police and to rethink which traffic laws are keeping people safe in first place.

As Yes Segura reported on Seattle Bike Blog last week, police in the United States have been tasked with traffic enforcement ever since the dawn of the automobile, and laws developed around traffic enforcement—many during Jim Crow and Prohibition—have eroded the 4th Amendment and provided police with wide discretion when making stops. This has resulted in wide disparities in who is stopped, who is searched and who is killed by police enforcing traffic laws. And it affects people walking, biking, driving and riding transit.

“Traffic enforcement is too often the pretext for armed police to stop Black and brown people, sometimes with catastrophic consequences,” SNG wrote in a blog post announcing the task force. “There must be a better way — but what exactly?”

SNG has a good track record of researching and proposing policy changes focused on safe streets. But improving safety from car traffic doesn’t improve safety from racist police violence.

More details on the task force from SNG: Continue reading

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Use your bike to help your community by joining the Pedaling Relief Project

Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, people have been working to find ways to use their bikes to help meet community needs. Mike Lang and Maxwell Burton have been organizing people with bikes to help transport food from food banks and other food resource programs to people who need it. And their efforts has grown into the Seattle Pedaling Relief Project, a “grassroots, volunteer-run, cargo bike powered crisis response group” with a growing list of opportunities for volunteers to help out.

You can find their volunteer signup forms on their website. There is currently delivery work for El Centro de la Raza Food Bank, Rainier Valley Food Bank and Food Rescue for Byrd Barr Place, but check back as new ones are added. You can also sign up using their general aid form. Cargo bikes are not required, but let them know if you have one.

More details from SPRF:

We are a grassroots, volunteer-run, cargo bike powered crisis response group on a mission to strengthen the already existing mutual aid networks in our local communities. We work in community with our partner not-for-profits to extend their reach and connect more and more families and individuals to the resources they need.

Our volunteers transport produce from p-patch gardens and urban farms to neighborhood food banks. We also organize rides for volunteers to deliver directly to community members on behalf of food banks. Ride distances and time commitments vary. We welcome anyone who is available to get out and pedal. We can also hook volunteers up with equipment.

We’ve emerged during these particularly hard times in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, we’re in this for the long haul. White supremacy is and has been the crisis. We recognize the greater systemic disasters out there and we are on a mission to dismantle structural oppression—combating food insecurity in the meantime. We believe bicycles are a tool for empowerment. We invite you to use the tools you have to help us increase food security in our area. We look forward to meeting you!

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SDOT pilots a car-free Lake Washington Blvd through Tuesday, announces more Stay Healthy Streets

Map of the Lake Washington Blvd keep moving streetLake Washington Blvd has been the most-requested street for the city’s car-free and car-light street projects, which started as a response to the COVID-19 outbreak and the need to create more space for people to safely distance while getting some exercise or fresh air. And now SDOT and Seattle Parks are experimenting with what is basically a five-day-long version of Bicycle Sunday, closing the street to cars between Seward Park and Mount Baker Beach.

The pilot, dubbed a “Keep Moving Street” project, is among the city’s most ambitious projects yet. Unlike the city’s “Stay Healthy Streets,” which follow slow residential neighborhood greenway routes, Lake Washington Blvd is not a particularly low-traffic street, though nearly all homes and destinations have other route options. People can still drive on the street to access their homes and get deliveries, and people are already very familiar with how this works because Bicycle Sunday has been happening every summer for half a century. So there is a lot of community buy-in already.

The street is also a huge and, hopefully, high quality expansion of open space in south Seattle, where the city has long neglected to invest in safe streets and open public space. The existing walking path along the lake is far too skinny for people to pass each other while giving at least six feet of separation, so the open street provides that space. Continue reading

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Saturday: Peace Peloton rides to support Black-owned businesses

Peace Peloton event poster. Details in post.The third Peace Peloton ride meets 10 a.m. Saturday at Central Cafe and Juice Bar in the Central District. At noon, the ride will travel ten miles before ending at Fat’s Chicken and Waffles. If you plan to attend, fill out their RSVP so they can tell businesses how many people to expect.

More details from the InGaj website:

MISSION

Economic reform for Black people

VISION

  • Recruit a critical mass of mission aligned demonstrators on bikes

  • Take routes through historically Black neighborhoods, landmarks, and points of interest

  • Support Black owned businesses at the start, along the way, and at the completion of each route

  • Repeat

RIDE DETAILS

This ride demonstration will be a casual, no drop, round-trip, supported journey through Seattle neighborhoods totaling about 10 Miles with approximately 600 feet of elevation gain. To help expedite the purchase process, please bring cash.

Read more…

You can support the Peace Peloton financially in person or by donating to paypal.me/InGajCycle. You can also sign up to volunteer.

Peace Peloton organizer Doc Wilson spoke with Paul Tolmé at Cascade Bicycle Club about the genesis of the rides and why they are focused on economic reform: Continue reading

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Mayor delays more bike projects from her already-slashed and delayed bike plan

Chart comparing showing the city budget shortfall and how the city hopes to plug the mising funds.

From a presentation on Mayor Durkan’s proposed budget rebalancing (PDF).

Mayor Jenny Durkan and SDOT have paused $58.3 million worth of projects as the department attempts to deal with the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak on the municipal budget. The cuts represent about 8% of the department’s adopted budget with safety and transit projects hit much harder than car-centric projects.

The full extent of the pauses is not yet known, though the department did list some specifics in a recent blog post. At least two safety corridors, two Safe Routes to School, six Bicycle Master Plan improvements (half of which are in South Seattle), the community-led Your Voice Your Choice program (mostly safety projects), and a bunch of multimodal and sidewalk projects have been delayed. The City Center Connector Streetcar is paused and, let’s be honest, is probably doomed. And many transit-focused projects in the Seattle Transportation Benefit District have officially been held pending the final I-976 decision.

In comparison, only one arterial paving project has been paused, and it is part of a transit project, too. In several cases, the car-centric parts of paving projects will continue, but the safety and sidewalk elements have been cut. And because Mayor Durkan built almost no bike projects in the first half of her term, these latest delays come right as progress on the city’s bike goals was finally getting under way.

Here’s the list as described in an SDOT blog post: Continue reading

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Why do armed police enforce traffic laws?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes Segura was already researching the role of policing in traffic enforcement before I started working on this story. So I worked with him over the past week to put this piece together. As the city opens the police budget to scrutiny, it’s vital that we look back to our history to learn how police ever got involved in traffic enforcement in the first place. Before diving into the budget details, Seattle should take a big step back and ask some for foundational questions about the racist web of a criminal justice system we have created and how traffic enforcement is very often the point of entry for Black people and people of color who get caught in it.

Old photo of Seattle Police with a line of cars.

Seattle Police cars from the National Police Journal, December 1919.

Protests are happening in Seattle and throughout the world in solidarity to support Black lives. This Civil Rights movement comes from the recent videos and stories of Charleena Lyles, Manuel Ellis, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tony McDade, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown and the endless list of BIPOC lost to police violence  #SayTheirNames.

The City of Seattle is one of many cities considering defunding police, but what exactly does that look like within transportation? Police enforcement within transportation has  sustained racial inequity. From biking to riding the light rail to taking the bus to walking and to driving, police power is ingrained into every mode of transportation. Here’s the catch though, if you are not Black, Indigenous, and or a Person of Color (“BIPOC”), you haven’t faced what it’s like to be disproportionately targeted by the police just because of the color of your skin. It means you could be facing life or death, and if it isn’t death it’s likely going to be a life burden in some form or way.

What is traffic enforcement?

The most common form of transportation policing can be found within traffic enforcement. And many of the people named above were killed during contacts with police officers that started either genuinely or in the guise of a traffic-related stop.

So why did our society task armed police with traffic enforcement in the first place? Sarah Seo, Associate Professor at the University of Iowa College of Law and author of Policing the Open Road, writes that in cities across the country police were called to respond to the quickly rising death, injury tolls, and congestion that came from the introduction and mass production of cars in the 1920s. Seattle was no different, calling for more police to help control traffic around the same time as our last great pandemic.

“One division which is rapidly growing both in volume of business and in importance is the Traffic Division,” writes G.G. Evans in “The Police Force of Seattle, Queen City of the Northwest” in the December 1919 National Police Journal (self-proclaimed as “America’s Greatest Police Magazine). “The enormous increase in the number of automobiles makes the relief of congestion an urgent problem and one requiring traffic attention.” The National Traffic Officers’ Association held its 1919 meeting at Seattle Police headquarters (they would pass a resolution supporting mandatory turn signals on cars).

In that same article, Evans writes that “the country had been infested by a notorious half-breed murderer” and then praises Seattle Police Chief Joel F. Warren for arresting 200 “lewd women” in a “house-cleaning” effort before soldiers from Camp Lewis came to the city for leisure. Just to give you an idea of the horrifically racist and sexist mindset back when Seattle Police was first dramatically expanding their traffic patrol efforts along with police departments across the nation.

During this time cities also justified the widening of roads and more paved roads as a way to solve congestion. Of course induced demand increased congestion only to reinforce the idea of further increasing police forces and further widening roads.

The wave of traffic from cars also brought about a tsunami of traffic laws. By criminalizing dangerous driving, nearly every person who drove became a potential criminal (the flow of traffic is very often well above the speed limit, for example). By then outlawing jaywalking, nearly every person who walked became a potential criminal, too. This all raised serious constitutional questions, especially related to the Fourth Amendment’s protections against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” For example, a traffic violation has become enough probable cause to stop people, question them, search their cars (or pockets) and run their names through police computers. At any point, something entirely unrelated to traffic can happen. Officers could mistakenly think (or claim to think) the person was reaching for a gun (Philando Castile), officers could not appreciate the tone of the person they stopped and get violent (Sandra Bland), officers could spot something in the backseat they claim is related to drug use, officers could discover that the person has a warrant out from some previous case or from unpaid tickets, etc. There are so many ways a simple traffic stop can turn into something much bigger, whether that’s immediate violence or getting trapped in the criminal justice system. Continue reading

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Bike share is back. Lime relaunches 500 JUMP bikes

Photo of a row of Lime and JUMP on the sidewalk of 2nd Ave Ext just north of Jackson Street.

Lime’s green bikes are gone, but now the company owns JUMP and its formerly-competing red bikes.

Lime has relaunched e-assist bike share in Seattle, about six weeks after pulling their newly-acquired red JUMP bikes from the streets following a major investment deal with Uber.

There are far fewer bikes hitting the streets than were available before. At its peak, there were nearly 10,000 shared bikes in operation in Seattle, and the city’s permit structure anticipated as many as 20,000 bikes back when multiple companies were competing for users just a couple years ago. Lime is only bringing 500 bikes to start with, but said that number could “grow based upon demand,” according to a press release. The price has also gone up substantially from $0 to unlock plus 25 cents per minute to $1 to unlock plus 36 cents per minute. So a 30-minute ride costs $10.80.

Though Lyft has applied for a permit to launch a competing bike share service in Seattle, there has been no indication that the company intends to follow through. So JUMP is unlikely to have competitors, at least until the city starts to permit scooters as it hopes to do soon. That permit has been tied up in litigation, though the Seattle Hearing Examiner ruled in the city’s favor May 28. It’s not yet known if there will be further appeals.

For now, the bikes are only available through the Uber app. The service area still includes the entire city limits.

Lime killed their own e-bike service at the end of 2019. Then in early May, Uber made a significant investment in Lime at a dramatically-reduced valuation. As part of the deal, Lime took on Uber’s JUMP bike share service, previously known as Social Bicycles. Lime immediately pulled the existing bikes from service and scrapped them. But they promised a fleet of new JUMP bikes were coming.

More details on the launch, from Lime: Continue reading

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Protest statements from local transportation orgs

Organization logos.As massive protests against racist and brutal policing pass the half-month mark, the City Council has passed some significant limits on police weaponry and use of chokeholds. The Council is also developing major changes to the city budget through new revenue from a potential new tax on large businesses and through cuts to the existing police budget. There’s a long way to go and a lot of work left to do, but the Council is so far pointing in the right direction.

So how about the region’s transportation advocacy organizations? The protests have made many individuals and organizations look at themselves and question their own roles in maintaining or fighting systemic, institutionalized racism. Here’s what Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, Cascade Bicycle Club, Transportation Choices Coalition and Bike Works have said in recent weeks: Continue reading

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The Seattle Bike Brigade keeps protests safe, but doesn’t want the spotlight … so why am I writing about them?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Seattle Bike Blog supports the demands led by the King County Equity Now Coalition, including dropping charges against protesters, defunding Seattle Police, and investing in Black-led community organizations and community safety.

The Seattle Bike Brigade has been serving an important supporting role in recent protests, helping to control traffic and form barriers when needed to create and protect space for protests and keep people safe.

I have avoided writing about the Brigade so far because its clear that they do not want to be the center of attention. They don’t typically speak to the media, for example. The Brigade is there so that the protesters have the space and protection to make their statements. The Bike Brigade is part of the protest, but it’s not about the Bike Brigade and it’s definitely not about bikes. It’s about the demands of the movement. Bikes are just the versatile tool that make the Brigade’s work more effective. From the Seattle Bike Brigade sign-up form:

WE DO share clear info that supports and follows trusted Black leaders calling to defund police as part of an abolitionist framework, maintain the pressure and momentum of this movement, and prioritize protecting BIPOC bodies (especially youth).

WE DON’T work with police, spread misinformation, or talk to the press. If tactics in the streets become escalated, we ensure BIPOC bodies are protected and not left vulnerable.

We also organize horizontally with other organizations because collaborative, decentralized movement can effectively take advantage of the energy, militancy, and momentum of this movement while still protecting BIPOC leadership. Email [email protected] if you have connections we could share!

(Wondering why we support defunding the police? Find out more at bit.ly/sbbdefund101)

In some ways, they are pulling tactics long used for large bike rides like Critical Mass, such as corking intersections ahead of marches to prevent people from trying to drive where people are marching. By stopping in front of car traffic, they remove any doubt that the road is closed. They can also quickly form a barrier if needed for any reason, whether to protect the rear of the protest group or to help create space between protesters and a militarized police line.

But while the Brigade isn’t seeking attention, many protesters and organizers have recognized their work anyway. Continue reading

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Saturday: The 2nd Peace Peloton will ride to Black-owned businesses, promote economic reform

Peace Peloton event poster: Economic reform for Black people. Join us for a peaceful demonstration on bicycles in support of the Black owned businesses. The second Peace Peloton ride starts 10 a.m. Saturday at Tougo Coffee on Yesler Way near Broadway. Organized by Doc Wilson, the first Peace Peloton drew more than 300 people for a ride from Alki to the CD. Wilson hopes to host the rides weekly.

Saturday’s ride will go through Yesler Terrace, downtown, Lower Queen Anne, South Lake Union Capitol Hill and the Central District. Organizers ask that you fill out an anonymous RSVP so they can give businesses a heads up on how many people might show up.

Details from the InGaj website: Continue reading

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Noon Thursday: Ride For Justice with Estelita’s Library

Poster image for the ride for justice featuring a drawing of a raised fist with bicycle wheels. Details in the story text.

Dress in black, grab your bike and join the Ride for Justice noon Thursday at 23rd Ave S and the I-90 Trail. The ride will end at Cal Anderson Park.

Details from event organizers Estelita’s Library, a non-profit “justice focused community bookstore and library” on Beacon Hill:

You think we’re stopping – Nope!!
For those in Seattle. Estelita’s Library – Justice Focused Community Bookstore &…and our community are organizing a Bike For Justice Protest. We will not stand for the injustices we see — we are bringing every community we are a part of out to the streets until change happens!
Thursday at 12pm.
Meeting at the 23rd Ave S & I-90 Trail and take to the streets to ride to Cal Anderson Park! Wear Black!
Help with supplies, donate: http://bit.ly/2BJcHvL
Share far and wide!

What: Protest by cyclists throughout Seattle to demand justice for the police violence of Black folks, indigenous folks, and POC

When: Thursday 12PM June 11, 2020

Meeting Place: Grassy Area @ 23rd Ave S & I-90 Trail riding to Cal Anderson Park

What to Bring: Your bike (road, mountain, BMX, any other) & wear black!

Organizer Edwin Lindo expanded on the demands of the ride in a post: Continue reading

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City Councilmembers show the leadership our city needs + Mayor Durkan should resign

EDITOR’S NOTE: Seattle Bike Blog supports the Defund Seattle Police effort initially led by a large group of community organizations and leaders, including No New Youth Jail, Decriminalize Seattle, Block the Bunker, Seattle Peoples Party, COVID-19 Mutual Aid, Trans Women of Color Solidarity Network, BAYAN, La Resistencia, PARISOL, CID Coalition, Asians for Black Lives, APICAG. View the demands and sign on here. King County Equity Now has more demands and proposals from Black-led community organizations, including specific ways to invest in Black community.

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda wearing a mask amid a large crowd of people recording a video on her phone.

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda pleads with SPD Chief Carmen Best to deescalate a tense stand-off Saturday. Screenshot from King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay’s Instagram stream. Video of a separate face-to-face interaction with Chief Best, which I watched live and reference in the story, is not posted to his account.

Saturday night, King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay streamed an extraordinary live video from the front lines of the protest at 11th and Pine on Capitol Hill as he and other elected officials desperately tried to convince the Seattle Police to deescalate and stop attacking the crowd.

The police had already attacked the crowd once that evening, using violent flash-bang grenades and “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Tear Gas” on thousands of people in Seattle gathered to stand up for Black lives and call for deep change to the police department. Omari Salisbury of Converge Media filmed the police violence from the front lines, and officers hit him with a flash-bang grenade while he was trying to tell them that there was a person in a wheelchair in the area they were about to attack. Police bombed the medic station, an act of exceptional evil amid an overwhelming show of violence. The attack was a police riot, carried out seemingly to hurt people of Seattle who are critical of their violence. It was unhinged and undemocratic, the act of a police state.

After the attack, Salisbury called for elected officials to join the front line. And many answered the call. Seattle City Councilmembers Lisa Herbold, Andrew Lewis, Teresa Mosqueda and Dan Strauss joined along with State Senator Joe Nguyen and State Representative Nicole Macri. As the police took an aggressive stance, clearly preparing to attack again, King County CM Zahilay’s stream showed these leaders standing up for the protestors. At one point, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best approached the barricade and spoke to the elected leaders face-to-face while they desperately tried to convince her to deescalate the situation and get her officers to move back and stop their attack. At first it appeared ineffective, but the police eventually stood down.

It was an extraordinary display of leadership, but it should not take a line of elected officials to stop police violence against a crowd of people. It was clear in that tense moment that Mayor Jenny Durkan either did not have control over the Police Department or she wanted them to attack. Either way, she showed that she should not be Mayor of Seattle anymore. Thankfully these other elected leaders were there to do the job she should have done.

Throughout the night, protestors chanted “Jenny Durkan must resign!” Seattle Bike Blog agrees. For the good of the City of Seattle, Mayor Durkan must resign. Continue reading

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Noon Saturday: Ride in the ‘Peace Peloton’ starting in Alki

Promo image with photo of a large group of people with bikes. Peace Peloton. June 6 2020, 12PM. Alki Beach Park in Seattle.The Peace Peloton will ride 20 miles around the city from Alki Beach to the Northwest African American Museum in the Central District Saturday to “bring awareness to and bring about positive change for black, brown, marginalized, and disenfranchised populations in our city through, Economic, Public Health/Healthcare, and Criminal Justice reforms,” according to organizer Reginald “Doc” Wilson.

The ride will start at noon Saturday and move at a causal, no-drop pace. The ride will be one-way to central Seattle with no organized return to Alki.

Wilson and Major Taylor Project Founder Ed Ewing went on the Ron and Don Show this week (Episode 113, conversation starts at the 6:00 mark). Definitely give it a listen.

Ride details from the InGaj website:

When: Saturday, June 6 @ 12:00PM

Where: Alki Beach Park Bath House (Corner of Alki Ave. SW and 60th Ave. SW)

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Mayor Durkan failed

EDITOR’S NOTE: Seattle Bike Blog supports the Defund Seattle Police effort being led by a large group of community organizations and leaders, including No New Youth Jail, Decriminalize Seattle, Block the Bunker, Seattle Peoples Party, COVID-19 Mutual Aid, Trans Women of Color Solidarity Network, BAYAN, La Resistencia, PARISOL, CID Coalition, Asians for Black Lives, APICAG. View the demands and sign on here. We support the protestors and respect the risks you are taking to speak your truths and hold government accountable.

Tear gas causes respiratory distress, severe pain and skin irritation. It could also make the effects of covid-19 worse. Pepper spray causes extreme pain and terrifying temporary blindness. Flash-bang grenades explode, and can cause serious burns, abrasions and permanent hearing loss. Seattle’s Community Police Commission recommended against using them four years ago, a reform the Seattle Police Department decided to ignore.

Seattle Police have employed all these weapons against people of Seattle many times in recent days. Their use is indiscriminate, disproportionate and often without warning. The police use of these weapons has escalated tension into chaos and preceded Saturday’s fires and property destruction shown on screen across the city and nation.

Seattle Police seemed somewhat successful at spinning the story of Saturday’s initial use of these weapons, saying that some members of the crowd were throwing things at them. And Mayor Durkan fully supported their actions. Meanwhile, people on the ground have said consistently that the crowd was peaceful when SPD officers fired these weapons.

When Mayor Jenny Durkan spoke Sunday, she reserved her words of sadness for the property that was destroyed. She did not express empathy for the hundreds of people who were hurt by her police force the evening before. The use of these weapons against people has been so normalized that it hardly seemed worth commenting about, as though they were acceptable civilian casualties in a war zone. Go file a complaint, she said to anyone who was a victim of or witnessed police misconduct. And 10,000 complaints were filed just about problems Saturday.

Her speech was hopelessly out of touch and callous. As someone who has reported about Seattle government for the past decade, my immediate takeaway after watching was that her mayorship is over. She had failed her basic duty to prioritize the health and rights of the people of her city, and she had grossly underestimated the power of the people in the streets.

The city needed someone who would stand up for people who are hurting, whether from the immediate pain of police weaponry or the generations-deep pain of violent racism. The city needed her to declare changes, both in the way her police would respond to future protests and in policies and laws governing policing in general. Instead, she offered some platitudes about systemic racism before defending SPD and showing more empathy for panes of glass than people’s lungs, eyes and basic rights to freedom of speech.

She then went further to limit people’s rights to assemble by declaring a bizarre and confusing city-wide curfew, curbing every resident’s rights and giving SPD more excuses to escalate to violence. And she did this because SPD asked her to, she said.

This is exactly the opposite of what our city needed. We needed our mayor to stand up for our rights and create space for freedom of expression. We needed our mayor to create space for real change. Instead, she tried to shut it down.

But she failed to stop it. People kept gathering to protest racist and violent policing, and they had no respect for her curfew. Nor should they. She lost public confidence.

Mayor Durkan’s speech Sunday was the biggest test of her term as mayor, and she failed. It was a chance to do the right thing and learn from the mistakes of the night before, to deescalate tensions and to layout a clear path for change. Instead, she doubled down on Saturday’s mistakes. Because of that failure, Monday happened. Continue reading

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‘Safe streets’ must include safety from racist police

Right now, Seattle’s Police Department and Mayor Jenny Durkan are trying to get out of a Federal consent decree in place since 2012 following a pattern of police violence. The current Seattle Police contract is not in compliance with the consent decree, the courts have decided, especially when it pertains to review of police misconduct. And while documented police “use of force” incidents are down since 2012, this work is no where close to complete.

Without a system of police misconduct review that the public can trust, our city is telling people of color that they are on their own if they encounter a racist police officer. The city is also telling people that they are not interested in firing their racist officers, so the odds of encountering one are significant. When we talk about “safe streets,” well, those streets are not equally safe for everyone. People of color are more likely to be injured or killed in traffic collisions and more likely to be wrongfully searched, injured or killed by police.

Watching scenes of destruction in Minneapolis reminds me of the last time I saw property destruction in the streets: A Seattle “sweep” of encampments in the International District that brought out protestors to watch as city workers chucked people’s belongings into a garbage truck. Our city is not providing adequate shelter for folks without homes. Our city is not providing places for people to store their belongings. Our city is not providing trash receptacles and pickup so people without homes can get rid of their trash properly (if citywide trash pickup stopped running, everyone’s homes would quickly fill with garbage just like many encampments). Our city is not providing enough places for people to take a shower, go to the bathroom or wash their hands. But our city will send staff to throw away people’s things and tell them to go somewhere else.

This system tells anyone without a home that they and their property are not safe or welcome in our city. So again, when we talk about “safe streets,” our streets are not equally safe for everyone. People experiencing homelessness are at increased risk of being seriously injured or killed in a traffic collision and they are at increased risk of being victims of a violent crime, victims of police violence and loss or destruction of their personal property. And people of color are more likely to experience homelessness.

As a white man who is privileged enough to write about biking and traffic safety as my job, I do not do enough to actively fight against inequality and racism in our society. It’s too easy to hide in the safety of my skin color and just focus on people riding bikes. Sometimes it’s an escape from the horrors of what is happening in our world. I can’t see that video again, so instead I’ll spend a few hours in a spreadsheet analyzing bike counter numbers. Sure, the bike counter numbers are interesting, but my privilege allows me the luxury of that escape.

Or maybe I will escape by going for a bike ride or walk. Maybe I’ll even go to one of our city’s car-light Stay Healthy Streets. But again, whose “health” are we protecting? I have the privilege of only worrying about car traffic as a threat to my safety.

In the video of Derek Chauvin murdering George Floyd, there is a green bike lane painted on the street in the background. It, of course, did nothing to stop this murder. There’s no reason why it would have. That makes it a strong visual metaphor for the effectiveness of a safe streets advocacy that does not actively fight white supremacy. The goal cannot be to simply repaint the lines on the streets where police kill Black people.

If you are a white person reading this, it’s on us to fight racism every day starting with racism inside us. Only by understanding the ways our white supremacist society has embedded bias within us and provided us privileges can we take action to fight against it. Simply “not being racist” isn’t enough, as Tamika Butler put it in a powerful and devastating blog post this week. Read the whole thing. We are lucky to have strong leaders of color, but white people cannot leave the work of dismantling racism to people of color. A post like this is generous, and it’s the job of white people to do the work and take risks to speak up and stand up against racism. An excerpt:

I’m exhausted. I’m out of words. I really need white people to do more than just say they’re fighting for justice. I need them to get up every day and repeat and ask themselves five questions and really face themselves and their answers. I want them not just to lean in, but to live in, to an urgency to do more. I want them to sit with these things and not turn away when they hear themselves say the answers:

  1. Do I understand that not being racist isn’t the same as being anti-racist?
  2. Why am I so afraid to be brave enough to confront my power and privilege?
  3. What am I waiting for to decenter whiteness and realize just because I have never experienced it (or seen the research to prove it) doesn’t mean it isn’t real?
  4. What am I doing every single day to force myself to think about racism and white supremacy?
  5. What am I doing every single day to stop the killing of black people?

For further reading on how race and biking intersect, read Dr. Adonia Lugo’s Bicycle/Race: Transportation, Justice, and Resistance. She also spoke about her book this week for a Microcosm Publishing live stream.

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With the upper West Seattle Bridge closed, bike trips across the low bridge are higher than non-outbreak years

Chart shoring the change in bike counts in 2020 vs the 2014 through 2019 average on the Spokane Street Bridge.As we already saw in our previous post, the covid-19 pandemic has totally scrambled the typical ridership data collected by Seattle’s 24/7 bike counters. On the Fremont Bridge, for example, total ridership is down about 20% compared to the 2013-19 average, but weekend ridership is up a stunning 71%.

But the Spokane Street Bridge, the low bridge to West Seattle, has a more complicated story because the city closed the high bridge March 23 due to concerns about cracking and damage. As a result, biking has become the most reliable way to get across the Duwamish River for many residents.

The bike counts show that bike volumes tanked in March as the shutdown hit and many people either lost their jobs or started working from home. This was the same pattern seen in many other counters in the city. But then the high bridge closed, and bike trips in April were even a bit higher than Aprils without a pandemic. You can see the daily bike trips increase after the bridge closed:

Chart showing daily Spokane Street Bridge bike counts in 2020. Continue reading

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Alert: Lower Spokane Street Bridge will close overnight May 29-31

Map of the closure.The lower Spokane Street Bridge to West Seattle, a vital lifeline for the neighborhood since the upper West Seattle Bridge closed, will itself close for evening-to-overnight work Friday, Saturday and maybe Sunday. That means anyone biking will need to detour to the 1st Ave S Bridge. Yikes.

And unfortunately, the closures are scheduled to start rather early. Friday, the bridge will close at 8 p.m., but then Saturday it starts at 6 p.m. That might be early enough that people working daytime shifts won’t be able to get home before the closure begins. And if you’re working nights, well, sorry. Hopefully, Sunday’s closure won’t be needed at all, but if so it will also start at 6.

The work is to maintain the bridge’s “controls and communications systems that are used to operate the bridge.” So that sounds important. It would have been great if work could have started later in the evening. But if it prevents a mid-day closure later, then it’s definitely worth it.

From SDOT: Continue reading

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