First Hill safe streets champion and TCC Director Alex Hudson is running for City Council District 3

It is officially the middle of declare your candidacy for City Council season, and I’m sure many more are on the way. Open seats tend to draw a lot more candidates than races with an incumbent, and Districts 1, 3, 4 and 5 are all open seats this year. The August primary ballot could be a long one.

While Seattle Bike Blog won’t have a post about every new candidate, a particularly notable candidate entered the District 3 race yesterday: Transportation Choices Coalition Executive Director Alex Hudson. Before going to TCC, Hudson was Director of the First Hill Improvement Association and played a major role in negotiating the “Community Package” of investments as part of the Convention Center expansion project. That package included funding a series of protected bike lanes, including sections of Pike and Pine Streets as well as the currently-under-construction 8th Ave project.

Hudson is also proudly car-free, which is always a big plus in my book. When is the last time we had a fully car-free Councilmember? And through her work at TCC, she is one of the leaders of the current effort to decriminalize so-called “jaywalking” statewide.

This is not an endorsement of Hudson. It is far too early for that. Her opponents so far include Ry Armstrong, Andrew Ashiofu and Joy Hollingsworth, but that list will likely grow quickly. Candidates also need time to put together their transportation platforms, especially if they don’t come from the transportation advocacy world like Hudson (though Ashiofu’s campaign website already includes calls for bike lanes among other safety and multimodal priorities as well as noting support for the Move All Seattle Sustainably Coalition). Additionally, Seattle Bike Blog endorsements are not just based solely on whether we agree with a candidate. They also need to demonstrate the ability to lead an effective campaign and grow a supporter base, skills needed both to win an election and to be effective at passing bold policies once in office.

However, it is great news that transit and safe streets will necessarily be a significant part of the Council 3 race now that Hudson’s presence all but forces the issue. As we noted in our post about outgoing Councilmember Kshama Sawant, District 3 always goes the hardest for local transportation measures, including the Move Seattle Levy in 2015 and all the Metro and Sound Transit votes. Bold transportation measures that prioritize walking, biking and transit win by overwhelming landslides in District 3, a fact candidates would be wise to note. With the Move Seattle Levy expiring at the end of 2024, the new City Council will play a major role in determining the scale and priorities of the replacement funding package that will likely go to voters at the end of next year. We will be looking for someone who wants to go as big and bold on transportation funding as possible.

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Friday: Critical Mass will ride to Dexter/Thomas to hold a vigil for Jaahnavi Kandula + Defunded safety project had been more than a decade in the making

Project map showing improvements on Thomas Street between 9th and 5th Avenues North.

Project map for the now-defunded east segment of the Thomas Street Redefined project, which would have build a traffic signal at Thomas and Dexter.

Jaahnavi Kandula—a 23-year-old student from Adoni in the Andhra Pradesh state in India who was studying at the South Lake Union campus of Northeastern University—was walking across Dexter at Thomas Street in a marked crosswalk when a police officer driving an SPD SUV struck and killed her shortly after 8 p.m. Monday evening.

Our condolences to her friends and family.

A GoFundMe set up to support Kandula’s family had raised more than $140,000 at the time of publication.

Seattle Critical Mass announced via Instagram that their Friday ride will head to Dexter and Thomas to hold a vigil for Kandula. Riders will meet 6:30 p.m. in Westlake Park. People can also go directly to the fatal location to wait for riders to arrive. More details from Seattle Critical Mass:

This Friday, January 27th 2023, we are going to hold a moment of silence and vigil for Jaahnavi Kandula at Dexter Ave North and Thomas Street. A 23 year old community member who was killed after being hit by a police officer in a speeding squad car. It has finally come out that Kandula was crossing from east to west in the crosswalk when she was hit!
Sadly this isn’t the first vigil we’ve held. It really hurts that Critical Mass knows all the steps to put these on. That means so many of our friends and family have passed on Seattle Streets.
Like always, emotions are high!
Let them show through your voices! Be honest with yourself and look out for one another. Critical Mass is a safe place to express yourself. With that said, violence of any kind will not be tolerated.

Details from police about what exactly happened have been limited. The post on the SPD Blotter noted only that the officer was driving northbound on Dexter in a marked patrol vehicle when he struck Kandula as she walked westbound in the crosswalk. The Traffic Collision Investigation Squad reports often take a while before they are released. This incident is likely to get extra public interest since a police officer was behind the wheel, which means TCIS will be investigating the actions of a fellow officer. You can listen the police radio recordings from the incident online (overdose call starts at 8:00 PM, and the first mention of the collision comes at 8:05 PM), though there are not many more details in the audio.

Dexter/Thomas has a sad and frustrating history

This will unfortunately not be the first memorial for someone killed in traffic at Dexter and Thomas. Mike Wang died there while biking home from work in July 2011 when Erlin Garcia-Reyes struck him with an SUV and then fled the scene. Along with Adonia Lugo and Davey Oil, I helped organize a memorial ride in 2011 that included Dexter and Thomas. It was an experience that changed my life by forcing me to come to terms with the scale of the heartache and pain traffic violence causes for entire communities of people every time someone is lost.

Dexter has since been significantly redesigned, with SDOT adding protected bike lanes and attempting to reduce the effective width of a very wide street that was once envisioned as the grand boulevard into a new civic center that the city never built. With the opening of the new SR-99 tunnel in 2019, Thomas Street was reconnected and became a major walking and biking route between South Lake Union and Seattle Center. With the urging of then-Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, neighbors and SDOT drew up plans to improve the walking and biking environment on this new street as part of the Thomas Street Redefined project. The project website still lists the “interim schedule” for the planned “Dexter/Thomas Protected Intersection” as slated for completion in early 2021, but the project was delayed under Mayor Jenny Durkan as the pandemic understandably threw many city projects off their pre-pandemic timelines. Mayor Durkan tried to cut the project’s funding in the 2021 city budget, but advocates fought the cut and the City Council voted to restore its funding. The city then tried to divert the Thomas Street funding to pay for the Stay Healthy Street program, but the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Boards pushed back to protect the project. The project was never prioritized, however, and as Publicola reported, Mayor Bruce Harrell cut $2.2 million from its funding in his 2023 budget. This time, the City Council did not restore it. The most recent update on the east segment, which includes a traffic light at Dexter, was posted in February 2022. Its “target project schedule” would have had Thomas Street under construction starting in 2022 and extending through 2023.

It should not be this difficult for the people of Seattle to convince the city to invest in safer streets. Organizing over and over to try to save the same short safety project is exhausting. We have known for a decade that Thomas Street would become a primary walking and biking route once the old highway trench leading to the defunct Battery Street tunnel was filled in. I first wrote about what was then called the “Thomas Green Street” 12 years ago, writing, “We need a street from South Lake Union to Seattle Center and Queen Anne that, at its core, exists at a walking and biking pace.” At the time, there was no funding to build the concept, but the idea was to have the redesign in place by the time the streets were reconnected. That didn’t happen, and now it is once again unfunded. Neighbors and safe streets advocates will surely organize once again to try to convince city leaders to make Thomas Street the safe and inviting walking and biking route it should already be, but this time they will do so with broken hearts.

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Seattle Transportation Plan open houses will discuss the next decade of bicycle infrastructure

The bicycle and e-mobility map from the Seattle Transportation Plan.

Stitched together screenshots (large image) of the interactive online bike network map from the city’s survey.

Map key: Long trips (orange): A network of travel ways that support longer trips to other neighborhoods. They are designed to accommodate high volumes people traveling at varying speeds. Short trips (blue): A network of travel ways that support shorter trips within a neighborhood to connect to parks, schools, transit, grocery stores, and neighborhood centers that meet daily needs. Multi-use paths or trails (green): Facilities located off the street that may be used by people biking, walking, rolling, running, skateboarding, and more. These may be used for long trips, short trips, and recreational use.

Color-coded key for the map above.

After extensive public outreach throughout 2022, the Seattle Transportation Plan is moving to the next phase as the team attempts to create a single map and plan that represents the city’s vision for the next decade or so of transportation investments.

As happens every time the city asks the people of Seattle about their vision for our transportation future, people respond with strong support for transit, walking and biking.

97% of respondents said the city should “prioritize creating a transportation system that is safe and comfortable for everyone” while 91% said they “support putting money towards sidewalks, bike lanes, etc., to help people walk, roll, and bike more.” The city also received 6,317 different comments on their first online feedback map, and 1,800 of those were specifically about needed bike improvements. You can read more about the responses in the Phase 1 outreach summary (PDF).

In Phase 2 of public outreach, the team “will share what we heard from you during Phase 1 and show how your input is guiding the plan’s vision, goals, and objectives.,” according to an online survey that is open through February 21. “Please share how you want to get around in the future, what actions you would like us to take, and what you’d like to see in our draft transportation maps.”

In addition to the online survey, you can also attend one of two open houses:

  • 1/28: Seattle City Hall (600 4th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104) Bertha Knight Landes room (11am–2pm)
  • 1/31: Seattle City Hall (600 4th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104) Bertha Knight Landes room (4pm–7pm)

Cascade Bicycle Club has put together some talking points people can use during the open house and in your comments: Continue reading

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Friday: True Loves play free show to celebrate cycling, climate action + Bike Works fundraiser tickets on sale

Seattle’s fantastic True Loves are playing a free all-ages show 6 p.m. Friday at The Royal Room in Columbia City to “celebrate our community of cyclists, activists, and other environmentally-conscious supporters and friends who work to curb the affects of climate change.”

Bike Works is asking adults to register online in advance and to let them know how many minors they are bringing so they know how many people to expect. The Royal Room will have food and drink to purchase.

And if you appreciate Bike Works, you can toss them some bucks while registering. You can also buy tickets to their annual fundraiser April 30, which are now on sale at early bird prices. If you’ve never been to Bikecitement!, it really is a lot of fun even if you aren’t usually a fundraiser dinner kind of person.

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WA bill would ban right turns on red near schools, parks and other highly-walked areas

A car waits to turn at an intersection with people biking in a protected bike lane and walking in a crosswalk. There is a no turn on red sign.Turns on red would be banned within 1,000 feet of certain places, such as schools, parks, hospitals, senior centers and other public facilities if Senate Bill 5514 passes during the 2023 State Legislative session. The bill—sponsored by Senators John Lovick, Rebecca Saldaña, Noel Frame, Derek Stanford and Marko Liias—is the first attempt in recent memory to ban turns on red in Washington State, a practice that became widespread across the U.S. under dubious pretenses during the Gerald Ford Administration.

Local transportation departments can already choose to ban turns on red on an instance-by-instance basis if traffic engineers deem it appropriate. They just need to post a “No Turn On Red” sign for each turning location. The new law does, however, put additional onus on local jurisdictions to ban turns on red in highly-walked areas, stating that turns on red must be banned at any facility “with high levels of pedestrian traffic as determined by the appropriate local jurisdiction or the department of transportation.”

Agencies will still need to install “No Turn On Red” signs at all relevant locations under the proposed bill. It does not seem to give local governments the ability to ban all turns on red with a simple ordinance. So this could be a good time to pursue your dream of starting a “No Turn On Red” sign-making business.

The bill would also ban turns on red within 1,000 feet of certain locations statewide and require transportation agencies to install the appropriate signs. The itemized list includes:

  • Elementary or secondary school;
  • Child care center;
  • Public park or playground;
  • Recreation center or facility;
  • Library;
  • Public transit center;
  • Hospital;
  • Senior center;

From my reading of the bill, drivers can only be held responsible for breaking the law if there is a “No Turn On Red” sign present. The bill as currently written also seems to only apply to right turns on red. This is a little confusing since I would assume the same principles also apply to left turns on red, which are generally legal at certain somewhat rare locations where two one-way streets intersect. They could likely revise this by simply dropping the word “right” and just saying “turns on red.”

The bill is an interesting take on the issue, trying a significant yet still more gradual tactic than simply banning the practice statewide. But it’s not clear if the state even can ban turns on red thanks to the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975, an act sponsored by Washington Senator Henry M. Jackson. The EPCA did a lot of things in response to the 1970s oil crises, such as creating the strategic petroleum reserve, regulating the energy consumption of consumer goods and creating some fuel economy rules. But the act also required states to allow turns on red if they wanted to receive federal money for conservation programs, so all 50 states quickly adopted the practice.

But the idea that allowing turns on red would help conserve fuel has always been rather dubious, especially when you consider that allowing the practice made crosswalks significantly less safe and less comfortable for people walking and rolling. It also increased the risk of right hook collisions with people biking. Turns on red essentially make it legal for people in cars to take time and space that should rightfully belong to people walking and rolling. We have all gotten used to people in cars encroaching into our precious crosswalk space even when we have the walk signal, but it shouldn’t be this way. Banning turns on red is a big step toward giving crosswalks back to people walking and rolling.

The practice is even more concerning in recent years as major carmakers push larger and taller cars onto the public, many of which have horrifically obscured visibility directly in front of the vehicle. Walking around Seattle with my kid, who is currently 3’6″, it is terrifying to watch people pull up to a crosswalk in a modern SUV and to realize that the drivers simply cannot see her. The front ends of some of these machines essentially blocks drivers’ views of all or most of the crosswalk. My kid keeps seeking more independence, and I trust her to make the correct decisions about when to cross the street. We have been practicing for years, and she is very good at waiting for the walk signal and then looking both ways to make sure all the cars really are stopping. I walk with her, but I let her make the decision about when to go and when to wait. I have not needed to step in to correct her in a long time. But even if she does everything correctly, it is beyond her control if the person driving through the crosswalk to turn on red is physically incapable of seeing her because of reckless and irresponsible design decisions by major car manufacturers. It’s heartbreaking that kids do not have a fair chance to move around their own neighborhoods just because they are the height of a child. Banning turns on red is an appropriate and needed response to the reality that so many vehicles on our roads have such poor front-end visibility. U.S. vehicles are no longer compatible with turning on red.

It’s difficult and likely impossible to quantify exactly how much excess fuel has been burned because our nation’s crosswalks were sullied by turn on red laws in 1970s, but I am willing to bet the figure is far larger than the supposed fuel savings from car engines idling less. After all, giving more time and space to cars leads people to drive more. And taking time and space from people walking makes people walk less. Walking does not burn any oil.

So if we decide, as I hope we do, that Washington needs to ban or severely limit turns on red, what is the best way to get there? Given that generations of drivers have been driving with legal turns on red, maybe installing “No Turn On Red” signs at every intersection really is the best way to achieve the goal. We’re talking about an enormous number of signs here. But I’m not sure that trying to change the law without the signs would work as well. After all, we are trying to change the behavior, not just make it illegal. So I say, let’s get those sign shops to work.

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Councilmember Sawant expanded what is possible in Seattle

Group of six walking down a sidewalk together.

Kshama Sawant on a walk to discuss safe streets issues in 2015.

Kshama Sawant, the City of Seattle’s most tenured elected official, will not run for reelection after a decade in office.

Seattle Bike Blog has endorsed Sawant consistently since she pulled a remarkable upset to unseat Richard Conlin during the 2013 election, a seat elected citywide at the time. Despite Council terms typically being four years long, the 2023 election would have been her fifth election in just ten years thanks to the move to Council Districts in 2015 and a failed recall in 2021. Despite all these attempts to force her from office, Sawant is now stepping down on her own terms.

Sawant rarely made transportation issues her primary focus, but she was a long-term member of the Council’s Transportation Committee who was a consistent vote in favor safe streets and transit. Even though her transportation votes are not going to be the moments she is widely remembered for, her many years of support added up to make a real difference for safe streets.

But her larger and longer-lasting impact on Seattle will be the way she proved that our city was willing to vote for big changes. Her election in 2013 was probably the most impactful election in decades because it completely shook up the assumption that the voters ultimately sought change that was slow and gradual. Does the city pass a $15 minimum wage without her election? Sure, the Mayor Ed Murray version was watered down compared to what Sawant was advocating, but I doubt it would have happened without her winning. Would the city have gone as big with their funding initiatives, such as the nearly $1 billion 2015 Move Seattle Levy, if Sawant hadn’t demonstrated the population’s willingness to go big at the ballot box? What about Sound Transit 3? Big ideas that might have been considered a dream before Sawant were taken more seriously afterwards.

Her departure opens the District 3 Council race for the first time ever, which could lead to a fascinating race. This is the district that typically goes the hardest for every transportation funding initiative, for example, so there is a lot of room for a candidate with a very bold vision prioritizing walking, biking and transit.

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State Routes lead Washington’s horrible increase in deaths of people walking, biking or rolling

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission has put together a new dashboard breaking down the conditions surrounding traffic deaths of people walking, biking or rolling. The data covers ten years from 2012 through 2021 (2022 data is not yet finalized), and there are some undeniable trends that point to the problems.

First off, the worst chart in the whole dashboard shows that walking, biking and rolling deaths are trending in a horrible direction (the state uses the term “active transportation users” abbreviated “ATU”):

Chart of fatalities per year showing a gradual growth from a low of 61 in 2013 to a high of 159 in 2021.This chart represents an emergency. 2013 was not exactly some stone age distant past for Washington State, and yet its total of 61 deaths was nearly a third as many as in 2021. 2013 may be an outlier, but it’s evidence that such a number is achievable as a very short-term goal with zero of course being the long-term goal.

Map of Washington State with blue dots marking each fatality location. There are clusters around each population center with more dots spread along major highways. Most dots are in the Puget Sound region.A look at the overview map of fatality locations shows that the Puget Sound region is the epicenter of the crisis, which makes sense because it is also the largest population center in the state. The map also shows that deaths tend to follow heavily populated corridors along highways. This doesn’t mean the deaths are all on the highways themselves, but they tend to be near them.

Charts comparing deaths by road type between 2013 and 2021.

Seattle Bike Blog annotations are in red.

Continue reading

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King County’s interim Green to Cedar Rivers Trail will include rail bridge between Maple Valley and Black Diamond + Survey

Map showing the South Segment A interim trail route.

The South Interim Segment A trail route, from King County Parks.

King County Parks is working through design for building and improving an interim trail connecting the Black Diamond Open Space to SE Kent-Kangley Road in Maple Valley, and they are seeking feedback via a short online survey. Responses are due January 20.

The Green to Cedar Rivers Trail should eventually connect to the Green River to the south, including a connection to SE Green Valley Road and Flaming Geyser State Park. It should then travel through Black Diamond and Maple Valley before connecting to the Cedar River Trail near SR-18. Parts of this route already exist to varying levels of usability, but the full build out is not yet fully funded.

Improvements to the northern section of the trail, from Kent-Kangley Rd to the Cedar River Trail, have been put on pause in lieu of building an interim trail on the southern section. This makes a lot of sense because the southern connection currently ends abruptly at a rail crossing north of Black Diamond.

The interim trail will be 12 feet wide and paved using very bikeable hard packed gravel. The trail will also include “safe crossings at intersections,” according to King County. But perhaps most importantly, they will build a bridge over the rail line to connect Maple Valley and Black Diamond.

Concept image of a bridge over a railroad.

Continue reading

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I have angered the bike gods

Yesterday, a flat tire deflated our plans. Then this morning, the chain broke on the way to preschool drop-off. I have clearly angered the bike gods, and must repent.

Oh, great Velocideity, your judgment is fair and righteous!
Forgive me my trespasses and restore your bountiful graces.
Lead me not into the glass shards and shelter me from thine rain.
If you bless my humble wheel, I shall cycle afar in your name!

UPDATE: My prayer was rejected. In fact, it only made Velocideity more angry. My rear wheel was stricken with two completely separate holes from two different pieces of glass just hours after posting this. I am filled with regret and fear.

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2023 MLK Jr Day Rally and March details

The Seattle Martin Luther King Jr. Organizing Coalition will host its 40th annual Martin Luther King, Jr., event today. The rally starts at 11 a.m. in the Garfield High School Gym, and the march begins at 12:30 p.m. in front of Garfield High School. More details from the Coalition:

Poster with expressionist illustration of King's face and text: 40 years of continuing King's mission. January 16, 2023. Workshops Jan 16 in person 9:30-10:50am at Garfield High School. Rally 11am Garfield High School Gym. March 11am Garfield High School.

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SDOT is reopening the Spokane Street Bridge, will remove 1st Ave bike lanes Saturday

Map showing the Duwamish Trail connection staying in place, the 1st ave bike lanes being removed and the spokane street bridge reopening.After three weeks stuck in its waterway-priority position, the Spokane Street Swing Bridge to West Seattle will be usable again this afternoon. SDOT noted in an announcement that it should be fully open by 2 p.m. today (Friday).

This is fantastic news for people who have faced a very long detour via the 1st Avenue Bridge several miles south in Georgetown ever since the swing bridge broke during the winter storm in the days before Christmas.

Sadly, this also means the end of the 1st Ave S emergency bike lanes, which made biking between Georgetown and Spokane Street safe and comfortable for the first time in modern memory. I hope the city gathered useful data from the experiment regarding its impact (or lack thereof) on traffic, vehicle speeds and bike volumes. Seattle Bike Blog has argued for bike lanes on 1st Ave S since the development of the Bicycle Master Plan in 2012–14, and having the opportunity to experience them only solidifies their potential. SDOT staff and Mayor Bruce Harrell deserve a lot of credit for building something quite extraordinary in just a few days. A lot of people worked hard, including during the holidays, to make that happen.

You still have one final evening to go ride the lanes yourself before crews remove them Saturday. They make Georgetown and other 1st Ave businesses feel so much more accessible and connected.

The city will not be removing the Duwamish Trail connection along the west side of West Marginal Way SW, which connected the Alki Trail near the Spokane Street Bridge to the Duwamish Longhouse and the Duwamish Trail. This trail connection has been in the works for years and has already gone through a lot of public outreach. It was nearly implemented in the weeks after the upper West Seattle Bridge closure, but the Jenny Durkan administration chose to delay it. So while this Spokane Street Bridge closure has been rough, a connected Duwamish Trail is an excellent parting gift.

More details from SDOT: Continue reading

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SDOT’s new gravel pits under the Ballard Bridge baffle riders, more changes coming ‘in 2023’

Person biking the wrong way rather than follow the city's intended route to cross the tracks. Yellow barriers direct people to make a sharp turn.SDOT completed work on an “interim” redesign of the problematic track crossing under the Ballard Bridge for people attempting to bike the Missing Link of the Burke-Gilman Trail, but the new gravel pits sporadically placed in the area seems to be baffling riders rather than helping them.

People have been crashing on the train tracks consistently for decades as they try to navigate through industrial Ballard after the abrupt end of the Burke-Gilman Trail, and a group of eight injured riders filed a lawsuit against the city last year (full disclosure: Washington Bike Law advertises on Seattle Bike Blog but had no input into this reporting). There are many hazards in the Missing Link area, but the tracks under the Ballard Bridge are the worst. Many people have been seriously injured — left with everything from broken bones to head injuries — after crashing while trying to cross the tracks, which have wide and uneven gaps on either side of them that can surprise riders by grabbing their tires or otherwise knocking them off-balance.

The safest way to cross the tracks is to move across head-on at a right angle rather than trying to merge across them, and SDOT has redesigned the marked biking paths several times in an effort to encourage right angle crossings. The problem is that the designed turn is too sharp, so people cut the corners to make it more comfortable. So the department’s short-term solution was to … dig gravel pits?

The idea was to “make the correct route more apparent,” according to an SDOT spokesperson (see full statement below). Since people kept crossing at shallow angles within unevenly paved areas rather than follow the designated bike routing, the department’s hope was that the gravel would deter people from riding through those areas. But it didn’t work.

Person biking between the tracks through the gravel.I observed people using the new routing for about 20 minutes on a surprise sunny day Tuesday, and a majority of riders in both directions ended up in the new gravel pits. I would estimate that only about 1 in 5 riders followed SDOT’s designed route, and at least one of them seemed unsteady while making the sharp and slow turns necessary to stay within the lines. There was no clear consensus on the best route through the area, and I saw people do all kinds of things. I sketched out a few of the more common choices on this SDOT diagram showing the interim design concept:

top-down diagram of the gravel pits and preferred bike route with lines showing my observed routes. Continue reading

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SPU plans temporary bikeway during Stone Way overflow pipe construction starting late January

Map of the detours showing the primary detour route via N 40th Street, Wallinford Ave N and N 34th Street.

General purpose traffic detour map. Crews will maintain a walking and biking paths through the construction area. Map from SPU.

Seattle’s least-discussed megaproject is coming to Stone Way in Fremont/Wallingford, but crews have plans to maintain space for biking and walking.

Seattle Public Utilities’ Ship Canal Water Quality Project is estimated to total $570 million, a cost that could still increase before it is complete, the Seattle Times reported. The project will build large new tunnels and catchment basins designed to prevent “combined sewer overflows” that happen when rainwater overwhelms the sewer system and sends raw sewage into Puget Sound. Eww.

Part of the project involves a new facility at 35th Ave N and Interlake near the Evo bike shop as well as a new pipe traveling from that facility under 35th and Stone Way. These streets will be closed to general traffic, but a bikeway and sidewalk will remain open along the east side of Stone Way throughout construction. An SPU project manager reached out to alert to Seattle Bike Blog to the upcoming work (thanks, Stephanie!). Construction is set to begin as early as January 30. Details from SPU:

SPU’s contractor will periodically close the north portion of N 34th St, near the intersection of Stone Way. These closures may make the bike lanes on Stone Way N inaccessible from the south. Cyclists will be asked to detour to other north-south streets or dismount bicycles to travel along crosswalks and sidewalks around the work area. Our contractor will try to schedule N 34th St closures at night, but some daytime closures of N 34th St will be necessary. We will continue to share more information about cycling detours on our project website and email updates.

Despite being such a large project largely located along the Burke-Gilman Trail route, SPU has really set the standard for bike detours. A few years ago, they detoured the trail in Fremont, and it was reliable and comfortable. This is also the project that has been responsible for the trail detour near the Ballard Fred Meyer. Obviously, it’s not as nice as having the trail open, but it works and is reliable. So I’m hopeful the Stone Way detour will meet the same standard.

The biggest impact will likely be for people who bike on the detour route, which follows N 40th Street, Wallingford Ave N and N 34th Street. Expect big increases in traffic there. In fact, it might even make sense to take Stone Way if it ends up having lower traffic thanks to this project. Also be ready for increased traffic on other nearby side streets like Woodland Park Ave N, N 36th Street (SPU/SDOT might want to protect the Troll from detour traffic) and Interlake Ave N.

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Watch: Biking around and feeling hopeful for 2023

Ride with me as I ramble about some reasons why I think 2023 will be a good year. And please let me know if you like this format for future videos.

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Neighbors create detailed plan for how the 15th Ave NW paving project can ‘Reconnect Ballard’

SDOT’s most recent plans for the department’s 15th Ave NW repaving project, which includes the Ballard Bridge, would make very few if any tangible safety improvements for people biking. But neighbors are organizing in an effort to get some key safety improvements added to the $16.2 million project.

Ballard-Fremont Greenways created an effort they call “Reconnect Ballard,” a detailed document (PDF) filled with good idea for making the area around the project safer for all road users while also improving safety and accessibility for people walking, biking and rolling. It also includes relevant citations to Seattle plans and policies — including the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plans and the Complete Streets Ordinance — that the project currently fails to meet. You can send a letter to elected leaders and SDOT staff supporting Reconnect Ballard using their handy online tool. You can also complete SDOT’s online survey before it closes January 13 (Friday), though it is more to give them data for minimizing construction impacts and does not directly address safety improvement.

In the SDOT project page’s frequently asked questions section, the answer to why there are no bicycle improvements in this project is short: “Bike facilities on the Ballard Bridge are outside the scope of this project.” Seattle’s complete streets ordinance begs to differ, however, however, stating that “SDOT will plan for, design and construct all new City transportation improvement projects to provide appropriate accommodation for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and persons of all abilities, while promoting safe operation for all users.” The ordinance includes a list of exceptions, but none from my reading would preclude most of the suggested improvements in the Reconnect Ballard document. If I’m reading it correctly, the project will need “documented exception” from the Director of Transportation to move forward legally.

Perhaps the biggest single project addition Ballard-Fremont Greenways seeks is to add a crosswalk signal at NW 51st Street to help people cross the pseudo-highway. The group also suggest building a railing on top of the barrier between the roadway and the sidewalks. They also have ideas for creating a safe crosswalk at W Emerson Street for people using the west sidewalk on 15th. The most recently-released 60% design would leave the notorious “merge of death” in place, which is frankly unacceptable and one of the more clear-cut examples of how the project does not meet the legal requirements in the Complete Streets Ordinance.

Google Street View image of the so-called merge of death, a cut out in the cement barrier between the sidewalk and street. Someone trying to continue south would need to walk or ride in traffic.

Anyone using the sidewalk who wants to continue south on 15th must use this cutaway in the barrier to do so. A “Yield to Bicycles” sign feels rather feeble in the presence of the Merge of Death. Via Google Street View.

Their proposed solution would be something like this: Continue reading

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Trail will remain open during weekend 520 Bridge construction

Overview map of the final design plan for the Montlake area, featuring a trail via a landbridge over 520 and a trail tunnel under Montlake Blvd.

The final design for Montlake once construction is finally complete in a few years. From WSDOT.

The trail on the 520 Bridge will remain open this weekend even as all lanes are closed to motor vehicle traffic. That motor vehicle closure is scheduled to extend from 11 p.m. Friday (today) until 5 a.m. Monday.

If you’ve never biked across the 520 Bridge when there is no car traffic, I highly recommend it. Stopping mid-span is so much more peaceful and quiet, the kind of mid-lake experience you can usually only get on a boat. So this weekend you can bike to Georgetown via the 1st Ave S temporary bike lanes, then head all the way up to a car-free 520 Bridge. Sounds like a pretty great set of weekend plans to me.

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SDOT’s emergency bike lanes are glorious

A truck passes a line of cones. Downtown Seattle is in the background.

I’m pecking this post out on my phone from beneath the West Seattle Bridge after biking SDOT’s temporary, emergency bike lanes on 1st Ave S and on W Marginal Way, and I’m just beaming. It’s so good. Everyone involved should be commended.

Like, I just biked through Georgetown to the start of the Alki Trail, and it felt comfortable, easy and fun. It’s such a powerful experience to have a part of the city you’ve lived in for so long suddenly become available to you. There are so many businesses along 1st Ave I have never even seen before. And Georgetown has never felt closer and more connected to the center of the city.

It’s wild to witness a sea of orange traffic cones on 1st Ave, but they are absolutely working. Crews were still out making adjustments Thursday, but it felt fully operational. And traffic was moving just fine. I didn’t notice any backups at all midday when industrial businesses rely on lots of truck movements. Aside from the glaring orange everywhere, it felt right.

I’ll update this post with more photos and a walkthrough later today, so stay tuned. But for now, I suggest heading down to SoDo to go for a bike ride, a sentence I’ve never written before.

UPDATE: Below is the updated detour map and some more photos and a walkthrough of some of the detour elements.

Continue reading

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20 year old charged with vehicular homicide and hit and run for killing Robb Mason

Claudia Mason holds a photo of Robb during a Critical Mass memorial.

Claudia Mason holds a photo of Robb during a July Critical Mass memorial ride.

Mohamed A Yusuf, a 20 year old living in West Seattle, faces counts of vehicular homicide and felony hit and run after allegedly striking and killing Robb Mason with his Hyundai Elantra while Mason was biking in a crosswalk just south of the Spokane Street Bridge in July.

Robb Mason, a massage therapist from West Seattle, was 63 when he was killed. Since the tragedy, there have been multiple memorial rides for Robb, and his wife Claudia has made powerful calls to improve safety. Our condolences to Claudia and all of Rob’s loved ones.

Prosecutors accuse Yusuf of driving more than 50 mph in a 25 mph zone and crossing the double yellow centerline before striking and killing Robb. He slowed briefly before fleeing the scene.

The charging and probable cause documents give a brief outline of how investigators found Yusuf and claim that he admitted to hit and run though posts on Snapchat. His vehicle was identified through “several road cameras and significantly a Metro bus’s forward-facing camera.” Investigators also used Ring camera video and audio to capture what prosecutors claim was Yusuf “telling someone he was driving ’55mph.'” They also obtained his phone and claim to have found searches for “hit and run death of cyclist” and evidence that he was reading news articles about the event including one in which Claudia pleaded for the person responsible to turn themselves in.

It is important to note that charging and probable cause documents are nearly always incomplete, so more information will likely come out as the case moves forward. Yusuf has not yet been arrested and has been summoned to appear at an arraignment January 9, West Seattle Blog reported. The Seattle Times posted the charging and probable cause documents (PDF).

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Transportation Chair Pedersen will not run for reelection + What this means for the next levy and for the rest of 2023

Councilmember Alex Pedersen will not run for reelection to represent Seattle’s District 4, he announced this week. He joins Lisa Herbold in District 1 and Debra Juarez in District 5, who have also stated publicly that they will not run for reelection this fall when the seven Council District seats will be up for election.

But it’s not just District 4 that will get a new leader. Pedersen is Chair of the Transportation Committee, and 2024 will be an enormously important year for that committee. The Move Seattle Levy expires at the end of 2024, and Mayor Bruce Harrell and the City Council Transportation Committee will need to replace that funding if they want to avoid an enormous cut to the transportation budget. This likely means sending a package to voters on the 2024 ballot. The next Transportation Committee Chair will have a lot of influence over the shape and scale of transportation investments in Seattle into the 2030s.

Seattle City Council committee assignments are two-year terms, so Pedersen is set to chair the Transportation Committee through the end of 2023. This year will also see a lot of very important work, including delivery of a backlog of safety projects that voters funded through the Move Seattle levy as well as major work to craft the Seattle Transportation Plan. The STP will form the basis for the next transportation funding package and will include a framework for prioritizing project selection such as where to install bike lanes. If 2024 is the year to sell a transportation vision to voters, 2023 is the year to craft the vision the city hopes to sell.

This is not the time to write a post-mortem on Alex Pedersen’s time on Council because his most important work is still ahead of him. The Seattle Transportation Plan could be his longest-lasting legacy from his time on Council. It currently scheduled for passage in summer 2023.

If someone else on Council has their eye on the Transportation Committee Chair, then they may want to make sure the STP includes the vision they want to present to the public in 2024.

Pedersen is also freed from the burden of reelection, which means he can help craft a transportation plan that he will not be tasked with selling. The Move Seattle levy was crafted under the guidance of Transportation Chair Tom Rasmussen, who chose not to seek reelection in 2015 but was in the chair position to see the funding package through both development and voter approval. The previous levy did see split leadership with Richard Conlin as chair of the Transportation Committee through 2005 but Jan Drago taking the chair in 2006 when the Bridging the Gap levy was passed. Conlin was still on Council in 2006, though, so it’s not exactly the same situation.

In the 2019 election, Pedersen defeated Shaun Scott by 1,386 votes or 4.25 percentage points. So he was not in a particularly comfortable position for reelection. He has also been largely quiet, doing very little to rally around his policy priorities and achieve big legislative wins. In contrast, he had spent years leading up to his successful 2019 election building community relationships through his newsletter and through knocking on doors to talk to people. He put in the real-life work and planning needed to win his seat. This is why he won when every other “business-backed” candidate in 2019 lost as the amount of PAC spending backfired and turned into a negative for candidates who received it. His path to the Council was different from any other candidate, and it is simplistic to try to put him in a box with anyone else. He is not out to blow up agendas or lead a counter-movement against the Council majority. He does not owe his seat to corporate interests.

I hope that Councilmember Pedersen uses his final year on Council to seek out a handful of achievable and genuinely good things that he can get passed. I think he could find friendly faces among people and groups that might otherwise be gearing up to support an opponent, and could work together with them to make our city better. I’m not suggesting Pedersen and progressive transportation orgs will suddenly be aligned on everything, but that no longer matters because he is not running for reelection. Instead, they can pick some issues they agree on and work together to make positive changes that will mean something for our city and its people.

As the then-new Councilmember told Seattle Bike Blog during a meeting at Irwin’s Cafe in Wallingford in January 2020, “I am really excited now as Councilmember to let my actions speak for themselves.”

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SDOT will begin installing ‘temporary protected bike lanes’ in SoDo this week

Map of the detour with a sidewalk connection on W Marginal Way to 1st Avenue S, then a temporary bike lane on 1st to Spokane Street, then a sidewalk connection on Spokane Street.

Map of the detour plan from SDOT.

SDOT will create temporary bike lanes to fill a gap in the Duwamish Trail and to improve safety on a significant stretch of 1st Avenue S in SoDo while crews work to repair the Spokane Street Bridge to West Seattle. Work will begin Wednesday.

As we wrote in a post last week, “Creating two miles of new bike lane is not a small feat, but these are the moments where SDOT and the city’s elected leaders can rise to the challenge and show the people they can do great things.” If the city nails the design here and creates a safe, connected and comfortable bike lane on a wide industrial street, it would be a triumph. I can’t think of another temporary bike route project of this scale in Seattle, especially one built in such a short timeline. The department will be observing the temporary lane to learn how to do it better during future closures, according to the post on the SDOT Blog: “Creating this temporary bike lane detour will help us to be more agile and able to consider similar detours during planned low bridge closures and at other locations.”

The Duwamish Trail connection on W Marginal Way just south of the Spokane Street Bridge has been in the works for years and has already gone through extensive public outreach.

The SDOT Blog post does not include a diagram of the planned bike lanes on 1st Avenue S, but there is a description that includes 1,700 traffic cones. I created an estimated graphic of what the street might look like once the lanes are in place:

Design sketch using Streetmix showing the existing layout with 16-foot lanes in parts of the road.

Design diagram for 1st Ave S with temporary bike lanes as described in the SDOT post.

Design diagram by Seattle Bike Blog based on SDOT’s description. The measurements and other details are estimated.

This lane represents a serious sense of urgency within SDOT to address a bike safety problem, and it is probably the single biggest project to date entirely overseen by Mayor Bruce Harrell’s new SDOT Director Greg Spotts. The details will be important to make these traffic cone bike lanes work, including the details of how intersections function and whether the cones get knocked over and moved. So stay tuned, because Seattle Bike Blog will definitely be out riding these lanes as soon as they are ready.

More details from the SDOT Blog: Continue reading

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