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  • Workgroup recommends slowing speed camera expansion until equity issues are resolved

    Circular logo with text "Our Streets" and an illustration of a crosswalk.

    Speed cameras can reduce speeding and collisions while simultaneously bringing in funds to make permanent physical safety improvements to streets. And they can do all this without involving an armed police officer, sidestepping the issue of biased policing. Or at least, that’s how it is supposed to work.

    Whose Streets? Our Streets! is “a BIPOC-focused workgroup” that Seattle Neighborhood Greenways convened in 2020 to “use a pro-equity, anti-racist framework to review laws and practices related to transportation in Seattle,” according to the group’s press release (see full text below or in this PDF). They are “asking the City of Seattle to put the brakes on expanding its automated speed camera program until critical equity issues are resolved.”

    The problem is that biased policing isn’t the only source of injustice baked into our city. Communities of color are also more likely to live near streets with high rates of speeding dues to a long list of historical injustices such as redlining, segregation and so-called “urban renewal” projects like freeways and their related high-traffic collector roads. At the same time, our city and state departments of transportation have historically neglected to make street safety improvements in communities of color.

    The result is that communities of color are more likely to have streets designed to encourage speeding, such as streets with too many lanes that are too wide. These are the kinds of streets most likely to give out automated speeding tickets, which means that a disproportionate share of speed camera tickets end up going to people of color. It’s a classic example of trying to create a “color-blind” system that actually just reinforces existing inequities. Instead, it will take intention to craft a speed camera policy that is both effective and fair.

    Whole Streets? Our Streets! has produced a report documenting the problem and suggesting ideas (PDF). More details from their press release:

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  • Port finished trail work in less than one day

    Images courtesy of the Port of Seattle

    The Port of Seattle’s Interbay detour ended up lasting less than one day rather than the originally-announced 5-day closure. And the result is a much smoother trail surface. Tree roots poking up from below had made the stretch of the Elliott Bay Trail through the Interbay rail yard very bumpy and jarring.

    As we reported in our previous post, the trail detour exposed Interbay’s serious lack of safe walking and biking options. The Port responded to concerns about the detour by making the closure as short as possible, which was great. But Seattle needs to take a serious look at Interbay’s dangerous and uncomfortable streets as the area becomes more and more of a destination rather than only an industrial area with a highway-style road through it. Sound Transit’s light rail line to Ballard will serve Interbay, and the streets need to be friendly for people outside of cars before that happens. And it is going to take a lot of work to get there.

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  • Pedaling Relief Project nears milestone: Hauling 1 million pounds of local food bank donations by bike

    A half dozen people biking up a hill with boxes of food on trailers or cargo bikes.
    A Pedaling Relief Project crew riding for Byrd Barr Place in June 2021.

    Seattle Bike Blog has been cheering on the Pedaling Relief Project since it first started as a “disaster relief” effort to help food banks handle the tumultuous period when the COVID-19 pandemic began. With many people suddenly out of a job and social distancing requirements complicating the usual methods for distribution, food banks had to scramble to not only meet demand but also invent new ways of getting food to the community.

    Since then, PRP has grown substantially and is now a year-round fixture at many food banks around the area. And as Cascade Bicycle Club noted in a recent blog post, the project is nearing an incredible milestone: 1 million pounds of donations all hauled by bike. A million pounds! That sounds like a number you would make up if you were exaggerating. It’s equal to about 100 elephants or 5 fully-loaded 737 Max airliners or 10 average American houses or 1 cumulus cloud.

    It gets truly humbling when you take a step back, though. In a time when our society’s most selfish assholes and grifters are given the disproportionate share of public attention they crave, food bank operators and volunteers (whether working inside or on their bikes) have been innovating on the fly to actually help people and make their communities stronger and healthier. They have developed a reliable, efficient, expandable and emission-free logistics system capable of moving a million pounds of necessary goods. And they didn’t require any new tech. Bicycles, simple trailers and teamwork is all it took. Well, and a lot of organizing by Maxwell Burton.

    Each location’s PRP group is always welcoming of new riders, making it a great way for people to get involved in their community and meet some other wonderful volunteers. It’s also really fun. You don’t need a trailer or cargo bike to participate. Learn more and sign up on the PRP weekly volunteer page. Here’s a video from a recent Food Not Bombs food rescue ride:

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  • Oregon considers bill to make it easier to fund school bike buses

    Transportation is a major challenge for school districts across the country, and Seattle is no exception. Bus driver availability and funding is a major deciding factor setting school walk zones and start times. Organizing student transportation is a huge undertaking, and lacking transportation can be a barrier for school access to some families.

    A large group of elementary age kids biking to school.
    A small part of a giant bike train to Seattle’s Bryant Elementary on Bike-to-School Day 2013.

    House Bill 3014 in Oregon State offers an interesting idea for at least easing some of the challenge by building on one the city’s most positive success stories in recent years: Bike buses. The city has a long history with bike buses, but P.E. Teacher Sam Balto (AKA Coach Balto) has elevated the effort by leading weekly bike buses and documenting them in fun and inspirational TikTok videos. In short, a bike bus is just a group bike ride to school that travels a set route at a set time so kids can bike with the added safety and fun that comes with riding together. Parents and organizers handle intersection safety, corking to allow the group to pass through together. It’s wonderful.

    Oregon’s HB 3014 would allow schools to fund alternative school transportation efforts like bike buses and receive reimbursement from the state’s school transportation program. I am not familiar enough with Oregon State law or the state of its larger school transportation system to comment on that bill’s text specifically, but the underlying idea is very interesting. Read Bike Portland’s story for more details on the politics behind the bill.

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  • Alert 6/5-9: Port is repairing Interbay Trail bumps + Planned detour has very tight squeezes – UPDATED

    Two people bike past a sign warning of the upcoming detour.

    One of Seattle’s most unique bike routes threads a path through the middle of the Interbay rail yard, at times squeezed just a few feet and a chain link fence away from rail lines. In terms of width, condition and amenities, this section of the Elliott Bay Trail is far from Seattle’s best bike route. But the fact that it exists at all is somewhat amazing.

    The Port of Seattle, which operates the trail, is making some much-needed repairs to the bumpy trail surface June 5–9, and there is no room in this constrained trail corridor for users to squeeze by the work zone.

    UPDATE: The Port wrote in an email to Seattle Bike Blog that a favorable weather forecast means they hope to limit the closure to 20 hours starting early June 7.

    That means trail users will need to detour from a trail that has no good detour options. The Port has posted signs outlining their detour plan, so I gave it a test ride.

    Without any additional signage, these instructions are both confusing and missing very important details, especially heading northbound. Hopefully the Port will install step-by-step detour signs. I followed the instructions heading northbound, turning right at the crosswalk and right at the Galer Street Flyover, which put me here:

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  • Crosscut: Seattle Police are leaders in violent use of bikes during protests

    Seattle Police with bikes in the foreground watch a large crowd of marchers, many holding signs with MLK's face.
    Seattle Police on bikes keep an eye on the 2013 MLK, Jr, Day march.

    In our car-dominated American society, using a bicycle as transportation is a very positive thing to do both on a society-wide level and especially on a personal level. Obviously, as someone who rides a bike as my primary mode of transportation and writes a daily bike blog, I love bikes and view them as great and wonderful things.

    But bikes are just tools, and they hold no inherent virtues or morals. They are most often used by people getting around in a healthy, fun and emission-free way. But as Seattle Police have demonstrated, bikes can also be used for violence. While bike patrols at one point were using bikes more as a way to cover more ground more quickly and nimbly than an officer on foot or in a car, the bike has increasingly become a military-style tactical weapon officers use along with body armor, pepper spray and other crowd-suppression tools used to combat protests. Crosscut and Type Investigations published a story about SPD’s use of bikes that looked into these more violent uses (they also made a podcast-style version of the story).

    “There was some thinking that bicycle units are somehow going to be better because it seems softer,” Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Center for Protest Law & Litigation, told Crosscut. “But we have seen bicycle units act with extreme violence, attacking en masse, throwing their bikes down and charging crowds of people.”

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