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Ferry report says bikes ‘impede’ cars and should load/unload last

Today’s outrageous car-centric idea comes buried in a Washington State Ferries report and recommendations for improving ferry service: Bikes should have to wait for cars before embarking and disembarking. The reason? They supposedly “impede” the unloading of cars and are unsafe.

Where to start demolishing this recommendation…

First, what is the desired speed of vehicles entering and exiting the ferry? I am going to assume the speed limit isn’t 50. Is 12 miles per hour even an impediment? Does Washington State Ferries really want cars speeding off the ferries and through the queue areas? I doubt it. If anything, they should be thanking the bicyclists for providing a safe pace for the cars behind them.

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Second, why would Washington State Ferries do anything to create another impediment for people choosing a zero-miles-per-gallon means of getting around? Doesn’t the state have ambitious carbon reduction goals? Yes they do, Cascade Bicycle Club points out. Want to really reduce the time it takes to unload a ferry? Trade a bunch of those cars for bikes! Cars are the ones that cause traffic and back-up.

Third, the report cites bicycle “safety” as a reason for making them go last. Safety from whom, you ask?

This creates a safety issue, which is more important than the delay, with the anxious drivers that have waited to unload now following the bikes down the road.

Hmm, sounds like the problem isn’t the bikes, but the cars. In first grade, when some bully kid started punching a smaller kid, did the teacher make the smaller kid go to the back of the line? No. She told the bully to stop and made him do math problems or clap erasers after school. So it sounds to me like this report has just admitted Washington State Ferries has a traffic enforcement problem. They better get a handle on that.

And to top it all off, the report does not give a single piece of data or research of any kind to suggest that changing the loading order on the ferries would decrease loading time significantly or increase safety in any way. In fact, if load/unload times do decrease, it’s very likely that that’s because the cars are driving too fast, thus decreasing safety.

Clearly, this recommendation yet again stems from a mindset that people who ride bikes somehow don’t count. Fortunately, it is just one of many recommendations in the report, and it can (and should) be disregarded.

Want to voice your opinion? Cascade recommends emailing Ray Deardorf, WSF Planning Director and Jill Satran in the Governor’s office.

For more on this issue, Biking Bis has a good piece, Cascade tears it apart, or you can read the report yourself.

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8 responses to “Ferry report says bikes ‘impede’ cars and should load/unload last”

  1. Jeff Hammerquist

    Here is the letter I wrote:

    Dear WSF and involved parties:

    It has recently come to my attention that Washington State Ferries, in an effort to expedite loading and unloading, has recommended that cyclists be required to wait until all vehicles have left the ferry before unloading.

    We all know that, regardless of our personal preferences, cycling as a mode of transport is better for the environment, puts less wear and tear on our roads, and allows more paying customers per square foot to utilize ferry decks already at max. vehicle capacity. While by no means can we expect everyone to get out of their cars and on to a bicycle, it is clearly a behavior that the state with its aggressive goal of cutting carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 should seek to encourage. However, holding cyclists until cars finish exiting the ferry actually penalizes cyclists, making it clear that they are second class users of the transportation network.

    Instead of trying to eliminate cyclists from state ferries, WSF should look at ways of encouraging cycling, or even consider adding dedicated facilities to make entering and exiting the ferry safer and faster on a bicycle. The state has claimed it is dedicated to providing for all modes of transit, now lets see WSF walk the talk and come out against this myopic, car-centric policy recommendation.

  2. Alex Burchard

    Stop taking the we are better than you road. IT just pisses people off. SERIOUSLY.
    Some people simply don’t understand the benefits of bikes, and they aren’t going to, because they don’t care. Use logic and numbers to make your point, and leave the environment out of it. Sure, that is an important side benefit, but Stop sounding like people who are above everyone else!!! its HORRENDOUS!
    Bicyclists already piss enough people off because they REFUSE to follow rules, at least help your own case by not sounding like a bunch of stuck up pricks!

    I ride my bike almost every day to school 6.5 miles from home. I love biking, i’d advocate it for anyone, but I do it because it benefits ME. Most people do things so it benefits THEM, Make an argument that appeals to that, not OH IM SAVING THE WORLD! Seriously…

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Alex, I understand that the environmental angle can come off as self-righteous and douchy. But are you suggesting that bikers should not talk about the fact that their mode of transportation uses no fossil fuels and emits no emissions? I can’t think of a single model for a sustainable city that does not include TONS of bicycle use. The point is far from irrelevant.

      Sure, I can agree that there is a way to talk about the positive environmental impact of bikes that really just sounds snooty. And yes, I agree that the ways biking benefits me personally (financially, healthfully, whatever) are among the main reasons I choose to bike. But to “leave the environment out of it” would be to ignore the fact that WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING DRASTIC TO CHANGE HOW WE GET AROUND and bikes will be one of the most important parts of any remotely realistic sustainable city.

      No oil. No emissions.

      That’s something to be really proud of as bikers. It’s empowering to know that I can get around without environmentally devastating extraction and burning of limited resources. It would be ridiculous not to talk about and celebrate that.

    2. Not only is Tom’s response right, but in the original post he was specifically relating environmental benefits to state policy, which explicitly says they should be embraced. WSDOT’s terrible record of actually doing anything to reduce GHG emissions or [motor] vehicle miles traveled is directly relevant to the mandate they have been given to do so.

  3. Alex Burchard

    I Fully agree that the future should have a lot more bicycles in it.

    I am suggesting that we need to find an argument that appeals to people.
    Because right now, all bicyclists are to the general public, as far as I can tell based on the people I know, are a bunch of radical environmentalists who want to shove their world view on everyone. (Which really isn’t that far from the truth)

    I think we need to emphasize the good effects on the individual far more than the effects on the collective, because people just don’t care. Sure, we care, we can care all we want, other people don’t. The people we are trying to reach, don’t. So lets find a way to frame our argument so they do care.

    The lets not tax bicyclists because they save the world argument that I see when things like bike licensing is brought up is not going to fly. Don’t use that argument, ever. Sure, we care, we don’t think its right, but there is the other argument, its financially a drag on the government doing the licensing. That is the argument we should use, that is one other people will listen to.

    Tell people of the fitness benefits of biking, feeling better about yourself, having the money to buy a second laptop, or an ipad, or what have you, talk about that when arguing for bikes. The environmental argument, while true, IS NOT GETTING THROUGH, sadly.

    1. Well, personally, I went from driving my car every day to using mass transit every day… to biking and walking every day. And a big factor in my decision to do all that was the environmental impact of what I was doing.

      Personally, it just makes sense to me to use whatever argument is best for the scenario. If King County has mandated certain environmental standards, it makes sense to bring up the environmental argument.

      But if I was for example talking to my dad about cycling (former drill sergeant, drives a truck) I would talk about how it’s good for keeping in shape, and is relaxing, etc.

      Really, how you get people to get out of their cars and bike isn’t that important so long as they do. And once they do that’s one more person who can see things from your perspective a little more. Hopefully.


  4. […] forward to this week. A report by Washington State Ferries gets Seattle bike bloggers of all stripes up in arms. The report reads… WSF is seeking ways to expedite loading […]

  5. […] forward to this week. A report by Washington State Ferries gets Seattle bike bloggers of all stripes up in arms. The report reads… WSF is seeking ways to expedite loading […]

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