Puget Sound Business Journal editor tries to pick fight with bikes, falls on face

Al Scott made a fool of himself trying to rag on the Mayor about so-called road diets in his editorial(?) titled “List of Seattle’s road diets: bikes v cars.” It is poorly researched in just about every way imaginable. Info is out of date, he cites months-old articles about projects that have since changed and he lists projects that don’t even include any bike space whatsoever in his “bikes v car” giant mistake of a piece.

First off, one of the projects central to his rant is Admiral Way, where he has apparently used a West Seattle Blog story from early July as his only point of research. I guess looking for a more recent story or even looking at SDOT’s official project page was too much work. That project was changed a month ago, and the number of general vehicle lanes will be maintained (Congratulations! You won and didn’t even know it!).

Al credits his data to the Seattle Chamber of Commerce. Looks like they need to update their info before they give it out to any more “journalists” unwilling to check their facts before publication.

Second, traffic calming measures are not about bikes, and many of the projects he lists include no bike help whatsoever. For example, he lists N 45th from Latona to Stone Way. Clearly, he has never tried to ride a bike on this street. He also lists Eastlake from the University Bridge to Fairview. There is a bike lane for about two blocks after the bridge, I guess. The rest? Nothing. Also, Fairview Ave N, Madison from 7th to Broadway, MLK from I90 to Union. All of these streets suck to bike on and have no bike facilities other than maybe some sharrows here or there. How are these evidence of the city’s bike v cars goals? They aren’t.

Clearly, Al has no idea what a road diet is for, or he is being dishonest in order to stir up the PSBJ’s car-loving readers. To say that traffic calming is for bikes is to miss the point entirely. Traffic calming methods are for urging traffic to move at a desired speed. In neighborhood arterials in this city, that is 30 miles per hour. When a street is designed like a four-lane highway, cars move closer to highway speeds. Study after study after case after case has shown that a street with dangerous speeds can be redesigned to accommodate traffic needs while supporting desired speeds.

Traffic calming projects are about every road user, including people walking, people driving, people taking the bus, people shopping, people riding bikes, people in wheelchairs, people with canes … you know, people! You can’t put a crosswalk on a four-lane street without a center median. It’s not safe, and the city has even been taking out old, unsafe ones as needed. You can, however, put a crosswalk on a street that is three lanes much more safely.

Some of the projects in Al’s list do include bike lanes, that’s true. But as I’ve said before, the bike lanes are part of the traffic calming. You could plant flowers in that space and I would still support the project (though I feel a bike lane would be much preferred, despite my love of flowers). If you want to go faster than 30 mph, then you should campaign for the city to raise the speed limit.

When we have a neighborhood street where it feels comfortable to drive 40 miles per hour, we should redesign that street so it feels comfortable to drive 30. It’s the cheapest way to maintain safety, connect neighborhoods and, yes, provide safer routes for people who ride bikes.

Oh, and I haven’t even gotten around to the ridiculous three-and-a-half paragraphs he wrote after his supposed “research.” He goes on to talk about an angry-at-bikes editorial on Crosscut by mismatching points into a totally illogical mess:

But as the dean emeritus of the Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington writes in today’s Crosscut, the mayor’s “assault” on drivers assumes all Seattleites are “as fit as Lance Armstrong.” In fact, cane users, Locke among them, number about as many as bikers, he notes.

He adds that he might have more sympathy for the cyclists’ argument if some bikers weren’t so antagonistic. He describes following one such rider down Second Avenue, with a separate bike lane through downtown. “This insufferable fop, however, drove his bike in the lane next to the bicycle lane so as to prevent any car from driving in the lane he had chosen to use — while giving the finger to anyone who got too close to him.”

First off, let’s say you have a mobility issue that causes you to walk more slowly or with more pain. Would you rather have more crosswalks on streets with slower traffic or fewer crosswalks on streets where cars are going 40+ mph? With traffic calming, the city can install crosswalks without needing a traffic light. They can be mid-block, in signal-free stretches, in front of senior centers, schools and other attractions where people might be walking. So Al has made our point for us. Thanks.

Second, Al has clearly never ridden a bike on 2nd. That bike lane is not well-made. It is on the left, where cars are not used to it. It is almost always obscured by some kind of delivery truck or cab. It is in the door zone. On the downhill, bikes can easily keep up with traffic, and I urge people to ride in the general traffic lanes for the downhill portions of 2nd because it is safer. I have written about 2nd before, and Erica at Publicola has called it the worst bike lane in the city.

And you know what? There are three general vehicle lanes on 2nd. Use one of the other two if there is a person on a bike in one of them. It is a bicycle rider’s legal right to ride in that lane. Get over it. And you are going to get mad at a biker for giving the finger to cars that pass too closely? Are you serious? If a car passes too closely, it endangers the life of the person on the bike. If that person then gives the finger, I suppose that breaks some kind of social etiquette standard. Give people on bikes the space they need to ride safely, and you won’t get flipped off.

So there you have it. The Managing Editor of the Puget Sound Business Journal wrote a poorly researched, at least partly false, anti-bike editorial the goal of which could only be to stir up anger against all people on bikes, as well as the mayor. Perhaps the editor should know about this (oh crap, that’s him…)

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6 Responses to Puget Sound Business Journal editor tries to pick fight with bikes, falls on face

  1. alexjonlin says:

    I agree with you, but MLK does, in fact, have bike lanes, albeit pretty crappy ones.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Sort of. I guess I can’t speak to how this stretch of MLK is to ride, since I’ve never done it during rush hour. The bike lanes are those extended parking lane kinds that I’m not sure actually count, but they are marked on the bike map. So perhaps not the best example.

      Or perhaps it is illustrative of how bike lanes are often afterthoughts on these projects, since they were not just about bikes to begin with.

      Thanks for pointing that out, Alex.

  2. Jake says:

    I wonder if that was me he was following on second avenue? I ride it daily, and always in the car lane adjacent to the bike lane: the bike lane is an absolute death trap. I can only think of about two times in my life I’ve used my middle finger, though, so maybe not… but given the propensity toward exaggeration in these anti-bike editorials, it still could be the case.

  3. jess says:

    “Perhaps the editor should know about this (oh crap, that’s him…)”

    Tom, I totally agree with you. And it looks like you have a draft of a rebuttal letter already written. Maybe clean up the parts that might make him dismiss you out of hand, and see what happens.

  4. BikingBis says:

    I was truly surprised at that PSBJ piece as well. It read more like a misinformed “letter to the editor” than journalism. And I’m sick and tired of these “road diet” changes being characterized as bikes vs. cars.

  5. NickBob says:

    This another of the McSchwinn hates autos meme, the point being that the downtown business interests want their tunnel and only too clearly remember from the monorail how easily a mayor can kill a big project. They’ve found a useful cudgel that seems to cross the liberal/conservative devide and they’re going to use it for all it’s worth. Bicyclists are going to take your god given right to drive and to park! The Times has been especially forward on this, and prior to that Cross ut garbage piece even Joel Connelly at the PI was onboard with this theme. We Anericans are ever so attached to our cars.

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