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Blinded by mayoral vendetta, the Weekly wildly misses the point of the NE 125th project

So, in case you haven’t been paying attention, the Seattle Weekly is a little upset with the mayor. Ever since Mayor McGinn put his sights on the Weekly and the Village Voice’s backpage.com for doing a piss-poor job of preventing their online service from enabling child prostitution, the Weekly has been pushing every little fragment of anything they can construe into an anti-McGinn story (see here, here, here, here, here and here, all just this month). And they’re not doing a very good job at it.

It’s a silly fight, and the Weekly is losing a lot of credibility by continuing it the way they are. Most recently, Weekly Editor Mike Seely penned an ill-informed and wildly off-base story titled “Bikes Don’t Like Mike’s Lake City Road Diet.” sigh…

Right off the bat, Seely launches with a line that is ripped straight from Seattle Times columnist Nicole Brodeur’s August 2010 boondoggle of a column by falsely claiming the road diet is McGinn’s project. As Brodeur noted in a follow-up column taking back many of her column’s mistakes (which I commend her for doing), the NE 125th rechannelization planning began the summer before McGinn even took office.

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Brodeur, when realizing her mistake, wrote, “I failed to mention that in the column, and I apologize.” Will Seely do the same?

Next, in order to make the case that rechannelizations (or “road diets”) are about bikes (as the headline so boldly states), Seely goes through these remarkable mental gymnastics:

Road diets, says SDOT spokesperson Rick Sheridan, are “about safety, not bikes.” But more often than not, road diets (or “rechannelizations”)—at their simplest, a reduction of the number of lanes open to motor vehicles on a given arterial—include new bike lanes. So they’re at least sort of about bikes.

Indeed! They are sort of about bikes. They are also sort of about dramatically reducing the rates of speeding, traffic collisions and pedestrian injuries and fatalities. They are sort of about reconnecting communities and installing more safe crosswalks. In other words, they’re about safer streets for everyone. Seely somehow acknowledges that the projects are not just about bikes, then makes the decision that he’s going to say they are anyway — all in the same sentence. You can almost feel the cognitive dissonance as Seely, a seasoned journalist, wrestles with the fact that his research does not fit into the story he wants to write.

In fact, if you read Mayor McGinn’s April letter explaining his decision to approve SDOT’s planned redesign of NE 125th, you will see just about every argument brought forth in Seely’s article addressed and explained. Here’s a taste:

Here’s how this issue came up in the first place: The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) started looking at rechannelizing 125th street during the Nickels administration. This was pursuant to the Bicycle Master Plan that had been approved by the City Council. After looking at accident data, SDOT concluded that the road had serious safety issues that required attention, regardless of bicycling.

SDOT’s data showed that a high percentage of collisions (51%) on this section of Northeast 125th Street resulted in injury, compared to only 33% on similar roads in Seattle. These are accidents between automobiles, as well as accidents involving pedestrians.

SDOT believed that high speeds, as well as roadway design, were key contributing factors to the accident and injury rates.

Now, onto the Weekly’s highly-scientific study of bicycle traffic on NE 125th. Seely sent a Weekly intern (paid, I hope) on a mission to count the number of people riding bikes on the newly-redesigned roadway. During a couple hours of the evening rush, Kate Barker counted 18 people riding bikes on NE 125th, an east-west neighborhood arterial in north Seattle. Seely then notes:

Needless to say, more than 18 cars traversed the same terrain over the course of those three hours.

Indeed, it’s true. More people drive cars than ride bikes. Better stop trying to make street safer, then (so the logic goes). But 18 people riding bikes (most of them headed westbound, which I must point out is that long uphill people claimed nobody would ride up) compared to what? How many people were riding before the changes? Seely does not present any data, so 18 is just a number floating in space with no context.

So here’s some context: Last year, before the changes, SDOT’s bicycle traffic count noted seven people bicycling on NE 125th during two and a half-hours of the morning rush hour. This is not a perfect comparison, since it’s a different time of day, but at least it’s something. Using these numbers, the Weekly’s count actually shows a 150 percent increase in cycling in just one year. That’s pretty good!

Would Seely rather have seen a 400 percent increase? 600? If Kate had counted 40 people bicycling on the street, would that have changed the angle of the article? I have my doubts.

Kate then went to Dexter, one of the busiest bicycle routes in the city, part of the Interurban multi-county bicycle route and the main trunk into downtown from the north, and counted 457 people riding bikes in a similar period of time. What this count proves, exactly, eludes me.

She also counted bicycle use on S Columbian Way between MLK and Beacon Ave (the site of an upcoming redesign project) and counted 19 people riding bikes over three hours. Again, what this is supposed to prove remains unclear. In fact, that project has met very little resistance in large part because it fixes a confusing issue for drivers where the left lane headed east suddenly becomes a turn-only lane at the bottom of the hill before MLK, requiring a last-minute merge right in order to continue straight. The project is a win for all and a great example of the city fixing clear road engineering mistakes that nobody likes. If the Weekly has a beef with the project, I would sure like to hear their arguments (or were they saying it is needed? I can’t really tell).

So, after nine hours of hard work counting bicycle riders, Seely makes no meaningful use of the data intern Kate collected. He then wraps up by saying:

Does three bikes per lane per hour during prime drive time amount to wise public policy? Voters will have their say in November, when they’re asked to approve a $60 car tab fee that will direct a significant amount of funding toward—what else?—accommodating cyclists.

Assumptions in this paragraph:

  • Complete Streets road redesigns are about bikes. False (See above)
  • Current lack of bicycle use is a reason not to make streets safer. False. If the main reason people do not ride bikes is because the streets are dangerous, refusing to make streets safer because of the lack of riders is a faulty, self-fulfilling bicycle use prevention philosophy (and one the city’s Complete Streets Ordinance officially denounced years before McGinn took office).
  • The $60 car tab fee will provide a “significant amount of funding” for “accommodating cyclists.” Sort of. Bicycle projects are FAR from the focus of the VLF proposal, and it is disingenuous to suggest otherwise. About 5 percent of the funds would go to bicycle-specific projects. That’s a useful chunk of money, but it’s clearly not the focus of the fee. 50 percent would go to transit projects.

More worryingly, is the Weekly going to stake their stance in opposition to the Vehicle License Fee vote solely because McGinn wants it (and some of the money goes to bicycle projects)? Is Seely against the transit investments, which are clearly the focus of the VLF proposal? It was passed unanimously by the City Council and does not go as far as the mayor requested, so it could hardly be considered solely the mayor’s project. If Seely opposes the ballot measure, I would at least hope for an argument against it that addresses the bulk of the proposed funding.

So, Mr. Seely and the Weekly, please don’t go trashing road safety projects, spreading half-truths and drawing odd conclusions from incomplete data just because you have a personal vendetta against the mayor. That’s irresponsible, and your readers deserve better. These projects are needed in our communities and are rooted in decades of sound research and experience, not short-term politics.

But you know all this. The writers for the Weekly can and do write good journalism. You were completely aware that your bicycle count numbers, without any context, were meaningless. If someone else had used such shoddy evidence in a piece you disagreed with, you would have called them on it, too. Yet, it seems to me, you so badly wanted to blast the mayor, you allowed yourself to lower your journalistic standards to draw preformed conclusions from nonexistent evidence. In doing so, you lose credibility.

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41 responses to “Blinded by mayoral vendetta, the Weekly wildly misses the point of the NE 125th project”

  1. Hear hear! This is an awesome response, Tom.

  2. wave

    Thank you, Tom. I read that Weekly piece and I tried to write a comment but I couldn’t even put into words how idiotic it was.

  3. Meli

    I feel especially bad for that intern.

  4. ODB

    Let’s not forget that one of Seely’s very first contributions as the new-to-Seattle editor of the Weekly was to suggest banning “smug” “fucking bikers” from sidewalks and to make a (supposedly humorous?) reference to tripping up “surly” bikers:


    Given that as a starting point only a few months ago, to Seely’s apparent acceptance of Dexter as a successful bike facility today, is Seely on a pro-bike trajectory? Will Seely go pro-bicycle in another 8 months? (Unrelated topic, but do any bike shops advertise in the Weekly? I wonder what they think about Seely?)

  5. Greg (not that one)

    An excellent rebuttal. I, too, have observed an obsessive piling-on of McGinn (it actually predates the “Backpage” ad flap), and have a theory: If The Stranger is for something in Seattle (especially if it involves the Mayor), the Weekly is against it.

    1. Jake Jackson

      I, too, have observed an obsessive piling-on of McGinn (it actually predates the “Backpage” ad flap)

      Yup, it did “predate” McGinn’s attack on “Backpage.” Which wasn’t retaliation against a critic. Nope, couldn’t be. It’s disappointing that so many “liberals” didn’t seem to notice, or care, that McGinn was pulling a classic maneuver typically associated with wingnuts: Dredge up a sex scandal against a critic.

      I guess if your boy does it, then there’s nothing wrong with it.

  6. Charlie

    Bravo! Well said.

  7. kevin in ballard

    Excellent reporting, writing, and opinionating, Tom! Thx for all your contributions to the conversation.

  8. ujhn

    i read this blog because sometimes it has info that is useful to cyclists and occasionally the writer does a decent job of answering questions. after wasting my time on this item, i won’t be reading it anymore.

  9. Just wondering, I thought this was one of Tom’s best pieces of writing ever (and I love his work). What did you think made it a waste of time?

    1. Nickbob

      I’m with you Eli, but some folks just want to know how to lube their chains and don’t care about the political aspects of the ride, or politics at all. OK, uhjn, fine; but you don’t have the wit to decide when to skim and when to read? Good luck troubleshooting on the road. Maybe you ought to ride the bus.

  10. […] back and forth between Mike Seely at The Seattle Weekly and Tom Furoloro at the Seattle Bike Blog about the 125th St rechannelization just went […]

  11. Alex

    The Weekly has been on its road to becoming a real rag ever since Village Voice bought the paper. I the early 2000’s I preferred the Weekly’s political reporting to the Stranger, now I haven’t picked the paper up in five years. Seems like this latest piece is just par for the course.

  12. ODB

    Re: the KKK Pingback link above.

    During the course of public debate, sometimes one of the participants offers a contribution so wonderfully absurd that it defines him as a provider of comic relief. David Smith’s riff on segregationist bike facilities, putting the KKK in “Bi-KKK-e Lanes” as it were, is one of those moments. Thanks for the chuckles, David–keep them coming!

    Another possibility: David is a modern Jonathan Swift, who has played Mike Seely by conning him into providing a platform for his satire. Either way, the joke is ultimately on the news organization that considers this stuff worthy of publication.

  13. Jake Jackson

    You’d better keep praying for your boy McGinn. You know, the guy with the 22% approval rating? Yeah, that one. He’s going to be utterly crushed two years from now, and your cyclista dreams will go with him. This ain’t Portland. You’ll see.

    Now let us get real. The “road diets” take one lane in each direction away from cars, and add one for the cyclistas. And wow, all this for raising the cyclista count on NE 125th St. by 4.4 an hour during rush hour. Geez, and here I thought the Palinista Republicans were bold. I guess I’ll have to expand my mantra: “You can never embarrass a dog, a Republican, or a bicyclista.”

    Only 5% of the doomed $60 tab increase would go to bicycle-specific projects. Or so you say. On the one hand, you tell us that the “road diets” are about pedestrian safety, and then you turn right around and separate bicycles and pedestrians when you want to minimize the dollars in the tab referendum.

    See, in reality, 20% of the tab fee goes to the pedestrian-cyclist category. And we’re not including the $4 million (14%) slush fund that goes to “educate” people not to drive cars, and to “neighborhood transit opportunity” that would spend money on God only knows what. I think we can safety assume bicyclistas will stick their noses into that trough. Imagine how many $75,000 a year (plus benefits) “coordinators” that’ll pay for.

    Aside from how much goes to the spandex crowd, there’s the question of adding a substantial burden to drivers and then spending less than one-third of the proceeds on them. Of the $27.5 million in expected revenue, $5 million would go for street repairs, and $3 million for lane markings, signals, and signs. Even if we weren’t in the midst of a depression, the idea of taxing drivers to pay for other pet projects would be offensive.

    Not only that, but I seem to recall a big street repair referendum a while back. Five years ago, we approved a $365 million, 9-year levy to fix the streets. That seems to have been forgotten here, and I’d like to know why. I recall a promise during that campaign to replace every single street sign in the city, but five years later, I am still waiting for the signs in my neighborhood to be swapped out.

    I feel as if I already did my part. But the cyclistas pay no dedicated taxes at all. Any mention of a registration fee is hooted down. You people are, like so many others, just one more bunch of free riders. What makes it worse is that you add a particular arrogance to your grasping. Every time you hear someone call your favorite mayor “McSchwinn,” there’s a reason: You.

    Try this on for size: $25 per bicycle, per year, the net proceeds to be spent solely on bicycle projects. And not one penny more. It that’s not enough, how about a 10% surtax on bicycles costing more than $1,000? I’m all in favor of progressive taxation, having voted for the (failed) state income tax. This would be another bite at the apple. Let’s see just how egalitarian the cyclista crowd really is.

    You folks need to stand back and see the forest for the trees. The economy is flat on its back. You didn’t do that, and neither did I. Blame it on the Republicans, the corporations, Obama, the sunpots, the Chinese, unleashed dogs, Microsoft, you name it. I really don’t care for the moment. But in this sort of economy, everyone pulls in their horns. Those who don’t get them chopped off.

    Your friend McGinn? His horns will wind up on someone’s living room wall, and the rest of his hide in the political rendering plant. His friends are next.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Thanks for the thoughts, Jake.

      As for the VLF, I support it, as I voiced here: http://seattlebikeblog.com/2011/08/17/city-council-sends-60-vehicle-license-fee-to-november-ballot/

      However, as I see it, the case for that fee is for advocates, users and supporters of transit to make. It’s not about bike lanes, and I do, indeed, wish there were more of a forward-thinking and inspiring bicycle funding plan attached to it. But there is not. In fact, you would likely find a lot of people who ride bikes in Seattle and do not like the idea of more streetcar tracks in the roads.

      The proposed increase in funding for bicycle-specific projects is on par with the proportion of the population that chooses to bicycle. I don’t see a problem with that.

      As for your point about walking benefits, I don’t really understand. Road diets increase the number of safe crosswalks (fact) and decrease the likelihood and severity of injury to people choosing to walk across the street (fact). How is that not beneficial to people wanting to walk (and the economics of commercial districts)?

      You say road diets are removing one lane “for” cars and adding one for bikes. This leaves out that handy left-turn lane which most people driving cars (and riding bikes) really like. Would you rather make a left turn across one lane or two? Why? I bet the answer is: it’s safer and less stressful.

      As for the funding part, though, spending money striping crosswalks, adding neighborhood sidewalks, fixing pedestrian signal timing, and so on are not projects that directly help people riding bicycles. However, this site supports those investments. But don’t act like because we support those investments that they suddenly become “bike”‘projects.

      Certainly some projects help bicycling, walking and driving safety at the same time, so dividing the funds by mode is ultimately a very flawed exercise. There will be crossover between categories.

      As for the tired argument about people riding bikes not paying dedicated transportation funding, why would the city want to provide a disincentive for someone to ride a bike? Cars cost the city money. They damage roads. Bicycles do not. Bicycles are weighed in pounds (for some racer types, grams) while cars are weighed in tons. If you would like to propose a $25 bicycle fee, then I would hope the motor vehicle fees increases proportionally to their weight (but then tabs would cost thousands). My point is that the two modes are not even comparable in their cost to the government.

      Or, since most people who ride bicycles also own cars, why should they have to pay extra in order to choose to use a method does not cost the city as much money (not to mention reducing congestion and improving air quality).

      The choice to bicycle is larger than one politician. I appreciate what mcginn says about supporting bicycling and the fact that he is not willing to put SDOT projects on hold because of concerns about political backlash. However, he has clearly failed to be inspiring so far, and people’s opinions of his job performance reflect this. That’s fair. I am not upset that the Weekly wants to hold the mayor accountable, but I did find issues with the way they are pursuing their fight (and dragging perfectly good road safety projects into it unfairly). If they dig up some actual problems, I would love to read it.

      You have failed to provide any evidence that Seattle’s road diets have provided any detriment to the population or even drivers’ experience. After all, almost every driver walks sometimes (the rest need ADA projects and other walking safety projects even more than the able-bodied). Some drivers also ride bicycles or take the bus. The road diet makes all these experiences better. Maybe it’s harder to go 45 in a 30 now, but it’s not city’s job to allow neighborhood arterial streets to be highways. If you want streets to have 45 mph traffic, argue for them to raise the speed limit to 45. See how that goes.

      The truth is that people want safe streets. The mayor (and other advocates, this blog included) has not done a good job explaining the importance of road diets as part of the larger goal of reducing needless traffic injuries and deaths. But that’s what they’re all about. This includes making roads safer and more inviting for bicycling, so this blog makes a point of supporting them. But that’s not the entire point of the projects, as you and the Weekly want to present them.

      1. Jake Jackson

        Tom, none is so blind as he who refuses to see. The cyclistas, along with their friends the drunks who want bars open all night and the derelicts who haunt downtown, are McGinn’s biggest supporters.

        Better look over your shoulder, Tom. We’re coming after you, and those are not bicycles we’re driving. They’re steamrollers with turbochargers. This being Seattle, we’re too polite to honk. But trust me, you’ll be crushed.

  14. Jake Jackson

    This leaves out that handy left-turn lane which most people driving cars (and riding bikes) really like. Would you rather make a left turn across one lane or two?

    This is the kind of stuff that makes people laugh at you. A street that’s put on a “road diet” loses a car lane in each direction. It gains a bike lane in each direction, which is used by hardly anyone because so few people are cyclists. Why? Because Seattle has these things called “hills,” and this wet stuff called “rain” that falls from the sky from October through April in a normal year, and a lot longer lately.

    Before the “road diet,” the same street had two car lanes each way. At the bigger intersections, the left lane would become left turn-only, accommodating those who wanted to turn left while allowing through traffic to pass on the right.

    The entire purpose of “road diets” is to harass car drivers. Cyclistas hate cars, and want to make Seattle an even bigger hassle for drivers. People weren’t clued into what you wanted to do until McSchwinn was elected, and made it clear. Now that we know, we’re going to kick him out. It won’t be long before his “road diets” are reversed.

    If you don’t like it, move to Portland. But you better do it quick, because their mayor has announced he won’t be running for re-election. It seems that the cyclistas have made more than a few enemies there, too.

    1. wave

      Better to ignore this one, Tom. Sometimes jerks are just jerks.

      1. Jake Jackson

        Yeah, the “ignore everyone” strategy sure has worked for your boy, Michael McGinn. Are you also going to ignore the results of this fall’s elections? Not only will your $60 tab fee be crushed, but you can say goodbye to the families and education levy too. You people really have no clue.

        I’ll be voting for the families tax, but I know I’ll be in the minority on it. If McGinn wants to get it passed, he should come out against it.

  15. Doug Bostrom

    Modernizing an existing four lane road– a road having large excess capacity and constrained into a fixed passage– by creating a turn lane leaves the potential of three travel lanes for automotive traffic. While it’s true that a coin could be tossed to decide on leaving a second lane for automotive traffic in one or another travel direction, such a choice seems less rational than simply dividing the “odd” lane space and provisioning the street for separated bicycle traffic, moving cyclists out of the way of automotive traffic.

    Meanwhile, I still have not heard an effective argument for how the lack of a turn lane is a superior alternative. Why is the situation of left-turning vehicles coming to a complete halt in a through traffic lane better than creating a turn lane?

    I’m going to guess that many of the folks who don’t like modernization of existing roadways by creation of turn lanes also won’t like traffic circles, even though traffic circles are much safer when it comes to injury statistics. Perhaps this is because we’re wired to stick with what we know, more or less as individual cases go? There’s a good place for “conservative” patterns of behavior; if somebody suggested to a party of tribal hunters that approaching a herd of bison by walking backwards was a good idea they’d probably not adopt the new method, for good reason. On the other hand, most public policy challenges we confront these days are perhaps too complicated to be successfully processed by purely conservative thinking habits.

    1. Jake Jackson

      While it’s true that a coin could be tossed to decide on leaving a second lane for automotive traffic in one or another travel direction, such a choice seems less rational than simply dividing the “odd” lane space and provisioning the street for separated bicycle traffic, moving cyclists out of the way of automotive traffic.

      If you want to convince yourself that turning four car lanes into two lanes plus a mostly unused turn lane is the same thing, I can’t stop you. What I can tell you is that you’re not fooling anyone who drives in Seattle. With each new “road diet,” the level of irritation at both the mayor and the bicyclistas rises. Lying about it doesn’t help your case.

      I’m going to guess that many of the folks who don’t like modernization of existing roadways by creation of turn lanes also won’t like traffic circles, even though traffic circles are much safer when it comes to injury statistics.

      We have plenty of traffic circles on the narrow side streets, including in my neighborhood. I am all for ’em. They are speed control devices, and as currently deployed in Seattle they are great. If the cyclistas start putting them into arterials, there’ll be hell to pay.

      If you actually care about speeding, which I really don’t think you do, you’d think about speed bumps in some spots. I’ve got no problem with them, as long as they aren’t simply “car harrassment devices.”

      But at this juncture, given that your boy McGinn is less popular than Barack Obama is in Eastern Oregon ranch country, I’d suggest that he and you refrain from even good measures. See, you’ve so thoroughly poisoned the well that you could declare that the sun will rise in the East tomorrow and lose the referendum on the question.

      The way back to balance is the following:

      1. Call an immediate halt to “road diets” and reverse the ones implemented thus far.

      2. Re-examine your selfish, knee-jerk opposition to bicycle licensing fees, and support a $25 per bike annual fee.

      3. Quit being such self-righteous jokers on all of this stuff. Cars are not going away.

  16. Doug Bostrom

    Well, you’ve got me beat for conjecture, Jake.

    “Lying about it doesn’t help your case.”

    Really? You know I’m lying? No, actually you don’t, though remarks like that help to set a discount rate on the worth of your opinions.

    “Quit being such self-righteous jokers on all of this stuff. ”

    Well said– in a deeply ironic, oblivious manner.

    Anyway, enough of these hijinks. Last word is yours. Here’s some material for you to work with: putting traffic circles on arterials here would be a boon, if we had the room to do it. Have you ever driven an automobile where circles are ubiquitous? If you have, you’ll have noticed that you almost never have to stop. Traffic circles save gasoline, wear and tear on vehicles, prevent injuries; the virtues of traffic circles are many. Feel free to go all counter-factual about that, as well as call me a liar or whatever your imagination gins up. Everything’s information, after all.

    1. Jake Jackson

      Doug, only the cyclistas would tell people that cutting car lanes from 2 to 1 in each direction, and substituting with a largely unused center turn lane, is “modernization” and an improvement. Keep that one up, and you might just find your “road diets” on the ballot pretty soon.

      As for traffic circles, oh yeah, I have driven where they are more common, including on arterials. That place would be Boston, the citadel of crazy road rage in America, and one of the hardest places to drive. I will admit this much: A decade as a Boston driver taught me every trick in the book. I laugh at the Seattle version.

      In Massachusetts they are called rotaries, or much more commonly, “another g**d***** rotary.” You people really need to get out a little more. If you think that you will improve traffic flow in Seattle for anyone, including your entitled and self-centered spandex selves, by cutting traffic lanes, you’re bat**** crazy.

      In the highly unlikely event that you and the boy mayor somehow get your way, you will destroy what’s left of Seattle’s relative civility on the road. Importing Boston’s rotaries is such a stupid idea that I can only gasp in amazement, and then tell myself, “Well, he must not have ever spent much time there, if any.”

      Here’s an idea. Go to Portland, and check it out. Take off your blinders and really look around. You’ll see a phenomenal growth in road rage and random behavior, both on two wheels and four, as the cyclistas put their ideas in place. Downtown is dying, except as an office park, because no one wants to go there.

      Portland’s cyclistas have succeeded mainly in pushing more and more economic activity to its faceless suburbs, Beaverton and Hillsboro, etc. It does make me wonder whether you and the rest of Seattle’s cyclista “activists” are secretly on Kemper Freeman’s payroll. Between your hell-bent desire to make Seattle’s streets undriveable, and the mayor’s desire to make downtown unparkable and unwalkable except for his friends the drunks and the panhandlers, you’re doing your level best to export what’s left of the local economy to Bellevue.

      1. Tom Fucoloro

        Not really sure what your point is to using the phrase “cyclista,” but you continue to ignore any points raised against your arguments, instead choosing to bury some of your debate-worthy points behind a curtain of antagonism.

        Lower your rhetoric a little so we can actually have a conversation. Drop the “cyclistas” thing and we can talk like people. I made the point that most people who ride bikes also own and drive cars, yet you ignored that, preferring to separate people into separate categories based on their chosen mode of transport. This harms any potential for reasonable conversation.

        You have also failed yet to provide any evidence that the road diets have even harmed the driving experience. I have provided evidence that they drastically improve road safety and reduce average speeds to *closer* to the posted speed limit (note: the majority still are able to speed, just not as badly). So please, provide some evidence that they have caused harm to anybody. If you can’t then I am not going to take your claims and proposals seriously, no matter how antagonistic you choose to be.

      2. Jake Jackson

        You have also failed yet to provide any evidence that the road diets have even harmed the driving experience.

        What “evidence” do you require? Will I need a study funded by your doomed $60 car tab fee? Look, anyone who drives on those “diet roads” sees it right away. For you to deny it is prima facie evidence that you’re willfully blind.

        I can see that you’ve prepared, mixed, and drunk quarts and quarts of that Kool Aid. You’re not looking for any “evidence” of a single thing. It’s a pose to appear “reasonable.”

        Well, guess what? That plus $2.70 will get you an iced grande Americano at Starbucks. But it’s not going to win the day in November. Nor will it save your favorite mayor. Nor will it protect your crowd from the backlash that grows every time you guys parade half-baked crap that anyone with two brain cells to rub together knows is just false, like the idea that turning a four-lane street into a two-lane street with a mostly unused turn lane helps matters here.

        You seem to think that Seattle’s motorists will actually keep voting for this junk. Face it, you, your friends, and your mayor are trying to make Seattle intolerable for motorists. You don’t care about speed or safety. It’s all about harrassing the evil cars for you. It’s plain as day. Trust me, we really do get it, much more than you think.

      3. Jake Jackson

        “Cyclista” = Self-righteous, oh-so-hip, obtuse, car-hating, Puritan-cool urban planner who drank way too much coffee today. Seattle has a bunch of ’em, but the hills and the weather will prevent this from becoming a problem of Portland dimensions. Just wait.

  17. ODB

    Thinking about this whole road-diets-are-for-bikes argument, it occurred to me that a few years ago 50th street east of Woodland Park got “dieted” but no bike lanes were created. The took the left lane of the two eastbound traffic lanes and replaced it with a center turn lane. So SDOT, in its wisdom, apparently decided that trading a traffic lane for a turn lane was better for traffic flow. No bike lanes were created and no sharrows were added, so obviously bike safety wasn’t the motivating factor. Indeed, that section remains terrible for bikes. I wonder if there are other Seattle examples of no-bike-lane road diets.

    On the issue of fees for bikes, probably bike-haters will continue to insist on them no matter what. Pay-for-what-you-use makes a great sound bite. Personally, I’m not totally opposed in theory, but I fear 1) the costs of administration and enforcement of a tabs/registration scheme would overwhelm the revenue, (see this history of bike licensing failure in Toronto: http://www.toronto.ca/cycling/safety/licensing/history.htm) and 2) it would discourage people from taking up bicycling, which I see as having obvious health and environmental benefits for everyone, whether they ride or not. Bike facility opponents might accept the latter proposition, but assess the costs of bike facilities as too great relative to their benefits, unless the users are willing to mitigate the cost in the form of fees, and straight up bike-haters obviously would welcome any additional barriers to new people taking up bicycling.

    In any event, both of these objections (high costs of administration/enforcement and discouraging new bicyclists) would be mitigated by a taxation scheme like the one Jake proposes above. If an extra tax were assessed for bike-related purchases, it would be almost invisible to the purchaser and there would be no need to register bikes or collect fees. (Query whether people would avoid the tax by purchasing parts online, thus hurting local bike shops.) According to this article, a number bike advocates in Portland were in favor of some form of bicycle excise tax as of last year, for new bikes or maybe for parts or tires, simply as a way of taking the argument away from the bike-haters and purchasing a more substantial seat at the planning table:


    On the other hand, I’m more sympathetic to the arguments in this article as to why bicycling has so many social benefits that it should be subsidized (as it is, apparently, in Netherlands) rather than taxed:


    1. Doug Bostrom

      Excise tax on bicycle tires –> old jalopies being driven in from out of town in the dead of night, doors and other void spaces stuffed with illicit tires. Cue Burt Reynolds mounted on a Fuji Police Special, except that instead of “White Lightning” the working title would be something more like “Bontrager Bodacious” or “Kenda Kick.”

  18. Jake Jackson

    the costs of administration and enforcement of a tabs/registration scheme would overwhelm the revenue, (see this history of bike licensing failure in Toronto: http://www.toronto.ca/cycling/safety/licensing/history.htm)

    I don’t see any need to inspect them. Just license them. It can be done through the same offices that issue car tabs. No need to involve city hall. To avoid the issue of theft of metal license plates, have two elements: The metal tag and a matching decal for the bike frame. This would prevent license fee evasion, and allow quick, on-the-spot verification.

    it would discourage people from taking up bicycling, which I see as having obvious health and environmental benefits for everyone, whether they ride or not

    If a cyclista can’t afford $25 a year for his bike, let him walk. Or who knows, maybe the Cascade Bike Club, et. al., could dig into their altruistic pockets and establish a fund to pay for bike tags for the poor.

    In any event, both of these objections (high costs of administration/enforcement and discouraging new bicyclists) would be mitigated by a taxation scheme like the one Jake proposes above. If an extra tax were assessed for bike-related purchases, it would be almost invisible to the purchaser and there would be no need to register bikes or collect fees.

    You’ve misrepresented my proposal. The 10% surtax on cycles costing more than $1,000 would be a luxury tax. It would be in addition to a licensing fee, not a substitute. The intent would be to raise extra money for bicycle facilities.

    On the other hand, I’m more sympathetic to the arguments in this article as to why bicycling has so many social benefits that it should be subsidized

    Yup, there goes your greedy hand into the trough. You just can’t resist that selfish little grab that you think no one will notice. Well guess what? It’s been noticed. If you think I’m wrong, just wait to see what happens to your boy McGinn’s $60 car tab increase, less than one-third of which would go to for improvements benefitting motorists. It’s going to go down in flames. Trust me, children, we’re onto you. No more stealth thefts.

    1. Jake Jackson

      p.s.: The city charges dog owners $27 a year if it’s neutered, and $37 for a two-year license. I think $35 for a one-year bike license and $50 for two years would be quite reasonable. I don’t see people not getting pets because the city requires a license.

      1. Bob Frankorlou

        Dogs and cars shit everywhere just like you do, Jake.

      2. Jake Jackson

        Gee Bob, are all the cyclistas as classy as you?

  19. ODB

    If the goal is raising revenue from bicyclists, I’m not sure why you would want to incur the administrative costs of a tags/registration scheme as opposed to relying exclusively on some kind of tax. (And yes, I realized in the first place that you had proposed both.) Sure you could run the registration operation out of “the same offices” that issue car tabs (no doubt you have noticed the short lines and abundance of additional capacity at the DMV), but don’t believe that asking the DMV to license all the bikes in the city wouldn’t require hiring staff, developing new software, designing and purchasing the hardware, etc. This doesn’t include the additional burden on law enforcement to stop bicyclists for “quick, on-the-spot verification.” Is this how we want police officers to spend their time? Or should we hire more officers to perform this important task?

    As for the idea that a favorable reference to bike subsidies in particular and actual bike improvements in general are “stealth thefts,” this is an odd claim. First of all my reference to the subsidies was made openly on a comment board. If I didn’t want anyone to “notice” it, as you say, why would I publish it? I also don’t see the clandestine aspect of the road improvements that bicycle advocates lobby for. When a bike lane goes in, it is visible to any sighted person. As for bike fees, the fact that you don’t have to pay any special taxes or fees to ride a bicycle is common knowledge. Sorry to burst your bubble, because it must be fun to believe that “we’re on to you,” but the facts you point out to support your conspiracy theory are banal.

    1. Jake Jackson

      Do you drive a car? Do you live in Washington State?

    2. Jake Jackson

      The reason I ask is that anyone who drives a car and lives in Washington State knows that DMV doesn’t handle car tab renewals. Therefore, your argument was either a cheesy attempt to mislead, or arose from your ignorance. Which was it?

      The DOL handles car tabs, with the renewal functions (handing out of plates and stickers) performed by private licensing agencies in years when inspections and/or new plates, or title transfers, are required, and by mail when it’s just stickers in no-inspection years.

      Those private agencies collect an additional fee to cover their cost of service, which I would expect cyclistas to pay just as motorists do if they wind up using the private bureaus.

      However, it’s entirely possible that the DOL and the bureaus wouldn’t need to handle bicycle licenses at all. I don’t see any need for cyclistas to be registered as drivers, nor would there need to be the same tracking of insurance and VIN (serial numbers, in the case of bikes), or title transfers, given that there isn’t a bike title requirement. Therefore, it’s entirely possible that bike licensing could be done entirely by mail, with the dual plate and sticker requirement used as the mechanism to insure that the cyclistas couldn’t legally transfer one plate among more than one bike.

      The way to insure cyclista support for adequate net revenues, and a lean system, would be to limit any cycle facilities, such as path construction and maintenance, to what could be financed from net bike license revenues, and dedicated bike taxes. Facilities for motorists would be financed as they now are, but with tab fee revenues and gas tax proceeds going entirely for motorist benefits. I think that’s generous, because it would permit cyclistas to continue their free riding on city streets that they don’t pay for.

      These would be user fees. In Washington State, whose voters have (in my opinion) unwisely declined to approve income taxes, there are plenty of user fees. This would simply be one more. Welcome to the big leagues, cyclistas. You want facilities? Then pay for ’em.

      1. Jake Jackson

        One more thing. You ask if I want the police to enforce the laws applying to cyclistas. The answer is “Hell, yes.”

        Here’s a specific: I would empower police to seize any bicycle not displaying a matching license plate and sticker. The fine should be stiff — I think $250 would cover it. If not paid within a month or so, then the police would be required to auction unlicensed bikes. The used bike shops wouldn’t like it, but I suspect that this would get them on board the licensing bandwagon quickly.

        You want to be treated as adults? Then act like adults and pay your way. We motorists do, and we are quite frankly getting more than a bit tired of catering to a class of whining, spandex-clad children. Throw as many tantrums as you like. See how well that works.

      2. Tom Fucoloro

        Jake, do you really think people who drive cars (which, as I’ve noted specifically to you many times, most people who ride bikes also do) pay for the costs of their driving? Please answer that question and find me data to back it up. Because last I checked, practically the entire SDOT budget is paid for from property and sales taxes, which everyone pays. And that is not even addressing the societal cost of “free” or sub-market-rate car parking (and let’s not even think about health costs).

        Provide some (any) evidence of how your car tabs and gas taxes pay for the costs of your driving, and then we can talk. I have been as polite and sourced as I can be with you, and I just ask that you attempt to do the same.

  20. Jake Jackson

    Tom, the burden of proof is on you to back up your assertions. If you’re too lazy to do your own research, all I can do is suggest that you put down the pipe (something that seems to be fairly popular among the cyclistas) and get to work.

  21. […] Blinded by mayoral vendetta, the Weekly wildly misses the point of the NE 125th project – 40 […]

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