The Stranger’s Dominic Holden happened on the aftermath of a collision on 2nd Avenue’s notoriously dangerous bike lane downtown yesterday. The person hit was scraped up and shaking, but was not seriously injured.
However, Holden notes that this collision is not rare, and makes the case that we need protected bike lanes (AKA cycle tracks) downtown to prevent these all-too-common kinds of collisions in the future.
This is yet another example of why Seattle needs protected bicycle lanes, lanes that are separated from vehicle traffic by some sort of physical barrier. Sometimes they’re called cycle tracks. They’re found in cities around the world to prevent exactly this sort of collision from happening. On Second and Fourth Avenues, the primary thoroughfares through downtown Seattle where the lanes are counter-intuitively on the left side of the street (because buses pull over on the right), the traffic is all one direction and it moves fast. I’ve ridden on both, and, well… accidents like these have nearly happened to me about a dozen times when drivers have swerved into the bike lane.
We need more infrastructure to delineate where cyclists have right of way, obviously, but there’s a problem.
The city’s Bicycle Master Plan, created in 2007, has barely been funded. At five years into the 10-year plan, we’ve paid for only $36 million of the $240 million goal. That’s less than one-quarter of the funding it needs, while the council finds political unity around spending $930 million for an underperforming freeway tunnel (that contains no accommodations for bikes or transit). Meanwhile, data from the Seattle Department of Transportation and other sources show that, as more people are riding bikes in Seattle, collisions and cyclist fatalities are on the rise. This has to end.
Treating cycling like a political football has to stop. Deferring cycling investments needs to stop. People’s safety and their lives are on the line—and they’re not activists. They’re just people, commuters. Bicycle accidents can’t be eliminated entirely by protected bicycle lanes, and I don’t mean to say they can, but it would have eliminated this one and countless others just like it.
The city has budgeted money for 2013 to create a center city mobility plan that will include cycle tracks. However, we will not likely see anything on the ground in Central Business District until 2014, which seems like forever away when cycling continues to increase despite our backwards, mid-20th Century downtown streetscape.
In the process of making his case, he also brings up a whole other argument: Is riding a bike a political act? That’s a huge can of worms. But it seems to me that as more people ride bikes for everyday transportation, it does become harder to use cycling as a political football. After all, these are your friends, family and coworkers out there biking, not some negative archetype of a supposedly militant cyclist that shock jocks and some Seattle Times columnists yell about.
On the other hand, the more people biking, the more pressure we can put on politicians to take bold action needed to make the city safer and more accessible for even more people on bikes.