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Looking to stand out from the mayoral pack? Challenge McGinn with a bike-friendly vision

McGinn reiterated his support for cycling as a way to make Seattle a better city during his 2013 State of the City speech

Are you running for Mayor of Seattle, but don’t know how to stand out among a packed crowd of challengers to incumbent Mike McGinn?

Stop reading Internet comments and come out with an inspiring vision for a biking and walking-friendly Seattle. Talk about making bold choices to create truly efficient transit. Paint a picture of people of all ages, abilities and income levels finding it easy, convenient and safe to walk and bike to their neighborhood school or to the grocery store.

Because right now, the nervous pack of challengers is playing it “safe” and letting McGinn run away with the label as the most progressive and inspiring candidate on transportation issues.

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Seattle Bike Blog has yet to endorse a candidate in the race, and we will wait to see how the race develops as the August primary draws closer. However, so far nobody seems interested in challenging McGinn on innovative transportation.

Ron Sims, who rides a bike and has expressed strong support for improving access to safe cycling infrastructure in low-income neighborhoods, seemed to be the best candidate for challenging McGinn on bicycling. But when Sims announced early this week that we will not run for mayor, many of his potential votes went to McGinn.

Councilmember Tim Burgess announced his transportation platform this week, and it gives almost no attention specifically to bicycling and shies away from making any bold plans for improving transit or walkability. He mentions how ridiculous it is that Seattle has essentially no plan for fixing sidewalks (he’s right), and says “he would adopt smarter strategies to set achievable, outcome-based goals to keep sidewalks in good repair for all users.” Without a promise of significant funding, it’s hard to take this seriously.

Meanwhile, the neighborhood greenway movement has exploded under Mayor McGinn’s watch, and many neighborhood groups are looking into how the city can use creative and innovative street designs to significantly calm traffic in neighborhoods without sidewalks. This is a community-driven and cost-effective attempt to deal with the dangerous and unacceptable problem of missing neighborhood sidewalks.

But so far, Burgess has hardly been much of a figure in the neighborhood greenway movement, which has found active support from several of his fellow councilmembers and McGinn’s office.

That, of course, doesn’t mean it’s too late for him to get involved. In fact, he needs to do so in a significant way if he wants to pull much of that grassroots momentum (and those drawn to the vision it represents) in his direction.

A recent poll shows that Burgess is the closest candidate to challenging McGinn, but he is still closer to the pack than to the incumbent leader. Other candidates floating down in the single digits—like Peter Steinbrueck, Ed Murray, Kate Martin and Bruce Harrell—have not spent much time talking about the important role of bicycling in Seattle’s future.

It is clear that Seattle voters really like bicycling and think the city should be working to make bicycling safer and easier. In a recent survey commissioned by Cascade Bicycle Club, 66 percent of voters said safety for all road users should be the city’s top transportation priority. Only 20 percent of voters said they did not think the city should build more safe bike routes.

McGinn at this point is the only candidate who is outspoken in his support for bold transit, biking and walking projects. He has taken big political hits for standing behind controversial projects (and, we should add, has been proven to be right about almost all of them, though his vindication earned him fewer headlines).

We have spent plenty of time on this blog bemoaning what we see as a slow rate of change on our city’s streets, most of which remain far too dangerous and far from the vision of comfortable and inviting walking and biking that most Seattle residents share. McGinn’s support from the many, many passionate people who feel strongly about biking, walking and transit is not completely locked down. But it will be if nobody challenges him.

The biggest group in the recent poll (34 percent) were “undecided” about who they would vote for. Which of the following do you think will attract more people?

  • A vision for a sustainable and safe Seattle where it is easy to walk, bike and take transit for your daily needs, or
  • A vision to fill more potholes than McGinn, who himself tripled the number of potholes filled compared to his predecessor?

Anyone going to step up to the plate?

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9 responses to “Looking to stand out from the mayoral pack? Challenge McGinn with a bike-friendly vision”

  1. Kirk from Ballard

    I’m voting for the candidate that will do the most for bicycling in Seattle. If they promise to make the Ballard Bridge better for cycling, I’m contributing to their campaign!

  2. Right now McGinn must have about the lowest approval rating of any mayor ever heading into an election-unfortunately- because he doesn’t play the usual games in politics. He will stand up for what he perceives is the right thing to do, not play along with all the other powerful political figures, and then he gets roasted by the media as a result. He doesn’t seem to mind being on the losing side of a battle as long as that is where his heart is at and I can’t help but love him for that.
    His stubborn opposition to the tunnel is a perfect case in point. He invested a lot in that battle and lost big. I think most of us would agree that time is going to show us that the tunnel was a big waste of money- but that isn’t going to help him with this election.
    I haven’t agreed with everything McGinn has done as mayor but I think with respect to transportation infrastructure he has the best track record of any of the candidates and as of right now he gets my vote.

  3. Gary

    Thing about McGinn is that unless he gets back and energizes his bike riding, environmental base he’s toast. Yes he fought ‘the good fight’ against the tunnel but he lost and it’s going to be dug. Yes Seattle recycles even more stuff than ever, yes more folks are bicycling, yes more folks are riding the bus, yes downtown is thriving especially with Amazon.com deciding to stay and expand, the Basketball team thieving plan. But apparently it counts for nothing when he can’t seem to grasp that the police dept needs some serious “fixing” so that it stops being the focus of the news.

    IF and it’s a big if, he makes it out of the primaries he’ll have to get out and energize folks. But he’s also lucky that none of the other candidates look all that good either to a growing “leftist” base that is Seattle.

  4. Gordon

    Great article Tom! One key stat all the campaigns should remember is that 86% of Seattle voters support neighborhood greenways according to the poll. 86%. 86%!

    Neighborhood greenways are the Seattle equivalent of baseball, motherhood, and apple pie.

    I would love to hear discussion in the mayoral and the council races about who has the best plan to fully implement a citywide network of neighborhood greenways as quickly as possible.

  5. I think I’m your gal. I have a sidewalk plan and I’ve been working with and fully support the Greenways movement. I also have a transit plan. Let’s have coffee and discuss.

  6. […] Earlier this month Tom Fucoloro at Seattle Bike Blog challanged those running against Mayor McGinn to offer a bold bike-friendly vision for Seattle: […]

  7. […] Earlier this month Tom Fucoloro at Seattle Bike Blog challanged those running against Mayor McGinn to offer a bold bike-friendly vision for Seattle: […]

  8. […] months ago I shared Tom Fucoloro’s lament that “right now, the nervous pack of challengers is playing it “safe” and letting McGinn […]

  9. […] We wrote a few months ago challenging the other mayoral candidates to try to outflank McGinn as the most inspiring candidate on transportation issues. Nobody did (though Kate Martin deserves a shout out for taking us up on the challenge and having a very interesting chat over coffee). […]

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