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Seattle Times Editorial Board: Seattle should be ‘vanguard’ of safe bike infrastructure

Screenshot from the Seattle Times website
Screenshot from the Seattle Times website

The Seattle Times Editorial Board wrote a Wednesday editorial urging the city to be on the forefront of safe, quality bike infrastructure like cycle tracks and neighborhood greenways.

As we noted in July, there has been a clear shift in the board’s language around cycling issues. Once often used as some kind of political weapon to batter Mayor McGinn, the Ed Board has changed tones recently with many members expressing support for more and better cycling infrastructure.

But now the board has unequivocally voiced its support for the bold, next-generation bike infrastructure tools under heavy discussion in the development of the Bike Master Plan update, even saying that “Seattle should be in the vanguard” of quality cycling infrastructure:

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We all need to pay more attention — drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. But Seattle also needs a smarter, more forward-looking approach to bike infrastructure.

The city of Seattle is redrawing its Bicycle Master Plan, first adopted in 2007, with a goal of reducing collisions by one-third and tripling bicycling by 2017.

The plan includes more “cycle tracks” — biking lanes separated from traffic by elevation or a barrier — and “greenways” in neighborhoods where traffic moves at low speeds and people on foot and bicycles have priority.

Portland and Vancouver, B.C., are models for how to build dozens of miles worth of protected greenways. New York and Chicago have shoehorned miles of dedicated, separated bike paths into dense urban corridors. Seattle has some catching up to do.

Yes we do! And it’s great to have the Times fully on board.

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20 responses to “Seattle Times Editorial Board: Seattle should be ‘vanguard’ of safe bike infrastructure”

  1. merlin

    Thanks to you, Tom, for getting to know the members of the Times’ editorial board and gently urging them along in this direction.

  2. no traffic lights

    You do a good job paraphrasing, but you shouldn’t provide direct links to a pay site in your blog posts. It’s a dead link on my machine.

    More than anything, I miss reading the comments section whenever they run a cycling story. Maybe you should do a weekly top 10 list if you’re interested in pulling some of that traffic. The Seattle Times influence and journalistic quality has been declining for a long time but they have some of the best, most dedicated trolls.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      They should get rid of their comments section. Or make dramatic changes to the system. Right now, Seattle Times comments are hurting Seattle. They make it feel like we live in a negative, mean city. That’s just not true.

    2. Gene

      Just read it in Chrome Incognito

      1. no traffic lights

        I wasn’t aware of that Chrome functionality – good stuff. If I really feel the need, I read it through a proxy but that misses the point I was making about usability of this site.

        As for Tom’s suggestion on getting rid of comments on SeattleTimes.com, Fox news replaced their comments section with a Facebook functionality during the 2012 elections, probably to provide more accountability which keeps their readership from acting foolish and reflecting on the entire group.

  3. biliruben

    “For only 10 dollars a month, we will even provide your own private, virtual bridge for trolls to congregate and whine, unmolested, with good views of fit bicyclists attempting to improve the world through hard work and positive thinking; juicy troll-bait, condensed and supplied more cheaply than a Seattle Times subscription.”

  4. Ha, now the Times is saying all the silly things about Dexter that everyone was a year ago… that “painted bike lanes are inadequate”, etc. Maybe in another year they’ll realize that it’s about the intersections, and that they can’t be fixed without disturbing existing car patterns.

  5. Mark

    This is a case where the Seattle Times deserves real credit for thinking clearly on the subject of bicycle infrastructure, particularly since a significant portion of their ad revenue comes from auto dealers. That doesn’t mean I am going to become a subscriber anytime soon but it’s nice to see.

    When it comes to their comment section, I don’t even know where to start. Thanks, Tom, for providing a civic (and civil) forum.

  6. Jonathan

    I’m a cynic… I think the only reason they’ve gotten behind better bike infrastructure is the growing perception that Seattle is “falling behind” other cities, and not just our neighbor cities. It’s an ego thing. They like us being #1 or well regarded as a cycling haven so long as we don’t get in the way of better pavement for cars or cost more money. Thank you New York, Chicago, Vancouver and Portland.

    1. Brian T

      You may be right as to motivation, but I find myself not caring much about motives if it gets to the right end on this. People and organizations support particular policies for lots of different reasons, and not all of those reasons are consistent with each other. Getting different constituents to support the same policy is what politics is all about.
      On the Times comment section, I’ve heard that part (all?) of the attraction to sustaining them, and maybe even encouraging the trolls, is to drive page views and, by extension, ad revenue for the site. If that’s true, disabling them may be too costly. I’m no techie, so don’t know whether that’s accurate.

      1. Tom Fucoloro

        I think The Times editors know that the comments are not helpful. After all, it’s so negative that very few people even read them any more, so that’s certainly not helpful to their pageviews.

        I know they have been working on an update to the comment system (or, at least they were). I hope it addresses some of these issues, like the ridiculous vote up/down system that is either being gamed or has only a handful of dedicated users who all seem to be assholes. And no, it’s not just bikes who get it bad.

      2. Brian T

        Good to hear the Times is looking at the comments. At some level, they surely recognize that they have a brand at stake and need to control the content on the site.

  7. ODB

    “Vanguard.” Like the “the vanguard of the proletariat?” The Seattle Times is channeling Lenin! Now if only they would change their name to the “Biker’s Vanguard” I might subscribe.

  8. Gene Balk

    Since the subject of negative commenting on the Times site came up in this thread, I’ll say that some of the comments here on Seattle Bike Blog really sadden me. I work at the Times (not in editorial) and I’m thrilled to see these positive opinion pieces coming our regularly about cycling. This latest one is unequivocal, as Tom writes. And I appreciate that Tom has been very supportive of these changes–but then I see some commenters here are full of negativity/cynicism about it.

    I didn’t think anyone in the cycling community liked it when the Times published anti-bike opinion pieces. But the response from some cyclists here to the recent pro-bike opinions really makes me wonder.

    Damned if you do and damned if you don’t, I guess.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      There are definitely people who get upset whenever I say anything positive about the Times. Burned too many times?

      While I am obviously a huge fan of SBB’s commenters (even y’all that I don’t agree with!), I think the difference is that ST comments can be so hurtful. Victim blaming on every story about tragedy (the worst are removed, but not all of them). And it’s not just bike stories that get it bad, though bikes tend to be a lightning rod.

      The comment voting system makes it worse because when someone is sitting there blaming all those red light running bikers for some family’s devastating loss, it hurts so much more to see 30 thumbs up (making it the highest comment). It makes it seem like the majority of people feel that way.

      We all know that’s not true, and that the majority of people actually feel terrible for the family and want to send them support and love. But that’s not reflected in the ST comments section, and that’s why I feel like the section is hurtful to the city.

      1. Tom Fucoloro

        I should add that I don’t think moderators are to blame. It’s a big site that’s going to get a lot of negative opinions. But the system could be designed in a way to at least allow more opinions to rise to the top.

  9. Gene Balk

    Tom – No argument from me about the problems with Times commenting. And didn’t mean to compare the comments on here to some of the hate spewed on the Times comments. No comparison.
    I used to help out with comment moderation but then shrinking staff meant other priorities. It would be great if we could moderate them better. I understand reader engagement is important, but there’s got to be a better way to have it than anonymous, nearly-unregulated comments.
    There is a new commenting system is coming…it was supposed to be in place many months ago, but things go wrong I guess. I hope it’s ready soon, and I hope it’s a huge improvement.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Me too!

  10. ODB

    Just to clarify, I’m a huge fan of the Times’ shift. Sort of a Nixon-goes-to-China moment. My earlier comment about “vanguard” sounding Marxist was meant to be in jest.

    In some way though, I’ll miss the anti-bike-slanted pieces. I think a bogeyman is useful to a movement for motivational purposes. If being pro-bike is now the mainstream, establishment position, suddenly biking doesn’t seem as radical anymore. I guess now we have to get from being established in theory to actually having the infrastructure to be established in practice. And in that regard, the Times’ shift is huge. It transforms the political landscape in a way that will be very important to making the real changes on the ground that can actually make bicycling mainstream transportation.

    1. Matt

      Time to buy a unicycle?

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