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Murray says NE 75th Street safety project was a ‘mistake’ because it removed unused parking

Ed Murray told Feet First recently that he thinks it was a mistake to install bike lanes on NE 75th Street, part of a road safety project demanded by neighbors following the devastating collision that killed Judy and Dennis Schulte and seriously injured Karina and weeks-old Elias.

The bike lanes were installed as a way to make the street safer and easier for people crossing the street on foot and to make the street safer for people biking and driving on the street.

So why does Ed Murray oppose it? Here’s his response to Feet First:

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Current revisions of this sort (e.g. along NE 65th and NE 75th) have slowed traffic and will likely improve pedestrian safety.  But these revisions also included bike lanes on either side of the street and got rid of all street parking.  This was a mistake, and disproportionally impacts the elderly and disabled.

Unfortunately, this is a consistent blind spot of the current administration.


First off, there has not been a revision to NE 65th Street that has removed “all street parking” or that “included bike lanes on either side of the street.” This appears to be a factual error. I requested clarification on this point from the Murray campaign late last week and will update when/if I hear back.

As for 75th, it’s true that the safety improvements to NE 75th Street removed all street parking. But, as SDOT clearly states in their July 25 presentation about the project (easily found online at the project website), parking was removed in part because nobody was using it:


One car in 20 blocks of street! That’s an average of 0.025 cars per block face. At peak parking use, 28 cars parked in those 20 blocks. That’s an average of 0.7 cars per block face (though most were actually within a two-block area near the pool, which has a parking lot).

SDOT goes further, explaining that not only is this a clear waste of valuable road space, but empty parking lanes become de facto extra travel lanes, increasing speeding and making it much more dangerous for people trying to cross the street. This was very likely a contributing factor to most of the 114 collisions reported in this stretch of road since 2009. In those 114 collisions, more than 50 people were injured and some died.


So he’d rather have dangerous empty parking lanes than bike lanes, even though neighbors of the project clearly favored the bike lane option? That’s not only a troubling stance to safe streets advocates, but it’s also a stance that’s not likely to be popular among Seattle voters.

And to say that removing parking “disproportionally impacts the elderly” is troubling. In fact, data shows that the elderly are disproportionately likely to be the victims of traffic violence. This is one reason the AARP is a strong supporter of complete streets projects like the one completed on NE 75th Street.

Once again, Murray shows that he has a poor grasp of local transportation issues. And maybe as executive, he doesn’t need to know about these issues himself (like Mike McGinn very clearly does). But he does need to surround himself with people who do.

Whoever is advising Murray on transportation issues during this campaign is doing a rather poor job of it. Not only has the Murray campaign shown questionable judgment on several transportation issues, they also have done very poor (or no) research into projects before moving forward with an opinion on it (this wasn’t a gotcha interview, these were written responses).

This is concerning. Seattle is a city with no shortage of transportation experts. I seriously hope Murray finds one soon. More importantly, I hope this is not a sign of the kind of backwards transportation advisers he would hire if he wins the election.

Coming out against completing the Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link was a big misstep, since the rest of the city has assumed that argument was settled years ago. That’s a Seattle political campaign softball: Do you want to complete the Burke-Gilman Trail? Yes.

But he whiffed, then had to backpedal.

He also accepted money from a fundraiser centered around opposition to installing a safe bikeway on Westlake (though he did tell Publicola that he doesn’t oppose the planned cycle track there). I suppose it’s appealing to get money wherever you can when running for office, but it’s certainly concerning that the people behind the event have the idea Murray will fight against safe bikeways.

And now to come out against a road safety project because it added bike lanes instead of keeping parking lanes nobody used, that’s just wrong. There are streets like NE 75th in just about every Seattle neighborhood, and our next mayor needs to take bold leadership to improve safety on all of them. Murray’s answer to Feet First suggests that he is not up for that challenge.

I am writing this not just to beat up on Ed Murray because I support his opponent. When asked in conceptual terms, Murray supports safe streets, bike lanes and making our neighborhoods safer for people on foot. But when pressed on specifics, he stumbles. I want Seattle to have two candidates who are strong supporters of forward-thinking and safe urban transportation. McGinn clearly is. Murray tries to say he is, but he’s not backing it up.

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46 responses to “Murray says NE 75th Street safety project was a ‘mistake’ because it removed unused parking”

  1. biliruben

    I think this is strategic on his part.

    I can only assume he’s not senile and bumbling (a least I hope not), so he must have someone whispering in his ear that only old folks who fear change vote in off-year elections.

    Hopefully Seattle makes him pay for his naked pandering to old, anti-urban, backwards-thinking Seattle, and we make sure that a mayoral candidate who makes it through the primary never again thinks that such pandering is a successful strategy. The KIRO poll only has him ahead by 4, so there appears to be a good possibility that Seattle will slam the door on this type of thinking for good.

  2. Murray is in the same position Steinbrueck was in in the primary. McGinn is a hero to his base to the extent that Murray will struggle to make inroads there. If Murray said that the city’s inability to take a strong stand on reducing driveway crossings of the Linden cycletrack put its users in danger, or if he insisted that the 75th Street bike lanes needed to be extended to the bike routes it just misses (Roosevelt on the west end and 39th on the east) would McGinn’s base desert him? I doubt it. He has to go looking for votes elsewhere, and that means becoming a parking warrior.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      I would not discount the possibility that this is simply a mistake. Maybe he got an earful from an angry group of Roosevelt neighbors and falsely assumed most everyone else felt the way they did (and then did no follow-up research on the issue). Either way, it is troubling.

      1. Tom

        This would be his 3rd biking related “mistake” in a month, which shows me that safe streets aren’t even IN his priorities. Whether or not he lines up ideologically with McGinn is almost beside the point– if he can’t address these concerns when he’s being vetted by the people who care about the project, why would I trust him once he’s in office? The anti-cycle track fundraiser was just baffling: “I’ll take their money and accept their support, but I firmly disagree with what they advocate.” Ugh, slimy.

      2. meanie

        Whats with all the back peddling for Murray? This is the second post where he has put his foot in his mouth where you have pleaded for readers to consider it might be a mistake. As others have said, this is a clear anti-McGinn strategy.

        I really believe Murray intends to drive the city off a cliff appealing to Olympia and outlying areas to bolster his credentials as a collaborator, so he can eventually run for Governor. Its amazing he can so flagrantly boast anti urban interests, have downright ignorant grasp local issues and still be seen as a jolly pro-gay go getter.

        McGinn has plenty of legitimate awkward/foolish faults, but Murray is the worst kind of self important pandering career politician.

    2. RTK

      Agreed, I think this is just based on trying to pick up votes outside McGinn’s base.

      1. R1

        It seems kinda dumb to try to pick up pro car, pro-parking votes on a response to feet first, of all places. I don’t think the base of people he’d be trying to impress will read these answers.

  3. Eli

    Because a parking space is more important than a human life.

    Thanks, Ed Murray, for sharing your vision of Seattle.

  4. Gary

    hey, if he can “back pedal” surely he can pedal forwards. He’s just showing that he’s a cool bicycle dude who can pedal any way the wind blows. Maybe he’ll show us how he can “put the brakes” on things too!

  5. sally

    The changes happened because two grandparents got killed. And Ed Murray worries that the lack of parking disproportionally impacts the elderly.

    1. 75th car commuter

      Wow, that really says it all.

  6. Andres Salomon

    I encourage everyone to read the full Feet First interview. They did a great job with some wonderful questions.

    After reading Murray’s answers, I came away more confused about him than anything else. His answers paint him as pro-parking, pro-walkability, anti-road diet, pro-travel lane removal. What?

  7. Kimberly Kinchen

    Someone should tell Ed Murray that AARP has been a proponent of complete streets for years, and recognizes that people need more than just access to parking to be able to get around in their later years:


    Similarly, people with disabilities require the same kind of planning, and it amazes me that people who aspire to public service don’t get these long-term common interests.

    I know, I’m not cynical enough.

  8. Ed Murray should try crossing 75th St a few times, with kids in tow, either walking or on bicycle before weighing in. As should anyone else that is against a re-design of 75th St.

  9. Occasional Biker

    Let’s be clear. First, “parking on 75th was not being used”; 75th was posted “no parking” westbound 7-9 AM and eastbound 4-6 PM. Parking was well-utilized in the evenings when it was needed. Second; there are plenty of houses along the street that have been impacted by City’s new parking prohibition. Third, I use the street daily and have counted three bicycles (this is a good example of roadway utilization?). I have also seen traffic now being backed up for 10 blocks. Is this going to get me to commute by bike? Not when my commute is 20 miles one way! Sure, I can see the logic here.

    1. RTK

      While bike counts aren’t exploding on 75th, I now frequently see cyclist on this stretch of roadway between 15th and 35th and now ride it myself. As for the commute, give it a try, you might enjoy it.

      Putting cycling aside, the street is now significantly safer. We should expect safe streets in out city. That is what initiated the re-striping.

    2. 75th car commuter

      If you disagree with the data collected by the city, then post your own. The goal of this small project is to keep people from dying when they’re trying to cross the street, not to get you to commute 20 miles by bike.

    3. Sea

      A 20 mile commute is the perfect length, not too long but long enough to keep from having to go to the gym. Ride your bike more.

  10. Collin

    Although Murray will most likely get my vote, thanks to the author Tom for writing a fairly balanced piece and not just a biased op-ed with poorly formed arguments. I have confidence that Murray does have the experience to get the right experts in on transportation issues as we have a lot of these in Seattle, that go much further than just bike lanes vs. parking/cars.

    Whether a bike lane on 75th or whatever is actually changed there (I haven’t been, and if Murray can’t get it right, I’m not going to try) it terrible that it was only given attention after such a tragedy happened.

  11. MavisJ

    If you think Murray’s answers to the Feet First questionnaire were bad, check out Albert Shenn’s.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      I know, right?

      But at least Shen is consistent with his anti-bike views.

  12. Murray is a labor union darling. Bike issues aren’t very important to them.

  13. Jean Maier

    As someone whose main use of 75th is in a car, I find the safety change wonderful

    1. Phil Jones

      Ditto for me! I used to hate driving on 75th; it’s much much better now.

  14. Any real cyclist knows that McSchwinn did this stupid 75th street project paying double time on our taxpayer dime only to try to further his political clout over a media darling bad guy drunk story. It is stupid political bs that impacted a number of neighborhoods that have nothing to do with the high profile DUI at issue. As a daily biker who lives on 75th that probable puts more miles on a bike in a week than McSchwinn puts on in a year, I think this incredibly stupid policy. The people who need bike lanes shouldn’t ride 75th regardless, and the people who ride know that there are much better east-west corridors than 75th. McSchwinn is a bike dummy and must go down for the good of Seattle.

    1. 75th car commuter

      75th moved too fast before the improvements with unpredictable weaving – there’s not enough room for four lanes. This is one of the projects in the city where the bike lanes are not the primary benefit – the benefit is the slowing of traffic for all users of the road, and eliminating a multiple threat for pedestrians trying to cross the street.

    2. Andres Salomon

      Yeah, tell those Eckstein kids to take the Burke! They shouldn’t be walking or biking on 75th. 75th should be preserved for vehicle storage and driving above the speed limit. That’s what makes our city a wonderful place to live, after all.

    3. Sea

      Calling people names is the quickest way to invalidate any point you’re trying to make.

  15. Jo

    I live in the affected stretch of NE 75th Street. My husband bike commutes daily to downtown. I run (on foot!), walk, or bike my local errands and work from home. I deal daily with motorists who don’t respect pedestrians’ right-of-way at intersections. Our car remains in our driveway for days at a time. We’re the kind of residents who, on paper, should support McGinn and what he and SDOT did to our street, but we don’t. Though we voted enthusiastically for progressive “Mike Who Bikes” last election, the NE 75th Street rechannelization debacle showed us another side of our Mayor, an unreasonable, stubborn, pushy side that hides behind a contrived concern for “safety”. He overlooks nuanced, localized approaches to problems in favor of one-size-fits-a-few fixes. Worst, he doesn’t listen to residents whose viewpoint diverges, even a little, from his own. We’re supporting Ed Murray in the hope that “effective” is the new “progressive”.

    As a NE 75th Street homeowner, I would like to address three (perhaps unintentional, since SDOT promulageted most of them) misrepresentations in this article:

    1- McGinn and SDOT misleadingly frame this issue in terms of “biking vs. parking”. But this characterization is unfortunate and unnecessary, because NE 75th Street is wide enough for both. If the mile-long continuous center turn lane—which is a turn lane to nowhere (TLTN) for long stretches—were eliminated in favor of turn pockets at key intersections, we could easily have two bike lanes and segments of residential parking on at least one side of each block. In fact, this is what SDOT did on Roosevelt, north of 75th Street, and Roosevelt is narrower than our street. We residents specifically asked for an elimination of the TLTN, not necessarily for an elimination of the bike lanes. McGinn and SDOT have set up a false scarcity of options.

    2- Parking on NE 75th Street appeared “underutilized” because it was restricted from 6 am – 9 am on the north side, and from 4 pm – 6 pm on the South side. We couldn’t leave our cars in one place for long without fear of a ticket or tow truck, so most of us made a habit of parking elsewhere. Moreover, SDOT collected the parking data in July during vacation season (Thurs 18 July – Sat 20 July) when the neighborhood was temporarily depopulated. I learned later that by the time these parking data were collected, McGinn and SDOT had already decided on this particular road configuration and were seeking parking data to support their position. Residents of NE 75th Street, including a number of cyclists in addition to myself, attended a community meeting on 24 July and tried to convince SDOT engineers that if parking restrictions were removed, at least on one side of the street, parking wouldn’t be underutilized. But the Mayor and SDOT had already made up their minds by the time they held this meeting, and no real input from the actual community could change their minds.

    3-Residents of NE 75th Street were not informed of the “spring meetings” held in March and April of 2013 to address safety concerns; yet SDOT, the Mayor, and other vested interest groups continually claim that we were, and that we “asked for” the current road configuration. In fact, we weren’t informed of any meetings except the two held on 24 and 25 July, mentioned above, and by which time the Mayor had made up his mind. Following those two meetings, from late July through mid-August, NE 75th Street residents sent hundreds of messages via phone, e-mail, and formal petition to the Mayor, SDOT, and City Council members, asking them to reconsider the Proposal 4 rechannelization. In response to our community organizing, SDOT offered its workers overtime and rechannelized the street nine days ahead of when the public notice said the changes were scheduled for implementation. The “progressive” Boss busted the Union.

    As one who has to live with this new channelization, I agree with Ed Murray that it was a mistake. SDOT could have implemented a more nuanced, neighborhood-sensitive solution that enhanced safety more effectively than the current blanket fix. The new paint lines needlessly sacrifice a previously existing, PUBLICLY shared neighborhood resource for a turn lane to nowhere, and intensify rather than mitigate the arterial nature of NE 75th Street. But the worst mistake was in the anti-democratic nature of the process itself. McGinn and SDOT implemented these changes under a sham community-input process and callously ignored a grassroots effort to convince them to reconsider. If that’s “progressive”, then I’m hoping “effective” will do a better job of making NE 75th Street “safer and more comfortable for EVERYONE”, as SDOT falsely promised.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      To be fair, an option with parking instead of a turn lane was considered, and people didn’t seem to like it: http://www.ravennablog.com/sdot-releases-ne-75th-st-rechannelization-options-photos/

      The concerns is that without the turn lane, traffic might have backed up more. So neighbors seemed to prefer the turn lane to parking. Not really a bike issue, and hardly McGinn being misleading.

    2. RTK

      I live very near 75th and frequently use it through the re-channelized section. On my street there was visibility of all the meetings and walks that were held, maybe we just live on a block of civilly active people.

    3. JB

      Maybe it’s just me, but this post seems pretty darn polished and on-message to be some random citizen. Murray campaign aide perhaps?

      Jo says:

      > he overlooks nuanced, localized approaches to problems in favor of
      > one-size-fits-a-few fixes. Worst, he doesn’t listen to residents whose viewpoint
      > diverges, even a little, from his own. We’re supporting Ed Murray in the hope
      > that “effective” is the new “progressive”.

  16. […] As we reported yesterday, Murray had originally told Feet First that the project was a mistake because it removed parking and included bike lanes. However, city studies had shown that the parking was rarely used. […]

  17. Jo

    With very few exceptions, most of us “neighbors” who actually live on this street would have welcomed Proposal 3 over what we got, any day. But the people living in the 102 houses ON 75th Street were drowned out by those living elsewhere.

    1. biliruben

      As is appropriate, when attempting to reach consensus on what to do with a public shared resource.

      I’d love to dictate how the street I live on is designed too. But that’s not how it works.

    2. Tom Fucoloro

      Exactly. A street belongs to everyone. Obviously, adjacent neighbors need to have a say, but they don’t get the ONLY say.

  18. Jo

    Well so far, we haven’t had ANY say. As explained above, the community meeting process was a sham where we were concerned. Again, 75th Street could have accommodated both bike lanes AND some, probably reduced, parking.

    1. RTK

      What community meeting are you referring to, the BMP Town Hall at Ravenna Eckstein Community Center. That meeting had an entirely different focus. At the end of the meeting there were several confused people that accosted the SDOT folks due this misunderstanding.

  19. Bubbi the Burgher

    About the mayoral stuff, I won’t be voting based on how SDOT re-wrote 75th ave. Seems like there’s a slightly larger picture to consider, and if either McGinn’s rapid response to the accident = “tyranny” as I think a couple folks said, or Murray’s campaign is made or broken because he pointed out the obvious–that there was no easy solution to the problems 75th had–then Gad Bless You and Be Grate-full for living where and how you do.

    About 75th: I live a block away and between 15th and 35th the road was really unsafe to cross, and unpleasant to drive on. Four “lanes” with only a yellow line in the center always seemed to encourage the Aggros to jockey for position, or try to hog both ‘lanes’.

    Crossing it with dog or kid or olds felt like playing frogger: you finally got a break in the flow of traffic–always speeding–then suddenly the light down at 25th would release a whole mess of cars just as we stepped of the curb, or another wave would come charging over the hill from the direction of the middle school. The width of the road encouraged drivers to feel entitled to charge down on you as you were trying to make the curb, sometimes honking–in a city where the norm is for drivers to stop mid-block and wave you across. A drunk driver caused the accident, but I’m certain road conditions were an aggravating factor.

    1. Sea

      The guy blew a .22. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the chance to test out a breathalyzer (or the unfortunate opportunity of using one in an official capacity), but .15 (double the legal limit) is falling down piss drunk. At .22 it doesn’t matter what the road conditions were, I’m surprised he was even able to find the ignition.

  20. Doug Bostrom

    Leaving aside the cycling issue, if what it takes to get people to obey speed limits in this town is to squeeze streets, then squeeze away.

    Murray’s right; traffic flow has slowed for a few idiots on 75th. For everybody else 75th is safer.

    Even if there were no bike lanes at all on 75th it would have been a smart move to occupy the curb lanes with Jersey barriers or whatever else it took to keep fools from using them as “no speed limit” lanes.

  21. […] Bike Blog rebuts more counterfactual nonsense on bike infrastructure from Ed […]

  22. Jo

    Whatever changes might have been best, they could have been “safer and more comfortable for Everyone” (sdot’s marketing lingo) if McGinn had truly included residents in the decision process–not the sham “four proposal” dog and pony show I witnessed twice. Speeding on 75th is still out of control after rush hour, when congestion has cleared out, and we’ve witnessed numerous collisions. It’s still nearly impossible to cross at intersections. However, since “paint is cheap” as they keep telling us, I’m hoping a more sensitive, nuanced intellect than McGinn’s will fine-tune the channellization in the near future, such that our neighborhood feels residential again.

    1. biliruben

      Jo – IIRC, what you want is exactly what was outlined at the beginning of the process. This is a quick fix to address a tragedy and neighborhood outrage, with more comprehensive and thoughtful changes down the road.

      It was more “paint is quick” and malleable than “paint is cheap”.

      I am not sure I understand your last part. You thought your street felt more like a neighborhood back when it was an unmarked 4-lane speedway free-for-all? And you are going to vote for Murray, who doesn’t even seem to be clear on what or where street 75th is, because you are counting on him to change it back to that design?

  23. Murray is a labor union darling. Bike issues aren’t very important to them.

  24. JB

    Elderly and disabled, what a crock. This is a bit tangential, but can we please stop ceding the moral high ground to folks (including Murray) who claim to be supporting the car-dominated status quo on behalf of the elderly and disabled? The fact is that no form of transportation is more discriminatory against the elderly and disabled (not to mention the young and poor) than all cars all the time. Some disabled people need parking close to their destination – fine. Plenty of disabled people can’t drive at all, and for them a balanced set of transportation options is what a real leader would provide.

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