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Bike commuting grew nearly 50% under McGinn, Murray will oversee ‘extraordinary’ years ahead

The Linden Ave Complete Streets Project
The Linden Ave Complete Streets Project

Mike McGinn called mayor-elect Ed Murray today to concede, telling him that “he was going to be in for an extraordinary four years.”

This is certainly true for cycling in the city. The number of people biking to work grew by 42 percent in just the first three years McGinn was in office (2009–2012, according to Census data). There are no signs this growth in cycling will slow down any time soon.

And this growth in cycling to work is not just novelty or frill as naysayers like to think. It’s vital to the city’s economy. In a recent op-ed for the Seattle Times, Downtown Seattle Association CEO Kate Joncas points out that biking, walking and transit have been absorbing every new commute trip in the state’s top employment center:

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According to a Commute Seattle survey, 43 percent of downtown commuters choose transit — more than any other mode — and just 34 percent choose to drive alone. Census data show that, for the first time, less than 50 percent of Seattleites drive to work citywide.

Even more remarkably, downtown traffic levels have stayed relatively flat despite rapid job growth. That means transit, walking and bicycling are absorbing nearly 100 percent of new job growth.

So for a mayor whose public image has been tied so closely to urban cycling, what legacy is he leaving behind as he departs? And what groundbreaking moments does Murray have to look forward to during his first term in office?

Here’s a short list of projects on the ground that the mayor can take some credit for:

But almost more important than the projects on the ground is the incredible number of projects that have been essentially teed up for the next administration. When McGinn took office, he was handed a stack of paint-only bike lane projects (like Nickerson). He leaves office with plans in process for:

  • Protected bike lanes downtown — Both publicly and privately funded, a connected network of safe downtown bikeways will change everything
  • Puget Sound Bike Share — On the verge on launching, bike share will redefine what urban cycling means as more people use bikes for more kinds of short trips
  • A nearly-completed Bike Master Plan — This could very well be the best city bike plan in the nation, with a focus on making cycling safe and appealing for everyday people of all ages and abilities
  • A Road Safety Action Plan — Creates a framework to make sure that safety for all users is the city’s top transportation priority

Whereas McGinn entered office with the Spokane Street Viaduct and Mercer Projects weighing on the transportation budget, he has avoided tying the next administration’s hands by committing to similar large and outrageously-costly roads projects. As mayor, Murray will have the ability to choose from a smorgasbord of world-class bike projects and neighborhood-driven safety desires, and he’ll have the means to make them happen quickly if he wants to.

And we believe that he will want to lead the city on these projects. Anyone who voted for Murray because they think he will fight bike lanes is probably in for a disappointment. They are not just pet projects of a cycling mayor. These projects not only support the city’s economy and the health of its residents, but also help keep the city at the top of the nation’s most forward-thinking and innovative cities.

Murray has said he supports them, and the City Council wants to fund them.

Safe streets, fast transit and comfortable bike lanes are the way of the future, and Murray has been elected to lead us there. The momentum behind safe and livable streets is far larger than any one mayor.  I look forward to watching Mayor Murray cut many ribbons in the next four years.

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16 responses to “Bike commuting grew nearly 50% under McGinn, Murray will oversee ‘extraordinary’ years ahead”

  1. Thank you for highlighting the projects that are in the works. I can’t wait until the protected bikeways in downtown are done. That will do so much to encourage commuting by bike…way more than showers. (Although showers are nice too!)

    1. Charles B

      I would call it transformation myself.

      Downtown is really intimidating for the uninitiated. Having cycle tracks down there will change the city for bicycling, especially if the connections to Dexter and the potential Westlake bike lanes (should Murray not can that) are any good.

  2. Karl

    I’ve seen plenty of advancement regarding bike infrastructure and safety in this city under McGinn, which is one of the reasons I was hoping he would get re-elected. Big thumbs up to Mike! Fare thee well in the future. Alas, I still don’t see any dedicated bike projects on that portly list of accomplishments South of Capitol Hill though. Here’s hoping Murray gives some much needed attention to that area to help complete the circle.

  3. bill

    Spokane Street Viaduct … outrageously-costly roads projects

    Hey you’re criticizing my corner of the city’s pork! Really, the old viaduct was really bad and way overdue for improvement. What it needs now is either rigorous enforcement of the speed limits or higher limits in tune with the road’s design.

    Also, you missed mentioning the Fauntleroy road diet and restriping on Avalon. No one goes 50 now on Fauntleroy. A southbound bike lane would be nice but at least we have a climbing lane now.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      I did forget Fauntleroy, you’re right!

      And the Spokane St Viaduct isn’t the worst project ever or anything (and it did come in under budget, which was nice). But it was super expensive (original budget was $164 million, though over half came from grants). That one project cost way more than the total the city has ever spent on bike projects, to put things in perspective. We keep being told we can’t make more roads safe because of budget constraints. Well, let’s make it a priority, then.

  4. Allan

    Seeing the election results made me sick. I finally did my homework the night before I turned in my ballot. The biggest loss was on 522, I am going to make a real effort to only eat non gmo foods in the future. I lost on my choice of Mayor and I lost on Savant who had corporate money stacked against her. My ballot was mostly a loser. It makes me want to puke.

    1. Keef

      there’s plenty of us in the same boat with our ballots. One can only hope the new mayor will continue modernizing the city w.r.t. bicycle commuting. can’t believe 522 was voted down but that’s what happens when tons of money is injected into ads like that. fingers crossed this new mayor will no backpedal for us devoted cyclists.

    2. Tom Fucoloro

      Cheer up! It’s ok. You win some, you lose some. And Seattle is lucky that we didn’t have any serious candidates who were awful. The closest was Albert Shen, and he lost big.

      Maybe i’m just used to losing big. I grew up in Todd Aiken’s congressional district in Missouri, so my first several years of voting consisted of me voting against that vile, stupid man… and LOSING!

      Seattle’s doing well. When your choices are between radical progress now and progress gradually, you always win.

  5. Gary

    One thing you can say about Murray he’s pretty good at staying after something that he knows is right. If we keep up the pressure that the streets belong to all of us, that kids should be able to bike to school, we’ll see more bicycling infustructure. It only makes sense as Amazon continues to grow in employment that the city will do the lowest cost thing to move people… walking and bicycling are cheaper than mass transit so we’ll see more of it.

    1. Charles B

      Mass transit is also less expensive than widening the road for more cars, and more practical over long distances for bicycles. We will need a balanced combination of all three (transit, bicycles and walking) to handle the growth this city is going to see in the coming decades.

  6. no traffic lights

    He was a great Mayor for this city and time. I’m looking forward to his next move. Here’s hoping it’s even more impactful.

  7. Chuck Ayers

    Tom: thanks for the summation. Now is the time for the active transportation (biking and walking) and transit communities to get their ground game together. We have allies on city council and we will need new allies in the Murray administration – and it begins with allies who were in the Murray camp. Who knows what his move will be at SDOT. And, alas, Olympia is still a black hole. While the Gov loves to ride, he needs to turn his passion into effective policy and on-the-ground results. I’m still waiting to see which road his new WSDOT director will take. Back to the local, the upcoming Bridging the Gap Levy in 2015 will be a huge marker for the new administration.

    1. SashaBikes

      Thanks for making this point! I told my Fella that the election of Murray (disappointing to us both) means that there is even more urgency to get involved in advocacy. I’m looking forward to attending more meetings and volunteering my time to ensure that the bike voice is heard, calmly and clearly, in city hall.

  8. […] As for policy, Murray seems to still be feeling his way through bicycling issues in the city even as he cruised to victory. In the weeks leading up to the November election, the candidate found himself clarifying positions and statements he made about many of the city’s planned bicycle-focused projects including a downtown cycle track. Outgoing Mike McGinn, meanwhile, seems likely to be forever associated with bicycling in the city. […]

  9. […] behind a legacy of a growing biking community in Seattle. The number of people biking to work grew by 42% in his first three years in office (2009-12) and interest is now high enough that the city’s […]

  10. […] chairman of the Sierra Unite together, McGinn wearied his time advocating during increased bus and bike lanes—critics dubbed him “Mayor McSchwinn”—and in contact with the Alaskan Regular course Viaduct […]

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