SDOT fails to bike and chew gum at the same time, hasn’t started bike plan due last month

There has been surprisingly little progress on implementing this plan since it passed in April.

Which parts to complete first? There has been surprisingly little progress on that implementation plan since the Bike Master Plan passed in April.

Tuesday’s City Council Transportation Committee chat with incoming SDOT Director Scott Kubly got off to a strange start as committee chair Tom Rasmussen and Councilmember Mike O’Brien laid into Deputy Mayor Kate Joncas (and to a much lesser extent Kubly himself) for completely dropping the ball on developing an implementation plan for the Bike Master Plan.

Joncas apologized profusely, telling the council that implementing the Bike Plan is a priority for the Murray administration and that the work “just got dropped” and nobody caught it.

“It’s a top priority now to get it done,” said Joncas.

“Implementation is what I find most exciting,” said Kubly, who pointed to his record in Chicago where he helped install 60 miles of protected and buffered bike lanes in just two years.

The question now is whether the implementation plan will be done in time for fall budget talks, which is the city’s best chance this year to direct funding to the Bike Plan. The revised schedule for completing the document should get it done in time, but it’s getting close.

But Bill Lucia at Crosscut reports that, in a letter to council, Joncas also pointed to the department and mayor’s office ambitious acceleration of the 2nd Ave protected bike lane as one reason the implementation plan did not get done. Designing and implementing the downtown two-way bike lane in less than six months is a huge task, especially for a very understaffed department not used to completing such big projects on so short a timeframe. The 2nd Ave project is an all-hands-on-deck kind of effort for SDOT’s Bicycle Program, and it is important they get it right.

Perhaps this is yet another argument for making some budget space for one or several more staffers in SDOT’s Bicycle Program. We need SDOT to be able to bike and chew gum at the same time. The Bike Plan is ambitious, and this level of multitasking will need to become the new normal if we are going to get it done in time.

The Bike Plan Plan (officially dubbed the “Bicycle Master Plan Implementation Plan”) is essentially a guiding document that would use the prioritization framework in the Bike Plan to create a three-to-five-year deliverable list of high-priority projects. In other words, it’s the document we need to actually use the Bike Plan we just spent years developing. The Council mandated that the list be prepared within 90 days of approving the Bike Plan. For those keeping score at home, that would have been mid-July.

So the Councilmembers were understandably irked that SDOT and the mayor’s office have not even begun work on the document. Rasmussen said during the meeting that he was “shocked” they “haven’t even started it.” Even worse, they did not respond to the volunteer Bicycle Advisory Board’s (“SBAB”) repeated requests for updates on the document, and Rasmussen made it clear that he expects SDOT and the mayor’s office to take SBAB’s requests seriously.

Rasmussen also seemed concerned that the mayor’s office was taking their own path and ignoring Council instructions. Some of the irritation is likely about more than just the Bike Plan and reaches into the realm of Mayoral-Council relations.

“This was one of the core elements of the Bike Master Plan, and we had numerous conversations with staff, so it’s not credible that this was just dropped,” said Rasmussen.

It doesn’t help that projects continue to move forward around the city that completely ignore the Bike Plan’s suggested improvements:

  • We already reported on changes to Admiral Way that ignore the plan’s call for protected bike lanes.
  • West Seattle Blog reports that planned safety improvements on SW Roxbury do not include bike lanes at all, despite the Bike Plan’s call for protected bike lanes there.
  • We have received schematics for a multi-million dollar repaving project on Roosevelt Way (PDF) in the U District that would simply repaint the existing door zone paint-only bike lane instead of following the Bike Plan’s call for — you guessed it — protected bike lanes.

During Tuesday’s meeting, O’Brien noted the importance of following through with plans like these. If the city does not, then people start to question why they even volunteered their time to help shape the plans, and they lose faith in the city’s process. The Bike Plan is barely 120 days old, and it’s already being ignored. That does not instill confidence that the city takes its responsibility to follow the plan very seriously.

On the other hand, it’s not like the Murray administration has been ignoring bikes. In fact, they are:

There are high expectations for the city’s Bicycle Program, and it may take investment from the Council and leadership from the Mayor’s Office and SDOT to meet those expectations. It may fall to Kubly to make the case for whatever resources SDOT needs to get the whole job done (no pressure, new guy!). But if all of SDOT’s wheels do get turning at the same time, Seattle is poised to make enormous strides on street safety and bike access.

Below is the Bicycle Advisory Board’s letter to Councilmember Rasmussen about the implementation plan:

SBAB Comments BMP Impl Plan Delay by tfooq

You can watch Tuesday’s meeting below (the Kubly/Bike Plan stuff starts at 76:00):

About Tom Fucoloro

Founder and Editor of Seattle Bike Blog.
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14 Responses to SDOT fails to bike and chew gum at the same time, hasn’t started bike plan due last month

  1. Doug Bostrom says:

    It’s disappointing to see meticulous plans ignored while wildcat operations rush forward, especially for a city that is a national joke when it comes to obsessive planning efforts.

    Still, existence is a marvelous virtue. The 2nd Ave. project is an important extension of some other precedents.

    Hopefully this is a calibration issue as the new regime in city hall finds its feet. At least they’ve demonstrated energy and initiative. Hopefully those can now be directed to be coordinated work.

  2. Kirk says:

    At least they didn’t say the dog ate it. Pretty damn close.

    I hope SDOT pays attention to their own research and their own polls, and the implementaion plan starts like this:

    1. Fix the Missing Link. The EIS has now taken two years to complete. FINISH IT. Get it done.
    2. Fix the Ballard Bridge. It was number one on the list of the crossings that the citizens of Seattle want fixed. FIX IT!

  3. Joe Szilagyi says:

    I’m the secretary for the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council, who together with the Highland Park Action Club, North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, and the Community School of West Seattle got the ball rolling and instigated the entire upcoming SW Roxbury rebuild. From everything we’ve been told there will be bike facilities on Roxbury in accordance with the plan (and as someone who bike commutes sometime would love them as it would make my own life a lot easier).

    It was punted on this round of repair on SW Roxbury for just two reasons:

    #1: Budget.

    #2: The condition of SW Roxbury is so absolutely terrible and rotten that their engineers actually refused to even consider implementing any of it until the surface grade repairs are finished completely first.

    They’ve only just begun tearing up some of the worst sections of the street in the past 48 hours, to spend a month or two on the first batch of repairs, but it could take a while. Seriously, no one but the few and insane ride their bikes on Roxbury today, and not just for the crazy speeding and no margins of space from cars — the road surface really is absolutely crap. We’ve had zero indications that it’s not coming in the future once the traffic calming, surface repairs, and road diets (which were overwhelmingly popular at every hearing, surprisingly) are in place.

    • David Boneham says:

      Living in Arbor Heights and going over to White Center to access my local bike shop requires riding my velocipede on the sidewalk because of the conditions you cite. But it’s also really bad when I use my motorcycle or car due to the torn up surface of Roxbury and the excessive speed of drivers. It’s really dangerous. The paving going on is a start and the changes effected by the planned “diet” will make a huge difference to the quality of life for this end of the city. Glad to hear that the BMP lane for Roxbury will be implemented.

  4. Augsburg says:

    I have to say I am not worried about SDOT being late with the bike master plan. I’ve been biking in Seattle for 20 years and just about everything SDOT has done in the past 5 years I disagree with and find to be less safe. I’d just as soon they take their time. In my opinion, their quick political “fixes” for bikes have not been well thought out. It does not help that too many local bicycle activists and clubs that advise SDOT are apparently oblivious to modern bicycle design principles – as exhibited in many European cites – all of them lightyears ahead of us here in Seattle.

  5. Josh says:

    This isn’t terribly surprising, SDOT is likewise failing to implement the mandate in the BMP Update Adopting Resolution that all new bike infrastructure meet or exceed applicable national, state, and local standards.

    I hope the public is provided adequate design previews and feedback opportunity for the 2nd Avenue rush job if it’s straining their resources so badly.

    They’re clearly not staffed for the level of bicycle activity that’s going on. I would hope they can at least meet safety standards for big-ticket infrastructure, but the plans to date for Westlake don’t encourage optimism.

  6. Peter Than says:

    The link to the PDF of the Roosevelt Way repaving schematics is broken.

    Could you post a working link?

    The section where the broken link is: “We have received schematics for a multi-million dollar repaving project on Roosevelt Way (PDF) in the U District that would simply repaint the existing door zone paint-only bike lane instead of following the Bike Plan’s call for — you guessed it — protected bike lanes.”

  7. Bob Hall says:

    To me, this just goes to underscore how unimportant the BMP really is. Remember, the most recent version of the BMP is just the 5-year update to the original. It might serve us well to ask what got accomplished during the original chunk of five years. The answer is: Some of the stuff in the plan got implemented, lots of stuff in the plan did NOT get implemented, and some stuff that was never in the plan got implemented anyway.

    My forecast is that the next 5 years will be the same regardless of the BMP or the Bike Plan Plan. People will push for certain facilities and upgrades, some tragedies will inevitably lead to fast implementations of upgrades, and most of the stuff will not get implemented due to a shortage of staff, funding, and political support.

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