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Why the Move Seattle levy needs to fund bold action on walking and biking safety

Levy Proposal Presentation-collisiontrends
The past decade has seen steep increases in safety for people inside cars in Seattle, but the city’s safe streets efforts have barely moved the dial on reducing the total number of people biking or walking who are seriously injured or killed every year.

These safety improvements happened as motor vehicle traffic volumes have stalled, but transit, biking and walking increased significantly. So on a per trip basis, safety has improved for everyone in the past decade. But that’s not good enough.

If the city is going to reach Vision Zero, we need to continue the excellent work improving driving safety. Too often, debates over city road safety redesigns miss the fact that the biggest beneficiaries of these changes are people in cars. But we also need to take bold and innovative action to prevent serious collisions for people biking and walking. What we’ve done so far has been OK, but clearly hasn’t gone far enough.

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We already reported on the claims that the Move Seattle levy would put Seattle on track to build half the Bicycle Master Plan on schedule (half of the 20 year plan in the first ten years), which would be the first time that’s ever happened. Some other examples of safe streets investments include: $23 million for Road Safety Corridor projects, $61 million for new sidewalks and $26 million for neighborhood priority projects.

Interestingly, the city plans to build 50 miles of protected bike lanes and 60 miles of neighborhood greenways spending only $85 million ($65 million from levy plus $20 million in expected grant leverage), far below the estimated costs in the Bicycle Master Plan. According to the Bike Plan, those miles would cost between $105 million and $152 million.

As Michael Andersen reported on this blog, however, the city has been moving towards lower cost protected bike lane designs since the Bike Master Plan was developed. We have seen the first example of such on 2nd Ave downtown. The question is: Can the city consistently deliver high-quality bike lanes at that lower price?

Gordon Padelford of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways also pressured the Council and Mayor’s office to significantly boost investment in Safe Routes to School, especially for schools serving populations that could most benefit from a safe and reliable way for kids to get to class (you can listen to his testimony at 3:50 in the video below). For example, let’s say the city wanted to complete one quality north-south and one east-west route through the walk zones of schools serving low-income students. In order to reach the ten schools with the highest rate of subsidized lunches, it would cost $21.4 million, according to cost estimates by SNG. To get to all the schools where a majority of students receive subsidized schools, the city would need to invest $38.4 million.

The City Council’s new special committee to develop the Move Seattle transportation levy heard a presentation from SDOT and city staff Tuesday that went into a few more details about Mayor Ed Murray’s proposal. The mayor will submit his final legislation to the City Council in the next week or two. The Council will then have the chance to make changes before submitting it to King County during the summer for placement on the November ballot.

If you have already read our previous coverage, there shouldn’t be too many surprises. But if you want to hear city officials explain the levy, check out this video:

Here’s a breakdown of the numbers:

Levy Proposal Spending Breakdown by tfooq

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7 responses to “Why the Move Seattle levy needs to fund bold action on walking and biking safety”

  1. Josh

    While of course I’d rather see that blue line hit zero, don’t forget it’s still trending down despite a dramatic increase in the number of people riding. On a per person basis, that’s actually remarkable progress.

    1. Glenn

      Zero for car drivers/occupants, bikers and pedestrians…Yes. What does the graph look like for accidents per mile driven/walked by cars, cycles and peds? Probably tends down for all three at about the same rate. Least ways, I feel better riding on city streets than I did 5 years ago.

  2. Peri Hartman

    I hope by “vision zero”, the city means zero fatalities. It’s important to make sure the new bike facilities don’t have “vision zero”.

    More attention needs to go to the downhill sections where bikes go faster than 10mph. A good design would probably accommodate sight lines for 20mph. Further, the design needs to allow those going faster to easily move from the protected lane into the traffic lane.

    I completely accept that bike lanes need to accommodate intimidated riders and new riders. That is fine. It’s important to provide safety for fast riders, too.

    1. Cheif

      I agree with your points but not all riders going a leisurely pace are intimidated or new.

      1. Josh

        Speed and confidence definitely are not the same thing. It’s been 25 years since I last raced a bike; I’m nowhere near fast, except when I’m coasting downhill with a 30-pound advantage over leaner riders.

        But when I am coasting down that hill, don’t try to get me to use a dangerously narrow path with inadequate sight lines, running a gantlet past driveways and intersections and drivers making left turns from my right.

        Down-hill bike routes need to be designed for the speeds that people really go when riding down hills. WSDOT’s adopted standards call for a design speed of at least 20 mph for urban paths, and 30 mph for grades over 4% for 500 feet or more.

        Many blocks in Seattle exceed that 4%/500-foot threshold where the default 20 mph design speed is inadequate. If SDOT builds a 5-foot bike lane on one of those blocks, they can expect to find me in the street.

      2. ODB

        I agree. But I get the impression that SDOT engineers don’t consider this to be a major concern. If downhill safety were a priority, SDOT would not have even proposed a two-way cycletrack on Union with 5′ lanes. http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2015/05/08/madison-brt-project-could-also-build-better-union-st-bike-lanes/#more-444341

        Maybe SDOT’s new “Active Transportation Director” will help. On the other hand, she is quoted as saying that “[The] Broadway [protected bike lane] uses all the best practices.” http://crosscut.com/2015/05/first-the-olympics-then-sdot-meet-nicole-freedman/
        To me, this is not a good sign, since I find that two-way cycletracks like the one on Broadway create lots of turning conflicts and are just generally a hassle to deal with, not to mention being slow to ride on and expensive to build. Hopefully, SDOT will at least refrain from implementing these types of facilities on downhills.

  3. […] can tell the City Council what you think of Move Seattle (see our previous coverage here, here and here) and support investments in Safe Routes to School at a public hearing 5:30 p.m. […]

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