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We Can’t Wait, Part I: People pack City Hall to end Seattle’s bike plan delays

Cathy Tuttle of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways and Kelli Refer of Cascade Bicycle Club (also my amazing spouse) address the crowd.
Shirley Savel addresses the crowd.
Shirley Savel takes the mic.

Seattle has not built a bike lane downtown since October 2014. The 2nd Ave bike lane was supposed to demonstrate what could be, but going into summer 2016 it remains all that is.

Holding signs saying, “My Family Bikes” and “Safe Streets Now,” bike plan supporters chanted “We can’t wait!” in the City Hall lobby. The noontime rally Tuesday was designed to urge city leaders to stop delaying its bike plans.

“We want safe streets, we don’t want anybody injured or killed,” said biking mom from Rainier Valley Shirley Savel.

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It really is that simple.

The reasonably polite protest made a statement by filling the lobby and chanting, but the message was clear: After years of plan making and campaigning, the city has the tools it needs to make our streets safer. The people expect them to do it.

The pressure is getting some results. After Councilmember Mike O’Brien asked directly, SDOT staff committed to restarting the downtown bike plan in July when the Center City Mobility Plan releases its analysis of 2018 bus movements (buses will be kicked out of the tunnel as early at 2018, so the city wants to make sure it knows where those buses will go). This still represents a year of delay, but it probably would have been much longer had people not spoken up.

But we must do even better. Check back Thursday morning for Part II looking at how we got here and how we can get back on track.

IMG_0231Dozens of people stuck around after the rally to testify at the City Council Sustainability and Transportation Committee in the afternoon, providing a full hour of pre-meeting public comment. Not a single person spoke in opposition to the city’s bike plans.

Even people who showed up to testify in favor of a different agenda item — a very cool new program to provide affordable transit passes to Capitol Hill Housing residents — added a note of support for implementing the bike plan.

“My family bikes, my staff bikes and my friends bike, and I agree with everything that everybody has said here,” Capitol Hill Housing CEO Christopher Persons added at the end of his testimony.

You can watch all the testimony via Seattle Channel (and check out our tweets below).

So many people told such powerful stories for why the city needs to be taking bold action on safe streets rather than cutting its plans into fragments.

I hope city leaders — especially high up at SDOT and the Mayor’s Office — understand the difference between the grumpy online bike haters across the region who send them road-raging emails and the engaged people and families who dedicated an entire afternoon to tell their stories of fear on our streets and the promise of a better future with safe and connected bike routes.

I hope they also understand that ignoring and deferring safe streets projects is not a wise political move. People are watching and expect the city to deliver on its promises. People are looking for a champion.

But remember, this isn’t a game. People’s lives are on the line. Every day of delay is rolling the dice. Sher Kung died just ten days before the 2nd Ave protected bike lane was installed.

Here’s a taste of the testimony:

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9 responses to “We Can’t Wait, Part I: People pack City Hall to end Seattle’s bike plan delays”

  1. don

    SBB, perhaps you could make it easy for us to write directly to the Major by posting his address info? I am sure a few letters from concerned citizens could not hurt. Whom else should we contact?


    1. Andres Salomon

      Unfortunately, the Mayor doesn’t have a functioning (public) email address. Instead, he has a web form.


  2. bill

    “After years of plan making and campaigning, the city has the tools it needs to make our streets safer.”

    The City has the money now, too.

  3. Jose perkins

    McGin lost. There’s a new sheriff in town.

  4. […] considers how tolling some roads but not others can have unintended consequences. And Seattle Bike Blog reports that local advocates packed a city meeting this week to demand an end to delays in […]

  5. qc

    I sent an email to the council, but I know that being there in person would have been so much more effective. Thanks to everyone that took time out of their day to be there.

  6. […] ← We Can’t Wait, Part I: People pack City Hall to end Seattle’s bike plan delays […]

  7. […] CHS reported here on the Capitol Hill and Central Seattle losses in the latest updates to the plan including a scaling back of planned neighborhood greenways designed to make bike and pedestrian friendly routes on side streets criss-crossing the area. The presence at City Hall seemed to make a difference: […]

  8. […] can’t wait: Tom Fucoloro pens two pieces on why Seattleites can’t wait for better bike […]

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