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For 10th year in a row, 49 states somehow fail to be more bike-friendly than WA

Washington State has some great public servants and advocates working hard to make our state safer and more inviting for people riding bikes. But try biking across almost any state highway, and you’ll be confronted with scary off-ramps and skinny or missing sidewalks. And there will almost certainly be no bike lane in sight. Getting around or across state highways and freeways is the biggest barrier for people biking in a huge number of communities in our state.

So when I see that, for a decade straight, Washington State has been selected as the League of American Bicyclists’ most bike-friendly state (PDF), all I can think is, Wow, every other state, you must really not be trying.

I don’t mean disparage the work of great public servants, like WSDOT Active Transportation Director Barb Chamberlain (former ED of WA Bikes), or the current WA Bikes statewide advocacy staffers like Alex Alston and Kelli Refer (who also happens to be my incredible spouse). They are doing great work.

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But the vast, vast majority of the state’s transportation money still goes to freeway projects — including a downtown Seattle car tunnel — while major safety problems persist on existing WSDOT highways and their access points in communities across the state with no relief in sight. Try crossing I-5 south of I-90 in south Seattle, then tell me how bike-friendly Washington is. 

The good news is that there are many great leaders working for our state. Transportation Secretary Roger Millar has a strong multimodal perspective on transportation, and there are many great WSDOT staffers and engineers who are trying to make things better. But the immense scale of the problem is so much larger than the state’s efforts to improve conditions for walking and biking.

The transportation package the legislature barely passed in 2015 included an unprecedented investment of about $20 million a year for walking and biking projects. That money will surely fund some great work, but it’s just not anywhere close to enough. It’s an order of magnitude too low, at least.

So, congratulations to everyone working to make Washington more bike-friendly. And other 49 states, get your shit together. It would be great if you made our state work harder to keep this ranking.

Press release from WSDOT:

Pedal power is still strong in Washington as the League of American Bicyclists once again ranks the state as No. 1 “Bicycle Friendly State in America.” Washington has been a leader in the nation for every year since 2008 when the League began its program.

“Our efforts to support bicycling in Washington through our policies and investments is clearly paying off,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “As a state we have invested in Safe Routes to School for a healthier next generation and in a transportation system that supports safer biking and walking mobility options for Washingtonians. I appreciate the work of our Bicycle Friendly communities, businesses and universities that have all contributed to building active, healthy transportation options.”

Each state is ranked based on its score in five categories: Infrastructure and Funding; Education and Encouragement; Legislation and Enforcement; Policies and Programs; Evaluation and Planning; and, Discretionary Scoring.

“It’s great to once again lead the nation in recognizing that bicycling is an important part of a multimodal transportation system,” said Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar. “We’re committed to providing transportation choices for all users of the system – including people who bike and walk. We have more work to do, but this ranking affirms that we’re on the right path.”

The League credited Washington for passage of its 16-year Connecting Washington funding package, including more than $20 million per year for bicycling and walking projects. It also noted Washington State Department of Transportation’s creation of the new, statewide Active Transportation Division as another reason why the state has retained its spot as a national leader in improving conditions for people who bike and walk.

More details on the ranking, from the League’s report card (PDF):

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9 responses to “For 10th year in a row, 49 states somehow fail to be more bike-friendly than WA”

  1. Gary

    California has a long long way to go to beat WA. It has better weather but the car centric culture is totally anti-bike except for recreation.


  2. Anonymous

    Obviously the LAB has not looked at Spokane’s Centennial Trail, flooding this spring caused dangerous ruts that the state parks department won’t fix.

    They’re waiting on the legislators to finish the budget before grants can be approved to fix the damages. When a $ 20.00 fix with volunteers can solve the danger’s created, i.e. floor leveler with sand mixed in applied to the ruts.

    Not to mention the 6 year maintenance plan won’t keep of with yearly winter damage to the trail. Also no consideration that the trail needs a complete redo, with a good subbase with new asphalt to solve the continue root bumps and freeze thaw dimples.


  3. Southeasterner

    Outside of Seattle cycling infrastructure in WA isn’t half bad. If they implemented some weighting system based on population we would probably end up outside the top 10. DC (not ranked), Chicago, Minneapolis, Portland, Madison, Boston, NY, Denver, Salt Lake, and now even Atlanta are all blowing by us in terms of safe (and connected!) urban biking infrastructure.

    Even with our “best of the US” Westlake bike infrastructure, bike share, and explosive growth in SLU the Fremont bridge bike counter is showing limited to no growth.


  4. Wells

    Having braved enough of what always seems like horrible bicycling everywhere around Seattle, I doubt Washington received the award for any other reason than subservience to corporate interests. These interests want people to pretend that bicycling is best in Washington the same way they pretend self-driving cars isn’t a ‘ruse’ (a distraction from real solutions). Seattle is so corrupt and the daily ration of corporate lies and deceit so stupendous, this little pat on the back should be taken similarly as a distraction more than simply false.

    1. Ben P

      Seattle is by no means cycle friendly, but few major cities are. I’ve lived in LA, Jerusalem, Seattle and San Diego. Of those cities, Seattle is the most bike friendly. Also, this is a state wide ranking. Do you have a state that you think does better than Washington?

      1. Wells

        Statewide ranking seems less determinative than according to individual cities and metropolitan areas. I’ve lived in San Diego communities which I consider much better bicycling than Seattle. San Diego’s Red Trolley also covers more metropolitan area than Link LRT. I’ve hauled my bike on LA’s LRT system enough to grade bicycling there as better than Seattle. Perhaps bike access will improve when Link reaches Everett and Tacoma. However, I do not support the ST3 plan for another Link tunnel under 2nd Ave and Lower Queen Anne. My perspective daily is Portland. One reason there is no PTS bike ride (Portland to Seattle) may be that Portlanders have given up hope Seattle will ever successfully enact reforms at Sdot. Grace Crunican, Sdot chief 2001-2009, was fired from her previous position as director of ODOT for blatant disregard for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. She deserved being fired at Sdot for the same reason, but she left her crew behind to continue her dirty work.

  5. […] #1: Washington is still number one in the nation for biking. […]

  6. ragged-robin

    why is the safe passing law not a thing here?

  7. Justin

    While I agree that there is A LOT more work to be done locally, state-wide, and nationally, I think instead of telling the other 49 states to get their shit together, it might be a better idea to band together as cyclists in the US and keep pushing for more awareness. And I think we as cyclists need to do a better job of working with others (as in all types of cyclists and also pedestrians and motorists and public transit).

    This whole us-against-them mentality is a zero sum game and it just pisses people off.

    That’s my two cents, anyway.

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