Bainbridge Island voters reject $15M safe streets levy

Planned spending for the failed SAFE Mobility Levy, from the City of Bainbridge.

Buried in the election results this week was a somewhat disappointing result over on Bainbridge Island. The city’s modest SAFE Mobility Levy lost, with the ongoing result sitting at 45–55 as of Thursday morning.

The levy would have raised $15 million over seven years to fund sidewalks, Safe Routes to School and wider shoulders, which serve as walking and biking space on the island’s roads.

The failure came as a surprise to Demi Allen, a Bainbridge resident who worked to develop and support the levy effort.

“I continue to believe that a high percentage of residents on the island want better facilities for walking and biking,” he said. But clearly more needed to be done to gather support for the levy vote.

“In retrospect, it seems more needed to be done to get out to people where they were and make sure they understood what was proposed and what was possible to achieve through the levy.”

The Bainbridge Mobility Alliance conducted a survey in the spring that showed a high level of support for a ballot measure like the one that ended up on the ballot, Allen said. Ten percent of island adults responded with 70 percent in favor. But respondents self-selected, so it was not a scientific random survey (those can be expensive to conduct).

One concern they heard often was that the levy was too open-ended, with the specific projects to be selected later.

As for now, supporters are taking some time to figure out what happened, who they didn’t reach and how they could make a levy more people would support.

“We want to make sure that the next time we go to voters that we have a package that’s really on-target,” said Allen.

About Tom Fucoloro

Founder and Editor of Seattle Bike Blog.
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7 Responses to Bainbridge Island voters reject $15M safe streets levy

  1. steve says:

    Bike riders in Bainbridge frequently ride on the white stripe separating the vehicle lane from the bike lane (it would be ok if vehicle drivers were to purposely do that, right?) and occasionally ride in the vehicle lane when there is a bike lane provided & it’s obvious that they are holding up vehicle traffic. So, why should Bainbridge voters give them anything else? – they clearly resent what they have been given already. I ride several times a week, but I’d sooner vote to take back the bike lanes & turn them into…I dunno, vehicle parking? – street noise barriers for neighborhoods with high per-unit tax appraisals?

    • asdf2 says:

      “Bike riders in Bainbridge frequently ride on the white stripe separating the vehicle lane from the bike lane”

      There are legitimate reasons for that, the most common of which is to stay out of the door zone when there are parked cars alongside the bike lane – especially when one is going downhill, at a relatively high speed.

      Regardless of how the markings may appear on road, zooming by at 20+ mph, inches from a parked car is very dangerous, and if the door opens at the wrong time, the result can be serious injury or death.

      For this reason, I usually do stick to the bike lanes on streets without parked cars, but will scoot over more towards the traffic lane, when there are parked cars. I do this for my own safety, as a driver behind me can’t help but see me because I’m right in front on them – someone opening a car door, not so much.

      Even on streets without parked cars, I will sometimes choose the traffic lane over a bike lane when making an especially high-speed descent. Again, this is for my own safety, as if I’m going to be zooming down a hill at 30+ mph, I want to have room to swerve around a bump or debris on the road, rather than being trapped between a curb on one side and a moving car on the other. A lot of routine road trash that you can drive over in a car without even noticing, riding over it on a bike at high speed can be deadly. Similarly, bike lanes are not maintained to the standard of car lanes, and are far more likely to be covered in leaves or encroaching bushes or tree branches.

      Bike lanes are important, and I do use them when it is safe to do so, but please understand, that when you see a cyclist in a car lane, on a road that has a bike lane, they are probably doing so for a reason, and one that may not be obvious to a person who only experiences the streets from the perspective of a car.

    • d reeves says:

      @steve, I don’t really bike, vote or pay taxes in bainbridge, so don’t have much skin in the game.

      As someone who’s designed products and put them out in the world, though, I offer one simple observation from my experience:

      When people don’t use something intended, it’s almost never out of resentment or ill will.

      Usually it’s just bad design. They’re doing what makes them feel safe.

      The positive answer isn’t to take it away – it’s to improve the design.

      • Meredith says:

        As a Bainbridge cyclist, you hit the nail on the head the “Bike Lanes” on the island for the most part are either lanes to nowhere (start out of the blue, run for a few blocks and then disappear) rather than a connected series of routes, or (and this is the one that drives me nuts) simply the unmaintained, unswept, untrimmed shoulder that the city painted little bicycle symbols in to make it look as though there is supported infrastructure. It is frequently more dangerous to ride in those “lanes” then out in traffic.

        The problem with this levy is indeed the open ended nature and lack of a plan. No one could say “these are the network of roads/trails/lanes we are connecting together” just “Trails Yay”…and some of what they were calling trails and lanes were pretty sorry efforts (see above).

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