Who’s the best District 1 candidate for biking and safe streets?

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I apologize to readers waiting for Seattle Bike Blog’s City Council endorsements, but I just plain did not have enough time this year to do Council primary endorsements justice. I had written earlier this year that I planned on creating an endorsements board, but it turns out organizing such a board also takes a lot of time that I didn’t have. Between watching the kiddo during the week and working on a top secret project I can’t yet talk about, it became clear that any endorsement effort would have been lacking. So I decided against doing them.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be Council primary coverage! This week, I’ll go district-by-district, posting videos from the MASS Coalition’s transportation forums along with a roundup of transportation-related endorsements and other notable news items and thoughts. Sometimes one or two candidates will obviously stand out, and I’ll note that. This post is an example.

District 1 – Herbold goes unchallenged (basically)

The MASS coalition did not host a forum for this race, which also seems to be among the least competitive of the races this year.

Incumbent Lisa Herbold received endorsements from the Transit Riders Union and the Stranger. The Urbanist, Seattle Transit Blog and Seattle Subway (PDF) did not endorse anyone in this race. 

Herbold’s single biggest disagreement with bike advocates this past term came when she voted against the city buying the beleaguered Pronto Cycle Share system from the non-profit Puget Sound Bike Share back in 2016. The city’s idea was to buy the too-small-to-succeed system so that it could invest city funds to dramatically expand it. Herbold joined Tim Burgess in opposing this plan, but they were outvoted 7-2. Herbold would later help kill the Pronto system by removing its operating funds from the 2017 budget, an effort that by then had support from the Council majority.

This was quite frustrating at the time. However it is worth noting that, by prescience or luck, she turned out to be right. At the time, nobody knew that the venture capital funded private bike share boom was about to cross the Pacific and unload in Seattle. And if we had known the city would shut down Pronto a year later, of course the Council should not have bought it in 2016. The time may yet come again for a public bike share system, especially if private companies continue to drop bikes in favor of scooters or go under entirely (the industry keeps evolving, so who knows where it’s headed?). But, with hindsight being 20/20, I don’t see a viable path in which Pronto could have weathered the private bike share boom.

So I’ll say it: Herbold was right, and I was wrong.

She is hardly the strongest Councilmember for biking, but she’s not anti-bike. The Stranger’s Lester Black sent a bike-focused questionnaire to candidates, and you can read her answers here. They are certainly better than her opponent Brendan Kolding’s answers. Phil Tavel did not respond, though on his campaign website he says bike and bus lanes “eliminated parking spaces and impacted the viability of personal vehicles as a transportation option.” He also vows to fight to protect free car parking, which he says is “One of District One’s unique qualities.” What an insult to his district! There’s way better stuff there than the damn car parking. Geez. Hard pass.

In their Herbold endorsement, the Transit Riders Union said, “her two challengers are people we really, really don’t want on the city council.”

The Urbanist had some good things to say about Herbold and spent most of their non-endorsement for District 1 talking about her, concluding, “At the end of the day though, she too often hands power over to reactionary homeowner interests on the city council and that’s a tunnel too far for this board.” So really, it was sort of an endorsement of her that was also trying to push her to be better. They didn’t have anything to say about her opponents.

So while Seattle Bike Blog is not doing official primary endorsements, this race seems pretty clear. With the fewest challengers of any district, both of whom seem to think more car parking is the solution to our transportation problems, Herbold is the obvious option here. I wish she had better challengers to push her a bit on transportation issues. But she doesn’t.

This post is also a chance for you all to share your thoughts and promote your favorite D1 candidates in the comments below. Did I totally gloss over or miss something important? Let me know in the comments below. If you work for a campaign, you are welcome to participate, as well. Just please disclose which campaign you work for.

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11 Responses to Who’s the best District 1 candidate for biking and safe streets?

  1. Km says:

    Tavel also said bike lanes (and green medians) are the first thing he would cut in a recession in a forum on Sunday. Kolding mentioned a couple months ago on Twitter that he thought the 65th bike lanes were not good use of our precious road space. Herbold is our only choice in D1.

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  4. Peter says:

    There have been several candidate forums (check the West Seattle Blog) that clarify some things. Kolding and Tavel running on parking. Kolding does not care about biking. Tavel is explicitly anti-biking. Herbold is, as usual, trying to have it both ways. None of them get my vote.

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  6. Mark H says:

    I guess the real question is if the rest of (new) Council will continue to reject the bonehead ideas from District 1.

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