Seattle already has a complete streets ordinance that says SDOT needs to consider the needs of all road users when making major road investments. The city also has a Bicycle Master Plan that notes where the highest-priority bike connections are. And yet Mayor Jenny Durkan and SDOT were still able to delete the planned, designed and contracted 35th Ave NE bike lane with little to no explanation or justification. That decision has proven to be an absolute disaster, failing to improve safety, failing to improve walking or biking connectivity and failing to make any progress toward the city’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.
That’s why a new bill from the Transportation Committee is sort of like a more specific and tighter complete streets ordinance that says an improvement identified in the Bicycle Master Plan “shall be installed” whenever SDOT “constructs a major paving project along a segment of the protected bicycle lane network.” Understanding that the Bike Plan has not gone far enough into design to determine for sure whether projects are feasible, there is still an out for SDOT. However, the department would need to justify their decision to the Council and present how the needed bike connection could be advanced without the bike lane. (Full disclosure: My spouse Kelli works as a Legislative Assistant for committee Chair Mike O’Brien and worked on this bill)
So while it still falls short of requiring the city to build the Bike Master Plan, it should be able to help avoid future 35th Ave NE fiascos. For example, if SDOT had to justify their decision, they would have had a very hard time doing so. And the Council could possibly have had a chance to take action to intercede if, for example, the decision were political rather than based on best practices or city policies. Which it was. And perhaps it could also be useful for a mayor who doesn’t want to take political heat for a project by diffusing responsibility across the Council, which is responsible for passing these transportation policies and plans.
Cascade Bicycle Club has put out a call to action urging people to attend the special committee meeting 2 p.m. tomorrow (Friday) to support this bill.
Here’s the key section from the draft bill:
A. Whenever the Seattle Department of Transportation constructs a major paving project along a segment of the protected bicycle lane network, a protected bicycle lane with adequate directionality shall be installed along that segment.
B. Full compliance with the provisions of subsection 15.80.020.A is not required where the Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation determines that the characteristics of the physical features or usage of a street, or financial constraints of full compliance prevent the incorporation of a protected bicycle lane with adequate directionality.
C. Upon determining that full compliance with subsection 15.80.020.A is not required, the Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation shall provide a written report to the City Council detailing:
1. Why it is impractical to comply with subsection 15.80.020.A;
2. The alternatives analyzed in determining that full compliance with subsection 15.80.020.A is not required; and
3. How connectivity of the protected bicycle lane network could be advanced in the absence of a protected bicycle lane in that segment.
The committee will also consider a resolution calling on the mayor to identify funding to complete the downtown and south end bike projects her latest short term bike plan has left behind. As I wrote in June, “South Seattle deserves action, not more ‘maybes.'” Here’s the project list highlighted in the Council resolution:
- Beacon Ave S Segment 1 (S 39th St to Myrtle St)
- Beacon Ave S Segment 2 (Myrtle St to S Spokane St)
- Beacon Ave S Segment 3 (S Spokane St to Jose Rizal Bridge)
- Georgetown to Downtown
- Martin Luther King Jr Way (Rainier Ave to Henderson St)
- Two-way protected bike lane on 4th Ave (Main St to Vine St)
- Alaskan Way (Virginia St to Elliott Bay Trail)
A third resolution (PDF) under consideration tomorrow calls on SDOT to come up with a proposal for additional staff time and funding in order to deliver 3,000 new on-street bike corrals by the end of 2020. In many cases, corrals located adjacent to a crosswalk can do triple duty by increasing the bike parking supply, keeping sidewalks clear, and preventing illegal car parking too close to crosswalks and street corners.
These bills are elements of a suite of ideas proposed by Move All Seattle Sustainably coalition of transportation, accessibility and sustainability organizations. More details about their ideas in this PDF.
These bills are also an opportunity for Mayor Durkan to change her transportation tactics, which are not working. Especially if she wants to advance climate action policies, it would be great to have her get on board with these ideas.