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An olive branch? Mayor Durkan celebrates downtown bike lanes, acknowledges delays

Map of the Center City Bike Network projects due for construction.
Map of the Center City Bike Network projects due for construction.

Seeing Queen Anne Greenways’ Mark Ostrow give Mayor Jenny Durkan a high five from his bicycle is the image that sticks in my head from Wednesday’s press event celebrating the opening of the 8th Ave bike lane downtown (Crosscut’s Josh Cohen captured the moment on video).

The news itself was not a big surprise today. Several projects already announced by SDOT and all but mandated by a City Council resolution are moving ahead, including 9th Ave N8th AvePike St2nd Ave-to-King St, and the King St Neighborhood Greenway.

The real news is that Mayor Durkan is celebrating and promoting a bike project, a shift from her stance for most of her term as mayor. Not only that, but she acknowledged during her speech that bike projects have been delayed further than they should have.

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“We know when we hit our reset, we didn’t reset quickly enough,” she said, according to the Urbanist.

This one press event will not heal relations with bike and safe streets advocates, and it also will not put the delayed bike plan back on pace. But it feels like an olive branch, and advocates from Cascade and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways took it (an olive branch on Olive Street! Coincidence?).

I hope this is the start of a change. She clearly took advice from the wrong people when she chose to cancel the designed, funded and contracted bike lanes on 35th Ave NE, and that decision has turned out to be a huge mistake. So I hope mending relationships with safe streets advocates also means she may seek advice from them in the future.

I guess the first big test will be whether she finds the funding this budget season to build the South Seattle and downtown bike lanes listed in the resolution the City Council is considering. She will also need to choose whether to fight the Council’s proposed “mandatory” bike lane ordinance. Honestly, that ordinance seems like it would be useful to her, since it could help her avoid another 35th Ave NE situation by distributing some of the decision-making pressure to the Council.

So no, this press event doesn’t mean everything is great now. But I hope it’s the start of a change in the mayor’s previous stance as a force of indifference at best and opposition at worst when it comes to safe streets projects. Because there is still a lot of time left in her term, and we have to find a way to make improvements to our streets and deliver on Move Seattle promises. That stakes are too high.

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17 responses to “An olive branch? Mayor Durkan celebrates downtown bike lanes, acknowledges delays”

  1. Mitch

    Nice to see something positive from the mayor regarding bikes, but I don’t think I’ll ever not be pissed at her for blocking the bike lanes on the street I ride every day – 35th Ave NE.

  2. Richard

    “Oh, hey, sorry I obstructed, defunded, or ignored things, thus increasing the risk that you’ll die. My bad!”

    Going to take a lot more than that. Sure I agree, it’s a teensy positive sign, but given what we’ve seen from this mayor it seems more likely she’s trying for just enough press that people who never ride a bike and have no idea how much she’s pulled will think she’s doing bike stuff, and we’re all just unreasonable whiners when we call out how much safety infrastructure she’s culled.

    Please let me be wrong…

    1. JB

      Durkan knows how to pull a little head fake and photo op for bike infrastructure when it’s been in the news lately. I am about as convinced as I am when Trump talks gun control for five minutes after a mass shooting, then immediately returns to groveling to the NRA. Honestly, I find Durkan’s level of cynicism and amorality to be on par with Trump’s.

      Hopefully Council will not be fooled and will push ahead with the “Shall be installed” language.

  3. Jim

    I’m more than happy to forgive and move on with Mayor Durkan. As soon as I get my street back.

  4. Peri Hartman

    How much does her sudden change have to do with the primary elections ?

  5. Skylar

    Actions speak louder than words. At this point, unless Mayor Durkan has a complete change in mindset allowing her to listen beyond the vocal SOV-uber-alles minority (or even just putting life safety ahead of her own re-election prospects), I’ll still be voting for someone else. If there’s no one better running, I might just write in our own Mr. Fucoloro. :)

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Please don’t make me be mayor :-) Seems like a stressful gig.

  6. Breadbaker

    Don’t worry, in a few weeks she’ll endorse Heidi Wills and say that her idea of an elevated “missing link” “has merit.” And will suspend all work on the project pending funding that will come only after the full new Magnolia Bridge is completed. As in, never.

    1. Wait, isn’t the missing link already funded?

      1. Matthew Snyder

        As I understand it, it’s already funded. Mayor Nickels allocated a big pot of money to the Burke-Gilman budget, and those funds now total about $16M. The cost of building the trail extension itself is $7.2M. But the total project cost has ballooned. It’s now projected to cost over $26M for the “multimodal corridor,” including the construction of a new business access road.

        The rest of the money is coming from other sources, including Metro, SCL, and the Asphalt and Concrete budget, according to the SDOT project page.

    2. Multimodal

      I’m worried about the missing link. Wills will kill it and Strauss is backed by MLK Labor. Both are against improving South Shilshole for all users and tax payers. Both want to represent misguided businesses rather than residents who live in the district. The multi-use trail can coexist with businesses and the city has a duty to improve and maintain infrastructure for the benefit of all citizens.

  7. […] Cycling and safe street advocates hope the pomp adds up to a refreshed attitude at City Hall after a summer of criticism over Seattle’s increasingly modest plans for new bike projects. Whether the mayor’s presence at the ribbon cutting truly represents a shift in gears in her office remains to be seen. Seattle Bike Blog says there are some important decisions coming: […]

  8. Patrick

    Speaking of the 8th Ave bike lane, the diagonal bike crossing signal at Virginia seems to be triggered only by one of those magnetic sensor loops in the pavement. I’ve come across frustrated people two times this last week who sat through light cycles because they were up in the crosswalk or too far right.

    I have a steel xtracycle so I probably trigger it from a block away, but if you’re on a carbon bike be sure to get your crankset right over that little bike signal on the diamond shaped road cut.

  9. Ballard Biker

    The 8th Ave bike lane is a head scratcher. It jogs to the left side of the road between Stewart and Virginia to allow for Amazon shuttle pickups. The failure in execution comes when it jogs back to the right side at 8th and Virginia. There’s a separate bike signal to avoid conflicts between bikes and cars, which is great. Except the bike light doesn’t turn green until AFTER the westbound 8th traffic signal goes.

    Why the bike signal doesn’t activate first to flush out bikes before cars, I have no clue. I started merging over to the traffic lane to hit the green traffic light and then continuing to the bike lane on the right. I expect more people will start doing that, rather than waiting.

    1. bill

      What we need city-wide is consistency. Some bike signals let bikes lead, others let cars lead. It’s confusing for everybody.

  10. […] Seattle Bike Blog, and Capitol Hill Seattle Blog catch us up on what’s going on with bike […]

  11. bill

    Is this an olive branch or an opportunistic publicity stunt? Durkan appears to be taking credit for a bike project that did not generate much, if any controversy. Is she only too happy to appear at projects that didn’t ruffle anyone’s feathers? I question the judgement of Cascade and SNG seeming to endorse Durkan without any substantive quid pro quo.

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