After Washington won the top spot in the League of American Bicyclists’ bike friendly state list for a decade straight from 2008-17, the League took a different tactic in 2018, providing each state with a report card to show how they have improved (or not) over time.
But the rankings are back for 2019 and, sure enough, no other state has put any effort real effort into taking the top spot from Washington. So hip hip hooray, we’re number 1 again, I guess.
Look, Washington is not a cycling utopia. Out state still dramatically under-invests in safe streets and non-motorized transportation. Traffic deaths and serious injuries for people biking and walking are going up, not down. The statewide bike commute rate (according to a flawed annual Census survey) is hardly budging from 1%, where it has been for the last decade. The only thing we really have going for us is that the other 49 states are terrible at walking and biking safety, too.
Yes, some WSDOT staffers are truly great and the state legislature does some good things. But come on, are we going to go another decade at number 1 just because no other state feels like lifting a finger to give it a try?
OK, yes, many states have people or maybe even a small staff of people working hard to improve cycling. But no state genuinely makes walking and biking access and safety a top priority. No state invests actual money in it, just the budget scraps they find in the rotunda couch cushions. A single freeway interchange “upgrade” project can cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and states build those all the time. And traffic still sucks after they are complete. Imagine if a state decided that just one of their mega-projects was going to be a statewide bikeways initiative, spending hundreds of millions to build safe bike lanes and trails along state highways that cut through communities. Give that state an award.
I would like this League ranking to be something states need to actually compete for. I want to see states get into an annual bikeways, crosswalks and trails construction race. Because what I really want to see more than anything is our injury and death totals trending down toward zero. Then we can think about pouring a few glasses of champagne.
Below are more details from the report card:
Well, by the letters, we’re doing “good”, where “B” is usually considered good and “A” excellent. But reality begs to differ.
First, I think the most important rating is about infrastructure. It doesn’t matter how many programs you have, how many laws, or how many plans. What matters is what exists. In that category, we’re 14 out of 50 or just “C” (B- according to their rating).
The other is how seriously one takes the ratings. For example, for enforcement, I see zilch. It’s not until someone gets killed that there seems to be any recourse for a (dead) cyclist. But, perhaps that’s all relative. Perhaps in 43 states with a lower rating than us in that category, they don’t even have any laws to enforce.
Oregon received a score of 71.8 while the Washington score was 71.9. I would hardly say that “no other state has put any effort real effort into taking the top spot from Washington.”
WA/OR/MN(Seattle/Portland/Minneapolis) are usually 1/2/3 in the bike ratings in different orders depending on the particular details being measured. So claiming no other states are even trying seems a bit over dramatic.
As a previous commenter noted infrastructure is key. State level resources are only useful to the extent cities and counties use them.
As a family that lived in Seattle in the aughts, Minneapolis in the teens, and is moving back to Seattle for the twenties, here is my brief take… My 5th grader can easily bike to school here. Virtually all public elementary schools in Minneapolis have safe bike routes. Our local school had thru road closures, signage changes, bump outs and traffic calming added to improve links to bike trails a few years ago. In Seattle we’ll be living in Bryant. The infrastructure is abysmal. Coming from south of the school there are no bike lanes. “Bike friendly” streets on the maps have no bump outs, no beg button lights, they couldn’t even spend a couple thousand bucks on paint for sharrows. The legally mandated bike lanes on 35th NE got an extrajudicial veto by nimbys. 25th NE is a classic 4 lane death road calling out for a 4/3 road diet. Lots of Seattle is the same. I see cities and counties doing more to make safer roads here in MN regardless of state resources while in WA cities and counties stall despite better state support.
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