Mayor Jenny Durkan announced a national search for the next SDOT Director this week. Interim Director Goran Sparrman will serve in the role through the end of August.
The Mayor’s Office is collecting feedback through an online survey, saying that survey results will guide the candidate interview questions. It’s also a chance for you to think about what you want most from an SDOT Director.
The job could be a pretty tough sell because it might be nearly impossible. Buses are getting kicked out of the downtown transit tunnel next year, and current leadership seems to be bailing on bold plans to get downtown ready. So unless city and transit agency leaders get big plans in the works ASAP, the next director will be walking into a downtown transit crisis.
On top that that monster of a challenge, SDOT is in turmoil. Perhaps the simplest way to put it is that the Move Seattle levy has put more money and more responsibilities on the department than it was prepared to handle. Big projects are spinning out of control, and leadership is already preparing the public for disappointment as they try to walk back many promises to voters for bold walking, biking and transit improvements.
The way I see it, there are two strategies for a new leader to deal with this situation: Continue reading →
People do not need bike lanes to ride a bike. People driving cars need bikes lanes to protect them from intimidating or harming people on bikes.
The laws in Washington State are clear. Bikes are vehicles, so people are legally allowed to bike on any street or highway that is not a limited access freeway (I-5, I-90, SR 520, the Viaduct, the Battery Street Tunnel, the upper West Seattle Bridge). You can go out and bike down the busiest street in your neighborhood or downtown or wherever you want at whatever speed you feel comfortable going, and the law says you are doing the right thing.
Let’s wave a magic wand and change people’s driving habits so they fully respect the rules of the road and always pay perfect attention. In this world, even an eight-year-old kid can bike to school going eight miles per hour down 4th Ave or Rainier Ave or 1st Ave S or 35th Ave NE, and every person driving would slow down and patiently wait for opportunities to pass her safely. She wouldn’t be afraid to bike because everyone follows the rules so perfectly. And she wouldn’t need bike lanes. This is a wonderful “vehicular cycling” utopia. Unfortunately, it is fantasy.
In real life, you’ll likely be in for a stressful ride on these busy city streets. People might blare their horns at you. Some may even make a close pass to “teach you a lesson.” Others may pass closely or narrowly avoid hitting you because they are simply not paying attention or for whatever reason don’t feel they need to slow down and wait for an opportunity to pass safely. All these intimidating or dangerous actions are illegal, but the odds the person behaving this way will get a ticket are extremely low. Just because you have a right to bike there doesn’t mean people in bigger, more deadly vehicles will respect that right. For some reason, even otherwise friendly and loving people are capable of treating fellow human beings with such ugliness once they are behind the wheel of a car.
As you might expect, biking in these conditions does not appeal to very many people. In places where biking to get around requires you to bike on such streets, biking rates are very low.
This is where bike lanes come in. From one perspective, a bike lane designates space on a road for people to bike. From another perspective, a bike lane is just enforcing the rights of people biking to safely get wherever they are going without fear that someone driving a car will infringe on those rights. From yet another perspective, bike lanes are necessary mitigation for a destructive and dominating car culture that has overrun our public streets thanks to a century of unbalanced investments to prioritize car supremacy.
If there were no cars, we wouldn’t need bike lanes. Therefore, bike lanes are for cars. Continue reading →
SJ Brooks was the Founder of the Seattle chapter of Friends on Bikes, a group focused on creating space for women/trans/femme/non-binary people of color to enjoy biking together. Brooks was tragically killed over the weekend in an internationally publicized tragedy.
SJ’s death is a huge loss to our city. At 32 years old, they had so much more to do in this world. Our deepest condolences to their loved ones. And our best wishes go to Izzy, who is recovering. Izzy served a term on Seattle’s volunteer Bicycle Advisory Board a few years ago, helping to guide the city’s bicycle planning.
“Everybody bikes differently,” SJ told Seattle Bike Blog in an October interview about the launch of Friends on Bikes. Looking back through my notes from that interview, that quote really stands out to me as a perfect three-word summation of what bicycle culture should be all about. SJ worked in the bicycle industry on both coasts, from Montreal to Boston to Seattle, and that’s the insight they were hoping to bring to our city through Friends on Bikes.
SJ was scheduled to speak about Friends on Bikes at the WTF Bikexplorers summit in Montana later this summer. The Portland chapter of Friends on Bikes wrote the following about the late leader of their Seattle chapter:
Deeply heartbroken for the loss of SJ Brooks. No words can describe how much they will be missed in FOB, Seattle and the community at large. They were a positive light who worked tirelessly to create change. We’ve suffered a great loss. Please keep their family and loved ones in your thoughts. As well for Izzy who is still recovering. Keep your loved ones close, life is precious.
While media outlets are fascinated by the rare circumstances of Brooks’ tragic death, Seattle needs space to talk about SJ’s life. If you have any stories or remembrances you want to share, either leave them in the comments below or email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add them to this post.
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Brock Howell of Bicycle Security Advisors. The group is launching a campaign to fight bike theft by getting more people to register their bikes online with Bike Index.
Bike theft is a major problem in Seattle — and I didn’t have to write this sentence for you to know it. That’s why there’s now a campaign to vaccinate bikes this month, and volunteers will be at fourteen Celebration Stations on Friday morning to register bikes.
From May to October, Seattle experiences epidemic levels of bike theft.
Average Number of Bike Thefts by Month, 2008-2017
This isn’t too surprising. These are the months that people are biking and so their bikes are more vulnerable to theft.
It’s a little like how people are more susceptible to the influenza virus in the winter because their immune systems are weakened by the weather. Which brings us to how we can attack our seasonal bike theft epidemic. Continue reading →
The happiest rush hour of the year is just two days away! Bike Everywhere Day 2018 (formerly known as “Bike to Work Day”) is Friday, and the city will be flush with snacks and swag and group rides and smiling faces.
There is usually an extra surge of people in the city’s bike routes, and there is no better day for someone to give biking to work (or school or the park or wherever) to give it a try. Biking gets safer and more comfortable as more people do it.
As Seattle Neighborhood Greenways suggested in a post here Friday, this is a great opportunity to (politely and non-judgmentally) reach out to a friend and offer to help them get on a bike. Maybe that means helping them buy or borrow a bike. Maybe it means helping them get their old bike fixed up. Maybe it means offering to plan a safe bike route from their house to work or wherever they are trying to go. Maybe it means offering to meet them at their house and bike with them.
Or maybe your friend would be more motivated by bagels or donuts or a party. Well, your friend is in luck! All of those are happening this week. Continue reading →
EDITOR’S NOTE: With Bike Everywhere Day a week away, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways has some ideas for how you can get engaged to help get the downtown Basic Bike Network back on track. If nothing else, scroll to the bottom to see their action items. This is a cross-post from their blog.
May is National Bike Month. A month when everyone is encouraged to dust off their bike, pump up their tires and try biking to get to work, school, local businesses, or just for fun. Everyone who wants to bike should be able to because biking can make us happier, keep us healthier, save us money, and reduce pollution.
But right now, too many people find biking to where they want to go scary or uncomfortable. In fact, a lack of safe streets is the number one reason people in Seattle don’t bike more.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Way more people bike in cities that have safe, comfortable, and convenient bike networks. Around the world, cities like Vancouver, Calgary, New York and London have all implemented connected bike networks and seen ridership exploded. Even here in Seattle, when the 2nd Ave protected bike lanes were connected to Pike and Pine, ridership jumped 30% on 2nd Ave. But we still have a long way to go in Seattle.
That’s why we created a vision of a bike network that connects all neighborhoods, starting with our fastest growing “Urban Villages.” Continue reading →
Councilmember Mike O’Brien, a longtime trail supporter, and Warren Aakervik, the owner of Ballard Oil and a former trail appellant, shook hands during a 2017 press conference announcing a compromise deal.
General Manager Doug Dixon of Pacific Fishermen Shipyard oversaw men who shoved Councilmember Mike O’Brien during an afterparty celebrating the opening of the Nordic Heritage Museum Friday evening.
Dixon admitted to overseeing the alleged assault on O’Brien, telling the Seattle Times that they shoved the District 6 Councilmember because he supports completing the Missing Link of the Burke-Gilman Trail:
“We have a conflict with Mike O’Brien because of his efforts to put a bicycle path here and do some other issues that hurt the maritime-industrial area,” he said.
“We told him if he didn’t leave he would be criminally trespassing and he didn’t leave, so we had to forcibly remove him,” Dixon added. “We told him finding his wife had nothing to do with him being there or not.”
O’Brien’s take is pretty much the same as Dixon’s. He told the Times he agreed to leave as soon as he found his wife, which is by no stretch of the imagination justifiable cause for violence. This is classic juvenile bully behavior. Except this isn’t middle school gym class, it’s our city leadership. From the Times: Continue reading →
The mayors of Everett & Mukilteo are challenging one another to see which of their communities bikes the most to parks, libraries, boats, and more during Bike Month.
Every year, a bike theft epidemic rages from May through October, claiming thousands of bicycles in Seattle.
If your bike is ever stolen, you will need a record of its serial number, a description, and photos — and a community of caring people looking out for your bike. That’s what Bike Index provides. It’s independent, free, and easy.
More than 70% of returned stolen bikes in Seattle is thanks to Bike Index. If enough bikes get registered, we can both recover more bikes and prevent the bike theft epidemic. List your bike on BikeIndex.org.
Biking across the 520 Bridge during a sunny evening commute this week, I was floored by the sheer number of people biking across Lake Washington. I knew demand for a biking connection on this bridge was going to be big, but seeing it in action is still inspiring.
In fact, as more and more people discover the bike trip possibilities this new connection opens, it’s not so hard to imagine a commute-hour pattern with more people biking, walking and taking transit across 520 (especially if you include people on employee shuttles).
That’s where you come in, person who regularly travels across Lake Washington. The 520 Bridge just brought a lot of jobs and homes into bike range for the first time. That may include yours.
Biking from downtown Kirkland or Bellevue to the University of Washington is now a 7-mile bike ride, which takes about 40 minutes at a casual pace. Without traffic, that’s not much longer than taking the bus. During heavy traffic, it could be faster.
But more than that, it’s also a lot of fun. Instead of fuming in traffic, you could experience the freedom of being outside in the middle of Lake Washington. The bridge trail includes cut outs along the way where you can pull over, sit on a bench and take a few moments in awe at the beauty of the place we live.
It’s better for the environment, better on your budget, better for your health, and better for your soul.
It’s time for the Bike News Roundup! Here’s a look at some stuff floating around the web in recent weeks (months?) that caught our eye. This is also an open thread, so feel free to discuss whatever bikey stuff is on your mind in the comments below.
First up, this very British comedian’s take on cycling in London sure sounds familiar.
Fiona came home a little more than a week ago after 85 days in the NICU.
She is doing great. She’s so brave and so strong. She’s already been through more intense medical care in her three months of life than I have in my 32 years. She’s powered us through all of it.
My family leave from this blog will continue for a bit longer. I’ll start adding more and more writing back into my day as I can. It’s amazing how time-consuming and exhausting it is to basically just stare at her all day. But I love it.
Huge thanks to everyone for all your support. We are so lucky to have solid health insurance and such a strong network of friends and family to get us through all this. The medical team at the UW Med Center NICU is unbelievable. We are so lucky we had access to that place and that we live within biking distance so we could spend every day there.
But not everyone is so fortunate. There were families in the NICU with us from Eastern Washington and even Alaska who were either forced to uproot their lives or spend time away from their babies so they could continue working. And not everyone has access to quality prenatal care, which is so essential to giving babies the best head start they can get. Like so many injustices in our racist society, Native American, Black, Asian/Pacific Islander and Hispanic babies in Washington State are significantly more likely to be born early than white babies. Racial prejudice begins in the womb.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks again to Brock Howell of Bike Happy for putting together this comprehensive weekly newsletter.
TOP THINGS TO KNOW & DO
Watch excellent videos about bicycling history.
Seattle Bike Blog called for Mayor Durkan to implement protected bike lanes on Rainier Avenue S and to reset the Move Seattle Levy/Plan with priority to walking and biking.
JBLM has bikeshare.
There are three great videos for you to watch this week. First, Knute Berger provides a brief history of Seattle bicycling in the 1890s. Then Hennessy (yeah, that Hennessy) produced a series of short inspirational videos of Major Taylor, including one about the “Six Day Race” at Madison Square Garden.
This Move Seattle map shows the clear focus on transit, biking, walking and maintenance that voters approved in 2015. Seattle’s leaders need to get back to this vision.
As regular readers of Seattle Bike Blog know, I have been on family leave since late January following the early birth of my daughter. So unlike the daily news regimen I have reported since 2010, I have not had the bandwidth to post about some major local transportation stories as they have happened. It’s been hard to follow the news and not be a part of it.
But maybe taking a step back and looking at the big picture around Seattle transportation would be helpful right now. Mayor Jenny Durkan and Interim SDOT Director Goran Sparrman are calling for a “reset” of Move Seattle to recognize the likelihood of less Federal funding than was assumed under the levy proposal.
I agree that we need a Move Seattle reset, though not in the form of big cuts targeting walking, biking, transit and safety projects as has been the pattern so far under Mayor Durkan. Since passage of the levy, our city’s transportation actions have drifted far off course from the transit, walking, biking, safety and maintenance mission voters approved in 2015. What we’re doing now is not working. Our city needs strong leaders with a creative vision to figure out how to get the job done even if the Feds don’t come through as originally hoped.
But a reset should not mean abandoning the extensive walking, biking and transit master plans that took years to develop, were approved by City Council, and were funded by the voters. Nor should it mean abandoning the city’s Vision Zero plan or the multi-agency One Center City plan for downtown. It may be true that the methods for accomplishing the goals in these plans needs to evolve — either due to funding or because there are better ideas — and that’s where the mayor can step in and be a strong leader.
The Move Seattle levy may be the most ambitious local transportation funding package voters have passed in any U.S. city. $930 million over nine years, and almost all the funding was earmarked for transit, walking, biking and maintenance of existing assets. To pass a levy of this scale with very little funding for new or expanded roads and highways marked a big shift in the city’s transportation vision. The voters were clear in November 2015 that they believe walking, biking and transit are the future in Seattle, and they are willing to pay hard-earned cash for it. City leaders must deliver what the people of Seattle are paying for. Continue reading →
Rainier Ave is the only flat and direct street between Mount Baker and the International District/downtown. If southeast Seattle is ever going to have good bike access to the jobs and other major destinations downtown, Rainier Ave will need bike lanes. It is a diagonal street through the low point in a valley. There are no other options for a direct and flat bike route.
At the same time, Rainier is so wide and dangerous that it sees far more traffic collisions than north end streets with double its daily traffic volumes:
The street connects downtown to neighborhoods with low rates of car ownership that have been shamefully underserved ever since Seattle started building bike lanes:
While there are two high quality bike route options for people traveling the three miles from the Fremont Bridge to the downtown core, there are zero quality options for people biking the three miles from downtown to Franklin High School and Mount Baker Station. Continue reading →
EDITOR’S NOTE: Aviva Stephens is a Seattle native and financial professional who discovered the benefits and joys of cycling on her challenging work commute between Ballard and the Eastside. She just launched a new blog called Biking In the Rain, which is also on Instagram at @bikingintherain. Find more of her writing on Medium and follow her on Instagram at @avivarachelle.
As a young girl I rode my bike everywhere around town, to the corner store for my daily candy stash, through the lovely wooded areas around Seattle, and the beaches along Lake Washington. But once I hit my tweens I became consumed with the tidiness of my apparel, containing my offensive odor, and maintaining a cool facade that included no outwardly appearance of effort or trying. While the boys remained boys, I was being groomed by society to be a young lady for the remainder of my school days and into my professional career as a tax accountant. As I proceeded to pursue my life ambitions the bike of my childhood gathered dust in the garage, and those moments of joy slowly faded from memory.
In finding my way to bike commuting, I was faced with the unexpected challenge of having to hunt down where I fit in the bike community as a woman. In every facet of my experience — from shopping for bikes to finding folks to ride with to procuring bike apparel — there are countless implications that bikes are for boys. The majority of bike shops are full of boy employees, group rides are led by the boys from the bike shop, and the readily available apparel seems to only fit athletic boy like bodies.
I use the word boy rather than man because there is a certain child playfulness with cycling so boy seems more fitting. While navigating my way to bike commuting is much more challenging than purchasing a car at my local dealership, the benefits are enormous, including health, sanity, and most importantly finding my childlike spirit at least once during my work day.
It’s the little things
As a marginalized minority, I’ve grown accustomed to confused glances and microaggressive questions when I repeatedly defy stereotypes in my day-to-day life, but I was shocked to find this same friction present on my journey to bike commuting. While there’s no sign over the bike shop that says “boys only,” it’s the little things that send the “boys only” message loud and clear. Just the other day my coworker took a glance at my sick-ass All-City road bike and asked “is that is girls bike,” then shoots me a confused glance that implied “because bikes for boys.”
Everywhere along my journey there are these little “boys only” signs that create a boys’ club mentality in the bike community. Here’s a few that I’ve observed: Continue reading →
SDOT is improving arterial streets in Green Lake and Wallingford for people walking, biking, driving, and taking transit. We’re currently in the design phase and anticipate starting construction in spring 2019. Learn more! Join the project team at … Continue reading →
Details from RedSpoke: Ride with the sun on your face and the wind at your back. Experience the fun, excitement, fellowship and adventure on this 300-mile bicycle tour across beautiful Washington State. Enjoy the splendor of the Cascade Mountains, the majesty … Continue reading →
Thanks to your past support of the Basic Bike Network, we are on the cusp of a major win: the Seattle City Council Transportation Committee is considering legislation requiring the construction of three critical connections by the end of 2019, … Continue reading →
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