Cascade: Tell Sound Transit to support bike access to Ballard-West Seattle stations

It’s the final day to comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Sound Transit’s Ballard to West Seattle light rail line. Cascade has a form letter you can quickly send to support bike access as a priority for station access.

More details from Cascade:

As leaders across the region prepare to make key decisions on the Ballard to West Seattle Link extension alignment, it’s critical they hear from caring neighbors like you that Sound Transit must:

  • Invest System Access Dollars to connect stations to the Seattle bike network 
  • Plan early for bike-route specific construction impacts 
  • Develop world class bike parking to match the world class transit system
  • Make bike parking free and abundant
  • Accept and embrace that people will continue to bring bikes on trains
  • Ensure new station areas improve the current biking conditions, and not degrade them

Baking bikes into light rail means studying the impacts now, not just an afterthought later. 

In the closing days of public comment (through April 28) on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, please take action to tell Sound Transit to bake bikes into the plan.

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Alert 4/28-5/1: 520 Trail closed across Lake Washington

Closure map.

Map of the closed trail sections, from WSDOT.

The 520 Bridge Trail will be closed late Thursday through late Sunday, WSDOT announced Wednesday. The trail under the bridge leading to Lake Washington Boulevard will also be closed.

A previously-scheduled closure was cancelled earlier this month. You can check the 520 project’s construction map to keep track of planned closures as details may change due to weather or other factors.

The trail closure is a major disruption for people who rely on this bridge, as all detour options add a lot of time and effort. For example, a bike trip from UW campus to downtown Kirkland takes about 45 minutes via the 520 Bridge, but 1:40 if traveling around the north side of the lake (according to Google’s bike travel estimates). Remember that you can put most bikes on the front of a bus.

Details from WSDOT:

To keep riders and pedestrians safe as we pave and move soil nearby, we will close the trail across Lake Washington and the temporary trail under SR 520 from 3 a.m. Thursday, April 28 to 10 p.m. Sunday, May 1 at 10 p.m. Pedestrians and bicyclists should plan to take alternate routes across Lake Washington.

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Watch: Bob’s guide to biking from the Interurban North in Shoreline to the Burke-Gilman Trail

Bob Svercl (bobco85) is back with another local bike route guide. This time, he’s connecting the Interurban North Trail in Shoreline to the Burke-Gilman Trail in Lake Forest Park.

For anyone who wants to get a good idea of what to expect before trying this for the first time, Bob’s videos are very detailed and include both maps and on-the-street footage. Be sure to check out his other Seattle-area bike route videos, too, as he’s built up quite the archive at this point.

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Washington briefly falls out of #1 spot in bike-friendly states list

More details from the report card.“For the first time since the Bicycle Friendly States ranking began in 2008, a state other than Washington claimed the top position,” wrote the League of American Bicyclists in their summary of their 2022 Bicycle Friendly States report. However, Massachusetts and Oregon should enjoy their victory while they can because Washington has already taken major action to address the area where the state was docked most of its points: Funding. The 2022 ranking is based on data from 2021, so it does not include Move Ahead Washington, the major transportation funding measure passed in March. Move Ahead Washington includes $1.29 billion for “active transportation” projects.

Washington’s reign as the top state in the Union for bicycling is the result of a lot of hard work from advocates and some WSDOT staff and state legislators. But being the most bike-friendly state has for long been a rather low bar. Our headline for the last ranking in 2019 (they did not release rankings in 2020 and 2021 because, well, you know) was “Other 49 states still seemingly uninterested in being more bike friendly than WA.”

But that is changing. Massachusetts took the top spot in 2022, and Oregon took spot number two. If they want to keep Washington from reclaiming the top spot in 2023, once Move Ahead Washington is accounted for, they are going to need to do something big. I hope they do, because having real competition for the top spot is great for everyone.

Washington’s report card recommends that the state invest more federal Highway Safety Improvement Program funds into projects to increase safety for nonmotorized users. Other than that, it mostly praises actions by the state such as its efforts for include environmental justice in its transportation planning and its creation of the Safe, Healthy, Active Streets program during the pandemic.

Below is the full ranking list: Continue reading

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Seattle is long overdue for a well-funded social housing program + How to support I-135

People need homes.

The private market for homes in the Seattle area has been climbing out of reach for many people for many years, and there is no reason to believe it will become affordable any time soon. Meanwhile, the wait lists for existing affordable housing units is very long and getting longer. The city has spent all these years arguing about what to do rather than taking real action. Most of the debate has been about where increased private development should be allowed as though private development was the only tool available to reduce housing costs. But there is another way: Social housing.

The House Our Neighbors coalition, led in large part by Real Change, kicked off a signature drive today to put Initiative 135 on the Seattle ballot in November. You can get involved in the effort by volunteering or hosting a fundraiser. And if you see someone collecting signatures, add your name.

I-135 would establish a Public Development Authority tasked with building and operating affordable housing. The authority would receive public funds, but it would also have the ability to bond against rent payments to fund further development. Because units are fully owned by the public, they can remain affordable permanently. I-135 does not include any funding, a decision the creators made in order to avoid violating Washington State’s rule limiting ballot initiatives to only one subject at a time, according to Publicola. Instead, it would establish an authority and structure that could be funded later via the city budget or another ballot measure.

When people can’t afford a home, they are kicked out into the street. Our social safety nets are torn to shreds, and many people fall straight through. We need to be using every tool possible to make more homes that are truly affordable, and social housing is one of them.

The proposed Public Development Authority would operate differently than the existing Seattle Housing Authority, which relies on federal investment and financing options. It would also be different than existing non-profit low-income housing developers because the public would own the properties, giving the PDA access to financing options only available to governments. House Our Neighbors explained it this way on their website:

Current affordable housing models and interventions serve a vital role and they need all the resources they can get. A lot of funding for affordable housing is reliant on the federal government, and restricted by the financing available to them, primarily the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and public housing (Section 9). We can create housing not reliant on these funding models, and work alongside these affordable housing strategies to pull more housing off the private market.

This is a very exciting concept. Our city has so much wealth, we need a mechanism to use just a little bit of it to help keep people in homes.

This is also a transportation issue because people need to be able to afford to live in Seattle, especially the parts of the city with great walking, biking and transit access. Building a quality bike network is great and all, but not if only the wealthy can afford to live close enough to easily use it. Biking is an affordable, fun, healthy and extremely efficient way to get around, and more people should be able to safely and easily bike for daily transportation. One way to increase access to safe bike routes is to build more of them. Another way is to build more homes near the quality bike routes we already have. Both of these strategies are needed.

That’s why Seattle Bike Blog supports I-135.

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Alert 4/21-25: 520 Trail across Lake Washington closed – CANCELLED

UPDATE: WSDOT announced Thursday that the planned trail closure has been cancelled. “This weekend’s work on SR 520 is canceled. The trail across Lake Washington will be open tonight through Monday morning.”

Map of the trail closures.

Map of the closed trail sections (green) from WSDOT.

The walking and biking trails on the 520 Bridge across Lake Washington and under SR-520 near the Arboretum will be closed from late Thursday until early Monday.

Details from WSDOT:

Crews will be installing drainage. From 10 p.m. Thursday, April 21 until 5 a.m. Monday, April 25 the SR 520 Trail over Lake Washington and the path under SR 520 will be closed.

Bike/Ped: From 10 p.m. Thursday, April 21 until 5 a.m. Monday, April 25 the SR 520 Trail over Lake Washington and the path under SR 520 will be closed.

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Lime’s newest model is the best shared bike yet + Is it time to ditch the $1 unlock?

New white and green Lime bike parked next to a bike lane. In terms of quality and ease of use, the newest Gen4 Lime e-assist bike is highest-quality model of shared bike yet to hit Seattle streets, and a sign that the company has no intention of abandoning bikes in favor of scooters. The biggest thing holding it back remains the unchanged price, with per-minute rates adding up on the kinds of long rides this new bike begs for and the $1 unlock fee limiting its use for short errands.

At this point, the shared e-bike design is mostly figured out. The previous model of red JUMP bikes demonstrated the benefits of a strong, durable bike over lower-cost models that more quickly fell into disrepair under outdoor conditions and heavy use. Lime acquired the Uber-owned JUMP in spring 2020 as Uber invested in Lime in lieu of running its own bike share service. The new Gen4 bikes adopt the standard white, black and green of Lime’s scooters. The bikes are a mashup of an improved JUMP bike design that takes the same battery as Lime’s Gen4 scooters, which should make it easier to service Lime’s mixed fleet.

The biggest advancement of the new model is its ease of use. Like the scooters, the bikes are locked and unlocked using the app. They no longer have the awkward retractable cable lock like the JUMP bikes did. The bikes also auto-shift, so there is no gear shifter. People can just hop on and ride as though it is a simple single-speed bike, though one that can easily climb steep hills and maintain 15 mph on flat ground, its top assisted speed under Seattle’s bike share regulations. Though there is a lot of tech and design enabling such simple operation, it’s well-hidden from view. The brakes are strong drum brakes encased within the front and rear hubs. The cables, motor and wiring for the lights are all hidden within the frame and hub. For someone who has never ridden an e-bike before, it may feel like this bike is magic.

Of course, the true test of any bike share model is longevity under harsh outdoor conditions and vandalism. We will have to wait and see.

Still, the thing that holds this service back is the price, which has not changed very much for a quite a while and could use some updating. It’s $1 to unlock plus 36¢ per minute (plus tax). The $1 to unlock pricing scheme dates back to very beginning of this whole private bike share thing, back when bikes were pedal-only and cost a mere $1 for 30 minutes. But as the electrified services added a per-minute price, the $1 unlock fee is feeling more and more outdated. Why are we hanging onto this relic of a bike share era that is long over?

The $1 unlock fee limits the convenience of chaining together short trips, like running errands, because it’s hard to justify the cost just to go a handful of blocks. The $1 fee also limits one of Lime’s biggest advantages: Their mix of scooters and bikes. I personally prefer the bikes, but often only a scooter is nearby. I would be far more likely to seek out a Lime scooter if I knew I could swap it out for a bike if I passed one. But paying an extra $1 doesn’t make sense, so I don’t ever do it. Most likely, I’ll just walk or catch a bus instead. All of the other scooter and bike services in town charge the $1 unlock fee as well. I think it’s time for a company to shake up the market. Ditching the $1 would also simplify the pricing structure, making it easier to explain and advertise to potential riders. Pay while you ride, plain and simple.

And while I understand that this is the way the so-called micromobility industry works now, it is a bummer that long trips get so expensive. These are companies, not charities, and I’m not sure even these prices are very profitable. At one point, app taxi services like Lyft and Uber were competitive with micromobility for many trips, though recent increases in app taxi prices make bikes and scooters a fair bit cheaper as they should be. But still, it would cost something like $17 to bike from Ballard to downtown Seattle, and then another $17 to come back. That might make sense on a special occasion, but not as a regular thing to do. Obviously, the thing to do is to bike to an express bus like RapidRide. But sometimes you just want to bike. I don’t really have a solution here. I guess I’m just lamenting that things cost money. If you want to ride longer distances regularly, you’re definitely best off getting your own bike (stay tuned because I’m working on something of a bike-buying guide for Seattle).

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that Lime does now sell passes in addition to the regular rate. So if you know in advance you’ll be riding a lot, you can save some money:

Pricing scheme chart for passes.

Have you tried the new Lime Gen4? Share your thoughts below.

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On this day in 1949: The Green Lake path split open during a major earthquake

People, including a child, stand near large cracks in the Green Lake path.

The Seattle Times, April 13, 1949.

In researching my book, I came across this photo from April 13, 1949 showing large cracks in the Green Lake path. The 7.1 magnitude quake was centered between Tacoma and Olympia, but it caused significant damage at far at Oregon and British Columbia. Eight people were killed and many more injured as older buildings or structures on unstable soil collapsed, according to HistoryLink.

The park around Green Lake, which is largely the result of human engineering in the early 1900s, was damaged, especially near the southwest part of the lake. The photo above is likely somewhere just north of the Aqua Theater. In 1913, the city lowered the level of the lake, then used fill to create new park land around the now-smaller lake:

A train with fill dirt working to create Green Lake Park.

January 1914 photo by Frank H. Nowell, Seattle Public Library collection.

The park vision included a complete boulevard around the lake, though the western edge of that boulevard was later destroyed by the expansion of Aurora.

1910 Olmsted map of Green Lake showing a full boulevard loop.

1910 Olmsted Brothers plan for Green Lake Boulevard.

I don’t have a concrete point to make in this post other than to say, “Look at these wild old photos!” And, “Wow, we sure did a lot of land rearranging in this city!” And also, “Make sure you are prepared for an earthquake!”

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This American Life interviews Seattle’s retired ‘Bike Batman’

Dirk deGroot made headlines a few years back as Seattle’s “Bike Batman,” a guy who would find reported stolen bikes for sale on sites like Craigslist or OfferUp and then go recover the bikes and give them back to the owners. He did this dozens of times before retiring a few years back. This American Life recently started an episode by interviewing deGroot in an attempt to answer the larger question: Why would a person do something big and risky to help out somebody they didn’t even know?

Here’s Carrie Helminger, the first person deGroot helped, describing what it was like when he first reached out and told her he wanted to get her stolen bike back:

He said, I saw that you posted it on Bike Index. And so I’m like, ah, this is starting to sound a little bit more legit. But I still have no idea who he is.

I think we spoke probably around my lunch break. And he told me that he was maybe going to go get the bike. And I was like, what? And he was like, yeah. I remember him saying at one point, yeah, I’m kind of jazzed about this. I’m getting a little adrenaline high from this.

And part of me is like, great, that solves that problem, if he wants to do that. But are you nuts? Why do you want to do that? And be careful. That would be the scariest thing for me. There’s no way I would ever do that.

Listen to the full episode online.

To be clear, I do not recommend trying to do what deGroot did. I did it once, and it was a mistake. Luckily, neither deGroot nor I were injured in an attempt to recover a bike. But there are very real risks whenever you confront someone like this. At the same time, I understand the impulse to want to get your beloved bike back. Be careful out there, and remember that a bike is an object, albeit a special one, and can be replaced. For more advice on what to do if your bike is stolen, check out this page on BikeIndex.

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Beverly Bridge over the Columbia River officially opens April 8, fills major gap in the Palouse-to-Cascades Trail

The most difficult gap in the nearly-statewide Palouse-to-Cascades Trail is now fixed, and in stunning fashion. The 3,052-foot-long Beverly Bridge over the Columbia River promises to usher in a new era for the statewide trail formerly known as the Iron Horse Trail or the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, connecting the western and eastern halves of the state in a way that simply was not possible before.

The trail bridge has been operational for a while, but it will get its official springtime opening celebration at 1 p.m. April 8 on the west side of the river.

This is a good time to start planning an adventure on the trail. The Snoqualmie Tunnel at the pass is still closed for probably another month or so (the current anticipated opening is May 1, but that date can change based on the snowpack). The further east you go, the more planning is needed. There are still quite a few detours along the way, and some stretches are very remote with limited water access. The Palouse-to-Cascades Trail Coalition has excellent guides to help you prepare, including detour maps and options for camping and services along the way.

Hopes for a Columbia River trail crossing were dashed in 2014 when a wildfire severely damaged the structure of the old rail bridge across the river. Then one year later, a secretive addition to the state budget nearly gave away the public’s interest in the statewide rail corridor, but a typo saved the change from going through. The near loss of this precious and irreplaceable public amenity woke people up, and legislators decided to fund major rehabilitation work to help get the trail into working order.

Sadly, one person died last year while working on the Beverly Bridge rehab project. Gabriel Zalaya, a father of three, fell from the the structure and died in August. He was 39. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries fined contractor Boss Construction $284,000 for a number of safety failures at the worksite following the tragedy, including a lack of fall protection for workers and a lack of proper rescue equipment.

More details on the opening from the Palouse to Cascades Trail Coalition: Continue reading

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Sunday: Bike Works hosts Tour de Fleurs alleycat ride

NOTE: You can find this event and more on the Seattle Bike Blog Events Calendar. Posting to the calendar is free and open to anyone. For example, check out this East Seattle History Ride Saturday.

Event poster for Tour de Fleurs.Bike Works is hosting a flower-themed alleycat Sunday with “a wide array of jovial checkpoints and challenges based on non-bike related talent and luck.” An alleycat is a style of bike ride with a set of checkpoints around town, but no set route. Instead, it’s up to riders to navigate their way from point to point completing challenges along the way.

So bungee some flowers to your bike and head down to the Bike Works community shop at 2 p.m. It’s a free event.

Details from Bike Works:

The dark, gray days are almost over, and life finds a way to light up our path towards a brighter, warmer future in the way of flowers. Rejoice! Spring is upon us! And what better way to celebrate than with a bike ride? Bike Works will be hosting its first official alleycat-style bike ride, the Tour de Fleurs, in celebration of spring – rain or shine!

Tour de Fleurs
Sunday, April 3rd, 2 – 6 PM
Bike Works Shop – 3709 S Ferdinand St, Seattle, WA 98118
Two route options – 13ish + 17ish miles with a 2 hour limit
Register here – optional donations will support Nurturing Roots

An alleycat is a bike race modeled after a day in the life of a bike messenger. The route will be kept secret until the day of. There is no set route; it is up to the rider to navigate their own path. In addition to the urban asphalt, there will be dirt/gravel options to increase stoke and help connect you to the great provider of flowers and life, Mother Earth.

We’ve planned the ride to celebrate and encourage fun with a wide array of jovial checkpoints and challenges based on non-bike related talent and luck. Optional dress code is floral spring awakening. Prizes given for mini-game challenges, best dressed, fastest, slowest, etc. Food and drink will be provided.

We hope to see you on Sunday for an amazing celebration of warmer, brighter days ahead.

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Study: 1930s maps of racist redlining predict air pollution levels today

The HOLC map of Seattle from 1936.

Home Owners’ Loan Corporation map of Seattle.

In news that is both horrible and unsurprising, a team of researchers from UC Berkeley and UW in Seattle have published a study demonstrating that “redlined” areas of cities marked in federal maps from the 1930s had higher levels of air pollution in 2010.

Redlining was the discriminatory practice of withholding loans or other private and public investments from certain areas within cities based largely on the race of the people living there. Redlining was legal in Seattle until 1968, though the legacy of the practice continued in many forms even after it was outlawed by city ordinance. Though the practice of withholding investments or properties from people of color long predates 1930, that was when the federal government commissioned a set of maps from cities around the country, including Seattle, to rate the “security” of mortgage investments in different areas of each city. The Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (“HOLC”), which was tasked with helping struggling homeowners during the Great Depression to refinance their mortgages, created maps that illustrated and codified existing prejudices and racist practices. Communities of color were often rated as “Hazardous” and given a “D” grade. “A” grades were mostly reserved for wealthier and whiter communities.

HOLC did not invent the racist practices behind redlining, but they did make it very obvious by drawing the lines on public maps. Researchers today can now use those same maps to learn how segregationist practices a century ago affect communities today. And that’s exactly what the researchers did in this new study. They compiled a huge database of census blocks that included 2010 air pollution levels as well as the 1930s HOLC grade, then looked for correlations. Nationally, areas with “D” grades in the 1930s had 56% higher levels of nitrogen dioxide in 2010 than “A” graded areas.

There are many mechanisms leading to this air quality disparity, but they all add up to racist results because that’s what happens when there is wide-reaching systemic racism. Poor air quality can come from many different sources, though the worst of it comes from highways and polluting industry. Freeways and other wide highways were often purposefully routed through redlined areas as a form of so-called “Urban Renewal,” which James Baldwin called “Negro Removal.” Freeways are a major source of nitrogen dioxide pollution. Wealthier and whiter areas have also had more means and political connections to fight the incursion of polluting industry into their neighborhoods, preserving the clean air quality in “A” graded areas.

This is why projects like South Park’s SR-99 removal project are so important, and just the beginning of the work needed to try to heal the wrongs of the past.

The Seattle Times put together a set of maps demonstrating the study’s findings in Seattle: Continue reading

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Feds recommend $60 million for RapidRide J project, including Eastlake Ave remake

The Federal Transit Administration has recommended a $60.1 million grant to fund the RapidRide J project from the U District to South Lake Union via Eastlake.

“Coupled with funding from the Levy to Move Seattle that voters approved in 2015, the recommended $60 million grant would fully fund the RapidRide J Line project,” said Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell in a joint press release with King County Metro. “Access to transit and safe streets are the things that make a difference in people’s life. This type of infrastructure makes our city welcoming to people of all ages and abilities and connects them to work, schools, recreation, and culture – creating One Seattle.”

The RapidRide J project is a major remake of the corridor, including long-awaited protected bike lanes on Eastlake Ave E and Fairview Ave N. We previously talked through the design details in great detail. Hopefully the $60 million is enough to fix the lacking bike protection at the south end of the University Bridge, one of the few lacking elements in a very exciting design that will make biking much more comfortable in this vital corridor.

More details from USDOT: Continue reading

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Without waiting for outer loop path due this summer, Parks Department issues ‘long-term temporary’ ban on bikes at Green Lake

Photo of a sign that says "pedestrian use only, no wheels"

Photo from the Parks Department.

Without waiting for SDOT to complete its “outer loop” bike connection around Green Lake, the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation banned biking from the popular lakeside trail.

“This long-term temporary use restriction, which restricts all bicycles and other wheeled uses from the Green Lake Park inner loop (strollers and mobility devices are allowed), is intended to create more space for path users on this high use trail,” wrote the Parks Department in a blog post announcing the change. But without SDOT’s planned outer path, people biking now have no comfortable option for traveling along the west side of the lake. Regardless of whatever “long-term temporary” means, signs are now in place with icons of bikes, roller skates and scooters crossed out in red. People can submit feedback on the rule change to [email protected].

Newspaper clipping with photo of people walking and biking on the green lake path. Headline: Green Lake: No question it's crowded, but often with the nicest folk.

News clipping from the April 30, 1983 Seattle Times shows that people have been talking about crowding on the Green Lake Path for decades. Read the full article (Seattle Public Library card required).

There is a lot of history leading up to this point. People have argued off and on about banning biking on the path for decades. The Seattle P-I asked readers in 1979 (Seattle library card required) whether biking and roller skating should be banned from the path. The majority of respondents said no, but one reader said, “Ban everybody, I say. The public has enjoyed Green Lake long enough. One would think the public owned it.” In 1980, the Parks Department even surveyed users about whether something should be done about it. People at the time said to leave it alone, according a 1983 article in the Seattle Times.

The Green Lake path was once among the most popular destinations in the city for people looking for a nice place to bike because, just like now, many people simply did not feel comfortable mixing with car traffic on city streets. Countless young Seattleites learned to ride a bike on the path. It’s an extremely pleasant place, at least when you don’t get stuck in a big summer weekend crowd. Over the decades, there have been many efforts in the past to ease congestion on the path. The longest-lasting solution was the one in place until very recently: A divided path with foot traffic on one side and “wheels” on the other. While people on foot were allowed to go either direction, wheels were only allowed counterclockwise. This never worked perfectly, but it was a compromise.

Today, there are many places to ride a bike in Seattle other than this one path. There are even bike lanes on the street not far from the path for about two thirds of the lake. But there still is no bike route on the western edge of Green Lake, leaving the lakeside path as the only obvious and direct option for people traveling there. Continue reading

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Saturday: Seattle Neighborhood Greenways community potluck at Gas Works Park

Bring some snacks or a side to Gas Works Park Saturday afternoon for a safe streets potluck with Seattle Neighborhood Greenways. It’s officially dubbed a “volunteer picnic,” but everyone is invited whether you have volunteered or not.

You can also join a group ride to the picnic. One leaves Capitol Hill Station at 12:30, and another leaves Columbia City Park (near PCC) at 11:30.

Details from SNG:

Join Seattle Neighborhood Greenways to celebrate another year of fabulous grassroots community power!
Saturday, March 26, 2022, 1:00 – 3:30 pm
– – –
Drop in to catch up with old friends and neighbors or meet and greet with new folks. Learn about local advocacy, grab some swag or a bike or walking map.

We’ll provide some food for the grill, bring potluck snacks or sides to contribute if you can.

All are welcome — you don’t have to had volunteered with us before to come celebrate!
– – –
Gas Works park is located at 2101 N Northlake Way, Seattle, WA 98103 and is accessible from the Burke Gilman Trail or a short (steep) walk from the 31, 32 or 62 bus. The park also has free car parking.

We will be at the picnic area on the northeast side of the park, behind the restrooms. The picnic area is wheelchair accessible.
Stay tuned for more info on group bike rides to the event! (or lead one yourself!)

From Capitol Hill:
Stefanie and Ethan will be leading a family-friendly CSG group ride to the Gas Works picnic from Capitol Hill on Saturday. All are welcome!

We’ll meet at 12:15p at the Barbara Bailey Way plaza outside the Capitol Hill light rail station (where the farmer’s market is on Sundays). Roll out at 12:30p.

Our route mostly follows quieter streets. We’ll head through the beautiful Interlaken Park to Eastlake, the University Bridge, and the Burke-Gilman Trail. Route here:

From Rainier Valley:
Meet up with Jason from Rainier Valley Greenways-Safe Streets at Columbia City Park next to PCC at 11:15 am, roll out 11:30, and meet up with the Central Seattle Greenways group for the remainder of the trip. Rough route here:

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For the first time since 2019, the Fremont Solstice Parade returns June 18

I am so happy to hear that the Fremont Solstice Parade is back. June 18, mark your calendars.

The maps even have bicycle icons printed on them! Does this mean the years of the Fremont Arts Council resisting the naked painted bike parade are officially over? I sure hope so.

For anyone who has never had the pleasure of witnessing (or participating in) the Fremont Solstice Parade, you are in for a treat. It might be the best day of the year in Seattle. The city welcomes the seemingly neverending sun with a wonderful display of creativity.

The whole parade is wonderful, but the best-known part started as a prank in the 1990s when a couple people got naked and streaked ahead of the parade on their bikes. The tradition of biking naked before the parade built slowly through the 90s until 1998, when Seattle Police decided to crack down on the tradition and arrested a rider. The arrest drew boos from the crowd, and kicked off a big debate in the city about puritanical thinking that then-Councilmember Nick Licata described as “a defining moment” for Seattle. I have a whole section about the history of the Solstice bike ride in my upcoming book (which will definitely be complete some day I promise). I also highly recommend the 2013 documentary Beyond Naked all about the tradition.

Anyway, back to 2022. It’s been 33 months since the last IRL Solstice Parade, and our city is in desperate need of the joy and community it brings. The 2022 route is currently slated to be shorter than in previous years, and it looks like it may even avoid closing the Fremont Bridge. Instead of heading to Gas Works Park, the route will end at Evanston inside the Fremont Fair grounds. This makes a lot of sense for the proper parade, which is a very slow-moving, people-powered spectacle. I’m sure are still working out the logistics for the bike ride, so stay tuned.

Map of the Fremont Fair 2022.

Map of the parade route, via MyBallard.

Continue reading

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Bloomberg: The e-bike boom is back (or maybe never stopped)

Photo of two people biking up a steep hill in downtown Seattle.

This promo photo from Rad Power Bikes shows off how e-bikes can easily climb up even steep downtown Seattle east-west streets.

For as much attention as this country gives to electric cars, e-bike sales continue to grow at a remarkable pace. And with gas prices through the roof, sales of e-bikes will not likely slow down any time soon.

E-bikes are especially useful in the United States, where people often need to travel fairly long distances that are poorly served by transit. And in Seattle, well, it’s pretty obvious why e-bikes are selling so well here.

From Bloomberg:

Gregg’s Cycle, one of the largest bike retailers in the Seattle area, just had its best February since it opened in 1932. “It was across the board, but e-bikes were a big percentage of that,” says longtime general manager Marty Pluth. “I think that was a result of the fuel hikes.”

Seattle e-bike startup Rad Power Bikes surveys its customers at checkout about their reasons for buying. An increasing number, according to co-founder and chief executive officer Mike Radenbaugh, cite rising fuel costs. “Just as the desire for safe and socially distanced transportation created another category of consumers for e-bikes, higher fuel prices do the same thing,” says Radenbaugh. “It layers growth on top of already fast growth.”

At this point, the e-bike is just a normal bicycle option. They typically come with a price premium over pedal-only bikes, but that price can be justified if the motor helps users bike more trips. Vitally, e-bike maintenance is becoming more widely available. In the not-so-distant past, e-bikes were often short-run products by small companies that may not be capable of supporting the custom motor and electrical components. Now people have options that are serviceable by local shops, which makes e-biking far more reliable, at least in places like Seattle with so many great local bike shops. This is why my advice is, whenever possible, to buy your bike from a local shop that is prepared to service it.

But note to all the new e-bike owners: Be sure to get a really good lock.

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Eight people injured while biking the Missing Link file lawsuit against city, railroad

Map marking reported collision locations. There are many on NW 45th Street near the Ballard Bridge.

Map from SDOT’s 2017 Final Environmental Impact Statement showing injury responses. This map was cited in the lawsuit document.

“Countless people” have crashed on the railroad tracks while biking on the streets just west of the abrupt terminus of the Burke-Gilman Trail in Ballard, and now eight of them have joined together in a lawsuit against both the Ballard Terminal Railroad and the City of Seattle.

The suit (PDF), filed by Washington Bike Law (full disclosure: Washington Bike Law advertises on Seattle Bike Blog), focuses on a high-crash stretch of NW 45th Street and Shilshole Ave NW under and near the Ballard Bridge. The plaintiff’s complaint refers to this area as “the Crash Zone,” noting the long-documented history of crashes there.

The suit alleges that the city and the railroad failed to maintain the street “in a condition that is reasonably safe for ordinary travel” and are therefore liable for damages from those injured while biking there. Each of the plaintiffs crashed in 2018, 2019 or 2020.

“Each of the Plaintiffs crashed while lawfully riding a bicycle in the Crash Zone and attempting to cross the Skewed Tracks,” the complaint states. “Each of the Plaintiffs crashed when their bicycle tires interacted with a track rail and/or flangeway gap in a manner which caused the bicycle and rider to lose dynamic stability. Upon crashing on the tracks and/or pavement, each Plaintiff suffered serious bodily injury and other damages.”

The problem is well-known, and it is a major reason why the city has pursued completion of the Burke-Gilman Trail in this area for decades. However, a group of appellants, including Ballard Terminal Railroad, have successfully delayed completion of the trail through legal action, and court battles are still ongoing. In the meantime, the street has been open and operating despite the persistent railroad track hazard. The city has made several attempts over the years to mitigate the hazard, even turning the street into a one-way street, dedicating the other lane to biking. But the lawsuit claims these design changes were not sufficient to make the street safe.

Below is the Washington Bike Law press release (PDF) announcing the lawsuit: Continue reading

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Bike events are back! How to find bike happenings around town

Screenshot of the Seattle Bike Blog event submission form.

Submit your event details to the Seattle Bike Blog Events Calendar.

After years of cancelled, scaled back and Zoomified bike events thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Seattle bike events calendar is finally starting to fill up with community celebrations, rides and more.

Before 2020, you could pretty much design your whole social schedule around bike events (and some of you did!). We are not quite there yet, but I’m seeing a huge increase in the number of event notices dropping into my inbox. I can’t wait to see a lot of you at community bike events again. I have missed it so much.

So how do you find local bike events?

The Seattle Bike Blog Events Calendar is a great place to start. It includes a mix of bike advocacy meetings as well as social events and rides. And anybody can post their event to the calendar for free. Do you have an idea for a ride? Make it reality!

You can also check the calendars of local bike organizations. Cascade of course has extensive listings for all their events and daily free rides. All their major events are planned in 2022, many for the first time since 2019. Bike Works also has a great calendar of events lined up. Everyday Rides Seattle is also a good place to check.

During the pandemic, bike-based events could still be a social outlet since they are often held outdoors for obvious reasons. But still, the logistics of hosting an event still made it difficult to responsibly host a full-size public event during COVID. Cascade cancelled nearly all of its major rides in 2020 and 2021, and so many other community-level events pivoted to online. I don’t know about you, but I now grimace every time I have to open Zoom.

The pandemic is not over, but King County Public Health has determined that community spread is now “low,” leading the agency to stop requiring masks in many indoor spaces. Businesses and event organizers can still choose to require masks.

Do you have a favorite place to find bike events? Let us know in the comments below.

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Must Read: Bikabout’s review of a family trip to Seattle by Amtrak and bike

Photo of a kid on a bike near some sculptures.

Screenshot from Bikabout.

Megan Ramey and her family recently took the Amtrak Cascades train up from Oregon to spend a few days in Seattle, and they mostly traveled around the city by bike. Ramey wrote about the trip on her site Bikabout, and it’s a wonderful view of how our beautiful city has changed since their previous trips before COVID. She even calls Seattle “the coolest city for biking with kids.”

I loved reading this post. Maybe one underrated challenge of COVID has been the lack of an outsider’s perspective on our own city. We’ve been huddled together, traveling as little as possible. Sometimes people who live elsewhere help remind us about what is so great about where we live. Though there are obviously major challenges in our city (which she notes), Seattle really is an astounding place to be.

You should read the whole post. Here’s an excerpt:

I am unapologetically biased. Seattle is my favorite city. It’s mostly based on music culture, but I love everything about it, the topography, climate, unplanned fun, how accessible it is by train and how easy it is to escape to a nearby island by ferry.

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