Construction begins soon on initial segment of the 4th Ave bike lane

Project map.Crews are gearing up to build a protected bike lane on 4th Ave between Pine and Madison Streets downtown.

This is the start of the second north-south bike corridor downtown and a key piece of the Basic Bike Network vision, which would build a connected web of protected bike lanes from Seattle Center to the International District and places in between, helping more people bike to more homes, workplaces and destinations within our state’s busiest area.

Though 4th and 2nd Avenues look close together on a map, the topography on the ground puts them in different realms. At Pine Street, the streets are basically at the same elevation. But the two blocks separating them at Madison are some of the steepest streets in the entire city. So for people trying to access major institutions, like the Seattle Public Library or City Hall, or heading further up to First Hill, 4th and/or 5th Avenues are vital.

The first segment will be a two-way bike lane on the west side of the street between Pine and Madison, essentially mirroring 2nd Ave.

Cross-section of the proposed road changes.There is currently an uphill painted bike lane on 4th Ave that ends at Spring, so this project will connect to that old bike lane for the time being. That should be a huge improvement for people heading northbound who currently have to either merge into the left general purpose lane and bike in mixed traffic or try to merge across the entire street in front of the library in order to ride in the bus lane. Neither option is good. Being able to simply continue straight into a protected bike lane should be a massive improvement. Continue reading

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Seattle finally builds protected bike lane on stretch of Yesler where Desiree McCloud died in 2016

Photo of people walking past a ghost bike locked to a road sign at 13th and Yesler.

Friends, family (including her brother Cody) and community members walk in honor of McCloud in June 2016.

SDOT has installed protected bike lanes on Yesler Way between 14th and 12th Avenues, part of a project to further protect and separate the bike lanes from the First Hill Streetcar tracks in the area.

But this two-block stretch fulfills a heavy purpose: This is where Desiree McCloud was biking when she crashed and died in 2016. Video shortly before her crash showed that she was between the westbound streetcar tracks, and Desiree’s brother Cody filed a wrongful death claim against the city alleging that she crashed because of the streetcar tracks. Seattle settled the case in 2018 for $490,000, though the settlement did not include promises that the hazard would be fixed.

Streetcar tracks pose a serious hazard to biking because the gap in the road surface is just barely wide enough for a bike tire to slide into it. This often results in the tire getting wedged, throwing the person riding it to the ground with little to no warning.

Following her death, her family, friends and local safe streets advocates demanded immediate safety changes. They gathered for a memorial walk to dedicate her ghost bike and to meet with SDOT officials to talk about what the city was going to do to make sure this didn’t happen to anyone else. The meeting was an enormous gift to the city by the McCloud family, who expressed righteous anger and heartbreak over what happened and yet were still willing to show up to try to help make the city better.

So it’s great to see these bike lane changes finally happen, but it’s 2020. More than four years have passed without action. The community and Desiree’s mourning loved ones could not have been more clear about the need for immediate changes. You look at the photos, and it’s just some cheap paint and plastic posts. It’s great that they are finally in place, but the people of Seattle deserve a more urgent response from our city.

Desiree’s death was avoidable. I really hope these bike lane fixes make it so nobody ever crashes here again. But many streetcar and railroad hazards remain in our city, not to mention the overwhelming number of hazards caused by streets that prioritize car speed over safety. Fixing hazards that kill people is the very least the city can do.

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Letter: Invest 1% of West Seattle Bridge budget to help meet biking goals

Start of the letter, featuring logos from West Seattle Bike Connections, Duwamish Valley Safe Streets, Cascade Bicycle Club and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways. Text in linked PDF.

Read the full letter (PDF)

A collective letter from neighborhood and regional bike and safe streets advocacy groups calls on SDOT to invest at least 1% of the West Seattle Bridge replacement budget on improving bike connections.

The city’s mode shift plan for helping people get around during the bridge closure calls for a massive increase in biking (from about 1% to 10% for commute trips). But the current plan would only fund about 10 spot improvement projects for biking at less than $100,000 each. That’s a small amount of money compared to the estimated $160-225 million project budget. And it is simply not the level of investment needed to break down the biggest infrastructure barriers that prevent more people from cycling to, from and within West Seattle.

Increasing cycling tenfold is a very difficult task, but it’s not unreasonable or wildly unprecedented. As pointed out in the letter, cycling more than doubled during the 2019 Viaduct closure and shifted more trips away from driving than the water taxi despite essentially no city infrastructure changes to help more people bike. Instead, neighbors got organized and helped each other. And this was in January, so save your bad weather excuses. Imagine what would be possible if the city also invested to make the streets safer and connect the neighborhood’s bike routes.

The ramifications from the bridge closure have also extended to Duwamish Valley neighborhoods, including Georgetown and South Park. Increased traffic has made streets more dangerous and made many of the the already poor bike route options there, many of which only offer sharrows, even worse. So investments are also needed to mitigate harm and increase bike trips in neighborhoods that now serve as detour routes.

The alternative is to not improve and fully connect bike routes, then later bemoan the fact that biking didn’t rise to meet the mode share goal. Getting a dramatic shift requires dramatic action.

West Seattle Bike Connections, Duwamish Valley Safe Streets, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways and Cascade Bicycle Club all signed the letter and included a list of projects that would help improve safety and encouraging more biking. The letter: Continue reading

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Seattle’s proposed scooter rules set riders up for failure

Banning electric scooters on sidewalks seems to make sense at first. Sidewalks are for walking, right? That seemed to be the guiding principle behind Seattle’s decision to mostly leave the existing ban on riding electric scooters on sidewalks in place while launching a permit scheme to allow large numbers of shared scooters to start operating on Seattle streets.

But the city could be setting up a very serious problem, exposing scooter riders to confusing laws and creating a big new opportunity for racially biased policing. The city is effectively prepared to punish individual users for the city’s own failure to build safe streets.

As we reported yesterday, Ordinance 119867 would also amend Seattle’s city code to allow electric scooter use on sidewalks only if “there is no alternative for a motorized foot scooter to travel over a sidewalk that is part of a bicycle or pedestrian path.” The intention here is to allow sidewalk riding on key routes like over the Fremont and Montlake Bridges where there is no feasible alternative, but it’s very squishy and will be confusing in real life.

The language seems to be pulled almost word-for-word from state law and city code updates made a few years back that allowed e-bikes in bike lanes and on paths. Though most e-bikes are mostly allowed anywhere bikes are allowed, rarer and higher-speed “Class 3” e-bikes capable of assisted power beyond 20 mph are not allowed on sidewalks “unless there is no alternative to travel over a sidewalk as part of a bicycle or pedestrian path.” This language has posed confusion for Class 3 e-bike users, but the problem wasn’t massive because there are not many of those bikes around and because there is really no way for an observer (like a police officer) to know which class an e-bike belongs to without measuring its assisted top speed or seeing the regulation sticker if there is one. So Class 3 e-bike users have just sort of existed in legal limbo with very little chance of facing enforcement unless they do something obviously dangerous (contact me if you know of a case).

But electric scooters are a totally different story. They are very easy to identify and there may soon be thousands of them on the streets available for rent in addition to the growing number of people who own them. So the sloppy language here will not be a marginal problem, and the City Council and SDOT needs to carefully consider the effects of this law.

How is a regular user (or a police officer) supposed to determine when a sidewalk user has “no alternative.” Who gets to decide whether an alternative exists or whether a stretch of sidewalk is “part of a bicycle or pedestrian path?” They often look exactly the same:

Two photos side-by-side of streets with sidewalks. One says "scooters illegal" and one says "scooters legal"

These images are just a couple blocks from each other.

Continue reading

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Scooter share permit gets committee approval + How the system would work

Photo of a person standing in front of a Lime scooter.

Yours truly took a test ride of a Lime scooter in 2018. So this has been a long time coming.

Seattle is finally maybe going to give shared scooters a try.

The City Council  Utilities and Transportation Committee voted last week to approve two ordinances that would allow SDOT to launch a scooter permit program (Council bills 119867 and 119868). Councilmembers Strauss, González and Morales voted in favor, Pederson opposed. The ordinances still need to pass the full Council during the September 8 meeting.

“We’ve been having this academic conversation about the use of scooters for 18 months or longer,” Councilmember Dan Strauss, the legislation sponsor, said during the committee meeting. “I still have many concerns that need to be addressed, but we are at a point where the academic conversation has gone on long enough that if we don’t try this in the real world to see if this program does work and is appropriate for our city, we’re just going to keep circling around the same questions.”

And some of those questions are not entirely answered by the permit plan or by the Council actions, which would allow SDOT to enact their permit fee structure and would make some changes to city code regarding scooter use like allowing people to ride electric scooters in bike lane, on trails and on some stretches of sidewalk that are part of a bike route (like the Fremont Bridge for example). Oddly, this was not already the law, though people already use scooters this way. These law changes affect all electric scooter users, whether they are riding a personal scooter or a shared one.

“If we are able to allow people to learn to ride these scooters in good weather while it’s not rainy and dark, we have a higher likelihood of people being able to use these in a responsible and effective manor,” said Strauss.

Most the scooter rules will be similar to bike share rules, though scooters are currently illegal on sidewalks and the city is not looking to change that. Like the bikes, they will be limited to top speeds of 15 mph and must be parked in the furniture zone or an on-street bike corral. Continue reading

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Saturday: The Peace Peloton rides from Madrona to Green Lake, will create a mural on the way

Peace Peloton event poster. Details in the post.The Peace Peloton rides again Saturday, and this time riders will create a mural along the way.

The ride meets from 10 a.m. to noon at Café Soleil at 34th and Union in Madrona, where folks will work to get the mural panels ready. Shortly after noon, riders will head to a secret location to assemble the mural, then continue to Green Lake.

Elmer Dixon, Cofounder of the Seattle Chapter of the Black Panther Party, will speak at the end of the ride about “Reparations and The Need for Controlling the Institutions Within the Black Community.”

The Peace Peloton’s mission is to support Black-owned businesses and to promote economic reform for Black people.

Details from Peace Peloton:

Please join us for a rain or shine, casual, no drop, peaceful, and FUN 10 mile bike ride/demonstration . . . did I mention it’s fun?

  1. Bike stage: Café Soleil, 1400 34th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122
  2. Time: 10:00a – 12:00p
  3. Peace Peloton Mural Curation* (see below for details)
  4. Bike Ride Start: 12:15p (10 miles)
  5. Midway Ride: Peace Peloton Mural Assembly (confidential location)
  6. Ride End: Green Lake Park, 7201 E Green Lake Dr N, Seattle, WA 98115 (Food Trucks)
  7. Speaker: Elmer Dixon, Cofounder, Seattle Black Panther Chapter, Topic: “Reparations and The Need for Controlling the Institutions Within the Black Community.”

* Peace Peloton Mural

  • Donate $25 to:
    • PayPal – @peacepeloton (write PP Mural in the description)
    • Venmo – @peacepeloton (write PP Mural in the description)
  • Receive a blank canvas the morning of the event.
  • Decorate your canvas with a message of peace, inspiration, or love to the world.
  • We will stop midway along the route and artfully arrange your offering in 10ft intervals for as long as we have canvases.

To better accommodate our business partners and provide the safest and most enjoyable cycling experience for our participants please complete the R.S.V.P. and waiver.

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Tonight: Phyllis Porter talks biking and activism

Photo of Phyllis Porter standing with her bike in front of a body of water.Tonight (August 19) at 6 p.m., log in to hear Phyllis Porter talk about “her adventures and growth as a bicycle rider and activist including her passion for safe streets for all.”

Porter has been a strong advocate and friend of Seattle Bike Blog for years. She ran for City Council in District 2 last year and has since resumed her work as an organizer and leader for safe streets.

Register for free with Bike Works to get the link. Details:

A talk from Phyllis Porter: Shero of the Seattle Black Girls Do Bike chapter, member of the Rainier Riders Cycling Club, SE Seattle resident, former Bike Works employee, volunteer, Bike Works Racial Equity Taskforce member, Rainier Valley Safe Streets activist, and former candidate for Seattle City Council will talk about her adventures and growth as a bicycle rider and activist including her passion for safe streets for all.

Wednesday, August 19th, 6 – 7 PM.

Q&A to follow presentation.

Register for a link to participate.

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Seattle Bike Repair Mutual Aid connects folks with bike fixing skills to those who need to get their rides rolling

Do you need to get your bike rolling again? Do you want to put your bike tools and skills to work helping your community? Then Seattle Bike Repair Mutual Aid is for you.

The concept of the project is very simple: Collect info from people who need their bikes repaired and people who want to help, then connect them.

Elise Hirschi and Max Kauffman started the project after attending Cascade Bicycle Club’s Advocacy Leadership Institute program. They have graduated, but decided to keep their class project going. Hirschi also works for Bike Works, though she is working on this project in her free time. They have already made a handful of connections, and they are especially looking for more folks who need bike repair help.

The Federal government has essentially abandoned its people as they struggle to make ends meet during this crisis. Getting people’s bikes rolling is at least a way to help them get around town affordably and safely. We gotta come together and support each other, because things look like they will get worse before they get better. Access to a working bike won’t stand in for a functional and compassionate government, but it could help.

Whether you need some bike repairs or have fixing skills to offer, just fill out the online form. Details from Seattle Bike Repair Mutual Aid: Continue reading

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Seattle Parks announces week-long, very steep Burke-Gilman Trail detour for … mowing?

Map of the detour route with a graph showing the elevation change, including 174 feet of climbing.

The detour route, from Google Maps.

People who bike or walk on the Burke-Gilman Trail in northeast Seattle have dealt with a lot of tough detours in recent years. But the detours are always for a good reason, such as the city or county rebuilding or repaving the trail, or because a landslide has washed out a section of the trail.

But the closure planned to start Monday is different. The trail will be closed for the morning commute until the afternoon so Seattle Parks can mow the slope next to the trail between NE 125th St and 42nd Pl NE. And because the slope is so steep, they are planning to use heavy machinery and must close the trail from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for a week.

Of course, the same steep slopes that make mowing difficult also make the detour difficult. The 900 or so feet of NE 125th Street climbs a stunning 138 feet. That’s a 15 percent grade climb for 900 feet, which is grueling even for strong and fit riders. I know slope grades are difficult numbers to understand, so I was trying to figure out a way to demonstrate just how steep that is. But then Google Street View did it for me:

Photo showing a steep road to the left and a flat trail to the right. A person is walking their bike up the hill.

The detour is so steep, this person randomly captured by Google Street View decided to walk their bike rather than ride. And to be clear, it is also difficult to walk your bike up this hill.

I cannot remember another time that Seattle Parks has closed the trail for mowing in this location (I searched my decade-worth of emails and news releases and couldn’t find any significant trail closures for mowing anywhere in the region). A detour like this is a major reduction in service for trail users. There are a lot of users who simply cannot climb these hills and who may be on the trail specifically because it is an old railroad bed and is therefore very flat.

Sometimes trail closures are unavoidable. But is this one of those times? I have questions out to Seattle Parks and will update this post when I hear back. Continue reading

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SDOT is studying options for fixing or replacing aging Magnolia bridge. No, not the one you’re thinking of.

Project map.

Photo looking down the wooden bridge surrounded by trees.

Photo from SDOT.

As you emerge from the tree cover on a bridge high above the train tracks, it’s easy to feel like you’ve found a magical secret hidden deep within Seattle. The 33rd Ave W Bridge is an old biking and walking bridge connecting W Government Way in Magnolia (not far from the main Discovery Park entrance) to the Ballard Locks.

When wet and especially when covered in wet leaves, the wooden bridge surface and its steep approaches can be very slick. But apparently, that’s the least of its problems. SDOT has identified “signs of deterioration.” And though it is currently safe to use, the city is starting work to identify options repair or replace it.

Crews will be out August 21 through and 26 studying the soil conditions to help inform the process. The bridge will remain open while they are working.

SDOT plans to have the first stage of design ready later this year, and there will be community outreach about the options this fall. As of now, there’s no word on expected costs. Sign up for project emails here.

More details from SDOT:

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is evaluating the feasibility of options to rehabilitate or to replace the 33rd Ave W Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge. While still safe to use, the bridge is showing signs of deterioration. This evaluation will be based on considerations like demand for walking and biking, short- and long-term residential impacts, bridge maintenance, cost, and environmental impacts. There are no plans to remove the bridge.

This bridge is an important part of Seattle’s biking and walking network, and links Magnolia to Ballard and the Burke-Gilman Trail. The bridge crosses an active railroad corridor, which runs through the city from the Industrial District in the south to Broadview in the northwest.

What’s next?

We’re  in the early design phase and are working toward the first milestone (30% design) in late 2020. This fall, we’re hosting an online engagement opportunity where the public will be able to learn about the project and ask questions.

We’ll be back in touch  with more information about this event and other ways to be involved in the project.

If you have questions, please email us at [email protected]gov or call us at (206) 256-5458.

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SDOT starts design work on major Beacon Hill bike route – UPDATED

UPDATE: Here’s the video of the city’s presentation:

Project map.Beacon Hill has one street that cuts across the grid to be the most direct route and is less steep than other streets nearby: Beacon Ave S.

Even with hardly any bike infrastructure at all, Beacon Ave is a fairly well-used bike route because it’s just the most direct route. But it can also be a nerve-racking experience to mix with car traffic on a street that changes its layout constantly. Sometimes there’s room for people to pass, then there isn’t, then there’s parking, then there’s a bus stop, then there’s a turn lane. And some sections go long distances without interruptions, meaning people driving can pick up a lot of speed.

But a truly safe and protected bike lane on Beacon Ave would change everything, especially for people south of Jefferson Park. It would also greatly improve the usefulness of the recently-completed connection to Columbia City via S Columbian Way.

Thanks to major pressure from neighbors and safe streets advocates during the 2019 city budget process, the City Council restored funding that Mayor Jenny Durkan cut from the Bicycle Master Plan budget and directed SDOT to invest in a major south Seattle bike lane like Beacon Ave or MLK Way S. So this is the result of that advocacy.

SDOT is currently in the early planning phase, and they are trying to identify the basic route the project will take before getting into the finer details. Though design work is underway, the project is not scheduled for construction until 2023.

SDOT is hosting an online presentation 5 to 6 p.m. today (Wednesday) about the project:

Attend the online presentation 5 to 6 PM Wednesday, August 12
Transcripts available in English, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Tagalog, Traditional Chinese, and Vietnamese
Click here to join via Webex | Password: BeaconHillBike

South Segment

South of S Forest Street, there really aren’t other options. The project team is pretty much set on Beacon Ave as the route, which is great. This includes the section between Jefferson Park and the golf course, which includes a mostly useless center turn lane and a huge, long parking lot. There are several options here for creating protected bike lanes.  Continue reading

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SDOT is hosting an online ‘drop-in session’ for MLK Way bike lanes

Project map.SDOT is hosting an online “drop-in session” from 5 to 6 p.m. today (Tuesday) to share early design details about planned MLK Way S bike lanes between Judkins Park and Rainier Ave S.

There will also be an online survey. I will update this post to include that link once it is available, so be sure to check back.

The project is going through design now, but it likely won’t be completed for a while. The project website only states that it will open by the time Judkins Park Station starts operating in 2023.

The project team conducted a survey in the spring seeking feedback on three options, and the overwhelming majority of respondents (67-69%) chose Alternative 3 with protected bike lanes on each side of the street (see feedback in this PDF).

Notably, the project map shows the route continuing across the intersection with Rainier. This is a big deal, since that intersection is truly terrible and desperately needs safety improvements for all road users, especially people walking.

More details from SDOT:

We are currently in the early design stage for this project and are focusing on gathering input and feedback from the community as we further develop the design for the chosen alternative.

How you can get involved:

Attend the online early design drop-in session
5 to 6 PM Tuesday, August 11
Transcripts available in English, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, and Traditional Chinese
Click here to join via Webex | Password: MLKWayPBL

Take our online survey (UPDATED)
Starting August 11, and closing August 18
Available in English, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, and Traditional Chinese

We will continue advancing design work in 2020 and plan to build the protected bike lane by the Judkins Park light rail station opening in 2023. This will be an important connection to both light rail stations as well as the I-90 Trail, Franklin High School, and the Metro Transit Center.

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Seattle independent journalists stand together to oppose SPD’s subpoena

We are independent news organizations, editors, reporters, photojournalists, and freelancers working in Seattle, and we are coming together to oppose the Seattle Police Department’s subpoena seeking unpublished photographs and video taken by journalists at the Seattle Times, KIRO 7, KING 5, KOMO 4, and KCPQ 13.

This is not the Trump Administration pursuing these subpoenas. It is the Seattle Police Department, charged with serving and protecting our city. Those duties should include protecting our free press rights.

We believe that a democratic society requires a truly free press, and that the Constitution protects the rights of journalists to work independently from the power of the state. That obviously includes independence from the Seattle Police Department. Journalists cannot safely and effectively do our work if authorities can seek our unpublished notes and images as evidence. We cannot gain the trust of sources, including protest participants, if we are seen as collaborators with the police. Some of us already have been targeted with that allegation as a result of the subpoena. We cannot hold government agencies accountable if our unpublished notes and images can be scooped up and used as evidence in criminal cases.

As the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild wrote in a statement, “Journalists and their work product are not the agents and tools of the police.”

“We disagree in the strongest possible terms,” the Guild continued, referring to a June court decision largely in SPD’s favor. “This move by SPD and decision by Judge Nelson Lee undermines the credibility of local journalists and puts us at risk for danger.”

We stand with the Guild, the news organizations fighting the subpoenas in court and the individual journalists who may end up in an impossible position to either betray their values of journalistic integrity or face potentially serious charges.

The ongoing court case is frightening for our counterparts at these major news organizations. But it is terrifying for us, independent journalists without the financial and legal backing of a major media corporation. If SPD is successful in this case, there is no reason to think that independent journalists won’t be targeted next.

As newsrooms across our city have shuttered or shrunk, independent outlets and freelancers have become more and more vital, watchdogging government and telling a wide variety of stories about life in Seattle. Unless some business model comes along to revitalize or build large local news organizations, independent journalists will only become more important in the future.

The Seattle Police Chief is the person who can most easily stop this case, and we urge the Chief to do so. There is no piece of evidence that the police might discover in journalists’ unpublished videos, photographs, notes or audio recordings that justifies this violation of fundamental press freedoms.

We also urge the SPD Chief, Mayor Jenny Durkan and the City Council to create clear policies to prevent another similar case in the future. Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda has introduced Resolution 31961, which calls on police to stop arresting and harming journalists during protests and urges the City Attorney to stop supporting SPD’s subpoena. That’s a good start.

But the city should also develop legally binding policies to prevent or severely restrict police subpoenas of journalists’ unpublished work in the future. At its most basic level, journalism is a two-part process: Gather information, then choose what to publish. Both of these steps are vital, and both have faced SPD attacks in recent months.

When the state starts threatening journalists, democracy itself is threatened, too.

Signed,

Erica C. Barnett, The C Is for Crank

Carolyn Bick, Freelancer, South Seattle Emerald

David Calder, photojournalist

Justin Carder, Capitolhillseattle.com

Martin Duke, Seattle Transit Blog

Susan Fried, freelance photojournalist

Tom Fucoloro, Seattle Bike Blog

Alex Garland, freelance photojournalist and reporter

Nate Gowdy, photojournalist

Brett Hamil, political commentator and cartoonist, South Seattle Emerald

Marcus Harrison Green, South Seattle Emerald

Dae Shik Kim Hawkins, Jr., freelance journalist

Sarah Anne Lloyd, freelance journalist

Ari Robin McKenna — South Seattle Emerald

Jessie McKenna, freelance writer & content manager, South Seattle Emerald

Renee Raketty, writer/photojournalist

Tracy Record & Patrick Sand, co-publishers of West Seattle Blog

Kevin Schofield, SCC Insight

Morgen Schuler, freelance photojournalist

MK Scott, Unite Seattle Magazine

Gregory Scruggs, freelance journalist

Joshua Trujillo, freelance photojournalist

Doug Trumm, The Urbanist

Elizabeth Turnbull, freelance reporter

Jill Hyesun Wasberg, International Examiner

Katie Wilson, columnist at Crosscut

 

 

If you are an independent or freelance journalist working in Seattle and want to add your signature, email [email protected].

NOTE: This letter was released shortly before SPD Chief Carmen Best announced her resignation. The letter has been slightly edited to change references to Chief Best to “the Seattle Police Chief.”

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Geekwire: Lime is adding another 1,500 JUMP bikes in Seattle, bikes now available in Lime app

Screenshot of the Lime app showing bikes available.

Read JUMP bikes can now be checked out via the Lime app.

If you have been having trouble finding a bright red shared JUMP bike around town, relief may be on the way. Lime is planning to quadruple the number of shared e-bikes on Seattle streets from 500 to 2,000 by the end of summer, Geekwire reports.

Lime acquired JUMP in a complicated investment scheme with Uber back in May (wow, that really wasn’t very long ago but it sure feels like an eternity). After Seattle went about a month with no bikes available, Lime launched 500 JUMP bikes in June that were only available for checkout via the Uber app. Now Lime seems to have JUMP fully integrated into its system and is ready to start expanding.

But Lime’s Director of Strategic Development Jonathan Hopkins told Geekwire something the company has been saying a lot recently: The bikes are not a viable business on their own. Lime needs Seattle to allow scooters in addition to bikes in order to make it all pencil out.

The era of private bike share companies and investors losing money to prop up their services may be coming to a close. Scooters have been shown to be more profitable (or at least closer to profitable), though a scooter and a bike are also used in different ways. Lime says they hope to be able to balance both, though with more scooters than bikes. Seattle’s scooter permit has been in process for a long time but is still in limbo.

The incredible roller coaster of a private bike share experiment in Seattle in recent years has taught us so much about the benefits of bike share and the costs associated with it. Bike ridership increased steeply along with bike share, and it continued to climb even as the number of bikes in service decreased or stayed flat. The combination of building new protected bike routes and the availability of on-demand bikes was a clear success, at least from the perspective of a city with transportation, public health and environmental goals that all include increasing bike ridership. Continue reading

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Cascade is hosting family-friendly scavenger hunts every weekend in August in Kent, Renton and Tukwila

Event poster with illustartion of a woman and two children walking across a bridge in the woods. Details in the body text.

The event poster (PDF).

Cascade Bicycle Club is partnering with King County Parks and the cities of Kent, Renton and Tukwila to host a series of weekend scavenger hunts during August.

They are free to join and family-friendly. You can bike, roll or walk as you explore trails and parks. Challenges include things like searching for answers to questions or taking photos.

This is a new event for Cascade, designed to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines. Teams of up to five people are allowed, but members should already be part of the same household. Masks are required at all times. And, of course, give other users at least 6 feet of space at all times.

Cascade had to cancel nearly all their 2020 events, which draw thousands of participants in a typical year. Obviously, large events like their annual Seattle to Portland Classic just can’t happen responsibly right now. So it’s cool to see them trying something new and different like this.

Details from Cascade: Continue reading

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SDOT installs concrete blocks to improve safety on car-light Lake Washington Blvd

SDOT has finally installed the concrete “ecology blocks” the department had initially planned as part of their efforts to deter driving on the people-focused Lake Washington Blvd Keep Moving Street.

As we reported last week, the eco blocks are there to help reinforce the wooden “street closed” signs, which are easily dislodged or moved. But just days before the project opened, SDOT used their supply of eco blocks to build a wall around the Seattle Police Department’s downtown West Precinct instead.

Lake Washington Blvd is closed to through traffic, but people can drive on the street in order to access or service a home on the street. People are allowed and encouraged to walk in the street along with people biking, creating a lot more space for people whether they are getting around or just out for some fresh air. Previously, there were no bike lanes and everyone walking needed to share a path that is far too skinny for maintaining social distancing.

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Trail Alerts: Ship Canal Trail won’t be detoured to Nickerson + Burke detour near Fred Meyer

Map showing the planned Ship Canal Detour through a nearby parking lot.Some great news from Seattle Public Utilities: The Ship Canal Trail will not be detoured to Nickerson Street for the next couple years as was originally planned. As we reported previously, concerned neighbors including Queen Anne Greenways drew attention to a multi-year detour that would route the trail onto Nickerson Street, which has a paint-only westbound bike lane and no eastbound bike lane. This would have resulted in a huge reduction in the level of protection and comfort for users of the trail until mid-2023.

After neighbors voiced concerns, the two SPUs (Seattle Public Utilities and nearby Seattle Pacific University) and the contractor for this section of the massive Ship Canal Water Quality Project cancelled the detour and went back to the drawing board. And now they have announced their new plan: A very short temporary eight-foot-wide path through a parking lot adjacent to the work zone until summer 2022.

This is a great outcome, keeping the trail fully functional for the next several years. Big thanks to everyone who brought attention to the problem and to SPU for taking those concerns seriously, changing the plans and coming up with what appears to be a very good alternative.

Burke-Gilman Trail detour near Fred Meyer

Map of the trail detour at 9th Ave NW.Map of the trail detour at 11th Ave NW. Continue reading

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Celebrating 10 years of Seattle Bike Blog

Side-by-side photos of a person standing with a bicycle. The left is labeled 2010, the right is labeled 2020. In the right photo, a child is in a seat on the bike.In July 2010 at the midst of the Great Recession and with very little money in the bank, I quit my job to become an independent bike journalist.

I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea how to run a business. I didn’t know anyone in bicycle advocacy. But I did have a background in journalism, which I used to track down people who did know what they were talking about so I could ask them questions.

Since then, I’ve published 3,572 posts, which averages out to about 1.3 posts per weekday. I’ve posted 40,600 tweets, which averages out to way too many per weekday.

A lot has changed since I started writing this site, both in Seattle and in my own personal life. When I started this site, people would have laughed you out of the room for suggesting that the city build a protected bike lane downtown. Also, I’m a dad now.

I am currently working on a book for UW Press about biking in Seattle, and it’s been fascinating to get out of the day-to-day contemporary coverage and try to look at the big picture. The movement for safe streets still loses all the time, most often in the form of funding (millions of local, state and federal tax dollars are spent on car stuff without anyone blinking an eye, but every dollar for walking and biking gets scrutinized and left exposed to budget cuts). But transportation culture has clearly shifted toward seeing walking, biking and transit as our city’s path forward. Culture and bureaucracy just take so long to change directions that when you’re on the ground in the moment, it doesn’t feel like they’re changing at all.

2020 is a major inflection point in our history. In some ways, the book I’m writing now feels like the conclusion chapter for an era of transportation history. By the time the book hits shelves (estimated 2022), it may describe a world that is in many ways unrecognizable. 2019 already feels a decade away. 2010 is ancient history. The way the city used to actively and purposefully prioritize car speed (“Level of Service”) over the safety of someone riding a bike or walking in a crosswalk feels as barbaric and archaic as bloodletting to balance a person’s humors.

The biking community in Seattle has also changed a lot. Most obviously, it has grown. And the vision has evolved to be more bold, ambitious and inclusive. And it feels like the next generation of biking leaders are finding their voices and innovating new ways that biking can be tools for direct action and community organizing for causes beyond biking itself. Biking has become more of a core piece of Seattle culture and less of a special interest. Changing a culture is so hard, and I know so many of you have poured enormous amounts of time and energy into shifting the way our city thinks about transportation and safe streets. Thank you.

Before the pandemic, I had lots of fun ideas for the blog’s tenth anniversary celebration. None of those are possible now, of course, because they all involved getting together with you all. I miss all those Seattle bike gatherings, planned and spontaneous, where I would get to see longtime readers and meet new ones. We will get to do that again someday.

Until then, thank you for supporting this work, thank you for being caring members of your community, and thank you for reading.

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People are driving on ‘closed’ street because SDOT used barriers to build a wall at police precinct instead

When the Seattle Department of Transportation announced their plan to turn a section of Lake Washington Blvd in south Seattle into a car-light “Keep Moving Street,” a July 21 department blog post noted that they would use heavy cement “eco blocks” at many intersections along with signage to inform people driving that the road is closed to cars.

Two days after that blog post, SDOT crews used eco blocks to build a heavy wall around SPD’s West Precinct downtown:

Now people are reporting that many people are driving on the supposedly closed Lake Washington Blvd, which can be dangerous to people walking and biking in the roadway as intended. One problem is that the wooden road closed signs are easily moved or knocked over. Why didn’t SDOT install those eco blocks like they said they would? Yes Segura asked the department via Twitter, and SDOT responded that “eco blocks are currently not in inventory.”

So the city is literally using cement blocks intended to keep people safe in south Seattle to build a wall around the West Precinct instead. Wow.

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Council puts less-deep transit cuts to voters in November

Chart showing the percent of households with access to very frequent transit service 2015 thorugh 2019. It's 25% in 2015 and 70% in 2019.

From an SDOT presentation to City Council (PDF).

Transit is getting cut. But Seattle voters will have the chance in November to make the cuts less awful by approving the Seattle Transportation Benefit District’s (“STBD”) sales tax measure.

As we reported previously, state legislators and the court-pending voter approval of 2019’s I-976 have put the city in a very tough spot. Seattle voters approved the STBD by a wide margin in 2014, improving transit frequency and investing in transit access programs like the ORCA Opportunity Program to provide free transit to public school students. The 2014 measure expires at the end of the year and included a 0.01% sales tax and a $60 vehicle license fee, but the license fee portion is now wrapped up in the courts after Washington voters approved I-976. That initiative would have limited license fees to $30, though Seattle, King County and others are challenging its constitutionality.

But with the court case still ongoing, putting a new car tab measure on the ballot was not a significant part of the discussion for the 2020 measure. And because the state legislature did not provide transportation benefit districts with any new revenue options, Seattle is forced to go to the ballot with a regressive sales tax.

But while sales tax is regressive, hitting low-income folks the hardest because they don’t have the luxury of saving their money, cutting transit is also regressive, taking time and mobility away from people who rely on transit to get around.

The initial proposal from Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Council Transportation Chair Alex Pedersen would have only renewed the 0.1% sales tax, effectively cutting the measure in half or worse depending on the economic fallout from the pandemic. The 2014 measure had been bringing in about $56 million per year. The Durkan/Pedersen version would have brought in $20-$30 million per year.

Councilmember Tammy Morales championed the idea that the city should max out its funding capability allowed under state law and proposed a 0.2% sales tax. This would have gotten close to maintaining current funding levels, though of course at the cost of furthering our reliance on sales tax. Her amendment barely failed with Councilmembers Kshama Sawant, Teresa Mosqueda and Dan Strauss joining Morales in a 5-4 defeat.

Instead, Council President Lorena González proposed a halfway compromise of a 0.15% sales tax, and that effort passed 8-1 with only Councilmember Pedersen opposed. So this is the version that will go to voters. If approved, the measure would bring in an estimated $39 million per year, the Urbanist reported. Still a significant cut, but not as bad as the original proposal. Continue reading

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