West Seattle Link might destroy the Sodo Trail, but that could be a good thing

The Sodo Trial in Bike Master Plan. The planned extension is marked “17.”

SDOT has been planning an extension of the Sodo Trail to reach Spokane St under the West Seattle Bridge for a while now, but that work could take a major turn if Sound Transit chooses a West Seattle light rail alignment that displaces some or all of the existing trail.

At this point, the project team is still proceeding with design for a trail along the busway and light rail tracks assuming Sound Transit projects won’t change the area, according to an SDOT staff update to the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board.

However, there is a chance that Sound Transit will decide to use the existing trail right of way. If that happens, design changes or even an entirely new route may be needed. The Board expressed the need for a connection, and SDOT Liason to the Board Serena Lehman said the department would work with Sound Transit to identify an alternative option if the trail is removed or impeded.

And trading the Sodo Trail for a different nearby connection might not be such a bad thing.

The Sodo Trail is a little oasis of low-stress biking surrounded by wide and often scary industrial streets. But access to the trail is awful from just about every direction. And the prospects for connecting bike routes to it are a bit difficult. It directly serves Sodo and Stadium Stations, but that’s really the only thing it does well. The connections to nearby businesses, the International District, West Seattle and Georgetown are all pretty rough.

4th or 6th Ave S, on the other hand, have much more complete connections. They serve more destinations and workplaces than the trail and have great potential for connectivity at their north and south ends. Continue reading

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Green Lake/Wallingford paving projects create opportunity to make huge bike improvements, comment by Wednesday

Overview map of projects in the paving group. Images from SDOT.

SDOT has grouped a bunch of Green Lake and Wallingford area paving projects together, designing and planning construction of them all at the same time. Because paving projects essentially wipe the street design clear, they are our best opportunities to build elements of the Bicycle Master Plan for little extra cost. The city can rehab existing infrastructure and improve safety using the same dollars.

Though the projects in this group were chosen for paving purposes, many of them happen to lie along routes designated for bike improvements. And the city’s plans are so far mostly very strong, including a two-way protected bike lane around Green Lake, uphill bike lanes on N/NE 40th St and improved bike lanes on N 50th St where it passes under Aurora.

You can learn more and weigh in on the projects through SDOT’s online open house. Responses are due Wednesday (tomorrow), so don’t procrastinate.

The repaving group covers a total of six miles. And though the city’s plans are a good start, a neighborhood group calling themselves Green Lake and Wallingford Safe Streets has organized to push for even more ambitious options.

Green Lake Way

The biggest changes of all are coming to Green Lake Way between N 83rd Street and N 45th St. The messy intersection at the north end of the lake will get a redesign and a new traffic signal, and the current paint-only bike lanes around the east half of the park will become a new two-way protected bike lane on the park side of the street. These are major upgrades to a major bike route.

The weirdest part of the whole plan is the transition from one-way bike lanes to the new two-way bike lane at N 52nd St. It would be cool if planners could find a way to do this transition at N 50th St instead, perhaps as part of a redesign of that awful intersection. The team currently does not plan any significant changes there, but they have heard loud and clear from basically everyone that they hate that intersection. It’s also worth noting that people walking have it the worst there, so a remake is very needed.

Here’s a look at the planned Green Lake Way changes starting at N 83rd St (a major bike connection across Aurora to Greenwood) and moving south: Continue reading

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Downtown-to-ID bike lane options are proving difficult, city plans subpar route

The blue line shows the route SDOT is planning for the near-term bike connection to the ID and and beyond. Green and Orange lines are current or planned bike routes.

Connecting the 2nd Ave bike lane to the International District and the Southeast Seattle bike routes beyond is proving to be very difficult.

This connection is the single most important missing piece of the downtown bike network, and the City Council this week included it in the resolution listing projects they want SDOT to complete by the end of 2019. A connection to the International District not only brings that neighborhood into the downtown bike network, it also unlocks Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley and large swaths of the Central District and First Hill. It is also connects to the Mountains to Sound Trail leading to the Eastside and beyond.

“The reality is that this route needs to exist if we want to connect to the southern half of the city,” said Clara Cantor of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways.

But the extreme steepness of First Hill, missing street connections over the railroad lines near King Street Station and streetcar tracks in the middle of S Jackson Street create a pinch point where the bikeable route options overlap with bus routes that are about to get a hell of a lot busier when buses get kicked out of the tunnel.

After exploring a lot of options, SDOT has picked a route that bike network advocates including Seattle Neighborhood Greenways have not supported. But SDOT staff says it is the only route feasible in the near term.

The city’s plan includes bike lanes on Main Street from 2nd to 6th Avenues, then on 6th Avenue to Dearborn. SDOT staff presented the concept, which is still in draft form, during Wednesday’s Bicycle Advisory Board meeting.

The benefits of the route are that it is legible (other options included more twists and turns), it mostly avoids the First Hill Streetcar tracks and it avoids conflicts with major bus stops on Jackson and 5th Ave.

The downside is that the block of 6th Ave between Jackson and Main is a very steep 11 percent grade, climbing about 30 feet in just one block. It may be so steep that many people will avoid using it, which would defeat the purpose. Continue reading

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Bellevue just opened bike lanes through the heart of its downtown, launched bike share

Bellevue City Councilmembers at the bike lane opening celebration. Photo from the City of Bellevue.

I just had by far the least stressful bike ride through downtown Bellevue in my life.

The newly opened 108th Ave NE bike lanes span the Eastside city’s downtown from NE 12th Street in the north to Main Street in the south, forming what could become the central spine of a Bellevue bike network.

The city launched the bike lane as a pilot project, saying they will study how it works over the next year and make changes to the final design as needed (the study framework is outlined in this PDF). The project is part of an effort city planners are calling the Bicycle Rapid Implementation Program, which is funded by a voter-approved 2016 transportation levy.

The bike lanes connect to Bellevue Transit Center, so the launch of bike share is timed perfectly to complement the new more comfortable route. People can now take one of many buses into downtown Bellevue, then hop on a Lime-E bike to go the rest of the distance to their destination. The city made a big leap in mobility choices all at once.

Project map from Bellevue.

Continue reading

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CM Mosqueda delivers must-watch speech as Council approves downtown bike lane resolution

Map of routes included in the City Council resolution.

The Seattle City Council unanimously approved a resolution Monday calling on SDOT to complete a connected bike network downtown by the end of 2019.

As we reported previously, the network includes sections of 8th Ave, 9th Ave N, Pike and/or Pine St, 12th Ave S, King St, and a south downtown pathway between 2nd Ave and the International District. The resolution is non-binding, but a unanimous Council vote should mean something.

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda took the opportunity Monday to not just support the resolution, but to give a wide-ranging speech framing a safe bike network as a necessity. Mosqueda’s speech is a master class in how safe streets and access to biking is about public health and about environmental, racial and gender justice. It’s seven and a half minutes of some of the best safe streets leadership I’ve seen from my years covering transportation at Seattle City Hall. Enjoy and be inspired (watch the full meeting here):

Continue reading

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Council approves bike share expansion + ofo cites fee hike in decision to leave Seattle

ofo no mo. The company confirmed to Seattle Bike Blog they are leaving the city, citing increased fees.

The Seattle City Council unanimously passed a budget action Monday for new city rules on bike share companies that will expand the number of bikes in operation, increase the fees for bike share operators and put in place new regulations around the parking of the shared bikes.

The Council action also outlines $1 million in spending for administration, adaptive bicycle access, equity programs, a new parking compliance effort and a major expansion of bike parking. These investments will be covered by a major hike in fees for the bike share operators.

We previously expressed concerns that the hike in fees might be too steep, especially for the lowest-priced options such as the pedal bikes that cost just $1 for a ride. Indeed, the lowest-cost operator has announced they are leaving Seattle due to the fee hike. ofo, which offers rides at $1 for an hour (vs $1 for a half hour by the other operators), confirmed to Seattle Bike Blog that they will be leaving Seattle.

“We appreciate the efforts of City Council and SDOT in crafting new requirements for dockless bikeshare in Seattle,” said Seattle General Manager Lina Feng in an emailed statement. “The exorbitant fees that accompany these new regulations—the highest in the country—make it impossible for ofo to operate and effectively serve our riders, and as a result, we will not be seeking a permit to continue operating in Seattle. We’re incredibly disappointed to be leaving the first U.S. city to welcome ofo and thank the City for its partnership and support this last year.”

Lime, on the other hand, says they will apply for the new permit as soon as it is available, and plans to expand its pedal and e-assist bikes. Continue reading

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Bike News Roundup: Fox News wishes I would apologize for Seattle’s ‘jihad’ on cars

It’s time for the Bike News Roundup, a look at some of the bike stuff going around the web lately. This is an open thread.

First up, I was on Fox News recently, failing to apologize for Seattle’s “jihad” on cars. What a wonderful news network.

Pacific Northwest News Continue reading

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Bike Bingo 2018 starts July 31, get your card today at these bike-friendly businesses

For more details on the various bingo prizes, see the back of the card below.

The third annual edition of Seattle Bike Bingo begins July 31, and participating businesses are all stocked up on the $4 cards.

A summer tradition organized by Bicycle Benefits, Bike Bingo is a pretty simple game. Buy a card, then ride to the businesses listed on it to get a stamp. For each bingo, you can claim a prize like free pizza or beer or even a shoe shine. Get them all and you win an even bigger set of prizes.

So you win by going for a bike ride, you win by visiting great local businesses, and you win by winning prizes. Not a bad way to spend a summer.

“A lot of people have bicycles, but they want desinations and reasons to ride them,” said Ian Klepetar of Bicycle Benefits. The game is also a way to “draw visibility to the bike-friendly businesses in the community.”

New this year is a corner stamp for volunteering at Bike Works.

“We want to further engage bike riders into contributing further into the bike community,” said Klepetar. “We really appreciate the programs that Bike Works provides to an underserved biking population.”

The 24 businesses on the card are just a fraction of the businesses offering Bicycle Benefits deals year-round. You can see the full listings on the organization’s website.

More details from Bicycle Benefits: Continue reading

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WSDOT Secretary Millar: Congestion is a symptom of lacking ‘affordable housing and transportation solutions’

WA Transportation Secretary Roger Millar at the 2017 WA Bike Summit.

WSDOT Secretary Roger Millar delivered a keynote speech to the nation’s highway and transportation officials that directly challenged the central focus of transportation investments in nearly every state: Building and expanding freeways.

“We like to talk about traffic congestion as an issue, but it is actually a symptom of a larger problem – and the problem is we don’t provide affordable housing and transportation solutions,” he told the Joint Policy Committee of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (“AASHTO”) last week, according to the AASHTO Journal. “We have a rich list of transportation options for the rich that can afford to live in our cities – the rest are forced to drive. And they drive vehicles that often can’t make the trip.”

Millar’s take should be a wake-up call not only to state DOTs across the nation, but also to thriving urban centers like Seattle. When Seattle fails to provide affordable housing within areas that are well-served by transit, biking and walking options, the city shares responsibility for forcing people to live in lower-cost, car-dependent areas further from workplaces and other services and destinations. The result is that more people who struggle to afford cars are forced to drive further on a highway system we cannot successfully expand.

“Executive housing and Walmart jobs is not a housing solution – that only puts more people on road,” he said. Continue reading

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Work on Crown Hill to Northgate neighborhood greenway underway

Map from SDOT.

Work on a neighborhood greenway connecting Crown Hill to North Seattle College is underway, according to SDOT.

The construction will last six months and includes new traffic signals crossing Holman Rd at NW 92nd Street and Greenwood Ave at N 100th Street.

Bike commute data shows that bike-to-work rates drop steeply north of Holman Rd, a busy road without bike lanes and very few safe crossing options. The city repaved the road a few years ago, but chose not to adequately address the street’s major biking and walking access issues.

This neighborhood greenway route augments recent Safe Routes to School projects and several Neighborhood Street Fund projects led by dedicated neighbors in recent years. The western terminus at North Seattle College will connect to the Northgate biking and walking bridge scheduled to open in 2020.

More details from SDOT: Continue reading

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FreeRange Cycles’ new owner continues woman-owned legacy

As Emry was transitioning out this summer, FreeRange sported an all-woman staff: Moira ó Cearnaigh, Shawna Williams, Kathleen Emry.

Kathleen Emry is calling it quits. After 21 years of owning and operating the quaint FreeRange Cycles bike shop in Fremont, she has handed over the keys to Shawna Williams.

Emry had been talking about a potential retirement for a while now so at first, I didn’t quite believe it. But in June, the 700-square-foot shop was already showing signs of change. There was a new face behind the counter and the space, once teeming with 21 years worth of trinkets — art, postcards, stuffed animal, photos — felt surprisingly bare.

“One day I came in and found all my stuffed animal chickens piled up in the backroom!” Kathleen Emry said with laugh. “That’s good though. I want Shawna to make it her own. I want the shop to represent her vision.”

The little shop that could

For Emry, her vision for a shop started in the 1980s. She hadn’t grown up biking. She and her three sisters had shared one Western Flyer among them as kids, and she didn’t start biking again until well into her adulthood. But after stepping foot into Wright Brothers Cycle Works for a bike fix, she knew she had found her calling.

Intrigued by bicycle mechanics, Emry signed up for some bicycle maintenance classes and found herself working for Wright Brothers before long.

“I remember walking in and taking classes and thinking, ‘I love working with my hands’,” Emry said. “At the time I had just completed a Masters in ministries and had come to the realization that being an out queer in the Catholic Church wasn’t going to work. My philosophy is to be one’s authentic self in the world today and for me, the best way to do that at that time was to nurture my gifts, and that was working with my hands.

“But things brew with me. It takes time for me to manifest things.” Continue reading

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Man killed while biking on Rainier Ave, suspect arrested. RIP Alex Hayden

Photo of Alex Hayden from a GoFundMe campaign set up to support his family.

Alex Hayden was a husband and father of two who Gray Magazine described as “kind, funny, creative, and a true editorial photographer” in a memorial post.

Someone driving a pickup truck struck Hayden from behind while he rode in the bike lane on Rainier Ave just south of the Seattle city limits Saturday. The person driving fled the scene, dragging his bike down the street. Hayden died Tuesday from his injuries.

Our deepest condolences to his friends and family.

The King County Sheriff’s Office says a 51-year-old woman suspected in the hit and run has turned herself in. She has not yet been charged, and the Sheriff’s Office is still searching for a passenger who was reportedly in the truck at the time of the collision.

Hayden has not yet been identified officially, but word of his death has spread quickly as people impacted by his life learned the terrible news. Friends established a GoFundMe campaign to support his family.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Hayden was biking south on Rainier Ave S in Skyway around 4:30 p.m. when the person driving the pickup struck him from behind in the 10600 block. The suspect then continued a little further before turning onto S Lakeridge Dr. Officers later found the pickup in SeaTac. A suspect was turned herself in Sunday, about 20 hours after the collision. We are not naming the suspect because charges have not yet been filed. She is in King County jail on $100,000 bail for investigation of felony hit and run.

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Help push to get the downtown bike network back on track in 2019

Map of the planned downtown bike network. Routes included in the City Council resolution are highlighted in peach.

The downtown bike network has been significantly delayed so far under Mayor Jenny Durkan’s administration, but there is hope to turn things around and get major pieces of the network constructed in 2019.

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways and Cascade Bicycle Club are gathering support for a City Council action to require SDOT to complete bike lanes on 8th Ave, 9th Ave N, Pike and/or Pine St, 12th Ave S, King St, and a south downtown pathway between 2nd Ave and the International District. The Transportation Committee will consider the resolution noon Wednesday at City Hall.

Some of the projects would be pushed ahead of schedule, though the 4th Ave bike lane planned for this year will remain delayed. But if SDOT can deliver the proposed set of projects by the end of 2019, downtown would become accessible by bike to many more neighborhoods at a time of serious traffic and transit constraints.

The text of the City Council resolution calls for completion of these segments “by no later than December 31, 2019.” So SDOT could deliver segments much earlier than that if the department puts its heart into the work and gets the political support to make it happen.

Where construction activity limits the ability to install permanent bike lanes, the resolution calls on SDOT to “make every good faith effort to establish “all ages and abilities” temporary connections.”

More details from SNG: Continue reading

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Bike share carried 209K trips in May + A look at the city’s updated permit rules

Seattle’s bike share ridership keeps climbing. Image: SDOT.

People in Seattle took more than 208,849 bike share trips in May as use of the bikes increased steeply throughout spring. In total, people took 1.4 million rides between late July and mid-June, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation (PDF).

To build on this astounding success, SDOT is updating its permit to allow four companies totaling 20,000 bikes, about double the number on the streets today. And the increase comes with some extra permit fees to vastly increase the amount of designated bike parking space in the city to help make sure bikes are parked appropriately.

The permit plan heads to the City Council Transportation Committee Tuesday. If approved, it is then scheduled to go before the full Council for a vote July 23 and would go into effect August 31. Here’s a look at what is in the new permit rules: Continue reading

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Year-long Elliott Bay Trail detour near future Expedia campus starts Aug 1

The most significant change to the existing trail will be an expansion of the park space and rounding of the trail route at the mouth of Smith Cove. Design image from Expedia.

Concept image of the rebuilt trail, from Expedia.

Construction of the huge new Expedia campus along the Seattle waterfront includes a rebuild of a section of the Elliott Bay Trail as the path transitions from industrial Interbay to the waterfront.

The new trail will soften what today is a sharp turn in the trail at the mouth of the Smith Cove Waterway, which should be a significant improvement to the trail, creating separate walking and biking paths and expanding the surrounding park space.

But trail and utility work will require a detour for more than a year. Originally scheduled to begin in mid-July, the detour start has been pushed back to August 1. Expedia has also made changes to the initial detour plan, which now includes a temporary trail along the low-traffic Alaskan Way W between W Galer Street and the grain silos. Though the detour route is less scenic than the current trail, it is actually a little bit shorter: Continue reading

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Intermittent Sammamish River Trail closures for river bank work start Wednesday

Photo from King County Parks.

Work to repair river bank erosion will require crews to close the Sammamish River Trail for periods of 30 minutes or less starting Wednesday. Work will continue for the rest of summer.

The erosion zones are just east of I-405 between Bothell and Woodinville. Peak commute times, evenings and weekends should be open. But if you are traveling through between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, give yourself an extra half hour just in case.

More details from King County:

King County will begin repairing two sections of bank erosion along the Sammamish River on July 11, requiring brief, rolling closures of the popular Sammamish River Trail until the project is completed in September.

Closures are expected to last no more than 30 minutes and will occur on weekdays only between 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be no detours during the brief closures. Continue reading

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Lime: People in Seattle have taken 1 million trips in 11 months

The ceremonial unlocking of the first LimeBike July 27 in Seattle. 999,999 more would follow in just 11 months.

People in Seattle have taken one million Lime bike share trips in about 11 months, the company announced Monday.

This astounding number of rides comes from just one of three companies currently operating in the city. And because the company launched initially with only 500 bikes, gradually scaling up to 4,000 around the New Year, they will likely hit the next million even quicker.

These bike share services have significantly changed transportation in Seattle in a very short period of time. There are few urban transportation advancements in modern history that have had such a big impact so quickly. Lime essentially went from an idea to 1 million Seattle rides in a year and a half. That’s more trips than the total number of bikes crossing the Fremont Bridge, the city’s busiest bike route pinch point. And they’re just getting started.

SDOT is in the process of revamping its bike share permit scheme to update the pilot permit that went into effect July 2017. That pilot permit became a model for cities across the nation, helping to lead a new bike share movement. Seattle should be proud of this success. We should be celebrating.

We’re just seeing the beginning of e-assist bike share with Jump already itching to start operating. ofo says they are also planning to add e-asisst bikes to their fleet in late summer. In other cities, shared electric kick scooters are all the rage, though they are not yet allowed in Seattle and it isn’t clear if city leaders are interested in them. Major investments continue to pour into these companies, and it’s hard to know where it goes from here. But Seattle is well positioned to continue leading.

From Lime: Continue reading

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The Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board needs you, apply by July 4

If you join SBAB, you will get bike news before anyone else. And sometimes you get to question elected officials like Mike O’Brien.

The Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board is a group of volunteers individually-approved by the City Council to help guide the city’s bicycle investments and policies.

You do not need any kind of special insider knowledge or professional skills to apply. In fact, it might be better if you don’t have any. In my years observing this Board, some of the best input comes from people sharing their experiences and conversations with their neighbors. You just need to be a good listener who wants the city to be a more inviting place for more people to bike more often.

More details on the gig from SDOT:

The SBAB is a volunteer board created by the Seattle City Council in 1977 that plays an influential role in implementing Seattle’s Bicycle Master Plan. The board advises the Mayor and City Council, participates in planning and project development, evaluates policies and makes recommendations to all city departments including, yours truly, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).

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35th Ave NE safety changes still on track + How can the city avoid such divisive neighborhood fights?

The plan for 35th Ave NE, from SDOT.

While I was on family leave this winter, a seemingly routine repaving project in Northeast Seattle somehow became a flashpoint that has divided neighbors, spilling gallons of red and green sign-making ink and even drawing competing streetside protests.

It has been frustrating to watch this debate unfold, especially since paving projects like 35th Ave NE are such obvious opportunities to build sections of the Bicycle Master Plan. If the city is going to tear up a street and rebuild it, then it costs very little to rebuild it with the bike lanes called for in the City Council-approved bike plan. This is not only fiscally responsible, it is also a vital strategy for building a complete bike route network that people of all ages and abilities will feel comfortable using.

And with 113 collisions reported in just five years, it would be irresponsible to invest in a complete rebuild of the street without making safety improvements for all users. 35th Ave NE is far from the most dangerous street in Seattle, but that says more about those other streets than it does about SDOT’s plan to improve safety on 35th.

So far, city leaders are still standing behind the project. Cascade Bicycle Club put together a handy online form you can use to thank Mayor Jenny Durkan and Councilmember Rob Johnson for their support:

But before I get into how project opponents (“Save 35th Ave NE”) and supporters (“Safe 35th Ave NE”) differ, it’s important to restate the points where nearly everyone agrees. Continue reading

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Uber-owned Jump wants to launch its e-bike service in Seattle

No new companies have received permits to operate bike share services in Seattle since the autumn, but Uber-owned Jump is hoping to be next.

The city is waiting to approve more companies until their revamped bike share permit is ready. The City Council Transportation Committee was scheduled to review the permit rules in June, but that report has been pushed back to the committee’s mid-July meeting (there’s no meeting in early July due to the holiday).

I met with representatives from Uber and Jump recently to go for a test ride and talk about their hopes to launch in Seattle. First, let’s talk about the bike.

The single biggest difference between the eye-catching red e-bikes and the already-operating Lime-E bikes is how you lock them. With Lime-E, riders can park near bike racks or in the furniture zone of sidewalks. Just lock the back wheel and you’re done. But Jump bikes must be locked to a city bike rack using a metal locking bar that attaches to the rear rack.

There are pros and cons to this difference. One pro is that bikes locked to bike racks are less likely to block walkways or get tossed into bodies of water. Improper parking is a common complaint about the bikes in operation today. But the bike rack requirement also limits the places you can lock a bike because there are not always bike racks available nearby, especially in residential neighborhoods (Seattle’s bike rack policy is focused on business access). And, of course, many places already don’t have enough bike parking for people who ride their own bikes, let alone a surge of bike share bikes.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t work. Even without Jump, there have already been discussions about the need to dramatically increase the city’s bike parking to help maintain bike share order and improve bike access to businesses. Concepts for on-street bike corrals could include space both for bike racks and space marked for free-floating bikes. Providing space on-street would also be a great way to help keep busy sidewalks clear. Continue reading

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