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  • The Times Ed Board picks a confusing fight against the Emerald City Ride, free speech

    Screenshot of a Seattle times headline public roads should not be closed to raise lobbying money for special interests.

    Did you know that Cascade Bicycle Club not only hosts bike rides on streets but also advocates for investing in infrastructure to make streets safer for biking? What a scandal!

    Or at least the Editorial Board of the Seattle Times decided all of a sudden that this behavior is somehow scandalous.

    What’s not to like about a refreshing bike ride on a Sunday morning?

    Turns out, it’s not so simple.

    I’m picturing a colorful video of a happy family riding bikes that turns black-and-white while their eyes all start glowing red. What horrible truth have they uncovered?

    Well, Cascade is paying for event permits and police staffing and then charging people to participate. And maybe, if things go well, they will even raise some extra money on top. An event promoter hopes to make money by hosting an event. But that’s not all. They are even going to use any extra funds to support their stated mission: Improving bicycling.

    But the policy the Ed Board is suggesting here would be a major infringement on free speech. Why would a board that claims to believe in the First Amendment and the importance of free speech be arguing that the city should deny permits to an organization because that organization engages in public policy advocacy? I was genuinely shocked when I read this.

    Are they arguing that any organization that tries to influence the transportation levy should not be able to receive street use permits? Or just the organizations they disagree with? The Downtown Seattle Association will surely lobby the city about the transportation levy, so should they also stop receiving street use permits? Should unions be denied permits for marches and rallies? Should marathon organizers be banned from lobbying? Imagine a city official saying, “You better shut up or you can kiss your permits goodbye.” Now THAT would be a scandal.

    I think y’all should probably go ahead and take this one back, cuz I suspect you haven’t fully thought through the implications of the policy you’re suggesting here. Or if you still stand by it, boy, what a sad state our city’s only remaining daily paper is in.

    Some history

    WSDOT and SDOT used to fund these kinds of rides, making them free to everyone. There’s a whole section about it in my book. I would actually prefer the free public-hosted version. But imagine the Seattle Times editorial if SDOT did this exact same event using public funds: “We shouldn’t spend honest tax payer money on such frivolities! The city should leave these kinds of events to Cascade Bicycle Club!”

    Cascade itself was even founded initially to organize a Bicycle Sunday-style event on Mercer Island more than 50 years ago, then it immediately shifted into an advocacy organization that raises money in part by holding paid events. This is how Cascade has always worked. It’s how they market it. There’s nothing secret or hidden about it. It’s weird that the Ed Board decided today that it is some kind of scandal.

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  • UW student’s survey seeks feedback on ‘rentable grocery bike’ concept

    A front-loader box bike with Cargoroo written on the side.
    A rentable cargo bike I saw last year in Amsterdam.

    Cargo bikes and heavy-duty bike trailers are bulky and pricey, but so useful. While some people, like yours truly, are going to invest in cargo-hauling bike solutions, most people may not find themselves in situations where they need to haul stuff around by bike often enough to justify the cost and space required. And depending on people’s living situations, there may just not be a great place to store a large bike or trailer at home. This is where something like a cargo bike share system would be amazing.

    It may not be a surprise to learn that there are already cargo bike share services in some of the world’s great bicycling cities, such as ones I noticed in Amsterdam by a company called Cargoroo. But Amsterdam has a long history with cargo biking and a dense city with a very high bicycling rate. The question is whether something like that could work in Seattle.

    Muhammad Hasan wants to find out. A grad student at UW’s Civil & Environmental Engineering Department, Hasan has is currently seeking responses to an online survey about “a rentable grocery bike program in Seattle.” The concept at this point seems a bit open and is mostly focused on improving access to bikes for larger grocery runs specifically. The goal is “to explore the feasibility and societal impacts” of such a program.

    From Hasan:

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  • The 20-year bike plan for S/SW Seattle: West Seattle and SoDo

    2014 Bike Master Plan map of Southwest Seattle.
    2024 proposed Seattle Transportation Plan map for Southwest Seattle.
    Download larger JPG images of SE Seattle from the 2014 Bike Master Plan and proposed 2024 Seattle Transportation Plan.
    The legends for the 2014 and 2024 plans.

    Mayor Bruce Harrell’s proposed Seattle Transportation Plan (“STP”) is now in the hands of the City Council, who can make some final changes before adopting it as official city policy. The STP will supersede the 2014 Bicycle Master Plan, so it’s important to take a close look at its vision for the next 10–20 years of bike improvements across the city. To do so, Seattle Bike Blog will post a series of six stories focusing on different areas of the city. You find other areas as well as other STP-related stories through the 2024 Seattle Transportation Plan tag.

    Few other neighborhoods in the city got a bigger upgrade from the 2014 Bicycle Master Plan to the proposed 2024 STP than West Seattle. This is in large part due to the neighborhood getting kind of a second-rate treatment in the 2014 plan. Where the 2014 plan left vital gaps with little or lackluster proposed infrastructure—such as paint-only bike lanes or sharrows on SW Admiral Way, Beach Drive SW and 16th Ave SW—the 2024 calls for protected bike lanes.

    The community group West Seattle Bike Connections (“WSBC”) has been very active in trying to provide feedback on the bike elements of the STP, and a good number of their top priorities did make it into the document. But they have concerns about whether they are listed high enough on the priority list to actually happen.

    “We were happy to see these projects that are our high priorities on the catalyst list,” wrote Don Brubeck of WSBC in an email:

    • #5 SW Highland Park Way, connecting the Duwamish Trail to Highland Park
    • #7 Sylvan Way multi-use path connecting Delridge to High Point and Morgan Junction  
    • #13 and #14 at the Alaska Junction and West Seattle Triangle for access to planned light rail stations and WS’ urban center.

    They also scoured the “large capital projects” list (Appendix A) to find more of the group’s “top and medium priority routes” listed:

    • #41 Fauntleroy Way SW from SW Morgan to the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal.
    • #42 Fauntleroy Way SW Boulevard project from SW Edmunds to SW Avalon (already 100% designed, subject to light rail design)
    • #49 Highland Park Way SW multi-use trail (same as catalyst #5?)
    • #64 SW Orchard/ Dumar SW 
    • #76 Sylvan Way SW (same as catalyst #7, and together with 49 and 64 creating the South Park to Highland Park route)
    • #69 SW Roxbury St multimodal project, a critical east-west serving the southern end of West Seattle and north edge of White Center. 
    • #11 16th Ave SW
    • #19 SW Admirał Way. 

    However, they are concerned that of their community group’s top priorities, only Fauntleroy Way SW is currently listed as a top tier capital project in the STP. They also question how the plan determines project priority, noting some odd scores. “Projects for Admiral and Alki have higher equity scores than projects serving South Delridge and High Point,” said Brubeck. “A project that is an industrial drive on Harbor Island has one of the highest equity scores in the city…What criteria were applied? It all looks capricious and arbitrary.”

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  • Seattle bike race promoter launches peer-to-peer bike rental company Spokeo

    Screenshot of the Spokeo site with a map of listings around Saettle and images of the newest listings.
    Bikes available on Spokeo in Seattle as of press time.

    Got a bike (or…ahem…many bikes) that spend most of the time sitting still? Make some cash by renting them out.

    That’s the basic idea behind Spokeo, a peer-to-peer bike rental company founded by Seattle’s own Chris Rodde. Rodde is one of the people behind Off Camber Productions, which puts on the popular MFG Cyclocross series among other bike events. After fielding tons of questions from traveling riders who were having trouble finding the right bike for rent in Seattle, Rodde started developing the idea that would become Spokeo.

    “I started Spokeo at the end of last summer as a way to help get more people on bikes,” said Rodde. “I found that there’s no peer-to-peer bike share out there,”* and so he “saw an opportunity.” And right away, customers started finding Spokeo after struggling to find the exact kind of rental bike they needed available elsewhere. “One of the first customers was coming from Texas and was looking for a triathlon bike and couldn’t find one to rent,” said Rodde.

    The short version is that Spokeo is like Turo but for bikes. And if you don’t know what Turo is, it’s like Airbnb but for cars. In fact, Spokeo uses some of the same ID verification services as Turo, which should weed out many potential scammers. Renters upload photos of themselves and their ID cards to the service and cannot rent a bike until they pass verification. Renters also accept a rental agreement that they are responsible for all theft and damage, which is common for such agreements. Spokeo also offers hosts insurance for up to $5,000 to cover worst case scenario theft or bike damage that the renter fails to cover.

    Hosts can list bikes and related gear such as bike bags, bikepacking gear or bike racks for cars. You can even rent a rare Seattle Bike Blog-branded Brompton (I Iisted it to test out the site for this story and decided to keep it on there). Renters make requests through the site for certain timeframes, which hosts then need to approve. Payments are processed automatically through Stripe once a rental has been completed successfully, so no money changes hands in-person. Communication between hosts and renters is also conducted through the site.

    Spokeo takes 20% of the rental earnings, leaving the host with 80%. Bike shops are also welcome to list their available rental bikes on Spokeo, and they may also be able to negotiate a better rate.

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  • Alert 3/22-25: Weekend closure for trail that has a name almost nobody knows under SR 520 in Montlake

    Map with the trail marked in red.
    Closure map from WSDOT.

    The trail that goes under SR 520 between Montlake Blvd and Montlake Playfield that you probably didn’t know had a name will be closed this weekend starting 10 p.m. March 22 and reopening by 6 a.m. March 25, according to WSDOT.

    The Bill Dawson Trail*, a name that nobody except the most attentive readers of Seattle Bike Blog have ever heard before, is a bit difficult to find, but it is very useful for certain connections. It starts on the west side of Montlake Blvd adjacent to a freeway on-ramp. The trail then travels down an extreemly bumpy pathway before turning sharply to cross under SR 520 with only a few feet of headroom. But then it spits you out next to Montlake Playfield and connects to E Calhoun Street downhill from Interlaken Park.

    WSDOT does not list an official detour, but your basic options are to take E Lynn Street or use the short but steep switchback trail connection on E Calhoun Street to get to 19th Ave E. From there, head over to the neighborhood greenway on 22nd Ave E. Note that E Roanoke Street will also be closed between 20th and 22nd Avenues. The detour options don’t look terrible, but they do require users to navigate the Montlake Blvd/520 interchange area.

    *Though I have not seen any official documentation, the trail’s namesake Bill Dawson was most likely a Navy officer who often went by Bull. He was a former commanding officer at Sand Point Naval Air Station and was an active member of the Seattle Yacht Club, which is based near the trail. He was also a charter member of the Seafair Boat Club. He died in 1990 at 74.

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  • KUOW: Unbelievable interview with women attacked by cougar while biking

    Screenshot from the KUOW website including a photo of three women using a bike to pin a cougar to the ground.
    Listen to or read the story on KUOW.org.

    You probably saw the headline shortly after it happened, but the full story of Keri Bergere and four friends (Auna Tietz, Annie Bilotta, Tisch Williams and Erica Wolf) fighting against a cougar that attacked them during a ride is truly unbelievable.

    The five women in their 50s and 60s, part of the Recycled Cycles racing team, were riding on a gravel path near Tokul Creek northeast of Fall City and Snoqualmie when a young cougar attacked Keri, biting her face and holding on for 15 minutes. The other four women sprung into action and engaged in a grueling and long fight to free their friend before pinning the cougar under a bike until a park ranger arrived and killed it.

    My words here are not doing the story justice. KUOW interviewed them, and you just have to listen or read for yourself. There are some gruesome details, but the courage and tenacity behind everyone’s actions is awe-inspiring. The web story also includes photos of Keri wearing her cycling jersey, but with all the scratches and holes embroidered in a rainbow of colors.

    Go give it a listen or read the text version on the KUOW website.

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