Despite more than a decade of bicycle activism, Ballard Bridge remains a danger

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is by Taylor McAvoy through our partnership with UW’s Community News Lab journalism course.

Haley Keller has adopted the Ballard Bridge sidewalks. She holds cleaning parties for the bridge every two to three months. Photo: Taylor McAvoy

Riding home at night a few years ago, Haley Keller had to cross the Ballard Bridge with its notoriously skinny three-foot-wide sidewalks. She usually carries only one bag on the left side of her bike rack to avoid the occasional concrete pillars that protrude into the sidewalk on that section of the bridge. That night she carried two, one on each side.

“I don’t know exactly what it was,” she said. “Whether it was a gust of a wind or a car had come by that had pushed me a little bit but I went over and my bike bag hit the side wall.”

Catching on the wall, Keller’s bag threw her off balance and over a ten-inch-high curb, into the oncoming traffic lane.

“I was able to pick myself up and get off the bridge quickly,” She said. “But if it had been in the middle of traffic on a busy day, I don’t know what would have happened.”

Terry McMacken was biking on the bridge in July 2007 when something similar happened. He fell over the curb, too, but someone driving struck him. He died in November 2008 from complications from the injuries he sustained.

McMacken and his wife filed a lawsuit against the City of Seattle in July 2008. His estate settled with the City a year after his death.

“The fixes are very simple,” attorney Jack Connelly told the Seattle P.I. in 2008. “The concern that we have is that there were people telling the city about this problem well before this incident.”

But the city of Seattle has noticed and is taking steps to improve bicycle safety.

Seattle launched Vision Zero in 2015 as a goal to end serious injuries and deaths in Seattle’s streets by 2030. As a 2016 campaign for the project, volunteers for Seattle Neighborhood Greenways and Cascade Bicycle Club placed white silhouettes around the city representing the people who died in traffic over the previous ten years.

“You hear about an accident or a collision and you have to realize there are real people affected by that,” Connect Ballard activist Sean Cryan said. “And the number of those things that were around the city just from ten years was really startling, that that many people have died on the roadways. I think that is something to keep in mind as all of this moves forward. Really the goal is to not have any more white silhouettes out on the streets.”

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Bike News Roundup: Should Seattle get a Bicycle Mayor?

It’s time for the Bike News Roundup! This is an open thread, so feel free to discuss anything at least vaguely bikey below.

First up! Should Seattle have a Bicycle Mayor?

Should NYC Have a Bicycle Mayor? Meet Anna Luten Amsterdam's Bike Mayor from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

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Test riding a Bluegogo stationless bike share bike in downtown Seattle

Yours truly about to ride a Bluegogo bike around downtown

I took a ride on what could be one of Seattle’s next bike share bikes and made it up one of downtown’s steepest hills.

It was a Bluegogo bike, one of at least two companies actively pursuing Seattle as one of the first major U.S. markets to launch a low-cost, app-connected, stationless bike share service.

We broke the story late last week about Bluegogo and Spin eyeing a Seattle launch in the very near future. How near? Bluegogo has thousands of bikes in storage in the Bay Area right now (UPDATE: Bluegogo requested I not list how many thousands), said Anthony Desnick, who works on strategy and expansion for Bluegogo. 3,000 of them are earmarked for Seattle. That’s six times as many bikes as Pronto.

But because stationless bike share is such a new concept, Seattle does not even have a permit these companies can buy for their bikes, let alone a set of rules for how they can operate. Both companies have expressed a desire for the city to create these rules soon, saying they can have bikes in operation on Seattle streets this summer.

If the city delays, however, another company could choose to launch without permits, following the “ask for forgiveness” business model that Uber used when it first launched. Companies are eager to gain market share ahead of the competition, and that means getting on the ground first.

But before getting too far into the weeds about market share and city regulations, perhaps you all want to know: How are the bikes?

Desnick invited me to take one of the company’s bikes for a spin downtown Monday.  Continue reading

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Happy Bike Everywhere Month! Event schedule, online challenge + more

Click to register for the online challenge.

It’s May, which means it’s time to give in to your co-worker’s constant reminders and say, “OK, fine! I’ll sign up for your Bike Month team if you just let me sit here and enjoy this cup of coffee for five freaking minutes!”

The annual online challenge is a good way to stay motivated for the whole month, biking as often as possible and logging the trips for your team. Once you build your biking habit over a month, it’s much easier to just keep it going the the rest of the year. You may also be very surprised how far you’ve biked just by running errands or going to work for a month.

Bike To School Day is May 10, and Bike Everywhere Day (AKA Bike to Work Day) is May 19.

Friday (May 5) is the Bikery Bash, a party at Love City Love on Capitol Hill to benefit the Bikery.

Bike to either Lake Union Park or Occidental Park May between 7 and 9 a.m. May 12 for a free bagel, cup of coffee and other bike swag as part of Commute Seattle’s annual Bikes and Bagels event. People who walk or take transit to work are also invited. But if you drove to work, buy your own bagel.

And get ready to close the month out with Cascade’s second Emerald Bike Ride a rare chance to ride on the I-5 express lanes, the 520 Bridge and the I-90 express lanes May 28.

You can check out more events on Seattle Bike Blog’s events calendar. And if you know of anything that’s missing, be sure to add it!

More Bike Month details from Cascade: Continue reading

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By killing Pronto, Seattle could become the center of private bike share innovation

Photo from a Spin pilot launch in Austin during SXSW. Image from Spin.

The Pronto docks have been scrubbed from city streets. As much as I am sad to see it go and feel the system never got a fair shot at success, it’s done. Time to move on and look to the future of bike share in Seattle.

And we may not need to wait long.

“We’re very optimistic for bike share in Seattle,” said Derrick Ko, CEO of a San Fransisco-based stationless bike share startup called Spin.

Spin bikes are free-floating. Open up their mobile app to find a bike near you. Walk to it and scan the QR code on the bike to unlock the rear wheel. Bike to your destination and park it using the kickstand. Lock the wheel to end your trip. And that’s it. It’s basically Car2Go, but a bicycle.

But here’s the kicker: It only costs $1 per ride (Bluegogo is $1 for 30 min, Spin says “Ride for $1”). Dock-based bike share systems cannot touch that price.

So when is Spin going to launch in Seattle?

“As soon as possible,” said Ko, who was previously a product manager at Lyft. Spin staff recently flew out to Seattle to meet people and check out the possibilities for themselves. “For a top tier city in the US, it’s really rare to not have some form of bike share.” Continue reading

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Which of these awesome bike/walk bridges to Totem Lake is the most awesome?

Concept area map from the Cross Kirkland Corridor Master Plan.

Kirkland staff lead a ride January 2016 showing off the Cross Kirkland Corridor and talking about the bridge over this busy intersection near Totem Lake

The City of Kirkland wants to know: Which of these awesome bike/walk bridge designs is the most awesome?

The Cross Kirkland Corridor trail effectively ends today at NE 124th Street near the intersection with Totem Lake Blvd NE, but the city wants to continue it north to connect into the under-development plans in the Totem Lake area and help the trail reach the city’s border with Woodinville near the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery and the Sammamish River Trail.

But to that, they need to get the trail across this big intersection. The Cross Kirkland Corridor Master Plan calls for a biking and walking bridge spanning the two streets and avoiding the high-power lines at the north end. Though the project is still seeking another $5.8 million or so according the CKC website, the city is moving forward with design work.

They have received four bridge concepts to choose from, all of which hope to become an iconic part of the area in addition to carrying people using the trail over the busy streets.

You can let the city know which one you prefer via an online survey. Here are the concepts: Continue reading

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Options for a redesigned E Marginal Way + Regional leadership needed to connect to S King County

Today is the last day to comment on SDOT’s E Marginal Way online open house.

The city is working on a major reconstruction and redesign of the industrial street that also serves as one of the most vital bike connections for West Seattle, the Duwamish Valley and beyond.

As a regional bike route, the street must include a complete, safe and intuitive facility. At the same time, this street is somewhat unusual in that it has low personal car traffic (though that could change when the downtown tunnel highway opens). Instead, the mix is mostly people walking and biking and people driving very large trucks to access the Port of Seattle driveways. It’s a street that almost only has the extremes in vehicle sizes, and that may actually be an opportunity instead of a problem.

E Marginal Way is the city’s best chance to showcase how comfortable, predictable and separated biking and walking routes are good for freight.

It’s obvious that the modes cannot mix, and on that point essentially everyone agrees. This need is highlighted by the tragic May 2013 death of Lance David at E Marginal and S Hanford. David was the father of twins who lived in Federal Way and biked to work in downtown Seattle. Continue reading

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Bikepacking to Dosewallips State Park (and some rainy ‘type II’ fun)

Editor’s Note: There are few places on earth as well-suited for bikepacking trips than Washington State. If you bike regularly and your standard trip includes at least one hill, then you are more than ready to load your bike with camping gear and set out on an amazing adventure. Below is one somewhat ambitious trip idea. I’m hoping to keep bringing you bikepacking reports (email tom@seattlebikeblog.com if you want to share your trip). For some good starter ideas, see this post by Martina Brimmer at Swift Industries, this post by Marley Blonsky and get copy of Cycling Sojourner Washington by Ellee Thalheimer.

Three friends and I took advantage of a break in 2017’s seemingly endless rain to hop a ferry to Bainbridge and head out on a bike adventure across the Kitsap Peninsula and along the north side of the Hood Canal destined for Dosewallips State Park.

It was overly ambitious for us, especially since we were not able to start biking out of Bainbridge until 1 p.m. due to work schedules. We like to take our time and take lots of breaks when biking, so we were going to have to push it to get to the camp in time to set up tents and make dinner before sunset. Spoiler: We didn’t make it, but we ended up in an even cooler spot instead.

Here’s our basic route (we didn’t use GPS, but this Google route is mostly correct):


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Wanna lead the largest statewide bike organization in the country?

Read the full position profile (PDF)

Five months after Elizabeth Kiker announced her resignation, Cascade Bicycle Club and Washington Bikes have released the job listing for the joint organization’s next Executive Director.

Cascade Bicycle Club was already the largest regional bike organization in the nation even before merging with WA Bikes in December 2015. Now it is the largest statewide bike organization.

The new ED will oversee 40 staff members (including, full disclosure, my incredible spouse Kelli) and a $5.6 million budget, according to the extended job listing (PDF). The organization also claims more than 17,000 members. Compared to other bike organizations in the country, Cascade and WA Bikes are in a league of their own.

The position will be open until filled. More details from Cascade/WA Bikes: Continue reading

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Citing new ‘exciting candidates,’ Salomon drops out of mayoral race

Photo from Salomon’s campaign.

When Andres Salomon arrived at UW Station with a cargo bike full of homemade tamales and announced his campaign for Seattle mayor, he did so because it seemed nobody else was preparing to challenge the well-funded and seemingly-popular incumbent Ed Murray.

Though Salomon (a past-and-hopefully-future contributor to Seattle Bike Blog) was concerned about three years of “city mismanagement,” he said he couldn’t find anyone willing to run against Murray.

“I wanted a Mayor who would make the city a better place,” he said in a statement explaining his departure from the race. “I asked a number of people to run against Murray. I begged people. I asked Councilmember O’Brien. I asked fellow activists. I brought it up in meetings. Everyone I spoke to said no. I felt I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t have any real desire to become a career politician, but I believed that I could do better than Murray.”

But that has since changed. “Over the past two weeks, the race has been completely transformed,” he said in his statement.

A month after announcing his campaign February 1, Nikkita Oliver also entered the race (Salomon welcomed her to the race). Most mainstream political attention was still focused on the open City Council Position 8 at-large seat (Tim Burgess is not seeking reelection), though Oliver had a big campaign launch event and has a lot of grassroots momentum and a growing campaign account.

Then a lawsuit alleging Murray sexually abused a teenager in the 80 hit the headlines in early April, and the number of candidates started growing. Murray denies the allegations.

With Former Mayor Mike McGinn and waterfront champion Cary Moon both in the race, Salomon said he would rather not “split the vote with other who share my values” and would instead support them. “I look forward to a better Mayor in 2018,” he concluded. Continue reading

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Waterfront champion Cary Moon enters the mayoral race

Photo from Moon’s campaign Facebook page.

Cary Moon — a strong champion for vibrant, people-focused places — has officially declared her candidacy for Seattle mayor.

Moon has been a vital organizer for a people-focused waterfront downtown and currently serves on the One Center City advisory committee. Though her efforts to promote a surface street and transit alternative to the downtown car tunnel did not win, her efforts have shaped Waterfront Seattle’s plans for a better waterfront. We could have had a reconstructed viaduct, after all.

As Mike McGinn was announcing his bid for mayor Monday, Moon was sitting down with Eli Sanders at the Stranger to get deep into the issues (she was exploring the run before the allegations against Murray came out, her campaign’s marketing firm said). She presented a bold vision for transportation, especially downtown: Continue reading

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SDOT really, really wants you to report potholes

Mayor Ed Murray and SDOT Director Scott Kubly fill a pothole. Image from SDOT.

If there is a persistent pothole that you find yourself swearing at every singe day, well, this is your chance to get it fixed.

SDOT has launched a renewed campaign to get people to report potholes so crews can go fix them. Reporting potholes really does work, so long as you’re reporting isolated potholes and not, like, a whole block of bad pavement.

The easiest way is to download the city’s Find It Fix It app. If you pull over next to the pothole, the app will geolocate for you. You can even add a photo if you want. There’s also this web form and good old-fashioned phone calling: 206-386-1218.

It is very easy, and the response time from road crews may surprise you (it’s not uncommon for the problem to be fixed within a couple days).

The long and cold winter did more damage to roads than the average winter, SDOT says, so they need people’s help locating issues. It’s much cheaper and more effective to get crowd-sourced data. And, of course, everyone loves when the city fills potholes! It’s the perfect transportation campaign for an election year. Continue reading

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Mike McGinn will run for another term as mayor

Standing in the yard of his Greenwood house with his family — a couple campaign signs leaning against the white picket fence, perhaps dusted off after four years in storage — Mike McGinn announced his candidacy for mayor.

This wil be his third mayoral campaign in eight years. And as he joked with media, he’s 50 percent on winning so far.

There were no “Mike Likes Bikes” stickers around this time. At least not yet. In fact, McGinn did not directly mention bikes during his half hour in front of the TV cameras Monday morning other than to highlight the Road Safety Action Plan created under his leadership in 2012. McGinn pursued some bold and sometimes controversial complete streets and bike safety projects during his term, earning him the supposedly-diminutive-but-actually-kinda-cool nickname Mayor McSchwinn. Bike commuting rose more than 40 percent during the first three years of his term, but have since plateaued.

Instead, his focus Monday was mostly on housing affordability and the need for taxes on high earners and big companies.

His slogan “Keep Seattle” has so far fallen pretty flat with local media (as the Stranger asks, “What the fuck does that mean?”). During his announcement, he talked about rising housing costs and regressive taxes that force people out of town as the city becomes a wealthy enclave rather than a place for everyone.

“We can’t let this city become San Fransisco,” he said. I guess that’s what “Keep Seattle” means. “The people who helped make this city what it is, make it so attractive, are being pushed out by the growth.” Continue reading

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Bike News Roundup: How Oslo is preparing to go car-free downtown

It’s time for the Bike News Roundup! The comments below are also open to whatever at-least-somewhat relevant topic you want to discuss.

First up, here’s how Oslo is working to go car-free in its city center. A hopeful note for Seattle: Around the 8:00 mark they talk about the recent launch of a new bigger and better bike share system to replace their old lagging system. They key to success: More stations serving more places.

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Seattle’s Pedal Anywhere keeps growing its on-demand bike rental business, seeks investors

Pedal Anywhere CEO Zach Shaner with the company’s custom bike-delivering bike. This set-up is a combination of three other local companies: The e-assist motor is from Seattle-based Bike Swift, the trailer base is by Seattle-based CycleFab and the bike racks are from Woodinville-based Sportworks.

You just flew into Seattle, made your way through the airport and sat down on the light rail heading towards your hotel. You heard biking in Seattle is awesome, and you want to try it out. So you Google “bike rental seattle” and find a handful of shops, some sad news about the closure of Pronto and one service that claims it will bring a bike to you within two hours of booking: Pedal Anywhere. Better yet, the rates are even better if you keep the bike for your whole week stay.

So you book a bike online. By the time you are checked into your hotel and settled into your room, a quality hybrid bike in your size is in the lobby waiting for you. And the best part is that the person delivering it brought your bike using a custom e-assist bike. Bikes delivering bikes, that’s just too cool.

This is not just the concept behind Pedal Anywhere, it’s how the service actually works today in Seattle. The company, under the leadership of CEO (and friend of Seattle Bike Blog) Zach Shaner, is currently trying to grow using a crowdfunding-style investment effort through Seed Invest. That campaign is open until April 24. The minimum investment is $500 (but unlike with a Kickstarter-style crowdfunding, you would actually own a stake in the company).

“We’re trying to take all the headaches out the bike rental process,” said Shaner. And if it works in Seattle, why not replicate it other cities?

“If we [meet our investment goal], we’d like to be in Portland and Vancouver, B.C., and maybe San Francisco by next year.” Continue reading

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Northlake Way is getting a short section of new sidewalk, bike lane

Work is underway on a short new stretch of sidewalk and bike lane on Northlake Way near the University Bridge.

Identified as a key missing piece in the Pedestrian Master Plan, the sidewalk will connect the businesses on Northlake Way (like Voula’s! Mmmmm…) to the UW campus sidewalk and trail network.

For people biking, the project will preserve the existing painted bike lines east of 8th Ave NE and add one extra block of westbound bike lane connecting to 7th Ave NE. It’s a bit of a climb, but 7th Ave NE is a shortcut to the Burke-Gilman Trail. It’s not a groundbreaking improvement for biking, but it’s something. Continue reading

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Making streets more accessible is not a ‘cost,’ it’s a vital investment

This list from the complaint (PDF) goes on for 276 lines, and it’s far from complete.

News broke last week that the city is on the verge of settling a lawsuit that could result in a big investment in more curb ramps around Seattle.

Three people with disabilities — Conrad Reynoldson, Stuart Pixley and David Whedbey — sued the city in 2015 and have since grown the case into a class action suit. The pending settlement reportedly includes city investment in curb ramps in lieu of damages to the plaintiffs. More details from the Seattle Times:

Three men with disabilities sued Seattle in 2015, alleging the city was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act because many sidewalks lack curb ramps — which make crossing the street possible in a wheelchair or scooter — and many of the existing curb ramps are not up to snuff.

Nearly three decades after the ADA became law, and despite what cities often say are the best of intentions, the courtroom has become a crucial way of forcing them into compliance. The Seattle case is among a flurry of ADA lawsuits across the country in recent years, many of which have forced cities to increase their spending on sidewalks and curb ramps by tens of millions of dollars or more.

One detail about the media coverage that bothered me, however, is that most headlines described the potential settlement as “costing” Seattle. But investing in curb ramps is not a cost at all, it’s an investment in the mobility, safety and dignity of our city’s residents present and future. Continue reading

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SDOT shows off improved short-term bike plan

When SDOT released the 2016 short-term bike plan, I suggested the department “burn it and try again.”

Well, they more or less did just that. The new plan is far from perfect, and it doesn’t make up for lost time resulting from the major cuts in the 2016 plan. But downtown has reappeared, and the plan’s priorities for the next five year are closer to where they need to be: Creating a somewhat connected network of protected bike lanes and neighborhood greenways reaching most corners of the city.

The number of miles remains scaled back compared to the 2015 version and is not on pace to build half the Bike Master Plan by the end of the Move Seattle levy (as was the promise). But the locations of projects were guided through an intensive process with the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board and neighborhood safe streets groups. There are a lot of dotted lines (meaning the type and exact location of the facility is still up in the air), but it at least begins to look like a network. The maps below are still a draft, but they are nearly final (see the full draft plan, including when each project is planned for construction, in this PDF).

Union Street bike lane added to the plan

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Seattle still doesn’t need a downtown car tunnel, but crews deserve a victory lap today

Seattle Bike Blog has been opposed to the downtown car tunnel since this site started in 2010, and we still are. It’s an enormous investment in unsustainable transportation that will likely make downtown and South Lake Union traffic worse. It’s a massive greenhouse gas generator with very little utility for transit and no utility for walking and biking. It’s the exact opposite of how we should be investing in our downtown and our region.

That said, credit where it’s due: I didn’t think they’d make it.

Yes, it is years late (the tunnel should have opened to traffic in 2015, according to the schedule when it broke ground) and has racked up big cost overruns (the total is still uncertain, but Seattle Tunnel Partners has filed a $480 million claim and WSDOT has already noted a $149 overrun of its own). But even a dedicated tunnel opponent like me can note that the engineers and crews on the ground have accomplished something that is at least remarkable from a technical standpoint.

So, congratulations to the team. Take a victory lap. You earned it. Whether I like the project or not, today is historic.

The failures of this project were political, and the failures include the opposition who did not built a strong enough vision and coalition to compete with the tunnel. The tunnel was political magical thinking where everyone supposedly wins: “We’ll just bury the traffic!”

But that’s not how traffic works. This project will certainly change where and how the traffic problems occur, but it doesn’t provide a way for people to get where they’re going without a car. Traffic is too many people driving.

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A note about Capitol Hill Seattle’s Justin Carder

Capitol Hill Seattle’s Justin Carder (or as his close friends call him, “@jseattle“) is likely the hardest-working journalist this side of West Seattle. His dedication to the grind of very-local news has been a remarkable thing to witness, and he has been a major inspiration and mentor for my work.

Carder announced an indefinite sabbatical Monday, effective next week.

It’s hard to imagine Seattle news without Capitol Hill Seattle, which has expanded its scope beyond just its namesake neighborhood over the past 11 years. But I guess we’re all about to find out.

CHS documents life on the ground in Seattle to a degree few (if any) other news sources in the city can reach. It has been a strong response to these grim days of newsroom layoffs and “content aggregation.” And Carder has managed it all as a truly independent news site, funded by a combination of local advertisers, reader support and his own long hours of work.

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