Bike News Roundup: Some post-eclipse reading

It’s time for the Bike News Roundup! For all you eclipse travelers stuck in traffic, this one’s for you.

First up, sometimes you just gotta do it yourself:

Transform Your City With Tactical Urbanism from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

Continue reading

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Bike share giant ofo announces Thursday launch

Global bike share giant ofo has received its permit from Seattle and will launch 1,000 of its yellow bikes Thursday.

Seattle is the company’s first U.S. city, joining Spin and LimeBike on Seattle streets and expanding the city’s $1 free-floating bike count by another 50 percent. Like with the other companies, you will need a smart phone, data plan and credit/debit card to unlock bikes. And the parking rules are the same.  There is one difference with ofo, though: Their $1 gets you an hour instead of 30 min like Spin and LimeBike. The bike share price wars have already begun.

The company raised $700 million is venture capital in July as investors go big on the company’s global expansion potential. That includes the U.S., of course, and Seattle is currently acting as the de facto gateway to the major U.S. city market. Eyes all over the country are on Seattle, waiting to see how our city’s permit rules work out before implementing rules of their own.

Details on the Thursday launch, from ofo:

When: Thursday, August 17th, 2017

Where: Art Marble 21, 731 Westlake Ave N, Seattle, WA

Why: Meet the ofo US team and test out the technology behind Seattle’s newest 1,000 shared bicycles.

Time: 1:30 PM

To give you an idea of why investors are so bullish on the company, here’s a very exciting claim in its FAQ:

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Gone fishin’

Seattle Bike Blog will return later this week. Turns out, there’s no wifi or cell service where I am. It’s wonderful.

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Party to celebrate outgoing and incoming Seattle Neighborhood Greenways leaders Sunday

Cathy Tuttle plays Park(ing) Day mini-golf.

Cathy Tuttle founded something very special when she started Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, the volunteer-empowering, community-centered safe streets organization she has led as Executive Director since its beginning in 2011.

Tuttle is retiring, and the organization is hiring multiple staffers to try to fill her shoes under the leadership of new ED Gordon Padelford (as Padelford put it, “I am a mere mortal, unlike Cathy.”). You can grab some beers with Tuttle and the new SNG staff 4– 8 p.m. Sunday at Peddler Brewing. $1 for each beer will go to SNG.

Tuttle wrote a farewell letter to supporters on the SNG blog. Here it is in full: Continue reading

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Seattle should raise bike share caps sooner so companies can rollout for Labor Day weekend

See our Seattle Bike Share Guide for an updated list of bike share companies in Seattle, links to download their apps and a quick rundown on how it all works.

For one day, during LimeBike’s launch party, bikes were packed densely into Fremont. They have since dispersed as people biked them across the city.

No other U.S. city had crafted a permit for private, free-floating bike share before, so Seattle played it safe when writing the pilot permit rules to allow services like Spin and Limebike to operate. And so far, the rules are working very well.

Both companies learned a lot from their initial 500 bike rollout (UPDATE: This is a good argument that new companies should also have a trial period at 500 bikes to work out bugs before going bigger), and now they are increasing to 1,000 each. With a few exceptions (either irresponsible users or vandals, it’s impossible to know), people are parking the bikes very responsibly on the sides of sidewalks and at bike racks as the city rules require. And use of the bikes is through the roof.

But it will be a whole month before the companies can expand again, and with every day their bikes get more and more spread out across the city. This is great because it shows that there is citywide demand for these services. But it’s bad because the more spread out the bikes get, the less reliable it is to find one near you at any given point. The density of bikes is what makes this service really work well, and September 7 feels like forever away.

There’s an easy fix, though: SDOT could speed up the pilot permit timeline. Instead of waiting a month for the next 1,000 bikes, how about two weeks? That would allow companies to have double the bikes on the ground in time for the Labor Day weekend and major summer events like Bumbershoot. As planned currently, the companies couldn’t add any more bikes until the week after the holiday, which seems like a big missed opportunity.

Then the cap could be lifted in early September, a month earlier than originally planned. This would give the companies a month of warmer and sunnier weather to bulk up their systems and get established before the rain comes. Launching in October was one of the big early mistakes for Pronto, since it sapped a lot of the public excitement and attention during those vital early days of operation when the marketing potential was the highest. Seattle shouldn’t force these companies to repeat that mistake.

Alternatively, the city could also just lift the cap before Labor Day, giving companies even more time to get established before the rains come. Because people are more likely to bike through the winter if they are already in the habit of biking regularly.

Cascade Bicycle Club has put out an action alert (using some cool new advocacy campaign software) calling on the city to do exactly this: Let companies add more bikes sooner. You can add your voice using the form below: Continue reading

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Bike share ridership keeps climbing quickly, Spin and LimeBike start rolling out city’s next 1,000 bikes

See our Seattle Bike Share Guide for an updated list of bike share companies in Seattle, links to download their apps and a quick rundown on how it all works.

This Spin bike has an upgraded headlight. The company is rolling out improved bikes with better headlights and lower gears.

LimeBike says its first 500 bikes saw “about 10,000 rides” in their first week of action. When added to Spin’s total the same week, Seattle’s 1,000 bike share bikes likely quadrupled Pronto’s best week ever and surpassed even Portland’s Biketown in its first week of operations in July 2016 with the same number of bikes.

This is a big deal because Portland has significantly higher biking rates, many more miles of connected bike infrastructure and is much less hilly than Seattle. So if the same number of bikes is doing the same or better here compared to there, that’s eye-opening.

Spin declined to give us a ride count for the same week, but CEO Derrick Ko said that combined with LimeBike’s reported total, the two companies “significantly bested” Biketown’s opening week ride count of 13,402.

The days of comparing these new bike share systems to Pronto are already over. We’re in all-new territory for West Coast bike share. Because unlike Biketown, the bike share companies in Seattle are not stopping at 1,000. Starting Monday, Spin and LimeBike started rolling out their next 500 bikes each. Both companies say they are adding bikes gradually all week, so Seattle’s bike share total should be up to 2,000 in a couple days.

Two more companies, VBikes and ofo, have also submitted permits to operate in Seattle and could add 1,000 each if approved. And in one month, companies will be able to increase their bike counts to 2,000 each. Then in October, caps will be lifted. That’s really the start of stage two for this new private bike share experiment in Seattle: The search for the magic number of bikes needed to best serve our city (and, of course, win riders and make money).

ofo in particular has an enormous amount of investment capital behind it, having raised $700 million just last month. They claim that riders have taken two billion (like, with a “b”) rides on their 2.5 million bikes in operation, mostly in cities in Asia. They also have my favorite bike share company name because if you type ofo lowercase, the letters look a bit like someone on a bike. Cute! Continue reading

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Five miles of the Eastside Trail could open by the end of the year

From the Eastside Rail Corridor Master Plan.

Five miles of the Eastside Trail are on schedule to open by the end of the year, including a mile extension from the current end of the Cross Kirkland Corridor Trail and four miles of trail between Renton and Newport Beach Park just south of I-90.

These interim trail sections will be hardpack gravel, similar to Kirkland’s existing section of the trail. Hardpack gravel is very bikeable using any kind of bike and is much cheaper and easier to build while the full, multi-million-dollar paved vision for the trail is developed and funded.

Speaking of the full trail vision, that is also moving forward. King County recently selected its preferred alternative as recommended in the Eastside Rail Corridor Master Plan that the King County Council approved 9-0 back in February. This boring-sounding step is an important technical step closer to crafting a construction-ready trail design. The sooner the County has designs in hand, the sooner they can begin the search for grants to help fund it.

The single biggest gap in the trail is also the biggest potential asset of the whole plan: The Wilburton Trestle. This amazing, towering railroad structure in Bellevue needs to be rehabbed in order to host the trail, and it’s going to be the single most expensive part of the whole plan. State, regional and private partners have already committed $10 million of the $13.5 million trestle project budget.

Combined with a nearby I-405 crossing that is planned as part of a state freeway project, the two most seemingly insurmountable hurdles for the trail could be cleared within a couple years. Compared to the trestle and the I-405 crossing, the rest of the trail should be a cakewalk (yes, I know, knock on wood, salt over the shoulder, etc). Trail projects of this magnitude often take decades to be completed (for example, the first section of the Burke-Gilman Trail opened in the 70s, and the Ballard section is still incomplete), so this is basically light speed for a major trail in a developed area.

If everything lines up perfectly, the full trail could be open in 2020 or 2021.

There are two open houses in September for those interested in the sections opening this year and what construction will be like (see details below). Cascade Bicycle Club also has a new action signup form if you want to stay up to date on the project and be ready to voice your support when needed.

Here are the sections scheduled to open by the end of 2017: Continue reading

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You can now take a bus hiking on weekends, and there are spaces for bikes

King County Metro and King County Parks have partnered to launch a new transit-to-trailheads service that starts tomorrow. And each shuttle will have two spaces for bicycles.

The shuttle starts at Issaquah Transit Center and makes stops at trailheads throughout the “Issaquah Alps” at Margaret’s Way, Poo Poo Point and East Sunset Way before swinging by the Issaquah Highlands Transit Center and returning to the Issaquah Transit Center.

Shuttles will run every half hour from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays tomorrow through October.

This effort could help improve access to hiking for people who don’t own cars and help ease increasing parking crunches near area trailheads.

“We’ve been seeing alternative transportation as a necessary part of the solution,” said Ben Hughey with the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust. He credited King County Parks with taking the initiative to reach out to Metro to make this happen. “Issaquah is the natural first step for showing demand for a hiking shuttle.”

More on how the shuttle came to be, from Seattle Transit Blog: Continue reading

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City updates Northgate bike/walk bridge design, open house Thursday

The city is ready to unveil the latest design for the Northgate biking and walking bridge, set to open in 2020 to connect the under-construction Northgate Station to North Seattle College.

They are hosting a drop-in open house Thursday (today) from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the Hampton Inn near the station site (map). An online open house is set to go live Thursday as well.

The project is funded through a partnership of the city, state and Sound Transit.

More details from SDOT: Continue reading

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The Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board is seeking new members

The agenda for the August meeting (tonight!) is a good example of what a typical meeting is like.

The Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board is a great way to get more hands on with bike projects in the city and get some government experience at the same time. It’s a volunteer gig that meets the first Wednesday of every month for two hours, though there is usually more work to do between meetings.

The Bike Board gets early looks at public projects that affect bicycling, and the board can provide often influential advice to push the city to be bold on bike safety.

You do not need to be an “expert” on biking or transportation policy. You just need to support the goal of more and safer cycling and be willing to listen and ask questions.

So apply, and be sure to tell anyone you think has a good perspective on biking in our city to apply, too.

Details and how to apply, from SDOT: Continue reading

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No, the state’s new ‘E-DUI’ law does not apply to people biking

There has been a bit of confusion in recent days about whether Washington State’s new so-called E-DUI distracted driving law applies to people biking.

It does not.

The Seattle Times published a story over the weekend saying explicitly that the law does apply to people biking. Shelly Baldwin, government liaison for the WA Traffic Safety Commission told Mike Lindblom of the Times that as noted in RCW 46.61.755, people biking are generally subject to all the rights and duties of people driving vehicles. Her conclusion was that this means people biking are subject to the new distracted driving law.

However, as Seattle Bike Blog pointed out on Twitter, the new law specifically says “motor vehicle,” which is different than “vehicle.” Bicycles are vehicles, but they are not motor vehicles.

We also consulted with Alex Alston of WA Bikes, who worked to help craft and pass the new law, and local bike lawyer John Duggan (a longtime Seattle Bike Blog advertiser).

Alston was surprised to see the interpretation that the law applied to bikes and worked to get another interpretation from her contacts at the Traffic Safety Commission. She received responses from the WA State Patrol and the Traffic Safety Commission that, in fact, the law only applies to motor vehicles and not to bikes: Continue reading

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Vote! Ballots are due Tuesday + Where candidates stand on transportation

King County Dropbox locations (click for interactive map)

Don’t procrastinate any longer. It’s time to make a choice and get your ballot in the mail or a (postage-free) nearby dropbox.

If you are registered to vote but have lost your ballot, you can still vote! Follow the instructions here to download a ballot that you can fill out and print.

You can find our coverage of the Growing Seattle housing and transportation forum here: Mayor and City Council Position 8.

City Council Position 9 is absolutely no question: Vote Lorena González.

And of course vote for Dow Constantine for King County Executive.

Seattle Bike Blog almost endorsed Nikkita Oliver for mayor. Oliver’s campaign is easily the most impressive of all the candidates, but we can’t slow down safe streets projects as she says she might. So we’re stuck. If you believe in her as a transformative leader and think supporters of downtown bike lanes and the Missing Link can persuade her administration to keep them on track (or better), then vote for Oliver. If you take her statements as the final word and want a candidate who is clearly already on board with safe streets projects in the pipeline (and more), vote for Cary Moon, Jessyn Farrell or Mike McGinn.

After a lot of thought, I decided not to endorse in the City Council Position 8 primary. For personal reasons (I have very close friends supporting one candidate), I’m just not sure I can provide a fair endorsement in this race. Sorry! I’ll reconsider in the general election. This is where having an election board would be very handy. Hmm…

Here’s who other transportation groups and news sources are endorsing: Continue reading

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LimeBike gets 2,000 rides in two days + Both companies announce $30 monthly plans

See our Seattle Bike Share Guide for an updated list of bike share companies in Seattle, links to download their apps and a quick rundown on how it all works.

LimeBike CEO Toby Sun.

People took 2,000 rides on LimeBike in two days, the company said Friday.

In just two days, the company is already more than 60 percent of the way to matching Pronto’s ride total for its opening week, and about half way to matching Pronto’s best week ever. And it’s doing all this with competition from Spin, which also has 500 bikes in circulation.

In fact, it’s possible that at this point the companies are helping each other by educating the public about the concept of free-floating bike share services. Someone who learns about how LimeBike works from one of the company’s promo events, for example, will also know how Spin works and vice versa. And having double the bikes on the street means bike share as a transportation mode is more convenient for more people for more trips, which is good for both companies.

But, of course, they are definitely competing hard.

LimeBike has had a couple bikes floating around since the city approved their permit July 17, but was not as quick on the draw as Spin, which rolled out its 500 bikes as soon as they had a permit in their hand. LimeBike started rolling out their 500 bikes Tuesday and launched with an official unlocking ceremony Thursday.

But the 2,000 rides in two days is notably double the number that Spin reported July 19, though it is much too early to determine which company will outpace the other. This whole free-floating bike share thing is just getting started.

From LimeBike: Continue reading

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With ceremonial unlocking, LimeBike officially launches + LimeRide Saturday

See our Seattle Bike Share Guide for an updated list of bike share companies in Seattle, links to download their apps and a quick rundown on how it all works.

LimeBike Toby Sun (green and gray jacket) officially launched the service with a ceremonial unlocking.

LimeBike started rolling out its 500 bikes en masse Tuesday, a week after Spin launched its similar free-floating, app-based $1 bike share service.

“Seattle is really a city that, through our research, really excels among its peers in promoting green transportation and technology,” said LimeBike CEO Toby Sun during the company’s launching party at Westlake Park Thursday.

The company has had a couple bikes floating around since July 17, but started rolling them out in serious numbers Tuesday. They had 360 bikes on the streets Wednesday, and Sun said those bikes saw 1,000 rides in just 24 hours.

All 500 LimeBikes will be on the streets by the end of the day Thursday, staff said. This will bring Seattle’s total number of bike share bikes to 1,000. That’s the size of Portland’s Biketown system and double the size of Pronto. LimeBike plans to keep up with the bike increases allowed under the city’s pilot permit rules, staff said Thursday. So Spin and LimeBike could go to 1,000 bikes each August 7.

People who sign up for LimeBike before Sunday will get a handful of free rides to get them started.

The company is also hosting an event this weekend called LimeRide (as advertised on Seattle Bike Blog). LimeRide starts at Gas Works Park at noon, and is something of a scavenger hunt around Fremont, ending at Fremont Brewing. They will be giving out a bunch of free rides (including a year of free rides (!) to the winner).

Spin has also announced a weekend event spanning Saturday and Sunday they are calling SpinHunt. It’s a bit looser than LimeRide and spans downtown and Fremont. Basically, if you post selfies at various landmarks with the hashtag #spinhunt, you’ll get $1 ride credit for each spot.

So basically, you should clear your schedule this weekend and just spend the whole thing biking bike share bikes around Seattle. Continue reading

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Your comments worked, WA Ferries won’t charge more for most bike trailers

WA State Ferries will not charge extra for most bike trailers, Cascade Bicycle Club reported Wednesday morning.

The WA Transportation Commission will instead limit the new rules to people hauling kayaks or canoes on a bike trailer. So people hauling kids in Burly trailers or pulling their camping gear will still be charged the normal bike fare.

But it gets even better. Debbie Young, a commissioner from San Juan County, also pushed to exempt people pulling kayaks and canoes from having to pay each time they use the inter-island ferry. People walking and biking can island hop for free, so paying for each trip would be a big increase in costs for the relatively few people who haul kayaks on their bikes.

Young also requested a study of how many people are bringing trailers onto the ferries and how they are currently being stowed. The fare increase was proposed without any real data about how much deck space was being occupied by bike trailers that could have been used for other paying vehicles. Even big bike trailers are usually off to the side in the bike area, not in the car deck space.

The Commission received 800 comments on their proposed list of changes, with the vast majority coming from people concerned about the bike trailer fares.

“They literally pointed to these binders that were full of comments,” said Cascade Bicycle Club’s Vicky Clarke. 550 of those comments came through the Cascade online action alert. Continue reading

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Spin smashes Pronto ridership in week one, announces improved bikes

See our Seattle Bike Share Guide for an updated list of bike share companies in Seattle, links to download their apps and a quick rundown on how it all works.

Heatmap of week one bike pickups, from Spin.

People took 5,008 rides on Spin in the company’s first week operating in Seattle, 60 percent higher than Pronto’s opening week in October 2014 and 300 more rides than Pronto’s busiest week in its two-and-a-half year life (mid-July 2015).

And this is just a taste of Spin’s vision for serving Seattle. The city’s pilot permit limits the company to 500 bikes in the first month, 1,000 in month two, 2,000 in month three and then more after that if all goes well. Spin said in a press release when they launched that they hope to get to 10,000 bikes.

But this week was a great chance to learn about the power of the stationless bike share model. It’s the closest thing to a bike share Pepsi Challenge we may ever get. Both Pronto and Spin had 500 bikes operating essentially exclusively in Seattle, and Spin got more rides. A week isn’t an overwhelming amount of data, of course, and there are still unanswered questions about how the company is going to keep up with maintenance. But at first blush, wow. This stationless bike share thing seems to be off to a promising start. From Spin:

In week one, we’re excited to share that we’ve hit 5,008 rides. Our average ride lasts 16.71 minutes, our top user has logged 20 rides, and an average rider has taken 2.7 trips.

The company focused most of its initial bike drops and redistribution on downtown and nearby areas, since 500 bikes is not enough to cover a wider area very well. But users can ride the bikes anywhere they want. So just about any bike outside the city center got there because someone biked it there from downtown. And people biked Spin bikes to just about every corner of the city.

Outside downtown, the Burke-Gilman Trail corridor and nearby areas obviously did very well. This is an area Pronto never served outside a small section in the U District. Pronto was supposed to expand to Fremont and lower Wallingford shortly after launching, but this never happened. So all you Pronto members who were pulling your hair out waiting for the system to serve Fremont, the Spin heatmap above vindicates you.

The heatmap also shows strong use along Alki, far away from the central neighborhoods where the bikes were initially dropped. I worry a bit about the existing beach cruiser rental businesses on Alki who have been serving the beachside trail for many years.

There are also hubs of rental activity around every Rainier Valley light rail station, especially in the area between Othello Station and Graham Street. Previous bike share efforts were very bearish on the business potential for bike share in Rainier Valley, and we have consistently pushed back against that. Spin is showing that there is demand in Rainier Valley despite the lack of quality bike lanes. The light rail stations are often located an awkward distance from major business districts and residential areas, a little long for a walk but too short to wait for a bus. Bike share is the perfect solution to this problem.  Continue reading

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Cascade/WA Bikes have a new Executive Director: Richard Smith

Richard Smith will be the new Executive Director of Cascade Bicycle Club and Washington Bikes, the organizations announced Friday

Smith comes from Microsoft, and the press release says he was “the executive sponsor of his division’s Diversity & Inclusion efforts” and has worked as a board member for the Seattle Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Smith takes over an organization that has been without an Executive Director since the end of December, when Elizabeth Kiker left. And they will go a little longer without an ED, too. Smith starts September 5.

(Full disclosure: My incredible spouse Kelli works for Cascade and WA Bikes as their Statewide Engagement Director)

Smith joins Seattle Neighborhood Greenways’ Gordon Padelford as a white man taking over a local safe streets organization leadership position previously held by a woman. Commute Seattle’s Jonathan Hopkins also recently took over for Jessica Szelag. So while I congratulate these men on their new roles, I also hope they recognize this quick shift toward white male leadership and go far above and beyond to be inclusive and empowering to everyone through their work.

Here’s the full press release from Cascade and WA Bikes: Continue reading

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Bike News Roundup: A dangerous rail crossing. No not that one.

It’s time for the Bike News Roundup!

First up, University of Tennessee Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Chris Cherry and graduate students Ziwen Ling and Nirbesh Dhakal recently documented a ton of bike crashes at a single railroad crossing (hmm, this reminds me of a certain “missing” trail in Ballard…). Not only did they publish their findings, they also put together this video:

Continue reading

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Spin reaches 1,000 rides in first two days, have you tried it yet?

Looking for bike share app download links, an up-to-date list of companies in operation or rules on where to park? We’ve got it all and more in our Seattle Bike Share Guide.

Spin staff were biking around Monday helping people learn about the new service.

People took 1,000 rides on Spin bikes during the company’s first two days of operations, the company said via Twitter Wednesday:

A snapshot of available bike locations as of Wednesday afternoon, following two full days of use.

The launch Monday is the young company’s largest venture, so it’s pretty impressive to see their bikes get solid use so quickly out of the gate while they are still putting more bike on the streets and squashing inevitable bugs in the system.

As a comparison, Pronto saw 3,134 rides in its first week of operations, but averaged only 394 trips per day over the course of its first year. July and August weeks saw more than 4,000 rides on Pronto.

Of course, it’s hard to compare the services based on the number of bikes alone. Pronto had stations, so getting a bike was dependable if you knew where the stations were. With Spin, dependability will increase as the number of bikes increases. They are limited to 500 for the first month, but a sustainable number is much higher than that. In a press release Monday, the company said they have their sights on 10,000 bikes eventually.

Both Spin and LimeBike have said they wish they could go bigger at launch, but the city’s rules are written to ease into the water rather than jump into the deep end. LimeBike has a couple bikes in circulation, but their real launch is still on the way (they said they hoped to be launched by Friday, so stay tuned). In a month, the companies can add other 500 bikes. The next month they can add another 1,000. After another month, the limits will be lifted, assuming things are going well. So think of the service as it is as a beta test of the concept. Continue reading

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Cascade: WA Ferries proposes huge fare increase for … bicycle trailers?

WA State Ferries has proposed a dramatic fare hike for people pulling a bicycle trailer.

For the Bainbridge and Bremerton runs, for example, a person biking with a trailer would have to pay $16 during peak season, a 73 percent increase over the current passenger plus bike fare of $9.20, Cascade Bicycle Club’s Vicky Clarke wrote in a blog post. The $16.10 fare would be almost the same as driving a car onto the ferry ($18.20). The costs on the San Juan routes could add up even more because a person with a trailer would have to pay $6.40 – $7.95 for each inter-island ferry ride, which is currently free if you bike.

The way the proposed rule change is worded (PDF), any bicycle trailer (even a little trailer used to pull a child) would be classified the same as a motorcycle or car trailer (“stowage”). So hauling a kid or some camping gear in a bicycle trailer will add as much to your fare as towing an ATV in a trailer behind your car or truck.

“The proposed bike trailer reclassification boils down to an unprecedented fare increase on a small number of ferry users,” wrote Clarke. “It’s a change that will impact a few people greatly – like families with small children, bike tourists and people who use a bicycle as their sole mode of travel –  while generating a negligible revenue increase to the system.”

Cascade is urging people to comment on the proposed changes by the end of the day Friday. They even created a handy online form you can use. Continue reading

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