Georgetown to South Park trail reaches design milestone, scheduled to open in 2023

Drawing of people walking, rolling, biking and skateboarding between the two neighborhoods.

Duwamish Valley Safe Streets created this cool image to promote the concept.

The Georgetown to South Park Connection, a walking and biking trail concept promoted for years by the community-led group Duwamish Valley Safe Streets, is on schedule to begin construction in 2022 and open in 2023. Final design should be complete near the end of 2021.

The path will lead from near 12th and Bailey in Georgetown to the South Park Bridge, connecting the two often neglected mixed industrial and residential neighborhoods. Walking and biking in the neighborhoods today is often stressful or dangerous because there are many wide, dangerous streets like E Marginal Way S. This trail will create a continuous and separated pathway for people to get between the two neighboring communities and business districts.

Project map.The route follows 13th Ave S, S Albro Place, Ellis Ave S and S Myrtle Street before reaching a parcel of underutilized land owned by Seattle City Light. Called the “Flume Property” because it “was the historic site of the conveyance that transported water from the Duwamish River, to the Georgetown Steam Plant until it ended operation in 1975,” according to the project page for the park project. SDOT and Seattle Parks are partnering with City Light to turn it into a dog park and pathway, and City Light is paying for the environmental remediation required to make it a park. Continue reading

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City delays Stone Way bike lane upgrade, latest of many Wallingford paving project safety cuts

Side-by-side of the project maps from 2018 and 2021.

Many safety improvements were cut since the project first took shape in 2018.

Yes, the new bikeway around (half of) Green Lake is a big improvement. We made a whole video about it. But it is only one part of a major series of paving projects all grouped together into one very big “Green Lake and Wallingford Paving & Multi-Modal Improvements” project that aside from Green Lake Way has been almost entirely about cars.

It didn’t start that way. But as the project developed, many biking and walking safety improvements were cut short or removed completely. Recent news that the city won’t move forward with the planned improvements and protected bike lanes on Stone Way from N 45th Street to N 50th Street is just the latest cut to the project’s bike improvements plan. “A change of funding availability due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other competing needs led to construction at this location being paused,” SDOT wrote in a project update.

Initially, bike lanes were planned on N 40th Street as identified in the Bicycle Master Plan. The project was also going to make much needed improvements to the connection between the Burke-Gilman Trail and streets leading up the hill like 5th Ave NE. But then, as with 35th Ave NE, SDOT and Mayor Jenny Durkan did not stand by the goals of the bike plan and folded in the face of some complaints. So instead they repaved the whole street without making any significant safety improvements (beyond the accessible curb ramps they were legally required to update). In lieu of bike lanes, SDOT proposed a couple biking and walking safety “spot improvements” as a consolation prize for people hoping the busy east-west neighborhood street would become safer to navigate. These included improved crossings at Ashworth, Densmore, Bagley, 2nd Ave NE and Latona.

But then as COVID-19 threw city budgets into question, SDOT cancelled the spot improvements. As a result, they simply repaved the street and prioritized car parking over safety.

Photo of N 50th Street with the words "Seattle Car Master Plan" on it.

In 2019, I used N 50th Street as the cover image for an imagined “Seattle Car Master Plan.”

But at least most of 40th has a bus route that can benefit from the paving investment. That’s more than can be said for N 50th Street. I don’t understand how this street made it to the top of SDOT’s priority list for paving. It does not carry any bus routes, and the team did not even try to make any real safety improvements. There’s no equity benefit, no safety benefit, no transit benefit, and no neighborhood improvement benefit. They simply repaved a street through a neighborhood without making it any easier or safer to navigate. Unlike safety projects require years of planning and advocacy and long master plans with lengthy justifications, cars-first projects like N 50th Street don’t need to demonstrate any tie-in with the city’s stated goals. I wrote a slightly tongue-in-cheek argument back in 2019 arguing that the city needs a Car Master Plan, and I used N 50th Street for the imagined cover image:

Without a Car Master Plan, many of Seattle’s biggest transportation investments are being spent without a clear focus on how these public projects will help us reach our major climate change, race and social justice, public health, housing growth, and high-level transportation goals. All of the other modal master plans take these issues seriously, but those master plan projects are the exception to the rule at SDOT. The default mode of operation is that every inch of road space should go to cars unless an existing master plan says otherwise. And even then, those plans are only considered suggestions that can be ignored.

I’m particularly salty about this project because it’s near my house and I get angry every time I try to walk or bike along it or across it with my child because it’s terrifying. But there are streets exactly like this all over Seattle. The sidewalks are very skinny and right next to traffic, which is moving very quickly because there are multiple lanes in the same direction, a design SDOT knows is dangerous and leads to speeding. There are also long stretches without a safe crosswalk, which is frankly unethical for a transportation department to build. And after investing a lot of public money into this street, we still signs prohibiting people from crossing the street:

A four-lane street with a "no walking" sign.

Walking across SDOT’s brand new street is prohibited at 4th Ave NE near my home.

SDOT presentation slide with an illustration of how multiple lanes in the same direction are dangerous for people in crosswalks.

From an SDOT presentation about the NE 75th Street changes (same effect applies to N 50th Street). If the city knows this is dangerous, why didn’t they fix it when they repaved the street?

This project either should have received a safety update or the budget should have gone somewhere else. The task of achieving Vision Zero is far too vast to be investing in dangerous street designs like this.

And that brings us to the latest cut. SDOT just announced that they will not be repaving and redesigning Stone Way between 46th and 50th Streets due to “a change of funding availability due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other competing needs.” At least this time they are also cutting the paving project and not just the safety upgrades. But it’s more bike lane mileage that isn’t happening, adding to the city’s long list of bike plan cuts and delays. SDOT lists the work as “paused,” but there’s no timeline to resume.

But let me put on my infinite optimist hat for a second. In addition to cutting the bike lanes, the city also will not make improvements to the awful 5-way intersection at Stone, Green Lake Way and 50th. Maybe this is actually an opportunity for Seattle’s next mayor to do something really great. Because that intersection needs a very bold change, and it’s very clear that Mayor Durkan is not up to such a challenge.

Satelite map of the area around Green Lake Way between Aurora and Stone Way.

Idea: Delete Green Lake Way N between Aurora and Stone Way.

I gotta suggest my favorite idea, which comes from an old Seattle Bike Blog comment: Delete Green Lake Way between Aurora and Stone Way. The whole street, just gone. Then reconnect the neighborhood street grid and turn that awful 5-way intersection that absolutely everyone hates into a normal 4-way intersection. Do the same to the odd intersection with N 46th Street near Aurora. I am of course not a traffic engineer and don’t have the means to run all the traffic simulations and such, but I have a good feeling that this short diagonal street is causing a lot more traffic problems than it is solving. But I know for a fact it creates a lot of walkability and bikeability challenges. It’s so frustrating and stressful to cross, cutting off a lot of homes from easy access to neighborhood businesses, Woodland Park, and the nearby Rapidride E and Route 44 buses.

What’s really great about this idea is that even after reconnecting the neighborhood street grid, the city will have a lot of new developable land. This could be turned into park space, affordable housing, or sold to fund the road redesign project (or some mixture of these ideas).

This is all a long way of saying, We are getting a new mayor soon. We need a visionary leader who will stand up for our safety and climate goals and restore trust in SDOT’s ability to deliver on its promises. Rather than constantly looking for ways to scale back our city’s ambitions until they look like more of the same, our next mayor should challenge our city to think bigger and imagine a better world.

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Bad news for biking PNW travelers as BoltBus shuts down – UPDATED

MAJOR UPDATE: After posting yesterday and sending a question to FlixBus, the company announced that “ALL FlixBuses operating in the PNW are planned to have 🚲 racks available beginning July 14th!”

This is big news. FlixBus operates lines all over Washington and Oregon (and maybe to British Columbia when Canadian travel reopens?), even going places that BoltBus did not. Like Ellensburg, Spokane, Leavenworth and Wenatchee. For example, I can imagine FlixBusing to Ellensburg, then biking back to Seattle via the Palouse to Cascades Trail and camping along the way. This opens a lot of new opportunities for bike adventures.

You have to register a spot for your bike when you buy your ticket. No spots are available on the website yet, but hopefully that will change in the next few weeks.

Original post:

A bicycle in front of a BoltBus.

This old bike didn’t mind being shoved into the baggage compartment.

BoltBus was wonderful for three reasons: It was cheap. It ran multiple times a day. And they would let you shove your bike in the baggage compartment for free.

The bus service, owned by Greyhound, is apparently shutting down all its service across the continent, the Seattle Times reports. The official website says, “Effective 6/7/21 the BoltBus services are currently being operated by Greyhound in most markets while we undergo a few renovations.” But the Times reports that “Greyhound Lines, its parent company, has scuttled the BoltBus brand and has no plans to get it going again.”

As just a bus service, it wasn’t too remarkable. Greyhound, Amtrak and FlixBus also travel to many of the same destinations. But its lax attitude about bringing bicycles is what made it an amazing way to travel between major Pacific Northwest cities on a very low budget. So not only did you save some bucks on transporting a bike, but you also didn’t have to pay for transportation when you got there.

The Amtrak Cascades is still the best way to travel with your bike in the Pacific Northwest. They have bike storage in their baggage car, and you just have to pay a fee to reserve one of the spots. But the train schedule is limited, and tickets are a bit more expensive.

If you want to bring a bike on a Greyhound bus, they make you box it up and charge you a significant oversize baggage fee. The hassle plus the fee essentially make it impractical to bring your bike on the Greyhound, especially if your plan was to bike to the bus, then hop on your bike to get around your destination. Bike boxes are big and unwieldy, and many people don’t know how to disassemble and reassemble their bikes quickly on a downtown sidewalk. It’s an impractical limitation that essentially makes Greyhound buses off-limits for bike travel unless it’s truly the only option.

You can also take FlixBus, a service that sounds a lot like Boltbus and that even has an option you can check to bring a bike. The problem is that no trips seem to have an open bike space (suggesting that the Seattle-based buses don’t actually have bike racks). Former Mayor Mike McGinn and I had a Twitter exchange with FlixBus in 2019, and the company said it hoped to install bike racks on the Seattle-based buses in early 2020. But then, you know, some things happened that may have sidelined that work. Hopefully Flixbus does add those bike racks to the Seattle routes, because then it could be a great option. And since they also go to Ellensburg and Spokane, there are even more opportunities for FlixBus bike adventures.

But there was something great about just shoving your bike into the baggage area of a Boltbus. Sure, it was hardly the tender loving care many might prefer, but there was no extra fee and no need to reserve a spot. Just bike up, shove it in, and go. Then straighten out your bent fender when you get to your destination, and bike away. Sometimes you just don’t need to overthink these things.

Do you have a favorite way to travel to other big Pacific Northwest cities with a bike? Let us know in the comments below.

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Transit returns to full-capacity this week

Transit is back. Over the next couple days, agencies around the region will relax many of their COVID precautions as the bulk of Washington State’s restrictions end.

Like many of you, I’ve still been treating transit as an essential-trips-only service. I didn’t want to take a limited spot from someone who needed it more than I did. If biking was a practical option, I biked. I have taken the bus a handful of times, but it hasn’t been a regular part of my transportation mix like it was before the pandemic.

But now I am vaccinated, and so are more than 70% of eligible King County residents. It’s time for transit to reopen to full capacity and regain its place as the go-to way to get around town (well, other than biking and walking of course).

Riders will still have to wear masks and give the bus driver space (I mean, you should have been giving the bus driver space even before the pandemic), but the signs blocking off every other bus seat will be going away. Perhaps most importantly, buses will allow passengers until they reach normal capacity limits. This makes relying on transit much more practical for more people and more trips because it really sucks to get passed up by a full bus.

Many lines are still operating at reduced service levels compared to 2019, so if you haven’t been taking the bus since the pandemic started, you may find that your every-7-minutes bus is now a 15-minute bus (or your 15-minute bus is now every 30 minutes). So check the schedule.

I understand that many people probably still feel anxious about getting on a crowded bus. This has been a traumatic time, and feeling wary of crowds seems very natural. The good news it that studies have not found much evidence linking transit use with the spread of COVID even before vaccines. I hope these results hold as capacity increases, though the fact that the cities studied (like New York) have very high transit use gives me hope.

Chart shows no correlation between increasing bus ridership and COVID cases in New York.

Starting in mid-April, there is no apparent correlation between increasing bus ridership and COVID numbers in New York. Chart from “Public Transit and COVID-19 Pandemic: Global Research and Best Practices” by Sam Schwartz Consulting.

Continue reading

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Watch: Riding the new Green Lake bike lanes

Before and after photos at Green Lake Way and Ravenna Boulevard..Crews are nearly finished upgrading one of the most important bike routes in Seattle. East Green Lake Way N may have a terribly confusing name, but it forms a hub of sorts for north end bike routes. The Interurban North regional bike route and routes from Greenwood, Northgate, Ravenna, the U District, Wallingford and Fremont all lead to Green Lake. It’s also among the few flat options in the area.

I filmed a bike tour of the new lanes that walks through many of the changes and the history behind them. Watch above.

Before the upgrade, the street had a skinny paint-only bike lane that disappeared in many places. Especially when the lake was busy, biking northbound could be a stressful experience as people would often drive across the bike lane to turn or park. And the worst was when people would swerve into the bike lane to pass a car waiting to make a left turn. The bike lane also completely or mostly disappeared at bigger intersections like Ravenna Boulevard, Green Lake Drive N and West Green Lake Way N.

So when SDOT went to repave the street, they also fully reimagined how the bike route works. Three vital intersections got major remakes, and the northbound bike lane has shifted to the west side of the street to create a two-way bikeway. Though one-way bike lanes on either side of the street are typically preferred, this is a good example of an exception to that rule. Because the lake side of the street has far fewer driveways, placing both bike lanes on that side dramatically reduces the conflict points for people biking northbound. Continue reading

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Watch: City Council candidates debate safe streets and transit

Candidates for the open City Council Position 9 seat debated safe streets and other walking, biking and transit issues yesterday during a Move All Seattle Sustainably forum. Nikkita Oliver, Brianna Thomas and Sara Nelson attended. As with the recent mayoral forum, Erica C. Barnett moderated. Watch below (you can read the automated transcript with video time stamps here).

The August 3 primary is coming up quickly, and ballots will be mailed July 14. If you have moved recently, the easiest way to vote is to register or change your address online ASAP so that your ballot is mailed to the correct place on July 14. The deadline to register or change your address online in King County is July 26, though you can register and vote in-person through Election Day.

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State will no longer revoke driver’s licenses due to failure to pay fines

Excerpt of the court decision.

Excerpt of the court decision (PDF).

Washington State is reinstating about 100,000 people’s driver’s licenses after Thurston County Superior Court found it unconstitutional to revoke a license due to failure to pay a fine or appear in court for a non-criminal moving violation. The state’s Department of Licensing will not appeal the decision.

Though it may seem counterintuitive at first, this is good news for traffic safety in our state. Revoking a license should be reserved for people who have demonstrated that they are a serious danger behind the wheel and pose a threat to public safety. It should absolutely not be used as a way to further punish people for being poor.

One of the biggest challenges to stopping repeat dangerous drivers is how to stop them from continuing to drive regardless of the status of their license. It is not a great idea to pack prisons full of bad drivers, but there needs to be some significant deterrent for the small percentage of people who continue making dangerous decisions such as repeat DUI drivers. One such deterrent is to make it a significant offense to drive with a suspended license.

However, when licenses can be suspended solely due to failure to pay a fine, then the penalty for driving with a suspended license becomes a penalty for being poor. That is not at all what that infraction should be trying to accomplish. The act of driving even though a court has decided you are too dangerous to drive is a serious threat to public safety. Driving without paying a ticket is not a serious public safety threat. These acts should never be treated as equal.

Michelle Baruchman at the Seattle Times summed up the problem well:

Previously in Washington, a driver who received a speeding ticket or another kind of moving violation, could pay the fine or request a hearing. If the individual either did not respond to the citation or failed to appear in court, their driver’s license would be suspended.

People caught driving with a suspended license for noncriminal offenses were charged with a misdemeanor crime that led to 90 days in jail or another $1,000 fine — adding to existing debt and making it harder for drivers to get their licenses back, [ACLU Senior Staff Attorney John] Midgley said.

In its complaint, the ACLU argued the “severe and life-altering” impacts of the law would often “trigger a cascading set of adverse consequences” felt acutely by people with lower incomes. Wealthier individuals could retain their licenses “even though they are guilty of the exact same infractions.”

The court decision effectively speeds up a change that was already coming. A new state law that takes effect January 2023 will rewrite the conditions for having a license revoked. Senate Bill 5226, passed earlier this year, removes failure to pay as a reason to revoke a license. However, the new law retains failure to appear in court as a reason.

Having your license suspended should mean something. Licenses should be entirely about a driver’s demonstrated ability to operate a car safely. If a license is revoked, it should be due to that person’s past dangerous decisions behind the wheel and nothing else.

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Cascade will host an August (not so) Chilly Hilly

Chilly Hilly logo, an ice cream cone with people biking up the swirls. With iconic images of dozens of people biking off the ferry together, Cascade Bicycle Club’s Chilly Hilly ride has signaled the start of the bike events season for nearly half a century. As the name suggests, the February ride around Bainbridge Island is often cold and rainy, though riders warm up quickly pedaling up the many long climbs around the beautiful island just across Elliott Bay.

Chilly Hilly 2020 was held just days before the pandemic shutdown began. The 2021 ride was cancelled due to pandemic restrictions this winter, but now the club is trying to make up for lost time by holding the ride August 1. This will make it the only Cascade major event that will not have missed a year. It also sets up Chilly Hilly 2022 to be the 50th Anniversary ride.

Chilly Hilly rarely (never?) hits its rider cap, but that might not be the case this year. There are only 2,500 spots, and those might sell out for an August 1 event. There is no day-of registration, and registration closes July 23.

More details from Cascade:

Traditionally the start of the riding season in the Northwest, Chilly Hilly returns in 2021 as a summertime spin for its 49th year. The 33-mile route around Bainbridge Island starts with a scenic early morning ferry ride across Puget Sound from Seattle, or you can join the crowd directly on Bainbridge Island. Join us for the ride Bicycling Magazine named “one of four classic rides” in the nation. It’s guaranteed to be hilly (though a lot less chilly) and always a heck of a lot of fun. So get the dust off your bike and get ready to tackle some hills and enjoy some chilly treats in town afterwards!

Registration Includes:

  • A scenic cruise on a Washington State Ferry (Seattle start)
  • Free food stop at Battle Point Park
  • Route support
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Watch: MASS Coalition hosts transportation-focused mayoral forum

The Move All Seattle Sustainably Coalition — which includes many organizations including Disability Rights Washington, Cascade Bicycle Club, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways and the Transit Riders Union — hosted a mayoral forum Wednesday evening focused on walking, biking and transit issues. You can watch the whole thing above or on the Cascade Bicycle Club Facebook page.

Unfortunately, every candidate did not attend. Perhaps most notably, Colleen Echohawk was not there. But you can hear from Lorena Gonzáles, Jessyn Farrell, Andrew Grant Houston, Bruce Harrell and Lance Randall. The excellent Erica C. Barnett moderated.

UPDATE: The coalition’s City Council Position 9 forum is June 22. You can register via Zoom here.

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Support for repealing all-ages helmet law grows as Health Board begins debate

Logos of endorsing organizations.

Logos of endorsing organizations from the Helmet Law Working Group’s letter to the Board of Health.

The list of organizations backing a proposal to repeal King County’s all-ages bicycle helmet law includes many local bicycling and safe streets groups like Seattle Neighborhood Greenways and Cascade Bicycle Club as well as national organizations like People for Bikes and the League of American Bicyclists. This momentum comes as the King County Board of Health is set Thursday to begin deliberating a change to their rare regulation making it a ticketable offense for anyone to ride a bicycle without a helmet.

Real Change, Cascade and Greenways worked together over the past year to convene the Helmet Law Working Group made up of 18 people all researching best practices, the effectiveness of the law and its unintended consequences. Together, they put together a nuanced and meticulously-researched 40-page report.

The group does not recommend against wearing a helmet or deny the effectiveness of wearing a helmet when a collision occurs. Instead, it focuses entirely on the law, especially data showing that police are far more likely to stop Black people and people experiencing homelessness for bicycle helmet violations.

“In Seattle, nearly half of all helmet citations since 2017 were issued to people experiencing homelessness,” the group wrote. “Since 2003, Black cyclists in Seattle have received citations at a rate 3.8 times higher, Indigenous cyclists 2.2 times higher, and Hispanic/Latino cyclists 1.4 times higher than white cyclists. Differences in helmet use between populations cannot explain these disparities.”

This disparity in enforcement is reason enough to repeal this law.

Helmet use is too easy for officers to use as pretense for a stop. If they want to harass someone due to their race or homelessness status, the lack of helmet gives them an easy and legal excuse to do so. Well-to-do white people can already bike helmet-free around Seattle without fear of getting stopped by police. The data above does not even represent all the times officers used the helmet law as a reason to stop someone but did not end up issuing a ticket. But every police stop is an opportunity for a person to end up trapped in the so-called justice system or become the victim of police violence. Biking without a helmet simply is not an offense worthy of a police stop. Continue reading

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Council proposal would make Stay Healthy Streets permanent, extend Café Streets through 2022

The author and child in front of a Stay Healthy Street sign.The City Council has proposed $2.5 million to make many of the city’s Stay Healthy Streets permanent and another $300,000 to fund the popular Café Streets program through 2022 as part of the $128 million Seattle Rescue Plan to “kick start the city’s recovery,” according to a City Council presentation (PDF).

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways celebrated the news and put together a handy online form you can use to voice your support for the funding. The form letter also supports an amendment from Councilmember Lisa Herbold “to use future funding to make Keep Moving Streets permanent on Alki Point, Green Lake, and Lake Washington Boulevard.”

More details from Seattle Neighborhood Greenways:

Great news! Seattle City Council just proposed $2.5 million to make Stay Healthy Streets permanent, as well as $300,000 to fund Cafe Streets through 2022! Act now to:

  • Thank Seattle City Councilmembers for funding Stay Healthy Streets and Cafe Streets to help ensure that the funding isn’t removed.
  • Ask them to support Councilmember Herbold’s amendment to use future funding to make Keep Moving Streets permanent on Alki Point, Green Lake, and Lake Washington Boulevard.

Stay Healthy Streets Continue reading

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WSDOT won’t work with SDOT to connect the Rainier Valley Greenway to the I-90 Trail

Photo of the end of the road. A grassy hill with a well-trodden path lies beyond the street.

Where the greenway ends. 28th Ave S just north of S Massachusetts Street.

For years, WSDOT has resisted working with Seattle to connect the Rainier Valley Neighborhood Greenway to the Mountains to Sound Trail (AKA the I-90 Trail), according to reporting by Ryan Packer for the Urbanist. Packer requested emails between the two public agencies to uncover why this final connection remains incomplete years after the rest of the route opened, and his findings are extremely frustrating.

The needed connection is very short, spanning a half a block at most from where 28th Ave S abruptly ends and the regional trail just a couple hundred feet beyond. The land the path needs to travel through is already flattened down by people walking and biking across the grass, a clear sign that a pathway is needed here. Also known as “cow paths,” informal walking paths like these show transportation agencies where unmet facilities exist in the communities they serve.

Project map from 2017.

This 2017 construction notice said the “pathway improvement” was coming in 2018.

Photo looking south at the grassy area where the path should go.

Looking south toward the greenway’s end (photo taken in 2016, but the area sadly hasn’t changed much).

This grass is part of WSDOT’s lid over I-90, which created Sam Smith Park and is home to the I-90 Trail. The I-90 Trail is a major transportation facility of regional importance that includes investments from many agencies along its route including WSDOT. The trail connects some of the state’s largest employment and residential areas. Yet Packer’s reporting shows that WSDOT has put up major road blocks for at lease half a decade to prevent SDOT from building a short trail connecting the local biking and walking network in southeast Seattle to this regional backbone.

“A set of emails obtained by The Urbanist reveal the long battle between SDOT and WSDOT to come to an agreement around use of the property,” Packer reports. “That battle has continued into 2021, when a lease agreement was on the verge of being signed between the state and the city early this year, but city staff were surprised to find that the proposed agreement would have committed SDOT to paying nearly $24,000 per year to WSDOT in perpetuity (tied to inflation) after paying to design construct the trail connection itself.” Continue reading

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Sunday: Celebrate the new Union Street bike lanes

People with bike trailers hauling lots of food up the hill in a bike lane.

The Union Street bike lanes being used to haul freight up the hill. Riders, led by Joseph Roberts, on a Pedaling Relief Project food rescue mission, delivering donations from PCC to the Byrd Barr Place food bank. We hauled 675 pounds of food that day.

East Union Street now has protected bike lanes from 14th to 26th Avenues, providing a lower-stress way to climb the unavoidable ridge that peaks around 18th and 17th Avenues through the Central District.

Before the new lanes were installed, skinny paint-only bike lanes appeared and disappeared seemingly at random along the route. Now they are consistent, traveling between the sidewalk and parked cars. The bike lanes also calm traffic, which can get going pretty fast down the steep hill. People driving used to swerve into painted bike lanes to pass turning cars (and cars stopped to let people cross the street). The new design makes crossing the street significantly more comfortable.

The bike lanes are well-used heading up the hill. Downhill use is a bit more mixed, which makes sense. People who already bike in the area are used to bombing down Union’s steep hill. The new bike lane requires users to brake and go a little slower. I don’t see this as a problem, though. People have choices now. If you like bombing the hill, take the lane like before. But if you’d rather take your time, then use the bike lane. It’s great to have different options for different people.

Project map.

From SDOT.

Thanks to people who pushed back on the original design, the bike lanes continue through the intersection with 23rd Avenue. This provides a comfortable bike connection for people traveling from east of 23rd, but it also provides a connection to the many destinations at the intersection itself.

To celebrate the new bike lanes, Central Seattle Greenways is inviting everyone for a Sunday ride. Meet 10:30 a.m. at the little park at 15th and Spring. Details from Central Seattle Greenways: Continue reading

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N 34th Street bike lanes fix some of the challenges near the Fremont Bridge

Project map.Person biking in the new bike lane facing west just past Stone Way.The latest upgrade to the bike connections around the Fremont Bridge make some very significant improvements, though larger solutions are still needed to make it truly comfortable for people of all ages and abilities.

The Burke-Gilman Trail is the region’s busiest bike trail, and it travels under the Fremont Bridge, which is the region’s busiest bridge for biking. So connecting the two is a very obvious, high-demand need of regional importance.

The biggest changes are new protected bike lanes for most of N 34th Street between Fremont Ave and Stone Way, an extended bike lane for people biking north across the bridge, and a much larger sidewalk extension for trail users at Stone Way. These are all significant improvements.

N 34th Street already had painted bike lanes, but they were fairly skinny. Worst of all, the westbound lane was located in the door zone of parked cars and was often blocked by people making deliveries or dropping off passengers. The redesigned bike lanes make these few blocks much more comfortable.

New larger sidewalk extention where the Burke crosses Stone.Large numbers of people transfer from the Burke-Gilman Trail to N 34th Street and Stone Way, making that intersection one of the most important and complicated intersections in the city’s bike network. Trail users often stack up on both sides of the intersection waiting f0r the walk signal. So SDOT significantly extended the sidewalk and curb near Solsticio Café, providing more protected space for people to wait and to navigate around each other. Continue reading

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Final stretch of E Lake Sammamish Trail under construction, signalling the end of 4 decades of fighting

Map of the trail segments. “If the trail is built, say the neighbors, it would violate their property rights and privacy, and would be challenged in court,” wrote the Seattle Daily Times in 1982 in a story about King County’s plan to convert the defunct rail line along the east side of Lake Sammamish into a walking and biking trail.

The rail line in question is part of the same historic line that had become the Burke-Gilman Trail just a few years prior, which was a huge and immediate success. King County was looking to repeat that success further down the line.

But that threat of legal challenge was very much real, and the owners of the extremely valuable lakefront property had more than enough money to fund as many legal battles as possible to delay or stop the trail. And they did, even taking the case to the doors of the U.S. Supreme Court in 2019. The highest court in the nation declined to hear their appeal, finally ending nearly four decades of legal threats and actions.

Paving the East Lake Sammamish Trail was first put to King County voters as part of a 1982 parks bond measure. Of course, it may not have taken this long had voters actually approved that bond measure, which failed alongside every tax measure on the ballot. It’s hard to imagine a parks measure failing these days, but the early 80s were not a good time for tax measures. Continue reading

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City puts final touches on important José Rizal Bridge bike lanes

Seattle is working to catch up on bike projects after Mayor Jenny Durkan paused or cancelled nearly all bike plans during the first half or so of her term. And though it may be nearly impossible to completely make up for lost time, SDOT has been working on many significant bike improvements. So stay tuned for more coverage of new bike infrastructure around town, a lot of which is really exciting.

People biking in the new bike lanes with downtown in the background.A bus stops at a bus stop next to the bike lane. First up, the José Rizal Bridge just got a major upgrade with new protected bike lanes. The lines have been painted for months, but the city installed the plastic pylons this week.

The relatively short project connects from King Street in the International District to S Charles Street on Beacon Hill. From Charles, people can either continue south up Golf Drive S to 14th and 15th Avenues S, head west to 12th Ave S, or head east to take the connection to the Mountains to Sound Trail.

The bridge is one of the most important bike pinch points for many southend bike routes. So while the length is short, the importance of the connection is huge. Not only will the bike lanes make biking more comfortable, but it should also dramatically reduce the number of people biking on the sidewalks to avoid the often fast traffic.

Oh, and traffic should be calmer and safer, too. SDOT data shows that during the 13 years from 2004 to 2017, there were 15 collisions with people walking or biking at the intersection with S Weller Street, 24 collisions between Weller and Charles, and 5 at the Charles intersection. 44 people in just 13 years. That’s why SDOT saw this project as not just a bike lane project, but a Vision Zero project. The bike lanes help narrow the driving space to reduce dangerous passing and speeding. It also means that anyone crossing the street, including people trying to access these busy bus stops, will have a shorter distance to cross. If it works as well as it should, then every three or four months from now on a person will be spared a potentially life-threatening collision near this bridge. Continue reading

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Alert: Interurban North Trail will close for 10 months near Lynnwood Transit Center

Map of the closure and detour.Construction to prepare Lynnwood Transit Center for light rail and build a parking garage will close the Interurban North Trail between 52nd Ave W and 44th Ave W for two years starting May 12, according to Sound Transit.

This is a significant change from the initial closure schedule announced in the fall, which anticipated only two months of closures in 2021 and six months in 2022.

The detour route is unchanged from the initial announcement. It includes a busy stretch of 200th St SW and the sidewalk of 44th Ave W (there is no curb cut from 44th to the trail, so the sidewalk is the only option unless Sound Transit adds a ramp). I suspect most users will use the sidewalk on both 200th St and 44th Ave in both directions, even though it’s really not wide enough for heavy mixed use. Cedar Valley Rd and 52nd Ave W both have painted bike lanes.

The Interurban North Trail is the primary bike route from Everett to Seattle and points in between, following the right-of-way from a former electric streetcar line (this is the “Interurban” those statues in Fremont are waiting for). The last train ran in 1939, and many parts of the right-of-way have since been chopped up, especially by the construction of I-5. Surviving sections serve as vital sections of an important regional bike route, but there is a lot of work to do to make it a complete route comfortable for people of all ages and abilities to use.

Details from Sound Transit: Continue reading

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Hey you! Yes, you. Plan a group bike ride!

Screenshot of the Seattle Bike Blog event submission form.

Submit your event details to the Seattle Bike Blog Events Calendar.

Marley Blonsky put out a call recently that I support completely: Seattle needs you to plan a group ride.

The pandemic all but erased the Seattle Bike Blog Events Calendar, which was of course the right thing to do. But things are finally changing. At least locally, vaccine rates are climbing, hospitalizations are falling, the weather is warming, and public health guidance on outdoor gatherings has eased. It’s time to allow yourself to have some community fun again.

Marley wrote something that really resonated with me:

“Please, I’m begging you – take a risk, step out of your comfort zone and plan a ride, bike party, alley cat, or charity ride! Nobody holds the keys to bike culture – together we can shape an inclusive community that reflects our values.”

Even before the pandemic, hosting a bike event was a fun way for people who have never organized anything before to give it a try. Bike events typically don’t need permits and can often be hosted for $0. There are a lot of people out there simply looking for something to do that is out of the ordinary, and your idea might fit the bill. There are so many different people who bike in Seattle that whatever ride sounds fun to you probably will appeal to others, too. That’s how community grows and gets stronger.

Just because you have never hosted an event or are not a member of a bike club, that doesn’t mean you can’t host a bike ride. And bike rides do not need to be about biking. Whatever theme or concept appeals to you is great.

Portland just started their annual Pedalpalooza community-hosted bike ride series, which will have a handful of rides every day for the next three months. It’s a really cool tradition that their city and the organization Shift 2 Bikes has developed over many years, and they have great resources on how to host a ride.

Most importantly, be clear about your ride style intentions. If you are going to ride fast, say so in your description. Likewise, if you say you are going to welcome riders of all levels, then make plans to be certain your ride does not drop people (such as designating a “sweep” who knows the route and can bring up the rear in case folks fall behind).

Anyone can post events for free to the Seattle Bike Blog Events Calendar (it should also be less buggy now, so if you tried in the past and it didn’t work, give it another shot). But you should seek additional avenues for promoting your event, such as social media or flyers, etc.

COVID guidance

Continue reading

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‘This is normal’ – Woman harasses NorthStar Cycling leader while he is biking to a Hood Canal gravel road

Heading out on your bike for a holiday weekend in search of a quiet gravel road is one of the best ways to get away. But as Edwin Lindo’s experience this weekend shows, racism follows people into the woods. And even when an incident does not end up in violence, the threat alone can dampen even a beautiful sunny ride.

Lindo is a founder of NorthStar Cycling, which was recently featured in Time Magazine as “an example of “How Communities of Color Have Found Strength, Joy and Comfort in a Year Like No Other.” Additionally, Lindo is the Assistant Dean for Social & Health Justice at UW and a founder of Estelita’s Library on Beacon Hill. He posted a video to Twitter Saturday about an encounter he had with a woman who yelled at him for biking on the street in front of her home to access the gravel road. As a result, he had to continue his ride unsure whether she called the police (or some good old boys). But he ends the video by saying, “This is normal. This is how it works.”

Here’s the transcript of his video: Continue reading

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Did the WA Supreme Court just gut press protections for many independent journalists?

In Washington State, a news corporation now has more free press protections than an independent journalist. That seems to be the outcome of a somewhat surprising Washington Supreme Court decision this week, which potentially gutted the state’s Shield Law that protects journalists from prosecution for refusing to reveal their sources or turn over notes and other unpublished materials (with some exceptions).

By a 7-2 decision (PDF) in Green v. Pierce County, the majority determined that Brian Green’s YouTube channel Libertys Champion does not meet the definition of “news media” as defined by the 2007 Shield Law (RCW 5.68.010). Green’s case was not even about the Shield Law, but this ruling seems to set a precedent in how the Shield Law is interpreted.

Green was seeking certain public records from Pierce County that are protected from disclosure except to news media (RCW 42.56.250 section 8). Pierce County denied that part of his request, claiming that he and his YouTube channel don’t meet the definition of “news media.” Green filed a suit, and that case made it all the way to the WA Supreme Court. The Appellate Court sided with Green, but the Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision.

The most worrying part of the decision is not the reduced access to public disclosure (though that’s obviously bad), it’s that now anyone reporting news without the cover of a corporation or other organization (like a school) is exposed to prosecution if they refuse to reveal sources. Police could also much more easily subpoena unpublished materials like unedited notes, photos, videos and other materials.

This is not an imaginary or far-fetched scenario. It nearly happened last summer. Seattle Police sought and obtained a subpoena to force major news organizations in town to turn over reporters’ unpublished photos and videos from the summer protests. I helped organize a group of 27 independent journalists working in town calling on the city to drop the subpoenas. Because while only major organizations were targeted at the time, the threat was chilling for independent journalists without the resources to fight in court:

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

The city eventually dropped the subpoenas amid public backlash, but those major organizations were certainly going to use the Shield Law in their legal appeals had the case moved forward. Now because of Green v. Pierce County, independents might not have such a protection at all. Continue reading

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