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Updated: 11 weeks 1 day ago

My family lives in a house in our friends’ backyard + What ADUs can (and can’t) fix in our city

Mon, 07/01/2019 - 18:04

I live in my friends’ backyard along with my spouse Kelli and 16-month-old daughter. We all worked together (well, the baby didn’t really help) to build a new house where a carport and patchy weed-filled yard was previously. And in the end it cost about as much or maybe a bit less than buying a lower-end condo of comparable size, though it could have been a bit cheaper had the city’s very strange building codes been improved.

And that’s exactly what the Seattle City Council unanimously did today. Congratulations to everyone who worked for years to get this passed (Full disclosure: My spouse Kelli is a legislative aid to ordinance sponsor Mike O’Brien).

After going through this whole years-long process to design, permit, finance and build our backyard house under the existing rules, I have some insight into what it takes to make projects like this happen. It was more difficult, took longer and cost more than I had originally expected. But much of that work was fun, and I am so happy with how it all turned out. And with these new rules making many of the steps easier, there are a lot of people who will find building backyard houses useful for many different reasons, such as:

  • People partnering to share a property that they could not afford on their own. As a bonus, you get to be neighbors!
  • People looking to generate extra monthly income.
  • People hoping to age in their own neighborhood by downsizing into new smaller houses in their backyards and renting the main house.

In-fill housing like backyard cottages and basement apartments are an especially great way to increase the number of people who can live in our city’s bikeable, walkable and transit-connected neighborhoods. Though this blog is focused mostly on transportation, that issue in intimately connected to land use. The way we build our communities determines how far people need to travel to meet their needs. Biking is one big way to cut costs, but that only works if your home is within biking distance of your needs. A lot of houses in so-called “single family” neighborhoods are a bit far from necessities by foot, but a very easy distance by bike. Biking and backyard houses go together perfectly.

But I also think it’s important to understand the inherent challenges to building homes this way.

If you are partnering on such a project, you will find that financing can be very tricky. Mortgage lenders do not like non-standard arrangements or small-scale co-ops (our initial idea). You’ll also need a pretty special group with the willingness to break that ancient rule: Never do business with friends. And, of course, this is not exactly a system that can scale well since every group will likely need to create an arrangement that works best for their unique situations and needs.

If someone already owns the property, they need to be willing to dedicate some of their space to build an ADU. While it’s great that those who want to make this trade-off now have that option, I’m guessing only a small percentage of homeowners will choose to do so.

A city study estimates that under the new rules people will build 2,400 more backyard cottages in the next ten years for a total of 4,400 extra ADUs.

It’s also important to point out that this rule change alone is not a replacement for subsidized housing programs or rent stabilization policies to help lower-income folks obtain or stay housed. Basement apartments are often on the cheaper end of market-rate housing options in a neighborhood, and these rules will make it easier to create those. That is a great and possibly under-celebrated element of these changes. Many people have underutilized basements just sitting there collecting spiders and holiday decorations. That could be someone’s home (and in my experience living in such a basement apartment, the spiders will not be displaced).

But I doubt new backyard stand-alone houses are going to be low-end. They will certainly cost a fraction of what it would take to buy a whole house in the same neighborhood. But even if you were to make lower-cost decisions all along the way, the baseline cost of building a new house is significant. This is especially true when contractors (and sub-contractors) are in such high demand as they are around here these days. Simply finding a contractor who would consider a project of this size was a serious challenge.

A backyard house is one more home, which takes one more potential bidder or applicant out of the market for other homes in the city. Anyone bidding on low-end Capitol Hill co-op units won’t have to compete with us now, for example. But though that’s certainly part of the solution, “trickle-down” housing policy on its own is not going to make the city affordable for lower-income people and families or help people struggling today. We still need to make major public investments in subsidized housing, and we still need to better protect people who are struggling to keep up with their rising housing costs.

I love this ADU legislation, but don’t for a second think that this work is over.

Ultimately, these rule changes should not have been this difficult or this big of a deal. It’s one small relief valve for the city’s housing supply problem, but it’s not a complete solution. It’s the kind of thing the City Council should have simply passed in the normal course of city business years ago before moving on to other work. Part of me worries that the amount of effort and debate we’ve put into this has inflated its potential a bit. That’s perhaps the real impact of all those lawsuits. It wasn’t about stopping these rules in particular, it was about derailing progress on more significant rule changes like legalizing apartments in residential neighborhoods or allowing smaller lot divisions.

SDOT quietly deletes key section from southend bike lane at the last minute, misleads the public about the change

Fri, 06/28/2019 - 15:48

Photo taken May 31 shows that the bike lane ends before the intersection.

In yet another hit to the already sorely lacking southend bike network, SDOT quietly made a last-minute change to the Columbian Way paving project to remove an uphill section of protected bike lane as the road approaches Beacon Ave S. Neighbors didn’t know about the change until crews painting the planned bike lanes on the repaved street ended them half a block east of Beacon Ave S.

Just how quiet was this change? Even the project’s own communications and outreach staff didn’t seem to know about it as recently as June 6, according to emails sent to reader Matthew Snyder. Snyder had contacted the team May 29 as soon as he and other neighbors noticed the gap in the bike lane. A week later, SDOT staff sent this reply:

“We understand your concerns since striping is not yet completed. Crews are planning to complete striping on S Columbian Way / S Alaska St soon. Please see the attached PDF of the PBL plan where it shows that the PBL on S Columbian Way will continue through the intersection with Beacon Ave S. The plan also follows the City of Seattle’s protected bike lane intersection design standards. We hope that helps answer your questions.”

The document they sent was the 95% construction plan, which includes the complete bike lane neighbors thought was being constructed (the top image on this post). But the project engineers made a last-minute change to replace a block of the bike lane with sharrows, and they did so without any kind of public outreach or even public notice. They didn’t even bother to tell their own outreach staff or make sure information on the project website was updated to reflect the change.

Snyder, being a tenacious and engaged neighbor, was able to track down the 100% plans from the city’s contractor bidding website (the second image above). The team finally acknowledged in an email dated June 12 that the bike lane would “become a sharrow to make room for a right turn lane and traffic lane.”

This bike lane is among the only significant stretches of protected bike lanes SDOT currently plans in all of Southeast Seattle for the entirety of the Move Seattle Levy, despite consistent advocacy from all major advocacy organizations and the city’s own Bicycle Advisory Board urging the city to correct past injustices and invest heavily in the southend. And this gap greatly diminishes the effectiveness of this vital bike route. A bike route is only as comfortable as its least comfortable section. A missing gap like this is likely the difference between whether a family will use the lane with their kids or not, for example. This is the route from Columbia City to Jefferson Park and Mercer Middle School, for example. So eleven-year-olds are now supposed to just merge with car traffic every day while biking up a major hill to school?

Not only is the sabotaging of this bike lane extremely concerning, but the complete lack of public notice raises a lot of troubling questions. Compare the years of public outreach neighbors in wealthier, whiter Wedgwood received for planned bike lanes on 35th Ave NE as part of that repaving project to the complete disregard Columbia City and Beacon Hill neighbors received when SDOT decided to delete a key section of bike lane from this paving project. If there were arguments for removing this section of bike lane, people never had the opportunity to discuss them or advocate for a complete bike connection.

Mayor Jenny Durkan had contractors change the paving plan for 35th Ave NE after construction had already started to completely remove the planned bike lanes there. So we know she can add the bike lane back here. These sharrows are not good enough, and they do not meet the goals of the Bicycle Master Plan.

But this scandal also raises serious questions about SDOT’s trustworthiness. The public was clearly misled. The question is whether SDOT was lying or inept, neither of which is good. The department is investing public money into these projects, and the public has a right to know what they are building and when they make major changes to the core functionality of planned projects. And people in southeast Seattle have just as much right to know as people in northeast Seattle.

Construction the Missing Link core scheduled to start this year + Latest economic study wades deep into the absurd

Wed, 06/26/2019 - 13:46

Why we need to build this trail.

After adding another 66 pages to the peak of the Ballard Missing Link’s towering mountain of in-depth studies, Seattle is scheduled to start work on the core segment of the hard-fought trail this year.

Work is already underway on Market Street as part of a major road project that includes one third of the planned trail route as well as paving and transit improvements. That section, which more closely resembles a protected bike lane and complete streets project, was part of a big compromise deal former Mayor Ed Murray struck with industry leaders opposed to the initial route following the rail line between Shilshole Ave NW and the Locks.

Now the city has announced plans to begin work on Shilshole, perhaps the most controversial section of the project, after a court-required economic analysis (PDF) found, once again, that the project would not have an adverse impact on businesses. The additional study brings the total number of pages in just the final environmental impact study (“FEIS”) to 895. For a trail.

Work will now be broken into three phases. The Market Street phase is already under construction, the Shilshole phase is scheduled to begin this year and the NW 45th Street phase is scheduled to begin in 2020, My Ballard reports.

The 45th phase was separated from the Shilshole phase to consolidate all the work related to the rail line “while we continue to coordinate with Ballard Terminal Railroad,” SDOT Spokesperson Ethan Bergerson told My Ballard. Even though that rail line is hardly ever used, Federal laws provide a lot of protections for rail corridors still in use. And “in use” can mean just a handful of trips per year. The Ballard Terminal Railroad has been an appellant to the project in court.

NW 45th Street already has a temporary bikeway installed on the street, though crashes where the bikeway crosses the railroad tracks under the Ballard Bridge have continued to injure people. The final design would place the trail on the south side of the street, and the rail crossing would happen at the south end of Shilshole rather than under the bridge. With fresh pavement and a more purposeful 90-degree crossing angle, the new crossing should be much safer. But this work requires the city to make small changes to the railroad alignment. Let’s hope the BTR is not able to turn these small changes into another way to continue delaying a completed trail.

Economic study should finally put old arguments to rest

The latest economic analysis is a somewhat absurd document because it sets out to answer questions that are barely relevant to this trail project or within the realm of the city’s responsibility.

For example, one section tried to answer a persistent and baffling argument against the trail alleging that companies’ insurance policies would increase because of the project. But after report authors interviewed many insurance professionals, they determined that “insurance premiums would not change based solely on the completion of the Missing Link because insurance companies do not use proximity to a multi-use trail as a risk factor.”

Further, the authors found that “the possible economic impacts of potential risks from vehicle to bicycle/pedestrian traffic conflicts related to the Missing Link Project depend on two factors: the expected change in collisions and the assignment of fault.” They also had to research the impact of companies choosing to hire flaggers for trail crossings, possibly due to insurance liability concerns. The authors then state the obvious about the role of the trail project in these factors:

  • “We anticipate that completing the trail would lower the probability of collisions compared to existing conditions.” Because that’s the whole point of this project!
  • “Various laws and codes regulate the behavior of all the potentially at-fault parties and failure to comply may weigh towards a presumption of fault, but no law predetermines fault for collisions between vehicles and bicyclists or pedestrians.” Don’t break the law, and you won’t be found at fault for a collision. That seems pretty straight forward.
  • “There is no legal requirement for businesses to employ flaggers and/or spotters in response to the existence and normal operation of the BGT Missing Link.” Some businesses may choose to hire flaggers, and the study went into detail on how much these imaginary flaggers might get paid. But that’s the business’s choice. Trail crossings will be crosswalks like any other trail crossing, and there are many trails in town that professional drivers cross without flaggers. And, again, a business’s choice to hire flaggers is barely relevant to the city’s decision about whether to build this trail.

The study also found that insurance rates for companies along the route have already been increasing in recent years for a multitude of reasons that have nothing to do with this trail project. If there were a scenario in which insurance rates got too high for the businesses to operate, the trail would not be the reason.

But all of this should have been irrelevant to this study to begin with, as the authors note: “SEPA procedural provisions require the ‘consideration of ‘environmental’ impacts… that are likely, not merely speculative.'” The idea that a trail project team should even need to research potential insurance rate changes for businesses due to purely speculative collisions in which the professional drivers broke a law and are found at fault is just ridiculous. But this project blew past the phase of ridiculous long ago.

The authors also addressed a number of other random and sometimes bizarre concerns from businesses. “Some businesses and trade group representatives asserted that the psychological toll of the difficult operating environment will cause some businesses to move,” the authors wrote. I don’t even know where to begin with this one. You’re telling me that a business might find the existence of a biking and walking trail so psychologically troubling that they would have to move? I can’t even. But the authors do a good job of handling it professionally, writing:

“from an economic standpoint, we must assume that there is some financial benefit to operating out of their current locations or they would relocate. Attributing any relocation to psychological factors that are not fiscally motivated is inherently not an economic issue and outside the bounds of this analysis.”

And though the authors don’t go into it, if you want to talk about psychological tolls, let’s talk about the enduring trauma of people who have been and continue to be injured while biking through the Missing Link. GTFO.

We’ve clearly run out of things to argue about here. Time to build it and move on.

Lime and JUMP raise prices, city revokes 2,000 bike permits

Tue, 06/25/2019 - 13:24

Seattle’s ongoing experiment with private, free-floating bike share has changed the landscape for biking in the city, helping to raise city bike counts to record heights.

Bike share in Seattle has been unprecedentedly successful at increasing the raw number of bike trips taken in this city and growing the number of people who now consider biking as a transportation option for some trips or as a way to access transit.

The way the bike share services work has been evolving quickly and dramatically since launching in 2017. First there were $1 per ride pedal-only bikes from Spin, Lime and ofo. Then ofo and Spin left while Lime transitioned to e-assist bikes with an additional $0.15 per-minute rate. Then Uber’s JUMP brought their e-assist bikes and undercut Lime in price by charging the same $0.15 per minute, but without the $1 unlock fee.

The mid-2018 departure of ofo and Spin meant a significant reduction in the total bikes on the streets (nearly 10,000 in early 2018 vs 5,000 to 7,000 in early 2019) along with the increase in price due to the switch to e-assist bikes. SDOT data shows these changes did reduce the number of rides in the first quarter of 2019 compared to 2018:

Note that February 2019 was very snowy, so that big decline is likely a bit of an outlier. Graph from the Quarter 1 2019 bike share progress report (PDF).

Neither Lime nor JUMP have gotten close to hitting their permit limits of 6,667 bikes each. So current bike levels are unlikely to be affected by Seattle taking action against the companies for improperly reporting bike parking issues. As the Seattle Times’ Heidi Groover reported, the city penalized the companies by revoking 1,000 bike permits each.

Meanwhile, both Lime and JUMP have increased their per-minute rates to $0.25, which makes bike share less competitive by price compared to other options.

In summer 2017, a 30-minute bike share ride (without an electric assist option) would have cost $1. Today, it would cost $7.50 on JUMP or $8.50 on Lime (though with electric assist). Sure, the $1 fare was artificially low as companies competed intensely to gain users. Perhaps these prices are what is needed to make the business sustainable (companies don’t share that kind of information). But an up to 750% cost increase is pretty dramatic. For some trips, that could be more than the cost to hail a car, especially if there are multiple people. For people using these bikes every day, this could add up quickly.

The cost hikes come as companies are shifting focus nationally from bikes to scooters. The hikes also happened just before Lyft is supposed to launch their bike share service in Seattle (currently scheduled for “summer 2019,” according to SDOT).

Would a Lyft launch bring more competition and lower prices? Or are the days of very low-cost bike share rides over for good? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

One thing is certain: Seattle’s bike (and someday scooter?) share services will keep changing.

King County limits bikes on Vashon/West Seattle water taxis, bans many family bikes

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 18:26

Photo from King County showing a cargo bike that partially blocks the ramp.

In what is sure to be disappointing news to many readers, King County has announced that it will begin limiting the number and types of bikes allowed on its Vashon and West Seattle water taxis.

Bikes and water taxis go together extremely well, especially since driving to the water taxi makes very little sense and transit service is very limiting. In fact, that’s the problem. Biking to the water taxi has become too successful, and King County did not design the vessels with enough space to meet demand. So they will now be limiting each sailing to 26 bikes.

They also did not design the vessels with larger family and cargo bikes in mind, which is a pretty big problem for people who rely on those bikes since you can’t just park it at the dock and check out a Lime cargo bike when you get to Seattle (though wouldn’t that be cool?). This is a bit of a bummer for West Seattle users, but it’s potentially a huge problem for Vashon users. Family bikes don’t just carry multiple people, they also carry all the stuff that comes with them. They are larger than most one-person bikes, sure, but are they much larger than two bikes (one “bike” per person)? Three bikes? Two bikes plus a stroller? Sure, blocking the ramp like in the photo above isn’t good, but banning them entirely feels a bit extreme. I hope they exhausted all other options before arriving at this decision. We’re in the midst of a family biking boom in this region, and this rule change makes it harder for folks to use them.

As for overflow bike parking, obviously storing bikes in ways that block access to exits or railings is not an acceptable solution. But making the bike/water tax combo less dependable is also problematic. About half of West Seattle users and 30 percent of Vashon users surveyed said they have biked to the water taxi, which is pretty remarkable. And considering the region’s goal of increasing walking, biking and transit, this problem should be considered a good problem to have.

But the solution here has the potential of rolling back progress because it only hurts the reliability and usability of this service by people who have listened to King County’s encouragement campaigns to combine biking and transit. The taxis don’t run often enough to make waiting for the next boat a practical solution. If your bike won’t fit on the last of three Vashon water taxi sailings, for example, you now have a very long and unexpected bike ride (8 miles the very hilly way or 12 miles the less hilly way) ahead of you to use the Fauntleroy Ferry instead. You could also try putting your bike on a bus, though they only fit three bikes at a time and still take much longer than the water taxi.

Not knowing the options for creating more bike storage space on these vessels (which I assume is difficult), I’m not sure what the solution is here. But I do know that if people give biking to the water taxi a second thought due to this rule, that’s a loss for our region’s transportation goals. And capping the bikes also pretty much caps the potential growth for biking taxi users going forward.

The good news for Vashon users is that King County will be providing fairly secure bike parking at the Vashon Ferry dock that will be locked behind a fence between the morning and afternoon sailings. So if bike security was the factor holding you back from locking there and either walking, taking transit or using bike share in Seattle, the new bike parking may help. And the 26th person with a bike that sailing will grateful you made space.

More details from King County:

Biking and riding the water taxi go great together – like sunshine on the water. Whether for regular commuters or just for fun, it seems that with new styles of bikes the popularity is only growing.

Safety is our No. 1 priority for customers on the water taxi, and our crews have done a great job of keeping everyone safe on every voyage. Metro transit and water taxi services – buses and boats and bikes – support a healthy community and environmental sustainability through a car-free lifestyle.

In recent years we’ve seen demand growing for storing bikes onboard sailings, especially to and from Vashon Island during peak bicycle season. At times, this has created unsafe conditions for passengers when the demand exceeds the 26-bicycle capacity – leading customers to secure their bikes to handrails, or within walkways or doorways.

Sometimes customers also secure longer bicycles that can stretch well into walkways and block the exit ramp area. Bicycles that have wider cargo platforms also can exceed the space intended for standard size bicycles, which reduces the total capacity for bike storage per sailing.

After careful consideration focused on protecting the safety of customers, starting June 24 we will be limiting the number of bicycles per sailing on the Sally Fox and Doc Maynard to 26 bikes, and bikes must fit within the marked bike storage area. Up to 14 bikes will be allowed on Spirit of Kingston sailings.

Customers, bicycle riders helped with problem-solving

In 2018, Marine Division leadership determined it was time to address safety concerns and engaged riders in problem-solving. To better understand the needs and concerns of customers, we conducted two focus groups, including six bike riders in one group, and eight non-bike riders in a second group. Information from the focus groups was used to develop a survey which was shared in December 2018 on both Water Taxi routes.

We learned that riders are supportive of safety and agreed clearer information was needed around bicycle storage and capacity issues during sailings. Approximately half of those surveyed in West Seattle reported taking their bicycle onboard the water taxi; 29 percent of Vashon riders reported taking a bicycle on a sailing. The majority of West Seattle (81 percent) said they had no problem finding onboard storage for their bike; but that number was only 56 percent for Vashon riders. Most riders didn’t want to grant priority boarding or require a fee when traveling with a bicycle.

In April 2019, Water Taxi and Metro bicycle staff shared this information and consulted with a representative from the Cascade Bicycle Club and a member of the Vashon bicycle community who served on one of the focus groups.

With their guidance, and based on the recommendation from focus groups, a safety line recently was installed on the Sally Fox and Doc Maynard that depicts the maximum allowed length of a bicycle that can be safely secured in the onboard bike racks during sailings.

To help riders confirm that their bike is within the allowable dimensions, water taxi staff worked with Metro to create measuring boxes. One box is installed at Pier 52, and boxes also will be placed at the Vashon and West Seattle docks.

Alternatives for riders

Riders will have options if their bike is too long to bring onboard, or if there is no available storage space for their bike on a particular sailing.

On Vashon Island, riders can either wait for a subsequent water taxi sailing, board a WSF ferry to Fauntleroy, or store their bike at the bike rack provided by King County on the Vashon Island float. The bike rack and dock will be secured by locking the entrance gate by WSF after the last morning sailing on weekdays and remain locked when the water taxi is not in operation. The gate will be unlocked prior to the arrival/departure of the first afternoon sailing.

The Vashon route of the Water Taxi has three eastbound morning and three westbound afternoon sailings.  The 7:10 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. sailings and the 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. sailings generally represent the peak demand service to and from the island.

These trips to and from Vashon carry a range of 100-278 passengers. The sailings from Vashon at 6:10 a.m. and from Seattle at 6:30 p.m. typically have more bicycle stowage capacity.

Rules go into effect June 24

For the next week, crew members will be available to answer questions about the new bike safety policy, and touch base with riders who have concerns. Beginning June 24, crew members will be instructed to prevent bikes that are too long and overflow storage within walkways and in front of doors on the vessel and inform customers of their options in the event that on-board bicycle storage reaches capacity.

Metro and Water Taxi staff will monitor and assess the effectiveness of the new safety rules, and are open to considering refinements that maintain or further improve safety on our vessels.

Concerns or feedback can be shared with Water Taxi staff in person or through King County Metro customer service or by emailing watertaxi.info@kingcounty.gov.

Accessories

Some other notes for riders:

  • If a bicycle has a trailer equivalent in size to a standard baby stroller, it may be removed and brought inside the main deck cabin. Trailers and strollers may not impede egress or access on the vessel.
  • Any bicycle accessories that do not fit within the denoted space, must be removed from the bicycle and taken with the owner inside the cabin.
  • Complete policy will soon be posted on our water taxi website.

Saturday: Fremont Solstice naked/painted bike ride + How to join

Thu, 06/20/2019 - 11:30

Photo by John Cornicello (used with permission)

The annual Fremont Solstice Parade is Saturday, and you know what that means: It’s time to get naked, paint your body and crash the parade on your bike.

For about a quarter century, people have been biking ahead of the Fremont Solstice Parade in various states of nudity and body art. In the past decade, the number of participants has ballooned, and the ride has become an iconic cultural phenomenon in our city.

If you are going to watch, don’t even try to drive there. Biking is your best bet, of course. The bike ride starts at 1 p.m. and the official parade (which is also amazing and people-powered) starts at 1:30. Earlier this spring, the parade organizers announced that the bike ride would be after the official parade, but they have since changed their minds due to some logistical concerns. So the bike ride will go first as usual, but riders may not be looping around as they did in previous years.

If you want to join, there are two basic options: You can get painted up at your or a friend’s nearby home, or you can join the volunteer-run open painting party at CSR Marine. Both options are popular.

If you are painting on your own, meet at 3rd Ave NW and NW 36th Street at 1 p.m. ready to ride (don’t be too late or you will not be allowed to enter the route).

If you are joining the main painting party, doors open at 8:30 a.m., and you need to be finished by noon. The group then goes on a ride around Ballard before joining the parade route at 1. Bring $10 to donate to the cause. There are usually some random communal paints, but bringing your own paint and brush is usually best if you have a specific idea in mind.

Some tips:

  • This is a very public event, and there will be a lot of cameras. So be prepared for that.
  • Bring a way to transport clothes to the finish at Gas Works Park. Don’t expect to return to the start.
  • Put on sunscreen before the paint.
  • Spending a little extra on makeup paints like the Ben Nye brand is worth it. But if you are using cheaper paints (acrylics are common), just make sure they are non-toxic. More advice here.
  • Respect your fellow participants and look out for each other.
  • The ride includes lots of stopping and inching along in a big painted bike traffic jam (the world’s best kind of traffic jam). So be ready for that.
  • Bring a plastic bag or cover to protect your saddle (and, later, your pants) from paint.
  • Nude is not lewd. But seriously, don’t be lewd.
  • Express yourself and have fun!
2019 Solstice bike ride schedule

From the Solstice Cyclists website:

Friday
6:00-9:00 p.m. Set up at CSR Marine, 4701 Shilshole Ave NW.

Saturday
8:30-12:00 Painting at CSR Marine.

12:00-12:15 Organize for the ride and exit CSR Marine.  Take everything with you.  Gates close at 12:30 sharp.

12:15-1:00 Ride to parade through Ballard.

1:00-1:30 Enter the parade route.  Continue forward to Gasworks Park (we’re experimenting with no looping this year).

Sunday
11:00-5:00 Clean up at CSR Marine.

Painting parties

If you want to organize your own paint-up and you’re willing to share the experience with new friends, please post to SolCycles@yahoogroups.com.  Rendezvous at the start of the parade route (the corner of 3rd Ave NW and NW 36th St) by 1:00pm, painted and ready to kick off the parade!

See the page on the main paint party if you want to join the bulk of the riders in painting up.

Hundreds rally and ride downtown to protest cuts to safe streets projects

Tue, 06/18/2019 - 12:37

Hundreds of people rallied at City Hall then rode bikes, rolled in wheelchairs or walked down 4th Ave Sunday to protest recent cuts to safe streets projects.

The Ride For Safe Streets, organized by members of the Move All Seattle Sustainably coalition, came just days before the City Council Transportation Committee was scheduled to hear about Mayor Jenny Durkan and SDOT’s latest version of their short-term bike plan, which slashes the previous plan.

“Families of color should not need to drive their children to their neighborhood school just because the only routes available are too dangerous to walk or bike,” said Jen Grant from Familybike Seattle, who helped lead a Kidical Mass ride to the event.

“Too often, the disability community is pitted against biking and walking and safe streets advocates, we don’t want that to happen” said Anna Zivarts of Disability Rights Washington’s Rooted In Rights project. “We all need to go places, we all need to go places safely. And we can do that. We can create that city. But we need to be working together and we need to be sure our opponents are using us against each other, which is what’s happening now.” Zivarts and Michael Forzano called on safe streets advocates to support their campaign to make sure bike and scooter share does not negatively impact disabled people navigating sidewalks. You can learn more in this recent op-ed in the Seattle Times.

Dr. Jeanna Wheeler of Seattle’s chapter of 500 Women Scientists pointed out that though the Washington carbon tax lost statewide, Seattle voters approved it by more than 68 percent. “To the hesitant elected officials who believe that bus lanes, new housing, bike lanes, walkable streets, all that, are political poison because they inconvenience driving and parking, please look again at 1631. Seattle voters are ready to support more than feel-good measures,” she said. “This is the new face of climate denialism here in our emerald city.”

“It is a shame that in South Seattle we will never see completed safe bicycle infrastructure without prioritization,” said Councilmember Lorena González. She encouraged the crowd to continue building the movement for safe streets.

“The city has done some good things. On paper,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien. “We have committed to Vision Zero to make sure our city is safe for all road users. We have an ambitious Climate Action Plan that says we’re going to eliminate all carbon emissions in our city. We have bike/ped/transit master plans that lay out a road map to do that. The plans are there, folks. we have some work to do to get those implemented.

“I got six months left, folks. My commitment to you is to get our green transportation infrastructure in place and the policy infrastructure in place at the city before I say farewell,” he said (Full disclosure: My spouse Kelli works in O’Brien’s office as a legislative aid).

The rally also came just a week after Jackson Reavis, 22, died while riding a motorcycle on 35th Ave NE. The fatal collision is still under investigation.

Reavis was a 2015 Roosevelt High School graduate who had recently finished a degree in design, digital art and marketing, according to his obituary:

He had a remarkable eye for detail and an artist’s discernment for color and balance.

Jackson was an accomplished athlete who kept himself in great shape. Tall with a chiseled frame and a beautiful, infectious smile, he was always noticed when he entered a room. He played lacrosse and football, lettering in football on the Roosevelt team that reached the state quarter finals in 2014.

Our condolences to his friends and family. A GoFundMe has been set up to help cover funeral expenses.

The mayor’s decision earlier this spring to scrap planned safe streets measures on 35th Ave NE was a major impetus for organizing this protest and rally. Concerns about unsafe conditions on the newly-paved a redesigned street, such as speeding and dangerous passing, began as soon as the paint was dry, and the City Council Transportation Committee even sent a letter to SDOT (PDF) expressing concerns about safety on the street. All this happened before last week’s fatal collision. While it is not clear (and may never be known) whether the scrapped safety improvements could have prevented this death, the street did not previously have a long history of fatal collisions. And protected bike lanes like those originally planned are known to reduce serious injuries and deaths for all road users.

There are two basic ways that bike lanes get built in Seattle: SDOT chooses high priority projects from the Bicycle Master Plan to pursue for improvements or a major paving project remakes a street that is also designated for bike lanes. 35th Ave NE was the latter, a project chosen by SDOT’s street paving team, not by the bicycle program or bicycle advocates. We need to build bike network connections when streets are repaved because it is by far the most cost-effective way to build out significant stretches of the bike network. But it comes to prioritizing bike and other safe streets projects, every advocacy group and the city’s Bicycle Advisory Board have been clear: South Seattle and downtown need to be the top priorities.

This was highlighted during the rally Sunday when one of the biggest applause lines came after the Major Taylor Project’s Rich Brown said, “I’d like to urge SDOT to reassess the Bicycle Master Plan to figure out how to make things more equitable for residents of South Seattle.”

Seattle’s safe streets movement has come a long way to better prioritize equity, and people of color are more likely to rely on bikes for transportation in the U.S. than white people. But the rally and ride turnout did highlight that Seattle’s bicycle advocacy community is still mostly white.

You can listen to the rally speeches here:

 

Seattle’s latest bike plan takes one step forward, one step back and continues neglecting South Seattle

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 17:15

Images from the 2019 Bicycle Master Plan Implementation Plan (PDF).

SDOT and Mayor Jenny Durkan yesterday released the city’s first “annual” short-term bike plan in 26 months.

That the plan itself was delayed well over a year is a good symbol for how SDOT and Mayor have been treating bicycle improvements since she took office. But it is here now. And though the contents are sure to be disappointing to people hoping the city would dedicate itself to bold and ambitious action to improve bike safety and access across the city, at least this time the mayor has put her personal stamp on it. No more blaming her predecessors. She is accountable to this plan.

“This Bike Master Plan Implementation Plan reflects our commitment to fight climate change, support a multimodal transportation system that encourages the reduction of single-occupancy vehicles, and supports Seattle’s Vision Zero commitment to eliminate fatal and serious traffic collisions by 2030,” Mayor Durkan and SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe write in the intro letter. Though considering that this plan makes big cuts to the previous version, I’m not sure this sentence comes off quite as they hoped.

Compared to the draft version of this short term bike plan released earlier in the spring, the final version has some small tweaks but is mostly the same. Some changes are good, some are not so good, and some are maybe good but possibly pointless. Ultimately, the work outlined here gets Seattle nowhere close to building its Bicycle Master Plan on schedule. Instead, the city is moving at half-speed. At its current rate, Seattle won’t reach its 2035 bike facility goal until 2055. Considering the world has only until 2030 to dramatically reduce carbon emissions, 2055 is far too late to complete this little part of the solution.

The updated short-term bike plan, covering work through 2024, cuts about 23 miles of bike facilities that were included in the 2017 short term plan. So the city is not positioned to catch up on its slow bike plan progress.

Now, it might be OK for the city to meet only half its mileage goals if it were choosing the most important miles and doing them really well. But in many cases, especially in South Seattle and 4th Ave downtown, that is not the case, either.

I don’t expect this plan update will slow down Sunday’s Ride for Safe Streets, a rally at City Hall and ride/walk down 4th Ave to protest the recent cuts and call for more city action on safe streets.

The good

There is good some good news in this latest update. The city is committing to building protected bike lanes on the stretch of MLK Way between the I-90 Trail and at least Rainier Ave. It is a significant bike connection that will surely help a lot of people get around, though it is not a replacement for the Rainier Ave bike lanes they cut from the 2017 bike plan.

Another great change is that the south downtown connection between 2nd Ave and the International District is now shown on 5th Ave, which is dramatically less steep than 6th Ave between Jackson and Main Streets. On paper, this looks like only a one-block change, but that one block is the difference between people using it or ignoring it. This connection is also listed for completion this year, a goal I hope SDOT pursues aggressively both because of its general importance but also because Sound Transit construction early next year could require people with bikes to exit trains downtown before reaching Pioneer Square Station. So having this south end connection in place when that work begins would provide people with a safe and intuitive way to bike around the construction (stay tuned for more details on this project).

And, of course, it’s good news that there have not been more major cuts. The Missing Link and Eastlake Ave, for example, are included. Mayor Durkan and SDOT are saying that they are committed to these projects, which is great news. Though after 35th Ave NE, I don’t imagine anyone will relax until they are finished.

The bad

The worst update is that the already-delayed 4th Ave bike lane downtown is now being proposed as a one-way bike lane northbound. Because the downtown core’s east-west streets are so steep, there is an enormous need for a southbound bike lane that serves uphill destinations like the Central Branch Library and City Hall. People need to go to and from these destinations. Trips are rarely one-way. Climbing Spring St from 2nd Ave to the library’s 4th Ave entrance, for example, is extremely difficult. These blocks are so steep that SDOT’s Madison RapidRide team is having trouble finding buses that can climb them. This is certainly not feasible for people of all ages and abilities.

A 4th Ave that mirrors 2nd Ave (bus lane on the right, two-way bike lane on the left) makes much more sense and is more intuitive for all road users. And pairing the southbound lane with the northbound bike lane is easily the most cost-effective way to build that southbound connection. A 5th Ave bike lane, the only other real option, would be expensive and likely politically difficult. 5th Ave is not included in the latest plan, and Mayor Durkan is clearly uninterested in adding to the project list at this point.

Building bike lanes downtown is hard work and, like any construction work, can be disruptive. So the city should do this right the first time rather than building an insufficient one-way bike lane that will need to be updated later. SDOT should also learn from their earlier downtown projects and partner with other teams within the department to share the costs. For example, some of the signal work funds could come from the signals program rather than the bike program since the signal upgrades are improvements for all road users, not just people on bikes. Spot paving needs could come from the paving budget, because of course it should. Basically, if this vital project were a true priority for the mayor and SDOT leaders, they could make it happen and do it right even within existing budgets.

Another terrible change is that completing the waterfront bikeway has also fallen off the plan. This was a change from the 2017 plan that I missed when SDOT released the 2019 draft. The big Waterfront Seattle project to rebuild Alaskan Way includes a two-way protected bike lane from the Alaskan Way Trail in Pioneer Square to Virginia Street, just 0.6 miles from reaching the Elliott Bay Trail through Myrtle Edwards Park. The 2017 bike plan included this project with an expected completion date in 2020. The latest version no longer has an expected completion date, instead listing it as “start planning phase.” Are the city and state really going to build a waterfront bike path that is missing a half mile right in the middle of it? Billions of public dollars are being spent digging a tunnel for cars, removing the Viaduct (for cars) and recreating a waterfront (also mostly for cars), but Seattle can’t possibly find a way in the next half decade to connect the waterfront bike path a measly half mile? What a joke.

Great South Seattle projects now listed, but not promised

In response to clear direction from essentially every bike advocacy group and the Bicycle Advisory Board, the city did add some major south end routes to the plan. Beacon Ave, eastern Sodo and MLK Way are shown with fuzzy gray highlights around them. But these projects are only scheduled to “start plan phase.” There is no commitment to build these projects or even to fully design them. The idea is that if the city can find more funding or win a grant, these projects could happen.

I suppose this is something, but it in no way makes up for the awful lack of quality projects in the southend. With half a decade to do it, Seattle still isn’t sure it can connect South Seattle neighborhoods to the rest of the city’s bike network. That’s unacceptable and, frankly, embarrassing. South Seattle deserves action, not more “maybes.”

This following map, included in SDOT’s presentation to the City Council (PDF), shows the planned bike facilities on top of a map of Seattle neighborhoods differentiated by “disadvantage” as determined by the city’s Racial and Social Equity Composite Index. Knowing that most the red areas have already been underserved by the city’s bike efforts, this map makes it clear that the scope of work planned will not correct the wrongs of the past. Equitable bike planning wouldn’t just spread out bike lanes evenly across the city, it would focus investments in places previously neglected. This plan does not do this.

Still lacking vision

I’m glad Mayor Durkan is putting her name on this. Even though it’s terribly incomplete, at least she’s finally putting herself on the hook to achieve the many good things still in it.

Seattle is currently in the midst of a huge biking boom. The numbers measured by our city’s bike counters are incredible. Five of the top ten days ever recorded on the Fremont Bridge have happened in 2019, and it’s only June:

New record. Highest number of bicycle riders recorded (since 10/2012) is now 6,428 from 6/11/2019. Current top 10: pic.twitter.com/njHLk5Rduf

— Dongho Chang (@dongho_chang) June 12, 2019

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the bike facilities and forget that transportation culture is so much more than paint on the ground. And it takes a lot more than a handful of project delays and cuts by the mayor to slow it down. Part of the frustration is that success is staring Mayor Durkan in the face, but she’s waving it away. It took a long time and a ton of work to get here. Don’t stop now that it’s catching on.

But despite all the cuts, good projects are still moving forward. Things are getting better, just not at the rate we voted for, hoped for or need if we are going to meet our goals. Seattle has the money, and Seattle has the plans (and the plan plans and the plan plan’s planning plans…). We have so much potential to make a major shift in how people get around, and it feels like the mayor is squandering this opportunity.

If people in the Mayor’s Office are confused why people are still so mad, that’s why. We don’t need a mayor who will do the bare minimum possible with our voter-approved levy dollars. We need a mayor willing to step into the unknown and take our city where other U.S. cities haven’t gone yet. Someone willing to take risks and challenge car dominance when it gets in the way of our safety, mobility and climate goals. And we have never seen this from her.

But it’s not too late for her to change. She’s not even halfway into her term. She took advice from the wrong people on 35th, and it has proven to be a disaster. It’s time to start listening to someone else. If she wants to champion bold ideas, there are a lot of people out here ready to cheer her on. But she’s gotta make that move, and this latest plan ain’t it.

Project lists

Below are the project lists from the 2019-24 Implementation Plan (be sure to note which lists are “funded through construction” and which are “funded through design/plan”):

Saturday: Seattle’s 9th annual women/trans/femme/non-binary Moxie Summer Jam Alleycat

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 10:38

The 9th Annual Moxie Summer Jam meets 2 p.m. Saturday at Gas Works Park. Organizers say it is one of (if not the) biggest women/trans/femme/non-binary alleycats in the world.

What is an alleycat? What can I expect if I show up at Gas Works with $10 entry and my bike? Here’s more details from Moxie Summer Jam’s Marley Blonsky:

The 9th Annual Moxie Summer Jam Alleycat rides again on Saturday, June 15th starting at Gas Works Park and ending at the Boxcar Ale House. This race is Seattle”s (and possibly the world’s) biggest WTFnon-binary alleycat and we’d love to have you join us!

All who identify as a woman, trans, femme, or non-binary are welcome to join for a day of fun, community building, and bikes! All speeds, ages, and types of pedal-powered bikes are welcomed. We’ll have separate categories for Single Speed/Fixed Gear, Out of Towners, and Masters (45 years and older.)

Not sure what an alleycat is or don’t think racing is for you? While we won’t give away all of our secrets, you can expect to ride somewhere between 12-20ish miles in a choose you own adventure style race. Some racers ride like the lightning, others more of a casual pace, and everything in between. At the beginning of the race we’ll give you a manifest that will have a number of locations on it. You choose the order that you go to the stops and how to get there. Still not sure? Check out a primer we wrote a few years ago about what to expect at your first Alleycat here: http://www.moxiemonday.com/2012/06/what-to-expect-at-your-first-alleycat/

Registration begins at 2pm at Gas Works park and is $10 (no one turned away for lack of funds). The race wraps up around 6:30 at the Boxcar Ale House with prizes, drink specials, and karaoke!

Moxie Summer Jam is made possible through the hard work of volunteers and generous sponsors who donate all of our prizes. We are especially thankful to our local businesses who continue to support women, trans, femme, and non-binary cycling year after year and help grow the biking community!

Check out pictures from previous years on our Instagram @moxiemonday and we look forward to seeing you at the race!

Sunday: Join the Ride For Safe Streets starting at City Hall

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 15:40

Under Mayor Jenny Durkan, Seattle has cut bike lanes from paving projects and slashed its short-term bike plan.

At a time when we need to make dramatic action to do whatever we can to reduce traffic injuries and deaths and combat climate change, her bike lane cuts are all backwards.

People already packed City Council chambers earlier this year to voice their concerns about the bike cuts. This Sunday, protest efforts go to the next level with a rally at City Hall followed by a slow ride/walk down 4th Ave (where a planned bike lane remains delayed) to Westlake Park for music. Meet at City Hall’s 4th Ave plaza at 1 p.m.

The Ride For Safe Streets has been organized with leadership from Brock Howell in partnership with a long list of organizations, including biking, walking, transit, climate and disability rights groups (see the full list here).

Many of the biggest barriers to making streets safer lately are coming from the Mayor’s Office, but there are also actions the City Council can take to make sure safety and climate policies and goals are followed. And it’s important to show city leaders how much enthusiastic support there is for bold safe streets action.

More details from the Ride For Safe Streets website (you can also invite your friends on FB):

It’s time to act on climate change and make Seattle’s streets safe and accessible for everyone: people of all ages, languages, ethnicities, genders, races, and abilities.

Join us on Sunday, June 16 for this family-friendly (and father-friendly!) event calling on City leadership to act boldly on transportation. We’ll meet at Seattle City Hall at 1pm for a fun rally and then bike, walk and roll with hundreds of people down 4th Avenue to Westlake Park, where there will be actions to take as well as music, art, and other activities.

There will be a marching band, public officials, calls to action, and plenty of fun as we urge Seattle leaders to step up.

RALLY AT SEATTLE CITY HALL
1:00, People meet at City Hall’s 4th Avenue Plaza, with Rise Up Action Band playing.

1:20, Organizational leaders and elected officials call for action.

1:55, Rise Up Action Band resumes playing. People begin rolling down 4th Avenue.

THE ROLL
1:55, The Roll begins, parade-like, with people riding, rolling, strolling, and walking.

We encourage groups to roll together with their own signs and art. Transit groups may create a giant cardboard bus and walk inside it. Climate groups may dress-up in polar bear suits. The “Big Wheel” bicycle lobby may ride high-wheelers. Your imagination and good sense are your only limits.

Everyone is encouraged to play music, whether it’s acoustic or from mobile speakers.

Everyone should obey traffic laws, and roll at a comfortable pace for people of all abilities around them.

PARTY AT WESTLAKE PARK
1:50, Band begins playing from stage

2:00, People begin to arrive at Westlake Park

3:00, Band ends set

Days after SDOT acknowledged safety concerns on new 35th Ave NE, a collision critically injured someone on a motorcycle

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 12:54

Someone driving a pickup truck collided with someone on a motorcycle at the intersection of 35th Ave NE and NE 75th Street Monday evening. The person on the motorcycle was critically injured and was rushed to the hospital in life-threatening condition.

We send our best wishes to the person injured.

I’m in tears right now. I cannot believe this. This is why I post these videos to highlight how dangerous this street is. To try to prevent this

— Mitch (@mitchellplease) June 11, 2019

It is not yet known exactly how the collision occurred. It appears from photos by people who saw the aftermath that the person in the pickup may have been turning left from northbound 35th Ave NE onto eastbound NE 75th Street, but the exact nature of the collision is not clear. Seattle Police traffic investigators were working the scene.

UPDATE: SPD posted an update: “When officers arrived and contacted the 87-year-old driver. The 22-year-old motorcyclist received emergency medical care at the scene. Police spoke with witnesses who stated the truck began turning left when the motorcyclist struck the driver’s pickup truck.

Seattle Fire Department Medics took the 22-year-old man to Harborview Medical Center where he remains in critical condition.

A drug recognition expert evaluated the 87-year-old man at the scene and found no signs of impairment.

Traffic Collision Detectives are now investigating and will determine what led up to the crash.”

But this horrific collision comes less than a month after someone on a bicycle was struck and injured (though less seriously) five blocks away on NE 70th Street.

These collisions have all happened within weeks of crews painting the lines for the revised design of the street. At the direction of Mayor Jenny Durkan, SDOT removed the bike lanes and associated traffic calming initially planned and contracted as part of a major repaving project on 35th Ave NE.

The backlash against the mayor’s decision (and the subsequent cuts to the near-term bike plan) was two-fold. On one hand, people saw it as a sign that the mayor was not dedicated to the city’s traffic safety and climate goals. People packed City Council chambers to voice their concerns, including Tamara Schmautz and Apu Mishra who brought a hand-cranked paper shredder up to the podium and proceeded to shred the city’s Bicycle Master Plan, Vision Zero Plan and Climate Action Plan.

But on the other hand, people were concerned that the city’s planned bike-lane-free design for 35th Ave NE was going to be dangerous. Wide lanes are known to encourage speeding, for example. But the reality has proven to be even worse since the road opened. The center turn lane, which was supposed to help calm traffic, has instead been used regularly for making illegal passes. We posted a video from @mitchellplease on Twitter demonstrating the problem quite clearly:

First morning riding 35th since the redesign, already seeing dangerous passes. First car passing while a bike was turning left ahead. When there is a car waiting to turn left after, a car also tried to pass me, then backed off. Of course I catch up to them all at the light pic.twitter.com/Nr75tKeEQD

— Mitch (@mitchellplease) May 16, 2019

Councilmember Mike O’Brien also showed Mitch’s video during a recent Transportation Committee meeting, and the committee wrote a letter to SDOT asking whether the design is meeting the city’s objectives. Below is an excerpt (full letter in this PDF):

The Seattle Department of Transportation states that its first core value is Safety. The SDOT blog about this project claims that “By slowing vehicle speeds and better defining the travel lanes, this helps increase safety for everyone on 35th.” Watching this video, it doesn’t appear that defined travel lanes have reduced speeds or increased safety. In fact, it appears that in some locations, by eliminating a lane ofparking and widening the travel lanes we have increased speeds and decreased safety.

We would like you to answer the following questions:

From this video and other observations, do you believe the design as implemented has met the objectives of the project and Vision Zero?

  1. Did this design go through the Complete Streets Checklist assessing how this design serves all people travelling on the corridor, including people walking, biking and taking transit?
  2. If there are some short comings of the design as implemented, do you have plans to make improvements to the design? If so, what is the timeline?
  3. If this design failed to meet the safety objectives for all street users, can the department do some analysis as to how a decision to recommend this design was erroneously reached? What can we do different in the future to avoid these mistakes?

Since there has already been a serious injury to a bicyclist hit by a car in this corridor where a person biking was transported by ambulance to the hospital, we would like to see urgent action if there is agreement that action is needed.

SDOT sent an update to the 35th Ave NE project mailing list Friday acknowledging that they are aware of concerns about safety on the new street. The department will be “gathering speed data on 35th and will base changes to the posted speed limit on the observations and data,” according to the email. “In addition to studying speeds, we will be reviewing collision figures to see if there is a change in aggressive driving and the number of collisions.”

Traffic safety isn’t a political game

This whole 35th Ave NE travesty stems from Mayor Durkan misunderstanding the stakes of the debate. It was never about the anti-bike team competing against the pro-bike team in some kind of political game. It was not about picking between two groups of engaged and organized residents. It was about people’s health and safety. As SDOT professionals have long known (and was reaffirmed in a recent macro 13-year study that included Seattle), adding bike lanes to a street improves safety for all users of the road no matter how they get around.

It is impossible to know for certain whether bike lanes would have prevented these specific recent collisions on 35th Ave NE. But we do know for certain that quality protected bikes lanes do reduce the number and severity of collisions.

In harsher words, this is not a fucking game. These are our neighbors’ lives we’re talking about here. Adding bike lanes won’t hurt people driving. But cutting bike lanes will hurt people. It may have already.

It doesn’t feel good to say, “I told you so.” It feels terrible. As someone whose job is to report on bike issues in Seattle and advocate for safer streets, I failed on 35th. I tried, as did many people organizing with Safe 35th, but we lost. And the result of a loss when fighting for safe streets can be horrific. And what did the anti-bike advocates win?

But ultimate responsibility here lands squarely on Mayor Durkan. Her decision on 35th was an enormous mistake, and she needs to fix this. And no, some plastic posts next to the turn lanes won’t be enough, as SDOT’s recent email suggested. The problem requires more significant action, such as the protected bike lanes originally planned. The design is already complete and ready for construction. I know it’s hard for politicians to admit a mistake, but the alternative here is far worse. She shouldn’t wait for any more injuries (or worse) before doing the right thing.

Saturday: Streets will go car-free for two hours before Ballard Crit for an open streets party

Fri, 06/07/2019 - 11:32

Route is marked in red, via Apex Racing.

Here’s a great idea: Ballard Criterium race organizers Apex Racing are already doing the hard work of securing permits, placing signage and barricades and informing the community about their annual event Saturday. So why not extend the time a few extra hours to create an open streets community event?

That’s exactly what’s happening tomorrow (Saturday) from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Everyone is invited to play in the streets for two hours before the racing begins. Cascade Bicycle Club is helping to organize activities, including a free 5K fun run by Fleet Feet, a bike rodeo for kids, a scooter share pop-up with Lime and Shared, and live music.

Stay after the open streets party to watch one of the more unique bike races in the city, which has been a tradition for more than a quarter century. Here’s the race schedule:

Seattle Parks starting Burke-Gilman Trail repairs from U Village to the city line

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 13:46

Work zones are marked in red. They will not all be under construction at the same time. Images from Seattle Parks.

Seattle Parks is getting ready to start fixing bumpy pavement and outdated bollards on some of the oldest sections of the Burke-Gilman Trail between 30th Ave NE (just east of U Village) to the city’s northern border with Lake Forest Park. So be ready for a summer of short detours as crews go section-by-section to complete this work.

Work is scheduled to begin this month. And some of the detours look like they include some tough climbing.

Much of this section of trail has not been paved since the 70s, so we have really gotten a lot out of that investment. But sections of the trail have deteriorated significantly since then either due to erosion or tree roots. In many sections, the trail has lost significant width due to the edges crumbling away over time. We have also learned a lot about trail design and construction since the city first laid this asphalt on top of the old railbed 41 years ago.

Below are the planned detour diagrams from the contractor for each segment. They will not all be in effect at the same time. I have not yet tested them, though some look tough. If you are familiar with these side streets, let us know your thoughts in the comments below (the orientation of the maps switch around, so remember that “streets” are usually east-west and “avenues” are usually north-south):

The document does not note whether the existing protected bike lane on NE 65th Street will be extended to accommodate this detour.

Note: I’m pretty sure that is supposed to be 42nd Ave NE, not NE 142nd Ave. This one looks very tough. Don’t let the map fool you, a section of Riviera Pl is missing, which is why the detour is so long. I hope Parks can finish this one as quickly as possible, because this could be very disruptive for folks who can’t climb that ridge. Perhaps they could finish the south section as quickly as possible, then open a detour to Riviera Pl while they work on the rest?

More details from Seattle Parks:

Seattle Parks and Recreation(SPR) will begin working on repaving 39 sections on the Burke-Gilman Trail in northeast in early June 2019. The work will take place between 30th Ave. NE and the King County/Seattle border near NE 145th St. SPR awarded the construction contract to Northwest Asphalt, Inc. Work is scheduled to be completed by late summer 2019.

This project will repair sections of the trail, remove areas of asphalt in disrepair, remove invasive roots that are causing upheaval, and replace those sections with new asphalt. Additionally, with funding from the Seattle Department of Transportation(SDOT) bollards at 24 intersections along the trail will be removed and sections impacted by bollard removal will be paved. The contractor will work on one section at a time, from southwest to northeast to reduce the impact to trail users.

Trail sections were determined by 2015 condition-assessment work done in collaboration with SDOT and reconfirmed in spring 2017.

Cyclists and pedestrians will be detoured around the construction area onto side streets. SPR and SDOT worked together on detour routes and we recommend trail users visit www.seattle.gov/parks/about-us/current-projects/burke-gilman-trail-repairs for detailed detour routes. Thank you in advance for your cooperation and patience during construction.

The Seattle Park District provides $250,000 in funding for this Burke-Gilman Trail improvement project. Approved by voters in 2014, the Seattle Park District provides more than $47 million a year in long-term funding for Seattle Parks and Recreation including maintenance of parklands and facilities, operation of community centers and recreation programs, and development of new neighborhood parks on previously acquired sites.

For more information, please visit www.seattle.gov/parks/about-us/current-projects/burke-gilman-trail-repairs or contact Sandi Albertsen, Project Manager, at sandra.albertsen@seattle.gov or 206-684-8938.

Watch: Rooted In Rights why proper bike share parking is so important

Wed, 06/05/2019 - 11:09

It should be common sense, but don’t block walkways when you park a bike share bike. But you should also go a step further and think, would this bike impede someone with a vision impairment? Is it too close to a bus stop, curb ramp or building entrance?

Disability rights organization Rooted In Rights partnered with SDOT to produce a short video clearly showing some problems poorly located bikes can cause people with various disabilities. Sometimes users don’t park correctly and sometimes other people or the weather move or knock them over. Either way, if you see a problematic bike, do everyone a favor and move it.

Here’s the parking guide we made to help:

Annotations by Seattle Bike Blog. Base image from SDOT’s draft update for their Right of Way Improvement Manual.

As a birthday present to yours truly, WSDOT will fix 520 Bridge Trail bumps

Tue, 06/04/2019 - 14:38

Photo of the less bumpy plate design from WSDOT.

In what is obviously a birthday present to yours truly, WSDOT announced today that they will fix every bumpy expansion gap plate on the 520 Bridge Trail.

We first reported about the bumpy plates back in 2016 before the trail was completed, then again in 2017. The problem was that the plates covering the floating bridge’s expansion gaps were built with an abrupt incline along the edges, making them feel more like hitting potholes than the more gradual bumps a user might be expecting from a brand new trail.

Luckily, I have not heard of any crashes caused by these plates, as I had feared. But the plates are unpleasant enough that it is worthwhile improving the trail experience on this $4.5 billion public investment.

The agency has been testing a more gradual expansion plate design, and 95 percent of users surveyed said the new design is an improvement.

The new plates should all be installed by the end of summer.

More details from WSDOT:

We asked, you answered and now change is coming to Seattle’s SR 520 Trail across Lake Washington!

You may recall that after some concerns were raised about the steel cover plates on the trail’s expansion joints, we installed a prototype plate designed to ease the bumps that some bicycle riders were reporting. We asked if the new plate, designed by our engineers, was an improvement over the previous plates. And, overwhelmingly, the answer was YES!

More than 260 trail users responded to our survey and provided feedback, and 95 percent said the new plates were an improvement.

Late summer installation
We’re working with our contractor to replace all of the narrow cover plates on the floating bridge portion of the 520 Trail by late summer. This will require several intermittent trail closures and as we get closer to the replacement work we’ll get information out about any disruptions, including on our 520 webpage. We’ll do what we can to avoid high-traffic times in the morning and evening.

Many thanks to everyone for taking the time to test out the new plate and provide their feedback. We’re excited to have found a solution that works for everyone and we’re confident the new cover plate will provide an even smoother trip for those enjoying a bike ride across the SR 520 bridge.

Watch: City Council hosts equitable transportation talk by Tamika Butler

Fri, 05/31/2019 - 11:21

City Councilmember Mike O’Brien and Transportation Choices Coalition recently hosted Tamika Butler, Toole Design’s California Planning Director and Director of Equity and Inclusion, for an hour-long talk about transportation equity and her experience as a land use, parks and transportation leader in Los Angeles.

Do yourself a favor and watch the whole talk. Seattle has made official efforts to run all major city decisions through its Race and Social Justice Initiative framework, and yet so many decisions still fail to put equity as a top priority. The city talks and talks about equity, but then fails to build safe bike routes connecting Rainier Valley and Duwamish Valley to the rest of the city’s bike network, for example.

Butler’s thoughts on congestion pricing (starts around 29:30) are also extremely important as Seattle begins to debate the concept.

Saturday: G&O Family Cyclery hosts a Cargo Bike Festival in Greenwood

Thu, 05/30/2019 - 12:50

Greenwood’s G&O Family Cyclery is hosting the first annual Cargo Bike Festival from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.

The event is part of the Phinney Neighborhood Association’s LGBTQ Pride Rainbow Hop. It promises “test rides, kids activities, food, games and more.”

More details from the event page:

Be a part of Seattle’s first ever Cargo Bike Festival, a celebration of the life-altering power of cargo bikes! This event features family friendly activities and the chance to ride the best cargo bikes in the world…

This celebration is a part of the Phinney Pride Rainbow Hop, a family-focused neighborhood LGBTQ Pride event, and the whole business district is hosting fun activities.

When: Saturday, June 1 from noon – 4 p.m.
Where: Marrow Lane between Greenwood Ave N and Palatine
What: Celebrate the joy, fun and transformational power of cargo bikes with test rides, kids activities, food, games and more!

(Full Disclosure: My spouse Kelli helped organize this event, and G&O is a Seattle Bike Blog sponsor)

Scherer is stepping down after 12 years as Director of Familybike Seattle, organization seeks more Board members

Wed, 05/29/2019 - 12:20

Morgan Scherer hauls herself, six bikes and a passenger on her electric-assisted trike in 2012.

It is hard to think of any other person who has done more for family biking in Seattle than Morgan Scherer. She has been out on our streets leading by example and sharing her experience since at least 2007, when she founded Familybike Seattle.

Hauling a fleet of different kid-hauling cargo bikes all over town, Scherer has been providing people with life-changing opportunities to experience family life on a bike. Taking a spin on a cargo bike is not just fun, it’s a chance to imagine your life without (or with much less) driving.

When Scherer started, cargo bikes in America were largely a DIY or small-scale fabrication activity because very few companies were producing purposeful kid-hauling cargo bikes for sale in the U.S. market. So people converted old road bikes into Xtracycles or attached after-market electric motors to make climbing big hills with ever-growing kids on board a more easily-achievable daily way to get around. Just a decade later, you can get fully-designed family bikes off the sales floor of several shops. It’s an unbelievable shift, and Scherer has done an enormous amount of work to help grow the number of people looking to make biking a central part of their families’ lives.

But it’s not just about equipment. It’s also about parenting. Familybike Seattle and events like Kidical Mass provide a space for parents to share tips about, well, basically everything you might encounter raising a kid on a bike. More and more kids are growing up with biking as their primary way to get around, and this movement will continue to change the way Seattle thinks about transportation. Family biking is the heart of mainstream bike advocacy in Seattle now.

Scherer is stepping down to “focus more energy on balancing family life, disability justice, and (of course) bicycle advocacy,” according to a press release from Familybike Seattle. The organization is also seeking more members to “fill our working board with dynamic directors.”

This is a big moment for any organization. Trying to find footing without the original founder is tough, but it’s the only way to become an institution. We wish them the best. If you are inspired to help, see their press release for details for getting involved either as a Board member or volunteer:

Familybike is changing and it is important you, our supportive community, know about it.

Please join us in wishing a heartfelt farewell to our Executive Director and Founder, Morgan Scherer. The Board does not take this transition lightly and we understand the gravity involved in filling the space Morgan will leave behind. Her service to Familybike and the community is invaluable.

Morgan founded Familybike in 2007 with her first family biking expo in her South Seattle yard. Since then, she has shared her knowledge and passion with the community through countless expos, Kidical Mass rides, workshops, mentoring, and the sliding-scale rental fleet. Morgan displayed her love for biking by pouring immeasurable time, labor, and research into creating a one-of-a-kind organization to support the greater Seattle-area. Her dedication to community-building and intersectional environmental justice has inspired an incredible number of biking families and is the foundation of what we all admire most about Familybike.

Although we are sad to see her part from the organization, Morgan will not be far away! In the coming months, she plans to once again provide her personal cargobike fleet to the community, via demo events and sliding scale rentals. Morgan’s bikes are a specialized and impressive collection of mobility machines bent on changing the world through people-power. Stay tuned for more information on Morgan’s rental and demo fleet as she establishes rental structures in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we look forward to seeing her at events and around town, hauling impressive cargo, and will continue to consult with her in regards to Familybike programming and impact goals. As Morgan moves on to focus more energy on balancing family life, disability justice, and (of course) bicycle advocacy, the organization wishes her all the support and success she needs in her endeavors. We will be inviting the community to celebrate this transition and show gratitude for all Morgan has done for the family biking community with a party at a date and location TBD. Please stay tuned!

The Familybike Board would also like to take this opportunity to invite interested parties to reach out as we seek to fill our working board with dynamic directors. We are especially interested in hearing from diverse voices with background skills in finance, volunteer engagement, grant writing, equity, and social justice. If you or someone you know is looking for a way to be of service in work towards getting more families on bikes, we encourage you to reach out with a little bit about yourself to Jen Grant, our Community Engagement Liaison. (jen.g@familybike.org)

Friday: Peddler Brewing hosts annual End of Bike Month Party

Tue, 05/28/2019 - 10:52

From the event listing.

You biked. You will keep biking. So let’s party.

The always-wonderful Peddler Brewing in Ballard is hosting their annual End of Bike Month Party 4 – 10 p.m. Friday.

$1 per pint will go to Washington Bikes.

More details from the event listing:

Calling all bikey-people! Join us as we throw our annual bike party at the end of Bike Month. Check out local vendors, win great raffle items, enjoy live music, and raise a glass as $1/pint goes to Washington Bikes!

Friday 5/31 at Peddler Brewing Company
4 – 8pm: Check out local bike-related makers and nonprofits (listed below)
7:30pm: Raffle drawing! 1 ticket per pint purchased, must be present to win
7:30-10pm: Live music by Left Turn on Blue
Food Truck: Cycle Dogs

With plenty of bike parking for all, we encourage riders of all ages, abilities and styles to come out to this celebration of biking in Seattle. Everyone’s welcome, Peddler is all ages.

Biking increased 32% thanks to downtown Bellevue bike lane + City will keep it, debates expanding network

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 15:20

From the 108th Ave NE Demo Bikeway Assessment (PDF)

The City of Bellevue may have just conducted the most thorough study of a bike lane pilot project ever. The 31-page report (PDF) about the 108th Ave NE bike lane in the Eastside city’s downtown core found that bicycling increased 32%, sidewalk biking rate was reduced by more than 60% and zero collisions involving people biking have been reported.

And these results come from a bike lane design that is not even fully protected. Some sections only have paint, and one pinch point section even requires mixing with general traffic. So these results still have room to improve.

The Bellevue City Council voted last week to keep the pilot bike lane. But the city is also learning from what they observed and from survey results to make it better. And the city is also looking at how to best create an east-west protected bike lane connection, likely on Main Street. Cascade Bicycle Club has a handy online form so you can let Bellevue know you support their bike lane work and would like to see it grow to Main.

Protected bike lanes work best, say people … driving?

The extensive studying also turned up some possibly surprising results. For example, their survey found that people feel most comfortable when bike lanes are separated and protected whether they are biking or driving:

Level of Traffic Stress

The study also included a Level of Traffic Stress analysis, which is based on comparing measured vehicle speeds and volumes to the level of bike protection provided. Segments are rated from 1 to 4, with one being “all ages and abilities” and 4 being “fearless adults.” So, for example, a slow residential street with very low traffic volumes might get LTS 1 even without bike lanes. But a busy street (like a downtown street) would need a significant level of protection to get the same rating.

Using this analysis, Bellevue’s transportation staff determined that only a few segments of the pilot bike lane get the top rating, and no intersection rises above LTS 3. So they are being very transparent about where they have room for improvement, which is great:

I wonder how Seattle’s 35th Ave NE street designs would have compared under this analysis system, for example. Perhaps SDOT should consider this as a tool for explaining bike elements of their projects.

Maybe this analysis of the 108th Ave NE pilot project is way overkill. But then again, now we have answers and hard data for essentially every question someone could ask. Did it increase travel times for people driving? No. Did it slow buses? No (it actually improved bus times). Did it increase collisions? No. Did the extra protection really help the bike lane work better? Yes. Did the lane attract bike share trips? Yes. Did it decrease sidewalk biking? Yes.

Hopefully the city can also extrapolate the results of this study to inform their other needed bike lanes, since they can’t (or shouldn’t) spend this much time, energy and funding on every single bike lane. Bellevue has a lot of work to do before they have a connected network of bike routes that hit LTS 1 or 2, but this is a great study to stand on when designing and building them.