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Sunday: World Day of Remembrance will be a healing space for those impacted by traffic violence

Wed, 11/14/2018 - 15:23

People gather in City Hall for World Day of Remembrance 2016 surrounded by silhouettes representing people who died in traffic in recent years.

Every year, about 20 people die in traffic collisions in Seattle. Another 150 people are seriously injured, often resulting in life-changing health issues. And for every one of these victims and survivors, there is a community of loved ones whose lives are changed, too.

That’s why Seattle Neighborhood Greenways is hosting Seattle’s memorial for World Day of Remembrance Sunday at the Impact Hub in Pioneer Square.

The organization wants the event this year to focus on creating a healing space for people impacted by injury or death on our streets, said Executive Director Gordon Padelford. Considering the scale of how many lives are impacted by traffic collisions, there is a lot of healing to be done.

Our society tells people that traffic collisions are just “accidents,” like they or a loved one simply won some kind of terrible lottery. But this is just a story we tell ourselves so it is easier to continue with our destructive car culture. Because truly changing how people and goods move around our city just seems like too heavy a lift.

But ask any room of people for a show of hands if they or someone they love has been killed or seriously injured in a traffic collision, and nearly every hand will go up. This is not OK.

More details from SNG:

Join us on the afternoon of World Day of Remembrance for a community memorial gathering for those impacted by traffic violence.

There are an average of 20 lives lost and 150 lives altered by major injuries each year on Seattle’s streets. But these statistics don’t share the story of a person’s life, of the way that a crash can effect a family, a friend group, and a community.

If you or a member of your community has been impacted by traffic violence, we welcome you to this space for a community moment of remembrance. This event is free, please RSVP.

Sunday, Nov 18, 2:00 – 3:30 pm
Impact Hub Seattle (Pioneer Square) 3rd Floor

We will be in the 3rd floor learning space with snacks and beverages.

If you are interested in learning more information about an ongoing healing circle or other support, please contact clara@seattlegreenways.org.

ALERT: West Seattle swing bridge will be out from 7-9 Tuesday night, shuttles available

Tue, 11/13/2018 - 13:08

Attention folks who bike across the lower West Seattle Bridge: SDOT just announced a closure from 7 to 9 p.m. tonight (Tuesday). As with the previous closure, there will be a shuttle to help folks walking and biking get across, but this will add significant delay. So leave early or late if you can. Otherwise, be ready for delays waiting for the shuttle or add extra time to bike the long way via the 1st Ave Bridge.

From SDOT:

For 2 hours tonight, starting at 7 PM, the Spokane St Bridge (West Seattle Lower Bridge) and the bike trail will be closed, so crews can replace a power control cable. A shuttle van will be available both directions, to take interested travelers over the high bridge.

What you can expect:

During this project, barrels and barricades as well as message boards, will direct traffic. After cable replacement and successful bridge testing, the bridge will reopen to traffic.

November 13 | 7 – 9 PM

Impacts | 

  • Spokane St Bridge (aka Lower W Seattle Bridge) closed.
  • W Seattle Bridge Trail closed.

Assistance | A shuttle van will travel back and forth over W Seattle High Bridge, in 15-minute intervals, with the following stops:

  • East Side11th Ave SW & SW Spokane St.
  • West side SW Spokane St and Port of Seattle Terminal 5 Entrance.

Shuttle service is scheduled to run during the duration of the outage. Should this maintenance work experience unexpected challenges, the shuttle will run all night, as needed.

Questions?

Email paul.jackson@seattle.gov to learn more.

Huge fire burns lumber warehouses near SPU, expect Ship Canal Trail delays – UPDATED

Mon, 11/12/2018 - 12:51

Photo from the Seattle Fire Dept. As you can see, the Ship Canal Trail is in the middle of it all.

A huge fire destroyed lumber warehouses owned by Gascoigne Lumber Company and Northwest Millworks Saturday night, but luckily there are no reports of injuries at this time. We hope it stays that way.

Regular users of the Ship Canal Trail should recognize the building in the photo to the right, because the trail runs closely behind the building near Seattle Pacific University campus. Buildings were destroyed on both sides of the trail. I have asked Seattle Fire if they have an estimate for when the trail might reopen and will update this post when I hear back. But I think it’s safe to assume that it will be closed for a while, so give yourself a little extra time to get through the area. UPDATE: Seattle Fire spokesperson Kristin Tinsley confirmed that they have not yet assessed damage to the trail and do not yet have a timeline for reopening it: “Due to the amount of debris on the Ship Canal Trail, the trail is still closed for the time being until clean-up is complete. No damage estimate on the trail yet or ETA on reopening.”

Reader Rob Huntress said firefighters were still working as of Sunday evening, and Nickerson Street was the nearest detour option between 3rd and 6th Avenues W. Nickerson has a paint-only bike lane westbound, but no bike lane eastbound. There is also a sidewalk for folks who are not comfortable biking in busy traffic, but remember to yield to people walking. If the closure will be for an extended period of time and no other detour is possible, a temporary trail on Nickerson might be a good idea.

Sub-optimal shot of fire scene Sunday night at the Gascoigne Lumber warehouse on the Ship Canal Trail in N. Queen Anne. Trail was closed bet. 3rd and 6th Aves West, with firefighters still working. #SEAbikes pic.twitter.com/e4LEQmxw19

— Rod Huntress (@rodhuntress) November 12, 2018

 

Tell the City Council to protect red light camera funds for safe streets near schools

Fri, 11/09/2018 - 15:19

A huge bike train to Bryant Elementary on Bike-to-School Day 2013

In an attempt to balance the City Council’s 2019-20 budget, Councilmember Sally Bagshaw has eyed nearly $2.7 million in red light camera funds that currently go to the School Safety Traffic and Pedestrian Improvement Fund (see the budget green sheet PDF).

The city has the goal of making street safety improvements at every public school in the city, which also means safety improvements in every neighborhood. But it is going to take a lot more work and funding to build all the missing sidewalks, safe crosswalks and neighborhood traffic calming needed to provide all our city’s young students a safe way to walk or bike to class. We need more funding for safe streets near schools, not less.

Additionally, red light cameras are already a somewhat controversial, though effective, tool for enforcing traffic safety without requiring a police officer interaction. But perhaps knowing that your ticket funds are going to help make streets near schools safer will take some of the sting out of that ticket. If the money just goes into the general fund, that takes away one good argument in favor of the cameras: They can do double-duty by enforcing traffic laws and funding street safety improvements at the same time.

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways has created a handy online tool you can use to contact the City Council and tell them to reject this funding change. More details from SNG:

This funding would have helped children at 25 schools across Seattle walk to class safely by investing in projects like enhanced crosswalks, traffic calming, and walkways. Instead these projects will be delayed, adding to the 300-year backlog of sidewalk projects.

We need you to speak up now in support for funding sidewalks and crosswalks so that kids in Seattle can get safely to and from school.

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways has championed the Safe Routes to School program since our founding in 2011 as a core piece of our work. We’re committed to making every neighborhood a great place to walk and making sure every child can safely walk to school. But in order to do that we need our city leaders to increase funding for safe routes to schools and sidewalks.

We need you to act now and send a letter to your councilmembers asking them to ensure that Safe Routes to School are adequately funded and kids can get safely to and from school.

Bainbridge Island voters reject $15M safe streets levy

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 13:14

Planned spending for the failed SAFE Mobility Levy, from the City of Bainbridge.

Buried in the election results this week was a somewhat disappointing result over on Bainbridge Island. The city’s modest SAFE Mobility Levy lost, with the ongoing result sitting at 45–55 as of Thursday morning.

The levy would have raised $15 million over seven years to fund sidewalks, Safe Routes to School and wider shoulders, which serve as walking and biking space on the island’s roads.

The failure came as a surprise to Demi Allen, a Bainbridge resident who worked to develop and support the levy effort.

“I continue to believe that a high percentage of residents on the island want better facilities for walking and biking,” he said. But clearly more needed to be done to gather support for the levy vote.

“In retrospect, it seems more needed to be done to get out to people where they were and make sure they understood what was proposed and what was possible to achieve through the levy.”

The Bainbridge Mobility Alliance conducted a survey in the spring that showed a high level of support for a ballot measure like the one that ended up on the ballot, Allen said. Ten percent of island adults responded with 70 percent in favor. But respondents self-selected, so it was not a scientific random survey (those can be expensive to conduct).

One concern they heard often was that the levy was too open-ended, with the specific projects to be selected later.

As for now, supporters are taking some time to figure out what happened, who they didn’t reach and how they could make a levy more people would support.

“We want to make sure that the next time we go to voters that we have a package that’s really on-target,” said Allen.

Bike News Roundup: Biking to protect Seattle beaches

Wed, 11/07/2018 - 13:17

It’s time for the Bike News Roundup! Here’s a look at some stuff going around lately that caught our eye.

First up, it may not be a carbon tax, but Seattle’s Jen Strongin was recently featured in a Lime promo video talking about her work to photograph Seattle beaches and why she rides a bike to get around as a way to protect the small creatures she finds:

Pacific Northwest News

Halftime Show! Bric TV profiled Brooklyn’s Courtney Williams, founder of the bicycle advocacy consultant service Brown Bike Girl:

National & Global News

This is an open thread.

Seattle’s Cranksgiving 2018 is November 17

Tue, 11/06/2018 - 10:27

Download the poster PDF and print it out to help spread the word.

A food drive scavenger hunt by bike, Cranksgiving riders bike to a secret list of unique food sellers around Seattle buying food to donate to Rainier Valley Food Bank. For the ninth year, Seattle’s Cranksgiving is hosted by Seattle Bike Blog.

The 2018 ride is Saturday, November 17, starting on Occidental Ave near the CenturyLink Field north parking lot. Register at 10:30 a.m. Hunt starts at 11 and ends back at the start by 2.

Invite all your friends via Facebook! The more the merrier.

You will get a list of needed food items and places to shop. You can go solo or as a small team (four adults max per team). The more you buy and the more places you buy from, the more points you get. There are also photo challenges and more.

New this year, Swift Industries is hosting a camping gear drive for neighbors experiencing housing instability through Just Say Hello. Donations at the start line will earn bonus points. Items accepted include: New adult socks, hats and gloves, and new or gently used (clean and undamaged) tents, tarps, backpacks, coats and rain jackets.

All skill levels welcome! Anyone can win a prize!

Free to enter, but expect to spend at least $20 buying groceries (more is welcome, of course). Bring a pen and a way to carry groceries.

Party at Swift Industries after the ride. Thanks to Olympia for sponsoring the party with some beer.

Last year, 125 people hauled an incredible 1,631 pounds of food to Rainier Valley Food Bank. Come have fun and spread the love.

Obligatory end of Daylight Saving Time bike lights post

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 13:40

Sunset is at 4:45 today. 4:45! That means the typical evening commute will happen in the dark and twilight hours for the next several months. So lets talk about bike lights.

Longtime readers may remember previous posts about bike lights like this one, and my advice remains largely unchanged: Buy a headlight bright enough to see bumps in the road, don’t put it on flashing mode and don’t point it in people’s eyes.

Biking at night is wonderful. But shopping for bike lights can be overwhelming because there are so many different options at a wide range of prices. Most people don’t want to spend any time thinking about their bike lights. But unfortunately, you need to. So here’s my advice as someone who has gone through a lot of bike lights in my time:

  • Make sure you have a way of keeping your lights charged. USB-charged lights are great. So are lights that can take AAs or AAAs, since those rechargeable batteries are common and cheap. Avoid lights that require annoying (and expensive) watch batteries, no matter how cute they are.
  • Keep your headlight on steady instead of flashing. Flashing headlights might make you feel more visible, but they may actually disorient other people and make it more difficult for them to pinpoint your location. Some people with epilepsy can be harmed by strobing headlights. A flashing headlight is also illegal (makes you wonder why they even have a flashing mode, doesn’t it?).
  • Don’t point your light in people’s eyes. It can be very easy to accidentally blind oncoming people. A lot of people just don’t realize how bright their lights are. You should angle your light slightly down so most the beam hits the ground in front of you. This splash of light on the road will make you more visible to people driving than shining the beam in their eyes, and it will help you better see potholes.
  • Use your lights in the fog, in the rain and when the sun is low in the sky. Lights are not just for dark.
  • Don’t leave your lights on your bike when you lock up. They will get stolen. Trust me.
  • Use your common sense, and do what feels safe to you. Some people prefer to get decked out in reflective gear and light up their bikes like a Christmas tree. If that’s you, then go for it. Others, like myself, feel comfortable with a set of good front and rear lights.

If you want to invest some money in lights that you will never need to think about again, ask your local bike shop about dynamo lights. These lights are usually quite powerful and mounted somewhat permanently so you don’t need to remove them when you lock up. And they are powered by your motion, so they turn on automatically when you start rolling and never need to be charged. But they will typically set you back a few hundred bucks and may even require building a new front wheel with a dynamo hub. So it’s not a simple upgrade. But as someone with a knack for destroying or losing battery-powered lights, I’ve probably saved money by investing in dynamo lights instead.

Do you have a favorite bike light? Talk it up in the comments below.

Missing Link design nearly complete, construction to begin this winter (unless the court intervenes)

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 11:30

Barring a court order, construction on the Ballard Missing Link of the Burke-Gilman Trail is scheduled to begin this winter. So while an appeal is still working its way through the courts, the city is moving forward with a construction plan that would have the trail fully open by the end of 2020. That’s 18 years after the Seattle City Council first voted to build this segment.

The work has beed divided into two phases that will overlap. The first section, from the Locks to 24th and Market, is scheduled to begin construction in just a few months. If all goes as planned, it would be open in about a year. Construction on the second phase, from Market St. to Fred Meyer, is set to begin in the summer and would open in autumn of 2020.

The biggest sticking point of the whole route is the industrial driveway crossings along Shilshole. The latest design includes green paint and flashing LED signs warning trail users about trucks.

Many crosswalks have been significantly improved, as well. And there is now a biking and walking path to the 20th Ave NW Street End Park on Salmon Bay, which I did not even know existed. So that’s very cool. Here are the latest designs moving from east to west:

An appeal is still in process in King County Superior Court, where the appellants have a pretty tough case to make. They would need to convince the court that the Environmental Impact Statement and/or the Seattle Hearing Examiner process that ruled in the city’s favor were in some way legally inadequate. For example, the court recently denied an appellant argument that the Hearing Examiner was biased because he was promoted shortly after deciding in the city’s favor (the judge said that if an examiner pursuing career advancement were considered bias, that would “taint virtually all decision making by that body.”). Let’s hope the rest of the appellants’ arguments are similarly ineffective.

Because after this much delay, it would not be wise to assume this project will be completed until crews are pouring the cement. This is the closest the trail has ever been to construction, but appellants are still fighting hard.

Here’s the latest project update from SDOT:

Design of the Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link is nearly complete! The final design reflects ideas that we heard from key stakeholders, including an 11-member Design Advisory Committee (DAC), as well as community members from the Ballard area to design and refine the Missing Link and complete a multimodal corridor that supports all users.

We expect construction of the Missing Link will be split into two phases (see the map and construction timeline below).

  • Phase 1, including the portions of the corridor on NW 54th St and NW Market St, is expected to begin construction in early 2019.
  • The project team is continuing to work with property and business owners to further refine the design for Phase 2, which includes the portion of the corridor on Shilshole Ave NW and NW 45th St. Design for Phase 2 is expected to be complete by 2019, with construction expected to begin in mid-2019.

You can view the latest Missing Link design plans on the project website.

If you were not able to attend our outreach events, you can view event summaries and the complete outreach summary in our project library.

What is the Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link project?
The Burke-Gilman Trail is a regional, mixed-use facility that runs from Golden Gardens Park in Seattle to the Sammamish River Trail in Bothell. The trail is complete except for a 1.4-mile segment through the Ballard neighborhood, known as the “Missing Link.”

The scope of the Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link project has evolved from a multi-use trail to a full multi-modal corridor that will accommodate all users for generations to come. Completing the Missing Link will create a safe, direct, and defined multi-use trail for persons of all abilities. It will also improve predictability for motorized and non-motorized users along the alignment and maintain truck and freight access to the industrial and water-dependent businesses within the Ballard Interbay Northend Manufacturing and Industrial Center (BINMIC).

Through extensive community engagement during design, we’ve learned more about the corridor improvements that stakeholders would like to see. In addition to the trail, additional improvements include new street paving along Market St, new traffic signals on Shilshole, improved pedestrian crosswalks and sidewalks, a new access road, and new stormwater infrastructure.

The Missing Link has been included in the City’s comprehensive plan since the early 1990s, and is identified as one of the City of Seattle’s top-rated trail priorities in the 2014 Bicycle Master Plan.

Vote YES on Bainbridge Island’s SAFE Mobility Levy

Tue, 10/30/2018 - 14:34

As you may have noticed, Seattle Bike Blog does not have a voter’s guide this year. This is partly due to the limited number of local races and partly due to having a baby at home who occupies a lot of my time by being super cute and having a preference for sleeping in my arms.

We previously published a guest op-ed by Chris Covert-Bowlds in favor of I-1631. I just realized that Seattle Bike Blog never officially said we endorse this campaign, so here that is: Vote YES on I-1631!

But across Elliott Bay, Bainbridge Island voters have a very cool levy on their ballots that would invest $15 million over seven years into safe streets, walking and biking projects on the island. Proposition 1, or the SAFE (“Safe Access For Everyone”) Mobility Levy, would focus on improving roadway shoulders, trails, Safe Routes to School and sidewalks. From the City of Bainbridge Island:

Of course people on Bainbridge should vote yes, because this is all good stuff.

Many Bainbridge roads are designed like rural roads through the woods, so there are very few sidewalks and bike lanes. But outside of ferry rushes, traffic is typically pretty low. In this context, a good shoulder goes a long way to provide space for people walking and biking.

Biking on Bainbridge is often wonderful, and it’s easily the best way to get to and from the ferry. But there are some spots where it can get a little scary, especially during a ferry rush.  Investing to improve those areas of stress would not only improve safety, but would also make biking to Winslow or the ferry more inviting to more people. Combine this with the focus on Safe Routes to School, and this levy has a ton of potential.

So if you live on Bainbridge Island, vote YES on Prop 1!

In a return to its 1907 roots, UPS will deliver by cargo bike in downtown Seattle

Thu, 10/25/2018 - 12:19

Promo photo from UPS.

111 years ago, UPS began making deliveries by foot and bike out of Seattle’s Pioneer Square. Today, the company is returning to bikes, at least for some downtown deliveries.

The global delivery giant announced the pilot today along with Mayor Jenny Durkan.

“As Seattle grows and public and private megaprojects limit capacity on our downtown streets, this pilot will help us better understand how we can ensure the delivery of goods while making space on our streets for transit, bikes, and pedestrians,” said Durkan in the UPS press release. “We are eager to learn how pilots like these can help build a city of the future with fewer cars, more transit and less carbon pollution.”

The company has been experimenting with cargo bike deliveries in a handful of cities, mostly in Europe. The UPS bikes are electric-assisted cargo trikes with a rain cover for the operator and an enclosed box for the cargo.

They are not the first company in Seattle to make deliveries with such a bike. Freewheel has been operating for years, and established bike messenger companies like US Dispatch also have cargo bikes in operation.

Using cargo bikes for deliveries won’t just help reduce congestion, it also makes more sense for UPS assuming they can get the logistics right. Finding a place to stop a truck or van in dense areas of town is really difficult, so drivers often either have to park far away and haul packages by foot or choose to break the law by double parking or stopping in a bike lane.

Cargo bikes, however, can ride straight to the front door or loading dock. They are also much more mobile when traffic is heavy because they can use bike lanes. Of course, this only works when there is a bike lane to use, which is yet another reason why Seattle needs to build the Basic Bike Network downtown as soon as possible.

Depending on how the downtown pilot goes, UPS says it may expand its use of bikes for deliveries in more parts of the city.

Here’s the full press release from UPS:

In an effort to address growing traffic congestion and air quality concerns, UPS (NYSE: UPS) and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan today announced the deployment of an innovative downtown delivery pilot project using pedal-assist cargo eBikes and customized, modular trailers. The cargo eBikes will operate in the historic Pike Place Market and downtown Seattle area on sidewalks and in designated bike lanes.

“While we have launched cycle logistic projects in other cities, this is the first one designed to meet a variety of urban challenges,” said Scott Phillippi, UPS’s senior director of maintenance and engineering, international operations. “The modular boxes and trailer allow us to expand our delivery capabilities and meet the unique needs of our Seattle customers. It’s exciting to return to our roots – UPS started in Seattle in 1907 as a bicycle messenger company. We’re looking forward to being able to offer these customizable urban delivery solutions to other cities nationwide.”

Developed in collaboration with Silver Eagle Manufacturing using Truck Trikes, the cutting edge cargo eBike system will have removable cargo containers that are deployed via a specially designed trailer. This unique, “plug and play” design will provide greater flexibility to meet varying delivery needs. It will also be able to make deliveries to areas conventional delivery trucks can’t access directly and currently require that trucks be parked on the periphery for long periods of time. This will reduce congestion in these areas by reducing truck dwell time, instances of double parking and other unintended consequences associated with downtown deliveries.

UPS partnered with the Seattle Department of Transportation to develop plans for the new pilot program. If successful, UPS will expand the route and consider additional cargo eBike deliveries in other areas of the city. This is the first tailored urban delivery solution to address growing traffic congestion in Seattle’s downtown corridor, and is part of UPS’s Cycle Logistics Solutions that help reduce carbon emissions, noise, and traffic.

The UPS® cargo eBike is equipped with a battery-powered electric motor that can travel longer distances than traditional bikes, carry substantial loads and navigate hills and other terrain. The modular, detachable boxes on the trailer can hold up to 400 lbs. and have a 95 cubic foot capacity. The bikes can be operated with human pedal power or battery power, providing drivers with the flexibility they need to navigate changing terrain and energy efficiency.

“Seattle has always been the city that invents the future, and now we are partnering with one of our hometown companies to help drive innovations in transportation,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan. “As Seattle grows and public and private megaprojects limit capacity on our downtown streets, this pilot will help us better understand how we can ensure the delivery of goods while making space on our streets for transit, bikes, and pedestrians. We are eager to learn how pilots like these can help build a city of the future with fewer cars, more transit and less carbon pollution.”

UPS and the University of Washington Urban Freight Lab will evaluate the cargo eBike’s reliability, design and integration into Seattle’s infrastructure over the next year. The Urban Freight Lab is an initiative that brings together transportation engineers and urban planners who manage public spaces with retailers, freight carriers and technology companies supporting transportation solutions. UPS will share data and analyses from the pilot for assessment against two of the lab’s key objectives: improving first delivery attempts and reducing “dwell time,” both of which should reduce traffic congestion and pollution.

The success of the UPS eBike was first demonstrated in 2012 in Hamburg, Germany, and serves as a prototype for the company’s newest cargo eBike in Seattle. The company also operates inner-city delivery projects with delivery on foot and by bike in more than 30 major cities worldwide, including Leuven and Mechelen, Belgium; Paris and Toulouse, France; Frankfurt, Hamburg, Herne, Offenbach, Oldenburg and Munich, Germany; Dublin, Ireland; Rome and Verona, Italy; and London, U.K. in addition to the one other eBike previously operating in the United States in Pittsburgh.

Using its “Rolling Laboratory” approach, UPS deploys approximately 9,300  low-emission vehicles worldwide to determine what alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles work best in various routes and duty cycles. This includes all-electric, hybrid electric, hydraulic hybrid, ethanol, compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG) and propane. In Washington, UPS uses 10 electric and hybrid electric vehicles. The cargo eBike is part of a broader UPS strategy to continue to electrify its delivery fleet.

Seattle’s new program will more quickly scrape the wreckage of people’s lives off our streets

Wed, 10/24/2018 - 12:31

Two stories have been floating around in my head in the past 24 hours, the cognitive dissonance so deafening it’s hard to think about anything else. One is the news that Mayor Jenny Durkan has purchased five trucks and funded a program to more quickly respond to and clear the scenes of traffic collisions. The other is a powerful story Owen Pickford wrote at The Urbanist about a devastating moment 17 years ago when he was riding in the backseat of a friend’s station wagon. They collided with a box truck while making a left turn.

The feeling of autumn compounds the mood I get from this memory–its fuzzy edges and vivid snippets. There was yelling just before we were hit. Afterwards, I think my door wouldn’t open and I slid across the backseat, exiting on the driver’s side. I saw a friend on his phone. I laid down on the ground.

I’m unsure how long it took for the paramedics to arrive. They asked if I was hurt and I said I couldn’t breathe. There was an ambulance ride. Then at some point, my mom was standing next to my bed. She told me that one of my friends had died and I remember crying.

My friend, who was killed, sat in the front seat directly ahead of me. He was a few fractions of a second further, directly in the path of the oncoming vehicle. I had broken ribs, a partially collapsed lung, a lacerated liver, and internal bleeding.

Owen, Executive Director of The Urbanist, shared his powerful story this week. Everyone should read it in full.

The pain, both physical and emotional, that Owen has endured and continues to endure due to this one traffic collision is immense. Yet his friend was only one out of the 42,196 people who died in U.S. traffic collisions that year. And Owen was only one of hundreds of thousands of people who were seriously injured that year, and one of millions who had a friend or family member killed or seriously injured.

One year later, a childhood friend of mine died along side his friend in a car crash in the suburbs of St. Louis. Losing Ryan and Greg devastated the community. But they were just two of the 43,005 people killed on U.S. streets that year.

Between 32,000 and 44,000 people have died every year since. From Owen:

All of the 35,000 deaths each year in our streets include painful personal stories like the one I’ve recounted. These deaths are not accidents. Traffic violence is caused by public policy. It’s the result of our collective decisions about street design, speed limits, and land use. We know how to minimize crashes but we fail to care.

After a day of thinking about Owen’s story and feeling oddly uneasy about Seattle’s new Incident Response Team, I think I’ve figured out why. It’s because these trucks and the SDOT crew members operating them are going to be tasked with showing up to terrible scenes of death, injury and heartbreak to scrape the debris and remains of shattered lives off the pavement more quickly so that people driving in traffic are not inconvenienced by the devastating reality of our car-centric transportation system.

The press release for the team celebrates that they will be “helping to promptly remove debris in the street; move vehicles out of the traffic lane following a crash; assist stranded motorists; respond to traffic signal issues and fallen critical signs; and provide emergency traffic control during incidents.” Being able to respond better to collisions is not a bad idea. But the press release leaves out the part where crews have to spread out kitty litter to soak up the thick mixture of leaking motor oil and a community member’s blood.

This is a very troubling image to think about, which is why our society does all it can to hide it. We’re even celebrating the creation of a new program to clean this up faster.

But hiding it doesn’t make it go away.

While the city is investing in this new response team, the Mayor is delaying safe streets projects that could prevent fatal and serious injury collisions in the first place. Ride the Ducks is still operating on our streets and in Lake Union. We are still designing neighborhood streets that have multiple lanes in each direction despite our city’s extensively-documented success at reducing serious collisions through road diet and bike lane projects. We are still programming traffic signals to skip their walk phases and using high-tech “adaptive signals” to steal even more time from people walking so drive times can be barely shorter.

Why take political heat from neighbors who get angry about road safety changes when we can just send a truck out to clear the crash debris instead?

Friday: SNG hosts evening presentation about Dutch cycling culture

Tue, 10/02/2018 - 15:57

“… but Seattle isn’t Amsterdam.”

You’ve probably heard this argument at some point as an excuse for why your town shouldn’t even try to build quality bike infrastructure. But half a century ago, death in traffic was rampant in the Netherlands just like the United States. Now they are among the safest in the world. How did they do it?

Well, there is a lot to unpack in that question, which is why Seattle Neighborhood Greenways is hosting Vancouver’s Melissa and Chris Bruntlett Friday evening for a presentation and discussion called “Building the Cycling City: Dutch Lessons for Seattle” (Seattle Bike Blog is a sponsor). Tickets are sliding scale and benefit Seattle Neighborhood Greenways. Buy them online.

If you can’t make the Friday event, you can catch Melissa and Chris Saturday morning during Bainbridge Island’s Open Streets Festival (stay tuned for more on that).

More details from SNG:

Building the Cycling City: Dutch Lessons for Seattle
An evening with Melissa & Chris Bruntlett

Please join us for a very special keynote presentation and community panel:

Friday, October 5, 2018, 5:00 – 7:00 pm
Impact Hub Seattle
220 2nd Ave S, Main Event Space (1st floor, ADA accessible, bike storage available)

TICKETS

Tickets are sliding scale, $5 – $100, and on sale now:
https://secure.lglforms.com/form_engine/s/pbGj2T7q_l85eTWmKz23lg

Proceeds benefit nonprofit Seattle Neighborhood Greenways. Please consider a solidarity ticket of $10 or more to support Seattle Neighborhood Greenways’ critically needed work in support of safe and healthy streets citywide.

No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

ABOUT THE EVENT

Around the world, countries marvel at Dutch cycling culture and infrastructure while an unfortunate “that would never work here” attitude prevents real change from happening in most U.S. cities, including our own. But the Dutch overcame many of the same challenges as other car-clogged cities like Seattle, and their story is an important model for moving us toward a more human-scale, bike-friendly future.

Join Melissa and Chris Bruntlett for a fun, visual, and interactive discussion. They’ll share the triumphs and challenges of the Dutch cycling story, show how some of the ideas are already being adopted in global cities, and draw out concrete lessons for Seattle to follow their lead.

Following the Bruntletts’ inspiring, photo-rich presentation of what other cities are doing, a lively, solution-focused panel will bring the ideas home to Seattle and ask, “What will it really take to get there?”

The event is scheduled for Friday, October 5th, 5:00-7:00pm at the main event space in Impact Hub Seattle. Thanks to our amazing food and beverage sponsors, we’ll have fantastic beer from Peddler Brewing, fine wine from Eleven Winery, substantive appetizers, delicious coffee & desserts from Convoy Coffee, and time for socializing!

Event webpage: http://seattlegreenways.org/cyclingcity

Take Bellevue’s survey about the 108th Ave NE bike lanes

Mon, 10/01/2018 - 12:40

Project map from Bellevue.

Bellevue wants to know what you think of their demonstration bike lanes on 108th Ave NE, so take their online survey and let them know.

The city opened the new bike lanes this summer as a practical test of the concept through the heart of the downtown core. The lanes connect to the transit center and were accompanied by the launch of Lime e-bikes, which allow more people to use the new lanes.

They aren’t perfect, but the relatively low-budget lanes are a test of the concept that the city’s transportation planners say they will continue to improve depending on how things are working. So let them know!

From the City of Bellevue:

The City of Bellevue wants to hear from you!

The 108th Avenue Demonstration Bikeway opened on July 31, 2018, providing the first continuous bicycle facility throughdowntown Bellevue. Now the City of Bellevue wants to hear what you think. If you bike, walk, bus, or drive along 108th Avenue NE in downtown, please take a few minutes to respond to an online questionnaire at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/108thBikeDemo. The survey is available until Nov. 1, 2018.

Your response will help the city transportation staff know what you think works, what doesn’t, and how the design can be improved to better serve all users. More information is available on the project webpage. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the demonstration bikeway.

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways: Disappointing bike commute data is ‘neither surprising nor inevitable’

Thu, 09/27/2018 - 12:45

Editor’s Note: Seattle Bike Blog reported yesterday on newly-released 2017 American Communities Survey data that estimates that the number of people biking to work is declining in Seattle. In response, the folks at Seattle Neighborhood Greenways wrote this guest post looking at the start-and-stop construction of a useful bike network in our city and discusses where we can go from here.

The number of people biking to work in Seattle has not been growing. This is disappointing, but it is neither surprising nor is it an inevitable trend.

60% of people in Seattle want to bike more but don’t. They want to bike more because biking for transportation makes us happier, keeps us healthier, saves us money, and reduces pollution.

But safety is the number one reason they choose not to.

The reality is that Seattle’s bicycle routes are still fragmented, inconsistent, and dangerous. We need quick implementation of a large-scale, connected network of safe, protected routes in order to see meaningful change in how people are choosing to get around.

After Sher Kung was tragically killed by a driver on 2nd Ave in 2014 the city acted quickly to build the first protected bike lane in downtown Seattle, but progress since then has been lethargic. In 2016, former Mayor Ed Murray put the Basic Bike Network on indefinite hold.

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways pushed back against this delay. Led by family bikers, we filled City Hall holding signs saying “My Family Bikes” and “Safe Streets Now,” and chanting “We can’t wait!” As a result of these protests, planning for the Basic Bike Network moved forward.

Former Seattle Neighborhood Greenways Executive Director Cathy Tuttle addresses a crowd gathered in May 2016 to urge city leaders to treat traffic violence like the public health emergency it is.

When Mayor Jenny Durkan’s administration took over, they delayed the Basic Bike Network again. And again, a groundswell of caring people joined us to push back against the delay by emailing, calling, and taking to the street:

In response, City Council rose to the moment and passed a resolution to finally extend the disconnected 2nd Ave protected bike lane to the Westlake trail, Capitol Hill, and International District by the end of 2019.

More work remains to be done. We need to complete the Basic Bike Network for Uptown and the new arena, and connect it to the rest of the city. Seattle Neighborhood Greenways has been leading the charge by pushing for solutions that work for Uptown, listening to the Chinatown-International District community, and doing extensive outreach on Pike/Pine.

But even as we work to make it easy to commute by bike, we need to remember that getting to work only represents 25% of our daily transportation needs. We also need to make it convenient and comfortable to bike to the store, to see friends, to school, and more. That’s why in 2016 we worked with our neighborhood chapters to envision a system that connects every growing neighborhood (the map is not to scale).

Piece by piece, our grassroots neighborhood-based chapters are bringing this vision to reality because people like you are rolling up their sleeves all over the city:

  • West Seattle Bike Connections is working to connect the spine of West Seattle and Delridge to downtown.
  • Duwamish Valley Safe Streets is working to connect Georgetown and South Park with a trail.
  • Beacon Hill Safe Streets is working to connect to Columbia City and the International District.
  • Rainier Valley Greenways is working to connect the Rainier Valley to the rest of Seattle.
  • Central Seattle Greenways is working to connect Capitol Hill to Downtown and the Central District.
  • Queen Anne Greenways is working to connect to the new Seattle Center Arena.
  • Green Lake & Wallingford Safe Streets is working to connect to and around the park.
  • Lake City Greenways and University Greenways are working to connect people to new light rail stations.

There are no shortcuts to make biking in Seattle welcoming, comfortable, and convenient for people of every age, language, ethnicity, gender, race, ability, and level of wealth. Changing our streets and transportation system to reflect our values and needs requires on-the-ground advocacy and community-building in every neighborhood — work that our staff and volunteers do everyday. But to win, we need everyone who cares to be a part of this movement.

Here are four ways you can join:

  1. Join us on Friday, October 5 for an inspiring evening of ideas at Building the Cycling City: Dutch Lessons for Seattle, including how to address Seattle’s gender gap.
  2. Sign up to volunteer with us or attend our next Volunteer Orientation on Wednesday, October 17
  3. Donate to support our grassroots organizing to make every neighborhood in Seattle a great place to walk, bike, and live. Right now we have a 2-1 match, meaning your $100 contribution will become $300!
  4. Ride a bike, and bring a friend!

 

Latest Census survey shows decline in Seattle bike commuting, especially by women

Wed, 09/26/2018 - 15:55

Bike commute trends, from the American Community Survey.

The latest Census survey does not look great for bike commuting, at least as the primary mode that people use to get to work on an everyday basis. The data is especially harsh for women biking to work, a count that has seemingly plummeted compared to recent years.

The annual American Community Survey asks residents which mode of transportation they used most to travel to work “last week.” So this is not a measure of total biking, only bike commuting. And there is no accounting for mixed trips, where someone bikes (or uses bike share) to connect to transit or for people who bike some days but not others. And by asking “last week,” a response will be very weather dependent. So, for example, many of the people who started biking to UW Station when it opened in 2016 would be filed under public transit, not biking.

The survey comes out annually, and the data released this week is from 2017. The data can vary quite significantly from year-to-year, so it’s typically not a good idea to take a single year of data too seriously until you see a multi-year trend. For example, we had a very positive survey in 2012 that, after looking at the trends, was probably an overestimate (perhaps 2015 as well).

I am similarly a bit skeptical of the 2017 numbers, which seem almost impossibly low and don’t seem to match up with the Fremont Bridge numbers. Those counts — which include all bike trips, not just commute trips — have been fairly steady:

Fremont Bridge annual bike trip counts are much less variable than the Census survey. And the promising news is that 2018 Fremont Bridge counts are way up compared to 2017.

But the 2017 drop is statistically significant. So while I suspect the extent of the change is a bit exaggerated, it can’t be ignored. This is especially true for women (note that the survey only includes a binary gender response, an issue the Census Bureau needs to address).

In recent years, the apparent growth in Seattle bike commuting came mostly from women. There was such an increase that our 2016 American Community Survey story was focused on how women were leading the city’s biking boom. Well, the latest survey shows a dramatic reversal of that trend. But I don’t believe there are truly half as many women biking to work today as there were in 2015 because transportation modes rarely ever shift that quickly. I suspect the 2015 numbers were a bit inflated and the 2017 numbers are a bit deflated, perhaps exaggerated thanks to the wettest winter in recent history as the Seattle Times’ Gene Balk suggests (the Fremont Bridge counts show a big decline during the winter of 2017, but counts bounced back up in spring and summer). The ten-year trend line is still positive, and Seattle’s position on the list of big U.S. cities with the highest bike commute rates remains the same: 5th.

But any downward movement should be cause for concern and a wake-up call for the city, bike organizations and communities. Whatever happened in 2016 and 2017 didn’t work. Obviously, city leaders need to stop delaying work to build connected and comfortable bike routes. But Seattle also needs new ideas, new voices and new energy to help grow communities that bike and create exciting and inviting ways for more people to plug in and learn the ropes of bike commuting.

Biking in Seattle, especially in the dense employment centers downtown and in South Lake Union, has gotten less comfortable in recent years, not better. Major bike routes have become construction zones that almost never include separated bike lane detours. 7th Ave has been a complete mess, and there is no good alternative route for this vital connector street. Both Dexter Ave and 9th Ave have been stressful construction zones for years. The waterfront has been a stressful mess of freeway construction hell, which significantly impacts anyone headed from Interbay, the Duwamish Valley and West Seattle. And Southeast Seattle, well, those routes have been as bad as ever.

The result of all this is that biking to and through downtown feels less safe and comfortable than it did in 2015 and maybe even earlier. And plans to improve these conditions came to a screeching halt in 2016 and 2017, prompting protest at City Hall and concerns that bike commuting cannot grow if the city does not connect neighborhoods to and through our city’s biggest employment centers.

The 2nd Ave protected bike lane remains an unconnected oasis of reasonably comfortable biking, but you still need to travel through some tough construction site detours and streets lacking adequate bike infrastructure to get there. There are a lot of people who have founds ways to make it all work, but Seattle cannot reasonably expect that closing bike routes would not negatively impact the number of people biking. If the axiom “If you build it, they will come” is true for building good bike routes, then “If you block it, they will stop coming” is probably also true.

Recent additions to the downtown bike network, like the extension of the 2nd Ave bike lane through Belltown and bike lanes on stretches of 7th Ave, are not reflected in the 2017 data, since they opened around the 2018 New Year. And bike share is only somewhat represented, since private companies did not start operating until July and didn’t reach significant numbers of bikes on the streets until later in the year and into 2018.

The 2017 data is overall a continuation of a good trend in Seattle transportation, even if the biking numbers aren’t great. Drive alone trips continued to fall as a percentage of all commute trips, reaching a modern low of 47.2 percent. Transit registered its biggest year yet at 22.9 percent, perhaps accounting for some of the decrease in biking (that could be a good topic for further study).

The remainder of work trips happen by some other mode, including telecommuting, taxis and carpooling. Data from the American Community Survey.

There may also be a larger force impacting bike numbers: The economy. For example, there seemed to be a boom in biking during the recession as people looked for cheaper ways to get around, and that trend may be reversing or stalling nationwide. But Seattle’s economy has been growing much faster than most places in the country, and median income and the cost of living are both rising fast. Nationwide, people in the lowest income bracket are the people most likely to ride a bike. So it could very well be that bike commuters are getting priced out of the city or out of the city’s more bikeable neighborhoods faster than new bike commuters are added (this is also a good topic for further study).

This feels like a turning point for biking in Seattle. Lots of projects are in political limbo due to lackluster excitement for them in Mayor Jenny Durkan’s Office, there are major changes underway at Cascade Bicycle Club and an anti-bike lane backlash seems to be getting more organized (one group has even formed a political action committee).

At the same time, the city has had some wildly exciting experiments with private bike share that has made bikes much more easily accessible and affordable to more people, and SDOT has both the funding and the plans to build a lot of game-changing bike routes if they can just get their shit together and get some political cover.

If you have been sitting on the sidelines, now might be a good time to get involved. Start a new group or organize a new event. Find some friends and start biking together. Help your interested neighbor bike to work. Organize a bike train that serves your neighborhood. Join your local chapter of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways and get involved. And if you do start something, be sure to let me know. Seattle Bike Blog is here to help folks doing cool things spread the word.

Mayor Durkan’s budget boosts curb cuts, but eliminates open streets and pavement-to-parks

Tue, 09/25/2018 - 15:27

Summer Parkways on Cherry Street in 2015.

Streets are not just for transportation, they are also places where city life happens. But Mayor Jenny Durkan’s proposed budget apparently doesn’t see them that way, because it eliminates the city’s modest open streets and pavement-to-parks budgets.

But the budget is not all bad news. It does include significant increases in sidewalk repair and new sidewalks. And it includes a very big increase in funding and staff for building curb cuts, though that is not exactly coming from the goodness of the Mayor’s heart. The city settled a lawsuit last year requiring them to build thousands of new curb cuts. But still, this is exciting to see in action.

The budget also includes $1.1M more for the Northgate Bridge, $1.4M increase for neighborhood greenways near schools and $500K for community-requested lighting upgrades along a planned King Street neighborhood greenway. The city will also spend $1M on a congestion pricing study. Funds for building the Ballard Missing Link are preserved, though the trail opponents’ appeal is still working its way through King County Superior Court. The latest court schedule has pushed oral arguments into December.

The 2018 Summer Parkways events already quietly did not happen, so perhaps it is not much of a surprise to see that reflected in the budget for next year. This will not affect Bicycle Sundays on Lake Washington Boulevard, which is run by the Parks District. But it’s a shame to see the city give up on what could be an amazing community-building use of our streets after just a handful of tries. Sure, the first few tries didn’t take off like Portland’s incredible Sunday Parkways program, but I wish the city dedicated itself to revamping the event and trying different ideas rather than throwing in the towel. Plans were in the works for a bigger downtown Civlovia-style event before the program was cancelled.

If folks are inspired by major open streets events like Ciclovia in Bogota or CicLAvia in Los Angeles, now is a good time to get organized. The city is clearly not in the mood to organize such a project itself, so it’s up to the people to get together and create a vision for an amazing Seattle street party supported by city funding. Because building community is a vital use our public spaces and worthy of SDOT funding.

The City Council will now have a chance to make changes to the Mayor’s budget. The Council should consider implementing some oversight and/or guidance for the signal timing and so-called Intelligent Transportation System programs to make sure these investments help or at least do not negatively impact transit, walking and biking efficiency.  The Mayor’s budget includes funding for signal timing changes as a way to mitigate SR-99 viaduct and tunnel changes, which is not itself a problem. Traffic patterns will change, and this will require new signal timing. But some of the city’s recent efforts to improve traffic through signal timing, like Mercer Street, has resulted in big negative impacts to people on foot and all the people on cross-streets by car, bus, bike or foot. We need to be sure the signal changes don’t simply steal time from other road users and give it to our freeway-bound city streets.

The Council should also look into whether they want to save the pavement-to-parks program, which has created some very interesting new public spaces for relatively little money. In most cases, the pavement-to-parks projects utilize excess street space that had previously made crosswalks more dangerous and traffic movements more complex. By turning some highway-style “slip lanes” into parks, for example, SDOT has created public space while also eliminating extra crossings for people on foot. The city has also used pavement parks to simplify intersections, such as the odd, wide intersections created by diagonal streets such as Denny Way. The changes rarely have significant impacts to traffic and can even improve traffic by removing conflicts and confusion. For example, this Taylor Ave park makes traffic flow much more simple while dramatically shortening crossing distances for people on foot. And it looks great:

From Google Maps.

Or this big slip lane removal up in Roosevelt. Note that people driving can still go right from 65th to 8th just fine, but now people on foot have one fewer street to cross and a new space to hang out:

From Google Maps.

And, of course, there’s Arcade Park.

It’s sad to see the city on the verge of rolling back what seems like a cost-effective and creative way to increase public space and improve traffic safety at the same time. This is a program worth saving, and an example of SDOT doing great work for relatively little funding.

And, of course, the Council should discuss open streets events. Should they save Summer Parkways? Should they include funding to study a different open streets concept? Or should they just let it go? I suppose this is a good topic for you all to discuss in the comments below.

Below is the list of the Mayor’s proposed changes to the SDOT budget (more details in this PDF):

Dr. Adonia Lugo returns to Seattle Saturday to discuss her book Bicycle/Race: Transportation, Culture, & Resistance

Fri, 09/21/2018 - 09:45

Dr. Adonia Lugo is returning to Seattle Saturday to talk about her book Bicycle/Race: Transportation, Culture, & Resistance.

Lugo lived in Seattle for a spell a few years back while working on her anthropology dissertation on bicycle culture. Before that, she was a founder of Los Angeles’ massive open streets event CicLAvia. While in Seattle, she created the Seattle Bike Justice Project and helped Seattle Bike Blog organize the 2011 Safe Streets Social. Since leaving Seattle, Lugo has worked for the League of American Bicyclists, has contributed to and edited the academic collection Bicycle Justice and Urban Transformation, and has been an organizer of The Untokening.

Basically, Adonia is awesome (and, full disclosure, a friend), and you should go to G&O Family Cyclery in Greenwood at 6 p.m. Saturday evening to hear her speak.

As an anthropologist, much of her work is very academic. But Bicycle/Race, published this year by Microcosm Publishing, is written for everyone, reading more like a memoir of her adventures studying and leading US bike culture.

Details from the event listing:

Join G & O Family Cyclery for a reading and discussion with Dr. Adonia Lugo on her new book Bicycle / Race: Transportation, Culture and Resistance. Come on in to the shop and pick up a copy of her book now!

Bicycle / Race paints an unforgettable picture of Los Angeles—and the United States—from the perspective of two wheels. This is a book of borderlands and intersections, a cautionary tale about the dangers of putting infrastructure before culture, and a coming-of-age story about power and identity. The colonial history of southern California is interwoven through Adonia Lugo’s story of growing up Chicana in Orange County, becoming a bicycle anthropologist, and co-founding Los Angeles’s hallmark open streets cycling event, CicLAvia, along the way. When she takes on racism in the world of national bicycle advocacy in Washington, DC, she finds her voice and heads back to LA to organize the movement for environmental justice in active transportation.

In the tradition of City of Quartz, this book will forever change the way you see Los Angeles, race and class in the United States, and the streets and people around you wherever you live.

Cultural anthropologist Adonia E. Lugo, PhD, joined the Urban Sustainability team at AULA in the spring of 2015. Dr. Lugo began investigating sustainable infrastructure during her graduate studies at UC Irvine, when she co-created the bicycle event CicLAvia in Los Angeles. After receiving her doctorate in 2013, she worked at the League of American Bicyclists in Washington, D.C. as a national leader in building better “human infrastructure” (diverse social networks and cultural norms) to promote bicycling. Today, Dr. Lugo looks for ways to bring her racial justice expertise from the field of bicycle advocacy into equitable and sustainable mobility at large. She is currently collaborating with partners around the country to define “mobility justice,” a concept that highlights the complex difficulties that people of color and other marginalized groups face both when traveling through public spaces and in urban planning and development processes.

In addition to her role as an educator at AULA, Dr. Lugo is involved in a number of projects designed to expand support for mobility justice. She is an advisory board co-chair with People for Mobility Justice, a core organizer of The Untokening, and the manager of the Bike Equity Network email list. Her book, Bicycle/Race: Transportation, Culture, & Resistance, was published in 2018.

Park(ing) Day 2018 is Friday! Here’s a map of the 62 pop-up mini parks on a street near you

Thu, 09/20/2018 - 09:49

A walk through three WA State ecosystems in as many parking spaces, from Park(ing) Day 2014.

Park(ing) Day is one of my favorite holidays. For one day, people imagine better ways we could use just a tiny percentage of all the precious city space typically reserved for storing cars.

The idea started in 2005 in San Francisco and has since spread across the world. Originally, and still in many places, participants operated subversively and without official permission. But Seattle has taken a more proactive approach by not only encouraging the day of creativity, but also organizing an easy and free permit process for participants.

At a time when SDOT seems unable to escape bad headlines and goes from interim Director to interim Director without clear leadership, a day of pure fun and creativity may be just what the department needs. It’s a chance to celebrate the fun side of managing public spaces.

New this year, participants can vote for their favorites online. And there will be an after-party 7–9 p.m. at the Center for Architecture and Design.

Here’s the city’s interactive map of the pop-up parks:

More details from SDOT:

Wondering where you can find a pop-up park on September 21? Check out our interactive map to find a pop-up park near you.

Along with the parks hosted all over the city, we’ve created neighborhood clusters of pop-up parks in seven neighborhoods in Seattle. Clusters allow you to visit multiple parks at a time and enjoy everything the neighborhood has to offer. This year, clusters are located in:

• Beacon Hill
• Capitol Hill
• Delridge
• University District
• Lake City
• Rainier Beach
• Pioneer Square

Parks will be popping up all over the city from 9 AM – 7 PM; refer to the interactive map for hours, and then RSVP to the event on Facebook and share with your friends!

Pop-ups with the most votes…

When you check out pop-up parks on PARK(ing) Day, be sure to note which ones you like best and why… because on event day, you’ll be able to vote (online survey) for your favorites in each of three categories:

  1. Most creative use of space,
  2. Most connected to community, and
  3. Most interactive programming.

If you want to help celebrate the PARK(ing) Day award winners, swing by the celebratory after-party, hosted at the Center for Architecture and Design from 7 – 9 PM. We can’t wait to see who wins and honor ingenuity!

Confidential mediation is no way to govern public decisions like 35th Ave NE bike lanes – UPDATED

Tue, 09/18/2018 - 12:44

The plan for 35th Ave NE. Or is it? We can’t tell you because secret, ongoing meetings are confidential.

SDOT and Mayor Jenny Durkan’s Office (UPDATE 9/20: and Councilmember Rob Johnson’s Office) has convened a confidential mediation session between a handful of people who support and oppose bike lanes at part of the city’s under-construction 35th Ave NE repaving project.

Seattle Bike Blog has been working for a while to learn details about these mediation sessions — which are paid for by public funds and could influence public investments on a public street — but has been unable to receive times and locations for the meetings so I can report about them for you.

UPDATE 9/19: Since publication, Twitter user @bruteforceblog noted that the city’s chosen moderator John A Howell of Cedar River Group donated not only to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s campaign ($200) (UPDATE 9/20: and $100 to Councilmember Johnson’s 2015 campaign) but also to the failed 2009 City Council campaign of Jordan Royer, according to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission. Royer is an organizer of the bike lane opposition, a committee officer of the group’s new political action committee and a party to the mediation. Royer, seen here embracing Mayor Durkan during a campaign event, also donated $500 to Durkan’s campaign. In 2009, Howell donated to Royer’s campaign on two occasions totaling $250. Another Cedar River Group employee, Tom Byers, donated another $400 to Royer bringing the firm’s reported total to $650.

Howell previously worked for Jordan’s father Charles Royer when he was Mayor of Seattle in the 1980s. So his history with the Royer family goes way back.

I have an email out to both the Mayor’s Office and Howell asking how he was chosen for this role, whether this connection to a member of the opposition was disclosed and whether they see this as a conflict of interest. I will update this when/if I hear back. UPDATE: Howell emailed to say he did disclose his ties to Royer and does not think it is a conflict of interest:

I worked for Jordan Royer’s father in the 1970’s and 80’s.  As a result, I have known Jordan for 40 years.  I disclosed this to city officials.  I have friends and colleagues on both sides of the debate about 35th Ave.  I personally have not sided with either perspective, and will not do so.  To answer your question about a 9 year old contribution to a city council race, I do not see that as a conflict.

UDPATE 9/20: Councilmember Johnson called to defend the talks, saying he reached out to Howell because he thought his relationship with Royer would be helpful.

“[Howell] is one of if not the most accomplished mediator and facilitator I’ve ever worked with,” Johnson said. “Between the unlit fireworks and gas cans, the death threats, the threat of real protest in front of people’s houses, and the real impact it is having on neighborly relations in the neighborhood, I had hoped that hiring John would allow people to come together and really take the temperature down.

“This isn’t a conspiracy by the Mayor’s Office.”

Erica Barnett at the C Is For Crank reported Tuesday that the mediation is costing taxpayers $14,000, and Seattle Bike Blog has learned that this money is coming from SDOT (UPDATE: An SDOT spokesperson confirmed that the funds are coming from the Bicycle Program). Barnett also reports that the completion of the project, which is already under construction, may be delayed because “SDOT is having an ongoing dialogue with the communities impacted by these projects,” according to a presentation to the City Council Transportation Committee (PDF).

There is no doubt that the opposition to 35th Ave NE bike lanes has been very organized. Several people behind the Save 35th Ave NE group have even formed a political action committee called Neighborhoods For Smart Streets PAC. Because saying people are not smart if they don’t agree car parking is more important than safety, that’s a great way to engage with your neighbors.

But regardless of the outcome, confidential mediation is an inappropriate way to make decisions about public investments, especially when we already have official policies and plans to guide such decisions. How are the participants for the mediation chosen? How do we know every Seattle resident is appropriately represented in these talks? Several of the anti-bike lane organizers happen to be lawyers. Do all parties have equal access to lawyers?

35th Ave NE passes though a very wealthy and white neighborhood compared to the rest of the city, but the investment to spend millions to repave that street is being made by all of us no matter where we live. Every street is of citywide importance. That’s why we make plans like the Bicycle Master Plan or policies like the Complete Streets Ordinance and the elected City Council passes them in the full light of day.

Maybe there is a place for confidential mediation in conducting city business, though my preference for open government makes me skeptical. But a project like 35th Ave NE that follows officially and publicly approved plans is not one of them. Just because a group gets organized or has the money to start a PAC doesn’t mean they should be able to get a separate mediation process from the city. What precedent does this set? Does every neighborhood group now get to demand confidential mediation for every city project they don’t like? Or just the wealthy ones?

If the goal of the mediation is to significantly change the design of a public investment project that has already gone through public meetings and a public contracting process, that is worrying. But if the goal is to see if bike lane supporters and opponents can come together and sing Kumbaya, that’s maybe less worrying but still a questionable use of SDOT funding. But I would definitely be there to cover their first concert together as newfound besties.

Part of the mediation rules requires both parties to refrain from making statements to their respective members or to the press. This is troubling to me as a believer in open meetings and public access, though Seattle Bike Blog doesn’t have a legal team or budget to look into the legality of such a restriction. But even if it is perfectly legal to do this, it feels wrong.

The official, public page for the project makes no mention of the mediation. Below is all the information I was able to get from SDOT and the Mayor’s Office. When I asked follow-up questions, the response was, “I’m sorry, but the department can’t comment on the mediation process beyond what was shared yesterday.”

In partnership with the Mayor’s Office, Councilmember Johnson, and SDOT, John Howell (from the consulting firm Cedar River Group) is mediating conversations regarding the 35th Ave NE Project with neighborhood and community members, including bike advocates, attempting to find common ground and project improvements to address the needs of the community.

While this effort is underway, contractor crews continue to repair street panels, replace curb ramps, repair sidewalks, and pave the road in the project corridor. The temporary striping that is on the road now will remain in place. We’ll provide an update on final striping to the community when we have more details on timing. You can sign up to receive our weekly email updates via our web page if you are interested.