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Bike share carried 209K trips in May + A look at the city’s updated permit rules

Fri, 07/13/2018 - 15:51

Seattle’s bike share ridership keeps climbing. Image: SDOT.

People in Seattle took more than 208,849 bike share trips in May as use of the bikes increased steeply throughout spring. In total, people took 1.4 million rides between late July and mid-June, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation (PDF).

To build on this astounding success, SDOT is updating its permit to allow four companies totaling 20,000 bikes, about double the number on the streets today. And the increase comes with some extra permit fees to vastly increase the amount of designated bike parking space in the city to help make sure bikes are parked appropriately.

The permit plan heads to the City Council Transportation Committee Tuesday. If approved, it is then scheduled to go before the full Council for a vote July 23 and would go into effect August 31. Here’s a look at what is in the new permit rules:

Income and racial equity

All three companies have already far exceeded the low-income access rules in the expiring pilot permit, which was mostly focused on encouraging companies to include lower-income parts of the city in the service area rather than sticking only to wealthier areas. But right at launch all companies served the entire city limits, vastly exceeding the city’s rules on day one. That was fantastic, but also a sign that the city should make the equity rules a bit more specific.

For example, the new permit would require companies to make sure 20 percent of their fleets are serving “Tier 1 equity areas.” This is similar to a rule implemented by my hometown of St. Louis to make sure the companies are not just focusing redistribution efforts in wealthier and whiter parts of town.

Such a rule is probably a good idea, especially as companies add pricier options like e-assist bikes. But according to survey data, the companies are already achieving impressive racial balance among its users. In fact, the city survey found that people who identified as African American or Hispanic were slightly more likely to have ridden bike share than white respondents, though white respondents were more likely to be heavy users. This one survey should not be used as an excuse to say, “Well, we fixed transportation equity!” and consider the work finished. But it is a promising start to build on.

SDOT map highlighting areas with lower bike share use.

The bikes are seeing much lower use along the north, southeast and southwest borders of the city. But since neighboring municipalities (Shoreline, unincorporated King County, Renton, etc) don’t have bike share, the lower use could also be a symptom of being on the edge of the service area. Lacking bike infrastructure, formidable terrain and a lower density of destinations also could be factors beyond the bike share companies’ control. But it is still worth trying harder to serve these areas and working to develop bike share service agreements with Seattle’s regional neighbors. And if Seattle requires the companies to serve city border areas, the city should do its part by building long-needed bike infrastructure in those neighborhoods.

Several companies have demonstrated their abilities to provide lower-cost rates to people who qualify for government assistance. They have also created methods for unlocking bikes without a smart phone and paying for rentals without a credit card. Lime, for example, recently announced that low-income users will be able to load their accounts with cash through PayNearMe services in any CVS or 7-Eleven. Such a level of access should become the rule.

The city may also want to think of ways to make sure low-cost options remain in service as companies move more and more towards pricier electric versions and potentially away from the $1 pedal bikes that started this whole thing. Which brings us to the next point:

Different caps for different device types

Should Seattle have caps on the number of bikes at all? Would the drawbacks of too many bikes really be worse than the benefits of such ubiquitous access? Experiences in cities that had no caps, especially in Asia, resulted in widely-shared photos of massive bike piles. I understand the city’s desire to avoid that.

But the city needs to make sure not to overcorrect by placing caps that limit the success and use of these services or encourages companies to remove lower-cost (and lower-profit) bikes. Discount programs for people who qualify for government programs are good, but the absolute best way for these companies to serve low-income people is to simply be affordable from the start. $1 for a bike ride is a great price, lower than any other mode of transportation other than walking (and maybe riding your own bike, depending on your bike costs). The city should be looking for ways to keep low-cost pedal bikes in operation even as new innovations come online.

One way to achieve this is to have different caps for different device types. Let’s say ACME Bikes has 5,000 bikes in operation, which is their permit limit. But then they introduce their new more profitable and pricey rocket skates (“Caution: Not effective on road-runners“). They shouldn’t be forced to take bikes off the street in order to add their rocket skates instead. That would be a bad for bike share users. Instead, they should be able to add the skates while keeping their bikes.

If there were separate caps for different device types, for example, companies could introduce e-assist bikes without sacrificing lower-cost pedal bikes. And if the city does someday allow scooters (or rocket skates), companies should also be able to introduce those without sacrificing bikes. Otherwise, company-wide caps would punish companies that have multiple products and benefit companies that focus on only one. Instead, the city should reward companies that operate low-cost pedal bikes in addition to other pricier options.

Whether to allow the electric kick scooters that are spreading all across the nation is perhaps the subject for another day. The city does not seem to want to include them in this permit at this time. But the permit should be written with the flexibility to easily allow scooters or any other innovation as they hit the market so Seattle can remain at the forefront of this on-demand transportation device movement.

E-bike speeds

E-bikes should conform to Washington State’s new e-bike legislation. That state law was written to conform with national standards and clarify what types of e-bikes should basically be treated as bicycles. Seattle should follow suit with its bike share rules so that any company with standards-conforming e-bikes can operate here.

This is not just hypothetical. Jump’s bikes are Class 1 e-bikes under the newest state law, meaning the motor is activated by the user pedaling and does not assist beyond 20 mph. But If the city were to set an assisted speed limit lower than 20, Jump would need to modify its bikes to make them slower.

But why should they need to do that? If their business model is to allow rental of a perfectly legal bike, the city shouldn’t micromanage that. Seattle’s car share permit does not limit a car’s top speed, even though the cars in service can go way beyond the fastest speed limit found anywhere in the city limits. Just because a BMW can go 120 mph doesn’t mean ReachNow users are regularly driving 120 on city streets. Likewise, just because a bike can be assisted up to 20 mph doesn’t mean users will be going the full 20 at all times regardless of the conditions. Like any bike, the vast majority of people riding e-bikes go the speed that is appropriate for the situation.

20 mph is perfectly reasonable on a city street, and many people riding non-electric bikes go that speed often. In fact, 20 mph is the slowest speed limit currently recognized by state law. And unlike with car speeding, there’s no evidence that 20 mph e-bikes are causing safety issues that need to be regulated. If it’s legal, the city should allow it. If we’re trying to replace car trips with bike trips, then don’t unnecessarily limit a bike’s legal abilities. Let companies decide what their product looks like. Lime, for example, has gone with a very easy to use and non-intimidating single speed e-bike that cuts out at 15 mph. Jump’s bike is a bit more complicated but has more power. I could see both bikes appealing more to different people. And that’s a good thing.


The city should allow companies to sell advertising on their bikes. We allow advertising on commercial taxis and public transit, both of which use city right of way. We also allow businesses to post A-frame signs in the right of way for a permit fee. So why not ads on permitted bikes? We want these bikes to succeed and be affordable, and advertising is an easy additional source of revenue to offset user fees. Maybe the city could charge an extra fee for bikes with ads and use that revenue to improve street furniture or something relevant to public beautification. But the city should not put up barriers to success for bike share, which is an incredible benefit.

Permit fees

The city is scaling up its hands-on regulation of bike share, and that costs more money. So to fund that work and keep the program cost-neutral for the city, they are proposing an increase in the permit fees. These costs would put Seattle among the most expensive cities in the country to operate a bike share service.

It’s hard to argue against increased permit fees while these companies are getting massive investments (investors led by Google just invested $335 million in Lime, for example). But why do we need this program to be cost-free to the city? These companies are carrying as many as 200,000 trips in a month at low cost to users and with zero emissions beyond the redistribution vans. Our city is willing to invest in programs that help us reach our transportation mode shift, climate change and public health goals. So why are we charging companies a quarter million dollars a year each to help us meet our goals?

The programs SDOT wants to fund sound like worthy and smart investments. It was not so long ago that Seattle was prepared to invest $5 million in a bike share system far smaller than the one we have now. It just seems weird that suddenly the city can’t invest even a small fraction of that on support and access programming. I mean, how much is 200,000 healthy, emission-free trips per month worth to the city? Surely it’s worth something.

In May, bike share ridership was about 50 percent higher than the South Lake Union and First Hill Streetcars combined, and the city is spent $6.7 million to operate those streetcars in 2017. The city is also spending tens of millions (on top of Federal dollars) to build a single train yard overpass in Sodo at the urging of freight-dependent businesses. The cost to regulate bike share and build bike parking corrals is pennies compared to these other investments.

I’m not necessarily saying the city should cancel the fee hike as proposed, but we should be questioning why this successful program is being singled out as one that must be cost-neutral. We don’t make freight companies cover all the costs of freight infrastructure, nor should we. And I do think any company making money on city right-of-way should pay for permits. But building supporting infrastructure — like bike corrals that also help people riding their own bikes — is a perfectly reasonable city investment on its own. It’s weird that a city with so much transportation investment cash is suddenly snapping the coin purse shut as soon as bike share companies have demonstrated early success. Maybe the permit can allow further expansion beyond 5,000 bikes per company to make these fees more reasonable.

Seattle should be doing everything it can to expand bike access right now. These companies are providing an amazing service that the city can build on. We should be aggressively expanding the bike network, for example. Bike share is helping bike lane investments succeed by making it much easier for more people to use the new lanes. This is a virtuous circle, and the more the city invests the better the result.

Year-long Elliott Bay Trail detour near future Expedia campus starts Aug 1

Wed, 07/11/2018 - 11:10

The most significant change to the existing trail will be an expansion of the park space and rounding of the trail route at the mouth of Smith Cove. Design image from Expedia.

Concept image of the rebuilt trail, from Expedia.

Construction of the huge new Expedia campus along the Seattle waterfront includes a rebuild of a section of the Elliott Bay Trail as the path transitions from industrial Interbay to the waterfront.

The new trail will soften what today is a sharp turn in the trail at the mouth of the Smith Cove Waterway, which should be a significant improvement to the trail, creating separate walking and biking paths and expanding the surrounding park space.

But trail and utility work will require a detour for more than a year. Originally scheduled to begin in mid-July, the detour start has been pushed back to August 1. Expedia has also made changes to the initial detour plan, which now includes a temporary trail along the low-traffic Alaskan Way W between W Galer Street and the grain silos. Though the detour route is less scenic than the current trail, it is actually a little bit shorter:

From Expedia.

Alaskan Way W

“After consultation with SDOT and advice from Cascade Bicycle Club, we are implementing additional safety measures,” Expedia spokesperson Annie Gustafson wrote in an email. “Perhaps most significantly, pedestrians will no longer be routed over the Helix Bridge during the temporary closure. Instead, they will share an 8-foot lane with other trail users.”

Though the detour is being pushed back a couple weeks, Expedia still expects the reopening to happen on schedule in fall 2019.

More details from Expedia:

Summary of safety measures during Elliott Bay Trail detour starting Aug. 1:

  • Moved the temporary pedestrian trail to Alaskan Way.
      • Bikes/peds to share an 8’ lane. Large delineator “candles” will be placed on the east edge of Alaskan Way to create the shared bike/pedestrian lane for the entire length of the reroute.
      • The remaining 14’ along Alaskan will be a single lane of vehicle traffic that will be regulated by flaggers during work hours, 6:30 a.m. – 3 p.m., and by a portable traffic signal during nonwork hours.
  • Additional bike/ped stenciling or “sharrows” will be added to Alaskan Way at 100’ intervals
  • Lower speed limit: 15 mph
  • Motor vehicle crossings will be demarcated with painted indicators

We would like to thank Cascade, in particular, for their strategic counsel on the reduced speed limit and the separate bike/ped lane on Alaska Way.

Intermittent Sammamish River Trail closures for river bank work start Wednesday

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 14:08

Photo from King County Parks.

Work to repair river bank erosion will require crews to close the Sammamish River Trail for periods of 30 minutes or less starting Wednesday. Work will continue for the rest of summer.

The erosion zones are just east of I-405 between Bothell and Woodinville. Peak commute times, evenings and weekends should be open. But if you are traveling through between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, give yourself an extra half hour just in case.

More details from King County:

King County will begin repairing two sections of bank erosion along the Sammamish River on July 11, requiring brief, rolling closures of the popular Sammamish River Trail until the project is completed in September.

Closures are expected to last no more than 30 minutes and will occur on weekdays only between 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be no detours during the brief closures.

The work is to repair two areas where the levee along the river is eroding, threatening the integrity of the Sammamish River Trail and the safety of its users. The erosion is occurring along the right (or north) bank of the river, east of the Interstate 405/State Route 522 interchange in Bothell. One site is about 500 feet east of the interchange; the second site is 1,200 feet east.

King County is performing this work as service provider to the King County Flood Control District, which is funding the project. The work is expected to conclude by Sept. 27.

Crews will stabilize the bank by reshaping it and planting native woody vegetation along it. The project also entails the installation of woody material along the eastern-most site and realignment of the Sammamish River Trail at both sites.

Residents who would like to receive text updates about the Sammamish River Trail closure or other Sammamish River Trail project information can text “KINGSRT” to “468311.” For updates via email, visit the project webpage,, and sign up for email announcements.

FYI- Intermittent closures on the Sammamish River Trail beginning July 11. The work requires brief, rolling closures (no more than 30 minutes) of the trail at two sites between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday to Friday.

More info:

— King County Parks

Lime: People in Seattle have taken 1 million trips in 11 months

Mon, 07/02/2018 - 19:37

The ceremonial unlocking of the first LimeBike July 27 in Seattle. 999,999 more would follow in just 11 months.

People in Seattle have taken one million Lime bike share trips in about 11 months, the company announced Monday.

This astounding number of rides comes from just one of three companies currently operating in the city. And because the company launched initially with only 500 bikes, gradually scaling up to 4,000 around the New Year, they will likely hit the next million even quicker.

These bike share services have significantly changed transportation in Seattle in a very short period of time. There are few urban transportation advancements in modern history that have had such a big impact so quickly. Lime essentially went from an idea to 1 million Seattle rides in a year and a half. That’s more trips than the total number of bikes crossing the Fremont Bridge, the city’s busiest bike route pinch point. And they’re just getting started.

SDOT is in the process of revamping its bike share permit scheme to update the pilot permit that went into effect July 2017. That pilot permit became a model for cities across the nation, helping to lead a new bike share movement. Seattle should be proud of this success. We should be celebrating.

We’re just seeing the beginning of e-assist bike share with Jump already itching to start operating. ofo says they are also planning to add e-asisst bikes to their fleet in late summer. In other cities, shared electric kick scooters are all the rage, though they are not yet allowed in Seattle and it isn’t clear if city leaders are interested in them. Major investments continue to pour into these companies, and it’s hard to know where it goes from here. But Seattle is well positioned to continue leading.

From Lime:

And just like that, less than 12 months since they first rolled into town, Seattleites have taken more than one million carbon-free rides on Lime smart pedal and e-assist bikes.

The Emerald City was the first major US market to embrace dock-free bike sharing technology in the summer of 2017. Now, it’s become the first city in North America to reach the industry’s two-comma milestone, thanks in large part to its record-breaking fleet of Lime-E electric assist bikes.

“This is a great accomplishment for the city of Seattle,” said Operations Manager Sam Morando. “Not only does it demonstrate the need for smart mobility vehicles here, but it validates the city’s robust efforts to integrate dock-free services like Lime into Seattle’s overall transportation network.”

But the rides alone aren’t the only reason to celebrate.

By pedaling the equivalent of 30 laps around the earth, residents and visitors to Seattle have also helped offset more than 650,000 lbs of CO2. That means cleaner air and less congestion in a city that spends, on average, around 55 hrs/year stuck in traffic.

The team at Lime couldn’t be more excited about all that we’ve achieved together here in Seattle, and we’re looking forward to many millions of more rides to come!

The Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board needs you, apply by July 4

Mon, 07/02/2018 - 14:16

If you join SBAB, you will get bike news before anyone else. And sometimes you get to question elected officials like Mike O’Brien.

The Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board is a group of volunteers individually-approved by the City Council to help guide the city’s bicycle investments and policies.

You do not need any kind of special insider knowledge or professional skills to apply. In fact, it might be better if you don’t have any. In my years observing this Board, some of the best input comes from people sharing their experiences and conversations with their neighbors. You just need to be a good listener who wants the city to be a more inviting place for more people to bike more often.

More details on the gig from SDOT:

The SBAB is a volunteer board created by the Seattle City Council in 1977 that plays an influential role in implementing Seattle’s Bicycle Master Plan. The board advises the Mayor and City Council, participates in planning and project development, evaluates policies and makes recommendations to all city departments including, yours truly, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).

When you’re on the board, you’ll advise the City on the concerns and needs of our thriving bicycling community. Board members serve a two-year term and if you love it, you can even serve a second term! Current members represent all types of bicyclists and skill levels, from casual weekend riders to year-round commuters. The board meets the first Wednesday of each month from 6-8 PM at Seattle City Hall.

You’ll also represent our city! More specifically:

  • Different user groups including persons with disabilities, senior and school-age citizens, and recreational and commuter bicyclists.
  • Different geographical locations throughout the city.
  • Interested private citizens concerned with urban bicycling issues.
  • Bicycling organizations or clubs.
  • Schools, businesses, and neighborhood organizations.
  • Organizations concerned with bicycling safety.

Apply TODAY!

Think you can do this? YES – YOU – CAN! Get your application in TODAY! Send us an email with the following:

Your resume.

Your cover letter.

Tell us why you’re interested in the email.

Email us by July 4, 2018, to with “SBAB” in the subject line.  If you don’t have Internet access, call us! 206.256.5371.

35th Ave NE safety changes still on track + How can the city avoid such divisive neighborhood fights?

Fri, 06/29/2018 - 15:31

The plan for 35th Ave NE, from SDOT.

While I was on family leave this winter, a seemingly routine repaving project in Northeast Seattle somehow became a flashpoint that has divided neighbors, spilling gallons of red and green sign-making ink and even drawing competing streetside protests.

It has been frustrating to watch this debate unfold, especially since paving projects like 35th Ave NE are such obvious opportunities to build sections of the Bicycle Master Plan. If the city is going to tear up a street and rebuild it, then it costs very little to rebuild it with the bike lanes called for in the City Council-approved bike plan. This is not only fiscally responsible, it is also a vital strategy for building a complete bike route network that people of all ages and abilities will feel comfortable using.

And with 113 collisions reported in just five years, it would be irresponsible to invest in a complete rebuild of the street without making safety improvements for all users. 35th Ave NE is far from the most dangerous street in Seattle, but that says more about those other streets than it does about SDOT’s plan to improve safety on 35th.

So far, city leaders are still standing behind the project. Cascade Bicycle Club put together a handy online form you can use to thank Mayor Jenny Durkan and Councilmember Rob Johnson for their support:

Thanks to direct support from @MayorJenny & @CMRobJohnson 35th Ave NE safety improvements will move ahead. Take a minute now to thank Mayor & Council to let them know you stand with them on investing in safe streets to ensure we all get home safely:

— Cascade Bicycle Club (@CascadeBicycle) June 29, 2018

But before I get into how project opponents (“Save 35th Ave NE”) and supporters (“Safe 35th Ave NE”) differ, it’s important to restate the points where nearly everyone agrees.

  • Everyone supports a safe 35th Ave NE.
  • Everyone thinks the street needs to be repaved.
  • Everyone supports local businesses.
  • Everyone supports buses on 35th Ave NE.
  • Everyone supports their neighborhood.
  • Everyone found SDOT’s community outreach lacking, to say the least.

This is a pretty significant amount of agreement, really. And SDOT’s plan for the street, which is already under construction, is designed to meet these goals. So how did this turn into a neighbor-vs-neighbor battle?

Well, the shortest explanation lies in that persistent thorn in the side of efforts to make streets safer and more multimodal: Car parking. Even though the city’s stated transportation and climate change priorities clearly call for prioritizing walking, biking and transit, efforts to even consolidate car parking still often face a backlash.

The best way to overcome such a backlash is to build community around a multimodal vision for a street that is better at bringing the community together. The city is investing serious money in this neighborhood’s main north-south drag, and the result will be a vast improvement for all users. The street will be more comfortable and accessible to cross on foot or with a mobility device, buses will be more reliable, fewer people will crash their cars and more people will feel comfortable biking once the stress of mixing with people driving is gone. This is a wonderful vision for the future of the neighborhood.

But for whatever reason, that is not what happened as the city prepared the construction contracts for 35th Ave NE. Instead, the debate turned into the same tired bikes vs car parking fight that has been fought so many times before. Some people defending all car parking on the street have turned to anti-bike rhetoric as though their neighbors who ride bikes are either their enemies (“Save” 35th from whom? People riding bikes?) or don’t exist. And some people who support the changes have responded with parody, even dressing up as dinosaurs to mock the parking supporters.

I’m not saying civic debate always needs to be civil. But it sucks to see neighbors turn against each other like this over something as silly as how you get around town and whether car parking needs to be on one or two sides of the street. There are so many bigger issues in our city. And according to approved city transportation policy, we have already decided this one.

But once people start to lose faith in SDOT, the door opens for people to second guess all the decisions and policies that led to this design. And that’s exactly what has happened here.

I had a long chat recently with Amy Stephson, an attorney and one of the “Save 35th Ave NE” organizers, who sent me a memo (PDF) she was hoping to publish here as an op-ed. The memo attempts to discredit Vision Zero, the effectiveness of bike lanes in general and SDOT’s 35th Ave NE studies. I won’t go line-by-line here to refute the memo’s claims, but in general it contains a very lawyerly mix of unsupported claims and citations of conflicting studies that attempt to muddy the city’s reasons for making changes to the street. It doesn’t refute the city’s plans, it just seeks to cast doubt. It is titled “Myths & Misrepresentations,” but it largely offers its own misrepresentations in return.

I told Stephson I wouldn’t simply publish it as such, but that I would love to speak with her to learn more about where she is coming from. It was clear to me from our conversation and the memo she sent that there is a core disagreement about the viability of biking as a mode of transportation. She doesn’t think more than a small percentage of people will ever bike in Seattle. Fighting to stop the planned bike lanes makes perfect sense if you don’t believe bike lanes or Vision Zero will ever work.

Stephson isn’t a villain, we just don’t agree. I told her I look forward to the people of Seattle proving her wrong as more bike lanes do succeed in significantly expanding the number of people who get around by bike (as happened this year on 2nd Ave downtown). She wasn’t convinced by my arguments, and I wasn’t convinced by hers. We pretty much both agreed that agreement seemed beyond reach. So in such situations, the city must look to its established and Council-approved policies for guidance. And unfortunately for Stephson and Save 35th, those policies support SDOT’s plans.

That said, Stephson is clearly a passionate organizer, as are many of the other neighbors working with her. And everyone agrees that neighborhood businesses are vital and need to be supported. Bike lanes will help more neighbors bike to businesses instead of driving, though this may not sound like an appealing option to people who don’t believe biking will ever really catch on.

But even car parking can be better organized and designed to support businesses. If the street changes are completed as planned, the city should keep a close eye on parking along 35th Ave NE businesses districts. If it is does start to fill up beyond capacity as some fear (SDOT study suggests it will not), the city should take quick action to better manage parking in the area. For example, time limits on parking could help make sure the spaces in business districts are used for business access and not for people to leave their cars all-day or for multiple days in a row. These strategies can also be extended to adjacent blocks of cross streets as needed.

I hope when this is all over, neighbors can find projects to work on together. It would be really depressing if the “Save” vs “Safe” battle lines harden into an ongoing Red Team vs Green Team neighborhood dynamic.

And I hope city leaders learn some lessons from this experience so future projects don’t end up in such a divisive place. It is possible for neighbors to disagree without forming color-coded sides, and that begins with how the city presents proposed changes. SDOT and political leaders set the stage for debate. If people think the only way to win is to have the most signs or most petition signatures or most bodies at a meeting, then organizing into competing camps is the obvious and expected result. Maybe I’m just being naive to think there is a better way. But while an us vs them strategy might work for some bigger political issues, it is terrible for a neighborhood.

Uber-owned Jump wants to launch its e-bike service in Seattle

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 14:22

No new companies have received permits to operate bike share services in Seattle since the autumn, but Uber-owned Jump is hoping to be next.

The city is waiting to approve more companies until their revamped bike share permit is ready. The City Council Transportation Committee was scheduled to review the permit rules in June, but that report has been pushed back to the committee’s mid-July meeting (there’s no meeting in early July due to the holiday).

I met with representatives from Uber and Jump recently to go for a test ride and talk about their hopes to launch in Seattle. First, let’s talk about the bike.

The single biggest difference between the eye-catching red e-bikes and the already-operating Lime-E bikes is how you lock them. With Lime-E, riders can park near bike racks or in the furniture zone of sidewalks. Just lock the back wheel and you’re done. But Jump bikes must be locked to a city bike rack using a metal locking bar that attaches to the rear rack.

There are pros and cons to this difference. One pro is that bikes locked to bike racks are less likely to block walkways or get tossed into bodies of water. Improper parking is a common complaint about the bikes in operation today. But the bike rack requirement also limits the places you can lock a bike because there are not always bike racks available nearby, especially in residential neighborhoods (Seattle’s bike rack policy is focused on business access). And, of course, many places already don’t have enough bike parking for people who ride their own bikes, let alone a surge of bike share bikes.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t work. Even without Jump, there have already been discussions about the need to dramatically increase the city’s bike parking to help maintain bike share order and improve bike access to businesses. Concepts for on-street bike corrals could include space both for bike racks and space marked for free-floating bikes. Providing space on-street would also be a great way to help keep busy sidewalks clear.

Another big difference with the Jump bike is that each bike has an access panel and card reader, so users can access them without a smart phone. For example, someone could set up an account online with a credit card and link their ORCA card. Then all they need to do is beep their ORCA card, and their Jump account will be charged. The funds don’t come out of the user’s ORCA account or pass, but it’s still pretty cool. There’s also a keypad, so people can unlock bikes with a code.

Typically, Jump bikes cost $2 for 30 minutes, which is significantly lower than Lime-E’s $1 to unlock plus ¢15 per minute (a total of $5.50 for a 30-minute ride). And unlike any of the bike share services currently operating here, you can reserve a Jump bike for 30 minutes through the app, similar to Car2Go and BMW ReachNow.

And since Uber only recently acquired Jump, I wouldn’t be surprised if Uber users will some day be able to access the bikes with their existing accounts, perhaps through the Uber app. Imagine someone going to book an Uber ride only to have the app tell them a bike ride would be faster and cheaper. That’s pretty cool.

The bikes are sturdy and heavy, and the e-assist feels a bit more powerful than the Lime-E bikes. They also have gears, giving you a wider speed range than the single-speed Lime-E bikes. And that gets to another difference: They can go 20 mph with the assist, which is five mph faster than Lime-E bikes. But while those differences might sound like benefits over Lime, they could also be disadvantages. Part of the Lime-E success, I think, is because the single-speed bikes are so easy-to-use and unintimidating. I’m interested to see how the public responds to the two options.

Formerly a branding of Social Bicycles, Uber bought Jump in April for around $200 million, according to Techcrunch. This sort of confirms a trend that bike share companies have been claiming: Their bikes are serving many people who might have otherwise taken a for-hire car. When the bike companies first launched, attention was on how they would compete with established bike share programs. But the people behind these companies didn’t have little systems like Pronto Cycle Share in their sights, they were going for the bulk of urban trips under a couple miles that are often served poorly by transit and that cost too much to call an Uber or Lyft. Perhaps the purchase of Jump is Uber’s way of saying, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

Speaking of Lyft, recent reports say the company is trying to buy Motivate, the former operator of Pronto. So the two biggest app taxi companies may soon be competing in the bike share space. Will Seattle see the unlikely return of Motivate in the form of a dockless bike scheme owned by Lyft? I can’t say that I would have predicted such a plot twist a year ago.

Of course, Seattle has not always seen eye-to-eye with Uber and Lyft. The companies recently lost a Washington Supreme Court case that could force them to open up their trip data, which has been closely guarded. And court battles continue over Seattle’s attempts to allow drivers to unionize. So will these companies bring that baggage to the generally-friendly bike share program? Will this lead to bike share workers joining the fight to unionize?

Innovation and investment in bike share continues at an amazing pace, and Seattle has so far been at the center of it all. It’s exciting and unpredictable, with huge potential to dramatically increase the number of trips taken by bike if it is successful. One thing is for sure: I have no idea what bike share story I will be writing this time next year.

Lower West Seattle Bridge reopens, but closure highlighted major need for Sodo bike lanes

Tue, 06/26/2018 - 15:21

UPDATE: The Lower Spokane St Bridge is back open again to all pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle traffic! Thank you to everyone for your patience and understanding.

— seattleDOTbridges (@SDOTbridges) June 26, 2018

Map of trip starts from an SDOT presentation on the bike share pilot. Sodo is a major source of bike share trips.

The lower West Seattle Bridge has reopened following a more than five-day emergency repair of the vital biking and walking connection between West Seattle and the city center. The swing-style bridge was closed in the “open” position for maritime traffic during the work, forcing people biking to follow a miles-long detour to the 1st Avenue Bridge that required navigating industrial streets through Sodo that were in no shape to serve as a trail detour.

SDOT did run commute-time shuttles during the weekdays to help some people get around the closed bridge. But a shuttle is no replacement for a bridge, and people traveling outside commute times (or who did not know about the shuttle) were left with few good options for crossing the Duwamish River. And people who have never biked through Sodo before discovered just how neglected the bike network is in that major job center.

Of course, none of this is news to people who bike to work in Sodo or live in Georgetown, South Park, Allentown or many other South Seattle and South King County neighborhoods that require them to bike through the area regularly. And early bike share trip data highlights Sodo as a major source of rides. This data points to a big blind spot in local bike advocacy, which tends to focus on office job centers, retail businesses and neighborhoods rather than industrial areas. A ton of people are biking in Sodo despite the lack of safe routes.

The official bike detour for the bridge closure sent people down 1st Ave S, a very wide street with no bike lanes. To get a taste of how uncomfortable that route is for people biking, Robert Svercl made a little video:

Made a video for navigating around the West Seattle Bridge closure by bicycle – finished it in less than a day, so few bells and whistles, but the route should be easy to follow – hope it helps @SNGreenways @seabikeblog #SEABikes #bikeSeattle

— Robert Svercl (@bobco85) June 22, 2018

And 1st Ave doesn’t just feel dangerous, it is deadly. Celso Diaz was killed at 1st and Andover while biking to work in November.

We argued during the development of the 2014 Bicycle Master Plan that 1st Ave S is a vital bike connection. A protected bike lane there was included in the first draft, but was deleted in the second. At the time, we called this omission “a huge mistake”:

Sodo’s most glaring change compared to the first draft of the plan is deletion of 1st Ave S. This is a huge mistake and missed opportunity. 1st Ave S is incredibly wide, and it would really not be difficult or intrusive to freight to build a safe bike facility there. It connects to a ton of jobs and destinations even without the planned arena south of Safeco Field.

The Bicycle Master Plan calls for a trail and protected bike lane connection along E Marginal Way in lieu of any changes to 1st Ave S. While the two streets appear interchangeable on a map, there are very few opportunities to cross the train tracks that separate them. If you are a bird, they are very close together. But on a bike, they might as well be opposite sides of the neighborhood.

But to make matters worse, an under-developement project on E Marginal Way does not include plans for the trail suggested in the Bicycle Master Plan connecting Diagonal Ave to the 1st Ave Bridge. This omission is unacceptable, and I hope Seattle’s elected leaders direct SDOT to make sure this trail is included in the project.

If the city really doesn’t add this E Marginal Trail connection, then that’s all the more reason to add and fund 1st Ave S bike lanes in its place.

The recent bridge closure happened too fast to mount a serious campaign to pilot protected bike lanes on 1st Ave S. But the idea is still good. SDOT could try out protected bike lanes on the street using low-cost materials like paint, posts and maybe some parking stops or planter boxes (which would dramatically increase the amount of greenery in the area). The bike lane could also demonstrate how smart street design reduces conflicts with freight, creating a win for everyone.

And I mean, just look how much space there is on this street:

Image: Google Street View.

A group of neighbors organizing under the name Duwamish Valley Safe Streets have done amazing work to advocate for a trail that would connect Georgetown and South Park. The city should support these neighbors by also connecting their local streets to downtown and the rest of the city’s bike network.

It’s well past time to stop neglecting bike routes in Sodo. We can do this.

Bike Happy: Summer is here

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 15:16

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks again to Brock Howell of Bike Happy for putting together this comprehensive weekly newsletter.

  1. Summer is here and so are summer’s major event rides. This Saturday you can join the following organized rides (or could have if they weren’t already at capacity): RCC’s Mazama RideTour de Blast near Mount St. Helens, the Spoked to Ride to Remlinger Farms, Ride the Willapa in Chehalis, Swift’s Tolt MacDonald CampoutPedals & Pints in Cle Elum, and an all-night ride in Port Townsend. Plus, the Randonneurs start their insane Cascade 1200ride/race.
  2. Voting opened for Seattle’s Your Voice, Your Choice program, which funds community-generated ideas for $90,000 improvements to parks and streets.
  3. The Lower West Seattle Bridge closed for emergency repairs. For the next week, bike commuters are now being rerouted to Georgetown and up 1st Ave S. Yeah, I did that once when the bridge was out of commission. Sorry West Seattleites. However, SDOT will also be providing a shuttle van for bicyclists during peak commute hours, which is pretty cool.

In Memoriam & Crashes
  • A 72yo man of Kitsap County died while riding with friends on the John Scott Trail near Port Townsend. Cause of death was likely a heart attack. Kitsap Penn Daily NewsPT Leader.
  • A driver of an SUV struck a 17yo girl near the intersection of SE Newport Way and 129th Place SE in Factoria. The teen was taken to Harborview with life-threatening injuries. Bellevue Patch.
  • “Thinking about donating a bike?” Cascade.
  • “Cascade’s summer camps keep kids engaged in learning,” Cascade.
  • “A knobby faster than a road tire?” Jan Heine’s Blog.
  • “Compass Swift Campout Photo Contest,” Jan Heine’s Blog.
  • “The n + 1: Bialetti Moka Express,” NW in Motion.
  • “Welp…” Serena Larkin blogs about her upcoming summer PNW bike tours. Serena Larkin.
  • “Braking nudes! Seattle’s naked Solstice cyclists use Spin, Ofo and LimeBike in new bike-baring tradition,” GeekWire, + KIRO.
  • Seattle
    • Citywide & Bikeshare
      • “How did Seattle’s bikshare pilot go?” Curbed.
      • Fresh with its new Uber ownership, JUMP plans to launch its bikeshare e-bikes in Seattle. Seattle TimesGeekWireBusiness Standard.
      • Neighbors can now vote for projects as part of the City’s Your Voice, Your Choice program through July 16. DON.
      • City Council is considering reforming the city’s transportation benefit district legislation to redirect funding that’s been dedicated for transit service but unused due to a lack of bus drivers to infrastructure improvements for bus rapid transit corridors. Conceivably, this could help move along key corridor bikeway projects, too. UrbanistSTB.
      • Councilmember Mike O’Brien, SBAB Chair Casey Gifford, One Center City Advisory Group member Brie Gyncild, and Seattle Subway leader Executive Director Keith Kyle discuss the reset of the Move Seattle Levy. Seattle Channel.
      • Take a look at what it takes to build a curb ramp. SDOT.
      • “Bike Plans: Aspirations & Actuality,” Fancy Beans.
      • “There’s a Cloud Over Seattle: Times are difficult in our fair city, says Knute Berger. Will balance and livability ever return?” Seattle Mag.
    • City Center
      • Mayor Durkan agrees to build protected bike lanes on Pike and Pine Streets in 2019. SNG.
      • The wooden Fairview Avenue Bridge that connects the Eastlake and SLU neighborhoods will be replaced beginning in 2019. The new bridge will have a two-way protected bike lane across it, but illustrations show no plans to extend the two-way protected bike lane along Fairview Ave to Valley Street. Urbanist.
    • South & West Seattle
      • The Lower West Seattle Bridge (Spokane Street) is closed for a week for surprise immediate repair.  Sorry West Seattle bike commuters, you have to bike to Georgetown then north on 1st Avenue South. Good Lord, I’m sorry. SDOTWSBSeattle TimesSBB.
      • Highland Park neighbors seek a safer intersection at Highland Park Way & Holdan Ave SW. KOMO.
      • “Using Community Engagement to Advance Bicycling in White Center,” Cascade.
  • Rest of King County
    • Bellevue is installing bike lanes all across the city. Bellevue Patch.
    • Eastside nonprofit “Wheel Lab” helps kids build bikes. KOMO.
  • Snohomish County
    • The City of Snohomish is considering walking and biking improvements to their Second Avenue. Snohomish Tribune.
    • The state DNR is planning Reiter Foothills Forest for up to 25 miles of non-motorized trails. Everett Herald.
  • Statewide
    • “Cascade’s call for Complete Streets Award nominations is now open,” Cascade.
    • In last four years, pedestrian and bicyclist deaths have doubled statewide. Seattle PIUrbanist.

Bike Maintenance & Retail
Mechanics & Retail Staff, Gregg’s Cycles

Bike Product Industry
Sales and Marketing Specialist, Sportworks
Director of Sales and Marketing, Sportworks

Bike Education & Training
Major Taylor Project Field Coordinator, Cascade
Major Taylor Project Ride Leader/Instructor, Cascade
Bicycle Specialist – Recreation Leader II, City of Auburn

Commute Services & Other Outreach
Sounders FC Bike Valet Parking Manager & Assistants, Bike Works

Policy, Planning, & Engineering
Designer – Level 1, Alta
Group Leaders – Senior Associates, Alta
Transportation Engineer, City of Mercer Island
Traffic Safety Investigations Engineer, King County (6/25)
Supervising Project Manager, SDOT

Communications, Development, & Management
Contract Grant Writer, Bike Works
Program Coordinator, Bike Works
Individual & Annual Giving Manager, Cascade
Staff Accountant, Cascade


Subscribe here to get the Bike Happy newsletter delivered to your inbox every Thursday.

Lower West Seattle Bridge closed for emergency week-long repair – UPDATED

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 18:47

The lower West Seattle swing bridge closed Wednesday evening for emergency repairs, SDOT announced just hours before crews were planning to take the bridge out of order.

The bridge will be in the open position for marine vessels, unusable for people biking, walking or driving for as long as a week.

People biking or walking Wednesday evening will find a van service to help them get around the closure. UPDATE 6/21: SDOT will continue commute-time van shuttles, according to a new blog post: “Shuttle vans are staging at the approaches to and from Spokane St Swing Bridge. Shuttles for bicyclists will run during heavy commute hours: 6 to 10 AM and 3 to 7PM.”

Other options include taking the King County Water Taxi from downtown to the Alki Trail or biking through Sodo to the 1st Ave Bridge connecting Georgetown to the Duwamish Trail. Buses are also an option, though there are only spots for three bikes on each bus. SDOT says there may be other efforts to improve bike access to West Seattle, but details are not yet available. I will update when I learn more.

The official bike detour requires riding on 1st Ave S, a busy industrial street that, like essentially every street in Sodo, does not have bike lanes. I encourage anyone navigating this detour route for the first time to give themselves lots of extra time to find the somewhat hidden entrance to the 1st Ave Bridge sidewalk (it begins underneath the bridge on S Front St) and in case they feel they need to take the sidewalk. From SDOT:

For those riding around the Duwamish:

From West Seattle:

  • Detour signs are placed at the West Seattle Bridge Trail, to head south along West Marginal Way; crossing SW Michigan St onto 1st Ave S

From SODO:

  • Detour signs are placed along 1st Ave S to continue south, to SW Michigan St


Bike News Roundup: Seattle Channel dives into the Move Seattle ‘reset’

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 15:00

It’s time for the Bike News Roundup! Here’s a look at some of the transportation stuff floating around the web (somewhat) recently.

First up, Seattle Channel’s City Inside/Out dedicated a half hour episode to the Move Seattle levy and Mayor Jenny Durkan’s proposed “reset.” It is great.

Pacific Northwest News

Halftime show! With a pending subway closure on the horizon, New York City’s TransAlt is organizing bike trains to help subway users travel the L Train route by bike:

National & Global News

This is an open thread.

Bike Happy: Ride naked & in circles

Sat, 06/16/2018 - 15:00

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks again to Brock Howell of Bike Happy for putting together this comprehensive weekly newsletter.

  1. Today is the 30th Annual Fremont Solstice Parade, which comes with the well-attended unofficial pre naked/painted bike ride.
  2. Also today: the Taco Time NW Volunteer Park Criterium. Watch people ride in circles very very fast.
  3. Mayor Durkan may have pulled back on the 4th Avenue Protected Bike Lanes, but Seattle Neighborhood Greenways reports that she has committed to building out protected bike lanes on Pike and Pine in 2019 and are asking folks to write a thank you letter.
  4. The Seattle Colleges Board of Trustees approved an easement agreement with SDOT that will ensure the Northgate Pedestrian Bridge that will connect the North Seattle College to the future Northgate light rail station can get built by the station’s opening in 2021.
  5. Biking is up 37% on the 2nd Ave Protected Bike Lane this year, thanks to extension and dockless bikeshare.

  • “Bicyclists: Riding on far right not always safe,” TNT.
  • “Riding 100 Miles* on a 102-Year-Old Bike,” Outside.
  • “Myth 11: Rear tires should run at (significantly) higher pressure,” Jan Heine’s Blog.
  • “Bicycle Quarterly’s Biggest Adventure Yet: Copper Canyon Mexico,” BQ Youtube.
  • Donate your bike to Bike Works at the Recology Store in Issaquah on Saturday. Issaquah Reporter.
  • Ballard High School seniors pull parking lot prank with LimeBike and Ofo bikeshare bikes. Seattle MagMyNwMyBallardGeekWire,
  • Lewis County bike event supports Seattle Children’s Hospital. Daily Chronicle.
  • Bicycling Magazine lists Cycling the WAVE as one of nine “totally awesome” charity rides. Bicycling.
  • Seattle
    • Citywide & Bikeshare
      • “Seattle must deliver on promised transit, sidewalk and bike projects,” writes SNG, 350, & Sierra Club in Seattle Times.
      • “Seattle’s future hinges on mayor’s picks to head police, SDOT,” Seattle Times Editorial.
      • Letter to the Editor: “Seattle streets: ‘Boondoggle,’” Seattle Times.
      • “The Bike Share War Is Shaking Up Seattle Like Nowhere Else,” Wired.
      • “Dockless Bike-Sharing Startups Are Wreaking Havoc on Seattle,” Jalopnik.
      • “Dockless in Seattle,” Seattleland Podcast.
    • City Center
      • “Bicyclists, pedestrians to be rerouted as stretch of Elliott Bay Trail in Seattle closes for improvements,” Seattle Times.
      • “Arena Redevelopment to Bring Walking and Biking Improvements to N. Downtown,” SNG.
      • “Biking on 2nd Ave downtown is up 37% as bike share and bike lanes expand,” SBB.
      • How the Convention Center Community Package was won. SNG.
      • The bike-friendly Via6 Apartments has major water pipe issues. Seattle Times.
    • North Seattle
      • “Are North Seattle’s Legislators Opposed to Protecting Vulnerable Road Users?” Mike Eliason, Urbanist.
      • Greenwood’s can-do neighbors “daylight” sidewalks. SNG.
      • Mayor Durkan should get a “win” by finally completing the Burke-Gilman Trail through Ballard, says a letter to the editor. Seattle Times.
      • Person bikes into mother and child in stroller on Burke-Gilman Trail, injuring mother. KIRO.
      • Aurora is ready to be rezoned for people instead of cars, says Ryan DiRaimo of ALUV. Urbanist.
      • On Thursday, the Seattle Colleges Board of Trustees approved several easement agreements that will allow SDOT to proceed with planning and constructing the Northgate Pedestrian Bridge, connecting the North Seattle College to the future Northgate light rail station by the time it opens. Cascade.
      • In order to take advantage of a new state law that should encourage greater affordable housing, King County is rebooting its request for proposals for affordable housing at the Northgate Transit Center. As a result, the development likely won’t be done by the time the Northgate light rail station opens. Seattle Times.
      • MyNorthwest thinks transportation in Seattle is awful, except perhaps the Roosevelt Protected Bike Lane. MyNw.
    • Central Seattle
      • “Safer Crossings for Madison Park Business District,” SNG.
    • South & West Seattle
      •  “Fixing Rainier Ave: Group Bike Ride Looks at a Contested Street,” SNG.
      • “West Seattleites Organize for a “Multi-Modal” (Walk, Bike, Transit) Delridge Corridor,” SNG.
      • SDOT began construction of intersection improvements for walking and biking at the intersection of Harbor Ave SW, SW Avalon Way, & SW Spokane St. Westside Seattle.
  • Rest of King County
    • Bothell adopted its 5-year transportation improvement plan with road widening and safe routes to school projects. Everett Herald.
    • Over the next couple weeks, Bellevue will install new bike lanes to 108th Ave NE and 112th Ave NE. Bellevue Patch.
    • King County recognizes 83 schools for their “Green School Programs,” which include student teams that promote bicycling. King CountySammamish Patch.
    • Construction of 21 three-story, 12-unit residential buildings and two six-story 120-unit mixed-use buildings will soon begin upon a former golf course along the Green River Trail in Kent, with phase 1 to be complete by 2020. Bisnow.
  • Snohomish County
    • A new 18-floor apartment building we be built near the Interurban Trail and future Alderwood light rail station in Lynnwood. Everett Herald.
    • The state Department of Natural Resources seeks public input on new biking and hiking opportunities in Reiter Foothills Forest near Gold Bar. DNR.
  • Pierce County
    • A Tacoma city councilmember writes an excellent letter to the editor about prioritizing people over parking. Justin Camarata, TNT.
  • Kitsap County
    • A developer will begin construction of a small addition to the Sound to Olympics Trail on Bainbridge. Kitsap Sun.
  • Statewide
    • “Pedestrian and bicyclist deaths double statewide in recent years,” Seattle Times.
    • Dori Monson says something inane about how walking and biking is more dangerous than our car culture, and how efforts to calm traffic is really about writing speeding tickets and generating revenue for government. MyNw.
    • “WSDOT performance report analyzes agency-wide retirement trends,” Suburban Times.
  • “Young Rider Profile: Sam Zivin,” NW in Motion.
  • “Criterium Delirium,” SDOT.
  • “New book celebrates the American bicycle racer whose name we should know,” Seattle Times.
  • “Kelsey Withrow: Woodinville’s Cinderella Woman,” Woodinville Weekly.
  • “Gear Grinders snag podium spots at Roslyn Race,” BI Review.

Bike Maintenance & Retail
Mechanics & Retail Staff, Gregg’s Cycles

Bike Product Industry
Sales and Marketing Specialist, Sportworks
Director of Sales and Marketing, Sportworks

Bike Education & Training
Major Taylor Field Coordinator, Cascade
Major Taylor Ride Leader/Instructor, Cascade
Bicycle Specialist – Recreation Leader II, City of Auburn

Commute Services & Other Outreach
Sounders FC Bike Valet Parking Manager & Assistants, Bike Works
Transportation Program Coordinator (Temporary), City of Kirkland

Policy, Planning, & Engineering
East King County Policy Manager, Cascade
Designer – Level 1, Alta
Group Leaders – Senior Associates, Alta
Transportation Engineer, City of Mercer Island
Supervising Project Manager, SDOT

Communications, Development, & Management
Contract Grant Writer, Bike Works
Program Coordinator, Bike Works
Individual & Annual Giving Manager, Cascade
Staff Accountant, Cascade


Subscribe here to get the Bike Happy newsletter delivered to your inbox every Thursday.

Biking on 2nd Ave downtown is up 37% as bike share and bike lanes expand

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 15:24

The number of people biking on 2nd Ave in downtown Seattle is up an average of 19 percent year-over-year since the July 2017 launch of private bike share services. And the trend appears to have accelerated as SDOT opened a vital extension of the 2nd Ave bike lane through Belltown in January and companies added more shared bikes throughout fall 2017, eventually reaching 10,000 by the end of the year.

So far in 2018, 2nd Ave bike counts are up an astounding 37 percent. These increases are far beyond the expected year-to-year variations due to weather or special events.

The combination works. When the city builds downtown bike lanes that more people feel safe using and people have convenient access to bike share, more people will bike.

Seattle has all these pieces working together right now. All the city needs to do is keep it going. Keep adding more connections to the downtown bike network, and keep working with private companies innovating ways to improve access to bikes. Every time the city makes a new connection, the whole downtown bike network becomes more useful for more trips.

And private bike share companies, operating at no cost to the city, are like adding carbon-free fuel to that fire by dramatically increasing the number of people who can take advantage of these new bike lanes. People across the region no longer need to get their own bikes downtown in order to bike there. In a recent survey, about three of four bike share users reported using the bikes to access transit. The bike network and bike share and working together with transit to move people to and through downtown.

But new bike lane connections that should be under construction right now are delayed, as Mayor Jenny Durkan’s administration has pushed back key bike lanes in the near-term plan to improve mobility downtown by several years. People clearly want to bike downtown, but a single safe street just is not enough.

Without building new connections, biking will only grow by so much. With a possible downtown traffic nightmare looming, Seattle needs to do all it can to give people options other than driving. One extra general purpose lane on 4th Ave will do nothing to help car traffic, but a protected bike lane on 4th Ave would dramatically improve bike access to a very dense corridor of jobs and destinations. Bike lanes are highly efficient, but only if there is a usable network that people can easily access. Seattle’s almost there. This is no time to turn back.

These images were true for 2nd Ave, and they’re true for 4th Ave, too. And Rainier Ave. And Eastlake Ave and Wilson Ave S and 35th Ave NE:

So, is the increase in 2nd Ave biking happening elsewhere in the city? Yes, but not quite to the same extent.

The Fremont Bridge counter absolutely crushed the all-time monthly biking record last month, topping the previous record-holder by eight percent. Year-over-year, biking is up 14 percent since the launch of bike share and up 20 percent so far in 2018.

How much all this can be attributed to bike share is hard to say. Some of it is that 2017 got off to a very slow start, so year-over-year comparisons are a little inflated. But the increase is large enough that it almost certainly points to a cause beyond just weather variation and special events. In fact, some of the big late summer counts happened despite all that nasty wildfire smoke that brought poor air quality to the city for an extended period of time.

Bike share companies combined did not reach 10,000 bikes on the ground until the dead of winter, so we are just now seeing the power of a decently-established bike share system during warm weather months when biking typically balloons. And it’s beautiful.

As the city looks to update its bike share permit, we should be focusing on how to improve and grow the benefits of these bike services. Because their success at increasing the number of trips by bike would also be the city’s success at a time when Seattle needs such a mode shift the most. Private bike share is like sustainable and efficient transportation manna falling from heaven, but the city needs to build more bike lanes to catch it.

No matter how you feel about the head tax, the Council should not start selling vetoes

Mon, 06/11/2018 - 19:06

Regardless of your opinion on the city’s employee head tax to fund affordable housing and homelessness solutions, repealing the tax one month after unanimously passing it is effectively handing Council power to wealthy people and businesses. The repeal in the face of a likely voter referendum opens a new pathway for monied interests to effectively veto Council action, and this one will have a clear price tag.

We won’t know the exact amount of money it took to pay for enough signatures to get this referendum on the ballot until all the campaign disclosures are in. Filings by the No Tax On Jobs campaign so far show costs at a shade under $300,000. So is that the new price to veto Council action?

People and businesses with money already have all kinds of ways to influence politicians. And when that doesn’t work, they have other tools to stop or delay changes anyway. The Queen Anne Community Council sued the city, using the state’s environmental impact laws to delay common sense rules to make it easier for more people to build backyard cottages, for example. And, of course, a handful of businesses in Ballard have successfully delayed the Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link for more than a decade by using those same environmental review laws.

The vast majority of people do not have the money to file project-delaying lawsuits or spend $300,000 on signature campaigns. People experiencing homelessness certainly don’t. But the people should have the City Council.

If the Council hands their keys to the membership of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce or whoever else has enough money, what lever of power do the people have left?

What message would a repeal send to all the people who volunteered their time and energy to support this tax and get a compromise version of it through a unanimous Council vote? That even if they succeed, the money-holders will just pay to erase their efforts? Why would anyone dedicate another second of their time to working within such a broken system? I hope people stay engaged, of course, but the Council needs to uphold their end of that relationship.

A unanimous City Council vote must mean something. It should be the ultimate statement of intent. Our city’s elected leadership has negotiated and agreed to this policy, and we’re going to follow it until we have good reason to change it. A paid signature campaign is not a good enough reason.

If they were voting to replace the funds for housing and homelessness services with a comparable or better funding method, that might be a reasonable action. But so far, no such replacement plan exists. Since the head tax is the law of the land now, repealing it is a funding cut that hits our most vulnerable neighbors directly. Without shelter, people die. This is not a game.

Obviously, this is a very difficult and complicated situation. Far more so than I understand, I’m sure. But the message to the people if this repeal goes through is pretty simple: People with less money are less important.

What does this mean about our other Council-approved legislation? That’s why I said at the top that it doesn’t matter how you feel about the head tax. An issue you do support might be next. We have massive problems to solve in our city, and we’re going to need a lot more bold and controversial votes if we have any chance of addressing them. We need the Council to have the power to take bold action. Otherwise, they are just Student Senate, only making decisions the people actually in charge of the school will allow them to make. The value of your voice in Council Chambers will be diminished because the power of the Council will be diminished.

Of all nine City Councilmembers, only Kshama Sawant and Teresa Mosqueda are sticking with the head tax so far. I hope a few more have a change of heart before Tuesday’s vote. I first became a huge Mike O’Brien fan back in 2010 when he bravely reversed his stance on a punitive anti-panhandling ordinance. At the time, it seemed like a risky political move, alienating him from wealthy power brokers in the city. But it instead set him on a path to be a champion for the people on Council for nearly a decade. I’m hoping he and a few colleagues (like Seattle Bike Blog endorsement recipients Lorena González, Sally Bagshaw and Rob Johnson) do that again tomorrow.

Op-ed: Bicyclists should support I-1631, Protect Washington voter initiative

Mon, 06/11/2018 - 11:59

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following op-ed is written by Chris Covert-Bowlds, M.D., a person who bikes, is a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility, and supports I-1631.

Washington state bicyclists should support I-1631 — the Protect Washington voter initiative. With a carbon dioxide emission fee paid by the producers to tackle climate change, I-1631 will fund non-motorized transportation, healthy forests, and clean air, water and energy investments.

Seventy percent of the funding would be dedicated to clean air and energy projects, of which non-motorized transportation would be eligible, potentially resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in walking and biking infrastructure.  In practice, these investments will go to multiple strategies, recommended by the board, but there is a preference for “strategies that reduce vehicle miles traveled.”

As a Seattle family doctor, daily bicycle commuter, and father of two 20-something-year-olds who bike frequently, I know we need safer roads for people who bike.

We also need clean air, water and energy, and healthier forests, to address the health dangers already caused by climate change.

A broad coalition of groups representing health care, the environment, unions, people of color, and tribes created I-1631 as an equitable way to tackle climate change.

I am gathering voter signatures for this initiative because it is very good for the health of the people of Washington, including our kids and grandkids.

If we gather 260,000 valid voter signatures by June 30, and voters approve it November 6, I-1631 will fund non-motorized transportation (think bike lanes, sidewalks, etc), and help us address wild fires, air and water pollution, and sea level rise, which are already killing us.

I-1631 will fund clean air, clean water, clean energy, healthy forests, help affected workers transition to sustainable jobs, and help affected communities and tribes address climate change impacts. The carbon fee starts at $15 per ton of CO2, rising by $2 per ton per year, until we reach our state greenhouse gas emission targets.

Climate change is the great moral and political challenge of our time. We can all can help gathering signatures to get I-1631 on the ballot.

For the health of ourselves, our children, grandchildren, and to alleviate the suffering of the people in our state already being affected by climate change, let’s lead the nation, with I-1631, the Clean Air, Clean Energy initiative.

To help, and for info, go to

Bike Happy: This weekend, Ballard Crit & Evergreen MTB Festival

Thu, 06/07/2018 - 16:38

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks again to Brock Howell of Bike Happy for putting together this comprehensive weekly newsletter.

  1. The Evergreen Mountain Bike Festival is on Saturday and Sunday. Go to Duthie for the jump show, skills clinics, 50+ vendors, new bike demo rides, and more.
  2. The 25th Annual Ballard Criterium is on Saturday.
  3. Seattle’s bikeshare systems are a big success.
  4. Expedia will rebuild the Elliott Bay Trail near its new headquarters.
  5. The bike network should be built with repaving projects, says Andres Salomon.


A driver killed Constantin Dragomir (57yo), who was biking in a marked crosswalk on Auburn Way S and Fir Street SE in Auburn. Auburn Reporter, KOMO, KING5.

  • “12 uses for corn starch in a bike shop,” Recycled Cycles.
  • “9 beginner bike rides in Seattle,” Curbed.
  • “5 cool things from Topeak, Julbo, WTB and Compass Cycles,”
  • “3 facts to know about electric bikes,” Montlake Bikes.
  • “May 19th’s Cougar Attack,” Evergreen MTB.
  • “Join us June 9-10 for the 9th Annual Evergreen Mountain Bike Festival!” Evergreen MTB.
  • “Our Biggest Event of the Year! This Weekend!” Evergreen MTB.
  • “In the absence of a bike lane, what does the law say about where you should ride?” TNT.
  • “Bike2Health classes, rides in Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace this summer,” MyEdmonds.
  • Seattle
    • In preparation for legislation to establish a permanent policy for the dockless bikeshare systems, SDOT presented to Seattle City Council the results of its bikeshare program. During the first six months of the program, 468,000 trips were taken. Based on a statistically valid survey to 600 people in February, one-third of Seattleites have ridden a bikeshare bike, and one-third are willing to try a bikeshare bike. 74% of respondents have a positive view of the bikeshare system. Urbanist, SBBSTBGeekWire, KOMO, KING5, CHS BlogSeattle Business Mag.
    • The Seattle Aquarium cleaned up the waters around its Pier 59 building, and found a couple trashed bikeshare bikes. KIRO.
    • In building its new headquarters, Expedia will upgrade the Elliott Bay Trail. This work will require a detour for people biking from July 18, 2019 to fall 2019. PSBJ, PRN.
    • SDOT will repave and improve the safety along Sand Point Way NE, but most recent designs pulled back on improvements like adding bike lanes. A recent pedestrian death brings new urgency to moving forward with the full safety improvements. City Living.
    • SDOT will repave arterial streets in the Green Lake and Wallingford neighborhoods and add protected bike lanes for many of the sections next year. SDOT is currently at about the halfway stage for designing the safety improvements and is seeking public input. Wallyhood.
    • Former mayoral candidate Andres Salomon calls for installing protected bike lanes with every arterial repaving project. Urbanist.
    • SDOT may (or may not) add new rapid-flashing beacon crossing 30th Ave SW & SW Barton St as part of a school zone safety improvement to Roxhill Elementary. WSB.
    • “A Near-Term Action Plan for city & regional commuters [in Downtown],” SDOT.
    • SDOT has used Strava data to plan the city’s bike network. GovTech.
  • Eastside
    • Kirkland will install its first neighborhood greenway on NE 75th Street in the South Rose Hill neighborhood this summer. Kirkland Reporter.
    • A recap of the Raging River Mountains Bike Trails Grand Opening. Evergreen MTB.
  • Snohomish County
    • A new ferry terminal will open next year in Mukilteo. The new vehicle parking layout should reduce the back-up of car traffic on the Mukilteo Speedway, and the project includes bike/walk improvements. Construction Equipment Guide.
  • Pierce County
    • Video of Foothills Trail Grand Opening. PCTV.
  • Kitsap
    • WSDOT seeks public input on potential transportation projects, including the Sound to Olympics Trail. BI Review.
  • The 25th Annual Ballard Criterium is this Saturday. NW in Motion.

Bike Maintenance & Retail
Mechanics & Retail Staff, Gregg’s Cycles

Bike Product Industry
Sales and Marketing Specialist, Sportworks
Director of Sales and Marketing, Sportworks

Bike Education & Training
Major Taylor Ride Leader/Instructor, Cascade
Summer Camp Head Counselor, Cascade
Summer Camp Counselor, Cascade
Counselor-in-Training (Seasonal), Cascade
Bicycle Specialist – Recreation Leader II, City of Auburn

Commute Services & Other Outreach
Sounders FC Bike Valet Parking Manager & Assistants, Bike Works
Transportation Program Coordinator (Temporary), City of Kirkland

Policy, Planning, & Engineering
East King County Policy Manager, Cascade
Designer – Level 1, Alta
Group Leaders – Senior Associates, Alta
Transportation Engineer, City of Mercer Island
Supervising Project Manager, SDOT

Communications, Development, & Management
Contract Grant Writer, Bike Works
Development & Communications Coordinator, Bike Works
Program Coordinator, Bike Works
Individual & Annual Giving Manager, Cascade
Staff Accountant, Cascade


Subscribe here to get the Bike Happy newsletter delivered to your inbox every Thursday.

Survey: Ahead of bike share permit update, survey says Seattleites are very supportive

Wed, 06/06/2018 - 08:51

From a survey of Seattle residents’ attitudes about bike share and biking in general (PDF)

From a June 5 presentation to the City Council Transportation Committee (PDF).

The $1 Spin, Lime and ofo bikes around Seattle are very popular, appeal to wide demographics and are very often used to access transit. These are some of the findings from Seattle’s bike share permit pilot, setting the stage for the creation of a permanent permit scheme in June that could go into effect by the end of July.

According to a (perhaps too*) positive survey by EMC Research (PDF), 74 percent of Seattle favors the bikes. Thirty percent strongly favors them while only six percent strongly dislikes them.

I would love to believe the results are accurate, but the more I ran the numbers, the more I suspected the survey sample over-represents bike share users. So while it is safe to say an impressive number of Seattleites ride bike share, I suspect the survey’s estimates are a bit high. So keep that in mind when you digest the results. See the footnote* below for more about the survey discrepancies.

“Regardless of their own interest in becoming bike share users,” according the EMC report, “Seattleites recognize the positive impacts to the broader community of having bike sharing (e.g. environmental benefits and reduced traffic), as well as the benefits to users themselves.”

But beyond just public opinion, the bikes are getting a lot of new people riding. Survey results estimate that one third of Seattle adults had already given them a try as of February when the survey was conducted. Another third said they were interested in trying them. If that figure is accurate*, that’s more than 196,000 Seattle adults riding bike share with another 196,000 potential adult users, and that doesn’t even count all the teenagers, tourists and regional riders who live outside the city limits. And that survey was taken before the introduction of e-assist bikes and the recent record-breaking numbers on the city’s bike counters, which include even more new bike share riders.

Final May 2018 counts are in:
* 2nd Ave PBL = 23% over the previous monthly record
* Fremont bridge = 8% over the previously mostly record

— Blake Trask (@BlakeTrask) June 1, 2018

The bike share permit pilot has been an astounding success for Seattle, which has led the nation in redefining the role of bike share in a major city. 10,000 bikes are currently permitted in Seattle, and they have already changed the way many people in Seattle get around. The city should be proud of this achievement and looking for ways to build on it and continue to innovate.

Seventy-five percent of bike share users report using the bikes to access transit, further confirmation that bike share is a complement to transit service by closing the notoriously difficult “last mile” problem for transit services. Buses, trains and ferries are very good at getting a lot of people across the bulk of a metro area, but they are not great at getting people from door to door. Bike share is perfect for cutting down on long walks to the bus stop or for skipping a local bus connection by biking directly to an express route stop or station. Quite often, combing bike share and transit is the fastest way to get around. It’s also fun, healthy and environmentally friendly.

Undoubtedly, many trips have shifted away from personal and for-hire cars to bikes and transit. Seattle should be proud of this achievement and look for ways to keep building on this success to shift even more trips and invite even more transportation innovation.

Some demographic highlights from the survey as notes in an SDOT presentation to the City Council Transportation Committee:

  • 62% Male, 38% Female
  • Most users between 25-44
  • 36% of Hispanic & African-American survey respondents have tried bike share
  • 32% of Asian respondents have tried bike share
  • 32% of White respondents have tried bike share

If accurate,* these figures are pretty remarkable. One of the big questions about dockless bike share was whether it could better reach a more diverse ridership than many of the nation’s station-based systems. And this survey suggests that race has little impact on whether someone will use one of the bikes. If anything, Hispanic and African American residents are slightly more likely to try one than white residents (though white residents are slightly more likely to use them often):

Also of note here: Residents of South and West Seattle were more likely to ride than residents of North Seattle. This makes the city’s ongoing lack of bike infrastructure investment in South and West Seattle even more egregious.

Diving deeper into the survey results, there is a generational divide around the bikes. Though all three adult age brackets like the bikes, the 55+ set was much less likely to use them and far more likely to view them unfavorably:

I am especially curious to see how the introduction of e-assist bikes will affect the generational divide. Anecdotally, I see many more seniors on the Lime-E bikes, which are easier on the joints and require less physical endurance to scale hills. I look forward to seeing if data confirms this observation.

Though the survey found that Seattle residents largely favor the bike share scheme, the vast majority (85 percent) of people who called or emailed SDOT staff about the bikes were unfavorable. And that makes sense. Of course people who are compelled to call the city are more likely to be upset about something. When is the last time you called city staff to tell them you really like something they did? Well, come to think of it, maybe you should do that sometime. It might make a city staffer’s day.

The biggest complaint is that bikes are parked in the way, and this concern is especially potent for people with mobility or vision impairments. A survey of bikes found that only four percent of bikes were parked in a way that fully impeded a pathway. 70 percent were parked correctly and the rest were technically parked improperly but were not causing a serious pathway blockage. But four percent of 10,000 bikes is still a significant number of walkway blockages. The city, companies and users need to work together to keep walkways clear.

SDOT has already tested a series of designated bike share parking spaces, basically just boxes painted on the sidewalk.

“We also see some capacity for this to be in the street, essentially looking like a bike parking corral SDOT already builds,” said SDOT Bike Share Program Manager Joel Miller during the presentation to the City Council Transportation Committee. And if they are positioned close to an intersection, they can also act as a crosswalk improvement by improving visibility and making the crossing distance shorter.

And though 76 percent of observed users were not wearing a helmet, an preliminary UW/Harborview study saw no increase in head injury risk from the bikes, according to the SDOT presentation. There were only five collisions involving people on bike share bikes that SDOT staff could find, and none resulted in serious injury.

One odd finding from the EMC survey: Only 37 percent of people know that the current bike share systems are funded by private companies. 27 percent think the city is funding it. More Seattleites need to read Seattle Bike Blog.

Going forward, the city will release the full bike share pilot report and present the updated permit to the Transportation Committee June 19, and that could pass full Council approval June 25. SDOT would then roll out the new permit by the end of July.

* The survey says 11 percent of Seattleites rode the bikes 11 times or more in the six months before taking the February survey. If that were true, that share of rides alone would be at the very least 742,000 rides (614,000 Seattle adults * .11 * 11) , well more than the 468,000 total rides counted during the nearly six months of the pilot (mid-July through December). That just doesn’t add up. The survey was a “recruit-only” web panel survey of 601 residents, and results were weighted to closely match Seattle’s demographics. It is more scientific than an opt-in web survey, and respondents did not know the survey topic before agreeing to participate. That said, researchers note that any web survey will underrepresent people who do not have good access to the Internet. EMC Research says that if the sample were representative, it would have a margin of error comparable to +/- 4 percent. But my back of the envelope math suggests the margin in this survey is quite a bit larger than that. It may be that people who take web panel surveys are more likely to be tech savvy and, therefore, more likely to take bike share than the general population. Or perhaps the survey takers overestimated how often they used them. Or perhaps the city’s trip counts are low. I have asked EMC about the discrepancy. You can read more about the methodology in the beginning of the report (PDF).

UPDATE: Ian Stewart from EMC confirms that this survey shouldn’t be used to extrapolate ridership numbers. Instead, people should think of it as a sampling of opinions about bike share from a set of residents mirroring (but not statistically representative of) city demographics. From Stewart:

While we made every effort to get a sample that looked representative and got a diverse set of respondents that demographically mirror the city, since not all Seattle residents have an equal probability of being selected for the survey, these numbers shouldn’t be used to extrapolate usership numbers. That would’ve required a different methodology, but given that SDOT has other sources of info on actual ridership that don’t rely on self-report, we were focused primarily on an approach that would get us good data on attitudes about the program (among both those who report not having used the program as well as those who say they have) within a set budget. Additionally, given that we used a non-probability sample, we also can’t strictly apply the classical margin of error; it is possible that since this is web, and smartphones are generally the way you get access to bikeshares, there could be a small bias in the sample towards that audience.

Furthermore, when it comes to usage and frequency numbers, people tend to overreport behaviors and not be 100% accurate when they’re recalling things like how many times they’ve done something in a set timeframe. So when comparing self-reports to actual ridership data, we’d expect numbers to be higher even if we’d used a methodology that captured a true probability sample.

Bike Happy: Long live the ‘Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail’

Fri, 06/01/2018 - 09:56

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks again to Brock Howell of Bike Happy for putting together this comprehensive weekly newsletter.

  1. Yesterday was the last day of Bike Month.
  2. They’ve finally done it: the John Wayne Trail is dead. Long live the “Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail.”
  3. Pierce County mayors are headed to Copenhagen to learn how to build bike-friendly communities.

If your bike is ever stolen, you will need all the details (including photos) of your bike, and a passionate community of people looking out it.  That’s what Bike Index provides. Register your bike on Bike Index right now.

  • Compass Cycles and Swift Industries are teaming up for a Swift Campout photo contest, with the winner getting a $200 gift certificate. Jan Heine’s Blog.
  • A “Womxn’s Bike Month Happy Hour,” hosted by Cascade, SNG, & The Urbanist, is tonight. SBB.
  • Metier is opening a bike+brewery location in Woodinville on Saturday. Metier.
  • Ballard-based Rad Power Bikes is opening a showroom in Vancouver BC. BikeBizBicycle RetailerPSBJ.
  • Rants to homeowners that complain about trail users using adjacent trails, and to people riding strewn bikeshare bikes without helmets. Seattle Times.
  • Someone wrote a bicycle etiquette haiku letter that would make John Forrester proud. Seattle Times.
  • S.J. Brooks was a leader for inclusivity within the bicycle community. Seattle TimesBicycle Retailer.
  • Seattle
    • Mayor Durkan seeks a new SDOT Director, and is taking public input in what qualities to look for. MyNWSDOT.
      • The next director needs to be bold and creative on how to deliver the City’s bus and bike commitments under the Move Seattle Levy, says the Seattle Bike Blog.
    • New apartment building planned for along future Burke-Gilman Trail in Ballard. MyBallard.
    • Construction is beginning on the $50 million Lander Street Overpass Bridge to improve freight mobility from the port in SoDo. The bridge includes a wide sidewalk to accommodate people biking. PSBJKING5Seattle Times.
    • SDOT begins construction of the West Seattle Neighborhood Greenway this summer. WSB.
    • At a panel discussion about Vision Zero in San Francisco, SDOT’s Darby Wilson discussed the agency’s data-driven effort to reduce traffic fatalities. SF Streetsblog.
  • Bus Rapid Transit
    • Metro & SDOT are planning a new RapidRide H line from Downtown Seattle through Delridge and White Center to Burien, improving bus times by 13% and increase ridership by a third. Metro is still taking public input on the project and could use comments on how to integrate Seattle’s BMP-prioritized bike infrastructure for the route. Urbanist.
    • Sound Transit is planning a new BRT line from Burien to Shoreline’s future 145th Street Light Rail Station, and has a public meeting in Lake Forest Park for the project.  Again, it’d be good to provide public input in how to integrate bike routes to the bus stops, and to encourage an extension to Aurora Ave – SR99. STB.
  • Kitsap
    • The Washington Recreation & Park Association honored the Bainbridge Parks District’s Youth Mountain Biking Initiative for outstanding innovative programming. Bainbridge Review.
  • Pierce County
    • Local mayors and leaders from Tacoma to Puyallup are headed to Copenhagen for a study trip in how to build bike-friendly communities. KOMO.
  • Statewide & More
    • State renames the John Wayne Trail aka Iron Horse Trail as the “Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail.” Seattle TimesEllensburg Daily Record.
    • A UW PhD candidate discusses her research into the environmental health effects of breathing in toxic chemicals while bicycling. EHN.
  • Chris Froome won the Giro d’Italia, just the third person to have won the Tour de France, Vuelta a España, and Giro in succession (“The Grand Tour Treble”). Froome faces doping allegations from the Vuelta. BicyclingGuardian.

Bike Maintenance & Retail
Mechanics & Retail Staff, Gregg’s Cycles

Bike Product Industry
Sales and Marketing Specialist, Sportworks
Director of Sales and Marketing, Sportworks

Bike Education & Training
Major Taylor Ride Leader/Instructor, Cascade
Summer Camp Head Counselor, Cascade
Summer Camp Counselor, Cascade
Counselor-in-Training (Seasonal), Cascade
Bicycle Specialist – Recreation Leader II, City of Auburn
Specialized Recreation Cycling Assistant – Recreation Leader I, City of Auburn

Commute Services & Other Outreach
Sounders FC Bike Valet Parking Manager & Assistants, Bike Works
Transportation Program Coordinator (Temporary), City of Kirkland

Policy, Planning, & Engineering
East King County Policy Manager, Cascade
Designer – Level 1, Alta
Group Leaders – Senior Associates, Alta
Supervising Project Manager, SDOT

Communications, Development, & Management
Contract Grant Writer, Bike Works
Development & Communications Coordinator, Bike Works
Program Coordinator, Bike Works
Individual & Annual Giving Manager, Cascade
Staff Accountant, Cascade


Subscribe here to get the Bike Happy newsletter delivered to your inbox every Thursday.

We are building a backyard cottage, and city rules make no sense + Hearing Thursday

Thu, 05/31/2018 - 09:02

Home sweet home.

Our daughter Fiona will not have a closet in her room growing up because city rules for building backyard cottages require us to build an extra car parking space for a car we don’t own.

Debates over building codes and zoning often get bogged down in acronyms and percentages that lull most people to sleep. But the ongoing effort of trying to navigate today’s backyard cottage rules to build such a home in our friends’ backyard has made the effects of those obtuse codes and rules concrete for my spouse Kelli and I. And we’ve found that many rules just plain make no sense.

The good news is that the city, led by City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, is trying to change the rules to make it easier for people to build homes in their backyards. The bad news is that the Queen Anne Community Council successfully sued to delay these changes, requiring the city to spend years conducting an environmental megastudy (PDF) on the effects of such a rule change. The initial draft of that study is now out, and there will be a public hearing and open house about it 5:30 p.m. Thursday at City Hall. You can also comment online.

Here are just a few rules that could be changed, some of which I learned from the Beyond Backyard Cottages group and some of which my family and our friends discovered first hand:

  • Remove the parking requirement. Why would a city that claims to want to reduce driving and greenhouse gas emissions require people to build car parking spaces whether they own a car or not? In our case, the extra car parking space is taking away both indoor square footage (so long, Fiona’s closet) and garden space.
  • More height for green roofs. Don’t we want people to help retain stormwater during big rains? Plus, they’re cool. But current rules make it hard or impossible to build a comfortable two-story house with a green roof.
  • Don’t count a garage as house square footage. If you build a home above a garage, why should the garage space count against the maximum square footage of the house? Cars are really big, so once you subtract their space from the house, you really don’t have much room left for living.
  • Allow multiple in-house and detached units. Why can’t a property have both a backyard cottage and a basement apartment? Or two in-house apartments and a backyard cottage? Are we worried about creating too many homes for people to live?
  • Get rid of the unrelated occupants limit. Why should the city care or have any say in how many of the property occupants are related to each other? Yes, this really is a rule. It’s none of your business who is related to who, Seattle!
  • Streamline permitting. Why does it take so long to process building permits for such relatively small projects? By the time our house is finished, we may have spent as much time waiting for permits as we did building the thing. There must be a way to streamline this.
  • Remove the owner-occupancy rule. Why should the city have a say in whether the property owner lives there? Life happens, circumstances change. If someone needs to move from their home for some reason (job, longterm family emergency, financial changes, because they want to, etc), should they have to evict residents and board up their backyard houses? Renters are just as valuable to a neighborhood as homeowners, and the rules shouldn’t treat them differently.

These are just a handful of smart changes the city has studied. And, no surprise, the megastudy finds that implementing these changes would encourage the construction of more homes without having negative effects on neighborhoods.

What does this have to do with biking? Well, I am partly writing this because my family is in the process of building one of these, so I have a lot of thoughts and experiences to share. But the ability to build more homes in our city’s single family neighborhoods is about biking because transportation and land use are deeply intertwined. As more people are able to live within easy biking distance of jobs, parks, schools and businesses, biking becomes a more broadly viable mode of transportation.

And both biking and backyard cottages can be tools for affordability in this city as the cost of living skyrockets. For our family, they are both vital to our ability to stay and invest in this city we love.

We spent a year and a half putting offers on the most affordable one-bedroom condos and co-op units for sale anywhere within easy biking distance of the city center, but we were outbid every time by people with the means to offer a stack of cash on top of the asking price. Housing prices have since climbed even higher, and even the smallest condos are well out of reach. A quick glance at Zillow shows maybe three listings for small one-bedroom units listed below $300,000.

But you can build a larger two-bedroom backyard cottage for less than $300,000, and that will only be more true if the city moves forward with some of the more ambitious options in the environmental study. With the housing market what it is, building a backyard cottage is an almost magical way to build relatively affordable family-sized housing.

In huge swaths of Seattle’s single family zones, population has actually declined since 1970 even as the city’s population has ballooned. This is because apartments, duplexes and triplexes that were legal before the creation of single family zoning laws were replaced or renovated with houses for just one household. During a housing supply and affordability crisis, it is unconscionable that city zoning rules would allow so much residential land to depopulate.

As Erica Barnett at the C Is For Crank reports, the megastudy not only deems that the proposed changes would have little ill effect on neighborhoods, it also finds that single family zoning is an ongoing enforcer of the racist legacy of redlining in our city. There is a ton of information in the document, but this chart illustrates the disparity well:

Living in a single family house is also a very strong determiner of wealth:

Now look at the map of single family zoning in Seattle, areas where the only form of housing legally allowed is the form of housing that is disproportionately white and wealthy:

Owning a single family house does not make you racist, but single family zoning is a racist rule. It is also economically unjust. Backyard cottages are not going to fix the problem here, but they are at least a point of entry for more people. They’re a good start.

The Urbanist: Womxn’s Bike Month Happy Hour is Thursday

Tue, 05/29/2018 - 12:20

Took a rad group of ladies out on an e-bike spin! Most of them had never ridden downtown. They were all smiles. #womxnbike #bikemonth #seabikes @limebike @CascadeBicycle @TranspoChoices

— kelsey mesher (@kmesh) May 23, 2018

Womxn are leading the modern urban cycling movement. When a group fighting a safer 35th Ave NE said single moms don’t bike, biking moms of Seattle took action and refocused the debate over that street’s design on people of all ages getting around their neighborhood safely. People are organizing more WTF (women/trans/femme) spaces and groups to invite more people to feel comfortable biking. Demographically, people who identify as women on the Census make up a huge percentage of Seattle’s new bike commuters.

Want to meet more womxn interested in bike advocacy? Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, Cascade Bicycle Club and the Urbanist are hosting a Womxn’s Bike Month Happy Hour Thursday evening. Details:

Womxns’ Downtown Seattle Happy Hour – there’s an Advocate in all of us!

When: Thursday, May 31, 5:00 – 7:00 pm
Where: Elephant & Castle (1415 Fifth Ave Seattle, WA 98101)

Join Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, Cascade Bicycle Club, and The Urbanist for a happy hour that’s just for womxn who like bicycles, or want to!

Hear from rad womxn leaders in bike advocacy and close out Bike Month in style.

The happy hour comes after a forum for women Cascade hosted in March. Kelsey Mesher (formerly with Cascade, now with Transportation Choices Coalition), Vicky Clarke (Cascade) and Keiko Budech (TCC) wrote about the forum and the upcoming happy hour at the Urbanist. Here’s an excerpt of some takeaways from the forum:

Back in March, Cascade Bicycle Club hosted a thought forum with several dozen women connected to the bike community to discuss these intangibles. The list that came forward ran the gamut:

  • Geography or facilities available to different abilities
  • Lack of access to good places to ride
  • Lack of kid friendly rides
  • Judgement based on what you wear, or how how you look on a bike
  • Cat calls/ harassment
  • Cars and people being rude
  • Loading bike on a bus
  • Getting passed based on how you look
  • Not having the “right” gear
  • Bike shops can be intimidating
  • Lack of knowledge (such as, riding speeds, trends, lingo)
  • Perceptions and realities of cost (gear, “nice stuff”)
  • Vehicles in bike lanes
  • Shock and disbelief by others that you rode a bike

The women also developed ideas about what makes biking inclusive:

  • Being a part of bike culture and a community
  • Bridging races
  • Bridging ages (especially kids)
  • Riding can overcome identity at times
  • E-bikes
  • Seeing more women (leadership, advocacy, riding in public)
  • All ages and abilities networks
  • Being able to ride in regular clothes (and seeing others in regular clothes)

EDITOR’S NOTE: For the past five years, regular readers may have noticed disclosures on posts about Cascade noting that my spouse Kelli works for the organization. Well, you won’t see those anymore. She has moved on and now works at G&O Family Cyclery.