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People walk across street at crosswalk

Fri, 02/08/2019 - 08:00

There were zero pedestrians counted at this Ballard intersection on a Tuesday in January. It was built late last year as part of bus enhancement project. We counted again on Tuesday in January and usage meets the MUTCD threshold for a pedestrian signal per our Vision Zero Team. pic.twitter.com/C5THJUVkeU

— Dongho Chang (@dongho_chang) January 30, 2019

Here’s a story that will seem like common sense to everyone who isn’t a traffic engineer. Almost nobody used to try to cross 15th Ave NW at NW 53rd Street in Ballard because 15th is wide and busy and there was no crosswalk there. But now that SDOT has added a signal and crosswalk, lots of people cross the street there.

This should be the most boring story possible: “People walk across street at crosswalk.” How is this news? Well, because this result is only obvious to people who have not been trained in the standards of American traffic engineering.

The national “Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices” — essentially a guidebook for traffic engineers — tells professionals that unless there are already a lot people trying to cross the street, a signal is not warranted. Neighbors across the nation run into this answer all the time when pressing their cities for crosswalks and signals: “There is not enough pedestrian activity to warrant a signal.” Signals stop cars, and stopping cars is a sign of failure if you are a traditional American traffic engineer.

But SDOT tried a different approach: Build the signal first, then count to see if the resulting pedestrian volumes ended up justifying the signal after all. And they did.

There are many great traffic engineers, but the field has some gross negligence baked into its core. The best traffic engineers I’ve met had to purposefully unlearn stuff they were taught, and their ideas — like installing a crosswalk signal even if people aren’t currently running across the six-lane roadway — are often still seen as radical. Just this year, the advisory board behind the MUTCD decided against an effort to make installing walk signals best practices when installing a new traffic signal.

And in the end, the @ncutcd decided against changing the #MUTCD. Vote gets majority, but fails to get 2/3 majority to pass.

Engineers may continue to not install pedestrian signal heads….this our transportation profession. #Ethics https://t.co/8fc3QDkvRJ

— Bill Schultheiss (@schlthss) January 10, 2019

There are two outrageous bits of information here. 1: That wasn’t already in the guidebook? 2: With people walking representing a rising portion of the traffic deaths, these leaders of their profession don’t see it as their ethical duty to require something as basic as a walk signal? Here they are voting no in case you want to know what that looks like:

Very…the No votes pic.twitter.com/Tuvn28iYlE

— Bill Schultheiss (@schlthss) January 10, 2019

We are lucky in Seattle to have many great engineers working for SDOT who go far beyond what the MUTCD suggests and truly do care about safety for everyone more than moving cars. It’s one reason why Seattle has some of the safest streets in the nation, and why the NW 53rd Street crosswalk caught the eye of Angie Schmitt at StreetsBlog:

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices states that before communities can add a signalized crosswalk — a crosswalk with a traffic light — there must be at least 93 pedestrians that cross at the location every hour. If pedestrian traffic is insufficient, the manual will also allow a signalized crosswalk only if five pedestrians were struck by drivers (think about that) at that location within a year.

In recent years, some progressive transportation engineers have challenged this rule, noting it subordinates pedestrian safety to the speedy flow of car traffic. (Indeed, as transportation planners sometimes joke, you can’t determine the need for a bridge by measuring how many people are swimming across the river.)

SDOT has a lot of work to do to better prioritize and deliver safety improvements. But the U.S. traffic engineering field needs a damn renaissance.

Redesigned Northgate bike/walk bridge construction should start middle of this year

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 13:07

Crossing I-5 in Northgate is terrible today. The freeway divides the neighborhood, and the few places where crossing on foot or bike is possible are either far apart or very stressful. So as the region prepares to open a light rail station and Northgate Mall prepares for significant redevelopment, including a lot of new housing, we need to help people get across the freeway.

From its inception in 2011, the Northgate bike/walk bridge was focused on dramatically expanding access to the light rail station. Today, there is no crossing option for the 18 blocks between NE 92nd Street and NE Northgate Way, and the Northgate Way underpass is stressful and does not have bike lanes. North Seattle College and the nearby neighborhood would be within an easy walk of the station if there were a bridge, and the number of homes and destinations within an easy bike ride would be dramatically expanded.

It has been something of a half-decade roller coaster ride for the Northgate bike/walk bridge. The initial design, which included a striking and potentially iconic design, was likely only going to happen if the city could win a Federal TIGER grant. But SDOT failed twice — in 2014 on its own and 2015 as part of a Pronto bike share expansion — to win the grant. So SDOT, Sound Transit and Washington State partnered to fund a lower-cost version of the bridge instead. 

But despite the delays due to the 2017–18 bridge redesign, the project appears on track to open before light rail service begins. SDOT announced Tuesday that the project has finished environmental review and final design, and they are preparing to send it out for construction bids. If all goes according to schedule, construction should begin mid-year. Northgate Station is set to open in 2021.

Getting the bridge to this stage took an enormous amount of advocacy work from neighbors, transit and biking supporters, and organizations like Cascade Bicycle Club. It also required a local, regional and statewide partnership, which was very cool to watch. Even facing big challenges like missed grants and a need to redesign, folks kept their eyes on the goal of getting this thing ready before light rail. It’s cool to see what can happen when people work together from the grassroots all the way up to Olympia.

Here’s how the bridge will connect to other planned improvements in the area, from this PDF:

City advances plans for N 34th St redesign in Fremont + Take the survey

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 13:10

SDOT is moving forward with a plan to redesign N 34th Street between Stone Way and the Fremont Bridge, a major connection in the regional bike network linking the Burke-Gilman Trail to the Fremont Bridge.

Though the most popular option for the street during initial outreach was a two-way bike lane on the south side of 34th, the project team has decided after further study to prefer paint-and-post bike lanes on each side of the street.

You can learn more and share your thoughts via this online survey.

Today, the street has paint-only bike lanes, and the westbound lane is constantly blocked either by people double parking or by people queued up to turn right onto Fremont Ave. So a redesign that can remove these conflicts and keep the bike lanes clear would be a huge improvement.

Here are the concepts considered and how the team rated each idea:

The project is bookended by challenging and unusual intersections, and the online survey does not attempt to dive into solution for them.

Stone Way

The intersection at Stone Way is complicated for people on bikes because there are popular bike routes in essentially all directions. Stone is a popular bike route up the hill, 34th westbound heads to the Fremont Bridge, 34th eastbound heads into Wallingford, and the Burke-Gilman Trail awkwardly crosses through the south crosswalk. People biking from all directions want to go in all other directions.

Today, many of the movements are pretty strange and unintuitive. For example, what is the best way to get from westbound on the trail to westbound on 34th? There are at least four popular ways to make this connection that I can think of, and none of them are great. And how are people biking eastbound supposed to go left on Stone Way to head uphill? Having an easy and intuitive way to make these crossings will be vital for this project to work.

Fremont Ave

Fitting for a neighborhood with a famously strange street arrangement, 34th and Fremont Ave is one of the more unusual intersections in the whole city. Everyone comes together here, with busy bus stops, major bike routes, freight trucks and, of course, a bunch of cars. To complicate matters more, the Fremont Bridge opens for boats constantly, causing strange traffic patterns. There are even statues here waiting for a streetcar that no longer exists.

To make things even more complicated for people on bikes, there is no clear best way to get from N 34th Street to the Westlake bikeway. Some people take the east sidewalk across the bridge and follow the sidewalk all the way to the bikeway. Others take the west sidewalk and then try to cross at the Nickerson/Dexter signal. And others take the west sidewalk, then loop around the funeral home to the Ship Canal Trail, then cross back under the bridge to get to Westlake. None of these options is clearly the best, and they all share one thing in common: Squeezing across the bridge in a skinny sidewalk clearly not built to carry so many people biking and walking at the same time.

How the design team deals with this intersection is easily the most important detail in the whole project.

At some point, the city is going to need to dramatically redesign this intersection, Fremont Ave and possibly the bridge as well. But even making this N 34th Street project function will require some significant changes.

It’s snowy! Obviously, that means it’s time to look for ‘sneckdowns’ on streets near you

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 12:39

We don’t get the chance to do this often, Seattle, so don’t miss the chance to document some of the “sneckdowns” on streets near you.

What is a sneckdown, you ask? Well, mother nature has essentially painted the city’s streets with a valuable traffic calming and street design demonstration. It’s tactical urbanism falling like manna. When snow covers the lane markings and obscures the curbs, people driving create new and much narrower paths. The result is a very visual demonstration of how much space on our streets could be reclaimed for extended sidewalks, curb bulbs, crossing islands, bike lanes or even public plazas in the most dramatic cases.

Basically, when you are trudging to the sledding hill, imagine if the state or city built permanent sidewalks wherever the snow is untouched. A “neckdown” is more commonly referred to as a “curb bulb” in Seattle, an extension of the sidewalk to help make people waiting to cross the street more visible and to shorten the distance needed to walk from curb-to-curb. “Sneckdown” is a portmanteau of “snowy neckdown” coined in New York City.

Our streets have been designed to give an enormous amount of space to cars, especially at intersections. When sidewalks are cut back, people driving take turns much more quickly. This is extremely dangerous, and a major cause of injury and death. But when snow falls, one of the most common results is that people take slower and sharper turns, leaving snow near the curb untouched. A slower turn doesn’t stop people from getting where they’re going.

So why can’t it be this way even when it isn’t snowing? Nature has already taken care of the early design concept.

Have you noticed any sneckdowns near you? Let us know in the comments! If you have photos to share, email tom@seattlebikeblog.com.

Check out these 300+ neighbor-created ideas to improve Seattle streets

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 14:33

Neighborhood Street Fund timeline, from the program website.

Seattle residents and organizations submitted more than 300 specific Neighborhood Street Fund ideas for improving our city’s streets, and now SDOT needs help prioritizing them. You can weigh in online by February 22. The refined list will then go through another round of voting this spring.

NSF projects should be in the $100,000 to $1 million range and can include anything from sidewalk improvements, crosswalks, signals, bike connections, curb ramps or anything else people can think of that could make the streets near them better. And it turns out that most of the improvements people want are for people walking and biking.

Though they are both participatory budgeting programs, the NSF is a fully separate fund and process than the lower-budget “Your Voice, Your Choice: Parks & Streets” program that is currently gathering idea submissions.

NSF ideas submitted this year range in feasibility from simple and easy to major undertakings. And no matter then intention of the project creator, there are many more steps after this as SDOT engineers design and modify them to meet standards and city goals. It’s a long process.

There a ton of great ideas in this list (and a few not-so-great ones, of course). So thanks to everyone who has volunteered their time and energy to get these ideas out there. It turns into a lot of work, especially as projects advance.

Here’s the full map of submitted project ideas:

Many of the projects are simple things like crosswalks across busy streets, accessible curb ramps or residential street traffic calming. There are too many to highlight here, so spend some time going through the list and supporting ones that sound good. If you click on project titles, you can learn more details.

Here is a very incomplete list of bigger project ideas that stood out to me at first glance:

Is there a project idea you want to highlight? Post about it in the comments below.

Here’s the meeting schedule if you want to learn more and weigh in on projects in person:

District Venue Date Time Location 1 Youngstown Cultural Arts Center Saturday, February 2 10:30 am – 12:30 pm 4408 Delridge Way SW, Seattle, WA 98106 South Park Hall Monday, February 4 6:30 – 8:00 pm 1253 S Cloverdale St, Seattle, WA 98108 2 Smart Buildings Center at Pacific Tower Tuesday, February 5 6:30 – 8:00 pm 1200 12th Ave S #110, Seattle, WA 98144 Van Asselt Community Center Monday, February 11 6:00 – 7:30 pm 2820 S Myrtle St, Seattle, WA 98108 Rainier Beach Community Center Tuesday, February 12 6:30 – 8:00 pm 8825 Rainier Ave S, Seattle, WA 98118 3 Yesler Community Center Thursday, January 31 6:00 – 7:30 pm 917 E Yesler Way, Seattle, WA 98122 Optimism Brewing Wednesday, February 6 6:30 – 8:00 pm 1158 Broadway, Seattle, WA 98122 4 Good Shepherd Center Monday, February 4 6:00 – 7:30 pm 4649 Sunnyside Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103 Northeast Branch Seattle Public Library Monday, February 11 6:00 – 7:30 pm 6801 35th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98115 5 Broadview Branch Seattle Public Library Thursday, January 31 6:00 – 7:30 pm 12755 Greenwood Ave N, Seattle, WA 98133 Lake City Community Center Tuesday, February 5 6:30 – 8:00 pm 12531 28th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98125 6 Crown Hill Center Tuesday, January 29 7:00 – 8:30 pm 9250 14th Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98117 Phinney Center Community Hall Wednesday, February 13 6:00 – 7:30 pm 6532 Phinney Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103 7 Queen Anne Community Center Wednesday, January 30 6:30 – 8:00 pm 1901 1st Ave W, Seattle, WA 98119

Bike News Roundup: Batman parks in a bike lane

Wed, 01/30/2019 - 13:49

It’s time for the Bike News Roundup! Here’s a look at some of the stuff floating around the web that caught my eye recently.

First up! Seattle Police tweeted this the other day:

SPD PRO TIP: Bike lanes are for bikes. #SeattleSqueeze #Realign99 pic.twitter.com/mAcvk6wWLS

— Seattle Police Dept. (@SeattlePD) January 30, 2019

Pacific Northwest News

Halftime Show! Bellevue and King County Metro have partnered to trial a quick and easy method to create a bus island with a protected bike lane. Check it out (starts at 4:50):

National & Global News

This is an open thread.

Stoked Spoke 2019 kicks off Wed. with ‘Women, Trans and Femme Riders in Early Cycling History’

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 12:18

Seattle’s annual bicycle adventure presentation series Stoked Spoke kicks off 2019 Wednesday with a unique look back at the early days of American cycling by Tessa Hulls.

Swift Industries (a SBB sponsor) is once again hosting the series at the Rhino Room on Capitol Hill. You can catch the first event of the season Wednesday. Doors at 6:30, show at 7. The venue is 21+.

Hulls is not just a storied bicycle adventurer herself, she has also become a historian focused on early women, trans and femme bike riders. As she told the Stranger in a recent interview, she got tired of people telling her women can’t go on long bike trips alone, so she dove into history and found women who have been doing so ever since bicycling arrived to this country.

“We’re kicking off the 2019 Stoked Spoke Season with something a little different, and especially powerful,” Swift Industries wrote in a recent blog post. “Please join us for an evening with Tessa Hulls, lifetime creator, seeker and adventurer, as she takes us on an adventure through the history of Women, Trans and Femme vanguards in cycling. Tessa shares her research through a delightfully crafted narrative and artistically dynamic timeline, it’s a real gift for our communities!”

Hulls’ talk is a special first edition of the Stoked Spoke series, which typically features several people sharing their bike adventures, sharing information and answering questions. You can catch the next two evenings in the series February 27 and March 27.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy launches campaign to build trail from Seattle to DC – UPDATED

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 15:04

Map from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

“The Great American Rail-Trail” could stretch from Seattle to Washington D.C., entirely off-road and with gentle grades. This is the dream the national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (“RTC”) announced today, noting that about half the 4,000-mile route is already complete in some form thanks to decades of advocacy work in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Though the organization says it “will take years to complete,” they have spent a year and a half analyzing the possibilities before determining that it is “viable.”

“Analyses that were used to confirm the project’s viability included a thorough assessment of route options using RTC’s database of more than 34,000 miles of open trails nationwide; analyses of state and local trail plans; and discussions with hundreds of local trail partners and state agencies representing all of the trails along the potential route,” the organization wrote in a press release (posted in full below). A more developed route concept will be announced in the spring.

The Washington State segment would, of course, follow the recently-renamed Palouse-to-Cascades State Park Trail (formerly known as the John Wayne Pioneer Trail or the Iron Horse Trail). So in order for the Great American Rail-Trail to become reality, Washington State has some work to do. The PTC Trail (what are we calling this thing for short?) is fairly high quality from Rattlesnake Lake to the Columbia River, which is the most difficult stretch due to the mountain pass and all the tunnel repairs completed a few years ago. So we’ve already done the hardest part. But the Beverly Bridge across the Columbia River and the long stretch across the state to Tekoa and the Idaho border need a lot of infrastructure work and additional services (like better drinking water access, toilets, etc). You can make the trip today, but it’s pretty rugged and requires some significant detouring.

UPDATE: There is a funding proposal going through the state legislature right now to rehab and reopen the Beverly Bridge, one of the most important gaps in the cross-state trail. The Palouse to Cascades Trail Coalition has a more details (PDF) and a call to action if you want to help make it and other improvements happen:

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee has proposed $5,575,000 toward the Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP) in the 2019-2021 State Budget for rehabilitation of this significant structure. Opening the Beverly Bridge for non motorized use enjoys broad public support, including many statewide and national organizations interested
in recreation, historic preservation, and revitalization of rural communities. Rehabilitation of the Beverly Bridge represents a critical investment in Washington State tourism, continuing to enrich the lives of Washingtonians.

In order to connect to Seattle, work is needed to complete and connect the Mountains-to-Sound Trail to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail, which connects to the PTC Trail at Rattlesnake Lake. Bellevue has work to do on a couple segments (especially in Eastgate), and the Preston-Snoqualmie Trail needs a connection to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail (in my experience, this is the worst gap). And, of course, Seattle still needs to connect the MTS Trail the last little stretch from Beacon Hill to Elliott Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

But all of this is doable. Sure, it’s going to take an enormous amount of organizing and collaboration across a dozen states, DC and probably the Federal government to make it happen. And as Washington Bikes learned from the effort to create USBR 10, organizing will need to happen in communities all along the trail corridor. This is an enormous lift, though this work has the added bonus of spreading the word about bike tourism and bike travel in general.

With regional trail projects like the Eastside Rail Corridor (or whatever we are going to start calling it soon) dramatically expanding the reach of the trail network locally, it’s a pretty cool idea to have a national trail run straight through it all. Maybe then we’ll all just start calling the PTC Trail and MTS Trail the “Great American Trail” instead.

From RTC:

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) today announced its vision for the Great American Rail-Trail, an unprecedented commitment to creating an iconic piece of American infrastructure that will connect nearly 4,000 miles of rail-trail and other multiuse trails from Washington, D.C., to Washington State.

RTC is committing to this project after more than 18 months of analysis and collaboration with local trail partners and state agencies whose work is critical to the success of this significant undertaking. Analyses that were used to confirm the project’s viability included a thorough assessment of route options using RTC’s database of more than 34,000 miles of open trails nationwide; analyses of state and local trail plans; and discussions with hundreds of local trail partners and state agencies representing all of the trails along the potential route.

“At RTC, we’ve known the potential of a coast-to-coast rail-trail for decades,” said Keith Laughlin, RTC president. “But before we committed to bringing this vision to life, we wanted to be certain it was viable. With open trails comprising more than 50 percent of the potential route, combined with strong local and state enthusiasm, we are now confident that the Great American Rail-Trail can be completed. RTC is ready to lead the effort to connect the trail across communities, counties and state lines to create a seamless off-road biking and walking journey for the country.”

Separated from vehicle traffic, Great American Rail-Trail travelers will be able to experience the diversity of America’s landscape, its people and its places as the route traverses 12 states moving west from its start in Washington, D.C. While the full route for the trail won’t be released until spring 2019, RTC today revealed the 12 gateway trails that make the Great American Rail-Trail possible.

  • Capital Crescent Trail, Washington, D.C., and Maryland: This 11-mile trail—and the Great American Rail-Trail—begins in Georgetown, near the historic landmarks of the nation’s capital.
  • Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Washington, D.C., and Maryland: The nearly 185-mile trail connects Washington, D.C., to Cumberland, Maryland, featuring canal locks, lock houses, aqueducts and their canal structures.
  • Panhandle Trail, Pennsylvania and West Virginia: The 29-mile trail heads west from the Pittsburgh suburbs into northern West Virginia, serving as a literal gateway between the states.
  • Ohio to Erie Trail, Ohio: The 270-mile trail cuts diagonally across the state, connecting two major waterways, the Ohio River in Cincinnati and Lake Erie in Cleveland.
  • Cardinal Greenway, Indiana: RTC’s 2018 Rail-Trail Hall of Fame inductee stretches northwest for 61-miles through rural Indiana, making it the longest rail-trail in the state.
  • Hennepin Canal Parkway, Illinois: The 100-mile-plus trail parallels the early-20th-century canal and runs west from the Illinois River to the Rock River.
  • Cedar Valley Nature Trail, Iowa: This 52-mile pathway, one of the first rail-trail conversions in the state, follows the Cedar River and connects Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Cedar Rapids.
  • Cowboy Recreation and Nature Trail, Nebraska: One of the longest rail-trails in the country, this 219-mile trail traverses rural Nebraska, connecting small towns and offering views of the High Plains.
  • Casper Rail Trail, Wyoming: This 6-mile trail is an important connector in one of the largest cities in Wyoming.
  • Headwaters Trail System, Montana: The nearly 12-mile trail connects to Missouri Headwaters State Park, where three rivers meet to form the Missouri River: the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin.
  • Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, Idaho: This nearly 72-mile trail runs through Idaho’s panhandle, delivering breathtaking vistas through the state’s forests.
  • Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail, Washington: Another of the nation’s longest rail-trail conversions, this trail spans more than 200 miles across Washington and marks the terminus of the Great American Rail-Trail.

“The Great American Rail-Trail is a bold vision—one that will take years to complete. The investment of time and resources necessary to complete this trail will be returned many times over as it takes its place among the country’s national treasures,” said Laughlin. “As we embark on the journey to complete the Great American Rail-Trail, we embark on the single greatest trail project in the history of the U.S. One that comes with an important legacy of unity, ambition and access to the outdoors for the nation. One that represents an opportunity to do something big for America.”

The Great American Rail-Trail is a signature project of RTC and the most ambitious in its portfolio of TrailNation projects—the organization’s initiative to encourage the rapid replication of regional trail networks across the country. The trail was first envisioned in the late 1980s by RTC co-founder David Burwell, and for decades has been an underpinning of the organization’s strategy to create a nationwide network of public trails.

For more details about the Great American Rail-Trail, visit www.greatamericanrailtrail.org.

Even a skewed Seattle Times poll finds little support for more driving

Tue, 01/22/2019 - 13:52

Demographics from the Elway/Seattle Times survey. These are not representative of King County or Seattle.

You may have seen a headline from the Seattle Times going around this weekend saying that people in Seattle and Kind County don’t like bike lanes. Well, it’s not really as simple as the headline might suggest.

I’ve been thinking about the poll for a couple days now, and we should get one thing out the way: It’s never great to see bike lane support in any context from any sample of the population be below 50 percent. The Elway/Seattle Times poll found 40 percent of respondents in Seattle and 36 percent in King County support more bike lanes. Those aren’t devastating numbers (did anyone think bike lanes were not divisive?), but they sure aren’t great.

So while this post will dive into some serious caveats, let’s be clear that there is still work to do to get more bike lane buy-in from more neighbors of all ages.

But it is important to note that just over half the survey sample came from landline phone calls, and reporter David Gutman notes that 75 percent of respondents were homeowners, a far higher rate than the 57 percent countywide rate. Homeownership and the presence of a landline means these results are going to be quite skewed older and wealthier. Indeed, the majority of respondents were older than 50. A quarter of respondents were 65 or older, but the 2010 Census found that only 11 percent of county residents were in that age bracket. That’s a huge difference that’s going to have a big impact on the results.

Since we already know that bike stuff is less popular among older populations, it’s not surprising to see bike lanes get lower marks in this survey. The Times didn’t release a breakdown by demographic, but I bet bike lanes got less popular with each age bracket increase. Bike advocates and organizers should be looking for ways to make sure they are reaching people of all ages, so that could be a worthy takeaway from this survey.

Nearly 40 percent of respondents made $100,000 or more annually. Renters and young people are dramatically underrepresented here. And though the Times did not publish racial demographics, black homeownership has plummeted in the Seattle region in recent decades.

Elway is a respected survey firm and Gutman is a solid reporter. But getting an accurate poll is very difficult and expensive these days, and it’s especially hard to reach renters. It just is not accurate to present the opinions of older homeowners as though they are the opinions of the general population. A person who rents is just as important as someone who owns a home, so their opinion is also just as important. I mean, one of the ideas that got even lower marks in survey than bike lanes was allowing more apartment buildings that have no car parking. People looking for cheaper rent are going to have a much different opinion about that than homeowners who already have a place to live, so that hardly seems fair.

Gutman notes some of the shortcomings of the sample in the story, but that nuance was lost on the headline writer. And since many people don’t get past the headline, now there are ton of readers who think nobody likes bike lanes. And that is not true.

The context of the survey was also about traffic, and traffic mitigation is only one reason to build bike lanes. In fact, it’s far from the most important reason, which is safety. There are many people who want streets to be safe for everyone, but who don’t necessarily believe that bike lanes are going to improve traffic.

So, once you take in all these caveats, maybe 40 percent isn’t so bad from this survey. Again, people have a lot of work to do to shift our transportation culture and get more people, especially seniors, to see bike lanes as a positive addition. But don’t let the Times headline make you believe this survey shows that bike lanes are unpopular.

To flip all this around the other way, it’s pretty incredible that even a skewed sample finds little support for trying to make it easier to drive. This was a friendly sample for driving, and yet “making it easier to travel by car” got lower marks than bike lanes. Even this sample clearly sees the solution to traffic is to make it easier to get around without a car. Only five percent of Seattle respondents (eight percent in King County) said they blame a lack of investment in roads and highways for the traffic. That feels like a pretty serious culture shift from the highway-building focus of the 20th Century.

We have just proven that Seattle doesn’t need a highway tunnel or massive waterfront road

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 14:26

Do we really need all this?

So it turns out that when people across the Seattle region plan ahead and change their transportation habits, we can prove to ourselves that we don’t need SR 99 to go through downtown after all. After months of news stories about how terrible traffic would be once the Viaduct closed for good, traffic during the first couple commutes was not much worse than it was before.

We should be celebrating this accomplishment, because people all across the region had to work together to make this happen. It is empowering to know that we don’t need a new car tunnel or a nine-lane waterfront road, that we can change our habits to reduce our dependence on cars and burning oil. Cars are a major cause of preventable death and serious injury in our region, and transportation is our biggest source of greenhouse gasses. But it’s so easy to feel defeated because reducing driving just seems like an impossible lift.

These demonstrations are important because we have far too little faith in our collective ability to change, and that’s holding us back from addressing the massive challenges ahead of us. This pessimism led state Democrats to invest billions in a too-good-to-be-true car tunnel solution to the Alaskan Way Viaduct rather than investing in non-driving methods to move people and goods through the region. The same pessimism led Seattle voters to back that tunnel (well, the lack of a cohesive vision for an alternative didn’t help). A lot of people who care about addressing climate change still supported the tunnel because they just couldn’t imagine that our region could survive without two north-south freeways through downtown.

Worse, leaders were so pessimistic about our ability to change that they allowed the Viaduct to remain in heavy use for 18 years knowing full well that it would collapse in an earthquake. We got lucky, but that was not a gamble worth taking.

So it’s not just important that traffic wasn’t so bad Monday and Tuesday, it’s important that the people of our region take time to recognize and celebrate what this accomplishment represents.

And this is not the first time we’ve done this. In fact, Seattle has proven this point several times before during extended Viaduct closures. The problem is that as time goes on, people tend to slip back into old driving habits, especially if the method they chose to replace their car trip proved not all that great. So if the past repeats itself, you should expect traffic to creep up over the next week or so.

But it didn’t need to be this way. Imagine how different things would be if we had fully invested in transit and a connected bike network rather than digging a massive car tunnel. Today, as people look for ways to avoid driving their typical SR 99 routes, they could have had light rail to West Seattle and Ballard, more express bus routes to more neighborhoods across the region and bike lanes to and through downtown that are separated from car traffic most or all the way. Basically, people across the region could have had so many more tools to work with when piecing together a new way to get around.

Instead, we chose the car tunnel. And we’re about to make another point cities across the world have proven many times before: Traffic will still suck once the tunnel opens. Because you can’t just bury car dependency in the ground. You need to rise above it with modes that actually fit in densely-packed areas: Transit, biking and walking. You also need to build affordable housing oriented around transit access rather than highways so lower-income folks aren’t simply pushed into the places with the worst traffic to bear the burden of dysfunctional car-oriented planning.

We don’t have a time machine to go back and change the tunnel decision. But we can learn from it and from this week’s demonstration that people can change their driving habits. The next generation of leadership in our city and state need to have faith in the people they represent and should ditch the pessimism of previous leaders. There are a lot of great land use and housing bills hitting desks in Olympia right now, and they could be a very good start. Seattle’s City Council is debating big city rezone plans right now, and they have a chance to believe in the people and push for the boldest options to create the most housing that is affordable for everyone. This is no time to water things down to appease people afraid of change. We know we can change when we need to.

Last year, Mayor Jenny Durkan and SDOT snoozed on a lot of opportunities to make sure bus and bike lanes were all connected and in place before the SR 99 shutdown began. But they can still take action this year to catch up. People this week have shown their eagerness for biking, walking and transit options to get around. Now it is on the mayor to deliver. She can’t go back and change major past decisions to invest in the tunnel or build light rail to West Seattle and Ballard more quickly, but she can paint key sections of the Basic Bike Network to help folks get from SE Seattle to downtown or from the Elliott Bay Trail to Pier 66 or from the Westlake Bikeway to 2nd Ave, to name a couple examples. And she can paint more bus lanes to make sure transit can get around major traffic pinch points.

The need for these improvements won’t go away when the tunnel opens. The shift away from driving is a longterm need for our region and the world. The supposed downsides to building better biking, walking and transit infrastructure is all in our heads. If we don’t need the Alaskan Way Viaduct flying cars over downtown, surely we can also get by without a lane here and some parking spots there.

Bike counts were way up on first day of SR 99 closure, and West Seattle neighbors deserve a ton of credit

Tue, 01/15/2019 - 15:33

Data from Seattle Traffic Engineer Dongho Chang via Twitter.

The bike counter at the foot of the Spokane Street Bridge to West Seattle measured a 327 percent more trips Monday than seen at this time of year previously. The counter has only measured more trips in a single day a few times before: August 11, when charity bike ride Obliteride used the bridge, and a couple days in May 2016 when a similar Viaduct closure left folks looking for other ways to get around.

OK, sure, the weather Monday was great. But that alone can’t explain the jump. More people biked across the lower West Seattle Bridge Monday than any June, July or August day ever recorded other than Obliteride. That’s incredible, and neighborhood group West Seattle Bike Connections deserves a lot of credit for all their work to help their neighbors learn how to navigate their way around the Viaduct closure even in the winter.

WSBC has not only distributed information to neighbors looking for help getting on a bike, they also lead a couple SurviveRealign99 weekend rides where they invited interested neighbors on a slow group ride from the Junction to downtown and back. This allowed people to learn the route in the comfort of a group and get their questions answered by folks who are familiar with navigating the industrial streets and trails that separate West Seattle and Duwamish Valley from the city center.

So, other neighborhoods, are you taking notes? It’s not too late to get organized like WSBC and help your neighbors get around in winter by bike.

Though the West Seattle increase really stands out, bike counts across town were way up Monday. As Seattle Traffic Engineer Dongho Chang posted, counts were up 191 percent on the Elliott Bay Trail and 176 percent on the Fremont Bridge compared to January Mondays in recent years:

Monday's bicycle counts show increases in people riding yesterday from prior two years. Elliot Bay Trail: 191% increase from 2017, 44% from 2018. Fremont Bridge: 176% from 2017 and 79% from 2018. Spokane St Bridge: 327% from 2017 and 164% from 2018. Thanks for riding everyone!! pic.twitter.com/B0ehL9APWF

— Dongho Chang (@dongho_chang) January 15, 2019

So good work, everyone. Now let’s keep it going.

Aside from some untreated ice patches, biking was a great way around Day 1 without SR 99

Mon, 01/14/2019 - 16:26

Bike train headed down Jackson (a major gap in the downtown bike network)

Biking around the city this morning was amazing. Sure, the weather helped a lot, with clear skies and a jaw-dropping sunrise fueling my ride to join the SE Seattle Bike Train. No matter how many times I experience it, the beauty of this place always inspires me while biking around town. But it was also amazing to see so many other people out biking and experiencing it with me.

We won’t know for sure until tomorrow when the bike counter data rolls in, but anecdotally it sure seemed like more people biking than on a typical January weekday.

I caught a ride on the inaugural run of the SE Seattle Bike Train 7:30 Local via Beacon Hill. Going into Monday, West Seattle and Green Lake also had community-organized efforts to teach people how to bike downtown and give them an opportunity to try it with a group. More of this, please!

Not everyone can easily bike to work, so there’s a fine line between spreading the word about how great it is to bike and gloating. It sucks if you are truly stuck driving in traffic, and it’s not worthwhile to rub that in. But there are a ton of people driving who could bike if they gave it a shot. And the closure of a highway is a great time to make the leap.

SDOT needs a better ice plan

It wasn’t all smooth riding, unfortunately. I have received multiple reports of unsalted ice patches in known problem areas, including the turn at the north end of the Westlake Bikeway, a section of the Beacon Hill Neighborhood Greenway, parts of the Ship Canal Trail, the Alki Trail, the Missing Link and the sharp rail crossing on the Burke-Gilman Trail near 6th Ave NW, where a true hero was out warning folks:

There was a very enthusiastic man standing at the bend this morning warning cyclists to slow down. I think he might be an employee of the bike shop that's right there. Thanks, enthusiastic man!

— Free Cascadia… (@freecascadia) January 14, 2019

Viaduct closure or not, SDOT should have protocols that kick in whenever overnight lows drop into the 30s to make sure known problem spots are properly treated. Though any stretch with ice can be a problem, the worst spots are curves that are shaded from morning sun.

Deicer and cones were added to this turn at the north end of the Westlake Bikeway, a spot that gets notoriously slick when temperatures drop overnight.

The north end of Alaskan Way needs bike lanes.

I also took a ride along Alaskan Way downtown and was pleasantly surprised to find it not only much quieter (thanks to the lack of traffic on the Viaduct above) but also not particularly busy. I thought that the road would be packed with people trying to get around the highway closure, which I was worried might make an already incomplete and stressful bike route even worse. But if anything it seemed lighter than usual. Again, I don’t have official data to back up my hunch, though.

One improvement that could really help a lot more people bike downtown is a bike lane from the Elliott Bay Trail to at least Pier 66 if not the Seattle Aquarium. From there, the existing substandard waterfront trail picks up and is at least usable, though many prefer to remain in the street rather than navigate around people walking in the trail. If the city really wants to shift Viaduct trips to bike trips, this connection is vital and can’t come soon enough.

Now, here are a few scenes from the morning’s commute:

One of the things I love about walking and biking is that you get to spontaneously see your friends more often! This morning I randomly got to bike to work with @blitzurbanism.

It was also a beautiful morning, and took the same amount of time as last week. #MyCommuteWasAwesome pic.twitter.com/twDyKKuza5

— Gordon Padelford (@GordonOfSeattle) January 14, 2019

Brisk but beautiful morning for a bike ride! Feeling the #Viadoom and Gloom? Try biking to work: you might get views like this of Rainier… #MyCommuteWasAwesome @sngreenways @WSeaBikeConnect pic.twitter.com/XQugKWZpqm

— Nick Halden (@hicknalden) January 14, 2019

#SeattleSqueeze means #Homelessness as well as #transportation.

While #MyCommuteWasAwesome, and I have a nice place to live, others are stuck in traffic or living in tents.

Let’s #DoSomething. #RideBikes. Create #SupportedHousing. #People>#Cars @SNGreenways pic.twitter.com/jNf1lZrKOv

— Bob Anderton (@BobAnderton) January 14, 2019

My morning walk commute was lovely! Some good kiddo time on the way to preschool, then down the hill. The cold and clear days are so invigorating! #MyCommuteWasAwesome @SNGreenways https://t.co/NGYfpb6doGhttps://t.co/X0UukNaj9O

— Rachael (@raludwick) January 14, 2019

Today was the first business day of the #JennyJam, but since I commute primarily by bike, #MyCommuteWasAwesome pic.twitter.com/aErvOxN6l9

— Andrew Koved (@Andrew_Koved) January 14, 2019

I led a Bike Train into downtown from Othello (okay technically the train started in Columbia City) to Downtown and I'm glad I could help other commuters by leaving my space on transit for someone else to use who needs it!#MyCommuteWasAwesome

Want some company biking downtown? Join these welcoming West and SE Seattle rides or start your own

Thu, 01/10/2019 - 15:31

SE Seattle Bike Train. Exact route subject to change.

Biking on city streets can be more fun and less intimidating when you are with a group. And riding with a group can be a great way to become familiar with a route and learn some tips before trying it on your own.

So as a lot of people are looking for other ways to get around during the upcoming closure of SR 99, this is the perfect time for people to get together and ride downtown as a group.

West Seattle Bike Connections is leading the way. The group already held one ride for neighbors last weekend, helping 28 adults and 4 kids learn how to navigate the industrial streets and paths on the way downtown.

The group is hosting another SurviveRealign99 ride 9:30 a.m. Sunday. Meet at the Starbucks at 4100 SW Alaska St.

The SE Seattle Bike Train, which Seattle Bike Blog has helped get started, will host an inaugural ride 7 a.m. Monday and a weekend orientation ride January 20 for those who want to try the route outside of rush hour. The plan is to host weekly rides every Friday, at least. The route will go from Columbia City to Beacon Hill Station to Pioneer Square to Westlake Station.

So if you live in West of SE Seattle, you should get involved with these efforts. The more energy and volunteer power, the more (and longer) rides will be possible.

And if you live anywhere else, what are you doing just sitting there reading this post? Grab a couple neighbors and get organized. Kimberly Kinchen, who was previously an organizer of NYC Biketrain, is helping to organize the Seattle Bike Train effort. She has put together a handy FAQ you can use to help get started.

Rides should be for people of all experience levels, but the focus is on helping people new to city biking. It should move slow enough that everyone can comfortably stay together, and there should be at least a few experienced volunteers to bring up the rear and help folks along the way as needed. So while regular riders should be welcome, they should know that the ride will likely move a lot more slowly than they are used to.

Pick a route that won’t be too intimidating for folks to try on their own and that will work well for a group, choose a good meet-up spot in your neighborhood (a coffee shop is not a bad idea, though a covered area in a park could work well, too), then pick a time and day to give it a try. Hosting a weekend ride might also be a good idea.

If you are organizing (or want to help organize) a bike train in your neighborhood, let us know in the comments below. Seattle Bike Blog can help spread the word, but you should also spread the word locally.

Here’s a video from West Seattle’s weekend ride:

Waterfront bike routes will remain open during upcoming SR 99 closure

Wed, 01/09/2019 - 17:20

Work zone maps from WSDOT.

Waterfront bike routes, including the path under the Viaduct along Alaskan Way downtown, will remain open during the upcoming SR 99 closure, SDOT confirmed today.

We have received a lot of questions in the past week from folks wondering is the Viaduct closure would also close their bike route, and it was difficult to find info about bike route closures in the information released. So it’s great to hear that the current routes — including the Portside Trail (connecting E Marginal to Alaskan Way between Atlantic St and King St) and the pathway under the Viaduct — won’t be disrupted, at least not anymore than they are normally.

Unfortunately, WSDOT and SDOT will not be providing any temporary bike route improvements to help people travel through gaps in the bike lane network, however. Such improvements were not expected, but it’s still disappointing that the city is not lifting a finger to help more people get around by bike during this closure. And SDOT’s Heather Marx gave Mike Lindblom at the Seattle Times an even more disappointing reason for the lack of temporary bike lanes:

January is not a comfortable month for biking or walking,” said Heather Marx, city downtown mobility director. “It hasn’t been a big part of our message, because it’s just a hard sell that time of the year.

While certainly fewer people bike during the winter than in the summer, there are still a ton of year-round bike riders in Seattle. The Fremont Bridge recorded 58,591 trips in January 2018, and that’s just one bridge. Sure, that’s a little less than half the trips in July, but it’s still a lot of people who are probably saying to themselves, “What? Am I invisible?” And a highway closure event like this could have been a great opportunity to help more people become year-round bike riders.

Bike advocate Merlin Rainwater wrote a letter to the editor in response to Marx’s statement pointing to recent bike network improvements like the Belltown extension of the 2nd Ave bike lane as an opportunity to help more people bike:

Shouldn’t the city be encouraging people to take advantage of those improvements and try biking? I’m a 72-year-old woman, and I bike year-round. It’s not that hard to sell.

At least bike share is stepping up to try to help more people make more trips by bike during the highway closure. JUMP is waiving the $1 unlocking fee through February 15 (you still pay 10¢ per minute) and bringing thousands more of their red bikes in coming weeks. Between the two companies, there could be 8,000 bikes in service during the closure, Lindblom reported.

The city also says it is working to limit closures from construction work “by temporarily revoking and reissuing permits for work in the right of way until after the closure, and increasing the number of inspectors monitoring projects on the street.” This will hopefully help cut down on the constant bike lane and sidewalk closures downtown.

Perhaps the best improvement for biking is that the Coast Guard will allow the city to restrict Ship Canal bridge openings for more hours around commute times. And since all the bike routes across the canal use draw bridges, this could prevent some bridge delays for folks. That’s not exactly a game changer, but I guess it’s at least something.

But even if the city isn’t going to take action to help more people bike, that doesn’t mean you all can’t. This is a great time to offer to help coworkers or friends get biking. West Seattle Bike Connections was ahead of the game by hosting a test ride last weekend for folks in West Seattle interested in learning how to bike downtown. Neighbors from more parts of town should follow their lead and organize efforts to help folks navigate the city by bike. And be sure to let Seattle Bike Blog know about your efforts by commenting below or emailing tom@seattlebikeblog.com.

Bellevue is creating a Vision Zero ‘action plan,’ take their survey

Tue, 01/08/2019 - 16:13

Click here to take Bellevue’s Vision Zero survey.

The Bellevue City Council unanimously endorsed Vision Zero in 2015, and now they are putting together an action plan to help eliminate deaths and serious injuries on city streets by 2030.

City staff have put together an online survey to gather perceptions of traffic danger and stories of how traffic collisions have affected people’s lives. The survey walks through some of the basic tenets of Vision Zero, including questions that don’t get asked enough such as whether “it is unacceptable for anyone to be killed or seriously injured while traveling on Bellevue streets” and whether “human life should always take priority over moving vehicles faster.” The survey is probably as much about getting the respondents to think about traffic collisions in a different way as it is about gathering useful data.

But the sad reality is that our culture has thoroughly embraced death and injury on our roads as simply the cost of getting around, and it will take a lot of work to change that. The questions in this survey can’t be asked enough.

So if you live, work or spend time in Bellevue, take the survey and pass it around. Because Bellevue has a lot of work to do to reach this goal, and as with any city it’s going to take both infrastructure and cultural changes to get there.

City map of deaths and serious injuries on Bellevue streets 2008-2017.

JUMP expands service to SE and West Seattle following criticism, announces 2K new bikes

Mon, 01/07/2019 - 13:38

Phase 2 service area map is outlined in red. The initial launch area was within the blue dashed line. Image from JUMP.

Following a Seattle Times story critical of the company’s limited service area, JUMP has expanded to include all of Southeast and West Seattle.

Though the Times story headline says that JUMP has been charging people $25 for parking outside the service area, the company says it has not actually charged the fee to anyone yet. Instead they have issued warnings.

As we reported when the bright red bikes launched in November, their initial service area was limited because they only had 300 bikes. But as they grew they would expand the area. Their permit allows up to 6,666 bikes, though the company has not yet launched the bulk of them.

They will expand again in coming months to include the entire city limits, the Uber-owned company said in a statement today. They also announced that 2,000 bikes are on the way in coming weeks to shore up supply in the newly expanded service area. And they are bringing their newly redesigned bikes, which will have a much less bulky lock compared to the current square metal locks. Users will also be able to unlock them by scanning a QR code, similar to Lime’s bikes.

JUMP promo image of their new bike design.

And to encourage ridership during the upcoming traffic crunch downtown, JUMP is waiving the $1 unlock fees through February 15. So you just pay 10¢ per minute.

Seattle Bike Blog readers were immediately critical of the limited service area in the company’s initial launch. Even though I understand the desire not to have a limited number of bikes spread to far apart, it was problematic to include neighborhoods all the way to Green Lake in the north but stop at Mount Baker Station in the south. Columbia City is closer to downtown than Green Lake, for example.

One lesson learned from the July 2017 launch of Spin and Lime was that it was so much simpler to just include the entire city limits in the service area, even if initial bike distribution was focused downtown. Many of the city’s pilot permit rules were based around trying to encourage companies to serve more of the city because the permit authors assumed companies would want to focus service in dense and often wealthier areas. But from day one both companies served the whole city, which was something of a surprise at the time. Allowing the whole city made it much easier for users to understand and immediately allowed any city resident to access their neighborhood using the bikes. And they did.

Limiting the service area feels a bit like overthinking one problem (bike density) and creating another bigger one in the process. It doesn’t feel good for a potential user to download the app only to find out that their home is excluded. And, of course, serving Green Lake before Columbia City sends the message that whiter and wealthier north Seattle neighborhoods are more important.

So it’s good to see the service area expand, and more bikes in service will help them compete with Lime’s ubiquitous green bikes.

Here’s the statement from JUMP:

Uber today announced the expansion of its JUMP bike service area in Seattle and an increase in the number of JUMP bikes in its Seattle network. Seattle is one of the first cities to receive JUMP’s next generation bikes, which feature integrated cable locks and a QR code unlocking mechanism. Roughly 2,000 new bikes will be phased into the Seattle network in the coming weeks.

“The initial reception of our bikes in Seattle has been very positive among riders, so we’re excited to expand access. It’s something we’ve been pushing hard to do since launching in November,” said Nathan Hambley, a spokesperson for Uber in Seattle. “We hope the expanded service area and additional bikes, along with the promotions we’re currently running, help people get around Seattle during the Squeeze.”

In December, Uber announced it would offer $2.75 off Uber trips to and from select transit hubs through Feb. 15 along with waving the $1 unlock fees on JUMP bikes to help people avoid driving downtown alone while SR 99 is closed along the waterfront.

Seattle’s initial JUMP service area was limited to a zone near the downtown core due to bike supply limitations, although it was drawn to include the entire Central District Equity Area as defined in the Seattle Department of Transportation’s 2018-2019 Free Floating Bike Share Program Permit Requirements (see Appendix D).

“We have met the bike availability targets in the Equity Focus Area boundaries defined in the permit requirements even in our initial service area since launch, and we will of course continue to adhere to those requirements in our expanded service area,” added Hambley. “As we wrote in our permit application, we believe bike sharing can help make cities smaller by connecting neighborhoods and making it easier for residents to travel, no matter where they live or where we have to go.”

In the coming months, JUMP will expand its service area again to include the entire City of Seattle.

In order to encourage riders to leave bikes inside the service area, JUMP provides notice in-app and on its website of a $25 fee for locking the bike outside the system area or bike zone. Although JUMP has issued warnings, no Seattle customers have been charged the $25 fee for ending trips outside the initial service area.

Would you bike on the ‘E?’ How about the ‘Eastway?’

Fri, 01/04/2019 - 13:37

As we reported previously, King County is trying to come up with a better name for the Eastside Rail Corridor, and they have narrowed it down to four finalists: The E, The Eastrail, The 425 and the Eastway.

You can let them know what you think of these names via their online survey.

First off, I’m glad the names are short. “Eastside Rail Corridor” is a mouthful, and it doesn’t do a good job of describing a corridor that no longer has very much rail since Kirkland and King County have removed most of it (though Sound Transit is adding some for a stretch in Bellevue).

I can’t say any of these names immediately jumps out, and part of the problem might be that they are trying to rename a corridor without pigeonholing it to a single use. So while Seattle Bike Blog has for years been referring to the trail portion of the corridor as the “Eastside Trail,” that name does not include potential transit uses alongside the trail. “Eastrail” is the only name the contains the word “trail,”  but it does so in a way that could also be read as “EastRail.”

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what they name it. The people will decide in time what it will be called. If the official name is good, then it will stick. If not, people will find their own term.

Want to make your case for any of the four names here? Do so in the comments below.

2018 bike counts up 32 percent on 2nd Ave downtown after bike lane, bike share expansion

Thu, 01/03/2019 - 11:55

Bike counter totals (2nd Ave at Marion St)

The final counts are in, and 2018 is officially a new high water mark for biking in Seattle.

Looking at the real-time bike counter data from around town, biking was up significantly in Fremont and across the lower West Seattle Bridge. But the real eye-catcher was 2nd Ave downtown, which saw a 32 percent jump over 2017.

The 2nd Ave numbers are particularly exciting because they demonstrate how bike share and an expanded network of protected bike lanes can work together to seriously increase bike use in a very short period of time. The Belltown extension of the 2nd Ave bike lane opened in January 2018, around the same time that bike share companies ofo, Spin and Lime increased the number of bikes on Seattle streets to a couple thousand each.

It’s all but impossible to say which had a bigger effect on the increase, but it’s clear that the combination of bike share availability and safe, comfortable bike lanes works.

But bike trips weren’t just up on 2nd Ave. Both the Fremont and lower West Seattle Bridge saw significant increases.

Fremont shattered the previous record, reaching 1,051,893 trips. That’s a nine percent increase over 2017. Since so many north end Seattle and regional bike routes funnel to the Fremont Bridge, this is probably the single best point to get a snapshot of biking in the city. And because it is so busy, it takes a huge number of trips to move the needle. Since 2014, year-over-year changes have been within two percent of each other. So a nine percent increase is massive.

The West Seattle figures are little more tricky to figure out. Looking at raw numbers, the 2018 count was a modest three percent increase over 2017. But emergency work on the swing bridge closed the route for several days in June and the counter was down for several days in November. I tried to fill in the missing data using counts from days before and after the gaps and determined that maybe 7,000 trips were either missed or displaced. So the bridge was actually on pace for a five or six percent increase over 2017.

I’m sure there are people out there who are confused because this data seems to suggest the opposite of recently-reported Census data, which showed bike commuting declining or stagnating in Seattle. A recent USA Today story even highlighted Seattle as part of what appears to be a national trend away bike commuting. We wrote about the Census survey results previously, but I feel the need to address it again here.

I don’t believe the Census data is wrong. I just think the question they are asking (and the way they ask it) is not complete enough to give an accurate picture of transportation use in increasingly multimodal cities. Recent expansions of bike share and express transit service both encourage people to mix trips by biking to transit, for example. The Census survey only allows a single mode as a respondent’s primary mode of travel to work. So someone who bikes to UW Station then takes light rail the rest of the way is likely counted as a transit rider, for example. Someone who takes transit downtown, but then grabs a bike share to get the rest of the way to work is also likely counted as a transit rider. Transit ridership has grown significantly in recent Census surveys, and it’s quite likely that a lot of those new riders got to their stations or bus stops by bike.

People who bike some days — but not always — are likely not counted as bike commuters, either. The question also does not account for non-work trips, which make up the majority of all trips.

So it’s entirely possible for the Census bike commute rate to go down or stagnate while the total counted bike trips go up. And bike trips are the more important measure, since it really does not matter why someone is biking. We just do not have a quality dataset that accounts for all trips regardless of purpose or mode mixing, so people focus on the Census commute figures.

It’s also worth noting that the most recent Census data is for 2017, so it will be interesting to see how/if things change in the 2018 data. But that won’t be out until September.

This is a long-winded way of saying that more people are biking more trips in Seattle. And expanding the bike network and growing bike share both help people make more bike trips. And making big bike network improvements, especially downtown, can yield big results in a very short period of time. At a time when the city is bracing for years of traffic headache, an expanded and connected bike network could be an effective pressure release valve to keep people moving. Seattle leaders should celebrate this success and build on it.

People in Seattle have taken more than 2M Lime trips + ofo appears to be imploding

Mon, 12/31/2018 - 15:38

From the Lime 2018 Annual Report (PDF)

People in Seattle have taken more than 2,050,000 trips on Lime bikes since the company launched in summer 2017, according their annual report. That’s a pace of about 1.5 million trips per year for just one of the companies serving the city with shared bikes.

There are few precedents for an urban mobility service that has so quickly served so many trips. Transit services often take years or decades to plan and launch. So especially for a city that is facing a very near-term traffic crunch, a non-car service that can carry so many trips is a huge deal.

And we still have not seen the city’s bike share permit reach its true ambition. Motivate/Lyft is supposed to join Lime and JUMP/Uber, combining to reach as many as 20,000 bikes. And as other cities have shown, adding shared electric scooters to the mix could carry even more trips than the bikes. The city has so far been resistant to adding scooters. Ensuring and demonstrating that the devices will be safe on steep hills will be vital for companies trying to ease concerns at City Hall.

Meanwhile, Lime has expanded into car share with the launch of Lime Pods in Seattle. While this blog does not typically cheer on car services, I actually like car share. As someone who grew up in a car-depended suburb in Missouri, I know how scary it can be to make the leap and sell your car. When you’re used to having it, it’s hard to imagine life without it. Well, car share services can work like Nicotine gum. Knowing you have a car around if you really need it can make selling your car a bit easier.

Seriously, I cannot recommend selling your car highly enough. I have rarely ever felt such a sense of relief and personal freedom as I did watching the new owner drive that 1995 Nissan Maxima away. And you get a fat stack of cash.

The more people use car share, the less reason there is to build and reserve space for car parking.

ofo appears on the verge of collapse

Remember when ofo abruptly pulled out of the United States? Many wondered if their departure was related to Seattle’s big increase in permit fees, but others speculated that the sudden departure was a sign of trouble back in China where the bulk of their business is.

Well, the enormous bike share company appears to be on the verge of collapse as their user base rushes to get their deposits back. ofo is the biggest bike share company in the world, so their demise could be the most dramatic example of China’s bike share bubble bursting. It might seem like there are a lot of bike share bikes on the streets in Seattle, but the recent boom in bike share in China is on a massively larger scale. Seattle counts bikes by the thousand. ofo has launched millions of bikes. When I interviewed an ofo spokesperson back in early 2017, they said the company’s goal was to “unlock every corner of the world.”

Some day, I bet ofo will have a paragraph or two in a lot of economics text books.

Bike News Roundup: SDOT Baby

Thu, 12/27/2018 - 11:35

It’s time for the Bike News Roundup! Here’s some stuff floating around the web recently that caught our eye.

First up, a Seattle transportation wishlist in holiday song form by Laura Goodfellow:

Pacific Northwest News

Halftime show! Steve Carrell recently told Ellen about a time when a fan hit him with her car while he was biking:

National & Global News

This is an open thread.