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Seattle and Bellevue both make it on America’s Best New Bikeways of 2018

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 14:21

The 2nd Ave bike lane in Belltown, named America’s Best New Bikeway in 2018.

Seattle and Bellevue both turned heads nationally with protected bike lanes that opened this year, making People For Bikes’ list of “America’s 10 Best New Bikeways of 2018.”

Seattle’s entry, the fantastic 2nd Ave bike lane extension in Belltown, made the 2018 list on a technicality: It was a 2017 project that ran overtime and didn’t open until January 2018. But it is really great and worthy of the top spot on the list it won. It shows what the city is capable of when given a serious budget. Every new bike lane does not need to be as fully-featured as this stretch on day one, which comes with both financial and construction time premiums. But it should be the ultimate goal for our bike network to be as functional and complete as this bike lane someday, even if a lower-cost version makes more sense in the near-term.

Congratulations to the SDOT team that made this incredible addition to the downtown bike network happen. You never really got the victory lap and praise you deserved for it. So here it is, a year late. From People For Bikes:

The new bikeway includes three new signals in Belltown, which help people cross 2nd Avenue. There were also upgrades to 11 other signals, concrete planters with foot rests, and raised driveway crossings. All of this made for record ridership in the area this year, with a 34% increase from 2017, and a 380% increase from 2014.

Our top slot was awarded for having full concrete separation in addition to numerous innovative bike-specific structures. We liked that it was built off a successful demonstration project that debuted in 2014, and that lessons learned from the 2014 demonstration led to design revisions and more advanced separation techniques. The success of the demonstration also directly led to the permanent installation, doubling the length of the original project. The corridor provides network connections to three other protected bike lane projects feeding into downtown. This project is an example of progress toward a truly complete network.

Bellevue’s 108th Ave downtown bike lane demonstration earned an honorable mention on the list. Passing through the heart of downtown and connecting directly to Bellevue Transit Center, the bike lane launched in conjunction with bike share.

A lot of work is still needed to connect Bellevue neighborhoods and homes across the region to the new bike lane, but Bellevue deserves a lot of credit for going after the most difficult part first. It’s a bold and effective test that will hopefully form the backbone of a bike network in coming years.

It’s also worth noting that while Seattle’s mayor has all but failed to build new bike lanes in 2018 (that weren’t scheduled for 2017 like 2nd Ave), Bellevue is putting its westside neighbor to shame. From People For Bikes:

Fifteen miles of bike network was installed citywide in 2018, and the 108th Avenue (Downtown Demonstration Bikeway) was the marquee project. It opened in July, concurrent with the launch of the bikeshare, and closed a 0.8-mile gap through Downtown Bellevue, connecting the I-90 and SR-520 Regional Trails.

With support from the downtown association, the project repurposed travel lanes to implement quick-build bike lanes. Featuring painted buffers, planter boxes, plastic curbs and posts, green paint, and a modular bus/bike platform, the project improves access to the city center and transit center.

Preliminary results show that there’s been an increase of 65% in use of bikeway, with 87% of those surveyed feeling safer and more comfortable. They’ve also measured that auto travel time remains the same.

Mayor nominates Sam Zimbabwe to be next SDOT Director

Wed, 12/19/2018 - 11:45

Mayor Jenny Durkan and SDOT Director Nominee Sam Zimbabwe. Screenshot from Seattle Channel.

Mayor Jenny Durkan has nominated Washington DC’s Sam Zimbabwe to be the next Director of SDOT, emphasizing his experience in project delivery and multimodal urban planning during a Tuesday press conference.

If the City Council confirms him quickly, Zimbabwe could be on the job in the middle of January. That means he will get the keys to his office just as the city tries to adjust to the permanent closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and its downtown freeway exits.

Zimbabwe is currently the Chief Project Delivery Officer at DDOT, the same agency where Seattle’s previous permanent SDOT Director Scott Kubly cut his teeth.

“I’m a multimodal kind of guy,” he said, noting that in DC he mostly takes the train to work but sometimes bikes or drives. He has previously worked on transit oriented development and DC’s streetcar, which had troubles of its own. And, of course, DC has been a national leader in building protected bike lanes and growing bike and scooter share.

“As more people feel like they feel safe and comfortable taking care of some of their daily needs with a bike, the less divisive the bike questions have become,” he said.

Zimbabwe is stepping into a pretty tough spot. SDOT has had a terrible year. Staff morale is low, and the department has been massively underdelivering on promised and planned projects. As we reported earlier this month, the department has nearly stopped building bike lanes, managing to complete just a tiny percentage of the bike lane miles they had planned in 2018.

Being leaderless for the past year has been hard on the Department, which has gone through two interim Directors and has seen a lot of changes at the Deputy Director level. So having a Director should hopefully help SDOT get back on its feet.

But having a good Director in place is only part of the solution. Mayor Durkan also needs to empower the Director to make bold decisions even if there might be political pushback. The SDOT Director answers to the Mayor, so they can only be as bold as the Mayor will allow. Any urban transportation project that challenges the status quo is going to get pushback. But the status quo is not working now and definitely will not work in the future are the region grows.

There are also a lot of people in Seattle eager for change and ready to support bold action. So while making the right choices to prioritize walking, biking and transit will receive pushback, the mayor and SDOT Director should know that there are also people ready to celebrate those choices. Sometimes it seems like fear of angry pushback makes leaders forget that many other people are ready to support them.

Because of all the delays in 2018, there is a huge backlog of planned and funded projects waiting to get the green light. That’s a challenge, but it’s also great opportunity for a new Director to really make an entrance and get a lot done quickly. Many of those projects are bike lane connections to and through downtown, which has enormous potential for unlocking new bike trips for a lot more people.

2019 is set up to be a big year for transportation in Seattle. It’s going to be messy. Traffic patterns are going to shift, and a lot people’s habits are going to change. This is an opportunity to invest in the city we want to be and make big steps in that direction in a short period of time.

Watch the press conference announcing the nomination:

Google Maps now suggests Lime bikes in its transit directions

Mon, 12/17/2018 - 13:53

Lime’s bikes and scooters now show up as a transit option in Google Maps in a select number of cities. The app takes into account both the time to walk to the nearest bike and the bike ride to give you time and price comparisons with real-time transit data and app taxi services.

This might seem like a simple little change, but it’s a hugely powerful addition to the most popular mapping app. Calculating all the steps to completing a bike share trip in real time and comparing it to other options also empowers people who are agnostic about how they get around to easily choose the fastest and cheapest option. And that will often be a bike.

Including bike share also puts these services in front of a lot more people who might not seek them out otherwise. And it makes the transit tab of Google Maps that much more competitive with the driving tab. That may sound a little silly, but most people are just looking for the best way to get where they’re going. So having bikes in the mix is huge.

Only Lime appears in the results, at least for now. JUMP’s parent company Uber shows up as an app taxi service, but their bikes are not listed. Google’s venture capital arm is a major investor in Lime, along with Uber. Google is also an investor in Uber, but Google is also currently suing Uber. I know, it’s confusing.

More details from Google:

You just got off your train and you have seven minutes to get to your first meeting on time—but it’ll take you 15 minutes to walk the rest of the way. You don’t have time to walk, your bus is delayed and the next ridesharing vehicle isn’t set to arrive for another 10 minutes. So close, yet so far.

Today, we’re teaming up with Lime to help you find a better way to travel these short distances. In 13 cities around the world, you’ll now be able to see nearby Lime scooters, pedal bikes and e-bikes as a transportation option right from Google Maps. Simply navigate to your destination and tap on the transit icon to see your nearby options. If a Lime vehicle is available, you’ll see how long it’ll take to walk to the vehicle, an estimate of how much your ride could cost, and your total journey time and ETA. Tapping on the Lime card will take you right to the Lime app, where you can see the exact location of the vehicle and easily unlock it. If you don’t have the Lime app installed, you’ll be taken to the App or Play store.

You can now see Lime scooters and bikes on Google Maps on Android and iOS in Auckland, Austin, Baltimore, Brisbane (AU), Dallas, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland, San Antonio, San Jose, Scottsdale and Seattle with more cities coming soon—so you can get to that meeting right on Lime.

Judge decides Missing Link megastudy did not adequately address economic concerns

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 13:13

In yet another partial court defeat, the Ballard Missing Link of the Burke-Gilman Trail has once again been thrown into question this week after King County Superior Court Judge Samuel Chung sided with the city on two out of three of the major challenges to its environmental megastudy of the trail route. But that isn’t enough.

We are still trying to learn what exactly this means for the project, which is currently scheduled to begin construction early next year. So stay tuned. UPDATE: The City Attorney’s Office told the Seattle Times they disagree with the decision and plan to appeal it.

Previous court decisions required the city to conduct a massive environmental impact statement (“EIS”), the kind of study typically required of megaprojects on a much larger scale than a short stretch of biking and walking trail. The 829-page study took years to complete at significant cost. It’s safe to say that this is the most-studied section of trail in state history. Maybe in the nation?

Because the city conducted the EIS, trail opponents’ only legal path was to argue that the city’s study, which the Seattle Hearing Examiner approved, was legally inadequate. This should have been a pretty tough bar to clear, but they did it. Appellant attorney Josh Brower continues to surprise with his ability to win just enough to block or delay this project. This is the second time he has won small pieces of his cases against the trail in King County Superior Court.

On questions of safety and parking, the judge found the study adequate. So that’s the good news. But on the question of economic impact, the judge found the study inadequate. Specifically, the judge “identified the potential for increased costs of insurance” as the basis for the ruling, according to a Cascade Bicycle Club statement. Cascade has been involved in the legal fight for many years, intervening on the city’s behalf.

“We believe this can be resolved and that the City can move forward with getting construction back on track,” the statement says.

The question of increased insurance costs has been floated for many years as a reason to block the trail. It’s always been a somewhat baffling argument because the trail is safety project designed to provide folks biking and walking with a separated and protected space to do so. It also feels strange that the whims of a private insurance company could decide whether the city can build a trail on public right of way. But here we are. It has been an argument against the trail for so long that it is discouraging that the city did not address it well enough in its massive study to satisfy the court.

The case is moving to King County Superior Court Judge Roger Rogoff starting in January.

I have a question into the city about what it would take to satisfy the judge’s concern and what the timeline for that could be. I will update when I hear back.

In the meantime, here’s the full statement from Cascade:

While the members, leadership and staff of Cascade Bicycle Club are disappointed in the overall outcome of the ruling today in King County Superior Court, it is clear that Judge Samuel Chung agreed that the bulk of the Missing Link Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was sufficient. Specifically, he ruled that the EIS was sufficient in the areas of traffic analysis and safety as well as the review of any loss of parking. Conversely, Judge Chung identified the analysis of economic impacts—specifically the potential for increased costs of insurance—as the single basis for ruling the EIS deficient. We believe this can be resolved and that the City can move forward with getting construction back on track.

“Unfortunately the real cost of this obstruction campaign is borne by the over 300 people a year who suffer injuries on the Missing Link,” says Richard Smith, Executive Director of Cascade Bicycle Club. “For over 20 years, a few deep-pocketed individuals have delayed while the community of Ballard has waited for their preferred route.”

Since the Environmental Impact Statement was completed in 2013, thousands of residents and businesses have weighed in on the EIS and subsequent design process saying they want to ‘Complete the Missing Link!’ During the EIS comment process alone, 77 percent of the 4,500 respondents indicated a preference to locate along the preferred alternative, which runs along NW 45th St., Shilshole Ave. NW and NW Market St.

WSDOT is testing out a less bumpy gap cover on the 520 Bridge trail

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 12:25

Base photos from WSDOT.

The trail on the 520 Bridge is amazing, except for one annoying and possibly dangerous detail: The metal plates that cover the floating bridge’s expansion gaps are jarringly bumpy. It’s a frustrating detail in what is otherwise a wonderful experience (well, as wonderful as being next to a freeway can be).

Well, great news! WSDOT installed a demonstration gap cover yesterday to test a design that is hopefully less jarring and meets all their engineering criteria (the plates need to handle heavy loads in case the trail is used for maintenance vehicles). It is located near the east end of the bridge, and WSDOT is hoping to gather feedback from folks about whether it addresses the issue. Text (206) 200-9484 to submit feedback.

  • This is an improvement, upgrade all similar plates: text “A
  • I didn’t notice a difference/the old plates are fine: text “B

You can also post to social media using the hashtag #RateThePlate.

We noted these bumps before the bridge opened and argued that the state should smooth them out so they are not so jarring. When biking, you hit a bump every few seconds. This is annoying, for sure, and diminished the otherwise pleasant experience of biking across Lake Washington. But my main concern is that someone will not be expecting such a bump on a brand new trail and will crash.

I have not yet heard any reports of crashes caused by these gap covers, which is a good thing. But it is still worth fixing the issue to be sure.

From the photos, it certainly appears to be a much less jarring bump, though Seattle Bike Blog has not yet had a chance to try it out. Have you biked across the 520 Bridge since the new plate was installed? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

More details from WSDOT:

State Route 520’s new trail across Lake Washington has garnered high praise from more than 300,000 users since its December 2017 opening. Bike riders, runners, dog walkers and folks out for a relaxing stroll tell us they’re delighted to have a new, foot-powered trail with scenic lake and mountain views. And many pedal-pushing commuters say the new trail, as an alternative to I-90’s cross-lake connection, is cutting significant time off their daily treks between the Eastside and Seattle.

There’s one aspect of the path that’s not getting rave reviews: the narrow steel plates covering the trail’s expansion joints on the bridge. Some bike riders tell us the plates are jolting, especially for road bikes with skinny, highly inflated tires. I’ve ridden the trail myself, several times, and experienced the thump of each joint cover.

I’m glad to report that we’re working on a remedy. Our engineers developed and installed a prototype plate designed to ease the bumps cyclists experience while crossing the floating bridge. The new cover plate design won’t completely eliminate the bumps – but it should produce a marked improvement.

That’s where you come in. Now that the prototype cover plate is installed, we’re asking riders to #RateThePlate. After biking over the replacement plate (located near the east end of the bridge) we’re asking riders to text us at (206) 200-9484 to rate their experience with two options:

  • This is an improvement, upgrade all similar plates: text “A”
  • I didn’t notice a difference/the old plates are fine: text “B”

We’ll solicit feedback through the end of the year. If we hear that the plate provides a better ride, we’ll manufacture and install replacements for all 27 existing narrow cover plates.

Why the path has cover plates
The roadway on the new, 1.5-mile-long floating bridge has expansion joints on each end of the 23 massive, concrete pontoons supporting the structure. The joints allow the bridge to expand (or contract) horizontally as air and water temperatures change. They also allow the bridge to flex vertically as the lake’s water level rises or falls. On the shared-use trail, there’s an open gap at each joint that varies in width from about 2 to 4 inches. Left exposed, a gap of that size could be hazardous to someone with a cane, a skateboarder, or other trail users. So we added cover plates over each joint to address the safety risk that open gaps would pose.

The trail’s existing steel cover plates are a half-inch thick, with a flat top, beveled edges and a rough, nonskid surface. When designing the bridge, we used federal guidelines to ensure the plates’ compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The plates also play a role in the integrity of the bridge itself. The roadway and shared-use path are elevated 20 feet or more above the lake’s surface. This design feature keeps vehicles, bike riders and pedestrians wave-free during windstorms. It also gives our crews ample room for inspection and maintenance of the pontoons below.

Because the bridge deck is elevated – up to 70 feet on the east high-rise near Medina – we use a special truck, equipped with an extendable, hinged arm and crew basket, for inspecting the underside of the bridge. This 3-ton vehicle travels along the trail for these inspections, so the cover plates must be strong enough to support its weight. Moreover, emergency vehicles, including fire trucks, might have to use the trail if a major incident blocked the roadway.

A tale of two trails
A few bicyclists have asked us why the older, narrower shared-use trail on the I-90 floating bridge is smoother than the new SR 520 Trail – without the expansion-joint bumps. The answer, once again, relates to SR 520’s elevated roadway.

In the same way traffic moved on the old SR 520 floating bridge, all I-90 traffic crossing Lake Washington – including bicycles – travels directly on the pontoons’ concrete surface. That means there are no heavy trucks making under-bridge inspections from I-90’s shared-use path – and no need for sturdy cover plates on that path’s expansion joints.

The new SR 520 Trail is a wonderful addition to the region’s expanding network of trails, and we want your experience of riding the trail to be fabulous as well. Be sure to #RateThePlate after your next ride!

Photo from WSDOT

Mayor’s last-minute ousting of Bike Advisory Board Chair was an awful way to treat a volunteer

Wed, 12/12/2018 - 15:20

Casey Gifford speaks to a crowd gathered for the Bike to Work Day 2018 rally at City Hall.

Just hours before the November meeting of the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board, Co-Chair Casey Gifford received a call from the Mayor’s Office informing her she was headed to her last meeting on the volunteer board.

The decision stunned Board members and surprised Gifford because this has never happened before, at least in recent memory. And it certainly has not happened to the Chair of the Board with no time to plan for a leadership transition. There are so many new members on the Board that only Amanda Barnett has completed a full term, Erica Barnett reports.

“I wanted to step down as chair, but I didn’t feel it was the right time with how many new people we had,” Gifford told Seattle Bike Blog.

Typically, if a Board member wants to stay on for a second term, they can. Members are limited to two two-year terms, which prevents the Board from becoming stagnant and creates space for new leaders and new voices. This system works, which is why the statement the Mayor’s Office sent Seattle Bike Blog doesn’t add up:

It’s the Mayor’s priority to continue to bring in new voices on her boards and commissions. We’re grateful for Casey Gifford’s service and look forward to welcoming a new chair in the coming weeks. The Bike Advisory Chair will be a critical role as we advance the Mayor’s commitment to multimodal transportation in the City of Seattle.

In just two years, had proven herself to be a very valuable and dedicated leader. That’s why it’s so surprising not only that the Mayor’s Office would choose not keep her on for another term, but that they would dismiss her so abruptly.

Perhaps this is a good time to remind everyone that the Bike Board is a volunteer gig that has no actual decision-making power. The city won’t even put in the effort to record their meetings for the Seattle Channel website, so the only records are the meeting minutes and any letters they choose to write. It requires a lot of time and energy, especially for the Chair, and the personal gains are minimal beyond fulfilling a basic desire to help make the city better for biking. I guess it could also look good on a résumé.

Half the members are appointed by the Mayor and half are appointed by the Council. They are tasked with “advis[ing] the City Council, the Mayor, and all departments and offices of the City on matters related to bicycling, and the impact which actions by the City may have upon bicycling; and shall have the opportunity to contribute to all aspects of the City’s planning processes insofar as they may relate to bicycling,” according to the 1977 resolution that created it (PDF). Basically, they can ask questions and write letters. They can be effective in influencing decisions if city leaders choose to listen, but they don’t have any direct authority.

In Gifford’s place, Erica Barnett reports that the Mayor has appointed Selina Urena. Urena formerly worked in development at Bike Works and now works at Transportation Choices Coalition. This gripe has nothing to do with Urena, who should be a great addition to the Board.

My concern about Gifford’s ousting is that it is such an insult to someone who has volunteered so much to the city. She didn’t deserve to be treated this way by the Mayor of our city. This also sends a terrible message to other community members which might be interested in volunteering their time to help Seattle. There are plenty of other community organizations that will appreciate the gift of your time.

I am also concerned that at a time when the Mayor cannot even manage to hire an SDOT Director or even attempt to accomplish the Department’s voter-approved work, she is instead micro-managing the leadership of a powerless volunteer advisory board.

Seattle Bike Blog thanks Casey for her work on the Board. Your ousting is the city’s loss. Barnett reports that Councilmember Mike O’Brien is considering appointing Gifford, which would be great for the Board. But I wouldn’t blame her if she said, “No thank you.”

Ahead of January’s traffic crunch downtown, here’s some advice for first-time winter bike commuters

Tue, 12/11/2018 - 16:42

Is it the Period of Maximum Constraint or the Seattle Squeeze or the Jenny Jam? Doesn’t really matter what you call it (well, Mayor Jenny Durkan would really like you to call it the Seattle Squeeze), you should be figuring out right now how you are going to avoid driving to or through downtown Seattle.

Biking is a great option, but Councilmember Mike O’Brien made a good point earlier this week:

O'Brien: if you're not a bike commuter, being asked to try out bike commuting for the first time in January is "a pretty heavy lift."

— SCC Insight (@SCC_Insight) December 10, 2018

There’s a reason most bike commute programs start in Spring. It’s just easier to convince people to start biking to work when it’s sunnier. But with the Viaduct closing January 11, we don’t have that luxury.

But with all the doom and gloom talk about the Period of Maximum Car Squeeze, I agree with today’s Seattle Transit Blog Editorial: This is an opportunity. And as the Move All Seattle Sustainably (“MASS”) coalition said in a press release today, “This multi-year traffic crunch should be a catalyst to move rapidly towards the carbon-neutral, multimodal transportation system Seattle needs.

Under Mayor Durkan’s leadership, SDOT squandered its chance to have a fully-functional Basic Bike Network operational by the time the Viaduct comes down January 11. Sure, I can dream that she will boldly direct SDOT to make the nearly impossible happen and build a pilot bike network in just one month. But as Donald Rumsfeld once maybe said, “You Maximum Squeeze with the bike routes you have, not the bike routes you might want.”

So in that spirit, Seattle Bike Blog asked readers for their advice to someone commuting by bike for the first time in the dead of winter:

One thing I did several years ago was to aim for biking at least once a week to work through winter. Helped make sure my bike was kept in working order, avoided terrible weather and kept my bike clothes some place where I'd actually find them. Now I bike most everyday yr round

— Scott Amick (@ScottA_SEA) December 10, 2018

Protected bike lanes along their routes. I biked all winter in pouring rain, pitch dark, and even snow when I worked adjacent to the Burke Gilman Trail.

— Garland (@garlandmcq) December 10, 2018

Do a low cost “experimental” bike lane on 4th Ave using the current far left travel lane? Do the same on all center city BBN routes? Surely we could site some concrete barriers and planters before Jan 11!

— Rachael (@raludwick) December 10, 2018

Also, bike sharing seems like an obvious way to help new people! Someone giving free credits on those?

— Becky (@beckedm) December 10, 2018

One idea (credit someone else for this) – just bike the days it’s not actively raining – it’ll end up being more often than you think!

— Becky (@beckedm) December 10, 2018

Make a little hype embrace-the-rain how to / survival kit video … “Rain Riders: Live Where You Live”

— Paige (@ravinekid) December 10, 2018

Also, everyone who rides in the winter should have a good set of lights for their bike. Can there be a program to give those away to folks who take some kind of pledge to ride in January?

— Becky (@beckedm) December 10, 2018

I just replaced my bike that was stolen in December of ‘16 last week. I was a daily commuter and turned into a daily driver. I’m currently transitioning back to bike commuting. I’ve found that having your gear out and in sight helps, that and not paying for gas helps too.

Man recovering from Harvard Ave E hit and run Friday seeking folks on bikes who stopped to help

Mon, 12/10/2018 - 12:15

Approximate location of the hit and run, via Google Maps.

Did you see or stop to help a man injured while biking on Harvard Ave E at E Allison St Friday morning around 9 a.m.? Ariel and his wife Roï are trying to get in touch with the people who helped him and may have seen the person driving, who fled the scene.

Ariel is recovering from serious injuries to his shoulder, ribs and lungs. Several people on bikes stopped and stayed with him until help arrived. Roï reached out to Seattle Bike Blog to help get the word out. If you are one of those who stopped, please email tom@seattlebikeblog.com and I will forward your email to them.

More details from Roï:

My husband, Ariel, is a regular bike rider and uses his bikes for his day to day commute. [Friday] around 9am he was hit by a car – it was a hit and run…Ariel was riding downhill on Harvard Ave E towards University Bridge (alongside the I-5 to Ariel’s left), and the car was coming uphill in the opposite direction, and has taken a turn left at Harvard Ave E and E Allison St (which is where it ran over Ariel).

Ariel is hospitalized in Harborview and suffers shoulder and ribs fractures, and pneumothorax injury.

When Ariel was hit, a group of bicyclists was there and they talked to him to make sure he’s OK and stayed until help arrived. Some of them took pictures – we are hoping they captured the car that hit Ariel, because the driver stayed at the scene for a minute or two before he took off – while the bicyclists were already there. I was wondering if perhaps there’s a way to reach out to bicyclists who were there to contact us? Any help is appreciated!

Cascade: Support the Missing Link at a Friday court hearing

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 14:55

From 2015.

The Ballard Missing Link of the Burke-Gilman Trail has (hopefully) one last legal hurdle to clear. Opponents have appealed the trail’s massive environmental study even after the Seattle Hearing Examiner said it was sufficient. Now the case is in the hands of King County Superior Court, which is holding a hearing tomorrow (Friday) morning.

If you have the morning clear, Cascade is inviting supporters to attend. Sounds like you’ll even get a pro-trail t-shirt out of it.

Final design for the trail is just about complete, 18 years after the Seattle City Council first approved this basic route. If this final court decision goes the city’s way, the city could begin construction next year.

Details from Cascade:

You know the story. The community has fought hard to complete the Missing Link of the Burke-Gilman Trail for decades. Now, on December 7th, Cascade and the Seattle City Attorney are defending an appeal from a few Ballard businesses seeking to block to completion of the Burke Gilman “Missing Link.”

When:  8:30 a.m. on Friday, December 7
Where:  King County Courthouse, 516 3rd Ave, Seattle, WA 98104

Come and show your support for completing the Burke Gilman Trail.  The proceedings will last 1 hour at the King County Superior Court, Courtroom W-1060.

We expect the opposition to turn out, so we need everyone. Invite your friends, co-workers, and family!

  • The hearing starts at 9am, but since seating is limited and we anticipate the hall will fill, we recommend arriving at 8:30am.
  • We will have t-shirts to help you show your support.

After WA won #1 for a decade, Bike League changes its state-by-state report cards

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 13:41

From the League of American Bicyclists’ 2018 WA State Report Card (PDF).

Perhaps tired of handing the top honors to a barely-deserving Washington State year after year, the League of American Bicyclists changed its annual state-by-state rankings into a set of 50 individual report cards that track each state’s progress. And by this new measure, Washington State isn’t doing so hot.

Washington had won the top spot in the League’s rankings an absurd ten years in a row. On one hand, this was an impressive feat by our state. But after years of winning the honor even without any tangible progress, it also started to feel a bit sad. Were other states even trying? Was Washington winning “best” or “least bad?”

So while it might take a positive headline away from Washington, it probably makes sense to stop ranking our state number one every year. Instead, the League is issuing each state a report card that tracks its own progress compared to the previous year. And their report isn’t as rosy:

Washington state, the only state to be ranked #1 in the ten years of our Bicycle Friendly State ranking, shows some weakness in its federal data indicators.

While the state’s federal data indicators are consistently above the national average and each one is in the top 10 over the last decade, both the rate of bicycling to work and the rate of bicyclist traffic fatalities are headed in the wrong direction.

The state certainly has the tools to reverse these trends in both
its advocacy organizations and the Washington Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, but the state is in danger of losing its long-time #1 ranking.

In a weird way, though, WSDOT seems to be doing better work on biking in recent years than it has throughout its history. Biking and walking elements rarely feel like afterthoughts anymore. Compare the quality of the 520 Bridge Trail to the I-90 Bridge Trail, for example. And while the department is still carrying out a lot of backwards freeway projects (often due to state legislature funding earmarks), top leadership takes biking and walking seriously. Remember when WSDOT Secretary Roger Millar said traffic congestion is due to a lack of affordable housing with access to better transportation options? That was awesome.

So, Washington, we have a lot more work to do. And maybe benchmarking our progress against ourselves (or bike-friendly nations around the world) would be more useful than comparing ourselves to the other 49 states.

More data from the report card (PDF):

Under Mayor Durkan, Seattle has only built about 4% of its 2018 bike lane goal

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 10:50

Even many of the claimed mileage is misleading, since they are delayed from 2017. From an update to the Move Seattle Levy Oversight Committee (PDF).

Under Mayor Jenny Durkan, Seattle has nearly stopped building bike lanes. With the need to build more than ten miles of protected bike lanes in order to reach the Move Seattle Levy’s bike lane goals, SDOT says it will have constructed 1.88 miles in 2018. That is a pitiful 18 percent.

But the truth is even worse. That 18 percent is an inflated number. 1.49 of those 1.88 miles of bike lane were actually delayed 2017 projects that opened at the start of the year. They were accounted for in last year’s Move Seattle performance update as the excuse for why SDOT would miss its 2017 bike lane goals. So if you subtract those projects, SDOT has so far only constructed 0.39 of the 10.43 miles of protected bike lanes needed to meet the 2018 goal set by Seattle voters. That’s 3.7 percent.

There is no term for this other than failure.

But rather than apologizing for so wildly underdelivering on a goal set by the voters, Mayor Durkan had the gall to highlight it as though it were some kind of success. As though we can’t see that 1.4 or 1.88 or 0.39 are all numbers far lower than the goal of 10.43. In her self-congratulating document “One Year of Urgent Action (PDF),” she lists building bike lanes as an example that she is “delivering essential services and meeting the needs of our growing city”:

The NE 65th Street bike lanes currently under construction thanks to the tireless work of Councilmember Rob Johnson are pretty much the only bike lanes in active construction right now. Nearly everything else has been delayed. A highly-compromised neighborhood greenway in Rainier Valley, which will do some good but will fail at truly connecting the neighborhood, will make up the bulk of the 2018 mileage.

Below is the project list Mayor Durkan inherited when she took office, based on the voter-approved goals in the Move Seattle Levy and the Council-approved Bicycle Master Plan:

It’s hard to say whether Mayor Durkan is actively undermining SDOT’s efforts to grow biking as a viable transportation mode or if the department is floundering due to the leadership vacuum she has created at the top of the department. I want to believe it is the latter, and that Mayor Durkan is on the verge of appointing a good permanent SDOT Director she will entrust with the political backing needed to enact our city’s transportation plans and policies with urgency in 2019.

The coming traffic crunch downtown is only getting closer, and the mayor just wasted an entire year that she could have spent making planned street changes to provide more people with more options to get around without a car. Her bike route progress is grim, but her transit progress may be even worse.

The big test for Mayor Durkan is here. Decisions need to be made. Bike lane projects need to get a green light and her political backing. So many bus lanes need to be painted. We also need effective education and encouragement campaigns to help people change their transportation habits. All this needs to happen quickly if we want these options to be available to people when the traffic crunch begins.

As we wrote last week, the combination of bike share and more comfortable bike routes is working. We can see this in the Fremont Bridge bike counter data, which shattered records by a huge margin this year. And Seattle now has a huge backlog of projects ready to go in 2019. They just need the mayor’s backing.

All the time for waiting and delaying has been used up in 2018. I’ve already seen people referring to the upcoming transportation mess as the “Jenny Jam” because she has had chances to get ahead of the problem and has so far squandered them through delays and inaction. I don’t think that’s a moniker she wants to stick.

Mayor Nickels lost his political career because he didn't plan for a snowstorm. How are voters going to feel when we've had years to avoid the #JennyJam but did nothing? https://t.co/vygWzH6DFv

— Queen Anne Greenways (@QAGreenways) November 19, 2018