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Thursday, July 26, 2012

In Efforts to Promote Cycling, "Seattle Is Slipping Behind"

Posted by on Thu, Jul 26, 2012 at 6:00 AM

According to the Cascade Bicycle Club, the amount Seattle allocates for bicycle-related improvements has fallen every year since 2007.
  • Cascade Bicycle Club
  • According to the Cascade Bicycle Club, the amount Seattle allocates for bicycle-related improvements has fallen every year since 2007.
The Cascade Bicycle Club is out with an interesting report that looks at how Seattle's doing compared to other bike-friendly cities in this country.

Answer: Not so well.

It’s clear that Seattle has made progress—more people are biking every year and the City continues to add new miles of bicycle infrastructure. However, for this report we sought to learn from other cities around the country about their efforts to promote bicycling, and in doing so, it became apparent that Seattle is slipping behind. From bicycle policy to planning to infrastructure design—innovation, vision and leadership is sweeping the country from Los Angeles to New York City.

The wording in that last sentence is a little weird, but the accompanying map—see page 8 of the report—makes clear what they're talking about. Portland has a better bicycle commuting rate than Seattle, and Minneapolis and San Francisco are nipping at our heels.

One of the major ideas for fixing this embarrassing situation: more cycle tracks, like the ones they've been building like crazy in New York!

To help inspire this city to action, the report shows three Seattle thoroughfares—Westlake Avenue, 2nd Avenue, and NE 65th Steet—as they exist now, and as they'd look with nice new cycle tracks. Imagine:

  • Cascade Bicycle Club




Comments (31) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Those concepts are amazing and should definitely be supported. And I'm all for building more and better bike infrastructure. I'm sick of battling cars for lane space downtown.

At the same time, as I read the study, I didn't see any discussion of how to fund these aspirational plans, or of how other cities have been able to fund them. The money Seattle allocates for bicycle-related improvements has indeed declined - as has the money Seattle has allocated for anything related to transportation. The report didn't mention the recession, declining tax revenues and the budget cuts they produced, or the failure of the VLF last year. They can get McGinn and all nine members of the City Council to swear up and down to build cycletracks all over the city and it won't make a difference unless they can solve the funding problem.

I'm not sure how getting people spun up about Seattle's need for more bike infrastructure without engaging them in a discussion about the funding solutions is going to change anything.
Posted by junipero on July 26, 2012 at 6:13 AM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 2
Interesting report, but something I ran into yesterday was the death-trap on Fairview-Eastlake.

Is there ever going to be a serious effort to add a commited bike lane alone that route from downtown all the way to the University Bridge? I have nearly been hit 4 times in the last couple of months and I've seen several other cyclists nearly plowed over as well
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on July 26, 2012 at 6:36 AM · Report this
CC-Rob 3
I am a big supporter of bike lanes - but the Westlake design you show seems like overkill. There is a large parking lot and trail that runs parallel to this part of Westlake - from Fremont to Valley (South Lake Union). Instead of spending funds on this, why not find another road to redo.
Posted by CC-Rob on July 26, 2012 at 6:42 AM · Report this
Westlake, son! 5
@3 negative. Heavy bicycle traffic in a parking lot? Come on, think about it. Makes no sense. Cars backing out, rolling at cruising speed trying to find an empty space, etc. I've actually been yelled at by a pedestrian stumbling out of his car in the parking lot to "use the bike lane," ah, if only there were one.

Speeds on Westlake are well over the posted limit (cf. Nickerson) anyway. Dexter is an unnecessary hill, it's idiotic that it's been built up as a preferred route.
Posted by Westlake, son! on July 26, 2012 at 7:04 AM · Report this
Where on page 8 are you getting "Somewhat unbelievably, New York and Los Angeles now have higher bicycle commute rates than Seattle"? Page 8 in the report I downloaded from your link just now shows us at 3.6%, New York at .8%, and LA at .9%.
Posted by gloomy gus on July 26, 2012 at 7:04 AM · Report this
Kinison 8
Seems like a waste of money when most people bike to work when the weather is nice outside. Fall & Winter will often force cyclist to return to driving or take the bus.
Posted by Kinison on July 26, 2012 at 7:11 AM · Report this
Rotten666 9
Lets see some bike improvements in the rainier valley. I'm seeing more and more commuters riding down rainier ave but you wont catch me on that fucking death trap.
Posted by Rotten666 on July 26, 2012 at 7:12 AM · Report this
Westlake, son! 11
Ah, I've thought of the perfect analogy.

Saying bicycles should use the Westlake parking lot as a major thoroughfare is like suggesting cars should use Pike Pl. over 1st Ave.

Go try Pike Pl. in a car a couple times during the week. Now go try Westlake parking lot on a bicycle a couple times a week. How'd that work out?
Posted by Westlake, son! on July 26, 2012 at 7:19 AM · Report this
Westlake, son! 12
Short of sluicing away hills again, the only way to make a safe, flat, direct route to downtown for cyclists (coming from Fremont or the U-District) is on Westlake. There's no other option given the current street grid.

I wish someone had the foresight/balls to make it happen.
Posted by Westlake, son! on July 26, 2012 at 7:24 AM · Report this
Max Solomon 13
given the absolute clusterfuck that is downtown traffic (30-40 min. to get across town the last 2 nights), i doubt SDOT is about to take lanes away from cars anytime soon.
Posted by Max Solomon on July 26, 2012 at 7:36 AM · Report this
DOUG. 14
You know what sucks the most about bike commuting in Seattle? The crappy pavement, the state of which is the result of cars and trucks chewing up the roads.

Seattle should implement a vehicle tax based on WEIGHT to help pay for much-needed infrastructure improvements.
Posted by DOUG. on July 26, 2012 at 7:47 AM · Report this
raku 15
We should elect a mayor who likes bikes.
Posted by raku on July 26, 2012 at 7:54 AM · Report this
DOUG. 16
By the way, what's with your graphic? It appears funding actually went UP in 2009, yet the graph does not reflect that.
Posted by DOUG. on July 26, 2012 at 7:55 AM · Report this
@6 is right. Eli missed the key decimal points on page 8 of the report. To be fair, they are a little hard to see, especially for New York. For LA, the green decimal is sitting out in the Pacific. So Seattle has over four times the bike commuting rate of LA and NY. Only 1.3 for Chicago? I see that changing. There are bikes everywhere during rush hour especially. It's wonderful, although it feels like congestion when one is used to having the bike lane to oneself.
Posted by David from Chicago on July 26, 2012 at 8:19 AM · Report this
CC-Rob 19
WLS - The parking lot is much safer than the road. and it is widely used. There is also a sidewalk pathway that many cyclists use. Don't forget that Dexter Ave is an excellent Downtown to Fremont Alternative that runs parallel to Westlake.

It's not like we have extra cash laying around to do these things - so let's do it where it's really needed. I like the suggestion of Rainier Valley. That is a under served part of the city that has many dangers for cyclists.
Posted by CC-Rob on July 26, 2012 at 8:20 AM · Report this
Reducing 65th to one lane each way would work provided there is a center lane for left-turning vehicles. While the 65th/Roosevelt intersection shown has it, many intersections do not. Also, you know that business is going to whine about losing parking...
Posted by sanotehu on July 26, 2012 at 8:22 AM · Report this
6,788,445 is more than 6,784,887. Somewhat wrong to connect those with a downward sloping line.

And I do have to chuckle at the bike not stopping for the pedestrian in the Westlake picture.

Why not run an initiative to throw some money at these projects?
Posted by giffy on July 26, 2012 at 8:23 AM · Report this
Eli Sanders 24
@6 et al: You're right. As @18 says, those decimal points are hard to see and I missed them. Fixed the post, thanks.
Posted by Eli Sanders on July 26, 2012 at 8:35 AM · Report this
Wow. That spending graphic is very dishonest. Lying for the Lord?
Posted by cracked on July 26, 2012 at 9:01 AM · Report this
@24, thanks. A look at the survey Cascade drew from shows Seattle bike commuting's share growth between 2009 and 2010 was impressive - 22% (even though it remains true that represents growth in share from "a teeny bit" to "a tiny bit"). During that same period NYC's share grew 27%. LA's dropped 5%.…
Posted by gloomy gus on July 26, 2012 at 9:03 AM · Report this
Funding is not the only limiting factor. Take Westlake, for example. I don't think it'd take an incredibly high amount of money to just give the bikes a full lane. The reason this doesn't happen is purely political, not financial.

Also, using cities like Chicago, LA, and New York as reference points is dangerous. If you use mediocre cities (in terms of bike-friendliness) as baselines, you're bound to aim toward mediocrity. Our baseline should be Copenhagen -- if we're serious. And in comparison to that we're not even on the map.
Posted by ScruffyBallardMan on July 26, 2012 at 9:04 AM · Report this
Fred Casely 30
@14: Yes. I'm spending the summer in the D.C. area with just my bike and Metro for transportation. There are lots of new cycle tracks & bike lanes and the network of multi-use trails is incredible, but the thing that really stands out is no potholes. That alone will make returning to Pittsburgh hard.

Somewhat-on-topic aside to TVDinner: How's that dissertation on bike transportation coming along?
Posted by Fred Casely on July 26, 2012 at 9:14 AM · Report this
@31 They've had many of their own challenges that we don't face: Their weather is worse, the roads (were) worse because they were a 1000 year old city, and they dress better than people in Seattle. They've had many of their own challenges that we don't face.

I'm SO tired of people like you saying we all need to drive around massive cars in Seattle because there are some hills, rain, lakes, and whatever. Seattle and Copenhagen are not that dissimilar. Our current transportation system is so absurdly inefficient (ie, people driving alone in 4WD trucks on their way to work) and costly, and then anytime somebody says "hey, this country is doing it better" we just hear all these bullshit excuses as to why it couldn't possibly work here.
Posted by ScruffyBallardMan on July 26, 2012 at 9:59 AM · Report this
@33 I used to live right near there, on 15th. None of those side streets go through all the way, and there are stop signs and whatnot that make them inappropriate for through traffic - cars or bikes. You made a pretty good point at 31, though. Geography has a lot to do with it and Seattle is unlikely to ever be a Copenhagen. Yet wouldn't it be nicer for you to drive around if more folks were on bikes on the side of the road or in bike lanes instead of in their cars blocking your way?
Posted by David from Chicago on July 26, 2012 at 10:43 AM · Report this
keshmeshi 35
Westlake needs the same road diet that Nickerson got. Why SDOT didn't just extend the road diet another few miles is beyond me. Driving down Westlake in a car is a pain in the ass. You get stuck behind left-turning cars in the left lane and buses in the right lane. Restripe it, add a turn lane and bike lanes on each side, and the traffic becomes manageable. It'll still be slow, but at least not backed up constantly.

And I've tried parking in those parking lots on Westlake. As a driver who doesn't want to kill anyone, I find it scary backing out of one of those spots during rush hour.
Posted by keshmeshi on July 26, 2012 at 11:50 AM · Report this
I love how their first example shows a bicyclist failing to yield for a pedestrian in the crosswalk. Very appropriate.
Posted by Orv on July 26, 2012 at 11:51 AM · Report this
TVDinner 37
@30: Thanks for asking! Done. If you're interested in some of the findings, shoot me a line: tvdinner (at)
Posted by TVDinner http:// on July 26, 2012 at 11:57 AM · Report this
I'd be more supportive if bike riders actually used the dedicated lanes. While I'm waiting for the bus on 2nd, more often than not I see bike riders using the bus lane and the sidewalk rather than the dedicated lane. For every four or five bicyclists I see in the bus lane, I see only one using the dedicated lane. If they're not going to use it, why would I want to encourage expanding it?
Posted by FranFW on July 26, 2012 at 12:30 PM · Report this
DOUG. 39
@38: That's because riding the bike lane on 2nd is a suicide mission. Cars turning left from 2nd often don't look for cyclists riding in that left-side bike lane.
Posted by DOUG. on July 26, 2012 at 12:51 PM · Report this
@9 is right. It would make a great deal of sense to make much needed bicycling improvements to Rainier Valley. But don't hold your breath.

The affluent people who make up the Cascade Bicycle Club's leadership (largely from North Seattle) are not going to invest any of their political capital on improvements to South Seattle.

Cascade Bicycle Club is easily the most powerful and pampered Lobbying Group in the City. It didn't get that way by focusing on low income neighborhoods.

Also; the graphic is inaccurate and dishonest.
Posted by low road on July 26, 2012 at 4:47 PM · Report this
Seattle's cutting expenditures? Imagine that! In this booming economy, too. With local governments so flush with cash due the expanding tax base of the growing job market! Since we've successfully funded all our programs to prevent dire social problems like homelessness and childhood poverty, I can't imagine why we're not building these luxurious bike lanes.

I'm sure we'll get to it right after we build another sport stadium to indulge the hobbies of billionaires. There's plenty of free money out there for everybody.
Posted by tkc on July 29, 2012 at 9:22 AM · Report this

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