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Friday, July 13, 2007

No Relief in “Action Plan” for Rainier

posted by on July 13 at 12:24 PM

I just returned to work today from a weeklong vacation, a good deal of which was spent biking up and down Rainier. (Lake Washington Blvd. is nice, but it’s a goddamn slog to get to Columbia City up the hill.) Anyway, riding along Rainier a couple of times a day, I had ample opportunity to appreciate firsthand the “challenges” addressed in the city’s Rainier Action Plan, which Stranger news intern Rebecca Tapscott wrote about here.

Not surprisingly, the action plan reveals that failing to yield to pedestrians and cyclists occurs three times more frequently on Rainier than on equivalent arterials in Seattle. Also not surprisingly, the “action plan” is mostly talk: It focuses almost exclusively on efforts to convince drivers to drive more safely, instead of making systemic changes that would force them to do so.

For example, under the Rainier plan, the city will:

Install one speed radar to track north-moving traffic on the south end of Rainier.

Track DUI arrests with the state liquor board and target problem bars. (Mini-marts, probably a bigger issue, go unmentioned.)

Conduct red light running emphasis patrols,” whatever that means.

Examine pavement markings.

Install a camera at one red light along the corridor.

Install one “your speed is” sign in each direction.

Put up billboards and “develop education and awareness materials” to hand out to South Seattle residents.

The problem with almost all of these solutions, and others in the plan, is that they rely exclusively on voluntary compliance instead of measures that would force people to change their behavior. Changes that could actually make a difference, like adding bike lanes (a proposal that is “deferred to [the city’s] Bike Master Plan,” which in turn puts Rainier improvements off indefinitely, a fact the city’s transportation department could not have been unaware of), slowing traffic by adding or de-sychronizing signals, and changing land-use patterns to eliminate large car-oriented uses (like street-facing parking and multiple gas stations) on Rainier go unexplored.

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Several times I've biked the southern stretch of Rainier on my way around the south end of Lake WA, and it's not that bad, at least not during off traffic hours. After that, I head over to Seward Park and take Lake WA Blvd, which is pretty nice.

Bike lanes or no, you'll never catch me biking the north stretch of Rainier. It's sure death, just like Aurora and 23rd on Cap Hill. The master plan should really create a new bike route through the valley on smaller side streets.

Posted by Sean | July 13, 2007 12:52 PM

How about this:

Buy a freaking car like the rest of the freaking world. A toy is not a form of transportation.

Posted by ecce homo | July 13, 2007 1:16 PM


But that would be too practical and cost-effective, and wouldn't serve the political purpose of punishing those evil evil people who still need to drive to get from point A to point B (and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future).

Posted by Mr. X | July 13, 2007 1:20 PM

Voluntary compliance works fine.

Why just look at how the auto industry has increased gas mileage under voluntary compliance.

Oh ... wait ... gas mileage went DOWN.


Posted by Will in Seattle | July 13, 2007 1:35 PM

Erica, can you please explain how mini-marts are a bigger issue than bars? People don't generally show up sober and get drunk at mini-marts. They buy their booze and then leave. And I don't think they then drive up and down Rainier terrorizing cyclists while they are drinking. And if they are driving up or down Rainier to get TO a mini-mart to purchase booze, well then their destination doesn't have anything to do with the fact that they may or may not be drunk driving.

Posted by jameyb | July 13, 2007 1:43 PM

I'll start caring about bikers being in danger once they start following the laws of the road themselves. Daily I see them weaving in and out of traffic, running stop signs and stop lights and riding up onto the sidewalks then back into the street when it is convenient for them. If you would like to be considered a legitimate form of transportation then follow the same laws as the rest of us when on the road.

Posted by D | July 13, 2007 2:08 PM

Hey Erica:

You're real big on "forcing people to change their behavior" when it suits you, I see.

Make you a deal. How about a $100 moving violation for every bicyclist who fails to stop at a stoplight or red signal, just like cars get? Is that the kind of coercion you favor? 'Cause I'm sure down with it.

Posted by ivan | July 13, 2007 2:20 PM

"slowing traffic by adding or de-sychronizing signals, and changing land-use patterns to eliminate large car-oriented uses (like street-facing parking and multiple gas stations) on Rainier go unexplored."

Is your brain made of Cheez Whiz? With the S/T plan for the waterfront you support fewer stop lights (WashDot unfairly put in all those lights to make S/T not work, remember?) and in general you have supported light sychronizing and now you want people to drive further to find gas stopping at every light? That brain, maybe Swiss cheese - I can't wait for your reaction to the the first light rail bicycle accident - perhaps you'll advocate for 10 mph top speed except, of course, when you're on board.

Posted by whatever | July 13, 2007 2:23 PM

@6 - don't even bother starting with that. The members of the Church of Critical Mass will now bombard you with their standard rationalizations as to why they are magically exempt from obeying clearly written laws about traffic lights and such (and yes, those laws DO apply to you as well, cyclists.)

Posted by tsm | July 13, 2007 2:25 PM

#2 -

Who says that Saint Erica doesn't drive when she isn't spouting off against the evils of cars? Check out the public record of her parking (and bicycling) tickets:

Posted by Smarm | July 13, 2007 2:26 PM

Ivan you idiot. Bicycles and Erica's cars and scooters are allowed to break all laws and rules because in the case of bikes they never hurt anyone and in case of ECB well she can do what she wants because she can do what she wants because...

Posted by whatever | July 13, 2007 2:36 PM

Of course there are bicyclists that break traffic laws. There are also drivers and pedestrians that break them. Blaming the few bicyclists who are assholes for all bicycle injuries and fatalities is the mark of a fuckhead.

I own a car and a bicycle, both of which I love. I have been bike commuting in Seattle for 17 years, year round, rain or shine. However, as I get older, I take fewer chances and am less included to ride outside of my jaunt to and from work. I have stopped riding at night (drunks) or on certain arterials, such as Rainier.

Lucky for me, my commutes have been shorter each time I've switched jobs. And even luckier, I live north of the Ship Canal. For those of us in the North End, who are already taking bike-friendly routes like Dexter or the Burke-Gilman to get to work, the Bike Master Plan will make our happy-go-lucky bike lives even tonier, while those trying to get to and from the South End will have no relief, continuing to risk life and limb getting around by bicycle.

So keep watching out for those cars, ECB! They're not watching out for you.

Posted by Will in 98103 | July 13, 2007 4:02 PM

ecce homo, good to see you back! I was worried you'd choked to death on your own bile while watching Nancy Grace at the Log Cabin Republicans meeting. (Btw, I thought ecce meant 'behold', not 'self-hating'.

Posted by good to see you back | July 13, 2007 4:05 PM

Bike lanes are voluntary too, ECB, as I found out the hard way in Las Vegas: it didn't stop motorists from clipping bikes and using them as a glorified turn lane.

I don't know where you and the militant cyclists get the idea that roadside bike lanes will change anything culturally.

Posted by Gomez | July 13, 2007 4:29 PM

Hey whatever: Is YOUR brain made of Swiss cheese? The Stranger is not some kind of hivemind; just because others wrote about ST disparagingly before I was here does not mean every single opinion ever expressed in the Stranger is unanimous.

Posted by ECB | July 13, 2007 5:17 PM

Hey ECB - S/T = Surface Transit that's why there was a reference to the WashDot study involving syncing the traffic lights on the AWB (Alaskan Way Boulevard ) - nothing had to do with the Stranger's past opinions about ST (Sound Transit).

Posted by whatever | July 13, 2007 6:09 PM


I believe that roadside bike lanes have indeed "changed things culturally" in Seattle. Like Portland, as Seattle gets more roadside bike lanes, cars notice them, and drivers change the way they drive. That's my anecdotal impression, anyway. The lanes do not help bicyclists who wear dark clothing (and black helmets! what idiocy) and are erratic in traffic.

I think the lanes on Dexter are a good example. It has been around a long time, it has very high bike ridership, and most of the bicyclists on it behave themselves. Therefore, it feels pretty safe.

Posted by Will in 98103 | July 13, 2007 6:23 PM

Here's how to make it work with no big cultural changes. Try LAW ENFORCEMENT. Change the laws to provide stiffer penalties like these:

$2,000 fine for failing to yield, failing to stop, or other moving violation, endagering a bicycle.

Automatic loss of license if you, a car, strike a bike or a pedestrian.

that's how thy do it in Europe. They have dramatically lower car-cyle or car-ped accident rates.

Recently Virginia imposed big 1K-3K fines for speeding and similar voilations. Everyone here, the powers that be said "oh that's terrible." Yup we don't really want to make cars obey the laws.....we just want then to have little teeny weeny fines so drivers can act like the one that killed that city council aide in West Seattle who had NUMEROUS prevous moving violations including MAKING A CYCLIST FALL OVER on
Interlaken blvd. or one of those windy olmsteady roads going down to LWB or something.

Nothing happened to that driving and that aide dude is dead.

Duh, yup of course cyclists have to obey the rules, too, and Erica never suggested otherwise so just shut up about that that's a big red herring. "I will only obey the law when all cyclists obey the law" is a STUPID and CHILDISH and BULLYING attitude that is total bull shit. You who took that attitude are a real piece of shit. "I CAN'T SAY ANYTHING LOGICAL OR SENSICAL SO I WILL THROW OUT SOME RED MEAT BULL FECES TO DISTRACT FROM THE EXCELLENT POINTS MY OPPONENT MAKES" is just the lowest form of rhetoric.

"I will not obey the laws against murder till everyone else does, too. There have to be zero murders for one 12 month period first, THEN I will decide that I, too, will obey the laws against murder."
You should go to hell for being either totally stupid, or totally immoral and opportunistic.

Posted by unPC | July 13, 2007 7:42 PM

Whoa, "ECB" - that's a lot of tickets. What's your excuse?

Posted by I had just one | July 14, 2007 11:46 AM

The problem with the Virginia laws is that they are not related to the income of the violator. Twenty over is a little over $1050 while the $3000 fine is for DUI. The $900 for driving without a license seems very harsh depending on why the driver is without. It appears that the main motivation for raising the fines is to get more money for road projects.

The City Council staffer was not on a bike but rather a pedestrian - a group that should be protected even more than bikers. The very young and the old to very old are more likely to be peds. The driver had a terrible record and it would appear should never be allowed to drive.

Drivers and bikers should obey the law. The issue for many drivers is that bikers, by not following the law, cause the drivers anxiety and frustration which leads those drivers to act badly around those and subsequent bikers. Drivers should not drive in such a way to endanger bikers needlessly. There will always be some danger of two vehicles hitting each other when on or crossing the same roadway.

BTW ECB has in the past made the argument that bikes violating the law shouldn't be subject to the same enforcement as cars because of their relatively lighter weight aren't a danger.

Posted by whatever | July 14, 2007 12:45 PM

All making it harder to drive on Rainier will do, is make Lake Wash Blvd and Seward Park Ave/Wilson more of a freeway than they already are.

Posted by Maisie | July 14, 2007 12:48 PM


The tricky part of adding bike lanes to Rainier Avenue South is that it mostly has a four-lane profile without parallel parking. Route 7 is an electric trolleybus and attract high ridership. Implenting a three-lane profile would slow Route 7 as each bus stop would become a bus trap, as the single through lane would have a continuous lane of traffic. It may be better to provide priority for bikes on another arterial.

The tough part of having a bike network, a freight network, and a transit network are the arterials where they overlap. SDOT will have difficulty providing "priority" to more than one mode at a time.

Route 7 is too important to slow down any further.

Posted by eddiew | July 14, 2007 3:44 PM

I agree eddiew,
If any changes should be made on Rainier, they should speed up and expand service for Route 7(and other buses). Most would be the opposite of ECB's suggestions. Remove most street parking(only Columbia and Hillman Cities really have enough space) and institute light synchronization with buses(change to green for buses). Both the lake route and MLKing Way after ST will be better for biking.

Posted by Maisie | July 14, 2007 9:43 PM

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