Cycle Zone Analysis (top) vs. Bikeability Analysis (bottom)

In December 2008 the City of Portland and Alta Planning released an analysis they called a “Cycle Zone Analysis” (top two maps above). Although somewhat qualitative it identify the strengths and weaknesses of bicycling in different zone of the city. Myself and many other professions were very excited about this because it helped to fill a gap in non-motorized transportation planning and analysis.

Most non-motorized transportation planning is based on citizen input through needs analysis. Essentially someone will say “there is a need here”, like lack of sidewalk, or lots of bicyclist use this road, etc. This is an extremely important part of transportation planning, after all if you don’t know what is wrong how can you solve it. But stopping there, as many plans do, leaves you with distinct problems. First you aren’t able to easily compare how important a project is. This is especially important when identified projects far outstrips funds, sound familiar? Also this make it hard to quantify or understand from a long range planning perspective what your strengths and weaknesses are, and in turn how to best build off your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses.

More after the jump…

This is why the Cycle Zone Analysis was so important. The major drawback however was that it had a low “resolution”, with some zones as large as several square miles. This has been solved using raster-based GIS Multi-Criteria Evaluations (MCE). The Seattle Pedestrian Master Plan relied heavily on this type of analysis as well as the Bike-Share Feasibility Report which I reported on yesterday.

So two months ago when I started taking an advanced GIS class I decided to do a Seattle bicycle analysis as my final project. I started the project by recreating the Cycle Zone Analysis of Portland, and then using the same factors  and weights to do an analysis of Seattle. The maps above are a comparison of the original Cycle Zone Analysis and my analysis. While the results certainly are not fact and are the results of multiple subjective factors and weights, I think they are accurate enough to draw some conclusions from while also raising some interesting questions. The analysis takes street connectivity, land use, bicycle facilities, slope and barriers into account. These factors were then weighted and the resulting maps are a combination of these factors and applied weights. Please see the report for more detail.

Current Bikeability – Portland and Seattle (see Appendix C for better image)

The analysis shows that while Portland is already very bikeable, Seattle has a long way to go. Portland’s most bikeable areas are in the city center and inner city neighborhoods. Neighborhoods outside the city center are still fairly bikeable, especially in the higher density areas or in areas with decent bicycle facilities. In contrast Downtown Seattle is not very bikeable, with surrounding center city neighborhoods doing a bit better. The very low score in Downtown Seattle is probably too low due to an problem with the analysis (see Section 7.2.1 of report). The most bikeable areas of Seattle are those located near multi-use paths like the Burke and Elliot Bay trails with central Fremont having the highest score. As someone who lived around the corner from the Troll for 6-months I can attest to the great bikeability of the area.

Potential Bikeability – Portland and Seattle (see Appendix C for better image)

This second pair of maps only takes permanent things like slope, street connectivity and land use into account. By only using these factors the potential of the area can be analyzed. The maps essentially shows where the factors come together (dense, flat, grid street network) or don’t come together (not dense, hilly, winding streets). What you will notice is that while both downtowns have very high or high scores, Portland has fairly uniform and good bikeability across the city while Seattle is spotty with “islands” of high or good bikeability surrounded by areas of low bikeability. Its interesting to note that many of Seattle’s Urban Villages are in the center of these bikeable islands. While this is partially due to land use it also reflects the fact that many Urban Villages are located either on the top of a hill or in the bottom of a valley. Ballard looks more like a Portland neighborhood than a Seattle neighborhood.

To me one of the largest takeaways of this analysis is that both cities should pursue different bicycle facility investment strategies. While Portland should try to blanket the city with a grid-like bicycle network, Seattle needs to be a bit more intentional. Building off the concept of islands, Seattle should focus on connecting the most bikeable areas with high quality facilities. A second objective should focus on improving circulation within these islands. These two objectives build of off the inherent strengths of the city. However unlike most of Portland, Seattle has significant weaknesses due to topography. To overcome these obstacles higher speed and higher quality transit service that is well integrated with the bicycle network is extremely important. In this ways transit compensates from the lower potential of biking between these islands.

I think that Beacon Hill is a perfect example. While biking from Beacon Hill to anywhere else in the city is a fairly hilly proposition, biking on Beacon Hill is fairly reasonable and easy. So while higher speed and higher quality transit (LINK) are best for “multi-island” trips, bikes and bicycle facilities are better at connecting residents to neighborhood businesses and transit.

Documents: Report, Appendix A (full size maps), Appendix B (comparison of original and new analysis), Appendix C (comparison of Portland and Seattle)

79 Replies to “Bikeability Analysis: Portland and Seattle”

      1. Ahh I see. This is actually one of the problems with the analysis. It isn’t really aimed and showing if a specific facility or route, like the Burke, is good or not. It is more about if you live or work in an area what kind of bicycling quality you would experience around there.

        The other thing which this analysis is very good at is balancing multiple objectives. While you can argue a lot about what the correct weighting is it helps to show how a combination of things are necessary for a bikeable area.

      2. “It is more about if you live or work in an area what kind of bicycling quality you would experience around there.”

        So it’s like a walk score.

      3. Kind of. The thing with walk score is that it doesn’t actually measure walkability, it just measures “proxies”. Like it doesn’t measure sidewalks, slopes, etc. It just says how many things are within a 1/4 or 1/2 mile straight line distance.

      4. The corridor itself is great: little to no topographic variance and few barriers along the route. The problem is, I assume, getting to or from the route. Off the Burke-Gilman a bicyclist faces unfriendly streets and extreme topographies.

        That is Seattle’s barrier to utilitarian cycling, which I guess is what this study is measuring: we have great infrastructure along specific routes, good only for recreational cyclists, those that have origins and destinations along the route, or those that can deal with a less than ideal biking environment.

        Seeing as how we can’t get rid of the hills, we should have phenomenal bicycle infrastructure to make up for the topography. Currently, not so much.

      5. Yes exactly. I wanted this to be a bikeability analysis to target a cross section of society, not just focus on 20-30 year old racers.

      6. “Bike Tunnel” yep got two… one on I-90 and another up at Snoqualmie pass.

        “Can’t get rid of hills” ah we tried that. One only needs to look at an old map of Seattle to see the hills that used to be here.

      7. It’s been more than 20 years since I was a 20-something racer, and Seattle is still quite a bikeable town if you have reasonable gearing, and no that doesn’t require an expensive or exotic bike.

        Hills may be slower than flatland riding, but they really aren’t a barrier to utility cycling. (This morning on my way up to Beacon Hill to get on the I-90 trail, I was passed by a rider old enough to be my father, riding a sit-up-and-beg three speed.)

        Throw in the booming market in electric-assist bicycles and hills really aren’t the barrier they may seem.

      8. I agree. I’m in my forties and live in Wallingford and the hills in N Seattle aren’t a barrier to going a few miles to the market in Fremont and hauling food back up the hill. When you start talking 10+ miles it’s a different story and that’s when an e-bike would be nice for a lot of folks. This analysis puts too much store in slope…

      9. Also seems like there should be little bright spots near the densest parts of the Burke-Gilman, such as some of U-Distric/Wallingford, and Bryant just north of Blakeley where there are a lot of apartments and retail including Counterbalance Bicycles. Does it average out areas in a way that throws away high scoring areas if they’re too small?

        Also the Union Bay Natural Area west of UW campus has a high score in both maps, I assume because it’s flat. If you’ve ever been out there though it’s not bikeable at all–you’re not even supposed to bike on the trails due to impact, and there’s no retail.

        Super work though. GIS is awesome. I don’t have the time to look into the report or data right now, but it would be great to get this sort of thing into something like Walkscore (bikescore?) or even OpenPlans.

      10. It used just a strait density measure so areas that have a single trail but are winding (so that the line density in an area is higher) do better. This is somewhat artificial and most of the high scoring areas besides Fremont and I-90 are a result of this.

      11. It also depends on how far North of the UW you go. When I lived on Finn Hill I used the B-G all of the time to get into Seattle. Between Lake Forest Park and the Children’s Hospital area there really isn’t much along the trail except for some parks and single family housing.

        When I’d head back out to Kenmore I’d generally ride up University Way and 15th to 65th, cut over to 20th, up to Lake City Way, then back to the B-G trail in Lake Forest Park.

  1. Great report Adam, this is awesome! I completely agree with you, Seattle will never be a Portland and we really do need to pursue a much different cycling strategy. I would argue that the current Link line is the perfect place to start. As you say, biking from the Beacon Hill station can get you all over the hilltop neighborhood with significant ease. The same can be said about the Rainier Valley, where the wide stop gaps could be hugely complemented by a good bike network.

    One thing depressing about the lower map is that the most bikeable area is the industrial district. Are there any plans for opening SODO up to more residential uses?

    1. “Are there any plans for opening SODO up to more residential uses?”

      Allowing residential use would drive the last remaining bits of Seattle’s manufacturing capacity out of the city. It would raise the price of land beyond what the industrial businesses can pay. They would have to move to the outer suburbs (Bothell/Issaquah), out of the region, or go out of business. You can’t have a long-term sustainable economy with everybody just pushing paper and selling each other insurance and becoming a data center. You can’t eat paper, or shelter in it, or cure illnesses with it.

      With climate change and peak oil, I think local manufacturing is going to become more important than it is now, and it would be better to keep the facilities, knowledge, and workforce in the city ready for it.

      1. Ok, then have a system that both balances industrial use and new development. In other neighborhoods we are trying to do this with affordable housing or historic preservation, so why not with local industrial.

        I completely agree that local manufacturing is an important part of a sustainable city, but I think it would be great if it was more integrated into our neighborhoods better.

      2. land use isn’t always that simple, unfortunately. Many of these businesses need fairly good-sized level parcels, and as Adam’s map (and common sense) would indicate, we don’t have a lot of those around. You can try to integrate other uses into SODO, and risk what Mike talks about above, but going the other way (trying to integrate mfg. into more residential neighborhoods) will be harder. Smaller-scale projects, absolutely.

      3. I’m guessing that in 30 years, Downtown will have expanded down to at least Atlantic/Edgar Martinez, if not Holgate. Also, I think it would be cool to redevelop the Duwamish riverfront as a long, linear mixed-use neighborhood. Industry was originally dependent on the river, but not so much anymore. They could have a water taxi go down from Downtown to South Park and stop several times along the river.

      4. I think that for the time being downtown is going to grow towards the north. Denny triangle is ripe for development and SLU is taking off.

      5. Much depends on the type of industrial use, too.

        While it’s an abomination to the “shining city on a hill” types, many industrial workers would *love* affordable apartments within manufacturing complexes.

        For many years in many cities, zoning purists banned residential-over-retail and residential-over-office before rediscovering the value in these mixed-use combinations. I’m not suggesting living in a foundry or over a chemical plant, but many light manufacturing operations would be entirely compatible with an added story of residential use.

        Zoning for mixed use can prohibit exclusively-residential use while encouraging residential over compatible industry. Given the cost of housing elsewhere in the city, residential developers could well subsidize low-rent light industrial space to create market-rate worker housing. More industry and more housing with fewer commute trips.

        It’s hard to beat just walking down stairs as a commute.

      6. Mixed zoning might work. Say, up to 50% of the building can be residential. You’re right that there are different kinds of industry, and some make better neighbors than others. The ones in SODO aren’t loud or polluting, so they’d be good candidates for mixed use.

    2. Why do you need to open SODO up for more residential uses? People work in industrial areas so there’s no reason it can’t stay industrial and be bikeable to allow folks to get to work. The bike racks at Central/Atlantic base are relatively full, even on rainy winter days. Imagine what they would be like with significant improvement in the bike facilities in the area.

  2. Adam, this is absolutely brilliant. I’ve daydreamed about doing this for years but you’ve actually gone and done it. I only wish you would have picked a more encouraging color gradient. Make that yellow into green and make the green into blue!

    1. Haha me too. It took way to much time though. It was supposed to take 8 hour. I probably spent more like 100 at the very least.

  3. Thinking about this a little bit more I think something this really shows is that Seattle will NEVER be a cycling town. I don’t mean to say that we shouldn’t increase and push for better cycling infrastructure, we absolutely should, especially along the corridors that most make sense. Rather we shouldn’t necessarily be following places like Portland or Copenhagen in terms of our transit plan because our cycling uses will never be the same.

    What we should do is understand the unique opportunity that our topography presents, which is creating incredibly distinct and compact neighborhoods. Our transit network should concentrate on getting people between neighborhoods, rather than through them, and we should focus on walking as the main, and easiest, mode of neighborhood transportation.

    1. I agree but I would say Seattle will be a *different* type of cycling town. Seattle certainly won’t have the same mode share but I think bicycle can and should pay a very important role for shorter trips, which are exactly the kind of trips that they make the most sense for.

      Take this example. I used to live on 19th and E Thomas. While I always took the bus to school or downtown I never used it to get around on the hill. Instead I would always ride my bike. Everywhere. Once you are on Capitol Hill it is generally easy and it is much faster than walk or waiting for the bus.

      So I guess what I’m trying to be is nuanced in that Seattle will never be the best city for cycling, but at the same time there is much more promise than we are currently taking advantage of.

      1. I wonder what the potential will look like for a city like SF. It’s extremely hilly, but still so many people ride their bikes there.

      2. I just got a timbuk2 and it came in a bag that’s a bike map of San Francisco. :)

      3. SF has a comparable ride share for commuting to Seattle. It has the advantage of allowing you to go around the absurd hilly if you want and the actual city limits is pretty effing small (sq mi wise) so you have a lot more density. They also have areas outside the city limits that are much more bikeable. East Bay and the like.

        Still, you see a lot more recreational riders there – which means routes are more destinations than routes. (Like here)

    2. We could be following places like Stockholm, though, which is hilly and water-separated but arguably a better biking town than Portland.

      1. Yeah. If you look at Stockholm its “design user” isn’t riding from one side of the city to the other. Most bicyclist either live in the inner city and are using it to get around in the inner city or they are riding their bike to a subway station. I ride my bike to the subway every day. I use it for shopping too. But if I want to go any more than a few stations away I don’t even think about riding my bike.

      2. I spent a month in a suburb of Stockholm last year. About a block away from where I was living I could get on a grade separated path that took me all the way to downtown Stockholm. Even if its design user isn’t commuting from the suburbs to the central city they make it really easy to do.

      3. I live in Mälarhöjden. Were did you live? The thing with stockholm is that the subway is just so much faster because the city is really spread out compared to most European cities.

      4. I was in Djursholm. The subway wasn’t very convenient because you had to take a bus to get to it. The train was ok as long as you wanted to go to the area around KTH. If you wanted to go downtown then a bike was the fastest way. I was there in June so unless you wanted to come home between 1 and 2 in the morning you didn’t even need a light.

    3. Also, never say never. There are very steep grades cutting off First Hill and Capitol Hill from downtown, but the grades from SoDo all the way up to Lower Queen Anne are very mild and that’s a huge dense area!

      The best part is that with not too much more work such as really completing the Chesiahud Lake Union Loop you’ve got good connectors to Fremont and Eastlake, which connect to Ballard and the U-District which connects to Roosevelt and Green Lake. It’s not every square mile of the whole city but it’s a very large area with huge potential for even casual biking.

      Portland is not entirely flat either, check out the bright-red West Hills on the left side of the map.

      1. The West Hills are a major barrier to connectivity. There are very few routes through them (considering the huge populations it divides – I think there’s a total of 6), and none of them are “Bike-Friendly” – Cornell has some cycling support (it’s actually kind of cool – in the 40’s they bored into the hill side to straighten out the road and they send cyclists around these tunnels on the Old Cornell Road). Generally, people avoid them.

        The one thing that my husband and I would do to get to the outer west parts of Portland/Beaverton (usually not for commuting, sometimes for the start of a ride) was put the bikes on the light rail. This map doesn’t begin to depict the connectivity advantage you can get with light rail. Portland’s light rail will soon draw a giant plus sign through Portland’s length and width. That said, Max CAN NOT handle the amount of bike traffic we have and there is constant argument about how bikes and TriMet should interface.

      2. “There are very steep grades cutting off First Hill and Capitol Hill from downtown”

        Well yes, but Capitol Hill and First Hill form a ridge, so once you get to the highlands you can ride N-S along it without difficulty. For E-W, Pike and Pine Streets are pretty gradual from Pike Place to 14th, and Pine/Madison will take you to 23rd.

        Beacon Hill also forms a ridge, so you can go from Jackson to Cloverdale pretty easily, and there’s a cute bike trail in the middle part. Beacon just needs more business destinations to ride to. :) And if you ignore the hill from Jackson to James, Capitol/First/Beacon almost forms a single ridge.

        Are there similar flat-ish routes in West Seattle? I don’t know that area well enough.

    4. BS. Hills are only one disincentive to cycling – one that can be overcome with an electric assist bike. Much more significant is the prevailing feeling that you are going to be killed by a cell-phone wielding Bellevueite in her shiny Lexus SUV. If you remove the fear of injury or death by clueless or even actively hostile motorist, you open up cycling to a huge number of people.

      Will the majority in Seattle cycle for their short trips? It doesn’t really matter. Portland’s cycling mode share is around 25% last I heard and is considered a bicycling Mecca, not merely a cycling town.

      Don’t forget. While hills are a pain to climb on a bike, they are a hell of a lot of fun to ride down!

      1. Big hills restrict streets, too. Hills and scary traffic get smooshed together. On uphills especially – the same level of traffic when I’m cruising along at 18 mph seems terrifying when I can’t get it above 5 mph.

        And electric assist bicycles are not exactly a solution. Bikes are awesome partly because they’re inexpensive.

      2. I think price is the single largest factor hold back electric bikes. I have been thinking about buying one but they generally comes at about a $1,000 dollar premium.

      3. e-bikes are still a lot cheaper than cars and will get much less expensive as the tech ramps up – the Chinese are building them as fast as they can more or less. And they let you get as much exercise as you like – not a bad thing :-)

    1. Haha. I’m in grad school. Grades don’t matter. My professor said it was better than some master thesis projects she has seen though.

      1. Actually let me rephrase that. In graduate school grades only matter for poor students.

  4. “…something this really shows is that Seattle will NEVER be a cycling town…” No, this shows that hybrid electric bikes will be very useful in Seattle, once it has a decent bicycling infrastructure. Hills are only an obstacle to pedal-only powered bikes. Could you add a map to show the potential bikeability if you assume the use of hybrid-electric bikes?

    1. That actually is a excellent point as well. If you took out the hills the potential map would essentially be the zoning map.

      Some food for thought. Sightline on electric bikes.

    2. I have an electric assist bike and no shower facilities at work. It is amazing how that little electric motor levels the terrain allows me to arrive at fairly mostly sweat free, and has only a tiny bit more greenhouse impact than a regular bike. In fact, with 90% of Seattle electricity coming from hydro, the electric assist bike is a perfect match for Seattle. Add good and bike friendly connections with transit and better bike facilities and Seattle could be my Copenhagen with hills. I have to climb about 600 feet in 1.5 miles during AM commute and almost 400 feet in 3 miles on the reverse commute. Plus, when I want a work out (like often during the PM commute) I just turn off the battery. I am sold on my e-bike!

  5. The “islands” concept applies to walkability as well. Outside of downtown and inner neighborhoods, Seattle has walkable pockets surrounded by large swaths with poor pedestrian infrastructure and nothing but single family homes.

    Cities like Portland and SF feel much more “connected” than Seattle. We need to start working on the areas between urban villages, so Seattle will have the connectivity that defines a real city.

    1. I rather disagree with the “connected” analysis – if anything Portland is worse for walkability on the whole, considering its topography, and more disconnected once one leaves the close in urban core. And that is a direct result of land use planning adopted in the 1940s and 1950s when its eastern 2/3 was fully built out. I know that walkscore is second order analysis but it shows the same pattern of development (i.e. walkable centers clustering around arterials) that Seattle has outside of its urban core and streetcar neighborhoods. Which isn’t surprising since that part of the city of Portland (Roseway, Lents and the like) is made up of automobile suburban neighborhoods that are very much like Lake City, Victory Heights, etc.

      Which feeds back into the importance of land use planning over emphasis simply on developing modes.

      1. That may be the eastern 2/3rds by sq mi, but it’s the last quarter by population. A larger percentage of population in Portland experience a more walkable neighborhood.

        But Portland land use I think makes it more bikeable than walkable. You don’t need to go the 5 miles to get groceries that you do in the suburbs, but 1/2 mile is a bit restrictive.

        Walkability, however, is more expensive to retroactively create – because it’s more based on land use than it is transportation infrastructure. It’s a goal, but it’s a more expensive goal. The really great thing, though, is that bikeability and walkability feed pretty decently into each other.

      2. In Portland there has been a lot of talk about the 20-minute neighborhood. A 20 minute neighborhood with just walking is hard but add bikes into the mix and you said and that is something that is a bit more achievable.

  6. I agree that Seattle is different than many cities like Portland, Minneapolis, Chicago, Davis, etc. which also have a large cycling community. And hills are a major component of difference. I happen to be a commuter-cyclist and ride a hilly commute to/from West Seattle. Hills are a problem as not everyone has access to locker rooms or showers when arriving sweaty at work. And for someone not in reasonably good physical condition, it can be a major impediment.

    SDOT has been better (not great by any means, but better, and we should advocate for great as some posters have astutely pointed out) at putting in more bike facilities on good routes, like Fauntleroy. However, those routes are also heavily utilized by auto traffic (like Fauntleroy, like Stone Way) and freight (don’t get me started on the Ballard missing link) and drivers and frieght interests fight like H*ll when you threaten to “take away their lanes for the d*mned bikes.” More buses would be good, but then you must have dedicated bus lanes to get the buses out of traffic and building better links are made between neighborhoods requires a whole new approach to bus scheduling/routing (yes please).

    Getting those SOV drivers to understand that the roads are there for everyone’s use is a bigger issue sometimes than the hills IMHO. Try climbing one of those hills while getting harrassed by a driver – it’s then that I cease wondering why more people don’t bicycle even during the better weather months.

    1. They fought in Portland, too. They continue to fight. The cyclists just win and then the non-cyclists realize their lives are better because the cyclists are making their neighborhoods quieter and not taking as many parking spots downtown. Oh. And then, with better infrastructure, there are suddenly more cyclists. Which means it’s easier to win next time.

      We just need to build momentum!

      Good infrastructure makes driving more comfortable for cars, too – sharing roads with bikes isn’t just uncomfortable because they’re slow – it’s because they’re not predictable and it scares drivers. Good infrastructure provides the cues necessary to have all users of the road behave predictably.

      1. Yeah I really agree too. I think that 90% of the time drivers get frustrated with bicyclist because from their view bikers are “getting in my way”. The thing is that I don’t think that a lot of these same driver understand that as a bicyclist the last thing I want to do is get in a cars way, besides then I need to do that to be safe or execute a turn or something. I think building off this idea of mutual interest (bikes get their own space, care don’t get stuck behind bikes) is an very good way of talking about these issues in a constructive manner.

        I had this happen to me once at work. A coworker said something like I hate those damn bikers when they take up the whole lane and get in my way. Well needless to say I was a bit floored but when I started to talk to him about it, saying that the problem is that bicyclist don’t have a designated space for them, he started to understand where I was coming from. Lack of facilities create the conflicts between bicyclist and cars and by focusing on this I think you can win over a lot of people that otherwise don’t see the point of bike lanes.

      2. I’ve added three things to my commuter bike which seem to make a difference:

        An air horn, so I can alert buses that are loading/unloading that I’m coming around.

        A class 3 highway reflective vest. So people can see me at a distance and make a lane choice adjustment before being right on top of me.

        A set of lights that is visible from mars.. no kidding, but they are the brightest things I could afford. (400L/400R riders package)

        Now when cars approach me they roll down their windows and say “Hey! Those are incredibly bright lights! I saw you a mile back.”

    1. It has to do with the weighting factors. You can’t really directly compare the current and potential maps because they are measuring different things with different weighting factors.

  7. I wrestle all the time with these issues as a member of my city’s bicycle advisory board. We have great bike pathways like Soos Creek, but poor interconnectivity east-west. This is in part due to traffic, and part due to topography (East Hill to Kent Valley to West Hill).

    Another way of thinking about it, is that cities currently are designed with the assumption of motorized transport. So, for example, if there is a major thoroughfare between you and the supermarket…it doesn’t matter, because you’ll be driving there anyway. Or if you have to go up and down a hill, a bus or train will get you there.

    Perhaps if we designed “bike cities” from the get go…things would start to make sense. I have been proposing that our current cities are where they are because of some 19th century need — like ocean shipping, or river transport.

    With Wimax Internet, hydrogen energy and so on, we don’t ed cities to be as they are now. We can make brand new cities that are optimized for the things that do matter. Imagine going to the center of Washington and picking out some choice flat ground, and making a grid with alternating bike and transit and roadway lanes? Imagine a new concentric city that starts in the center with walkability, then bike transport, then mass transit then cars, highspeed rail and trucks.

    Instead of patchwork, I’d like to see more primary design that accounts for 21st century technology.

    1. I doubt we have the stomach for it in the US, but I bet it’s being done right now in China. :)

      1. China is actually going in the opposite direction. Their major cities were dominated by bicycles a generation ago but they just recently overtook the USA in automobile production. The Olympics were a chance for them to take a step back. Autos were put on an odd even ration like we do during a drought. Folks actually liked the decreased congestion and cleaner air… imagine that.

      2. China’s middle class is growing and they show their new wealth with cars. We did something similar in the nineties when gas was cheap only less so – because we weren’t as poor to begin with and didn’t grow so much. The exurbs are now desolate wastelands of forclosed houses because transpo costs are too much to live there.

      3. Well, take a look at this (no, I’m not adversting it, I’m just using it as an example), The Landing In Renton:


        The brand new town square mall in Renton (near Fry’s and the old Boeing plant).

        If they can build this type of planned community then they can build “bike communites”.

        In face, something like this, will a “town center” that has lots of little streets, open air shops, traffic calming devices like circles, proves to me that rebuilding can make a town better than many exsiting Seattle neighborhoods.

    2. “Imagine going to the center of Washington and picking out some choice flat ground”

      Can we wish for a water-creation machine too? Eastern Washington would need more water if it’s to support a large population.

    3. I just saw this about California City, CA: “California City had its origins in 1958 when real estate developer and sociology professor Nat Mendelsohn purchased 80,000 acres (320 km2) of Mojave Desert land with the aim of master-planning California’s next great city. He designed his model city, which he hoped would one day rival Los Angeles in size, around a Central Park with a 26-acre (11 ha) artificial lake. Growth did not happen anywhere close to what he expected. To this day a vast grid of crumbling paved roads, scarring vast stretches of the Mojave desert, intended to lay out residential blocks, extends well beyond the developed area of the city. A single look at satellite photos shows the extent of the scarred desert and how it stakes its claim to being California’s 3rd largest geographic city”

      With only 14,000 people and all those extra roads, I imaging biking would be pretty easy except that the roads are wearing out!

  8. The “islands” metaphor is a good one for Seattle, and should help in gaining support for transit and compact neighborhoods. Leverage our strengths!

    The hills aren’t too bad if you know the ways around them. I made a map of Mike’s Favorite Bicycle Routes. You can go N-S to the major neighborhoods relatively easily, and E-W along the ship canal or N 74th Street. Of course there are some trips where you can’t avoid the hills, such as eastbound from Broadway or Rainier to Lake Washington (except at the I-90 park), or from any part of West Seattle to any other part. :)

    (I would add the Interurban Trail and that other path in Kent, but I don’t remember exactly where they are.)

    1. nice routes. that reminds me, Google Maps should have a bike view that emphasizes good bike routes instead of arterial streets. :)

      1. They do, although it’s seriously Beta material in need of a lot of feedback. Google suggested I ride across I-90 and then down Rainier Ave to get to Mount Baker. Yikes!

    2. I did it with the “lines” rather than the “lines along streets” option. The latter adds extra turns in the route which may be necessary for motorists (or may be due to faulty map data), but which a bicycle or pedestrian would not do.

      I started a companion map of bad (i.e., unsafe) bicycle routes.

  9. This is incredible! And so cool that you have a platform like STB on which to showcase it. Thanks for the hard work, Adam.
    This analysis makes a great point on what we can do to make biking more practical from a connectivity standpoint, BUT we must also not lose sight of the fact that perceived safety is the other huge (if not huger) detractor from cycling in the city. Connectivity and safety are obviously not mutually exclusive, but when speaking about connectivity and “bikeability”, we should always discuss safety in the same breath.

    1. Yes certainly. This analysis did take into account bike lanes, bike paths, etc. so in that way it does take safety or at least the perception of safety into account.

  10. Hey Adam – terrific report, definitely. That said, I do think that hills are weighed much too highly (:-) here. I’d rather climb two Seattle hills than deal with the North wind that sweeps across Amsterdam, and yet the Dutch ride their upright bikes into the teeth of near gale conditions. Same thing with Danish snow, ice and cold (Brrr!). Infrastructure can make up for a lot of negatives.

    And besides e-assist bikes are becoming better and cheaper every year – the Chinese and European markets are driving both innovation and volumes like crazy. The numbers are amazing. 20M bikes sold in China last year alone. In Holland one out of eight bikes that are sold are e-bikes – over 150k e-bikes in 2009 (out of a population of 16M – equiv to selling 3M e-bikes in US!). (Most Chinese bikes are more scooters than e-assist bikes, but the Euro e-bikes are increasingly fun to ride bikes that just can help you climb.) As lots of posters have pointed out e-bikes do a pretty good job of neutralizing hills.

    Seattle has tremendous upside to gain from more biking. A modest investment in infrastructure would pay big returns in improved health (more exercise, less bad air & childhood asthma), lower congestion (big win for drivers), more resilience to upcoming oil price volatility, and overall just make Seattle a nicer place to be.


    Chinese e-bikes have caused lead prices to increase 50%:

    Dutch e-bike sales:

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