Photo by VeloBusDriver

Josh Cohen reports on Beacon BIKES:

According to Beacon BIKES! representative Dylan Ahearn, the group thinks the bike master plan is too focused on creating a neighborhood-to-neighborhood bike network that caters primarily to the commuter crowd. His group wants to create an intra-neighborhood network that helps people (especially children) ride safely between Beacon Hill destinations.

“When I’m biking around the neighborhood, I try and imagine whether it’d be safe my five-year-old daughter to ride on the road,” said Ahearn. “If we can [create facilities that] accomplish that, we’ll have succeeded.”

As mascot of the casual cyclists, I have to say “Bravo”. I don’t begrudge the regional trails and other improvements that serious bicyclists have won for themselves, but improvements to one- and two-mile trips can open up a whole new population to bikes. That builds the political coalition, but more importantly makes bicycling safer for everyone by building the presumption of drivers that there are bicycles around.

In my feeble experience cycling, I’ve found that it’s that one-to-two mile threshold under which it’s faster than taking transit, give or take the specific circumstances of the trip. That kind of mobility is important for people looking to go without a car, or a family going to one car. Long trips and long commutes are about recreation and exercise; the shorter ones are about practical mobility. There’s nothing wrong with the former, but it’s the latter where the masses are.

30 Replies to “New Group for Neighborhood Bike Improvements”

  1. “Long trips and long commutes are about recreation and exercise; the shorter ones are about practical mobility.”

    that’s a rather large generalization, and it depends on what you mean by “long trip” and the nature of the route.

    if someone is biking from downtown to northgate, you’re right. bus [and eventually light rail] is the far more practical option, but there are many inter-neighborhood routes that are faster on bike than by public transit, despite being over 2 miles.

    living in eastlake, getting pretty much anywhere west or anywhere east within is going to be faster for me by bike than by transit. i can get to the university or to university village faster by bike, and once i get there i can get around more quickly. i can get to fremont more quickly and even ballard is competitive versus transit via the burke gilman, since transferring at the university is a black hole. when i’m visiting friends around SPU in north queen anne i always ride my bike, not for exercise but because it is faster. when i bike down to south lake union i’m usually passing busses on my way down fairview.

    downtown is a wash, normally i take the bus because downtown itself isn’t super bike friendly for the better portion of the day. i’m not a “cyclist” per se and loathe the whole pseudo bike courier thing, weaving around cars – but if downtown had more separated bike lanes i’d be biking there instead taking the bus.

    travelling by bike over two, three or four miles and between one, two or even three neighborhoods isn’t always just for exercise or recreation.

    the terms probably need to be better defined. “intra-neighborhood” and “inter-neighborhood” mean radically different things in different neighborhoods. in beacon hill, which is large and isolated, or queen anne/capitol hill which are large and require at least one hill climb to travel between another neighborhood, so yes, inter-neighborhood isn’t particularly practical except for the most experienced cyclists. but in the lower lying areas, u-district, eastlake, freemont, ballard, south lake union, belltown, most of downtown, inter-neighborhood bicycling is often faster and more flexible than transit, highly practical and would really benefit from a better inter-neighborhood bike network, and where intermodal bike/transit through these areas would benefit from inter-neighborhood networks.

    i think i understand the larger point and agree with it. inter-neighborhood networks are not the solution for transit in many areas, maybe even most areas of seattle – but it would be a shame if valid, super-practical inter-neighborhood networks were dismissed based on the assumption that transit is always better outside a particular radius.

    1. I’m arguing for a general principle here; I’m not looking to abolish bike routes over certain length.

      1. I actually don’t think it has to be either/or, just depends on the situation. For example the BNSF trail in Kirkland will do wonders to better connect downtown Kirkland with the Totem lake area. The Bruke does the same thing for Ballard to UW. Just image if the burke wasn’t there, how many people that use the path would still be riding a bike along this corridor? I guess what I’m saying is facilities can serve both inter and intra neighborhood mobility.

  2. A bit of a nonsequitor, but I really hate those new bike racks that you have pictured there. They’re way harder for me to use than the old ones.

    1. Maybe, but that bike pictured doesn’t fit in the old racks – nor do bikes with 16″ wheels. The new racks are a bit more difficult to use but they fit a wider range of bikes. If they could just figure out how to make the arms pull out easily…

      1. I think it’s interesting that the bike pictured is an electric bike. They are ideal for those of us who need to commute up and down the hills of Seattle, but can’t afford to get sweaty on the way to work. I had no idea e-bikes would fit in the new Metro racks.

        I think the solution in Seattle for all cyclists is a network of bike boulevards. They are far safer than bike lanes on arterial streets. They attract a wide range of commuter and recreational cyclists (including children). But, Seattle is doing very little to build a bike boulevard network. Portland has done a much better job. As Martin has remarked, the Seattle bike plan is mostly focused on commuter cyclists and the use of arterials. The sad byproduct of such policy is a growing public sense that the “lycra mafia” is getting an unfair proportion of transportation funds when compared to their numbers. It’s a false conclusion, but a growing one none the less.

      2. Remember that Portland also started by restriping anumber of roadways to provide bike lanes for the “lycra mafia.” It has only been until recently when Portland has turned its attention to developing a very robust bike boulevard network.

      3. “Lycra Mafia” ? Surely you are joking my friend.. Those of us wearing colors are demanding payment in exchange for “protection” from what?

        The dedicated bicycle commuters/racers/rec riders/messengers are the backbone of the support for dedicated bike pathways. They are the one’s showing up at the rally’s, joining the clubs, riding in huge groups to let politicians count the votes.

        Yes bicycle errands are extremely important aspect of a city wide bicycle campaign but to disparage the core is to ignore the history of the movement and to alienate the most dedicated of the movement.

    2. I have to agree. They “stick” a lot when you are trying to bring the holder up over the wheel. I have had a problem with more than a few of them. I don’t know if Metro tests them out every once in a while to make sure they are easy to use.

  3. I’ve found that it’s that one-to-two mile threshold under which it’s faster than taking transit, give or take the specific circumstances of the trip… Long trips and long commutes are about recreation and exercise; the shorter ones are about practical mobility.

    If the specific circumstance is living on the eastside that threshold gets bumped up pretty quickly. It’s seven miles for me to work but it’s two miles to the nearest bus. Then 15 minutes on the 238 to cover four miles then about a mile to the office. So only if I timed the bus connection perfectly could I possibly beat just riding the whole distance (a shade over 30 minutes). Going from work to Bellevue City Hall on paper should be faster taking transit. But the 532/535 are routinely 20 minutes late SB in the evening (if they show up at all). I just rode the whole way last time and it took about 40 minutes. In theory I should be able to make the trip in half that time on the bus but because it’s so unreliable you have to plan on 40. And if the bike rack happens to be full you’re really up a creek. The bus would be a nice option in the winter when it’s cold and wet but with the fare going up to $3 I’ll probably just ride home and drive in if I want to get into DT Bellevue in the evening. Cheaper and faster when you factor in being able drive back home afterward.

    Having a shower at work is a key to making the bike work. I’m not commuting on an “expensive” bike (ten year old Schwinn) but just replacing the chain, front sprokets, rear cassette and tires I think I blew your budget of $150 and that’s pretty much a minimum yearly expense. So yeah, if the parameters are no more than $150 for all equipment and no shower available a couple of miles is about right. One thing though, if you want “the masses” to embrace the bicycle as the last mile solution there’s going to have to be a lot more capacity to carry bikes on the buses (most likely inside).

    1. “One thing though, if you want “the masses” to embrace the bicycle as the last mile solution there’s going to have to be a lot more capacity to carry bikes on the buses (most likely inside).”

      A combination of bicycle facilities combined with bus configuration changes will be key. I’ve got a bike locker at SBPR now so I can leave my bike there and then walk the .75 miles to work from IDS.

      A folding bike can help when the bike rack is full but even the Brompton, which *almost* fits under a seat, is a little unwieldy inside a crowded bus. Still, a few of these would fit on a moderately crowded bus – especially with a BRT style open floor plan, off bus payment, and 3 doors.

      Hmmm… I wonder how many Bromptons or Dahons you could fit on a Link car. Perhaps 50? ;)

    2. A huge bike share system could easily make transit+bikes very appealing to the masses, I think. It would work especially well in Seattle, but even in parts of the suburbs it’s could provide a great link between transit centers and workplaces.

    3. Well my “feeble” experience is mainly in SE Seattle. Obviously the more rural you get the worse the bus service is.

      1. Nothing feeble about getting out and trying something new. What sort of bike did you get? I know you’re looking at it as just purely practical right now but you’ve opened up a whole new world to explore. From SE Seattle you’ve got the Duwamish Green River Trail. Unfortunately the connections to the Interurban to Auburn and the Green River Trail out through Maple Valley aren’t very good. But you could take a bus bridge :-). Taking a bike on the ferries is always good fun. Hint, ferry docks are always at sea level. Virtually every island route starts with a killer climb. Take the bus to the top of the hill. If you want to ride/walk it then pull over and wait for all the cars to leave. The Burke Gilman is the queen of all Seattle area trails. Avoid it like the plague on a nice day. It connects with the Sammamish River Trail. At Marymoor you can connect with the East Lake Sammamish Trail (gravel but easy to ride with a road bike provided you have something a little beefier than 700×23 racing tires. Once you tackle that you’re ready for the Snoqualmie Vally Trail and then the Iron Horse from Rattle Snake Lake (which has no Rattle Snakes) up to Snoqualmie Pass and beyond.

  4. As a member of the Kent Bicycle Advisory Board, I’ve proposed that we start to map, and join together neighborhood routes that avoid densely trafficked streets. Using side streets and alleyways and connectors between the culs-de-sac to avoid dangerous cars. Perhaps I could work with the groups mentioned in the article.

    Here is a word about the concept from one of my blogs:

  5. Looking at the bike in the picture, you’d think the bicyclist is one serious, long-haul rider. Too bad he’s having the bus do most of the work for his commute. Sadly, for many bus/bike commuters, dragging the bike along is part of an image they are trying to cultivate at work and with friends. The bike and riding gear is more for show than anything else. If you fit this description, and are letting the bus take your bike 9/10th of the way, and you are riding the other 1/10th, stop posing. Leave your bike at home and walk to the bus stop. You aren’t fooling me.

    1. Sam, that’s my electric bike that I use for a relatively low-sweat commute. If you look carefully, you’ll see that the bus is parked at the base. The picture was taken when the Veloporter 3 racks were brand new.

      Some people, probably you included, think I’m a wimp for using an electric bike – hardly part of the image you describe. That said, I’ve always found the “wimp” criticism strange, even amusing, since it tends to come from somebody walking by on their way to their car.

      1. I commute by e-bike 3-4 days a week. It’s a smart choice for me considering the difference in elevation between my home and work, and the lack of shower facilities as well as time. It’s always sad when others judge us based not on our personal character and logic of our individual choices/circumstances, but instead on their own ill-informed assessment. The fact is a large part of the bike riding community is just as ignorant and arrogant as those they rail against. Labels shall not keep me from doing what I think is right and best for me. Though I continue on my way, I wish people behaved differently, and with more kindness and less judgement. But, that is not to be.

      2. John and Velo, what kind of e-bikes do you have / would you recommend? I’ve been considering getting one for a while, but they seem expensive…

      3. They are expensive, but I try to look at them in comparison to a car. If you see an Electric bike enabling you to significantly reduce the amount you use a car, it’s a no-brainer.

        I have a Giant Twist and love it, but your needs may differ. Electric Vehicles Northwest in Ballard is an excellent place to look at and ride many different options. They have been selling Electric bikes for over 14 years and also sell folding bikes. Stop by and give them a try.

      4. I’ve never driven a car outside of driver’s ed, so that comparison doesn’t really work for me. :)

        I’ll check out that store. Sounds like fun. Thanks for the recommendation!

    2. Don’t be so quick to judge. In summers past I’ve commuted both ways from Cap Hill to downtown Bellevue. This summer I started the summer taking the bus from Montlake to downtown Bellevue with my bike. In the mornings I ride from Cap Hill to the 520 stops, ride the bus to Bellevue, then ride to the office. I always ride home though. When the summer started the goal was to slowly get myself back into shape and start riding both ways, but I got hooked by getting to work less sweaty and about 15 minutes sooner.

      Bussing without a bike? I’ve tried it and it adds about 20 minutes to the journey, making the full bus/walk commute take as long as riding the whole way.

      So time is worth something, as is the exercise. In my situation the bike is not a fashion accessory meant to fool you, it’s a useful tool that helps solve an otherwise car dependent to/from work problem.

    3. The e-bike also is the last of the poser problem. The bus does 9/10th of the route and the electric motor the last 1/10th.

      BUT: Ebikes are the way of the future, not ECars. The bicycle weighs in at 100th of the car, so a much smaller battery and motor is all that is required. I’m seriously considering one as an adjunct to a cargo bicycle for errands. Nothing like trying to pedal up a hill with an extra hundred pounds of stuff from the store. With the electric motor it’s possible.

  6. One of Martin’s comments made me look a bit sideways – that regional trails are improvements that serious cyclists have won for themselves. Most of the regional trail system was either under construction or in planning well before local advocacy groups hit their stride (and I can’t help but grin every time the Seattle Times groans about how politically powerful bicycle clubs have become…).

    Our regional trail system serves a LOT of different types of users – indeed one of the valid points raised by the Beacon group is that an environment in which less experienced or casual bicyclists can enjoy the activity is a bit sparce (Chief Sealth Trail excepted). Without question, the future of bicycling in this city and others will involve a variety of facility types serving a very diverse user base. Motorized vehicles tend to normalize facility design, where bicyclists simply aren’t all alike.

    One of the real legacies of the regional trail system is that it enabled a lot of casual bicyclists to become better, more confident bicyclists. Perhaps unlike Portland, which as mentioned started with paint rather than trails, the regional trail system created a base of recreatonal, commuter and (alas, to many..) fitness cycling constituencies at the same time. Were there no Burke-Gilman or Sammamish River Trails, we likely wouldn’t be seeing lanes, road diets, bke racks on buses, Bike Ports, etc. Sharrows, of course, are a force of nature and would have sprung up on their own, I’m sure :-)

    Beacon Bikes is proposing the logical next iteration of the SBMP – to bring new ideas and facility types to the intra-neighborhood level. Politically it makes sense to have the people proposing (for example) road diets be the same folk who will deal with their impacts daily.

    There’s enough work to be done to keep intra-neighborhood, citywide and regional efforts humming for some time to come.

    1. I’m sure that someone was advocating for those trails, rather than them just springing up with no interest group pressure. But I don’t know the details.

      I’ll reiterate that I’m happy to support cyclists who are choosing to do long distance commutes by bike. However, to the extent that there are tradeoffs, I’d rather spend to improve access to frequent service corridors like RapidRide than create a parallel route for bikes.

      1. Not me. A parallel route for bicycles is key for a fast Rapid Ride. It allows the buses to stop infrequently and in case you haven’t noticed loading bicycles is time consuming. And it allows bicycles to do the last mile between stops.

  7. First. Yesterday, I just happened to notice that Google Maps has a “More…” option for “Bicycling”.

    It overlaps bike routes on maps. Solid green for paths and dots for suggested routes on streets.

    The routes they displayed were surprising to me, and let me in part to a brand new route up Kent East Hill that was much less trafficked. The surprise was that the two other streets I normally use, one of which has a bike lane (one side only) weren’t marked. And I agree with Google…those streets have horrendous traffic.

    Second. Separate paths versus bike lanes in Holland:

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