Puget Sound Bike Share (PSBS) has been in the news a lot lately.  They are searching for an Executive Director, and they have published a 5-year business plan which hopes to have bikeshare up and running in Seattle by summer or fall next year. Seattle Bike Blog has posted a thorough summary of the business plan along with an excellent comment thread, both of which are worth reading in their entirety.

In short, PSBS plans to rollout bikeshare in 4 phases (see map):

PSBS Phased Rollout

I have a great enthusiasm for bikeshare, and I think it could be very successful in Seattle — if done right. I am, however, deeply unsettled by some parts of this plan, in particular its phasing, and the prospect of putting bikeshare users — who, if the project is to succeed, must be drawn from the full spectrum of ages and abilities — on the streets of downtown Seattle with the current bicycle facilities. More after the jump.

Phase 1 (1A and 1B Combined)

Simply put, cycling throughout downtown Seattle is unwelcoming for all but the boldest, most athletic cyclists, and arguably unsafe for all. Very high traffic volumes and minimally-protective facilities (sharrows and bike lanes) combine with moderate-to-severe grades and a complex one-way system to make riding in the roadway daunting even for those of us (like myself) who do it daily; and high pedestrian traffic makes riding on the sidewalk awkward, slow, and rude.

There are really no good options for a bicyclist to travel north-south through the CBD (running roughly from Olive to Yesler, where the lion’s share of bikes will be stationed):

  • 1st Ave: Always clogged with cars; poor pavement quality.
  • 2nd Ave: Southbound only; very high door/left hook risk on the left side, transit conflicts on the right; often very fast.
  • 3rd Ave: Saturated with buses, treacherous ventilation grating for the DSTT.
  • 4th Ave: Northbound only. North of Spring the bike lane disappears, requiring a dangerous merge
  • 5th Ave: Narrow and fast-running, no bike facilities.

Turning loose hundreds of assorted riders per day, most of them new to the vagaries of downtown Seattle’s traffic and terrain, all on heavy 7-speed upright bikes, is a recipe, at best, for lots of rotten rider experiences, and at worst for crashes, near-misses or even a fatality that could threaten the success of the entire enterprise. If bikeshare is to succeed in Seattle, we must do better.

First and foremost, we must enable safe downtown bicycling by adding a minimum of two dedicated two-way cycle tracks.  While there are no perfect east-west streets for bicycling, Pine St, due to its relatively consistent and modest grade, centrality to the downtown retail and tourist centers, and utility as a longer-distance connecting route to Capitol Hill, is the clear choice. A cycle track on the south side of Pine between Bellevue or Melrose and 1st Ave would shield bicyclists from the intense traffic in the CBD and near Boren, and without conflicting with transit (buses run westbound only, west of Bellevue); once on Capitol Hill, the streets are friendlier.

For north-south travel, both 1st Ave and 2nd Ave seem viable candidates.  1st Ave is preferable on a number of counts, including a much higher concentration of residential, retail, and cultural activities, two-way operation for all vehicles (so bicyclists can follow vehicle signage), and gentle topography. Its expensive flaw, however, is its terrible pavement quality, which would require, at a minimum, resurfacing the new cycletrack, adding dramatically to the cost; 2nd does not share this problem.  A two-way 2nd Avenue cycle track could be done cheaply by removing all east side street parking and installing highly visible barriers to alert drivers turning left.

A second option, if we are unable to secure adequate infrastructure downtown in time for the planned phase 1B, is to reverse the phasing. Instead of a downtown-centric rollout, why not an urban village based rollout?  Beginning instead with Phases 1B/2 (plus the U-District, Uptown, and maybe the Waterfront) would leverage the good bicycle facilities we already have and put bikes in bikeable places, namely 12th Avenue, Pike-Pine, the Broadway cycle track  (under construction), the Westlake trail and Dexter, the Burke-Gilman, the Central District, Wallingford, and the (almost complete) West Thomas St Overpass which will connect Uptown to the Waterfront Trail.

All of this reminds me of Adam Parast’s excellent thesis on the relative bikeability of Seattle and Portland.  Consulting his map of current Seattle bikeability confirms my hunch:  urban villages score much more highly and that, in the absence of a strong effort for new facilities, they should be prioritized for bikeshare.  Adam’s map of potential bikeability is similarly instructive:  downtown simply doesn’t have to be as terrible as it is today.

Map by Adam Parast
Map by Adam Parast

The initial rollout needs to be a strong success to secure the political goodwill for the planned expansions.  If we do this wrong, if our infrastructural neglect contributes to a serious crash or fatality, or if putting bikes in the wrong places contributes to mediocre usage, we might not get another chance for years. Make no mistake, I want bikeshare in 2013, and I want it to be an incredible success.  But we need either new infrastructure, or different phasing.  Without them, the current plan is unacceptable.

88 Replies to “Bikeshare Doesn’t (Yet) Belong Downtown”

    1. I am. Even the proposed routes are well thought out. All I have to say is it’s a great article.

    2. Ditto.

      Bike share isn’t even as necessary downtown as it would be between other urban villages.

      Thanks to Metro’s downtown-centricity, we can all get downtown. And we can more or less get around downtown as easily as we could on a heavy utility bike. And we can shuttle between downtown and Capitol Hill, especially after 2016.

      But it’s a shame that I can’t grab a bike-share in Ballard, ride it to the U-District, and avoid the fuck out of the broken 44. Ditto for LQA to Eastlake or Broadway.

      It is also well-established that bikeshare only works with the repeal of (or a targeted exception to) mandatory helmet laws. And for all the reasons Zach states, downtown is not ready to go helmet-less (even with the safety bump that comes from increased ridership).

      1. That’s an interesting point; it leaves out the Burke-Gilman trail. People in Fremont are much more likley to take the BGT than 45th or 44th.

      2. Well, that map is just showing where the current proposal intends to distribute docking stations. (You want such a defined service area for the sake of drawing up routes and schedules for maintenance service.)

        There’s nothing that to keep riders from taking the most logical route between any two docks, which in the case of a Fremont-U District trip would be the Burke-Gilman.

        Still, it seems an oversight not to have a single dock anywhere Gas Works Park, especially since that is a known gap in Metro coverage. (Of course, skipping Ballard entirely in the first three phases would be even dumber.)

      3. BTW, I’m a bit shocked at the intended number of stations in the second diagram. Dozens of stations in a ten-block radius, most with >25 docks?

        That is a lot of bikes for such a limited initial coverage area — many more than in similar swaths of Boston or D.C., both much denser and busier cities than Seattle.

      4. …all of which bolsters Zach’s point that Puget Sound Bike Share hasn’t thought any of these details through very well.

      5. Seriously, Ballard to U. District is a corridor in desperate need of transportation options, is grade-friendly, and has the Burke. Low hanging fruit, there.

        I have to agree with the “village first” plan, though selfishly I’d prefer to see that Pine St. cycletrack. Even if I mostly walk that route; who wouldn’t rather walk next to a cycle path than a busy car lane. It would also connect nicely with a 7th Ave track

        Zach for PSBS director!

  1. Totally agree. A bikeshare seems like we’re rushing it. Vancouver, BC doesn’t even have bikeshare yet and they have superior bikeability, including downtown cycletracks.

    All you’re going to hear is “war on cars” and “how much of my tax dollars are supporting this bike boondogle?”

  2. Bikeshare should be included as part of the post-Viaduct transit plan, along with cycle tracks and the new Waterfront Streetcar. Until then, I don’t see much need for it in Seattle– and yes, this is the rare case for Seattle exceptionalism that actually makes sense.

    1. I thought that the Waterfront Streetcar was dead. We’re selling off all the old cars which leads me to believe that they are no longer in the game.

  3. Is there really enough room for a cycle track on Pine? It’s the only street that leads from Capitol Hill to Downtown. Would this cause backups on Melrose?

      1. Denny goes to the Seattle Center, not downtown.

        Olive is EB only.

        Pike is EB only at 9th Ave.

        Seneca leads to First Hill, not Capitol Hill.

        Madison does get you to Capitol Hill.

      2. Well, Seneca does turn into E Union, which is definitely part of the new Pike-Pine.

    1. EB Pine is little used by cars because it’s one way WB from 1st to 8th Ave. Most drivers act like it’s a couplet, using Pike EB and Pine WB. Melrose might queue a little more, but drivers headed from downtown to I-5 NB should be using Olive or the Pike express lane ramp anyway.

    2. Pike/Pine is a total mess for cyclist and transit, mostly because Pine is one-way Westbound west of 8th. This forces both buses and cyclist onto Pike when coming out of downtown, hitting congestion when approaching Boren for transit and forcing cyclist to ride on a street without bike lanes in the up hill direction.

      I personally would flip what Zach proposes. I would put all buses on Pine and build a cycle track on Pike. Both streets have room, espeically Pike which currently has a left turn lane that could probably be eliminated without significant traffic impacts, which could give you close to ~11ft for a cycle track.

      1. I’d be fine with that too, Adam. We’re fortunate that both Pike and Pine have EB trolley wire.

      2. This makes a bit more sense to me. But would you send the buses back to Pike somewhere west of 8th Ave? There is way more bus infrastructure on Pike and not enough room for it on Pine.

      3. We had a great conversation on the bike blog about options for a safer Pike/Pine: http://seattlebikeblog.com/2011/09/22/what-would-a-modern-pikepine-bike-facility-look-like/

        There seem to be several options that could work. Pike definitely has more space to work with, as Adam points out. I love the idea of making them both two-way streets (or at least Pine). These streets are some of the most economically and culturally important places in our city. They are not freeway on-ramps.

      4. @Bruce Probably the same as now, not really sure. I was mostly thinking about the trolley buses, not I-5 express buses.

      5. I’m not too worried about buses on the Pike express ramp (there are few of them now, will be fewer after September), I’m worried about GP traffic volumes and speeds, signal phasing, the size and complexity of the intersection. Pine St is operationally much easier in this respect.

      6. You just can’t exit… Of course, we could redo 9th as two way, but that’s a major project that requires installing at least one set of new signals, and perhaps rethinking other intersections. I’m not saying Pike is impossible, I’m saying this intersection makes Pike harder than Pine.

      7. You can’t currently exit onto Pike or 9th today. What do all the incoming HOVs and buses do now? Head beneath the convention center to Union?

        Does anyone really use that exit in the morning? It really seems like an afternoon access point to me.

      8. There’s a fair amount of inbound traffic there in the morning. Mostly it goes under the convention center, with a bit of it turning left on Pike to go up to First Hill.

      9. David, about a year ago they changed the curb/lane structure so as to disallow entering the express lane from westbound Pike (you had previously been able to do so in the PM).

        Are you sure that change didn’t also disallow exiting from the express lane (in the AM) toward Boren/First Hill?

  4. Bycicle safety needs huge improvements but so does pedestrian safety. So many drivers especially during the evening rush hour just act like the rules don’t apply. It’s funny if I was driving a little fast through their suburban neighborhood they would yell at me or spray me with their hose. It happened when I was younger and stupider. So why is it ok for them to come downtown and drive 40 M.P.H. Run red lights flip off and honk at pedestrians that have the right of way. If I yell at them to slow down people see me asacrazy person. In the suburbs I would be seen as a protective father. I think we should have cops on motorcycles at random intersections and ticket people for speedin and running red lights. Make it safe for the pedestrians by slowing down traffic and getting people to stop running red lights and it will also improve by circle safety.

    1. The only thing that I think will improve pedestrian safety is more pedestrians. And a bike share will certainly bring more pedestrians to an area.

      Apart from somehow narrowing the streets and moving the buildings close together, that is.

      1. I disagree. Look at places like NYC or Chicago: way more pedestrians and both the pedestrians and the drivers flout the laws way more frequently and ostentatiously. Having more people walking around may make a positive difference, but it ultimately comes down to quality street design and adequate and consistent enforcement of the law.

    2. Slight tangent, but if you think downtown is bad, you should check out Amazonland, bordered by Mercer & Denny and Westlake & Fairview. It’s a bunch of four way stops, with tons of pedestrian traffic, but you have a lot of drivers (with very expensive cars) who try to use it as an alternate to Mercer/Denny.

      I alternate running and biking through there daily, to get to and from work downtown near the Greyhound Station (Denny Triangle I guess). You’d be amazed at all the cars that run stop signs or gun their engine from a stop and swerve, just to avoid pedestrians, so they can get to the lights on Westlake/Fairview. In recent months, they’ve stationed traffic cops in the afternoons at the southern couple of four way stops to control the Mercer/Denny avoiders. Still, I cannot count the times I’ve almost been run over by drivers not paying attention or being way too aggressive at the stop signs. But there is no good way to bike/run from Lake Union Trail to the Denny Triangle area.

      1. Huh? I’ve never encountered any significant amount of such behavior in SLU. I much prefer riding and walking there than downtown. These is a lack of good places to cross Denny, and a total lack of good places to cross Aurora — that’s SLU’s problem.

      2. Anon my parents live in that neighborhood. I’ve seen it. I consider that to be part of downtown. That is one of the worst areas of downtown for pedestrians. Not long ago I was crossing a street with a walk light and a guy in a convertible Mercedes talking on his cell phone starts honking revving his engine and swearing at me to get out of his way. I responded by flipping him off and walking slower. More bikes and more pedestrians will make it safer. I think another good and cheap solution could be rumble strips approaching intersections and off ramps from the highways into neighborhoods with high pedestrian traffic.

      3. Bruce, it helps to go during rush hour times, but I promise you it happens. And I’m only referencing the stop sign intersections in area bordered by Denny, Fairview, Mercer and Westlake. I never go via Westlake, Fairview or anywhere outside that area until I cross Denny at Westlake.

        The worst intersection is the one in front of Portage Bay Cafe. I’ve given diners there a good show on a few occasions, when myself and a reckless driver get into a shouting match.

      4. My experience with SLU Amazonland is that it’s lovely during the day but between 5pm and 6pm it really does turn into the nightmare Anon is talking about.

    3. Bike lanes will help walking. They dramatically shorten the crossing distance, and fewer lanes means less speeding.

  5. I pretty much agree with everything Zach has said. I’m a fairly experienced/strong cyclist and I avoid biking downtown. I don’t feel safe.

    I would implement 1A in the U-district, perhaps even first. It will likely to be one of the highest use areas due to demographics, parking prices, and the travel time benefits that bicycles see over car/transit. It also doesn’t have the traffic issues that downtown has sans NE45th/NE50th and 15th Ave. Lots of alternative routes though.

    This is why so many of my comments about the bicycle master plan here are about this.

    1. I agree with what Zach said, too, but not with the conclusions that we should implement away from downtown. We have plenty of time to start the downtown cycle track planning process so that it’s ready to go during next year’s paving season, ahead of the bike share launch. Let’s put pressure to make it happen. Sally Clark is on board (she tweeted about it the other day). The DSA is on board. What’s holding us back?

      1. I agree, and my point is that not starting downtown is only preferable to starting in an unimproved downtown. We should definitely make the cycle tracks happen before bike share comes online. I’m not sure what’s holding us back.

      2. I think a lot of things are in limbo right now because of the bicycle master planning effort. Cycle tracks and Greenways are the main focus of the update and until some of that is ironed out I see it hard moving forward.

  6. If the Burke Gilman were fully complete in Ballard, I’d definitely see it as a candidate for phase 1A. It’s unfortunate.

  7. Quite a few bike share operations receive public subsidies. Often, it’s a very large chunk of their revenue. If PSBS receives public funds, would Microsoft’s bike share program be partially funded by the public?

    1. Bike shares in the US have relied much more of corporate sponsorship that European systems… so a Microsoft system would probably be mostly/all covered by Microsoft. In the grand scheme of thing a bike shares is fairly cheap for Microsoft.

      1. On PSBS’s website, on the right hand side under business plan, then table 6.1, Grants and Public Funding, they have a list of U.S. Bikeshare programs and the breakdown of public/private funding. Capital funding in some cases were 100% public.

      2. From my knowledge all of the 100% publicly financed bike shares are owned by a municipal government or transit agency. The Puget Sound is following the non-profit model which Denver and Minnesota are following. These models draw from a more distributed source of income with 84% and 33% of those two systems coming from private sources. When you have the likes of UW, Children’s and Microsoft to fund these projects the non-profit model is a better way to go.

  8. Please – No more 2-way cycle tracks!

    In the cases of 2nd Ave, where one direction can be a contraflow lane, I could see the cycletrack working but otherwise, 2-way cycletracks are a danger waiting to happen. Left turning vehicles on the opposite side of the cycletrack (for example, southbound Broadway on the planned First Hill Streetcar Cycle track), have to not only calculate when a gap will appear for traffic and pedestrians as they do today but then somehow turn their head around far enough to see a bike traveling in the same direction at 10 to 15 mph.

    I’m fine with single direction cycle tracks, but please, stop this two-way conversation before we have to spend our few dollars fixing the mistakes of the recent past.

    1. 2-way cycle tracks work pretty well along arterials in Europe. The typical European streetscape is a little different, but… hopefully we have the good sense not to allow uncontrolled left turns across them here.

    2. Washington, DC has a two-way cycle track along 15th St NW. After some initial pain, it has settled down and works very well, because it attracts such a high volume of cyclists that they’re very visible. Now DC residents are clamoring for more two-way cycle tracks and it looks like they’re going to get them.

      I’d support a two-way cycle track on Second. There’s no room on Third without disrupting bus service, and Second is better than any other option.

  9. Close 4th ave to all motor vehicles (except during precisely designated delivery hours, for permitted vehicles only), and make it a 2-way cycle route. Bikeshare stations at every block.

    You’re welcome.

    1. I’d settle for a bike lane that doesn’t stop in hotel parking halfway through downtown, stranding me on the far left lane.

      1. Yeah, the Spring St lane-drop is unacceptable. It’s awful to have a nice climbing lane only to suddenly be jostling with Hotel Monaco’s valet. It’s especially treacherous for me trying to get from King St to Capitol Hill…I have to cross 3 lanes of fast moving traffic in between Spring and Pike. Even though it’s 1/2 mile longer, I usually just take Jackson to 12th to Pike instead. Much less stress.

    2. How would you propose to get northbound traffic through downtown? 4th absorbs almost all of the northbound traffic through downtown right now. 1st has limited capacity; 3rd is (correctly) restricted to buses during rush hour; and 6th doesn’t start northbound until Marion Street.

  10. It’s not just about infrastructure, it’s also about culture and practice.

    Lake Washington Blvd. from around Harrison to Seward Park has less infrastructural support for biking than many streets around here. For example, 2nd or 4th Avenues downtown (bike lanes); 1st Ave S going over the railyard in SODO (sharrows); 45th in Wallingford (poorly-designed sharrows and a poorly-designed bike lane); all of these pretty lousy places to actually bike. Yet LWB is a popular street to bike on and a good street to bike on because drivers and cyclists there generally respect eachother. LWB is similar in design, width, and traffic volumes to North Road near Lynnwood HS, where I’ve been honked at, yelled at, threatened, and deliberately run off the road the few times I’ve tried riding it. What’s the difference? Attitudes and behavior, culture and practice, not infrastructure.

    Non-advanced riders downtown will largely ride on sidewalks and won’t go all that fast. They’ll establish a presence of non-athlete cyclists downtown that’s missing today, and as drivers see more people around on bikes they’ll learn to drive better with them and take those lessons with them wherever they go. We’ll have demand for better facilities among people that don’t care today. If we continue to abandon downtown as a site for practical, everyday biking it continues to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    1. Part of it is that the section of LWB popular for biking is not a major commuter route, so most of the drivers are recreational drivers who are more relaxed. The same LWB west of Madison is a very hostile place to bike, because it’s a major commuter route from/to Madison Park, and car drivers are all in a big hurry.

      Another part of it is the really unbelievable hostility that has developed toward bikes in the suburbs as we have continued to undergo cultural polarization and bikes have become an urban symbol. As a kid in Bellevue I biked *everywhere*. People tolerated it OK even on the big arterials. Today, I’d get run off the road in the exact same places.

      1. North Road isn’t a major commuter route either (except maybe around Lynnwood HS rush hour) — I’ve never encountered heavy traffic on the road yet I have encountered hostility at an unbelievable rate. That’s why I think it’s about culture and practice.

        I’ve actually encountered heavy traffic on LWB; I ride there during rush hour often enough, and sometimes weekend traffic is quite heavy. I’ve never encountered hostility, not once. Did it become a popular bike route because drivers were so polite there? Or are drivers polite there because they expect to see cyclists and are already adjusted to their presence when they turn onto the road? There’s surely a bit of a feedback loop, maybe it’s a chicken-and-egg situation, but anyway, I’m pretty sure the stats show that when more people bike in a place there are usually fewer accidents per-cyclist. Drivers learn to drive better around bikes when it’s clear that bikes belong. Bike share downtown will make it clear that bikes belong, and maybe then we’ll transcend the “war on cars” meme and fix downtown.

      2. It’s also because most of the people on southern Lake Washington Boulevard live in the neighborhood so they’re well aware it’s a major bike route; they’ve seen Car-Free Sundays; and they may know somebody who goes biking there.

  11. I just found out about viaCycle today. It’s like Zipcar for bikes. There’s a little GPS tracker integrated into the bike and everything, no central docking stations required. Seattle should just wait for that.

  12. Regarding facilities for cyclists, take a look at Sydney Australia and their downtown street network, where entire lanes have been carved out and physically separated for use of bicyclists.

    Did traffic come to a grinding halt? No. But Sydney also enjoys a thriving walk-on ferry service operating with an intensity that makes our ferries look like lizards on cold winter day.

    Sydney’s a lot like Seattle, except… what?

    Must be something about the air below the equator. More oxygen? Some kind of virus that infects victims with intelligence? We should look into it.

      1. Isn’t that just a function of where they draw their political divisions? The Metro areas are not that different in population.

        The Sydney Statistical Division has a population of 4,119,190 whereas the Seattle–Tacoma–Bellevue, WA Metropolitan Statistical Area has a pop of 3,500,026.

        So not THAT different.

      2. I’d guess that:

        1) Tacoma (and Everett, if it’s included in our MSA) is less integrated with Seattle than the farthest-flung parts of the Sydney Statistical Division.
        2) Downtown Sydney is more concentrated and a more dominant regional force than downtown Seattle.
        3) That 1 and 2 don’t really matter for these purposes — that Sydney might really be bigger and more concentrated, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t make biking work downtown when so many cities around the world have done it and are doing it.

    1. Sydney’s a lot like Seattle, except… what?

      IT’s a lot warmer and a lot less hilly in the CBD.

      1. Not relevant to bikes, but Sydney does have an all-day commuter-train network across the city and metropolitan area like European cities. Not as good as a metro but better than what Seattle and most American cities have.

    2. Replying to Al, what’s interesting about Sydney is how they’ve exploited their water to more tightly integrate the region. There’s no need for roadways and pavement to reach Manly, for instance; it’s a 25 minute ride by ferry that would probably take an hour by road in favorable traffic conditions.

      Ferries in Sydney run like buses, except for how tickets are sold. There are milk-runs and there are express runs, some touching at a number of stops and some running direct. Service is very frequent.

      So, a mirror view would be that greater Seattle is missing economic integration it might otherwise enjoy. Our navigable, proximate-to-development water availability is if anything even better than that of Sydney. Sydney makes this water work for Good, we don’t. It’s intriguing to imagine why this might be.

      Steering a course closer to bicycles and thus remaining somewhat closer to “on-topic” I’ll not that Sydney ferries accommodate bicycles in larger numbers and without causing delays, whereas our buses are simply don’t scale for bikes.

      We have exactly the same “virtual roadways” available to us, we choose not to use them, for some reason. I was struck by this during a recent visit to Sydney, as I was by the little-remarked general bicycle infrastructure in the CBD. It’s fascinating to me how one community can make things seem so obviously easy while others get stuck on “what if something bad happens” or “we can’t do that because” or ???

      1. Qualifying my remark about Manly, no need for roadways -if- you’re a worker accessing the CBD or many other places in the Sydney region.

        Obviously roadways are necessary but the ferry system makes driving from Manly to the CBD for work optional, more so because Sydney takes a systems approach, with for instance the major ferry terminal Circular Quay being located directly adjacent to a commuter rail station. How about our ferries? Are any of them touched by light rail within walking distance? Are plans to do so being drawn up?

      2. You say “systems approach” but American voters hear “socialism”. As long as we treat each mode of transportation as competitive with others, attempts to work holistically will be seen as unfair government intervention in the War on Cars.

        I still haven’t gotten over the initial shock of moving to Seattle 4 years ago, and wondering why we don’t use the water. It’s barbaric that we have a large lake in the middle of our city and I can’t catch a water taxi to cross it.

  13. I ride to work everyday, and I like the idea of a bike sharing program, especially for us long distance commuters. I lost the argument last month here on what happens when too many cyclists show up at once for the bus, so in reality a bike share though not perfect will work for many.

    But as Al Dimond says, it’s all about the culture. There are some really good drivers here, but damn the bad ones sure know how to screw up any cyclists day, and then some.

    Take the Ballard Bridge for example. There used to be a large yield sign notifying drivers that were making a turn onto Nickerson going south across the canal, it’s now gone. That intersection alone is a freakin’ nightmare where I have been almost hit so many times, and drivers still don’t give a shit there.

    We can wish all we want, but none of this will work until the screwy Seattle Police Dept starts to care about cyclists as a whole, and the car driving population comes to respect cyclists as everyday commuters on the road as well.

    1. Bike shares are about short 1-2 mile trips that are just a bit too long to walk and too short to be effectively served by transit.

      So for example you want to go from Fred Hutch to Lower Queen Ann. Via transit that is roughly a 35 minute trip without delays. By bike its 15 minutes.

  14. As much as I would like to promote bikeshare in Seattle I think the plan has the rollout entirely backwards. There is no “last mile” problem in downtown Seattle. Look at the map! The downtown core (First to Sixth Ave.s, Westlake to Yeslter) that has most of the bikes is:

    1) 1/3 mile wide and 1 mile long
    2) very high vehicle traffic
    3) very high pedestrian traffic
    4) steep
    5) well served by transit
    6) eminently walkable

    The business plan did a “heat mapping” exercise to identify the best area to begin a bike share program: “High demand areas were identified through a heat mapping exercise that allocated points to where people ‘live, work, shop, play, and take transit’.”

    Unfortunately, they forgot to include: “and where a final destination is too far to walk yet safe to bike to”.

    I have used Capitol Bikeshare in DC and absolutely love it but Seattle is nothing like DC in terms of geography. Riding a bikeshare bike from the Mall up the relatively gentile incline to Adams Morgan is not something for casual riders. A bikeshare system in downtown Seattle would inevitably become a “coasting system” involving a lot of one way rides from the Capitol Hill and Lower Queen Anne to downtown in the mornings and then from there to Pioneer Square in the evenings.

    For anyone that lives in Seattle neighborhoods the problem is not getting downtown or getting around in downtown. The problem is getting CROSS TOWN and getting the last mile home from at the end of your downtown commute.

    Here’s an alternative rollout for bike share that has many fewer problems and a much higher likelihood of success than a downtown rollout:

    Connect the U District with Ballard

    1) employment centers at the UW, UW hospital, Fremont, Ballard
    2) shopping at U Village, U district, Fremont, Fed Meyers, Ballard
    3) entertainment in U district, Fremont, Ballard
    4) outdoor venues at Arboretum, Gasworks, Locks, Golden Gardens
    5) high density housing in U district, Ballard
    6) bicycle oriented clientele, employers, infrastructure in U district, Fremont, Ballard

    Phase 1A) SPU, South Lake Union, Wallingford, EastLake,

    We shouldn’t be trying to put inexperienced tourists on heavy bikes in downtown traffic. Instead, we should be trying to get SPU students to ride bikes to Fred Meyers instead of driving a car. (Any idea how hard it is to get anywhere from SPU without a car?) We should make it easy for the people moving into the thousands of new apartments in Ballard and the U District (feet from the BG) to get to their bus stop, school, work, the doctor, a park, the library, their favorite bar, etc. without ever getting in a car.

    That’s where the last mile problem is.

      1. Excellent plan/map for a first-phase(s) rollout!!

        It even makes the SLUT useful as part of a longer trip for the first time. (Don’t bother dealing with unreliable buses. Park a bike at SLU, let the trolley handle getting you into the city center.)

        This is so much more necessary than PSBS’s plan for shuttling around downtown. Also, you know the PSBS stations on Capitol Hill would be empty all the time, since people would mostly use those bikes in the downhill direction. It would help to have experience responding to bike- redistribution needs (this is done using vans, BTW) before moving up the hill.

        As dumb as it is that the PSBS map contains three phases without even considering Ballard, I’m intrigued by their Eastside plans. In Bellevue, Redmond, and Kirkland, it actually does make sense to focus on being able to shuttle around the respective downtown areas without a car. These downtowns sprawl, walkable routes are imperfect, and intra-downtown transit is lousy. No one will be riding between those three centers on bike-share; the purpose is entirely different on that side of the lake.

        (One caveat: I would worry that all the bikes at the Bellevue/Redmond/Kirkland transit centers would disappear at 8:00 in the morning and never come back. Like Capitol Hill, this will require a higher investment in redistribution vans/labor than in bike-share cities where people ride everywhere-to-everywhere at all hours.)

        But in Seattle, where interneighborhood connectivity is our greatest challenge, focusing just on downtown and ignoring low-hanging fruit elsewhere is kind of dumb.

  15. Forget infrastructure, Bicycle share in Seattle will be an *absolute and abject failure* unless the mandatory helmet law is repealed.

    And this failure (and its monetary cost, i.e. “boondoggle”) will be jumped on by the enemies of Mayor McSchwinn.

    Want proof? Go to Melbourne, Australia:


    1. I’ve been saying this every time bike-share comes up in conversation.

      And we can’t expect Seattle to do the common-sense thing (targeted exception for bike-share/utility bikes for riders over 18). Because it’s Seattle.

      Your video is great, but also sad. The Australians remind me of Seattleites. “Butbutbutbutbutbutbut… helmet=safe. We were told!” Doesn’t matter that casual “novice” riders actually ride with much more care than road warriors. Doesn’t matter that drivers have been proven to give helmet-less riders on sit-up bikes a wider berth. Doesn’t matter, because “butbutbutbutbutbutbut… helmet=safe. We were told!

      Here another take on the failure of Australian bike-share: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADoy7GgnF_s

      1. The helmet law is a County code. Seattle would have to go to the County Council and ask for an exemption. I don’t think that’s going to happen until unless the bike infrastructure sees significant safety improvements.

      2. No, Seattle adopted the helmet law after King County. There was a point where one did not need a helmet in the City of Seattle, but did so out in the boonies.

        Seattle can return the status of foam hats back to this by itself.

      3. No, there “was a time” but the King County ordinance was amended in 2003 to specifically include Seattle. WSDOT documents it here. Or you can read Title 9 for yourself.

        The board of
        health therefore finds that bicycle helmets are required for
        the safe operation of bicycles not powered by motor on public
        roadways, bicycle paths or any right-of-way or publicly
        owned facility located in King County, including Seattle.

      4. The Medical Examiner noted that of the eight bicycle-
        related deaths in 2000, four were not wearing helmets.

        The Medical Examiner noted that of eight people killed by West Nile Virus, four were women. Quick! Mandatory sex changes for women!

        The board of health therefore finds that…

        …they have the same credibility as those who created Food Pyramid, those who classified homosexuality as a mental illness, and those who endorsed bloodletting.

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