On Monday, the Seattle City Council voted in favor of two major expansions of public bike infrastructure, though one is a nonbinding resolution, and does not carry the force of law.
The meaningful vote authorizes the expansion of dockless bike share to a potential 20,000 vehicles, provided SDOT develops a bikeshare parking enforcement regime and improves the pedestrian experience of people with disabilities.
The other vote, a unanimously approved nonbinding resolution, is a rebuke towards SDOT for not building downtown’s bike network fast enough for the council’s liking. (We’ll have more information on that issue later.)
The council moved to allow SDOT to expand dockless bike share to at least 20,000 bikes, spread among up to 4 companies. Companies could pay up to $250,000 in fees to the city (one current provider, Ofo recently announced that it would be exiting the Seattle market due to the new fee structure).
Some critics of bikeshare have argued, with scant evidence, that poorly parked bikes aren’t just a nuisance or eyesore, but rather that they’re bad for business or other civic virtues.
More importantly, several blind and vision-impaired Seattle residents pointed out that unpredictably parked bikes are dangerous for them—and encouraged the construction of the basic bike network to keep bikers off sidewalks.
“Blind, disabled, and all other pedestrians are being severely impacted by the bicycles that are littered on the sidewalks that we try to walk on,” says Marci Carpenter, president of the Washington chapter of the National Federation of the Blind.
“There needs to be direct parking enforcement and management of the right of way. I support the basic bike network because the more cyclists feel comfortable riding in bike lanes on the streets, the less likely they are to run into us on the sidewalks.
In response to the comments and lobbying of Carpenter and other people with disabilities, Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Mike O’Brien added unanimously approved amendments to the bike share ordinance. Herbold’s amendment will allow bikeshare contractors to add 1,000 additional bikes to their fleet if they make major investments in vehicles that can serve people with disabilities, and O’Brien’s mandates parking enforcement.
We’ll report on the bike parking enforcement program when more information becomes available.