Seattle cyclists who supported Mayor Ed Murray's billion dollar transportation levy last fall are pissed about the city’s new plan for the next five years of bike infrastructure projects, which they say fails to safeguard cyclists throughout the city—especially downtown.
The 2016 SDOT Bike Master Plan Implementation Plan—an update of the 2015 implementation plan—is less bike-friendly, not more, than its predecessor. Under the plan, released on April 13, protected bike lanes in downtown Seattle have all but vanished. Miles of bike lanes and neighborhood greenways, particularly in downtown and South Seattle, have been cut.
"Burn it and try again," said Tom Fucoloro, a biker and popular blogger who runs the Seattle Bike Blog.
Commenters on Fucoloro's site accused Murray of a "bait-and-switch." Some vowed never to vote for Murray or his levy proposals again. "This is it, Murray lost my vote," said one. "I don’t care if he revises this plan all the way back to the one from last year."
The city’s cycling advocates lent their support to the mayor’s Move Seattle proposal, a billion-dollar transportation property tax levy, last November. The levy is supposed to advance the city toward Vision Zero—an ambitious goal of zero traffic deaths or serious injuries in Seattle by 2020.
The Move Seattle levy passed by a wide margin, with bicycling advocates like the Cascade Bicycle Club touting how it would support the construction of new bike lanes and greenways across the city. "Fund our future," the group said. Cyclists expected the 2016 plan for the next five years of bike safety projects in Seattle to reflect the big infusion of cash by voters.
Instead, over the next five years, SDOT's 2016 plan cuts the five-year total of protected bike lanes by 9 miles and cuts neighborhood greenways by 20 miles, compared to last year's plan, according to Fucoloro.
Eli Goldberg, a software engineer who lives on Capitol Hill and commutes to work in South Lake Union, was dismayed to see the new plan. “Right now, it’s just too dangerous [to bike to work],” he said. "So I’ll be wasting as much as 60-90 minutes a day on the 8 bus instead, to commute just a few miles."
The plan cuts protected bike lanes throughout South Seattle, including 12th Ave South, Airport Way South, Martin Luther King Jr. Way, South Jackson Street.
Neighborhood greenways on South Marion Street, 1st Ave NE, South Hill Street, South Dearborn Street, NE 68th and 66th Streets, East Pine Street, and North 36th Street are gone.
"Limping forward with our anemic bike network is not going to get us to zero [traffic deaths]," said the Urbanist, reacting to the new plan. "SDOT has a steep hill in front of them to regain the confidence of bicycle advocates."
The situation is no better in downtown Seattle. After the 2014 death of Sher Kung on Second Avenue—killed by a turning truck during her morning commute on an unprotected bike lane—SDOT swiftly constructed a protected bike lane along the street, creating the beginnings of a "spine" through downtown. That lane would become part of a "Center City Mobility Plan" plan for more protected bike lanes throughout downtown.
But SDOT has removed the majority of downtown bike projects from its new plan. From a bike safety perspective, this means cyclists are screwed just about anywhere in the downtown area besides Second Avenue. The Center City Mobility Plan's bike component is explicitly on hold, pending an update that SDOT promises for later this summer.
The 16,000-member Cascade Bicycle Club, the local bicycle lobby’s juggernaut, blasted the city in a statement. The CBC said "now is the time" to begin building out the entire Center City bike network over the next five years—to create a grid of protected bike lanes in downtown Seattle connected to other parts of the city. "A family, for example, should be able to safely bike with their 8-year-old from their home in Beacon Hill to the Mariner’s game in SoDo," the group said.
Right now, biking in the downtown area demands "advanced skill and bravery," the CBC added.
So far, the city is standing by its new plan. In a statement, SDOT spokesperson Rick Sheridan said the changes between the 2015 and 2016 plans were based on available funding, its own priorities, and a "geographic equity" analysis—it's not clear why that meant so many cuts. SDOT will provide an update on the Center City Mobility plan this summer, he said, and will update the bike implementation plan again next year.
The fight may be headed to city council chambers. A staffer for Council Member Mike O’Brien—an avid cyclist who bikes to City Hall on the daily, and chair of the transportation committee—said his office is still reviewing the new SDOT plan. O’Brien plans to hold a committee briefing on the issue on May 17.