Bicycling Magazine Is Dead Wrong About Seattle



Well said. And weather is a factor, whether or not.


Seattle is a construction zone. I found it easier to ride to/from/through downtown 10 years ago (before the addition of protected bike lanes) than I do now. Every day is a new adventure. You never know what lanes will be closed for construction, blocked by delivery vehicles and Uber drivers, or just torn up and unridable.

Remember when we had a mayor who rode a bike? He was mocked for it.


Build it and they won't come...:

"In fact, census data released this month show that in 2017, bike commuting in Seattle fell to its lowest level in a decade.

Last year, just 2.8 percent of workers who reside in the city of Seattle commuted to work by bicycle as their primary mode of transportation most days. That’s down from 3.5 percent in 2016, and 4 percent the year before, a statistically significant decline. And remarkably, you have to go all the back to 2007 to find a lower number — it was 2.3 percent that year."


Yep, weather.. and the hills, too. More bike infrastructure would improve biking immensely in Seattle, but there are, unfortunately, some natural limits here. I commute by bike over 20 miles every weekday and, while it's still my preferred way to get around town, the hills never seem more bearable. I wish I had a better attitude about it, but I'd like to whine about at least one thing I can't control.


"More bike infrastructure would improve biking immensely in Seattle,"

Really? After a decade of building infrastructure there's fewer cyclists.


OK, the award is ridiculous, but Lester's reporting even more so.

"Remember that time some citizen activists implanted improvised explosive devices to construction equipment on a project that would improve bicycle access in Northeast Seattle?"

(1) They were fireworks. At no point in the Seattle Times article you link to is the phrase "improvised explosive devices" used. (2) There is simply no proof that anti-bicycle "citizen activists" were responsible. It could easily have been kids or who knows who. But that's the point. We do not know.

Lester, during this troubling time of "fake news" you have do to better. Don't give those with an anti-media agenda the fodder they are looking for.


If you do a public records request, you will find the city lobbied hard for this distinction and supplied a lot of phony data to the magazine. How do I know this? Because it has happened before.


We don't need bike lanes because we have SHARROWS! Everyone knows that sharrows magically protect bikers from being hit by cars. What about the sharrows, Lester? What about the sharrows?


@ the upset dude he keeps putting spandex in his sock puppet account alias

Troll harder. You're really failing at it today. Putin would be very displeased. You want that holiday in Sochi not Siberia right?


Yes, fake news like this!

"In fact, census data released this month show that in 2017, bike commuting in Seattle fell to its lowest level in a decade.

Last year, just 2.8 percent of workers who reside in the city of Seattle commuted to work by bicycle as their primary mode of transportation most days. That’s down from 3.5 percent in 2016, and 4 percent the year before, a statistically significant decline. And remarkably, you have to go all the back to 2007 to find a lower number — it was 2.3 percent that year."

Build it, and they WON'T come apparently!


We haven't built it.


Eugene and Ft. Collins aren't "Cities". They're towns.


"We haven't built it."

Really? Ten years, no bike infrastructure built in Seattle? Declining ridership? I'm shocked I tell you.


I think that at the bargain price of $12 million dollars a mile, bicycle lanes are an incredible deal.

Just sit in traffic on 2nd avenue and watch both bicycles go by.
Totally worth it.


@2: I've stopped biking downtown for precisely that reason. Between streetcar tracks, closed streets, aggressive drivers, and closed bike lanes, it's just not worth it. It used to be that I could look online and plan a reasonably safe route that utilized mostly bike lanes. Admittedly, very few of those bike lanes were protected, but hey - at least they were dedicated spaces to ride. Now we have a few protected bike lanes, but everything's closed with absolutely no warning. Other than the Mercer Mess, it wasn't like this a decade or even half a decade ago.


Also, everyone talking about hills - you've heard of ebikes, right? They're friggin' AMAZING. If only there were safe places to ride them..


Another travesty is the $140 million we are spending on the Lander St overpass. It is less than two blocks, doen't have a bike lane, and has only one sidewalk because two would be too expensive. They have only just started construction so it hasn't gone over budget yet.


I've been bike commuting daily here for over 15 years, currently from W Seattle to the U district. I think it's great, but not because of "Bike Infrastructure." Most of the "Protected bike lanes" are death traps, especially downhill. And they just lead to a lot of confusion too.


I ride in the 2nd Ave bike lane between Denny and Wall every day and don't feel safe there. At least once a week I have to veer or stop to avoid colliding with pedestrians crossing against the light. Yesterday I narrowly escaped being hit by a car turning from the center lane against the light.


Is this the kind of magazine list/best of gimmick, where they need to find a new "best" city every year so they can have something to write about? Maybe they used up all the better biking cities and got down to Seattle.

By the way, I find it weird that the author writes, "Outside of riding in that one protected bike lane downtown, I never feel safe riding in this city." Really? I've biked in Seattle since 1994, much of that daily commuting on arterials (no bike lanes). Sure, it would be nice to have a protected lane straight to my house, but I generally feel pretty safe. I try to be careful; I stop at red lights and stop signs, I give cars a wide birth, treating them like death machines, and I haven't had an accident in 28 years.


@ 19. So don't use the bike lane! No law says you have to use it. I never have and never will. the thing is not safe.


@17: On those days when I don’t commute by bike, I walk through 4th & Lander every day at rush hour. The trains running north into downtown turn Lander into a parking lot, which then causes 4th and 6th to jam as well. The overpass will be two blocks long because that’s enough to get vehicles over the tracks.

4th Avenue is a major four-lane urban arterial which conveys heavy trucks. So is Lander St. Only cyclists with a death wish ever go anywhere near 4th & Lander, so there’s no need for a dedicated bike lane on the new overpass.


@21 no Washington law says you have to, but this could change - one reason I'm agnostic about the cycling infrastructure (except the I-90 and new SR-520 bike/ped lanes - those are Awesome!) you get enough $N Million/mile bike lane angry constituent comments and suddenly legislators might consider the change

I'll add my vote the the Cycling was a lot better before they started building the infrastructure camp (cycling in Seattle since 1972). but the fault lies not in the infrastructure - it's the construction and the additional drivers (they build more buildings but they can't really add to the road network) and the deterioration of the pavement) all the impacts all of that has on patience and civility


Take one look at UW at Pacific and 15th Ave. The City randomly constructed a 2-block long bike lane parallel to the Burke (a few feet away) that eliminated the right hand lane confusing drivers forced to merge in the middle of an intersection. The bike lane used by no-one could have maintained a right turn lane at the next intersection, instead it reduced traffic to 1 lane creating congestion as right turn cars wait for pedestrians blocking the entire intersection.
Or drive down Roosevelt way, where poorly placed medians are regularly driven over by drivers turning right for no reason at all.
The people constructing our bike lanes have never actually biked the area. They are throwing money at construction regardless of benefit to bikers or safety. Want to improve biking? Deal with the blind spot along the Burke where cyclists constantly ignore stop/yield signs combined with trees blocking cars from seeing them. This entire debate is just like Metro. The most mismanaged government agency since Washington State Ferries, where any suggestion for improvement is decried as "anti-transit". Metro stops are too close together, rides are inefficient, chronically late or missed and there is no real-time GPS location of bus arrivals meanwhile Limebike can tell me where 20,000 little bikes are around Seattle. OneBusAway is an inaccurate joke that causes people to be late to jobs, class and appointments further reducing ridership that could be dramatically expanded.


You are exactly right Lester. Let me add another: scads of AM 770 listening ideological assholes who while driving experience every cyclist as some sort of personal affront and target. Dorie et Al over there have whipped these douchebags up into a righteous rage, and from that narrowed perspective they act out angrily with their cars if the perceive the slightest conflict.

It's such a shame. I have absolutely nothing to do with bike advocacy, couldn't give a fuck about adding more bike infrastructure as a political cause, think things like those stupid lean at the light bars are an absurd waste if money. I don't care who bikes or doesn't, and I'm very obviously not saving the planet by doing so. All I want is a little exercise, a clear head and a good mood when I arrive at work and home after. Instead of sitting in traffic in a car in the same time window, then later driving to a gym or whatever. I wave cars through intersections, and recognize every cooperative moment with any driver with a friendly wave. Been riding for 25 years in Seattle.

But the frequency with which assholes are threatening me with their cars is just going up and up. It seems like so many more people lately don't see me on my bike as a human being but some
sort of hated political enemy. I dread now the inevitable little moments of confusion, or God forbid I actually fuck up and make some traffic mistake. Some minority of drivers seems just about ready to come out of their skins with rage at in a split second.

It sucks. Right wing radio, I think, has some people losing perspective and wound up for violence, way more here than in most other cities. Add that to the list.


@25 do you know what % of the total transportation budget goes to cycling infrastructure? I think cyclist are 3% of trips? If it was 3% of the budget would that seem fair to you?

Not a trap - I've got no idea what the answer is. But if spending is about proportional to use at first glance that doesn't seem unreasonable.

I drive plenty too, paid something like $1300 to register a couple of cars last year. Cost of living in the city I suppose. I'm not at all unhappy about road improvement either ....


@27: @25 is a bitter right-winger who secretly envies Seattle’s liberal inhabitants for our high quality of life. He can’t admit this, because admitting that ultra-liberal Seattle is doing better than pretty much anywhere else would be a per se violation of his ideology. So, to compensate, he complains endlessly about matters that don’t even concern him.

Seattle spends money on bike infrastructure because we voters so commanded in the Move Levy. Again, admitting that Seattle’s voters might have been correct about government spending would violate his ideology, so he simply ignores why we do what we do.


So is it the Columbia School of Journalism that mandates F-bombs-per-paragraph?


If you measure quality of biking in a town by the number of bike lanes you are bound to be disappointed. They will never go everywhere you might want to go. Riding on the road is perfectly safe as long as you are careful and pay attention. I have ridden in Seattle since the '80s and actually feel like drivers are no worse than they were. The fact that no one yells "faggot" at cyclists wearing spandex anymore j shows that they might even have evolved a bit. The Uber/Lyft drivers, on the other hand . . . half are staring at their phones, they randomly pull in and out of the bike lanes, and generally don;t seem to give a damn.


Yes, Minneapolis and the greater Twin Cities area have a superior cycling culture and excellent infrastructure to support it, and there are reasons for it.

For one: if you want to get around without driving, riding a bike is really the only viable option because the metro area is one of the least dense among comparable ones in the US. Downtown Minneapolis and Downtown St. Paul are nearly 10 miles apart, and that spread-out-ness permeates everything in the space around and between them. The result: poor walkability.

It also suffers from a substandard public transit system which is only now starting to catch up to those in its peer metros. And the lack of density is a problem there also. There’s now a light-rail line between the two downtowns, but travel time for that is more than 45 minutes, and headways are substantial. Meanwhile, it’s a 10-minute trip by car.

There are positive reasons for the favorable bicycling environment there, too. Minneapolis has, without a doubt, the finest and most well-maintained public parks of any US city — in large part because its Park Board has the authority to levy its own taxes. Adjacent jurisdictions may not have that advantage, but it’s put pressure on them to keep up with the standard Minneapolis has set. So there’s pretty broad public support and funding for greenways, bike paths through parkland and other off-street facilities.



Minneapolis is great for biking... 7 months of the year. For the other 5 it's not just unpleasant, but much less safe than the Pacific Northwest in "winter," too.

For all the groaning over the Bicycle Magazine article, I'm not sure their conclusion is as preposterous as everyone is making it out to be. "Best" is a relative thing, and when making the determination you do have to ask, "well, compared to what?"

Once you narrow it down to cities in the US where year-round cycling is viable for people of modest physical ability (or at least those whose routes don't run afoul of topographical bad luck), you're pretty much looking at the West Coast and the South, bastions of the kind of car culture that make Seattle look like Jane Jacobs' Greenwich Village, even without 3/4 of its promised infrastructure.

Yes, Seattle is pretty bad for cyclists. But that doesn't mean the rest of the country isn't worse.


yay! we won! can we stop with the $12million bike lanes then?


@32 agreed on all counts. I bike year-round in DC, which has okay infrastructure for it. On the other hand, its drivers are at least as aggressive as anywhere else; all those lawyers are every bit as alpha when they get behind the wheel. And no one who isn't a snow-belt transplant has any winter driving skills for whenever they're needed.


A couple of points: comparing Seattle to Fort Collins or Eugene is not valid, those towns are not even close to a city like Seattle in any category, so apples and oranges. Second, all of the best cycling countries (Scandanavia) have many roads where bicycles are not recommended or allowed. Lake City Way would be in that category.
I think the idea of placing bike lanes on extremely busy roads should be rethought. Roosevelt near 45th is a gridlock disaster because of the dedicated bike lane. Coupled with those islands where buses now stop in the traffic lane, ahhrrrg! The traffic along 75th, which is incredibly hilly, has become much worse because of the traffic redesigning and addition of bike lanes that about 5 people per day use! I personally would rather share a delineated (painted) lane with cars than have a dedicated lane that causes gridlock and drivers losing it! As a cyclist I do support bike friendly routes, 39th Ave NE is an example of one that work well. It's a hard problem and Seattle is doing better than most places.


Looking forward to the possibility of Bicycling magazine critiquing one of Lester's "Which Strain is Best" articles.


Cycling here kicks ass wtf are you talking about. It's beautiful and exhilarating.


@21 I don't use the bike lane where I know it's not the best option. I mostly get out with the cars so I can go fast enough to make all the lights.
It seems to me that SDOT is a big part of the problem. Add to @24's examples of bad design the orphan bike lane on southbound 5th Ave just south of Mercer that starts and stops in the middle of the block. Add also the new traffic lights all over Lower Queen Anne where every day pedestrians stand waiting for the walk sign until they realize they have to push the button. And why aren't the lights on Mercer timed like the north/south streets downtown?