Will the next council force the city to build more protected bike lanes, like this one on Capitol Hill?
Will the next council force the city to build more protected bike lanes, like this one on Capitol Hill? Lester Black

Seattle’s bike community is mad. Mayor Jenny Durkan and her Department of Transportation (SDOT) have cut promised bike lanes across the city—sometimes in highly visible capitulations to NIMBY homeowners, sometimes in secret—and now the bike community is left wondering if the city will ever fulfill Seattle's long-promised bike network.

But the one part of local government Seattle’s bicycle community is not mad at is the city council, which has been largely supportive of building bicycle infrastructure. The current council is essentially acting like breakwater, protecting bike lanes against a mayor who doesn’t appear interested in building them.

That raises the stakes in this year’s city council elections for anyone in Seattle who's interested in making the city a bike-friendly place. A majority of council seats—seven out of nine—are up for reelection this year. If the next council is equally as bike-friendly as the current one, bicyclists will continue to have a strong advocate against an apparently anti-bike, or at least ambivalent-about-bikes, mayor. But lose bike-friendly seats on the council and we may have to give up on the chances of a completed bicycle grid in Seattle any time soon.

The seven council seats up for election have attracted a crowd of 55 candidates, which will be narrowed down to 14 people after the August 6 primary. How do the 55 candidates compare on prioritizing bicycling? I wanted to find out, so I asked all of them—yes, all of them—a set of questions that included whether they wanted the city to spend more on bike infrastructure, whether they want to see more protected bike lanes, and whether they feel safe riding a bicycle in Seattle; 34 candidates responded.

I've put all of their answers in this spreadsheet, and pulled some responses, organized by district, at the bottom of this post. Here's a summary of how the candidates answered:

• 26 candidates said the city needs more protected bike lanes, five said the city should not build additional protected lanes.

• 18 candidates said the city needs to spend more on bike infrastructure, 10 said the city should not allocate more money for bike construction.

• 22 candidates said they ride bicycles themselves, while 11 said they did not feel safe riding a bicycle in Seattle.

A cyclist on the Burke Gilman trail.
A cyclist on the Burke Gilman trail. Lester Black

Bike advocates and the council vs the mayor

For Tom Fuculoro, the writer and editor behind the popular Seattle Bike Blog, there’s no question about whether or not the current council is friendly to bicycles. He said the council is “extremely favorable” on bicycle issues.

“The existing councilmembers... are consistently voting in favor of biking, transit, and walking,” Fuculoro said. “Unfortunately, you also need the mayor to be on board with that and that’s the problem right now. It’s clear these are not the mayor’s primary goals for transportation.”

The mayor notably fell out of favor with the city’s bike community after she gutted a plan to put protected bike lanes down NE 35th Street in Wedgewood. A few vocal neighbors and businesses complained about a lack of parking so Durkan decided to keep the parking and ditch the bike lanes.

SDOT has also been falling far behind the bike lanes and greenways it promised voters in the $930-million Move Seattle Levy in 2015, building only 2.34 miles of protected bike lanes in 2018, far less than the 10.34 miles they had planned to build last year. They also fell behind on greenways, building only 7.92 miles of the side-street routes when the city had planned to build 12.47 miles of greenways in 2018, according to the levy’s yearly audit.

The biking community didn’t score any victories when the city rolled out a new work plan in April for the city's Bike Master Plan. Durkan’s administration said the city had overpromised on what bicycle infrastructure they could deliver, so SDOT cut a significant amount of protected bike lanes and greenways from the construction plan for the next six years. Some bike lanes already under construction have been cut into disparate pieces, others have mysteriously vanished altogether. The C Is For Crank has a deep dive on the different projects that were cut or just mysteriously vanished.

These actions have pissed off both the bike community and the current council, which is now appearing to be increasingly aggressive about their confrontation with the mayor over bake lines, especially the 35th avenue debacle.

That’s because the current council is made up particularly bike-friendly people, three of whom are leaving and three others are up for reelection. Mike O’Brien loves bicycles and bicyclists love Mike O’Brien. Rob Johnson prioritized bike lanes while he was on the council and it should be noted that Mayor Jenny Durkan waited to kill the 35th avenue bike lanes until after Johnson, whose district included the project, abdicated mid-term for an NHL job. O’Brien is also on his way out of the council, as is electric-bike-riding Sally Bagshaw. The three incumbents running for reelection— Lisa Herbold (District 1), Kshama Sawant (District 3), and Debora Juarez (District 5)—are all considered good on bike lanes, but there’s no guarantee that these three will win reelection.

The Missing Link of the Burke Gilman Trail.
The Missing Link of the Burke Gilman Trail. Lester Black

And the next City Council might be the most impactful council on bike infrastructure in a generation. Seattle’s voters agreed in 2015 to spend generously in order to get a robust bike network when they approved the Move Seattle Levy. The city is now in the process of implementing that plan. If there isn’t a council to hold the mayor’s feet to the fire, the network may not be entirely finished. And voters might lose patience with continuing to spend on a bike plan without getting a functional network in return.

Fucoloro hasn’t released endorsements yet on his Seattle Bike Blog and Washington Bikes, the political arm of the nonprofit Cascade Bicycle Club, is waiting to make endorsements till the general election. But even without formal endorsements, the bike advocates have clear demands and a few favorite candidates.

Vicky Clarke, the policy director of Washington Bikes, said their group’s top priorities are finishing the missing link of the Burke Gilman Trail and completing what they call “Connect Seattle,” a list of the city’s 14 most important improvement projects.

“Pretty much all of those [14] projects are in the Bike Master Plan and those are the core projects that we want to see moved forward,” Clarke said.

Fucoloro said he wants to see candidates pledge to complete the Move Seattle Levy as it was sold to voters.

“SDOT is already completely bailing on that entirely, by a long shot,” Fucoloro said. “I think a candidate should want to fulfill what people voted for, which shouldn’t be a radical thing but that means we would need to be building three times as many bike lanes as we are now.”

What the candidates said
So what do the candidates running in this year's election want? My survey asked some basic questions to pin candidates down on how they prioritize bike lanes—will they advocate for spending more? Do they think we need more protected bike lanes?

I also asked some questions intended to see who is more literate on bicycle issues. Do they think sharrows, those painted bike signs slapped onto streets, actually do anything? Bicyclists frequently question their effectiveness, and so did a few candidates. What about the question of building bike lanes on Greenways versus arterials? Anti-bike people will almost always say bike lanes should be kept off arterials, whereas bicycle commuters know that having routes on those roads is key to a full network. And the true bike promoters know the real answer is both, or as Logan Bowers in District 3 said, "Bikes should be on all streets. Cyclists need to go everywhere that drivers do."

If you're a masochist and you want to read every single candidate response you can check out this spreadsheet. But, if you just want to hear the most interesting answers from the most important candidates, I've divided their responses by each race.

Find your districts here.
Find your districts here. City of Seattle


Jump to: District 1 | District 2 | District 3 | District 4 | District 5 | District 6 | District 7


District 1


Voters in West Seattle’s District 1 have a clear distinction between incumbent Council Member Lisa Herbold and her challenger, Brendan Kolding. Herbold is considered a supporter of bike lanes whereas Kolding said we should not be spending more on bike lanes. Herbold also said she supports fully building the Bike Master Plan, which would require additional funds over what is currently allocated.

Do you ride a bicycle?
No: Kolding and Herbold

Do you think the city should be spending more money on bicycle infrastructure?
No: Kolding.
Yes: Herbold

Do you think bicycle routes are better suited for greenways or arterials?
Greenways: Kolding
Both: Herbold

Support The Stranger

Phil Tavel did not respond to written questions.

District 2


Southeast Seattle’s District 2 is home to one of the most bike friendly candidates running this year—Phyllis Porter, who has spent much of her community organizing career advocating for safer streets for bicycles and pedestrians. Fucoloro pointed to Porter’s work at Seattle Greenways as a sign that she will prioritize bicycles. He also said that Tammy Morales is another strong supporter of bike lanes.

“Tammy Morales is consistently saying things that are in favor of walking, biking, and transit,” Fucoloro said.

Morales, Porter, and Christopher Peguero, a city employee, said that the city needs more protected bike lanes but, interestingly, Ari Hoffman said the opposite. He said protected bike lanes, like the new one on Wilson Avenue, have made the street unsafe for drivers and people with disabilities so he will not support new protected bike lanes until “they can be safe for everyone.”

Do you ride a bicycle?
Yes: Ari Hoffman, Tammy Morales, Phyllis Porter
No: Christopher Peguero,

Do you feel safe riding a bicycle?
Yes: Hoffman, Morales (“on the routes I choose”)
No: Porter, Peguero

Do you think the city should be spending more money on bicycle infrastructure?
Yes: Morales, Peguero, Porter
No: Hoffman

Mark Solomon and Henry Dennison did not respond to written questions.

District 3

Kshama Sawant was the first name that Fucoloro pointed to when I asked which candidates are particularly strong on cycling. That surprised me—Sawant is more known for shouting “tax the rich!” than “build the bike lanes!” But Fucoloro said when it comes to bicycle routes, the socialist in District 3 is consistently on the right side of the vote.

“It’s not one of the things that she’s constantly talking about, but she’s always 100% voted the way that we needed her to vote, to forward biking, walking, and transit,” Fucoloro said.

Sawant’s challengers are also strong on bicycles. Logan Bowers rides his solowheel around town, which is half of a bicycle but still needs all of the same infrastructure. The one weak candidate might be Pat Murakami, a neighborhood activist who said in my survey that bicycle routes are more suited for greenways than arterials, which is a red flag against supporting an efficient and interconnected bicycle network across the city.

Do you ride a bicycle?
Yes: Logan Bowers (solowheel), Pat Murakami, Egan Orion
No: Kshama Sawant, Ami Nguyen

Do you feel safe riding a bicycle?
Sometimes: Murakami
No: Sawant, Bowers, Nguyen, Orion

Do you think the city should be spending more money on bicycle infrastructure?
Yes: Bowers, Sawant
Unclear: Murakami, Nguyen, Orion

Do you think bicycle routes are better suited for greenways or arterials?
Greenways: Murakami
Both: Sawant, Bowers, Nguyen, Orion

Zachary DeWolf did not respond to written questions.

District 4


The race to replace Rob Johnson on the City Council is crowded with candidates who are strong on bicycling. There’s Cathy Tuttle, who literally created the Greenways nonprofit and is a cyclist herself. Then there’s Emily Myers, who said she commutes by bike 2-3 times a week. And Shaun Scott, who isn’t a bicyclist himself, has argued for making Seattle more bicycle friendly through the lens of social justice and climate activism.

Then there’s Alex Pedersen, the Amazon-backed candidate in District 4 who was a vocal opponent of building bike lanes on NW 35th Ave.

“Alex Pedersen is obviously awful and will just say, 'I think we should put the brakes on your bike plan,'” Fucoloro said.

Do you ride a bicycle?
Yes: Tuttle, Heidi Stuber, Myers, Beth Mountsier
No: Ethan Hunter, Scott

Do you feel safe riding a bicycle?
Yes: Mountsier
Sometimes: Stuber, Myers
Rarely: Tuttle

Do you think the city should be spending more money on bicycle infrastructure?
Yes: Tuttle, Myers, Hunter, Scott
No: Stuber, Mountsier

Do you think bicycle routes are better suited for greenways or arterials?
Both: Hunter, Scott
Greenways: Stuber
Arterials: Myers, Mountsier

Alex Pedersen, Joshuan Newman, Frank A. Krueger, and Sasha Anderson did not respond to written questions.

District 5


North Seattle’s District 5 is home to Debora Juarez, the incumbent councilwoman mounting a strong campaign for reelection. Juarez is seen as pretty favorable on bike lanes, and although her two main competitors, John Lombard and Ann Davison Sattler, said they both occasionally bike, they don’t seem too eager to force the city into building a connected bike network.

For what it’s worth, the Safe-Seattle aligned Sattler did say she has a history of competitive cycling.

“I raced road bikes in college so am comfortable road riding but have broken pedals off my crank on some of these hills!” Sattler said.

Do you ride a bicycle?
Yes: Lombard, Sattler
No: Juarez, Tayla Mahoney

Do you feel safe riding a bicycle?
Sometimes: Juarez, Lombard
Yes: Sattler
No: Mahoney

Do you think the city should be spending more money on bicycle infrastructure?
Yes: Juarez
Probably: Lombard
No: Sattler, Mahoney

Do you think bicycle routes are better suited for greenways or arterials?
Both: Juarez
Greenways: Lombard, Sattler, Mahoney

Alex Tsimerman and Mark Mendez did not respond to written questions.

District 6


Ballard’s District 6 race is easily the most crowded in this year’s election, with 14 different candidates trying to replace Mike O’Brien on the council. O’Brien is one of the strongest supporters of cycling and District 6 is home to the most contentious bike project in modern Seattle history, the missing link of the Burke Gilman Trail, so the cycling community is pulling for an equally strong proponent on the next council.

O’Brien’s bike-friendly legacy might be carried into 2020—all seven candidates who responded to questions said they at least sometimes ride bicycles and support adding more protected bike lanes to Seattle. The three candidates leading the crowded pack—Jay Fathi, Dan Strauss, and Heidi Wills—seem at least moderately supportive of bikes. Fathi and Strauss said the city should be spending more on bicycling. Wills said she used to “solely commute by bicycle in Seattle,” once rode her bike across the entire country, and said Seattle needs more protected bike lanes. But she did not commit to saying the Seattle should spend more money on bicycle infrastructure.

Strauss said he now commutes by bus but was once a frequent bicycle commuter, an activity that sent him to the hospital.

“I was hit by a driver and spent 48 hours in Harborview, so I can tell you, riding a bike on Seattle streets is not that safe,” Strauss said.

Do you ride a bicycle?
Yes: Terry Rice, Jon Lisbin, Dan Strauss, Heidi Wills, Jay Fathi, Joey Massa, Ed Pottharst

Do you feel safe riding a bicycle?
Yes: Lisbin, Strauss, Pottharst
Sometimes: Rice, Wills
No: Fathi. Massa

Do you think the city should be spending more money on bicycle infrastructure?
Yes: Rice, Strauss, FAthi, Massa, Pottharst
Unclear answer: Wills
No: Lisbin

Do you think bicycle routes are better suited for greenways or arterials?
Both: Rice, Lisbin, Strauss, Wills, Fathi, Pottharst
Arterials: Massa

Melissa Hall, Kate Martin, Jeremy Cook, John Peeples, Sergio Garcia, Bobby Miller, and Kara Ceriello did not respond to written questions.

District 7


Sally Bagshaw, the current council member for District 7, said she once logged over 1,000 miles on her electric bike in a single year. She’s not running for reelection, so will District 7, which includes downtown, Queen Anne, and Magnolia, have an equally bike-friendly candidate? The race has attracted 10 candidates, with a few seeming to be in support of bike lanes.

Jim Pugel, a former police chief, said the city needs to build the bike lanes promised in the Move Seattle Levy but also said the city needs to listen more to neighborhoods on each individual project, which sounds like a dog whistle for backing off contentious but necessary projects. Andrew Lewis said “Seattle needs more protected bike lanes” and added that he would commute to his office downtown if he had a protected bike lane the entire way.

Meanwhile Gene Burrus, who said he hasn’t ridden a bicycle since his was “stolen out of my garage a number of years ago,” said the city should spend less money on bike infrastructure. Isabelle J. Kerner said the city should “absolutely not” spend additional funds on bike lanes and should instead “keep the temporary bike lanes and just paint them one same color like green.”

Do you ride a bicycle?
Yes: Pugel, Lewis, Williams
No: Kerner, Burrus, James Donaldson

Do you feel safe riding a bicycle?
Yes: Burrus
Sometimes: Pugel, Lewis
No: Williams, Donaldson

Do you think the city should be spending more money on bicycle infrastructure?
Yes: Lewis, Williams
Unclear: Pugel
No: Kerner, Burrus, Donaldson

Do you think bicycle routes are better suited for greenways or arterials?
Greenways: Burrus
Both: Pugel, Lewis, Williams
No: Kerner
Yes: Donaldson

Daniela Lipscomb-Eng, Don Harper, Michael George, and Naveed Jamali did not respond to written questions.

Sponsored
This Monday: a Collide-O-Scope full of out-of-this-world vids, freaky footage & bizarro film finds!
Love big laughs, super shocks & scintillating surprises? Don't miss this next thrilling installment!