Five ways to improve the Bike Master Plan for everyone from kids to grandparents

Getting across Seattle on a bike should be easy, safe and comfortable, whether you’re an eight-year-old kid or an 80-year-old grandparent.

In June, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) held a final round of Seattle Bike Master Plan Open Houses to give the public a chance to look at and comment on the almost-complete draft plan, of proposed bike infrastructure and programs.

The Bicycle Master Plan (BMP) is a shared vision for how we can make our neighborhoods safer and more comfortable for people who want to ride a bike. The 2013 update of the 2007 Bike Plan goes a long way towards realizing that compelling vision by incorporating new designs, such as neighborhood greenways and protected, separated bikeways that create low-stress connections for the 60% of Seattleites who want to bike more often.

Twenty years ago, Seattle was among America’s leaders in cycling. But as our 2012 Bicycle Report Card noted, we have been losing ground to Chicago, San Francisco, Portland and New York City in recent years, as those cities have been setting big goals for bicycle mode share, building more protected infrastructure and attracting more riders. While the update makes major improvements over the 2007 plan, we believe the plan should strive to make Seattle the most bikable city in the nation.

Cascade wants to see clear goals in the Seattle plan update -- such as a 10 percent bicycle mode share by 2020 and 30 percent share by 2035. The plan needs to increase safety, with a “Target Zero” goal of eliminating bike fatalities and serious injuries by 2030, and it needs to commit the city to building multiple direct, comfortable east/west and north/south cross-city connections. To reach these goals we need an effective implementation plan that prioritizes routes with high-ridership potential.

If we get the Bicycle Master Plan right, and implement it, Seattle will once again be America’s leader in bicycling and more of our kids and grandparents will feel safer on the city streets.

The current June 2013 draft is a step in the right direction, but it can be better by incorporating the following five points. Comments on the plan are due July 26. We urge you to ask SDOT and the Council to ensure Seattle takes five big steps:

1.          Design for families, grandparents, and kids

Streets that are safe for kids and grandparents to ride a bike are streets that are safe for everyone. The plan should:

- Include protected bicycle lanes, instead painted lanes next to speeding traffic, on streets with more than 10,000 cars a day
- Base the standard level of protection on actual speeds of most traffic, which is the 85th percentile speed, not the posted speed limit.

2.          Connect people and places

Seattle’s bike network needs to be useful, connecting people with places they want to go on low-stress, direct connections. Initial investments should focus on safe and comfortable direct cross-city routes that connect neighborhood shopping districts, schools, employment centers, parks and transit centers. The plan should:

- Provide protected bicycle lanes on 23rd Ave between E. Union St. and S. Jackson St with an eventual goal of a comfortable, separated connection from Rainier Valley to the University of Washington.
- Provide an interim, buffered bikeway between the University District and Wallingford until the proposed 47th St. overpass is built.
- Evaluate the feasibility of “catalyst” projects that make critical connections to ensure that the overall network function is not impaired by projects that may not be built for some time.
- Develop interim connections to serve people traveling by bike until catalyst connections can be built.

bike racks outside a Portland business

3.          Build for the complete trip, including the destination

Seattle’s bike parking is notably deficient, and one of the glaring places the city has fallen behind its 2007 Bike Master Plan goals. Yet having quality end-of-trip amenities often makes the difference in choosing whether to drive or bike. The plan should:

- Set clear, uniform design standards for bike parking to improve the safety, usability, cost-effectiveness and recognition of unsecured parking in the public right-of-way.
- Invest in enforcing existing bike parking requirements.
- Follow Portland’s example of getting bike racks installed outside of one’s business affordably, quick and easy.

4.          Move more quickly to make Seattle accessible to all

The citywide network needs to work for residents of all neighborhoods. The plan should:

- Ensure no parts of the city are lacking protected bicycle facilities or neighborhood greenways by 2020 (as opposed to 2030 as the draft suggests). We should not have to wait a generation for it to be safe to bike in all areas of the city.

- Make south Seattle safe for people on bikes. Rainier Ave S and MLK Way S have been identified as leading places people want to ride, but don’t feel comfortable.

5.          Kickstart making our city safer with a clear implementation plan

The city should move quickly to complete high-impact projects that feel safe for inexperienced families who want to bike. The Plan should include implementation plans to:

- Complete a safe, comfortable connection from north of the Ship Canal to downtown by 2015. This should include connections from the Fremont Bridge to the Westlake separated bike lane to a protected bicycle lane on 2nd Avenue or 4th Avenue downtown.
- Build the Northgate Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge.
- Complete protected bike lanes along Roosevelt Way NE, 12th Ave NE and Eastlake Ave E along with improvements to the University Bridge.
- Build a protected bike lane on 8th Avenue NW, connecting several neighborhoods to the Burke-Gilman Trail.
- Improve the Ballard to downtown bicycle route by upgrading the Ballard Bridge and creating a protected bike lane and wider trail through Interbay
- Redo East Marginal Way S to include a protected bike lane, and connect West Seattle with downtown.
- Build a protected bike lane on Rainier Ave S or MLK Way S.
- Create an interdepartmental task force of SDOT, Parks and Recreation, Public Utilities, Office of Sustainability and the Environment, and other departments and agencies to innovatively plan and fund infrastructure identified in the Plan.

Seattleites overwhelmingly support making our city safer for people to bike. Adopting this plan is a key step in doing so, but it means little unless we fund and build the improvements it describes.

We are working to partner with the neighborhood residents, the city, and city council to improve and adopt this Plan. You can, too.

We have until Friday, July 26, to help the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) improve the draft and fill in any blanks. Tell SDOT what you think today.