Seattle Mayor’s Bike Lane Retreat Enrages Activists
Environmentalists and bicyclists in Seattle are furious at Mayor Jenny Durkan after she capitulated to opponents of safe streets on an important corridor.
On Tuesday, the city unveiled new plans for 35th Avenue NW, featuring highway-width lanes and no bike infrastructure. The city’s Bike Master Plan has called for protected bike lanes on this important corridor since 2014. Data show that 198 people have been injured on the roadway since 2004, according to Seattle Bike Blog.
Durkan appears to have caved to a small group of residents who opposed the bike lane. This group, called Save 35th Avenue NE, was intense in its opposition, sometimes almost comically so. Last year, members attacked the project, claiming the “single mothers don’t commute to work on bikes,” only delete their account under fire from a bunch of bike-riding moms.
That group was concerned about the loss of 40 parking spaces, according to local reporter Erica C. Barnett. But the plan rolled out by Seattle DOT on Tuesday — confusingly — still eliminates parking. Rather than a bike lane it adds a turn lane.
Seattle DOT’s Twitter announcement of the design was subject to the worst “ratio” possibly in the history of Twitter.
Check out our new design for 35th Ave NE. It’s a different way to meet our goal of enhancing safety.https://t.co/zBPpB4CM7e pic.twitter.com/3EPdEfGPds
— seattledot (@seattledot) March 26, 2019
The replies were scathing:
You left the dead bodies out of the rendering.
— Doug Gordon (@BrooklynSpoke) March 27, 2019
I’ve walked across this street 100s of times to get a coffee and catch the bus. It has never been safe, and this will make it worse. I was hopeful that @seattledot wouldn’t sacrifice safety because of a few noisy complaints, I suppose I should have learned better by now.
— Gregory Quetin (@grquetin) March 27, 2019
The incident is a troubling sign that Seattle’s new mayor isn’t committed to the ideas that have made the city a star in the sustainable transportation world, both on transit and reducing car use.
The head of the Washington Sierra Club, which had advocated for the bike lane, was merciless in his appraisal of Durkan Administration priorities.
The Mayor’s decision on 35th is directly in line with her stated transportation priorities in the 2017 campaign: cars first and foremost.
Of course that means climate and safety finish last. https://t.co/gqNHQYKIjd
— Jesse Piedfort (@jessepiedfort) March 26, 2019
The city’s decision apparently followed a meeting with both bike and opponents and proponents.
“We have decided not to install bike lanes,” Samuel Zimbabwe, Durkan’s interim transportation adviser told residents, as reported by the Urbanist. “This is a decision we’re happy to stand on.”
Later, in response to the drubbing it received on Twitter, the Seattle DOT did indicate some openness to revising the design.
We'd like to acknowledge that we are listening and taking in your questions, comments, and concerns. We are hearing a common interest over safety and would like the opportunity to respond to it along with a few other topics mentioned in a follow up blog post.
— seattledot (@seattledot) March 27, 2019