Reflecting on 2019: Hindsight is 20/20
Tweet from the Bike Master Plan Meeting at Seattle City Council and the resulting South Sector Bike Master Plan

Year-at-a-glance

As Cascade heads into another year of advocacy in 2020, let’s reflect on the major successes for people who bike – or want to – in Seattle in 2019. Though the bicycle advocacy community incurred some serious setbacks at the outset of the year, we’ve risen to the challenge and we’re ready for even more astounding achievements in 2020.

The start of 2019 saw both the cancellation of a planned bike route in NE Seattle, 35th Ave NE, and release of a dramatically scaled back bike plan. But this spring, caring neighbors, community advocates, and the newly formed MASS coalition fought back. Together we secured a plan and funding for a long-overdue all-ages bike route from downtown through SE Seattle; a new Seattle law that means planned bike routes won't be so easy to sideline; and new routes downtown that have dramatically improved connectivity on the Basic Bike Network. These wins demonstrate that when we come together to advocate for safer places to bike, great things can happen.

All of these significant moments in 2019 are building toward a year (2020) when we Connect Seattle by bike. Read on for details about these 2019 highlights as we look forward toward our 2020 priorities:

1. Southeast Seattle Route in Bike Plan, Funding Secured

Tweet from the Bike Master Plan Meeting at Seattle City Council and the resulting South Sector Bike Master Plan

In April of 2019, the advocacy community expressed sincere frustration when SDOT released a revised implementation plan containing drastic cuts to the City’s Bicycle Master Plan (BMP). In particular, cuts to routes in southeast Seattle were unacceptable for the community of people who bike – or want to. Caring neighbors, and advocates showed up in droves to the bike network plan public comment sessions with the unified message that an all-ages bike route through southeast Seattle is long overdue.

The result of advocacy from people who bike was that routes through southeast Seattle which had been removed from the implementation plan were added back in, though initially unfunded. Then, $10 million was subsequently secured in the 2020 budget for a bike connection to southeast Seattle.

2. MASS Coalition Leads Policy Changes for People Biking, Walking, and Rolling

MASS Coalition Logo

The Move All Seattle Sustainably (MASS) Coalition brings together advocate voices from bike, walk, transit, disability rights, and environment groups. In 2019, MASS built momentum around safe and sustainable policy solutions to transportation issues – launching the MASS Transportation policy package in early summer.

After significant pressure from the MASS Coalition, Seattle City Council passed an ordinance regulating re-pavement projects in September. The new repaving law sets the expectation that planned bike routes (in the Bike Master Plan) will be added when the street is repaved. This will help ensure that roads are designed for all users, including people who bike, walk, and roll around the city, which has huge implications for projects listed in the BMP.

While this law may not have changed the outcome on 35th Ave NE, the implications and the impetus are much broader. Seattle was ahead of the curve in 2007, when Council passed the nation’s first Complete Streets Policy, but since then there have been some questionable decisions to exclude roadway design that is safe for all users. This new law adds “teeth” to Seattle’s Complete Streets policy, and moves Seattle closer to ensuring that all roadways are designed for all users-- especially our most vulnerable road users.

3. Big Advances on the Basic Bike Network

The Basic Bike Network Celebration

Photo Credit Left and Right: Seattle Neighborhood Greenways
Photo Credit Center: Cascade Bicycle Club

With the help of advocates, city officials, and champions for active transportation among our elected leaders, SDOT expedited construction of essential downtown routes. In 2019, new  Basic Bike Network connections include: 8th & 9th Avenues to connect SLU to  downtown; Pike and Pine Streets to connect Capitol Hill to downtown; and a “south end” connection from King Street Station to the 2nd Ave north-south network spine.

In celebration of these vital downtown connections, Cascade and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways co-hosted an advocacy ride along the major additions to the Basic Bike Network. Despite the rain on December 7, Seattle showed up in force with about 60 people who bike to ride the newly connected network for the first time. People who came brought their good-old-fashioned pedal power bikes, e-bikes, cargo bikes, and bikes with trailers carrying children. We absolutely loved having so many different types of riders with us, and we know that having a connected route will lead to even more ridership in and throughout downtown.

4. Seattle Budget: Funding and Policy Wins for People on Bikes

This year’s Seattle city budget process came to an end just before Thanksgiving, with good news for people who bike. The Mayor's initial budget was a great start, and thanks to a concerted advocacy push with our partners in the MASS coalition, Council's additions brought substantial wins. In addition to the $10M for SE Seattle we mentioned above, here’s a short list of the budget highlights:

  • A proviso to SDOT's maintenance budget, requiring the department to report on their plan for conducting proactive bikeway maintenance before they can spend the rest of the maintenance funds.
  • Additional funds to continue the city's innovative and essential Transportation Equity Workgroup, and begin the discussion on how to implement the equity agenda the workgroup has created.
  • Funding to create a new "Active Transportation Coordinator" position for Seattle Public Schools. This new addition to SPS Transportation will be tasked with coordinating crossing guards, and encouraging kids to walk and bike to school!
  • Funding for the Thomas St. greenway, reconnecting the transportation grid across the former HWY 99/Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Big Picture: Connecting Seattle and What Lies Ahead in 2020?
All of these wins are worth celebration for people who bike. Moreover, Mayor Jenny Durkan just announced four big updates to Seattle’s Vision Zero policies, all of which will have a huge impact on vulnerable road users including people who bike. Namely, one of the biggest boons for people who bike, walk, and roll through Seattle is a plan to implement a citywide 25 MPH speed limit which will reduce the frequency and severity of collisions.

The work isn’t done, there is more to do, and we are truly excited about another year of diving deep into policy and public engagement in order to Connect Seattle. Please connect with our policy team if you’d like to get involved in connecting Seattle’s communities, and getting more people on bikes! With your help, 2020 will be another great year for people who bike so we can all get home safely.

Seth Esmeson's picture
Seth Esmeson