Why do armed police enforce traffic laws?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes Segura was already researching the role of policing in traffic enforcement before I started working on this story. So I worked with him over the past week to put this piece together. As the city opens the police budget to scrutiny, it’s vital that we look back to our history to learn how police ever got involved in traffic enforcement in the first place. Before diving into the budget details, Seattle should take a big step back and ask some for foundational questions about the racist web of a criminal justice system we have created and how traffic enforcement is very often the point of entry for Black people and people of color who get caught in it.

Seattle Police cars from the National Police Journal, December 1919.

Protests are happening in Seattle and throughout the world in solidarity to support Black lives. This Civil Rights movement comes from the recent videos and stories of Charleena Lyles, Manuel Ellis, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tony McDade, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown and the endless list of BIPOC lost to police violence? #SayTheirNames.

The City of Seattle is one of many cities considering defunding police, but what exactly does that look like within transportation? Police enforcement within transportation has? sustained racial inequity. From biking to riding the light rail to taking the bus to walking and to driving, police power is ingrained into every mode of transportation. Here’s the catch though, if you are not Black, Indigenous, and or a Person of Color (“BIPOC”), you haven’t faced what it’s like to be disproportionately targeted by the police just because of the color of your skin. It means you could be facing life or death, and if it isn’t death it’s likely going to be a life burden in some form or way.

What is traffic enforcement?

The most common form of transportation policing can be found within traffic enforcement. And many of the people named above were killed during contacts with police officers that started either genuinely or in the guise of a traffic-related stop.

So why did our society task armed police with traffic enforcement in the first place? Sarah Seo, Associate Professor at the University of Iowa College of Law and author of Policing the Open Road, writes that in cities across the country police were called to respond to the quickly rising death, injury tolls, and congestion that came from the introduction and mass production of cars in the 1920s. Seattle was no different, calling for more police to help control traffic around the same time as our last great pandemic.

“One division which is rapidly growing both in volume of business and in importance is the Traffic Division,” writes G.G. Evans in “The Police Force of Seattle, Queen City of the Northwest” in the December 1919 National Police Journal (self-proclaimed as “America’s Greatest Police Magazine). “The enormous increase in the number of automobiles makes the relief of congestion an urgent problem and one requiring traffic attention.” The National Traffic Officers’ Association held its 1919 meeting at Seattle Police headquarters (they would pass a resolution supporting mandatory turn signals on cars).

In that same article, Evans writes that “the country had been infested by a notorious half-breed murderer” and then praises Seattle Police Chief Joel F. Warren for arresting 200 “lewd women” in a “house-cleaning” effort before soldiers from Camp Lewis came to the city for leisure. Just to give you an idea of the horrifically racist and sexist mindset back when Seattle Police was first dramatically expanding their traffic patrol efforts along with police departments across the nation.

During this time cities also justified the widening of roads and more paved roads as a way to solve congestion. Of course induced demand increased congestion only to reinforce the idea of further increasing police forces and further widening roads.

The wave of traffic from cars also brought about a tsunami of traffic laws. By criminalizing dangerous driving, nearly every person who drove became a potential criminal (the flow of traffic is very often well above the speed limit, for example). By then outlawing jaywalking, nearly every person who walked became a potential criminal, too. This all raised serious constitutional questions, especially related to the Fourth Amendment’s protections against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” For example, a traffic violation has become enough probable cause to stop people, question them, search their cars (or pockets) and run their names through police computers. At any point, something entirely unrelated to traffic can happen. Officers could mistakenly think (or claim to think) the person was reaching for a gun (Philando Castile), officers could not appreciate the tone of the person they stopped and get violent (Sandra Bland), officers could spot something in the backseat they claim is related to drug use, officers could discover that the person has a warrant out from some previous case or from unpaid tickets, etc. There are so many ways a simple traffic stop can turn into something much bigger, whether that’s immediate violence or getting trapped in the criminal justice system. Continue reading

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Bike share is back. Lime relaunches 500 JUMP bikes

Lime’s green bikes are gone, but now the company owns JUMP and its formerly-competing red bikes.

Lime has relaunched e-assist bike share in Seattle, about six weeks after pulling their newly-acquired red JUMP bikes from the streets following a major investment deal with Uber.

There are far fewer bikes hitting the streets than were available before. At its peak, there were nearly 10,000 shared bikes in operation in Seattle, and the city’s permit structure anticipated as many as 20,000 bikes back when multiple companies were competing for users just a couple years ago. Lime is only bringing 500 bikes to start with, but said that number could “grow based upon demand,” according to a press release. The price has also gone up substantially from $0 to unlock plus 25 cents per minute to $1 to unlock plus 36 cents per minute. So a 30-minute ride costs $10.80.

Though Lyft has applied for a permit to launch a competing bike share service in Seattle, there has been no indication that the company intends to follow through. So JUMP is unlikely to have competitors, at least until the city starts to permit scooters as it hopes to do soon. That permit has been tied up in litigation, though the Seattle Hearing Examiner ruled in the city’s favor May 28. It’s not yet known if there will be further appeals.

For now, the bikes are only available through the Uber app. The service area still includes the entire city limits.

Lime killed their own e-bike service at the end of 2019. Then in early May, Uber made a significant investment in Lime at a dramatically-reduced valuation. As part of the deal, Lime took on Uber’s JUMP bike share service, previously known as Social Bicycles. Lime immediately pulled the existing bikes from service and scrapped them. But they promised a fleet of new JUMP bikes were coming.

More details on the launch, from Lime: Continue reading

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Protest statements from local transportation orgs

As massive protests against racist and brutal policing pass the half-month mark, the City Council has passed some significant limits on police weaponry and use of chokeholds. The Council is also developing major changes to the city budget through new revenue from a potential new tax on large businesses and through cuts to the existing police budget. There’s a long way to go and a lot of work left to do, but the Council is so far pointing in the right direction.

So how about the region’s transportation advocacy organizations? The protests have made many individuals and organizations look at themselves and question their own roles in maintaining or fighting systemic, institutionalized racism. Here’s what Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, Cascade Bicycle Club, Transportation Choices Coalition and Bike Works have said in recent weeks: Continue reading

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The Seattle Bike Brigade keeps protests safe, but doesn’t want the spotlight … so why am I writing about them?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Seattle Bike Blog supports the demands led by the King County Equity Now Coalition, including dropping charges against protesters, defunding Seattle Police, and investing in Black-led community organizations and community safety.

The Seattle Bike Brigade has been serving an important supporting role in recent protests, helping to control traffic and form barriers when needed to create and protect space for protests and keep people safe.

I have avoided writing about the Brigade so far because its clear that they do not want to be the center of attention. They don’t typically speak to the media, for example. The Brigade is there so that the protesters have the space and protection to make their statements. The Bike Brigade is part of the protest, but it’s not about the Bike Brigade and it’s definitely not about bikes. It’s about the demands of the movement. Bikes are just the versatile tool that make the Brigade’s work more effective. From the Seattle Bike Brigade sign-up form:

WE DO share clear info that supports and follows trusted Black leaders calling to defund police as part of an abolitionist framework, maintain the pressure and momentum of this movement, and prioritize protecting BIPOC bodies (especially youth).

WE DON’T work with police, spread misinformation, or talk to the press. If tactics in the streets become escalated, we ensure BIPOC bodies are protected and not left vulnerable.

We also organize horizontally with other organizations because collaborative, decentralized movement can effectively take advantage of the energy, militancy, and momentum of this movement while still protecting BIPOC leadership. Email [email protected] if you have connections we could share!

(Wondering why we support defunding the police? Find out more at bit.ly/sbbdefund101)

In some ways, they are pulling tactics long used for large bike rides like Critical Mass, such as corking intersections ahead of marches to prevent people from trying to drive where people are marching. By stopping in front of car traffic, they remove any doubt that the road is closed. They can also quickly form a barrier if needed for any reason, whether to protect the rear of the protest group or to help create space between protesters and a militarized police line.

But while the Brigade isn’t seeking attention, many protesters and organizers have recognized their work anyway. Continue reading

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Saturday: The 2nd Peace Peloton will ride to Black-owned businesses, promote economic reform

The second Peace Peloton ride starts 10 a.m. Saturday at Tougo Coffee on Yesler Way near Broadway. Organized by Doc Wilson, the first Peace Peloton drew more than 300 people for a ride from Alki to the CD. Wilson hopes to host the rides weekly.

Saturday’s ride will go through Yesler Terrace, downtown, Lower Queen Anne, South Lake Union Capitol Hill and the Central District. Organizers ask that you fill out an anonymous RSVP so they can give businesses a heads up on how many people might show up.

Details from the InGaj website: Continue reading

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Noon Thursday: Ride For Justice with Estelita’s Library

Dress in black, grab your bike and join the Ride for Justice noon Thursday at 23rd Ave S and the I-90 Trail. The ride will end at Cal Anderson Park.

Details from event organizers Estelita’s Library, a non-profit “justice focused community bookstore and library” on Beacon Hill:

You think we’re stopping – Nope!!
For those in Seattle. Estelita’s Library – Justice Focused Community Bookstore &…and our community are organizing a Bike For Justice Protest. We will not stand for the injustices we see — we are bringing every community we are a part of out to the streets until change happens!
Thursday at 12pm.
Meeting at the 23rd Ave S & I-90 Trail and take to the streets to ride to Cal Anderson Park! Wear Black!
Help with supplies, donate: http://bit.ly/2BJcHvL
Share far and wide!

What: Protest by cyclists throughout Seattle to demand justice for the police violence of Black folks, indigenous folks, and POC

When: Thursday 12PM June 11, 2020

Meeting Place: Grassy Area @ 23rd Ave S & I-90 Trail riding to Cal Anderson Park

What to Bring: Your bike (road, mountain, BMX, any other) & wear black!

Organizer Edwin Lindo expanded on the demands of the ride in a post: Continue reading

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City Councilmembers show the leadership our city needs + Mayor Durkan should resign

EDITOR’S NOTE: Seattle Bike Blog supports the Defund Seattle Police effort initially led by a large group of community organizations and leaders, including No New Youth Jail, Decriminalize Seattle, Block the Bunker, Seattle Peoples Party, COVID-19 Mutual Aid, Trans Women of Color Solidarity Network, BAYAN, La Resistencia, PARISOL, CID Coalition, Asians for Black Lives, APICAG. View the demands and sign on here. King County Equity Now has more demands and proposals from Black-led community organizations, including specific ways to invest in Black community.

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda pleads with SPD Chief Carmen Best to deescalate a tense stand-off Saturday. Screenshot from King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay’s Instagram stream. Video of a separate face-to-face interaction with Chief Best, which I watched live and reference in the story, is not posted to his account.

Saturday night, King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay streamed an extraordinary live video from the front lines of the protest at 11th and Pine on Capitol Hill as he and other elected officials desperately tried to convince the Seattle Police to deescalate and stop attacking the crowd.

The police had already attacked the crowd once that evening, using violent flash-bang grenades and “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Tear Gas” on thousands of people in Seattle gathered to stand up for Black lives and call for deep change to the police department. Omari Salisbury of Converge Media filmed the police violence from the front lines, and officers hit him with a flash-bang grenade while he was trying to tell them that there was a person in a wheelchair in the area they were about to attack. Police bombed the medic station, an act of exceptional evil amid an overwhelming show of violence. The attack was a police riot, carried out seemingly to hurt people of Seattle who are critical of their violence. It was unhinged and undemocratic, the act of a police state.

After the attack, Salisbury called for elected officials to join the front line. And many answered the call. Seattle City Councilmembers Lisa Herbold, Andrew Lewis, Teresa Mosqueda and Dan Strauss joined along with State Senator Joe Nguyen and State Representative Nicole Macri. As the police took an aggressive stance, clearly preparing to attack again, King County CM Zahilay’s stream showed these leaders standing up for the protestors. At one point, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best approached the barricade and spoke to the elected leaders face-to-face while they desperately tried to convince her to deescalate the situation and get her officers to move back and stop their attack. At first it appeared ineffective, but the police eventually stood down.

It was an extraordinary display of leadership, but it should not take a line of elected officials to stop police violence against a crowd of people. It was clear in that tense moment that Mayor Jenny Durkan either did not have control over the Police Department or she wanted them to attack. Either way, she showed that she should not be Mayor of Seattle anymore. Thankfully these other elected leaders were there to do the job she should have done.

Throughout the night, protestors chanted “Jenny Durkan must resign!” Seattle Bike Blog agrees. For the good of the City of Seattle, Mayor Durkan must resign. Continue reading

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Noon Saturday: Ride in the ‘Peace Peloton’ starting in Alki

The Peace Peloton will ride 20 miles around the city from Alki Beach to the Northwest African American Museum in the Central District Saturday to “bring awareness to and bring about positive change for black, brown, marginalized, and disenfranchised populations in our city through, Economic, Public Health/Healthcare, and Criminal Justice reforms,” according to organizer Reginald “Doc” Wilson.

The ride will start at noon Saturday and move at a causal, no-drop pace. The ride will be one-way to central Seattle with no organized return to Alki.

Wilson and Major Taylor Project Founder Ed Ewing went on the Ron and Don Show this week (Episode 113, conversation starts at the 6:00 mark). Definitely give it a listen.

Ride details from the InGaj website:

When: Saturday, June 6 @ 12:00PM

Where: Alki Beach Park Bath House (Corner of Alki Ave. SW and 60th Ave. SW)

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Mayor Durkan failed

EDITOR’S NOTE: Seattle Bike Blog supports the Defund Seattle Police effort being led by a large group of community organizations and leaders, including No New Youth Jail, Decriminalize Seattle, Block the Bunker, Seattle Peoples Party, COVID-19 Mutual Aid, Trans Women of Color Solidarity Network, BAYAN, La Resistencia, PARISOL, CID Coalition, Asians for Black Lives, APICAG. View the demands and sign on here. We support the protestors and respect the risks you are taking to speak your truths and hold government accountable.

Tear gas causes respiratory distress, severe pain and skin irritation. It could also make the effects of covid-19 worse. Pepper spray causes extreme pain and terrifying temporary blindness. Flash-bang grenades explode, and can cause serious burns, abrasions and permanent hearing loss. Seattle’s Community Police Commission recommended against using them four years ago, a reform the Seattle Police Department decided to ignore.

Seattle Police have employed all these weapons against people of Seattle many times in recent days. Their use is indiscriminate, disproportionate and often without warning. The police use of these weapons has escalated tension into chaos and preceded Saturday’s fires and property destruction shown on screen across the city and nation.

Seattle Police seemed somewhat successful at spinning the story of Saturday’s initial use of these weapons, saying that some members of the crowd were throwing things at them. And Mayor Durkan fully supported their actions. Meanwhile, people on the ground have said consistently that the crowd was peaceful when SPD officers fired these weapons.

When Mayor Jenny Durkan spoke Sunday, she reserved her words of sadness for the property that was destroyed. She did not express empathy for the hundreds of people who were hurt by her police force the evening before. The use of these weapons against people has been so normalized that it hardly seemed worth commenting about, as though they were acceptable civilian casualties in a war zone. Go file a complaint, she said to anyone who was a victim of or witnessed police misconduct. And 10,000 complaints were filed just about problems Saturday.

Her speech was hopelessly out of touch and callous. As someone who has reported about Seattle government for the past decade, my immediate takeaway after watching was that her mayorship is over. She had failed her basic duty to prioritize the health and rights of the people of her city, and she had grossly underestimated the power of the people in the streets.

The city needed someone who would stand up for people who are hurting, whether from the immediate pain of police weaponry or the generations-deep pain of violent racism. The city needed her to declare changes, both in the way her police would respond to future protests and in policies and laws governing policing in general. Instead, she offered some platitudes about systemic racism before defending SPD and showing more empathy for panes of glass than people’s lungs, eyes and basic rights to freedom of speech.

She then went further to limit people’s rights to assemble by declaring a bizarre and confusing city-wide curfew, curbing every resident’s rights and giving SPD more excuses to escalate to violence. And she did this because SPD asked her to, she said.

This is exactly the opposite of what our city needed. We needed our mayor to stand up for our rights and create space for freedom of expression. We needed our mayor to create space for real change. Instead, she tried to shut it down.

But she failed to stop it. People kept gathering to protest racist and violent policing, and they had no respect for her curfew. Nor should they. She lost public confidence.

Mayor Durkan’s speech Sunday was the biggest test of her term as mayor, and she failed. It was a chance to do the right thing and learn from the mistakes of the night before, to deescalate tensions and to layout a clear path for change. Instead, she doubled down on Saturday’s mistakes. Because of that failure, Monday happened. Continue reading

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‘Safe streets’ must include safety from racist police

Right now, Seattle’s Police Department and Mayor Jenny Durkan are trying to get out of a Federal consent decree in place since 2012 following a pattern of police violence. The current Seattle Police contract is not in compliance with the consent decree, the courts have decided, especially when it pertains to review of police misconduct. And while documented police “use of force” incidents are down since 2012, this work is no where close to complete.

Without a system of police misconduct review that the public can trust, our city is telling people of color that they are on their own if they encounter a racist police officer. The city is also telling people that they are not interested in firing their racist officers, so the odds of encountering one are significant. When we talk about “safe streets,” well, those streets are not equally safe for everyone. People of color are more likely to be injured or killed in traffic collisions and more likely to be wrongfully searched, injured or killed by police.

Watching scenes of destruction in Minneapolis reminds me of the last time I saw property destruction in the streets: A Seattle “sweep” of encampments in the International District that brought out protestors to watch as city workers chucked people’s belongings into a garbage truck. Our city is not providing adequate shelter for folks without homes. Our city is not providing places for people to store their belongings. Our city is not providing trash receptacles and pickup so people without homes can get rid of their trash properly (if citywide trash pickup stopped running, everyone’s homes would quickly fill with garbage just like many encampments). Our city is not providing enough places for people to take a shower, go to the bathroom or wash their hands. But our city will send staff to throw away people’s things and tell them to go somewhere else.

This system tells anyone without a home that they and their property are not safe or welcome in our city. So again, when we talk about “safe streets,” our streets are not equally safe for everyone. People experiencing homelessness are at increased risk of being seriously injured or killed in a traffic collision and they are at increased risk of being victims of a violent crime, victims of police violence and loss or destruction of their personal property. And people of color are more likely to experience homelessness.

As a white man who is privileged enough to write about biking and traffic safety as my job, I do not do enough to actively fight against inequality and racism in our society. It’s too easy to hide in the safety of my skin color and just focus on people riding bikes. Sometimes it’s an escape from the horrors of what is happening in our world. I can’t see that video again, so instead I’ll spend a few hours in a spreadsheet analyzing bike counter numbers. Sure, the bike counter numbers are interesting, but my privilege allows me the luxury of that escape.

Or maybe I will escape by going for a bike ride or walk. Maybe I’ll even go to one of our city’s car-light Stay Healthy Streets. But again, whose “health” are we protecting? I have the privilege of only worrying about car traffic as a threat to my safety.

In the video of Derek Chauvin murdering George Floyd, there is a green bike lane painted on the street in the background. It, of course, did nothing to stop this murder. There’s no reason why it would have. That makes it a strong visual metaphor for the effectiveness of a safe streets advocacy that does not actively fight white supremacy. The goal cannot be to simply repaint the lines on the streets where police kill Black people.

If you are a white person reading this, it’s on us to fight racism every day starting with racism inside us. Only by understanding the ways our white supremacist society has embedded bias within us and provided us privileges can we take action to fight against it. Simply “not being racist” isn’t enough, as Tamika Butler put it in a powerful and devastating blog post this week. Read the whole thing. We are lucky to have strong leaders of color, but white people cannot leave the work of dismantling racism to people of color. A post like this is generous, and it’s the job of white people to do the work and take risks to speak up and stand up against racism. An excerpt:

I’m exhausted. I’m out of words. I really need white people to do more than just say they’re fighting for justice. I need them to get up every day and repeat and ask themselves five questions and really face themselves and their answers. I want them not just to lean in, but to live in, to an urgency to do more. I want them to sit with these things and not turn away when they hear themselves say the answers:

  1. Do I understand that not being racist isn’t the same as being anti-racist?
  2. Why am I so afraid to be brave enough to confront my power and privilege?
  3. What am I waiting for to decenter whiteness and realize just because I have never experienced it (or seen the research to prove it) doesn’t mean it isn’t real?
  4. What am I doing every single day to force myself to think about racism and white supremacy?
  5. What am I doing every single day to stop the killing of black people?

For further reading on how race and biking intersect, read Dr. Adonia Lugo’s Bicycle/Race: Transportation, Justice, and Resistance. She also spoke about her book this week for a Microcosm Publishing live stream.

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With the upper West Seattle Bridge closed, bike trips across the low bridge are higher than non-outbreak years

As we already saw in our previous post, the covid-19 pandemic has totally scrambled the typical ridership data collected by Seattle’s 24/7 bike counters. On the Fremont Bridge, for example, total ridership is down about 20% compared to the 2013-19 average, but weekend ridership is up a stunning 71%.

But the Spokane Street Bridge, the low bridge to West Seattle, has a more complicated story because the city closed the high bridge March 23 due to concerns about cracking and damage. As a result, biking has become the most reliable way to get across the Duwamish River for many residents.

The bike counts show that bike volumes tanked in March as the shutdown hit and many people either lost their jobs or started working from home. This was the same pattern seen in many other counters in the city. But then the high bridge closed, and bike trips in April were even a bit higher than Aprils without a pandemic. You can see the daily bike trips increase after the bridge closed:

Continue reading

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Alert: Lower Spokane Street Bridge will close overnight May 29-31

The lower Spokane Street Bridge to West Seattle, a vital lifeline for the neighborhood since the upper West Seattle Bridge closed, will itself close for evening-to-overnight work Friday, Saturday and maybe Sunday. That means anyone biking will need to detour to the 1st Ave S Bridge. Yikes.

And unfortunately, the closures are scheduled to start rather early. Friday, the bridge will close at 8 p.m., but then Saturday it starts at 6 p.m. That might be early enough that people working daytime shifts won’t be able to get home before the closure begins. And if you’re working nights, well, sorry. Hopefully, Sunday’s closure won’t be needed at all, but if so it will also start at 6.

The work is to maintain the bridge’s “controls and communications systems that are used to operate the bridge.” So that sounds important. It would have been great if work could have started later in the evening. But if it prevents a mid-day closure later, then it’s definitely worth it.

From SDOT: Continue reading

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Got more bikes than you really need? Bike Match Seattle will connect you with someone who needs it

It’s a surprisingly simple idea. Find people who need bikes, find people who have bikes they don’t need, and then introduce them to each other. That’s basically how Bike Match Seattle works, a project started by Maggie Harger as a response to the covid-19 outbreak.

“New York City is where it first started,” said Harger in a recent conversation. Watch in the video above. “It’s a program that’s supposed to pair people who maybe have an extra bike lying around in the backyard or in their garage or whatever that they don’t necessarily use anymore, and they would submit that bicycle online and then hopefully match it to somebody out in the community who’s an essential worker who maybe still needs to commute to work.”

Harger decided to start the program while taking Cascade Bicycle Club’s Advocacy Leadership Institute program, a free training course for people who want to learn more about community organizing, campaigning and bike advocacy. All ALI participants have to complete a project of some kind, and Harger decided to try replicating the New York program.

And so far, there are more requests for bikes than offers to donate.

The program is meant to quickly meet a need for people who need transportation to do essential work or to complete essential tasks. This could be a worker who needs a set of working wheels to get to work. It could also be someone who needs a bike to help transport necessities to community members.

Donated bikes must be in full working order. Unlike Bike Works, the Bikery or other used bike shops that have staff available to fix up bikes before reselling them, Bike Match will never see or touch the bike. Instead, it simply puts people in touch with each other. The two parties then arrange delivery or pickup themselves. No money changes hands, just the bike.

To request or donate a bike, simply fill out the online form.

So if you let your n+1 bike habit get a little out of control before the outbreak, maybe now is the time to reduce your collection (or make room for more bikes…).

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Bike counters show weekend and trail rides are up as much as 70% since the outbreak began

The number of bike trips across the Fremont Bridge in February was 47% higher than the February average from 2013-19, continuing a trend of strong year-over-year bike trip growth in recent years.

But then March happened, and employers shut down offices and fired workers. Unemployment skyrocketed along with working at home as our city attempted to slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes covid-19. And you can easily see this all play out in different ways through the data collected by the city’s 24/7 bike counters. I taught myself some new spreadsheet tricks and reorganized my bike counter data system, so I have a bit of new data to share.

Let’s start with the Fremont Bridge, typically the busiest single crossing point for people biking because so many different local and regional bike routes funnel to this single crossing of the Ship Canal. As we reported earlier this year, the bike counts across the Fremont Bridge completely shattered all previous records in 2019. It wasn’t even close. 2019 counts passed the all-time record for bike trips in a single year just a week or so after Halloween, and the counts did not slow down after that.

The new year didn’t stop the momentum. Even with January’s snow, 2020’s count was a few percent higher than the average January, most of which had no snow at all. And February, wow. February was a stunning 47% higher than the average of all previous February counts.

Then people started dying of covid-19, and we realized the virus was already here. As society completely reorganized itself, the way we typically gauge bike use became obsolete over night. The Fremont Bridge bike counts plummeted because commute trips, especially trips headed downtown, plummeted. The fall was not as precipitous as the fall in car trips, which were down more than 50% in Seattle, but the shift from a 47% increase in February to an 18% decrease in March is symbolic of how quick and difficult the shift to life under lockdown was. Continue reading

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Trail Alert: Burke-Gilman Trail will be detoured near Ballard Fred Meyer

The Ship Canal Water Quality project, the $500+ million effort by Seattle Public Utilities and the King County Wastewater Treatment Division to prevent sewage from spilling into Puget Sound during heavy rains, will close the section of the Burke-Gilman Trail next to the Ballard Fred Meyer parking lot starting in early June.

The detour will send users across the closed NW 45th Street to a temporary trail on the north side of the street. The detour will be in place until August 2022.

SPU was responsible for a long closure and detour of the Burke-Gilman Trail in Fremont back in 2018, and the detour was largely very well done with full separation and gentle transitions the whole way. If this detour is as good as the Fremont one, it should be no trouble. The trickiest part will likely be the railroad track crossing at 11th Ave NW. Those tracks have long been a major hazard to people biking. Continue reading

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The future 15th Ave NE bike lanes won’t actually reach Lake City Way, docs show

Images from the project fact sheet (PDF).

Designs for the 15th Ave NE paving project are compete, and they include bike lanes from (almost) Lake City Way to NE 55th Street, most of which are protected bike lanes.

There’s a lot to like about the project, which will add a lot of connectivity to the area. But the bike protection disappears in key places, undercutting much of the potential for the project.

First, the good stuff. Thanks to the NE 65th St bike lanes that opened in 2019, the new 15th Ave NE bike lanes will connect to the under-construction Roosevelt Station. Construction is scheduled to begin this summer and wrap up in fall 2021.

Lake City will also (almost) get a much better connection to the heart of the north Seattle bike network, Roosevelt High School, Ravenna Park and the U District.

For most of the distance, the bike lanes will be protected by either a paint-and-post buffer or a row of parked cars, as shown in the city’s diagram:

However, this diagram and the city’s project map are misleading because the bike lane will not be protected for the entire distance. In fact, the bike lane will disappear entirely for the block and a half south of Lake City Way NE, the official design documents (PDF) show:

Continue reading

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Some more details on the MLK Way S bike lane options + How to choose between one-way and two-way bike lanes

I already wrote about the MLK Jr Way S bike lane concepts, but SDOT gave a few more details about the project during the May Bicycle Advisory Board meeting (PDF) that are worth sharing.

First, some background. SDOT is conducting some early planning for bike lanes on MLK between S Judkins St and Rainier Ave S, so essentially from Mount Baker Station to the I-90 Trail. The project team is going to develop the 30% design in the summer and fall, but the project isn’t scheduled for construction until 2023.

They presented three options, with option three being by far the most popular based on comments to my original story and SDOT’s presentation.

Not only is option three the “community preference to date,” according to SDOT’s presentation, but it is also the most affordable. As I wrote in my original story: Continue reading

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Cascade staffers are organizing bike deliveries for food banks + How you can help

Fill out the form to help out.

Cascade Bicycle Club staffers have been organizing to help make deliveries for the U District Food Bank, helping to distribute food to community members.

“There are individuals who are immunocompromised or just can’t get out to food bank,” said Cascade Volunteer Coordinator Maimoona Rahim. “We started a couple weeks ago with just staff and board members. The need for volunteers grew beyond what they could handle.”

So they are looking to expand the effort with more volunteer power and with more ideas of community needs they can help meet.

That’s where you come in. First, you can sign up to help using their online form. Some people have made deliveries with a large backpack, but a way to carry food on your bike (such as a set of panniers) makes it much easier. If you have a cargo bike, you may be able to help with larger family deliveries.

They are also looking for other community needs they can serve.

“If [readers] can think of an organization that can benefit from bike deliveries, we’d like to know,” said Rahim.

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Redmond is building a 520 Trail tunnel under NE 40th St, route detoured until 2021

Redmond is constructing an underpass for the 520 Trail at NE 40th Street, so the trail route will be detoured through May 2021.

The closure started this week. Users are directed to side streets near the Microsoft and Nintendo campuses between NE 36th and 51st Streets. Most of the detour route has painted bike lanes.

The tunnel is also across the street from the site of the future Redmond Technology light rail station, so it will allow station users to bypass one crosswalk.

The tunnel will also feature a walls-and-ceiling art project with palm trees and a rainbow. So that’s pretty cool, though I’m sure it will still feel like a tunnel under a busy road next to a freeway. But still, it looks fun.

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Bellevue has launched its own car-light ‘Healthy Streets’ program

Seattle has been making headlines nationally for announcing that the city would make its Stay Healthy Streets program permanent, so you may have missed that Bellevue has started its own people-first street program it’s calling simply “Healthy Streets.”

The Eastside city rolled out two of these temporary projects last week in the Northeast/Crossroads/Lake Hills area. Hopefully this is just the start for Bellevue and other communities around the region, especially communities with streets that lack sidewalks and easy access to open space.

From the City of Bellevue: Continue reading

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