The Full Draft of the Seattle Master Bicycle Plan was released last week. It’s deliciously chockfull of purple squares, blue triangles, and orange lines, which add up to new bicycle lanes and boulevards. Just as enticing are the plan’s goals of tripling the number of bicycle trips by 2017, while reducing by one-third the rate of crashes.But the full plan—the $240 million, 10-year version—lacks at least two critical elements to become reality: 1) the weight of law; and 2) $213 million dollars.
That’s right: so far, only $27 million has been dedicated to the bike plan (though this seems to have escaped some less perceptive commentators and headline writers).
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Still, having a plan is the first step to securing more funding and generating more attention from both lawmakers and citizens.And with more attention and more money, the Master Plan can take the necessary steps to achieve more and safer bicycle riders, such as: creating a connected network of bike lanes on roads ($35.7 million), and separated path facilities ($63.7 million), as well as improving parking and education ($5.9 million), and a few additional mega-projects ($80.6 million).
If approved and fully funded, the Plan outlines projects that within three years would more than double existing arterial bicycle lanes; create 7.6 miles of boulevards on residential streets; and mark 54 miles with “sharrow” markings. (A “sharrow” is a street-painted icon of a little bicycle guy inside an arrow, or some similar marking.) And the plan goes beyond paint too, seeking retrofits of key bridges, new agreements to clear debris from bike lanes, and ordinances to require more office building’s to provide showers. The plan’s performance measures also include bicycle counts and crash rate updates every two years, with a comprehensive review of the plan every five.Sounds dreamy to me, a guy from Seattle.
The unfortunate reality, however, is that so far this plan is just a recommendation. And even if it were fully built, by 2017 Seattle would still have fewer miles of bicyles lanes, path, and boulevards, than Portland does today. (Both cities maintain about 4,000 lane-miles of roads, though Portland’s city limits encompass 60 percent more land than do Seattle’s.) And while Seattle’s bike plan is certainly equipped with the latest North American thinking on bicycles in big cities, I wonder if we couldn’t climb even higher peaks, using, say… a bicycle lift for all those crummy hills.
Deric,Thanks for this update.And thanks especially for the YouTube link to the Norwegian “bike lift.” Now THAT’S a cool way to climb the steepest hills.
Matt the Engineer
Good story, and I love the Trampe lift (company’s page here, along with good pictures). We should have one of those on every hill. I’d ove to have one going up 3rd on the back of Queen Anne.
That bike lift is totally cool! It might be kinda hard to use it with a Burley bike-trunk, though. Here in America, we’d definitely need something bigger for that accommodation.
Deric:I’d like to jump in and offer some insight on the funding situation.First, the $3 million from Bridging the Gap is the $27 in new capital funds you draw attention to. The next chunk of money is the existing $3 million per year – so we’re up to $54m.Big gap between that and $240 million, right?What you’re missing is that most of these projects will be done concurrently with arterial major maintenance projects. That means the bike projects pennyies on the dollar. Ultimately we’re double counting those resources.Finally, we’ve programmed in a conservative estimate for federal Transportation Enhancement Grants we expect to receive over that period. Historically Seattle gets about $6m per year from that source. Local match is 20% like most fed funds set asides.And there ya have it: $240 million worth of work over 9 years.
Thanks David, It sounds like significant portions of this plan can be accomplished by leveraging the ~$12-16? million/yr in existing local funds and federal grants you mention. I’m still a little confused on the double counting issue as Appendix O of the Plan, the cost estimates (pdf) “represent the marginal cost required to develop the bicycle facility.” That is, “if bicycle lanes are added to a roadway during a repaving project, the estimate includes just the cost to implement the bicycle lanes, but it does not include the new pavement.”If we can do it with existing money great. If it requires some new money great, lets find it. My only fear is that folks get the idea this is a done deal, while I’ll bet there’s more work to come.
As a member of the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board, I have pointed to Trondheim’s Trampe bike lift and have suggested allocating funds for a trial bike lift installation in Seattle (both in bike board meetings and with the Transportation Committee of the Seattle City Council). Last April, I stopped by Trondheim to see it for myself (although it was not yet operational for the season since the snow had just melted the prior week, and they had yet to clear out the road sand from the lift mechanism—a problem we’d rarely have in Seattle). Funny thing is that whenever I suggest a trial installation in Seattle, no one takes me seriously, even though a trial installation would cost far less than any of the proposed ‘big ticket’ items.
I have been really optimistic with this new plan. It would be a terrific shift from what has increasingly made Seattle such a poor city for cyclists. I hope part of the plan includes fixing some of the problems in the current system such as downsizing some of the bike paths, not enforcing cars parked or driving in bike lanes, not prosecuting drivers threatening cyclists, etc. Seattle has so many cyclists even though we are far behind many other cities. Any effort will only allow us to ride that much farther into the future.