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Seattle Bike Blog Magazine Issue #5

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City Council approves Bike Master Plan + Next step: How to realize its vision

On the way to City Hall, I caught up with Davey Oil, Madi Carlson and their children. To get downtown from Capitol Hill, we biked down busy Broadway, and it was safe and comfortable.

And that’s the whole point of this Bike Master Plan. This is a good thing, and it should happen more often in more places around town. If a street is not comfortable and safe for Seattle families, then Seattle needs to fix it. This plan is a good start.

The proposed bike facilities map

The Seattle City Council approved the Bike Master Plan this month, two years after work on the plan remake began.

After years of work and many, many hours of public outreach, the plan flew through a December public hearing in the City Council Chambers, and the Transportation Committee last week gave it unanimous approval.

For a look at the plan’s long slog to this point, our coverage is divided into two phases:

  • Creating the first draft mostly involved gathering all ideas for where bike facilities could use improvements and gathering ideas for education and outreach.
  • The second draft was more about making sure the changes are realistic, working to figure out modal conflicts and developing a connected city-wide network of bike routes that aim to be comfortable for people of all ages and abilities to use.

Cascade Bicycle Club, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways and other organizations that have worked to develop the plan are hoping to pack the Council meeting with plan supporters. It’s well past time to pass the plan so the city transportation staff can get to work on a project prioritization plan, and leaders can get to work on figuring out how we are going to realize the vision.

Funding

The resolution approving the bike plan does not include funding. Cost estimates put the plan somewhere between $391 – $524 million over 20 years, though not all of that money will come directly from Seattle. Regional, state and federal grants will certainly be used to offset much of the cost, and the city can save money by including bike upgrades with other city work (utilities work, major repaving projects, private development, etc).

When former Mayor Mike McGinn sent the plan to the City Council in November, his letter suggested that the Council include a policy goal of incrementally growing the budget for bicycling projects from $7 – $12 million as in recent years to at least $20 million per year. Without an increase in funding, the city will not be able to complete the plan within the desired timeline.

“I want it built out while I can use it,” said Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who is the Chair of the Transportation Committee and has had a hands-on role in developing the plan from the start.

The Council’s resolution does not, however, include a figure for how much they will aim to budget toward the plan each year (read it in full below).

“My commitment is to build that system out as soon we can,” said Rasmussen. “20 years is a heck of a long time to wait to get it done.”

But funding each year will be dependent on the city’s financial situation that year, he said. If there is another recession, for example, they might have to cut back on bike spending just like many other budget lines. But when things are going well, they could also invest more.

The city will need to average $20 million or so (obviously, costs change over time) over the next 20 years to substantially complete the plan, said Rasmussen.

It will also heavily depend on the next transportation levy, which could be a chance to get the plan some consistent funding. Of course, it needs to pass a city-wide vote. Bridging the Gap expires in 2015, so discussions about the levy to replace it will begin fairly soon.

There may also be an argument to be made for front-loading some of the costs of the plan. For example, the biggest bike need Rasmussen and many other advocates see is for safe bike infrastructure downtown. But, of course, downtown is also likely to be among the most expensive places to build protected bike lanes, since the number of high-traffic intersections and competing road uses is much higher than anywhere else in the city.

The city is currently seeking a firm to handle outreach and design work for the downtown plans, which Rasmussen said will likely take some time.

“Downtown business and property owners will want lots of opportunities to comment,” he said. He believes it would be “very optimistic” for a downtown protected bike lane to be in place before 2016.

An early look at two options for a Westlake bikeway + Parking studies show project could be a win-win

After conducting exhaustive parking studies and some preliminary feasibility work, planners have come up with two rough concepts for the Westlake bikeway.

The plans are general concepts that planners brought before the Westlake Design Advisory Committee earlier this week to gather feedback and give those involved in the design process information to take back to their communities.

There will also be a public open house to discuss the options the evening of May 21 (location TBD).

In essence, one option would stick mostly to the Lake Union side of the city-owned parking area and the other option would stick mostly to the Westlake Avenue side of the parking area. A third option on the west side of Westlake Avenue was taken out of the running because early study suggested it would be far outside the project “scope and budget,” planners said.

Both options would increase safety and meet the project’s primary goals, as stated by a presentation to the advisory committee:

  • Safety: Provide a facility comfortable for bicyclists of all ages and abilities
  • Safety: Provides separation from motor vehicles and pedestrians
  • Safety: Provides predictability within parking lot
  • Connectivity: Provides connection to existing biking and walking facilities
  • Accessibility: Flat, low-stress facility

Beyond the primary goals, there are other project concerns to consider. Here’s how the two options compare on a short list of other concerns:

It’s worth noting that even though Concept B has “more” mixing zones with people walking than Concept A, both are much better than the status quo. Today, people on bikes pretty much invent their own ways through the lot since there is no clear good option. This creates a stressful and unpredictable environment for everyone. So while more people on foot will cross the Concept B bikeway vs Concept A (since B is between the parking lot and the businesses/homes), at least people will know to expect people on bikes and the crossings can be designed to modern standards.

As plans develop further, some hybrid of these two options could be possible. Exact routing is not yet determined, though planners do have a concept route of each (click for larger versions):

Parking

By far, the biggest concern voiced about the project is how the creation of a dedicated space for biking will impact the number of parking spaces available in the area.

The quick and simple answer is that Concept B will have a much lighter impact on parking. Many segments will lose zero parking spaces, and many will lose between 5 and 35 percent. The area just north of the small park with the preserved train tracks (and a wonderful bench to chill out and feel a million miles from everywhere) could lose the most parking, at most 50 percent.

But extensive parking studies show that Westlake already has more parking available than is needed. The total comes out to a stunning 1,712 parking spaces along the project area. Of those, 1,271 are publicly-owned and within city right-of-way. The Westlake bikeway project will not affect the private spaces.

Much of the existing parking stalls go unused, and areas with high use can be improved by smarter parking rules so that city-owned parking prioritizes businesses and residents along the corridor.

First, here’s a look at peak parking use. Note that the orange areas represent the city’s preferred usage level (the parking sweet spot), since it indicates heavy use but with enough spaces open that people can usually park near their destinations. Red, yellow and green are not optimal and suggest that a change is needed to get the most value from the city’s space:

At first glance, Concept B already seems like a great fit. It would have minimal impact on parking where use is currently the highest, and areas where it would impact parking have enough unused inventory to spare.

But if you dig deeper, it becomes clear that a lot of the high-use parking areas have inefficient parking rules. For example, 62 percent of parking spaces (that’s 783 spaces) are free to use and have no time limit. These spaces are distributed evenly along the corridor regardless of how heavy use is. It’s probably no surprise that use of these free-to-use spaces is far higher than the metered spaces:

Having so many free-to-use spaces without time limits leads people to use the lot for all kinds of reasons that do not support area businesses or the city’s parking goals. For example, people can (and do) use the lot as a free park-and-ride (or -walk or -bike) so they can avoid paying for parking in expensive downtown and South Lake Union lots (AKA “hide-and-ride”). This does not help businesses and residents on Westlake, and providing a free park-and-ride so close to the dense downtown core is simply bad policy for the city.

So with a some smart reworking of the parking rules, the city could make the parking much more efficient and focused on providing access to businesses and residences (mostly floating homes and liveaboards).

Here’s a look at current parking rules. Once reworked, the new Westlake could be a boon to businesses that currently face parking crunches due to sub-optimal use of the spaces today. Add the new business-focused parking plans to the fact that bike access along Westlake will improve dramatically, and the Westlake bikeway project is shaping up to be a win-win investment.

Of course, not everyone is going to be happy about the plans. There are still people organizing to fight the plans after dropping a lawsuit that delayed the Bike Master Plan. But all this data points out that there is a lot of room for compromises so long as people work together and keep an open mind.

There are still a lot of details left to work out. If Concept B is chosen, there are some complicated driveways, loading zones and boat-launching areas to figure out. And, of course, the parking rule changes would need lots of public input. But that’s what the design process is all about, working through the unique elements of every area to find a solution that best works for everyone.

Below is way more information about parking on Westlake than you ever wanted to know. SDOT really went above and beyond in gathering and analyzing all this. You can find more documents on the project website.

Buses get cut, but bike share is on track: System sponsor list keeps growing

If you’re as bummed as I am about the likely rejection of Prop 1 to save Metro funding, put down that morning beer. There is some good transportation news.

Puget Sound Bike Share announced today that the list of sponsors continues to grow and now includes an impressive list of companies and organizations in central Seattle: Group Health, Vulcan, REI, Fred Hutchison and Spectrum Development Solutions have joined Seattle Children’s to sponsor docking stations for the initial launch of the Seattle-based public bike system.

As we reported earlier this month, Puget Sound Bike Share will pioneer a new supply chain for Alta Bicycle Share after the bankruptcy of their previous (and undependable) supplier BIXI. The look and name of the Seattle-based system will be announced in May.

Below is the planned funding model for initial launch, from a 2013 presentation. They are getting closer to completing the pie:

There are still “a limited number of stations” left for sponsors who want to jump on board, according to a PSBS press release. Organizations interested should contact Holly Houser at hollyhouser@pugetsoundbikeshare.org.

So why sponsor a bike share station? Well, aside from the unique marketing opportunity, Matt Handley, medical director of Quality for Group Health, sees “numerous reasons” sponsoring stations makes sense:

[A]s a large health provider that draws thousands of people to Capitol Hill, downtown Seattle and South Lake Union, our support of the Puget Sound Bike Share stations is one way Group Health can help put fewer cars on the road at any given time. This has health, environmental and economic benefits for the entire community and contributes to our Commute Trip Reduction efforts.

Also, with 17 percent bus cuts heading our way, I bet there are going to be a lot of folks looking for other ways to get around.

From PSBS:

Local non-profit health care provider Group Health has announced its support of bike share docking stations for Seattle’s upcoming bike share network, signing up to sponsor 15 stations in Capitol Hill and South Lake Union.  Group Health has thousands of employees who work at four facilities – Capitol Hill Campus, Downtown Seattle Medical Center, Group Health Research Institute, and their headquarter offices – between the Capitol Hill and South Lake Union neighborhoods.
Additional local companies, including Vulcan, REI, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Spectrum Development Solutions and others have also signed up to sponsor bike share stations.
The first phase of Seattle’s bike share network will include 50 bike docking stations and 500 bikes spread across South Lake Union, Downtown, Capitol Hill and the University District.
“Lending our support for these bike stations makes sense for numerous reasons,” said Matt Handley, MD, medical director of Quality for Group Health and an avid cyclist. “Not only does Group Health have a long history of supporting health and wellness – including through community programs and sponsorships – but as a large health provider that draws thousands of people to Capitol Hill, downtown Seattle and South Lake Union, our support of the Puget Sound Bike Share stations is one way Group Health can help put fewer cars on the road at any given time. This has health, environmental and economic benefits for the entire community and contributes to our Commute Trip Reduction efforts.”
Bike share stations are one of the easiest and most visible ways for local companies to support bike share. “Station sponsorships meaningfully enhance people’s ability to access bikes for alternative transportation and healthy activity,” said Holly Houser, executive director of Puget Sound Bike Share. “Station sponsorships have also become very popular among employers, developers and nonprofits that see bike share as a valuable benefit to employees, tenants and customers.”
Bike stations are free-standing and battery powered (with solar backup), and will be sited in the public right-of-way, parks, plazas and on private property. All station locations must be approved in advance by the City of Seattle to ensure the location complies with regulatory standards. Station sponsors will receive naming rights to the station(s) of their choice as well as discounted memberships and recognition for their support in program materials. Puget Sound Bike Share still has a limited number of stations still available for sponsorship.  For more information, contact Holly Houser at hollyhouser@pugetsoundbikeshare.org.

Traffic violence is not a war, it’s a horrifying disease

Cover image: Screenshot from a Q13 report on a memorial for Lincoln Person.

Sometimes, the immense scale of traffic violence overwhelms me. Every single death or life-long injury that happens on our streets happens to somebody’s neighbor, somebody’s friend, somebody’s family member. And every once in a while, it strikes close to our own homes.

During a well-attended community workshop during the early stages of the city’s Road Safety Summit a few years ago, somebody asked the packed room of people in City Hall to raise their hand if they, a close friend or family member had ever been in a serious traffic collision. Nearly every hand in the room went up.

The death and destruction wrought by traffic violence comes in many forms, but most of it is preventable. Poor decisions made by reasonable and mostly responsible people are amplified through the roof by dangerous streets that encourage casual speeding and a lack of concern and awareness of others, whether they are driving, biking or walking. What was a simple drive to the grocery store or to work can turn into a gory, terrifying scene. The result can devastate an entire family and community.

More than 32,000 people die every year in traffic collisions in the United States. This makes traffic violence a leading cause of death. Serious, often life-long injuries are much more common than deaths. If there really were a “war” on the roads, as sensationalizing reporters love to phrase it, the number of annual US casualties would be measured in the hundreds of thousands.

But there is no war. A war requires opposing sides and at least some kind of endgame. Traffic violence is much more like a disease than a war. Though it does affect elderly, young and low-income populations disproportionately, nobody is immune.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Like many diseases, we have treatments and cures. We have an obligation as a society to implement known solutions and to continue researching and trying new treatments. What could be more important than protecting the lives of our neighbors?

Sometimes, traffic violence is just violence. The perpetrators are criminals who use cars as a weapon. They deserve be treated as criminals. But they are only a very small part of the traffic violence scourge.

The bulk of traffic violence happens at the hands of people who would never choose to hurt a fellow stranger passing by, let alone kill them. Just like the victims, the people behind the wheel are often our friends, neighbors, sisters and fathers. While people deserve to be held responsible for their traffic errors, the fact that we have created a traffic system where reasonable, caring people can so easily kill other reasonable, caring people suggests that we need to change our traffic system.

Complete streets may not stop the maniac road rager who fires a gun at someone on I-5, but they can prevent people’s small traffic errors from turning into a tragedy. That’s why complete streets and quality alternatives to driving are worth every penny we can invest.

Radio shock jocks and other reporters seeking to stir controversy love to phrase traffic friction and investments in safe streets as some kind of personal battle between “bicyclists” and “drivers” and “pedestrians,” etc. But that’s a pointless and distracting conversation to have. One in four Seattle adults rides a bike at some point every year. And most people who bike also drive at some point every year. And everyone is a “pedestrian.”

Image: International Traffic Safety Data and Analysis Group, via Streetsblog USA

Cars are inherently dangerous. They weigh a lot and can move quickly. That is not a personal attack on the great many people who choose to drive or need to drive, it’s physics. But countries and cities that have embraced complete streets and complete approach to traffic education have been able to dramatically reduce the scale of traffic violence without getting rid of cars.

These cities and countries didn’t cast a magic spell, and they don’t have some kind of genetic predisposition to resist traffic violence (in 1975, streets in the Netherlands were 20 percent more dangerous than streets in the US. Today they are 40 percent safer). They made smart changes to their streets and traffic systems. They invested in complete streets and complete traffic education. We didn’t. They invested in providing quality alternatives to driving. We didn’t. They got results. We didn’t.

Below is just a snapshot of some devastating, scary and sometimes depressing stories about traffic violence just in the past couple weeks. This is not an exhaustive list of traffic injuries, deaths and close calls, just a sample of stories that made it into the news. Most of it happened in or near Seattle, close enough that the victims and those responsible could be your neighbors or loved ones. The people in these stories are as real as you or me.

We cannot ignore the cost that our traffic system puts on us. We have the tools to make our streets safer, we just have to stop fearing change and put our weight behind them. Because the status quo is horrifying.

40% of Seattle’s greenhouse gas emissions are from road transportation, and 41% of trips are under 3 miles

One problem with Earth Day and many conversations about climate change is that by putting the issue on a global scale, the problem can become overwhelming. You read about ever-increasing global temperatures and our still-increasing global carbon emissions, and your personal impact feels so insignificant that hopelessness sets in.

There are lots and lots of causes of climate change that are beyond my expertise and the scope of this blog. But transportation makes up a huge percentage of greenhouse gas emissions. Seattle Neighborhood Greenways posted two graphs today that help to shrink the scale of the problem to a still-large, but more manageable level.

In Seattle, 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from road transportation (“non-road transportation” emits another 22 percent). Walking and biking can’t reasonably offset the entire 40 percent, but it can easily and quickly reduce it.

For example, 41 percent of all trips made in Seattle are three miles or less. Most people are physically able to bike three miles with ease, and many of the trips are an easy walk. Half of trips in Seattle are fewer than five miles. These trips are the lowest-hanging fruit in reducing carbon-emitting transportation choices.

But climate change is a complicated reason for advocating for more biking and safer streets. On a governmental, system-wide level, climate change is one of many great reasons to institute policies that prioritize walking, biking and transit when making transportation investments.

But on a person-to-person level, the same arguments are not always as effective. When people phrase climate change as the result or fault of a person’s individual everyday choices, they draw a somewhat expected backlash. It is a bit smug to tell another person (especially a stranger) how they should (legally) live their life or that their car is the cause of global climate change.

If climate change motivates you to ride a bike, that’s great (it motivates me). I like bikes a lot and think they are a great emissions-free way to get around, but even I cringe when someone says they’re “saving the planet” by riding their bike and that people who drive are “part of the problem.”

Nobody drives a car because they hate the planet. When asked why people don’t bike, the most common answer is that they are concerned about safety. Most Seattle residents want to bike more than they do today. When streets are made safer, people discover that bikes are a convenient, fast and easy way to get around. So instead of motivating change through guilt (a method with a rather poor success rate), we should fix our communities so they are no longer engineered so disproportionately toward driving for even simple trips. When people have real transportation choices, most people will only choose cars for trips that truly need a car.

Will this solve global climate change? Of course not. But it’s a big bite out of Seattle’s total greenhouse gas emissions, and it will make our city and neighborhoods a lot safer and more vibrant in the process.

Times: Seattle is second safest big US city for walking and biking

Figures from the 2014 Alliance for Biking & Walking Benchmarking report

As you sprint across a highway-style four-lane street through the heart of your neighborhood, it’s probably hard to believe that Seattle may be the second safest big city in the US for people walking and biking. But that’s what the data suggests, according to the 2014 Alliance for Biking & Walking Benchmarking report and the Seattle Times’ Gene Balk.

When walking and biking commute rates per capita are compared to reported fatalities, Seattle places second in walking safety and eighth in biking safety. In fact, Seattle is one of only four cities that makes the top-ten list for both biking and walking safety. When Balk combined the two measures, he determined that Seattle places second overall. Only Boston is safer.

First, some caveats to the data: Because the walking and biking rate information comes from Census surveys, people who mix walking or biking with public transit are likely not counted in the walking and biking columns. Neither are people who walk or bike to work some days, but not always. And, of course, only work trips are counted. So a retired person walking to the grocery store would not be counted, either.

The way the Census question is asked, the data represents the mode of transportation people use for most of their commute trips “last week.” So all those people pouring into a New York subway probably don’t count in the walk column. Neither do all the people walking to a 3rd Ave bus stop in downtown Seattle. But the Census data is probably the closest estimate we have, and it’s definitely the only one that’s universal between cities.

When added together, Seattle has the fourth-highest walk/bike commute rate among large US cities. Yes, Seattle even ranks higher than Portland, which has a higher bike rate but a lower walk rate. As we reported previously, when you include all commute modes measured by the Census, Seattle is one of only five large cities where fewer than half of residents drive alone to work.

The most clear link to safety is the walking and biking rate in a city. The more people walk and bike, the safer walking and biking is for everyone. In fact, if you look at visualizations comparing bike/walk rates to safety, you can almost see the path to Vision Zero in which nobody dies in traffic:

Balk explains the safety in numbers effect this way:

In four of the five cities with the lowest fatality rates — including Seattle — the percentage of people who walk or bike to work is among the highest in the nation.  In Seattle, nearly one out of every eight workers is either a pedestrian or bicycle commuter; the 52-city average is just one out of every 20 workers.
The outlier is Colorado Springs, which has the fourth-lowest fatality rate, but also a relatively low level of pedestrian and bike commuting.
In all of the deadliest cities, there are very few pedestrians and very few cyclists. In Jacksonville, Fla., which has the highest fatality rate, less than 2 percent of people walk or bike to work.
And the fatality numbers are striking: in Jacksonville, pedestrians are killed at a rate 15 times higher, and cyclists 19 times higher, than in Seattle.

But as Balk writes, “While Seattle’s stats may be envious, more can be done to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety here.” This safety data probably does little to ease the heartache and immense loss felt by friends and family of Sandhya Khadka or Darren Fouquette or any of other people who have lost their lives while walking or biking on Seattle streets. In fact, it’s a bit depressing that the bar for walking and biking safety is so low in the United States that Seattle stands out as a leader.

The city has done a lot of smart things to its streets throughout the years to help lead to this safety rate, and there are a lot of smart plans rolling out at this moment. But the city is not moving fast enough. One death is too many, and the number of people seriously injured in traffic is much, much higher than the number who die. Until the city invests heavily in prioritizing walking, biking and ADA projects (and, of course, driving safety projects), Seattle will not eradicate the scourge of traffic violence.

It may take less work to get from Jacksonville to Seattle than to get from Seattle to Vision Zero. But it is work we must do.

Bicycle Pull-Apart owner: ‘I have always followed the letter of the law’

Eric Patchen. Screenshot from 2010 CityStream episode:Seattle Pedal Cabs from Adam Bale.

Eric Patchen didn’t build up credit, and he didn’t inherit a lot of money. So when he wanted to start a bike shop in Belltown, he did it without loans.

“I did it on my own,” Patchen said. “I put my heart and soul into this thing … I thought anyone who had a dream and a desire to own a business could be here.”

But as we reported yesterday, Patchen and his Belltown bike shop Bicycle Pull-Apart are now the subject of a police investigation linking the shop to more than $10,000 worth of stolen bikes. Police say they spent months investigating BPA and Patchen after receiving tips that the shop was trafficking stolen bikes, but Patchen says he has always followed laws governing resale and pawn shops.

He said police are under pressure to stem the bike theft “epidemic,” but arresting the actual thieves is a lot harder than arresting a shop owner.

“They [SPD] want to pin it on somebody who opens his doors every day and stands there and says, ‘Here I am,’ said Patchen. “I’m an easy target.”

Patchen was arrested March 13 and was released on his own recognizance. At a hearing a few days later, he was told that no charges would be filed immediately, but that he could still be charged at a later date. He went back to work and continued running his shop. Last week, police served a warrant and recovered three stolen bikes from the shop floor. Police outlined their investigation Monday on the SPD Blotter. The investigation is ongoing, and the shop remains open for business.

BPA does not carry a selection of brand new bikes like many other shops. Instead, the shop operates as a second-hand shop, purchasing bikes and bike parts, fixing them up, and reselling them out of their shop. Patchen said he believes strongly in recycling bikes and providing a low-cost option for low-income downtown residents to get some wheels.

He said he will work with people who do not have enough money to buy a bike to find a work-trade deal. His shop has also donated bikes and parts to various organizations, including Bike Works, New Horizons Ministries and Orion Center, he said.

But while Patchen says he is fixing up bikes that come into his shop (a legitimate and even socially beneficial business model), detectives claim he is purposefully switching out parts so they are harder to recognize as stolen. This “chop shop” model is common in bike theft rings.

Patchen owned some pedicabs before starting BPA and was even featured in a 2010 episode of Seattle Channel’s CityStream (watch the episode below). After trying for a while to buy, fix and sell bikes on Craigslist, he became frustrated with the inconsistent Craigslist market. People would be no-shows or he would have to travel far from Seattle to make a sale.

“I thought I would turn the tables and start a business where people bring bikes to me,” he said. So he started the shop in Belltown. “I tell people, ‘I’m Craigslist with a conscience.’”

Downtown has long been a bike theft hot spot. So being a shop in downtown that buys bikes means BPA gets a huge number of potentially stolen bikes coming through its doors. Seattle Police say “more than half of the bikes bought by the shop between February 2013 and January 2014 were bought from convicted felons, many of whom have records for burglary and theft.”

When police served a warrant and searched the shop April 9, they found three bikes that had been reported stolen. The total value of the bikes adds up to $9,000. Police are working to find the rightful owners, according to the SPD Blotter.

In a probable cause document filed when Patchen was arrested in March, detectives outline what they say is a bike theft system in which Patchen would purchase bikes from a middle man who Patchen trusted. The investigation was based in part on leads from informants and low-level bike thieves.

Patchen said he follows all the proper procedures, registering all the bikes into the Leadsonline computer database system for tracking property sold to pawn shops. He even runs the serial numbers through stolenbicycleregistry.com.

He walked me through the process he says he follows:

  • Someone walks in with a bike. Patchen asks them why they want to sell the bike and where they got it
  • He takes their ID card and makes a copy of it. The seller also signs required paperwork
  • He checks the seller’s name against a no-buy list. If they pass, he buys the bike
  • Patchen checks social media, Google and checks stolenbicycleregistry.com for reports of the bike being stolen. He also registers the bike in the Leadsonline system that police have access to
  • He waits the required 30 days before working on the bike and putting it on the floor and/or online for sale
This stolen bike, worth about $3,500, formed a large part of the BPA investigation. Image from the stolenbicycleregistry.com listing

Part of the police investigation involves €œ"suspiciously mistyped serial numbers entered in the online system."€ In the probable cause document, the detective goes as far as saying, "€œupon seeing the imprinted serial number, I can only conclude it was intentionally mistyped as the number was clear."€

But Patchen said he has no desire to aid in bike theft and, in fact, has helped people recover at least 40 bikes since he opened his shop.

Patchen said he had a former employee and friend he trusted and that person had burned him. Patchen said he bought a bike frame and fork from the former employee without running it through the normal system.

“My mistake was to not run it, because it was from a friend,” Patchen said. He said he is no longer friends with the person who sold him the frame and fork.

But as for the larger problem of bike theft, he blames the police process that fails to link reported thefts with items registered by resale shops. He said that if he enters a bike into the system and it later gets reported as stolen, then the police should have access to that information and be able to make that connection.

“Beyond that, I’d have to go find the criminal for them, then go find the owner and return the bike to them,” said Patchen. “I’m not a super hero.”

Think the UW Burke-Gilman detour is big now? It’s just getting started

Today, the Burke-Gilman detour around the UW’s Montlake Triangle construction site is pretty big, but comfortable. Just few minutes around the construction zone on a newly-paved path and you’re back on your way.

But the current detour is just a taste of things to come. By summer, a much larger detour will be in place that sends trail users up through UW campus and on the newly redesigned NE 40th Street.

Access to the Montlake Bridge is already a headache, and the new detour certainly will not make things any better. Sidewalks in the area are always busy, and the streets are wide and unfriendly.

When completed, a section of the trail will be wider and there will be a new connection to the UW Link Light Rail Station and the Montlake Bridge.

You can learn more about the detour at an information session Thursday, 4 – 6 p.m. at the Gould Hall Atrium. For more information on the planned detours, see the UW project webpage.

Details from UW:

Work has already begun on construction projects to improve the Burke-Gilman Trail and the surrounding areas, and more construction is on the way. This includes the Montlake Triangle and Rainier Vista, Maple and Terry halls, the new Sound Transit Link light rail stations and power upgrades by Seattle City Light.
Beginning this spring, University of Washington will close portions of the Burke-Gilman Trail between Brooklyn Avenue Northeast and Mason Road, just east of the Rainier Vista, to facilitate these projects and the construction of a new, wider Burke-Gilman Trail with separation for people who walk and people who ride bikes, dozens of new lights, more blue emergency phones, better trail intersections and ADA access, and improved sightlines. Construction on phases of these projects will begin at different times, but by Summer 2014 the full detour will be in place.
We want to help keep you safe and informed during this detour! Watching out for each other–whether walking, riding a bike, or driving a vehicle–is a shared responsibility. Take extra care during the construction. Look out for other road users and make eye contact or wave to others – the more awareness motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians have, the more we can better ensure everyone’s safety.

Report: When it comes to bike/walk advocacy groups, Seattle is in a league of its own

When it comes to advocacy organizations in the United States, Seattle and Portland have no peers. And even Portland is a distant second compared to the advocacy muscle in Seattle and the Puget Sound region.

The data comes from the national Alliance for Biking and Walking’s annual Benchmarking Report, which was released Wednesday. The report is packed with tons of data about how our nation, its states and its major cities are doing with regards to biking and walking safety and promotion.

But it’s the section on advocacy organizations where Seattle really stands out. If there really is an All-Powerful Bicycle Lobby conspiring to submit the United States to United Nations control (I wish I were making this up, but this is a claim made by an actual major party candidate for Governor of Colorado), then Seattle is the training camp for this shadowy army.

Joking aside, Seattle really is in a unique position to put private dollars to work trying out new ideas and encouraging more bicycling and walking. Cascade Bicycle Club claims to have more than 15,000 members, and its budget is fueled by a series of bike events that have become nationally-known classics. The annual Seattle-to-Portland ride draws 10,000 participants and sells out nearly six months in advance every year.

The report’s figures are not perfect. Certainly there are organizations not included that do work on biking and walking. There are also organizations that are listed that do lots of work not directly related to advocacy. But the figures are probably at least in the ballpark. The report does not break down the numbers into each individual group, and Seattle’s numbers represent the sum of Cascade, Bike Works, Feet First and Undriving. But Cascade and its 30+ staff members certainly make up a huge portion of the total. Here the data breakdown:

As you can see, Seattle bike/walk advocacy pitches a no-hitter. To put this in perspective, Seattle’s total advocacy group income tops even New York City and Chicago, which have far larger populations and very active advocacy organizations. On a per capita basis, Seattle’s $7.87 is almost not comparable to other US cities. For example, Los Angeles bike/walk advocacy organizations have a budget of $0.19 per capita.

Of course, this data is not all apples-to-apples. As both an advocacy and events organization, Cascade does not spend all its income on advocacy and education work. Events like big rides and the Bike Expo are expensive to put on. And Bike Works focuses its efforts on youth empowerment programming, which is advocacy work in its own way. But they don’t necessarily use their budget and staff to lobby government leaders (nor should they).

These caveats aside, the point stands: Seattle’s non-profit organizations dedicated to biking and walking can and should be leading the nation and taking chances on new ideas to encourage more people to bike and walk and — if it is their mission — to encourage leaders to invest in making streets safer.

That’s why we are keeping a close watch on Cascade as it rebuilds following a year of intense staff turnover. Director Elizabeth Kiker has been promising to keep a strong focus on advocacy work. The club has continued its innovative Advocacy Leadership Institute, which trains everyday residents in the tools of the advocacy trade, and it has been active in policy decisions surrounding key bike projects like the Westlake bikeway.

But it also largely dropped its Olympia efforts during this legislative session (which, due to partisans elements likely beyond Cascade’s abilities, wasn’t particularly productive on transportation issues). Since Washington State falls somewhere in the middle in terms of statewide advocacy staff and budget — and the next legislative session could be a lot more productive than this one — there is definitely room to grow efforts there to help Washington Bikes keep state leaders focused on road safety.

We also hope Cascade continues to grow BikePAC and its efforts to foster strong leaders and help elect people who will have the guts to make bold transportation safety decisions. This is the kind of work other cities joke about their bike organizations doing. In the Puget Sound Region, the vision of more biking and walking in our communities is both popular enough and funded enough to make it happen. So let’s do it.

County will start paving north section of East Lake Sammamish Trail next week

King County Parks is ready to start work to reconstruct and pave the north section of the East Lake Sammamish Trail. During construction, the existing soft surface trail will be closed.

Work begins April 21 and is expected to last a year.

When fully complete, the trail will create a paved and separated bike route all the way from the Burke-Gilman Trial in Seattle to Isaaquah.

Details from King County Parks:

The gap is shrinking in King County’s 175-mile regional trail system, as King County Parks begins construction on improvements to the North Sammamish segment of the East Lake Sammamish (ELST).
Starting April 21, the 2.5-mile-long segment will be closed from 187th Avenue Northeast to Northeast Inglewood Hill Road.
Safety is King County’s top priority during trail construction, and because of the extensive amount of work, narrow corridor, steep terrain, and limited access, this segment will be closed for approximately one year. Trail users are advised to find alternate routes around the closed portion.
Nearby East Lake Sammamish Parkway features both bike lanes and sidewalks for ELST users who want to travel along the eastern shoreline of the lake and around the closed stretch of trail. For recreation, trail users are encouraged to visit other trails in King County’s 175-mile regional trail system.
Safety and accessibility for all trail users will be improved with a new, 12-foot-wide paved corridor with 2-foot-wide soft surface shoulders on each side, enhanced intersections, clear sight lines, four fish passable culverts, retaining walls, improved drainage and landscaping.
The contractor for this project is Tri-State Construction, and the estimated cost of completing the North Sammamish segment is $6.2 million.
Funding is provided by the voter-approved 2014-19 Parks, Trails and Open Space Replacement Levy, as well as by grants from the Transportation Enhancements Program, the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program and state Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.
This project is the third segment of the ELST to be converted from the interim soft-surface trail to the finished master-planned trail. The Redmond segment was completed in 2011, and the Issaquah segment was completed in June 2013. The South Sammamish segment will be constructed in two phases, following completion of the North Sammamish portion of the trail.
King County purchased the 11-mile-long East Lake Sammamish rail banked corridor in 1998. An interim soft-surface trail was completed and opened to the public in 2006.
The ELST follows a historic railroad route along the eastern shore of Lake Sammamish within the cities of Redmond, Sammamish and Issaquah. Part of the “Locks to Lakes Corridor,” the trail follows an off-road corridor along the lake and through lakeside communities.
Once the ELST is fully developed, it will be part of a 44-mile-long regional urban trail corridor from Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood to Issaquah. More information is available at www.kingcounty.gov/eastlakesammamishtrail.
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