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Seattle Bike Blog Magazine Issue #6

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For 7th straight year, Washington named most bike-friendly state

Despite very little improvement over 2013, Washington State was able to hang on to the top spot on the League of American Bicyclists’ annual list of bike-friendly states. The state scored 66.8 out of 100 points, effectively unchanged from 2013′s 66.2 score.

Governor Jay Inslee hailed the news in a press release announcing his proclamation of May as Bike Month.

“As a bike rider I get to see firsthand all that Washington has done to make bicycling part of a sustainable transportation system,” said Gov. Inslee. “Bicycling helps make healthy communities, healthy people and a rich quality of life.  There’s always more to do, but being named the most bike friendly state shows we are moving on the right path.”

See full press release at the bottom of this post.

The state’s marks for “infrastructure and funding” was already Washington’s lowest point, but the 2014 rank found that the state is now doing even worse. It now gets only 2 points out of 5 in that category.

But Washington gets very strong marks for education, legislation and policies, and those scores are enough to keep it at the top of the nation’s list.

But perhaps not for too long. Minnesota is now giving Washington a run for its money, scoring 62 points compared to 56.6 last year. And since the bar is so low, they might not have to try very hard to take the lead next year if Washington does not step up its game.

According to the Alliance for Biking & Walking’s 2014 Benchmarking Report, Washington State’s annual budget dedicates only $4.19 per resident to walking and biking projects combined. Of the Federal transportation funds Washington receives, only 3.2 percent goes to biking and walking projects. That figure includes bike/walk elements of other roads projects.

If the state is able to pass a transportation funding package that includes strong support for biking and walking, Washington will likely secure its top spot for years to come.

Here’s a statement from the Governor’s Office:

For the seventh consecutive year, Washington has been named the nation’s No. 1 “Bicycle-Friendly State” by the League of American Bicyclists.
Meanwhile, Washington state will officially celebrate Bike Month in May with a signed proclamation by Governor Jay Inslee describing the many benefits of bicycling.
“As a bike rider I get to see firsthand all that Washington has done to make bicycling part of a sustainable transportation system,” said Gov. Inslee. “Bicycling helps make healthy communities, healthy people and a rich quality of life.  There’s always more to do, but being named the most bike friendly state shows we are moving on the right path.”
Strong partnerships among the state’s cities, counties, advocacy organizations, state agencies and transportation providers form the foundation of Washington’s success in improving conditions for bicycling and walking.
“Being an avid bicyclist, I’ve had an opportunity to explore Washington’s urban and rural roadways this past year,” said Washington Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson. “We’ll continue to work with our local partners to identify and fund bicycle needs in their areas, especially on highways that also function as main streets in our communities.”
The Washington State Department of Transportation supports bicycling through its Bicycle and Pedestrian programs and provides transportation design guidance, grant programs and technical support.
“We’re pleased and proud that Washington has remained the number one bicycle-friendly state,” said Barb Chamberlain, Washington Bikes executive director. “The work that goes into growing bicycling statewide every year is important for everyday people bicycling to work, school or errands. It’s equally important for Washington’s reputation as an incredible place to experience the great outdoors through bike travel and tourism. What a great way to kick off Bike Month!”
The League of American Bicyclists annually ranks all 50 states on how “bikeable” they are. The League evaluates each state’s cycling success in several categories: legislation and enforcement; policies and programs; infrastructure and funding; education and encouragement; and evaluation and planning.

Fremont Bridge counter continues to shows steady increase in biking

Monday’s bike numbers on the Fremont Bridge surprised even the most optimistic bike advocates in town. Unfortunately, they turned out to be the result of a bug in the counter, not an unprecedented explosion in bike use on the bridge.

Seattle’s already steadily-growing bike numbers appeared to spike through the roof Monday, smashing a bike count record on the Fremont Bridge that was set June 4 last year, when an impressive people biked 5,121 trips on the bridge.

A whopping 6,623 bike trips were measured on the bridge Monday. This number not only dwarfs the previous record, but it’s also a huge increase over 2014′s second-bikiest day: 4,394 trips measured April 25. When I saw the surge in numbers, I was hesitant to trust it. I asked SDOT if they can verify the counter is working properly, and they found an issue. From Traffic Engineer Dongho Chang:

We checked the daily count resolution and there is an unusually high spike in the morning hour.  We’re checking on the counter.  We suspect daily count is closer to 5,000.

On a typical work day in the early spring, somewhere between 2,500 and 3,500 people bike across the Fremont Bridge. This seems to represent the current base level for people who will bike year-round and through nearly any weather.

While the Fremont Bridge is just one data point in the city, it is a good high-use choke point to use a barometer of the city’s general bikey trends. So when looking at the data, the raw numbers say less than year-over-year growth.

History has shown that the numbers on the bridge spike as weather warms. Last year, the Fremont Bridge counter measured 50 percent more trips in May than in April. With two days left to measure, April 2014 has already seen 15 percent more trips than all of April 2013. If weather forecasts hold up, that could increase to 20 percent by Thursday.

Total 2014 bike trip counts are up nine percent compared to the same time in 2013, but that represents a slow-down compared to the 17-20 percent increase measured in late 2013.

But the “meager” nine percent increase could be skewed to the low end due to unusually heavy rains this winter and early spring. Analysis has shown that a morning rain will suppress a day’s bike counts. If any of you are into crunching data, you could analyze the number of rainy weekday mornings in 2014 compared to 2013 to test this theory. If you do, let us know what you find.

Even though Monday’s number appears to be a fluke, the growth trend is steady and real. If Monday’s actual count were closer to the 4,000 counts seen many times in recent weeks, that would represent more than a 20 percent increase in April year-over-year. The city would be wise to plan for this level of growth in cycling, which means several thousand more people cycling regularly than did so last year.

And if the past year is an example, when the warm weather surge dies back down in the winter, the new base level of year-round biking folks will be higher than it was this winter. This will create a stronger base for an even bigger warm weather surge next year, and on and on and on.

Washington seeks federal recognition of US Bicycle Route 10

Image from WA Bikes

Earlier this month, Washington submitted an application for official recognition of US Bicycle Route 10, the state’s first addition to the in-development nation-wide network of bicycle routes. If approved, it would also be among the first such routes on the west coast.

Filed jointly by WSDOT and Washington Bikes, the application for USBR 10 would gain Federal designation as a cross-country bike route and provide a strong foundation for investments in bike travel and tourism efforts across the state.

Drawing a line on a map is easy. But designating an official US Bicycle Route is a huge amount of work, and has been a labor of love by Washington Bikes leaders from around the state like John Pope, Barb Culp and Lynn O’Connor. In fact, the work to create the route could prove to be a big part of the value of the process since it involves engaging nearly every community along the way.

The application will go before the May 28 meeting of the American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Special Committee on US Route Numbering. Here’s how Pope described the process in a spring 2013 blog post:

The USBRS process involves working with jurisdictions and cyclists along a conceptual route corridor, selecting destination towns and finding the most bike-friendly combination of roads. Once the nominated route is complete, it is reviewed once again by the jurisdictions (towns, counties and WSDOT regions). The draft nomination then needs approval from the top transportation directors of the affected adjacent state, our state and finally the AASHTO USBRS numbering committee.
Someday, US Bicycle Routes could criss-cross Washington. WSDOT image

More details from WA Bikes:

Earlier this month, an application for official recognition of US Bicycle Route 10 — Washington State’s first in the US Bicycle Route System — was jointly submitted by Washington State Department of Transportation and Washington Bikes. The application went to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and will be reviewed by the Special Committee on US Route Numbering at their May meeting.
USBR 10 travels 416 miles across the northern tier of our state. It will continue into Idaho to the east and connect to the San Juan Islands and Canada at its western terminus in Anacortes via Washington State Ferries. This route climbs four mountain passes, including Sherman Pass at 5575 feet, and takes the bicycle traveler through spectacular landscapes and friendly towns.
Our on-the-ground work to create USBR 10 took over two years and has been a labor of love for WAbikes board member and mapping volunteer John Pope of Anacortes. We owe a round of high fives to him, Barb Culp of Seattle and Lynn O’Connor of Colville for their field work and energy.
You can preview route maps and sign up to receive an announcement about the official designation and celebration on our USBR 10page.
The US Bicycle Route System is a developing network of national bicycle routes that has been championed by Adventure Cycling Association. Nearly 6000 miles of US Bike Routes have been established in a dozen states so far. Currently, over 40 states are working on creating US Bicycle Routes.

Here’s a look at what the complete USBR system could look like some day (dark lines show routes already approved):

WSDOT opens bike path under new Atlantic St Overpass

Photo from WSDOT

The biking and walking trail under the newly-opened Atlantic Street Overpass is now open, fixing a confusing bike connection between E Marginal Way and the Alaskan Way Trail into downtown.

When the overpass opened to traffic early this year, the bike path connection was not yet complete and many people voiced concerns that the new intersection created a dangerous situation for people on bikes. Some reworking of the area eased some of the bigger concerns, but the new trail connection is intended to be a permanent solution for people biking through the area.

Here’s a concept image with labels, from WSDOT:

Of course, the current situation will only be this way until the Highway 99 tunnel opens (if it does open). If it opens, the area could easily become a pretty unfriendly mess for people biking and walking. Below is a concept image that shows the plans:

Artist paints scenes of people on bikes mixing with ‘giants’ on downtown streets

Of all the action on downtown Seattle streets, it was the “fascinating ballet” of people biking among the buses on 3rd Ave that caught William Houston‘s eye.

After painting a series of scenes from area bridges, he found that people biking were his favorite part of the scenes. From an email to Seattle Bike Blog:

After the bridges I started some more epic bustling downtown paintings of traffic. And though I enjoyed doing them, the bikes were my favorite part. I think I finally just sat and watched the madness on 3rd Ave near Pine where there is a fascinating ballet of bike commuters and buses that goes on every day. I grew up riding bikes and racing BMX before getting into mountain biking, so I am very comfortable in the saddle, but I’ve never commuted downtown like that. There’s something very intimidating about the thought of riding sandwiched between buses and cars that gives me pause.
Riding With Giants (#1)

Obviously, this is not an art blog, but his scenes highlight the absurdity that is biking downtown today. When you are on your bike and just gotta get where you’re going, you make route choices that feel most comfortable to you. A lot of people have decided that they prefer 3rd Ave because it’s relatively flat and at least the buses are mostly predictable.

But when you see the scenes through Houston’s eyes, it really looks crazy that this is the best bike route option the city has provided people who want to ride their bikes to work or the game or any of the other thousands of reasons people might head downtown. Of all the reasons why more people don’t bike in Seattle, the uncomfortable and intimidating downtown streets is probably the biggest.

But the people in Houston’s paintings don’t seem particularly worried. Maybe they’ve just become used to the way things are, so they can bike on 3rd Ave as though nothing is out of the ordinary. In the end, they are images of people making it work, even if “it” is a rather strange combination of our biggest urban vehicles and our smallest.

You can check out more of Houston’s work online at his website. You can also see it in person in the Urban Energy exhibit at the Cole Gallery in Edmonds.

Cycling Sojourner will guide your bike adventures in Washington

Cycling Sojourner is like a real life Choose Your Own Adventure book for bike touring. It lays a solid foundation to plan your pedal-powered vacation ranging from bare bones camping in the Cascades to sipping wine in Walla Walla.

Following 2012′s Oregon guide, Ellee Thalheimer and friends have turned their gaze to the Evergreen State. Cycling Sojourner: A Guide to the Best Multi-Day Tours in Washington is now for sale.

Beyond the regional diversity of Washington, the book covers diverse lodging and food options so you can cater your trip perfectly to your needs. Options include trips with shorter mileage and hotels, which are welcoming to people who have never bike toured before.

For those of you that seek it Thalheimer takes you off the beaten path. With detailed maps and cue sheets, riders have an accurate sense of what lays ahead. The book is thoughtful, paying attention to the special needs of bike touring, like highlighting good hiker/biker campsites, policies for taking a bike on a train and where to restock your water supply.

There is no shortage of fun places to stop and check out along the way on all of the trips. The only hard part about this book is choosing which adventure you want to go on first.

Story by Kelli Refer. Kelli is the author and illustrator of Pedal, Stretch, Breathe: The Yoga of Bicycling. She works for Cascade Bicycle Club as the Volunteer Coordinator.

Where people who use Strava ride their bikes

Strava is an online service that allows people with a smart phone or GPS device to track their bike rides and share the data with others. It’s very popular in distance and racing circles and has a (sometimes problematic) competitive element to it, but like any tool people can use it to track whatever kind of bike ride they want to.

The company has put together a heat map showing the most common bike routes used by Strava users, and the result is pretty much a map of historic and long-loved regional bike routes.

Obviously, this map only represents a small percentage of people who bike, and only a percentage of their bike trips. People are more likely to track longer rides, which explains why this map is a pretty accurate compilation of popular recreational rides and longer commute routes.

For example, the Mercer Island Loop is one of the most popular routes on the map even though the transportation utility of the loop is very limited unless you live on the island.

But it’s a cool insight and verification of regional bike routes. You can also play around with the map to look at running routes. Check it out.

Bike Month and the annual Commute Challenge is under way

Cascade Bicycle Club’s annual Bike Month Commute Challenge started Thursday. Are you signed up?

All it takes is signing up online and tracking your miles each day you bike. If your workplace has a team, you can join up and help contribute to its miles.

Or maybe you could start your own team and encourage coworkers to join you. And if you become a team captain, you get an invite to the May 7 Captain’s Bash at Pike Brewing.

Bike Month

The Commute Challenge is only one part of Bike Month, when Cascade and other bikey organizations pack the calendar with bike events of all kinds. Cascade hosts the Bike to Work Breakfast May 6, lots of bike commute classes, policy rides and bike happy hours every week and, of course, Bike to Work Day May 16.

But beyond Cascade, there are a huge number of events, like the Pedaler’s Fair, Alleycat Acres’ Streets & Beets fundraiser ride, the start of Bicycle Sundays on Lake Washington Boulevard and much more.

You can check out the incredible number of events on our Events Calendar (there are over 80 events listed in May alone). Have an event that’s not listed? Anyone can post to the events calendar. Just follow the instructions at the top of the page.

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