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Biking in Seattle

Old 03-19-10, 12:22 AM
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crackerdog
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Biking in Seattle

I just got back from a short bike ride in Seattle for the first time in 20 years. Oh what a difference it has made. Bike lanes and sharrows all over but the most amazing thing was the driver's awareness level. Drivers were looking me in the eye to communicate our respective intentions when needed. I even had a driver who had passed me a couple of blocks earlier, park and -get this- waited until I passed his parked car BEFORE he opened the door! Drivers were obviously expecting bikes to be on the streets and I have never been in downtown traffic and felt so safe (I still am careful). Cars on all sides but I was one of many vehicles, they were SHARING THE ROAD, even the commercial trucks. I never thought I would live to see the day. I didn't even have to be assertive, it just flowed. Other than the noise and smell of the cars, it was actually pleasant. In a short 3 hour ride, I was never cut off or squeezed over, cars just slowed and let me in when needed. I am going to have to go on another ride soon just to see if there just happened to be something in the water today or if this is now considered normal driving behavior.
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Old 03-19-10, 09:19 AM
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Ngchen
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Excellent! Now what we'll have to do A&S-wise is to try to replicate the situation in Seattle, (and other places like Portland) elsewhere. Anybody have the history behind what Seattle did to get to where they're at?
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Old 03-19-10, 11:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Ngchen View Post
Excellent! Now what we'll have to do A&S-wise is to try to replicate the situation in Seattle, (and other places like Portland) elsewhere. Anybody have the history behind what Seattle did to get to where they're at?

Less bike lanes? I know they want to put more in, but there aren't many, especially in downtown seattle. That's one thing I don't like about portland. Their fascination with bike lanes. Drivers get used to cyclists being separated from traffic, then problems pop up when there isn't a bike lane. I used to bike in downtown seattle almost every day (now I just bike in south seattle), and there are very few bike lanes. In downtown areas, more cyclists take the entire lane and the speed of traffic is generally lower in downtown so bikes generally go with the flow.
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Old 03-19-10, 02:20 PM
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I ride daily in the downtown core and south/west. A few questions for you to clarify as bike lanes/infrastructure is not equitably distributed in this city. When were you riding? During a rush hour? Where were you riding? What was your destination?

I do have to say that it's much better than it was 9 years ago. However, when it's crush time out there (i.e. traffic backs up due to a particularly bad rush hour, construction, a baseball game, etc.) drivers tend to lose their "niceness." It's worse in the summer as well. And after going to Portland a couple times a year, we've still got nothing in comparison.

The Seattle Bike Advisory Board has become a good reference for Seattle's Department of Transportation and many projects (not only SDOT but WADOT and private groups) meet with SBAB to review roadway plans before they are built. SBAB has been a good advocate with strong bike-experienced representation. That said, they don't have "teeth." So if SDOT installs something poorly (like Sharrows on the wrong side of the white fog line) they can recommend a fix but not mandate it - so there's a fair amount of infrastructure here that was implemented as an "experiment" and done poorly or incorrectly (like the Sharrow, or a bike lane installed only to dead end at a parking zone, or lights at intersections on bike routes not detecting cyclists...). The infrastructure is being installed (slowly, at a snails pace really and mostly in the north end of town, but there's no education to go along with it.

My biggest gripe is lack of direct education to the public about WHAT these things called Sharrows are, or bike lanes, or why cyclists are using the roadway is NOT done by SDOT. You pretty much have to seek the information yourself, or rely on half-wits in "opinion" columns in the newspaper telling cyclists what they should be doing - which is often A-#1 wrong. Portland has a much stronger advocacy and education mode than Seattle by far.
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Old 03-20-10, 10:06 AM
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I mentioned in another thread that an elderly lady gave me the right hook 2 weeks ago.

Everyone is saying 'See? You shouldn't be out there! Drivers just aren't looking" I have to point out that she is an exception to the rule, I had put on nearly 20K miles of street riding in Redmond, Bellevue, Woodinville since the last incident (5yrs ago). Fast but careful riding.

I also tell them that the woman was ticketed and other drivers gave her heat because my gear and lights were max'd out, they didn't buy 'I didn't see you'. Another difference is that the cops are ticketing drivers AND/OR cyclists for infractions. If the cyclist has a driver's license, the ticket affects their insurance rates.
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Old 03-20-10, 10:42 AM
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It isn't that biking in downtown Seattle was all that great in itself, car accommodations must take up at least 60% of the land use, but it was the difference over the 20 years. I used to fight it out daily in Mpls./St. Paul, MN in the late '70s and let me tell you , I learned aggressive vehicular cycling techniques, it was a war almost every day. I left MN because of it and Seattle was great compared to that. In Seattle back then, you only had to assume that cars never saw me and I was fine. In Mpls., drivers tried to run me off the road almost every single day, even when I took side streets, they just didn't think I should be using 'their' road. In Seattle on Thursday, I came across the ferry and used Dexter to go up and over Lake Union. I used Western to get out from downtown and then cut up to Dexter. The bike lanes are mostly in the 'door zone' but I rode on the white fog line so doors couldn't get me and cars had room to move over in their lane and they did. No horns, no yelling and they were actually looking for cyclists- that makes the big difference. So it is much better but not perfect. Rumor has it Peter Lagerway had a lot to do with fighting for bikes. I've only been in Portland once and I didn't have my bike with me but it looked much better than Seattle for bikes and citizens. I need to bike in Portland to check it out. Are big cities going to become liveable?
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