erik lundegaard

Wednesday June 26, 2013

Biking in Seattle More Dangerous than in New York City, Expert Says

This was on the front page of The Seattle Times today under the headline, “Worse than Manhattan? Bike expert rattled by ride through city.”

John Pucher, a Rutgers professor, bike-safety expert, and author of the book, “City Cycling,” visited Seattle and took a ride down 2nd Avenue, which I ride every day, and which has its own bike lane. Kinda sorta. Biking in SeattleLike all bike lanes, it's there for bikes until someone bigger and more impatient wants it. Which often happens on 2nd.

In the article, Times reporter Mike Lindbloom describes Pucher's trip down 2nd:

Close encounters of the wrong kind greeted him down the southbound slope: a woman texting while her SUV drifted toward him; a FedEx delivery truck blocking; cars headed toward Interstate 5 turning in front of him at intersections; a black sedan whose driver abruptly stopped to parallel park.

Then he quotes Pucher:

“I’d say it’s as bad as a major avenue on Manhattan,” Pucher said. “I think it’s maybe even worse, because I think here, there’s more left and right turns, there’s more doors that are being opened, more cars that are trying to park.”

For Seattle, Pucher recommends cycle tracks (bike lanes separated by curbs, parked cars, whatever), and greenways (being developed in neighborhoods). He doesn't think much of sharrows (the bike symbol painted on the street as a reminder to drivers to share the road, but which looks like a flattened cyclist). I agree on all counts. I've even written about 2nd Avenue and its lousy turns a few times myself.

Here's another key graf from Lindbloom that doesn't make the Emerald City in the Evergreen State look very green:

In 1990, about 1.5 percent of Seattleites bicycled to work or school, compared with 1.1 percent in Portland. By 2011, Seattle had climbed slowly to 3.7 percent, while Portland zoomed to a 6.8 percent commute share for cycling, census surveys show. “I hope this is a wake-up call to Seattle” to build safe routes now and not in a decade, he said.

Overall, the article made me feel two ways: 1) vindicated, since we have an outside source corroborating what I've long said; and 2) tough, since I bike that shit every day. OK, three ways: it made me sad, too, about my city. We were progressive once.

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Posted at 11:00 AM on Wednesday June 26, 2013 in category Biking  
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Twitter: @ErikLundegaard