Today I attempted to ride my bike to Convention place where I planned to catch the 41 northbound to Northgate. Normally I might ride directly from work, but I broke a spoke yesterday and I wanted to avoid riding too much. As it turns out, I barely needed to ride at all. Despite the very nice three-bike racks on the front of all Metro buses, bikes do not mesh well with the bus system in Seattle. It takes time to load your bike and too often during high traffic times the bus is full by the time you get your bike loaded. Then what? Do you take it back off? How many times does one put a bike on and off before calling it quits?
Today I tried a different approach. There was a Metro employee facilitating boarding at Convention Place in order to maximize the number of people on each bus. I explained the difficulty of boarding with a bike and he said “Yeah but we’ll get you on.” About 35 minutes and 3-4 buses later I was still standing there and the line was getting no shorter. There simply is not enough room for everyone and holding up the line so someone like myself (a young male who clearly has access to different transportation) was not an easy task to do. So frustration gave way to impatience so I turned around and left. Modal interconnection is terrible in Seattle and must receive serious attention if the city is to encourage more cycling from a larger variety of riders. Add that to the laundry list of things to be done to improve the city’s failing transportation – bike infrastructure, transit service, light rail, congestion pricing!
As luck would have it a security guard was on the platform and had no shortage of words for me as I took my bike up the escalator. Safety. Danger. Disrespect. No officer, none of those are the right words. Try inefficient, failed, frustration. Explaining myself was pointless: he did not care that I was frustrated with poor service or that I find rules against bicycle on escalators to be outlandish. All he heard was I am a cyclist and I can do whatever I want. That is Seattle – people seem to assume cyclists are all terrible people. I admit, we are often guilty of bending and even breaking traffic laws. But so are drivers and pedestrians. Yet we are unfairly targeted – just this morning I treated a deserted red light as a stop sign seconds after a pedestrian did the same. We both came to a “rolling” stop and carefully looked both ways before crossing. The police officer a few feet away nodded politely at the pedestrian but briefly chased me and yelled. We both broke a traffic law. Why was I singled out for enforcement?
People should fit easily onto buses. Pedestrians and cyclists should be free to move about, not be limited by traffic laws designed for and heavily favoring vehicles. Cars are a privilege not a right. As a country, the United States needs to change the way it looks at transportation. Seattle could and should be at the forefront of that change with it culture of innovation and plethora of pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, and transit users. Unfortunately Seattle is not.