Story of Survival

Brandon Blake was hit by a car while cycling on Dexter Ave. last year. Thankfully he survived, but not everyone who is hit is so lucky. I rode that same section of Dexter every day on my work commute from Queen Anne and now that I moved to Beacon Hill I still use it as a main thoroughfare when traveling north. One of my best friends rides it on his everyday commutes. Thousands pass along Dexter everyday as they go about there business. What is to keep us form being hit? From being killed?

Read about Brandon’s story on the Seattle Bike Blog. His band, More of Anything, will be playing a show Friday in West Seattle. There is no cover and some special guests are expected. Show solidarity for your fellow cyclist and check it out!

In its first week of operations the new protected bike lane on 2nd Avenue has seen dramatically increased ridership levels. Was this a fluke from all the people trying it out who would normally never need to use this road? Only time will tell, but what is clear is that left-turning drivers have done an excellent job of following the no-turn signs and traffic speed has barely been affected despite huge sporting events. I expect these trends to continue, if not improve. Learn more in the Seattle Bike Blog’s article.

Bike traffic on 2nd Ave triples after city builds protected bike lane | Seattle Bike Blog

Not a War on Cars

I hear that phrase a lot. War on cars. First off, it is not pedestrians and cyclists that injure and even kill drivers. That aside, infrastructure improvements aimed at improving non-motorized transit do not always negatively impact traffic flow. In fact, sometimes new designs to implement bike improvements actually help traffic flow. Take the new two-way protected bike lane on 2nd Ave. Yes, the number of through-traffic lanes is decreased from 3 to 2. But anyone who has ever drove in Downtown Seattle knows half the trouble is turning: with so many pedestrians and traffic congestion cars often cannot turn and cause traffic to pile up. The new layout reduces and in some cases eliminates this by introducing a separate turning lane combined with a turn-only signal. Now turning vehicles are removed from the regular flow of traffic and are ensured adequate time and space to turn. Having drove 2nd Ave since the redesign I can vouch for how effective this seemingly small addition can be.

Cycling infrastructure needs to be built and improved because we need safer streets. But we also need smarter, more efficient streets and new cycling infrastructure is designed to make the most of our roadways. For more, Citylab covers the traffic impacts of protected bike lanes in an excellent piece on the redevelopment of several streets in NYC. Thinning lanes and creating turning cut-outs actually improved travel time for motorists!

The New 2nd Ave…By Night

In the wake of the tragic death of Sher Kung two weeks ago, Seattle’s cyclists have anxiously awaited the opening of the newly renovated 2nd Ave from Pike to Yesler. With the promise of bike signals, protected lanes, and more visibility by turning motorists the redesign makes us hope this is the last time we must gather together and solemnly ride down 2nd Ave. Well, the new two-way cycle track opened yesterday with the help of volunteers from Cascade Bicycle Club who were on-hand to help orient bicyclists, pedestrians, and drivers to the new set-up. Unfortunately I could not make it yesterday, but tonight I put the track to a good test: night riding. I must say, I am satisfied. As you’ll see, I prepared myself for several cars to cut me off with left-hand turns but each and every one stopped. I felt safe…finally.

 

The new infrastructure has me feeling so much safer! It also facilitates traffic flow by separating turning vehicles from the regular flow and allowing them a separate turning signal to ensure cars are not blocked by pedestrians and bikes.

It’s a great system – all that is left is to make sure everyone behaves responsibly. The end result should increase safety and travel speed for all users.

Memorial Ride Honors Sher Kung

On Friday Cascade Bicycle Club organized a memorial ride for Sher Kung, the woman who was killed last week while riding on 2nd Ave in Seattle. After an odd start with riders broken into groups of 10 everyone stopped at the plaza adjacent to the crash scene. Speakers from Cascade, the mayor, and a friend of Sher recalled her intelligence, passion, and commitment. I already shed tears for a woman I never knew when I first visited the ghost bikes – this time it was the sight of her friends and family in tears that struck a chord.

It is easy to think about this as “just another tragedy” when thinking about it in the larger picture of urban planning and transportation but to the people who knew Sher this is life changing. I pray I never know what it feels to lose a loved one in this way. Still, my presence was important. A number of people asked me what the demonstration was for as we prepared in Westlake Center and, after hearing my explanation, naturally asked if I knew Sher.

No, but she’s one of us.

Cyclists must unite. We must stand together. We are a diverse group and we hardly agree on appropriate cycling clothing, let alone urban cycling etiquette and the best bike infrastructure. But we all agree on one thing: we need to make cycling safer for everyone.

Thankfully, after the speakers and a moment of silence the Seattle Police Department agreed to escort us for the remained of our ride to Occidental Park. Hundreds strong, we rode solemnly down 2nd Ave. The irony of our privilege and safety on such a monstrous road was not lost on us. As wonderful as it was to own the road we can only hope tomorrow’s opening of a two-way protected bike lane will signal the end of these vigils…

Here are some photos from the event. In my opinion Komo News had the best video coverage: check it out here or look for footage from other local stations.

EDIT (9/9/14 @ 23:40):

I forgot I took this video. While there was no remembrance song, which would have been so beautiful, there was a very soft, almost serene chiming of bike bells. Perhaps in some ways this was the best…

Dutch Cycling Series #3: Groningen – What Bike Cities Can Be

In the last post I mentioned Groningen, one of the most cycling-friendly cities in the world. Cycling in Groningen is more than just a way to commute: locals use cycling for everything from getting to work and shopping to getting to parties and even transporting Christmas trees and refrigerators! This is no accident either: cycling is a product of political activism, public policy, cultural alignment, and economic prudence. Intelligent and utilitarian policies have enhanced the safety and efficiency of cycling while dense multi-use development and business support has made it easy to use cycling for any type of errand. Watch this Streetsblog episode for a lengthy but excellent look at the many efforts that make cycling in Groningen the most popular form of transportation.

Dutch Cycling Series #3: “Groningen: The World’s Cycling City”