On Friday afternoon, staff at the Seattle Department of Transportation working on a plan to expand Seattle’s bikeshare program and make it successful had the rug pulled out from under them. In typical Murray Administration fashion, the news came at 5:00 pm, with the press release titled “City announces $3 million in bicycle and pedestrian improvements” that actually buried the lede: “The funding for these new projects is derived from funding previously allocated to the 2017 re-launch of the city’s bike share program”. Those $3 million in funds will now be diverted to other SDOT capital projects, particularly Safe Routes-to-Schools, a program that no reasonable person would ever object to.
The release also promises to use some of the money for Downtown bike infrastructure in the form of “completing a missing link of the 4th Avenue bicycle lane and extension to Vine Street” and “accelerating design and outreach for the east/west connections in the Center City bicycle network.” Side note: we have been accelerating design and outreach for east-west bike lanes Downtown since at least the second Bush Administration and it was a concept under discussion for decades before that.
The turn-on-a-dime announcement cloaked in the guise of investments to safe streets is a big blow to bikeshare in Seattle: the plan was to sell back the current bike stations and all their bikes and start over again, with a fresh approach. Seattle’s hills would be conquered with the help of an added feature: electric-assist on all bikes.