Last week, the sexist, anti-bike (see second image below), anti-safe streets “neighborhood group” Save 35th Ave NE, who has been demanding that the 35th Ave NE repaving not include bike lanes in order to preserve parking, were able to get a late evening meeting with 46th District State Senator David Frockt, and Representatives Javier Valdez and Gerry Pollet. I reached out to all three, asking them to support the environment, and safe and equitable mobility options –and to iterate that we shouldn’t allow residents the ability to veto safety.

Both Senator Frockt and Representative Valdez emailed back to tell me they were hearing from both sides, and would be setting up a meeting (held last Tuesday night) to meet with supporters of the project. Senator Frockt wrote, “We have scheduled a meeting with those in favor of the city’s current proposed changes on Tuesday, June 12th at 4:00 at the Wedgwood Library community meeting room. Please feel free to drop by if you would like to speak with us in person.” And Representative Valdez’s aide similarly stated, “After touring the project with the ‘Save 35th’ folks last night, Rep. Valdez hopes of meeting with the ‘Safe 35th Ave’ folks, as we’ve heard from many of you over the last week or so.”

Representative Pollet’s response to my email was canned gibberish about community objections to “dramatic changes.” I responded with my dismay at the claim that bike lanes –a critical component of safe streets and equitable mobility options –are “dramatic changes”–when they’ve been on the city’s Bike Master Plan for years, and why the anti-safe street group’s suggestions were unsafe, inequitable, and environmentally irresponsible. This is where things got awkward.

Representative Pollet effectively stated bike lanes will increase carbon emissions–on a road that sees 13,000 cars per day, “There is good reason to discuss if the traffic flow on 35th NE will end up with significantly increased congestion, increased emissions and increased risk for pedestrians. SDOT has acknowledged that ifs [sic] notices highlighted repaving, not these dramatic changes for 35th NE. Building communities starts with really good engagement and discussion. That’s what I am seeking.”

It should be noted that this weekday afternoon meeting time was incredibly difficult for people to attend unless they’re retired. Because of the short notice, it certainly looks like the meeting time was scheduled to prevent working parents from attending. The meeting time was originally scheduled for 4:00 pm, and was moved to 3:45  pm–giving those who opposed changes more opportunity to pack the room. Despite the acknowledgement of equal time for those who support the bike lane –Representative Pollet invited those who oppose the safe streets project, and wouldn’t you know it–the meeting room was crammed with elderly folks who crowded out and excluded the opportunity for those who were promised a meeting with their representatives (including a local business owner). Apparently, this is the “really good engagement and discussion” that Representative Pollet was seeking. Such inclusion! Such engagement!

Representative Pollet’s absurd insinuation that bike lanes would increase carbon emissions sounds strikingly reminiscent to the state representative who claimed bicycling was not good for the environment. Representative Pollet’s own website under the “environment” tab lauds finding funding for bike lanes and addressing climate change in Seattle –so his opposition to bike lanes on 35th Ave NE is interesting.

Several of the suggestions by the group that opposes safe streets aren’t functional or logical. Many of the side streets aren’t continuous. 36th Ave NE is one such street –and in addition, there would never be a bike lane built on it. If every street becomes a conflict, people biking would have major dangers at cross street arterials (which would never get signaled and could be blocked by cars waiting for street lights to change), and then there’s still elevation to deal with to get back up to 35th Ave NE. These issues may not be a problem for the vehicular cyclist types, but they’re major impediments to the elderly, kids, and families who bike.

39th Ave NE is a greenway meant to bypass the commercial arterial –if you need to run errands like going to the library or nearby doughnut shop–39th Ave NE isn’t really a viable option. The elevation gain between 39th Ave NE and 35th Ave NE is nearly 100 feet at some points, and it forces people biking to bike an extra half-mile to chain their errands and activities on 35th Ave NE.

35th ave NE zoning (the yellow ban affordable housing). (City of Seattle)
35th ave NE zoning (the yellow ban affordable housing). (City of Seattle)

Another vocal critic claimed that bike lanes would lead to gentrification. This is an interesting statement as the census tracts along 35th Ave NE are some of the whitest and wealthiest in the city. Of course, this isn’t an accident. Nearly all of the land along 35th Ave NE is zoned to exclude multifamily and affordable housing –and has been since the 1923 zoning ordinance was adopted. So exactly who, in these neighborhoods of million dollar homes, would be gentrified by a bike lane used by middle and working class families to get around town without being endangered by cars is, um, not exactly clear to me.

More importantly –those of us who are trying to do our part, to leave a safe, livable city and earth to future generations –need leaders who are bold and will protect vulnerable road users –especially over redundant parking. People like my wife –who bikes our kids daily on our minivan (a cargo bike) all over this region or my kids –who are learning to ride bikes. The future is car-free.

Please write your state legislators (and don’t forget the mayor and city council while you’re at it) and demand they stop prioritizing the least sustainable forms of transportation in this city. There is absolutely nothing progressive about prioritizing parking over mobility. Parking is not a part of livability, it is antithetical to it. We need safe, direct, and equitable mobility options in order to meet our climate goals, protect vulnerable road users, and increase livability.

This is a cross-post from Mike Eliason’s blog on Medium. 

11 COMMENTS

  1. There is is also the question of why state legislators are getting involved in a city project. Stay out of our business!

  2. This was a terribly upsetting meeting. Not just because the group that had already met with these legislators (who have no say over a city project) arrived early en masse and packed the room to deny many who support the safety project access.Library staff were great and propped doors open so those outside the room could hear. But then a couple men from the anti-safe-streets group in the doorway kept talking loudly so they door had to be closed.

    The conversations that occurred outside the library afterwards as Rep Pollet and Sen Frockt hung around to give the people who had been excluded from the meeting a chance to talk were even worse. There is so much anger from many members of this group being directed at their neighbors who are asking the city to prioritize safety and access for all. Tyler Gillies and I were speaking with 3 members of the Save 35th Group who were getting angry and yelling at us for saying that people who choose a bicycle for a trip should be given safe access to the street. Their yelling caused a middle-school aged boy who was walking by on the sidewalk to come up and ask what was going on. When he heard it was a meeting to discuss the 35th Ave NE safety project he said that he really wanted the bike lanes to be built because he didn’t feel safe riding his bike to school. The three Save 35th members immediately started getting angry at him too. They told him he has no say until he’s 18 and can vote. They then told me that if I wanted safety while riding a bicycle I should go move to Roosevelt where there are bike lanes. They are effectively arguing to keep customers away from the local businesses along 35th.

    This group is really making NE Seattle feel like an angry hostile, exclusionary place. I don’t understand how they can be so angry at their neighbors who are asking to make the street safe for their families.

    I am disappointed that Senator Frockt and Reps Valdez and Pollet are entertaining this group over a city project that it is not appropriate for them to be using their offices to get involved with. We elected a City Council and a Mayor to do that.

    There were years of public outreach over this project and all of the input received is available on the project web site (http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/projects-and-programs/programs/maintenance-and-paving/current-paving-projects/35th-ave-ne). The neighborhood was overall supportive of the bike lanes and the safety aspects of this project. 35th Ave NE was also identified as an important street to get protected bike lanes along its entire length in the Bicycle Master Plan which went through years of extensive public outreach.

    Even this anti-safe-street group claims to be concerned about the speeding cars on the street. They just don’t want to accept any of the excessive amounts of data that SDOT has showing the safety improvements that resulted from previous projects like this. And in their adamant opposition to allowing people on bicycles to have a safe space on the street, they are in effect arguing to keep the street unsafe and to maintain the current state where many people ride bicycles on the sidewalk because it is the only option. They don’t mention this at all when talking about elderly members of the neighborhood who have trouble walking.

    • “There were years of public outreach over this project and all of the input received is available on the project web site (http://www.seattle.gov/tran…. The neighborhood was overall supportive of the bike lanes and the safety aspects of this project. 35th Ave NE was also identified as an important street to get protected bike lanes along its entire length in the Bicycle Master Plan which went through years of extensive public outreach.”

      In 2016, that SDOT plan was renounced by 68% of the neighborhood. By the end of that year, the community’s opposition rose to 76%.

      The facts don’t match your rhetoric.

  3. A bunch of old grumps! I know this is serious, but it kind of makes me giggle – that photo and the first tweet…. they are a bunch of old kooks! Agree, state legislators shouldn’t be getting involved in this, especially when the project has been on the BMP for years. This only confirms my lifelong stereotypes of NE Seattle (old, white “liberal” but not…self entitled crazies). I hope you all win the bike lane battle and NE Seattle becomes more welcoming!

      • “Single mothers don’t commute to work on bikes. Privileged techbros do”. If that isn’t discriminatory I don’t know what is! And I agree with the author, super old fashioned and sexist. I’m just saying that photo is full of old white people and so is north seattle!

    • The actual SDOT design only has protected bike lanes on one side of the street between 65th and 84th. North of 84th, there are protected bike lanes on both sides. SDOT’s plan is very much a compromise.

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