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. 

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Mike is the founder of Larch Lab, an architecture and urbanism think and do tank focusing on prefabricated, decarbonized, climate-adaptive, low-energy urban buildings; sustainable mobility; livable ecodistricts. He is also a dad, writer, and researcher with a passion for passivhaus buildings, baugruppen, social housing, livable cities, and car-free streets. After living in Freiburg, Mike spent 15 years raising his family - nearly car-free, in Fremont. After a brief sojourn to study mass timber buildings in Bayern, he has returned to jumpstart a baugruppe movement and help build a more sustainable, equitable, and livable Seattle. Ohne autos.