Sunday Video: Copenhagenize It


Experience the “Snake” bridge in Copenhagen and other innovations that the city continues to implement. Mikael Colville-Andersen gives some really good insight into the improvements.

What We’re Reading: Arrogance of Space


520 Cluster*%£

Seattle state of mindSeattlish wonderfully takes down the micro-housing concern trolls on their parking fallacy. A new 10th Ave and Union St apartment is ready to open to tenants, but there is a small problem for the developer. North Seattle may have found its candidate for next year’s council district elections, say hello to Halei Watkins. Mayor Ed Murray plans a healthy increase in the number of officers on the beat for 2015. The Supreme Court rules that the Washington State Legislature is in contempt of court over education–good work Republicans! A brief history of the Denny Regrade and what the intersection of Westlake Ave and Olive Way looked like. Seattle is planning 14 new small parks! And, the Northgate ped/bike bridge loses out on TIGER funding this year.

Social equality for all: New York City is very committed to delivering affordable housing through new development. Maybe it’s time to consider a universal basic income, despite the political obstacles to it. Bellevue appears to be the next battle ground for $15/hr while Tacoma mulls paid sick days. First Hill residents face hike in rents thanks to a recent sale.

The deciders should ride: Two articles this week make the case that the decision-markers of bike and transit networks should actually have to ride if they’re going to plan them. Bike Portland says that none of city hall’s council members even ride a bike, and that’s a big problem. Meanwhile, City Lab walks us through a success story in Houston where the deciders are required to ride transit. An intimate look at how desire lines should be considered when designing streets for bikes. And, how Vancouver, BC designs intersections for bikes in mind.

Keep training alongSome minor tweaks are coming to Sound Transit Express routes in late September. Sound Transit also has issued clarifications for design proposals by private developers at the future Capitol Hill Station area. A look at the Senior Fare for Metro and an argument of fixing it toward income, not old age. You can’t stop the train!–or at least not Link train; ridership growth is still spiking with no end in sight. SDOT will make a few more improvements along First Avenue and Denny Way for buses. Metro and Sound Transit have a plan for better integration. Tacoma chooses seven stops for the Tacoma Link expansion. And, Council Members Licata and Swanta write an op-ed saying that you must support the bus measure, Proposition 1, in November.

The arrogance of space: Everything and more that you wanted to know about the unfunded SR-520 plans for the Montlake-to-I-5; there are some big changes in WSDOT’s latest revision. Mostly, WSDOT’s plan is appalling for everyone, including drivers. It comes down to matter of “arrogance of space“. Washington State isn’t the only place that suffers at the hands of incompetent transportation engineers, so does the other Washington–although there are some interesting private designs for a new bridge there.

Once around the sphere: It looks like Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is bailing on the election; given his anti-ped, bike, and transit stances, we ain’t sad about that, but we will miss his shenanigans. The latest data on climate change has us saying “yikes”!–we’ve got a long way to go in order to get things under control. London’s River Thames has taken a turn for the better, so much so that swimming in it isn’t such a scary idea anymore. It would be great if a developer could deliver this kind of project here. A Dublin company wants to help folks know where development is happening before the bulldozers hit the ground. Pedestrian-oriented storefront retrofits on ugly buildings can really improve the streetscape and comfortability of spaces. And, state tax incentives for companies is one big fail.

Map of the week: 7 transit maps that show you the nearest local burger joint, coffeeshop, bar, and more.

Rest Peacefully, Lost Faces


Picture 5


I recognize his face and gait, but what happened to the mangy hair? He’s still scruffy, but his haircut looks like that of just a regular joe. In my head I called him Grizzly Alan, and I haven’t seen him in more than a year. A smart fellow, about my age, clearly educated, and probably homeless. Today he’s walking slowly past the bus stop on 45th, gaze lowered in thought.

“Hey, maaan,” I call out. I pronounce “man” with emphasis, stretching out the vowel, giving it the weight of a proper name. Letting him know I recognize him.
Jogged out of thought, he sees me and replies, “Oh, hey!”
“Haven’t seen you in a while!”
“Yeah, you remember me.”
“Of course. Good to see you’re still hangin’ around.” Referring to his haircut: “I see you lost some hair!”
“Yeah, it works better at job interviews.”
“How’s that been goin’?”
“Aauuh,” he says.
“Just okay?”
“It’s a process, right?”
“I feel like it’s a numbers thing. Apply for ten, hear back from one of ’em, you know?”
“Yeah,” he says, pronouncing it as in, “that’s true.”
“Hey well. It’s good to see you again.”
“You too.”
With urgency I added, “Stay strong!”

The faces come and go as the months turn into years. I’ll be riding the ferry, taking in the horizon line, when the thought will surface: whatever happened to Juan and his new baby? Or Angel, with the bathrobe and bruises? Do you remember that face on Pine, outside the mall, the first-generation African man who for years never asked for money, but instead  stood yelling angrily about how Seattle Police are communist, and about how the Frye apartments evicted him? Did you ever see him on his “lunch break,” where he would go and sit quietly inside Nordstrom, in complete opposition to the angry facade he projected on the sidewalk? I wonder about these faces, whole and real people, whom I now no longer see. Do they know I’m thinking of them?

Recently I was at the base, preparing to walk out to my bus. Several drivers were discussing a well-known passenger, Gaylen. An angry man surrounding a child inside, he could be an insufferable handful of epic proportions. The last time I saw him was a couple years ago.

“Gaylen? Oh, he’s dead.”
“What?” I said.
“Yeah, he’s gone.”
“Man, I say good riddance,” said a third driver. “That duu’ got on my bus so many times, and I just wanted ta kick those crutches out from under him each time. What a’ asshole.”
“Aw, he’s my buddy!” I said.
“He was, no, no. I couldn’t stand that dude!”
“We’ll just have to find some other assholes!” quipped a fourth, who’d been listening. They laughed.

I gazed across the room at Vicki, a driver and former social worker with a heart of gold. She knew where I was coming from. We looked at each other ruefully. It wouldn’t be any use trying to change their minds. I know they certainly couldn’t change mine.

My mind flashed back to an ancient moment from years ago. Venus, another driver, walked up to me, excited. “Nathan, there’s this passenger who I actually really like, even though everyone hates him. His name is Gaylen, and he–”
“Has two crutches, yes I know! Venus, you’re amazing!”

I’d heard horror stories about the guy but hadn’t met him at the time of the conversation. Listening to Venus was an inspiration. She seemed thrilled in the sense of having come upon a secret; her vision didn’t stop short at a reactionary appraisal, but kept going. She could see through the initial to a more complete picture, and in so doing had found something familiar in a man so outwardly different from her. Aren’t we all the same, searching for happiness each in our own imperfect ways?

Mister Gaylen, I hope now you feel less pain, less occasion for hate, and perhaps the glimmer of a joy which eluded you in this life.

SDOT makes some quick fixes to Second Avenue

First Downtown Protected Bike Lane Opens on Second Avenue by SDOT on Flickr.

In yesterday’s morning article, Guy gave us his initial impressions of the new Second Avenue Protected Bike Lanes, and a few suggestions about how they could be improved. One thing that he had suggested was traffic light changes for left-turning and straight-through traffic at intersections along Second Avenue.

During the first few days, there was a significant amount of confusion amongst drivers about what they could and couldn’t do when lights changed on Second Avenue. The initial set up was three distinct lights: one for bikes, one for left-turning drivers, and one for straight-through southbound drivers. Left turning lights were indicated by arrows while straight-through soundbound traffic lights were indicated by the normal solid circles. Many drivers became confused with this set up. Assuming a green circle permitted all traffic movements, they ignored the red left turn arrow and would proceed to cross the bike lanes. This presented a dangerous situation because cyclists were given a green when left turning car traffic was given a red.

As Guy noted, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) had been very responsive to the comments of drivers and cyclists alike. Many of those comments were in support of the simple up arrow light solution for straight-through traffic. By the time Guy’s article had gone live, SDOT had rolled out that exact solution, in addition to posting large “no turn on left” signs at intersections. As you can see below, it’s much clearer about how drivers should proceed while turning left or going southbound along Second Avenue. SDOT has been super proactive with this project, which probably shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it’s deeply appreciated.

Join The Urbanist for PARK(ing) Day in Downtown Seattle

Parking Day 2008 by sv johnson on Flickr.

PARK(ing) Day is nearly here! And, we’re taking over some parking spaces to create a fun and interactive parklet. We plan to have board games, street furniture, and a bike repair station set up right in the heart of Downtown Seattle.

We’d love to see you! Drop by for coffee, games, people watching, and good company. And, if you’ve got a talent to share or time to help facilitate, we’d like that too. Our bike repair station is intended to serve simple fixes like changing tires. If you think you can help with that or have any questions/ideas, let us know by sending us an e-mail.

You’ll find us on the west side of First Avenue between Stewart St and Virginia St (map). Drop by on September 19th any time between 9am and 3pm. Feel free to to add this event from our calendar (and check out other upcoming events of interest).

See you at the parklet!

The Transit App adds real-time Pronto! data


With membership kits beginning to arrive in mailboxes, and major improvements to Downtown Seattle’s bicycle infrastructure now open, Pronto! Cycle Share’s mid-October launch is tantalizingly close. Once the system opens, members and pass holders will be able to use one of 500 bikes across Downtown, Capitol Hill, Eastlake, and the U-District–but first they’ll have to find one.

To help potential riders, The Transit App has extended their already excellent slate of scheduled and real-time transit information to include Pronto! Upon launching the app, users will be able to see both transit lines and a bike share stations near their location, with icons clearly indicating how many bikes and docks are available at a particular spot. The ability to see available docks is especially important, as Pronto! bikes must be returned to an open dock when your ride is over.

Tranist App - Pronto

Images: Nearby docking stations and transit (left) and real-time docking station data (right).

Users will be able to easily see both nearby transit and bike share stations while tapping on a station’s icon will allow users to see how many bikes and bike docks are available. It’s a simple addition–one already available in other supported cities–but given that bike share systems like Pronto! can be a powerful extension of transit, it’s particularly helpful. Take a look in the app today to see where stations are planned, pre-order your membership, and join Seattle’s cycling revolution on October 13th!

Second Avenue, the beginning of a new cycling era

The Second Avenue protected bike lane, looking North from Yesler
The Second Avenue protected bike lane, looking North from Yesler. Photo by the Author.

Earlier this week, bicyclists and bicycle advocates from all around the region celebrated the opening of the Second Avenue Protected Bike Lane (also known as a cycle track) in Downtown Seattle. The facility was rolled out by the the Seattle Department of Transportation (SODT) early Monday morning just in time for bicycle commuters to hit Downtown streets. This new facility stretches sixth-tenths of a mile (10 blocks) along Second Avenue from Pike Street to Yesler Way.

The new bike lanes were constructed in mere weeks after proclamation by Mayor Ed Murray. In May, the mayor announced his intention for protected bike lanes through the heart of Downtown in time for the launch of Pronto! Cycle Share. With a month remaining for the launch, the bike lanes were rolled out with time to spare and ample opportunity to learn how they are functioning and make tweaks.

The project also includes a block of additional protected bike lanes at each end of the Second Avenue Protected Bike Lanes. One block is located along Pike Street between First Avenue and Second Avenue while the other is located along Yesler Way between Occidental Avenue and Second Avenue. The two extensions link Pike Place Market and Pioneer Square into a new high quality bike network.

The cycle tracks along Second Avenue replaced skinny, door-zone bike lanes. Since their inception, they have generally been considered extremely hazardous to cyclists, often through tragic left-hooks by motorized vehicles. And, as many will know, Sher Kung was killed by exactly this type of hazard just two weeks ago. The bike lane, dubbed worst in the city by cyclists, still lives on in its old form north of Pike Street and south of Yesler Way. Although, these areas are somewhat less dangerous and see considerably less bike traffic.

Aside from being protected from traffic and located out of the door-zone, the protected bike lanes practically eliminate the hazard of left-hooks throughout the corridor. Bikes now have their own signal phase at cross streets which allows them to go straight. Left-turning cars from Second Avenue are given a red signal during the bike-through phase. When the bike signal (and pedestrian signal) switch to red, left-turning cars are given their own green arrow (viewable in the video below).

Happening Now: Sound Transit and Metro Integration Meeting

Westlake station in the evening by Oran Viriyincy on Flickr.

Local elects are meeting right now at University of Washington Station to talk about a new approach to integrated transit services throughout the Puget Sound. Aleks gave us an update on King County Executive Dow Constantine’s plan back in June. Constantine called for better ways to rationalize and align service between Metro and Sound Transit. But as we see from today’s meeting, the breadth of the approach is far greater than that. Follow Will Green’s tweets for updates of the meeting.