Seattle Invests $400 Million into Safe Streets

The war is finally over. Seattle invests $400 million for safer streets.

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Seattle, WA, is back on the bicycle track it would seem. In this odd-year election, Seattle preps itself to (hopefully) welcome a board of city council members who are all endorsed by multiple Seattle bicycle advocacy groups. More noteworthy though, is that the city has pledged an investment of $400 million USD to safer streets.

What we’re talking about here is money going towards more walkability, more bikability, as well as a faster and more accessible transit system. This is a mainstream policy now, and the funds are backing it up. Seattle has spoken and it wants safer streets.

Urban cycling has a contentious history in Seattle. For those who recall the SDot Transportation Debates of 2010, you may remember hearing about the “war on cars”. At the time, lobbying for more bikes lanes was represented by the media as militant attacks on drivers. And in a city where bike riding had been increasing and increasing for years, the question of what the city needed to function effectively (more car lane, more bike lanes, less bikes?) was often left unanswered, resulting in a culture of animosity between people riding bikes and people riding cars.

In 2011, Seattle local, Cathy Tuttle, founded the small non-profit, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways. Through this non-profit, Tuttle began changing the semantics associated with the dialogue of “the war on cars”. Cyclists became people riding bikes, and drivers became people driving cars; the reintroduction of cyclists and drivers as human beings was paramount in altering the discourse, and allowed the city to focus on deeper issues.

It seems, at last, the war is really over. While bike riders have become more and more accepted as of late as people with a right to share the road for transportation, now it’s a matter of ensuring those riders and other road users have streets that are safe enough to travel on. Seattle still has some areas needing attention: areas such as Mercer St. Corridor, stretching from Interstate 5 to 5th Ave. W, for example. The Mercer mess has been one of the city’s  most significant areas of traffic congestion in recent years.

It has been over a year since Mayor Ed Murray appointed a new Director of Transportation. Following Scott Kubly’s appointment, the Seattle Department of Transportation began work on dozens of projects to create safer streets for bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists alike.

Plans to clean up Mercer, the Seawall, as well as the addition of nearly thirty miles of fresh pavement and approximately twenty miles of new bike lanes and paths will also be added. Also being focused on is increased bus service. 2015 has been a good year so far, but with this promise of enormous investment (and spending plans), Seattle’s safe street culture can only continue to grow. This monetary oath means Seattle’s focus will not just be on just clearing up congestion, but on a Vision Zero Seattle – a Seattle with no traffic-caused fatalities by 2030. Certainly a worthy goal.

It is encouraging to see Seattle investing so heavily in safe streets, and we’ll be watching how they carry out their goals with a keen eye. Seattle is positioning itself as a leader in creating walkable, bikeable streets, and if done well, this undertaking could serve as a benchmark for other cities around the continent.

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