The Online Voice of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Year in Review: 2011 Highlights

What a productive year it has been at the Bicycle Alliance of Washington!  Bicycle advocates and active transportation partners helped us earn some legislative victories.  We’ve grown Safe Routes to School programs in communities across the state.  We refined our vision, mission and goals through an inclusive strategic planning process.

Legislative Victories

The Bicycle Alliance and our legislative partners passed a bill that incorporates teaching motorists how to safely drive around bicyclists and pedestrians in Traffic School curriculum.  The vulnerable user bill was finally passed this session, strengthening penalties under the negligent driving laws.  We also passed a bill that established (but didn’t fund) a Complete Streets grant program that encourages local jurisdictions to adopt complete streets ordinances.  Read the 2011 Legislative Wrap Up.

Over 100 active transportation, transit and rail advocates gathered in Olympia in February for Transportation Advocacy Day.  We are one of the organizers for this annual event and our constituents were well represented by 8 Bicycle Alliance board members and 6 staff.  Read more about the 2011 TAD.

Safe Routes to School

We’ve been busy this year helping participating school districts in south King County implement a comprehensive Safe Routes program in their schools.  The Bicycle Alliance taught teachers in 31 school districts across Washington State how to instruct students on safe biking and walking skills.  We now have a second staff person who is nationally certified to teach Safe Routes to School.

Go by Bike, a pilot program designed to bring bicycle safety education to college students, was launched this year with outreach to partnering schools in the Puget Sound region.  Learn more about Go by Bike.

Strategic Plan

The Bicycle Alliance hosted a two-day strategic planning summit that included the participation of 40 stakeholders representing bike clubs, elected officials, health organizations, advocacy partners, transportation agencies, planners, urban and rural interests.  This inclusive process resulted in a revised vision, mission and goals for the organization.  Read the details here.

Other Highlights

We took our Hub & Spoke outreach tour to Olympia, Mount Vernon and Spokane to network with community advocates and discuss issues big and small.  We met with stakeholders in the Methow Valley to begin coordinating our work on the US Bicycle Route System.  We were in Vancouver to participate in the annual policy makers’ ride.  We worked with the Peninsula Trails Coalition to weigh in on the alternatives proposed by Olympic National Park for the Olympic Discovery Trail.  We worked with WSDOT and regional bike advocates to find acceptable solutions to improve bicycle safety on the Hood Canal Bridge.  We coordinated efforts with Futurewise and community activists to rally support for and pass a Complete Streets ordinance in Spokane.

To date, over 4600 Share the Road license plates have been sold in Washington State.  Funds from the purchase of these plates have supported our education activities, including the development and distribution of curriculum that teaches motorists how to safely share the road with bicyclists and pedestrians.

Internet outreach highlights:

Over 195,000 unique visitors to our website in 2011
Over 17,000 unique viewers of the blog
Bike Bites e-newsletter was distributed to over 3000 advocates each month
Facebook – 700+ followers – an 85% increase over 2010
We started to Twitter late this year and have over 250 followers

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Jay Steingold Says Farewell

If you are a customer of Bike Port, retrieved a lost bike left on a Metro bus, attended a volunteer work party or dropped by our table at an outreach event, then you probably met Jay Steingold.  He was the friendly fella who greeted and assisted you.  His gourmet handcrafted sandwiches that he specially prepared for volunteer work parties are legendary.

Jay brings a specialty beer to share at the
staff's holiday beer tasting.
After spending a year with the Bicycle Alliance, Jay is leaving us for a new adventure.  In the spring of 2012, he and his wife Laura are heading to South Korea where Jay plans to teach English. 

What will Jay miss about the Bicycle Alliance?  “Everyone’s passion for bicycling and their love of food and craft beers,” he stated.

“I will miss Barb’s warmth and strength as a leader, Donna’s steadfast dedication to accuracy and order, John’s dry wit and tenacious carrying of his grant, JoAnn’s hearty cookies and infectious love of her job, Louise’s laser-like focus and lightheartedness, Blake’s unbearably cute family and knowledge of all things biking in Seattle, Seth’s quiet logic and delicious baked goods, Josh’s optimism and willingness to help with anything, and last but not least—Ben and Julian’s weekly sing-along to Justin Timberlake,” he elaborated.

When asked if he had any parting thoughts, Jay encouraged folks to attend Transportation Advocacy Day because it’s an opportunity to show our numbers.  He advised attendees to do their homework in advance and ask smart questions.

In the interim couple of months, Jay will do some traveling, photography, writing, leatherworking, croissant-making, and learning as much Korean as possible.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Farewell to Bike Port

After serving the Seattle bicycle community for eight years, Bike Port will close its doors at the end of December.  The facility first opened its doors in Pioneer Square in May 2003 and provided 24/7 secure bike parking and an in-house bicycle repair shop.  The Bicycle Alliance has managed the Bike Port facility since 2005 through a partnership with King County Metro, the City of Seattle, and Sound Transit.

As buildings in the downtown area created their own bike parking, the need for Bike Port services has declined.  Bike Port will be missed by those individuals who still need secure bike parking in the Pioneer Square area and we hope that on-demand bike lockers will be available in the future. 

The bike shop located in Bike Port is changing ownership and will remain in the Pioneer Square neighborhood.  Ben Rainbow, the current manager of the JRA Bike Shop housed in Bike Port, is opening Back Alley Bike Repair in February.  The shop will be located at 116 First Avenue S, with an entrance from the alley.  Check Back Alley’s Facebook page for more details.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Slowing down is gaining momentum Burden
Last year, the Bicycle Alliance of Washington championed a bill that would give cities and towns the discretion to set speed limits to 20 miles per hour on non-arterial streets.  The bill passed 92-0 in the House but ran out of time in the Senate Transportation Committee.  We are leading the charge again in 2012 for SHB 1217, the Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill.

There are many benefits to passing the Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill.  It allows local governments to determine safe speeds for local streets, and it removes the additional costs and red tape currently required by the state.  Reduced speeds improve neighborhood safety and save lives.  Making neighborhood streets safer can encourage physical activity and active transportation, resulting in a healthier society.

The desire to slow down our communities is not unique to Washington.  In Idaho, local jurisdictions have the capacity to set lower speed limits on portions of state highways that pass through residential, urban or business districts to enhance safety.  New York City established its first “neighborhood slow zone” earlier this year.  20’s Plenty for Us is the British movement that has successfully campaigned to lower residential speed limits in cities and towns. 

Writer Will Doig took an in-depth look at the resurging popularity of slower streets in a Salon article published last week.  In his article, Doig observed:

Now, gradually, the pendulum appears to be swinging back toward slower streets, partly because walkable neighborhoods and urban density are in vogue again. A lazy streetcar, a strolling pedestrian or a languidly pedaling bicyclist are all signs that neighborhood life in that area is healthy and abundant. They indicate that you’re somewhere that’s packed with businesses, parks, playgrounds — things that people want to stop and use — and, in circular fashion, they encourage even more of that stuff to be built.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Federal agency calls for cell phone ban for drivers

Last week the National Transportation Safety Board voted unanimously to recommend that all 50 states and the District of Columbia ban the use of cell phones by drivers.  This recommendation was based on volumes of evidence supporting the dangers of distracted driving.  Here’s NTSB’s recommendation:

Ban the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices (other than those designed to support the driving task) for all drivers; 2) use the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration model of high visibility enforcement to support these bans; and 3) implement targeted communication campaigns to inform motorists of the new law and enforcement, and to warn them of the dangers associated with the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices while driving.

This is the most far-reaching recommendation to date because it prohibits all cell phone use by drivers, including the use of hands-free devices.  According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, only 9 states and DC prohibit handheld cell phone use by all drivers.  Texting while driving is banned in 35 states and DC.  No state prohibits the use of hands-free devices.  Check GHSA site for more information.

In 2010, the Bicycle Alliance of Washington and others successfully championed a bill that elevated handheld cell phone use and texting while driving to a primary traffic offense punishable by a $124 fine.  For drivers younger than 18, the ban includes the use of hands-free devices.  Read previous posts on this topic here and here.

Elevating this traffic violation to a primary offense was important.  When it was a secondary law, an officer could only issue a ticket to a driver talking on a cell phone if they had been pulled over for some other violation—like speeding. Washington State Patrol wasted no time going after cell phone violators when the law took effect, issuing 670 tickets in the first 20 days.  Seattle Police Department’s Aggressive Driver Response Team routinely issues tickets to cell phone violators as well.

Is Washington State ready to fully adopt NTSB’s recommendation by prohibiting the use of hands-free devices while driving?  Let’s hope so.  A growing mound of evidence suggests that having your hands on the steering wheel isn’t enough.  Engaging your mind in a cell phone conversation (handheld or hands-free) distracts the driver from the primary task at hand:  driving safely and attentively.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Priceless Gift of Time: We Need Volunteer Help!

As 2011 draws to a close, many individuals choose to support the work of the Bicycle Alliance with a year-end contribution.  Financial gifts are vital to the health of our organization and we are grateful to the generosity of our members.

The Bicycle Alliance is also in need of volunteers who can donate the priceless gift of time.  Whether it’s a one-time commitment of a few hours or a three-month commitment to a project or an ongoing commitment to help out each month, volunteers and the time they give are valuable to us. 

We currently have the following volunteer opportunities available:

Help us move to our new Pioneer Square office space on January 7!  We need helping hands to move office furniture, files and boxes.  Contact Jay Steingold if you’re available to help out, and let him know if you have a truck or bike with trailer that could be used during the move.

Pre-Move Help.  We need some pre-move help between now and moving day with packing items, taking things to the recycling center, etc.  Contact Jay if you have a few hours to spare.

A couple of volunteers are needed with inventorying and boxing printed materials and office files in preparation for the move.  Contact Donna Govro if you can help with this task.

Driver with pickup truck.  The Bicycle Alliance is looking for a pickup truck and driver with some flexibility to move our Safe Routes to School bikes and trailer between school districts in South King County.  Ideally, we need a truck with a 2 5/16” ball mount already installed.  Otherwise, we need a truck that at least has a receiver hitch already installed and we provide the ball mount and ball.  Contact John Vander Sluis if you can help us out.

Do you like to write and have a passion for biking and active transportation issues?  The Bicycle Alliance wants to hear from you!  We are looking for individuals from all corners of the state who are willing to write stories for our blog, Bike Bites e-newsletter, and The Advocate quarterly newsletter.  Contact Louise McGrody and briefly describe your writing experience.

Join us for a volunteer work party!  We hold monthly work parties in our office to send out membership renewals, thank you letters, and other assorted office tasks.  Work parties are usually scheduled on the fourth Thursday of the month from 1-4pm.  Contact Jay Steingold for more information.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Take Action for Complete Streets!

If you believe in safe roads for everyone—including those who walk, bike, take transit, or drive a car—please weigh in today in favor of Complete Streets!  Tomorrow, the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation will consider an amendment offered by Senator Mark Begich of Alaska to provide safe and adequate accommodations for all users in all federally-funded street projects. 

Washington Senator Maria Cantwell sits on this committee.  Please use this form to contact Senator Cantwell today and ask her to support Complete Streets!

Complete Streets Spokane

Live in Spokane?  You have an opportunity to voice your support for a Complete Streets ordinance for your community!  Tomorrow evening (December 14), the Plan Commission is holding a public hearing on the Complete Streets ordinance.  Please attend the meeting and speak up in favor of safe roads for everyone.  This post from the Spokesman-Review includes details about the Plan Commission meeting.  You can also show your support for Complete Streets in Spokane by signing the online petition.

Safe Routes to School National Course Training in Yakima

Photos by the author except where noted otherwise.

Earlier this Fall I had the opportunity to participate in a Safe Routes to School National Course Training put on by the National Center for Safe Routes to School (SRTS) and co-sponsored by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), Feet First and the Bicycle Alliance of Washington. The course was conducted October 24th-27th in Yakima, Washington and drew trainees from around the country, from northern and southern California, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Washington. This intensive three day training, prepared me and my co-trainees to teach the one-day SRTS National Course. The training was sponsored by the Safe Routes to School

During this training we observed the one-day course being taught in collaboration with Union Gap Elementary School, learned the curriculum, did research on local conditions, met the community, practiced teaching and then taught the course. Trainee instructors split into two groups to teach their course at two different elementary schools (Summitview Elementary and Adams Elementary). Over the three day course, the one-day course was delivered to three audiences regarding three elementary schools.

Day One: Observing the course being taught for Union Gap Elementary

The day began with a lecture and slide show, followed by a field exercise to observe existing conditions around the school. The following few photos are from our walk around the school.

Improvements to an intersection near Union Gap Elementary

Walking along the north perimeter of the school grounds

One lonely bicycle at the bike rack

Back in the office, participants in the Union Gap Elementary course look at the aerial photo and discuss potential design interventions

Participants in the Union Gap Elementary course discuss potential design interventions

The first day of the course involved observing two seasoned SRTS National Course instructors teach the course to a live audience, consisting primarily of WSDOT employees. The one-day course includes lectures, fieldwork, small group activities and a meeting with the school principal.

Day Two: Preparing to teach the Summitview class
The second day involved preparing to teach the course by practicing the course material and getting familiar with the school that the class would work with. As I mentioned earlier, the trainees split into two groups to teach the course at two different elementary schools.
Summitview Elementary School

My group worked with Summitview Elementary in the West Valley School District in Yakima, WA. In the morning we visited the school to observe student arrival and meet with the Principal of Summitview, Crystal McDonald. During our school visit we learned that there is a strong encouragement program at Summitview, working to keep students interested in active transportation.

The Golden Shoe Award at Summitview Elementary 

Looking west from the bus loading area, note recently painted crosswalk accross parking lot 

Students on their way to scool at Summitview Elementary (note student safety patrol)

In the afternoon we studied the curriculum and practiced teaching the modules of the class that we would teach the next day. 

Day Three: Teaching the Summitview class
On the third day of the training we delivered the course to an audience including folks from the school, Yakima city government, WSDOT as well as consultants and public sector employees from the Yakima area and from western Washington. We began with a series of lectures in the morning punctuated by breaks. At lunch time we had the special guests pictured below come and talk to the course participants.

Me with co-trainees and members of the student safety patrol from Summitview Elementary (Mike Cynecki Photo)

After lunch we had an interactive session on problems and solutions, two brief lectures and then we went to observe the student dismissal. After observing the dismissal time we returned to the classroom and discussed the field observations using maps and aerial photos to discuss possible design and enforcement interventions to improve safety around the school.

Aerial photo and map of the school zone facilitate discussion among participants 

Deep in thought

Conversing around the aerial photo of the school zone

Participants present back to the larger group after small group work based on the field exercise

Moving Forward
Folks that are interested in hosting the one-day Safe Routes to School National Course in their Washington community should direct their inquiries to  There is a fee for the course, which will vary depending on location and logistics and we will require a local coordinator to collaborate on logistics. The course is highly educational and also has the potential to galvanize a community around a Safe Rouetes to School program or campaign.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Get a Member in December!

Sketch by Andy Goulding
At the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, we believe that our members ARE our power.  The more members that we have, the more successful we will be at creating better biking conditions in our communities.  If you are already a member, THANK YOU! 

As a current member, we also have an assignment for you:  get just one new member to join the Bicycle Alliance of Washington during the month of December!  We’re sure you know folks who appreciate bikeable and walkable communities—we need them to join us in action.

If you’re not a member, there’s no time like the present to invest in bicycle friendly communities by joining now!  Your commitment to healthy and active transportation will benefit all Washingtonians for generations to come.

Special Offer!

As part of our Member in December Special, sketch artist Andy Goulding has agreed to create custom bike portraits in a digital format for every new and renewing member at the $100 level.  We’ll send details to you on how to redeem the offer for your custom sketch with your member packet.  Contact Donna Govro if you have questions about this special, limited time offer.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Some Good News on Rumble Strips

Earlier this year, we reported that the Federal Highway Administration had issued a rumble strips Technical Advisory that essentially gave no consideration to bicyclists and how rumble strips negatively impacted bicycle travel.  Read that post here.

The Alliance for Biking and Walking, Adventure Cycling Association and the League of American Bicyclists spoke up against the TA and asked FHWA to reconsider it.  Last month the FHWA issued a revised rumble strips TA and it’s a marked improvement over the original one.  It includes a section on accommodating all roadway users, with an emphasis on bicyclists.  You can read Adventure Cycling’s post about the revised TA. 

The rumble strip TA still leaves room for improvement and most of what happens is at the state and local levels.  The Bicycle Alliance worked with WSDOT to develop decent rumble strip guidelines, but the key is to make sure these guidelines are followed.  That’s where you come in!  Contact your regional WSDOT bicycle coordinator and the Bicycle Alliance if you believe there has been an incorrect installation of rumble strips in your area.