The Online Voice of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington

Monday, January 30, 2012

Washington State House of Representatives Unanimously Passes Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill


Bill makes safer streets and neighborhoods by removing red tape and hurdles to reduce speeds on non-arterial streets.

Olympia, WA – Jan. 30, 2012 – Today, the Washington State House of Representatives passed the Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill (SHB1217) unanimously.

The bill’s unanimous bipartisan support is mirrored by its backing from over 20 organizations, boards, and cities from across the state, including the Washington State PTA, AARP-Washington, as well as the cities of Spokane, Bellingham, Seattle and, Kirkland.

The Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill makes safer streets and neighborhoods by allowing cities and towns the authority to set speed limits to 20 miles per hour on non-arterial streets. It does not mandate any change, it simply provides cities and towns the authority to do so.

“Communities are asking lawmakers to give them more cost-saving tools and local options instead of mandates,” says, prime sponsor, Representative Cindy Ryu (D-32). “This bill will help. It removes an expensive state mandate that deters communities from lowering speed limits on non-arterial roads even when they recognize that lower speeds would make people safer or promote local businesses and jobs.”

The Bicycle Alliance of Washington has worked closely with the Representative to develop and support the bill.

Current state law limits the ability of cities and towns to set maximum speed limits to 20 miles per hour by requiring an engineering and traffic study – which requires staff time and money to conduct – before cities and towns can create safer streets on non-arterial streets.

“The Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill, or similar legislation, provides Bellingham with an important safety tool, and does so by removing red tape. This bill will help us improve safety for Bellingham’s neighborhood streets by providing us with the freedom to set safe speeds without having to work around the current hurdles that state law imposes,” says Bellingham Councilmember Michael Lilliquist

This legislation is especially germane to more vulnerable populations, including children and the elderly. “Older pedestrians because of their increased fragility particularly benefit from low-speed environments,” wrote AARP-Washington in its letter of support for SHB 1217.

“The Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill is a win-win for Washingtonians statewide,” says Bicycle Alliance of Washington Executive Director Barbara Culp. “This is legislation that provides more local control over roadway safety, saves local government money by reducing administrative and staff requirements, and adds to the growing safety toolbox for cities and towns to create complete and healthy streets for residents and visitors alike.”

Following today’s successful House vote, the bill will now move to the Washington State Senate for consideration.


Contact: Blake Trask
Statewide Policy Director 
Bicycle Alliance of Washington

Monday, January 23, 2012

Washington bicyclists & pedestrians are disproportionately at risk of being killed and receive less than their fair share of transportation dollar investments

For Immediate Release

Seattle, WA – Jan. 23, 2012 – Washington ranks tenth as a safe place to bike and fourteenth for pedestrian safety ranking behind North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska, according to a new report, Bicycling and Walking in the United States: 2012 Benchmarking Report, released today by the Alliance for Biking & Walking.“

This report comes at a critical moment as Governor Gregoire has just proposed a state transportation package of $3.6 billion that dedicates 72 percent to roads, only 4 percent to transit, and lacks funding for the popular Safe Routes to Schools Program or locally-requested state bicycle and pedestrian safety projects.

The Benchmarking Report highlights that while 4.5% of work trips in Washington state are by bicycle or foot, bicyclists and pedestrians account for 13.6% of traffic fatalities in Washington state. Much of the Washington state and Seattle data for the report was provided by the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, a state partner to the national coalition of over 200 organizations.

Lack of investment in bicycling and walking could be to blame as state and federal monies fall short of the choices that Washington residents make in how they get around. For biking and walking, the state currently allocates 2.7% of what it receives in federal monies and the state itself assigns less than 0.5% of its transportation budget to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety and Safe Routes to School Programs.

“The 2012 Benchmarking report points to the growing need for improved safety and mobility for the many residents who walk and bike. We are optimistic that the proposed transportation package can be improved to include investments in Safe Routes to Schools and other popular safety programs that residents across the state want,” says Blake Trask, Bicycle Alliance state policy director.

Since the Safe Routes to School Program’s inception in 2005, the Bicycle Alliance has worked with several partners, as well as the Washington State Department of Transportation and Office of the Superintendant of Public Instruction to increase the number of children safely walking and biking to 168 schools across the state. Program delivery at these schools has, and continues to improve walking and biking conditions for approximately 67,000 children. This represents almost $29 million being awarded to 90 projects from over $137 million in requests. Currently four out of every five requests for schools are not funded.

As a part of its advocacy for safer streets for everyone, the Bicycle Alliance is promoting state legislation to remove red tape and provide cities and towns the freedom to set speed limits to 20 miles per hour on non-arterial streets without a costly engineering and traffic study.  This legislation, SHB 1217 – the Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill, does not mandate any change, it simply provides cities and towns the local control to do so.

The report compiles persuasive evidence that bicycle and pedestrian projects create more jobs than highway projects, and provide at least three dollars of benefit for every dollar invested. The report also highlights the health benefits of active transportation, showing that states with the highest rates of bicycling and walking are also among those with the lowest rates of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. “The data points to one conclusion—investing in biking and walking projects create jobs, leads to more people biking and walking, and improves safety and public health,” says Jeffrey Miller, Alliance President/CEO.

Despite the ongoing need, the Benchmarking Report also calls out the progress that Washington state has made in growing bicycling and walking.  “Washingtonians have responded to the improvements in safety and infrastructure that state and local government have made over the past 20 years by biking and walking more,” Trask notes. In 1990, 13,170 Washingtonians identified themselves as bike commuters.  That number grew to 28,395 in 2009—a 116% increase.  The number of people who walk to work in our state grew by 14% during that same time period.  In the same period nationally, biking experienced a 64% increase while walking declined by 12%.

The Benchmarking Report includes data on the 51 largest US cities, which included Seattle. Highlights from the report include
  • Seattle ranked fourth among the large cities nationwide with a commuter mode split of 11.5% who bike and walk to work. Boston was tops with a combined 15.4% biking and walking mode share.
  • Despite its high ranking for walking and biking mode share, Seattle ranked sixth as a safe place to walk and twelfth among 51 large cities as a safe place to bike. According to the report, safer cities to bike include San Francisco, Portland, Minneapolis, Sacramento, and Milwaukee.
“Bicycling and Walking in the U.S.: 2012 Benchmarking Report” was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and made possible through additional support from AARP and Planet Bike. For more information and to download the report visit

Blake Trask
Statewide Policy Director
Bicycle Alliance of Washington

Jeffrey Miller
Alliance for Biking & Walking

Week 2 Legislative Update

By all accounts, the 2012 legislative session has been unusually busy due in part because legislators are already up-to-speed on many of the pressing fiscal concerns due to the special session held in November and December of 2011. Unfortunately, the second week's weather slowed the legislature's previous fast pace, resulting in the cancellation of several committee meetings. Heading into week 3, the Bicycle Alliance will be watching to see this delay will affect the progress of bills we support and monitor in Olympia.

Bicycle Alliance Legislative Priorities:

Governor's Transportation Package. During the first week of session the Governor, in her State of the State speech, proposed a $3.6 billion transportation package. The legislation, introduced yesterday, will use fees to fund the package (as we understand it, the chance of a transportation package going on a November ballot is now slim). It is slated for hearings in the House and Senate Transportation Committees concurrently at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 24.

The Bicycle Alliance has concerns about the current legislation, but is hopeful it can be improved. In brief, the proposal is heavily weighted in favor of operations and maintenance for roads and ferries (good in that it generally takes a 'fix it first' approach), includes some money for transit, and provides some (at present, the limitations are concerning for active transportation interests) money for local governments. Notably, it fails to include funding for bicycle mobility, safety, or education (including the Safe Routes to School Program). In the coming weeks we will be working to convey the import of a more balanced package that includes the active transportation and public safety elements, as well as more freedom for local government revenue options, necessary for a balanced transportation package. 

Programmatic Threats and Opportunities. In addition to the Governor's transportation package, the Bicycle Alliance is closely following the funding conversation both around existing funding and exploring potential new revenue streams for Safe Routes to School, bicycle and pedestrian mobility, to fund the currently unfunded Complete Streets Grant Program (passed last year as HB 1071), as well as issues around future funding for the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Program. As we better understand these situations, and if and when future issues arise, we will be alerting our partners and membership.

Transportation Advocacy Day. We have set an ambitious goal for over 200 participants to make it down to the January 31 event where you can meet legislators, get to know fellow advocates, and make a difference in growing bicycling in Washington. The Bicycle Alliance is coordinating with our transportation partners on making sure the event is a huge success. Please join us on January 31 and spread the word to friends and colleagues! RSVP for the all-day event here: 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Put a Share the Road mini license plate on your bike

Remember the mini license plate you could put on your bike when you were a kid?  Now you can get one that looks just like our Washington Share the Road license plate!

The Share the Road mini plate can adorn your bike, trike, or unicycle.  Hang it on your backpack or shoulder bag.  Frame it and put it on your desk.  Attach it to your snowboard or skateboard.  Give one to your child or favorite bicyclist as a gift!

The text on your Share the Road mini license plate is personalized.  You can display your name, nickname or other message with up to 10 characters.  Buy a set of them proclaiming the name of your bike club, racing team or Bike to Work team!

Purchasing a Share the Road mini plate is an investment in yourself as a bicyclist.  Not only are you conveying an important message, but proceeds from the mini plate--just like the Share the Road vehicle license plate--is used by the Bicycle Alliance for bicycle safety and education.

Check our merchandise page for details on purchasing a Share the Road mini plate. 

Own a car, truck or motorcycle?  You can show your support for bicycling with a Share the Road license plate!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Greenways Organizers Kick Off the New Year with a Meet Up

This post was submitted by Alexa Heidrich.  Alexa grew up in Corvallis, lived in Portland, and studied abroad in Australia before she landed in Seattle.  She will be a regular contributor to the blog.

The Seattle Neighborhood Greenways continues to build steam and connect neighborhoods through community advocacy and action.  This meeting in Beacon Hill started with an introduction by Dylan Ahearn, and segued to updates from Madison, Phinney, Wallingford, Ballard and Delridge neighborhoods.  Bob Edminston was fresh from presenting at Monday night’s Madison Park Neighborhood Council meeting, which resulted in the addition of new members for the Madison Park Greenways group!

Next up was Sally Bagshaw, who began with updated information about the RFQ for the upcoming Seattle Bike Master Plan update.  She was able to intone City support for Seattle Greenways and improved bicycle facilities, which will be detailed in a press release coming soon from Cathy Tuttle of Seattle Greenways Wallingford.

Keynote speaker Blake Trask, statewide policy director of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, began his Next Steps presentation which provided the historical context of biking in Seattle, gave his comments about the current Seattle Bike Master Plan, and the importance of Greenways in the overall improvement of biking in Seattle.  He emphasized that additional measures included emerging best practices of bike facilities which continue to evolve with international and national examples, such as better intersections, improved signals, and better data collection and analysis.  It will be important to advocate for all of these improved facilities to comprehensively connect the neighborhoods of Seattle. Blake concluded with some observations about the release of the Governor's proposed transportation package urging state residents to continue to highlight to their elected officials the importance of bicycling and walking as affordable, healthy, and safe choices for our state's transportation system (outside of funding for local transportation funding, the Governor's proposal did not mention funding for bicycle or pedestrian projects).

Blake provided information about the opportunity to show support at the state level on Transportation Advocacy Day on January 31st in Olympia, in addition to emphasizing continued advocacy and community driven efforts to effect real change in the neighborhoods of Seattle.  Blake voiced concerns about fiscal support from the State in the near future, but encouraged a long-term approach that would build on the gains made by groups like Seattle Neighborhood Greenways in the short-term.
(For more information about Transportation Advocacy Day in Olympia visit

Overall the members and attendees of the meeting left with a better understanding of the resources available, which included a number of City grants and a generous amount of support and knowledge for groups new to the process.  For more information about Seattle Greenways and community grants available for neighborhood bicycle and pedestrian improvements please contact Cathy Tuttle at

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Board Ballots Due January 31

If you’re a member of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, be on the lookout for an email or postcard inviting you to vote for board members.

The Bicycle Alliance is served by a board of up to 24 volunteer directors who bring a variety of skills and perspectives from all corners of the state.  Board members serve 3-year terms which are staggered to maintain continuity.  Approximately one-third of the board positions are up for election each year.

Three new individuals are running for the board this year:

·         John Pope of Anacortes has served on our Legislative Committee for several years.  Manager of Engineering Specifications and Standards for Tesoro Refining and Marketing, John is interested in expanding his role with the Bicycle Alliance.  His community involvement is extensive and includes serving on the boards of Skagit Regional Transportation Planning Organization and the Anacortes Chamber of Commerce.

·         Seattle resident John Vona is an avid bicyclist and daily bike commuter.  John holds an MBA in Finance from the University of Georgia and is the Manager of Business & Analysis for Green Diamond Resource Company.  He is interested in serving on the Bicycle Alliance board because he wants to contribute to an effort that promotes safe, alternative transportation in Washington.  John has volunteered for the Phinney Ridge Community Center and with various homeless shelters and missions.

·         Marc Mims of Veradale dove head first into bicycle advocacy a couple of years ago when he successfully championed a grassroots effort to save a bike lane project in Spokane Valley.  This experience inspired Marc to join the Bicycle Alliance board so he can further advocate, defend and support bicycling as a transportation choice.  Marc managed a small software company for 15 years and now works freelance as a software developer.

In addition to the three new candidates, seven current board members are seeking re-election to their positions:

·         Mary Anderson, Bellingham
·         Brian Foley, Black Diamond
·         Julie Gregg, Seattle
·         Kirste Johnson, Seattle
·         Rod McDonald, Arlington
·         David McLean, Seattle
·         Ralph Wessels, Gig Harbor
Bios on current board members can be found here.  Voting closes on January 31.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Job Opening: Development Manager

Here’s an opportunity for someone to combine their fundraising skills with their passion for bicycling!  The Bicycle Alliance of Washington is actively seeking a Development Manager.  Applications are due by January 31.  Read the position announcement for more details.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

We have a new home!

On Saturday, the Bicycle Alliance moved its headquarters into a new office.  Staff and volunteers gathered at the old office in the morning to load up a bike trailer and other various vehicles with desks, file cabinets, computers and other office furnishings and supplies.  We then trekked the three blocks to our new location and set up the office.

The Bicycle Alliance is now located at 314 First Avenue South—still in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood.  And, as of Monday afternoon, we were back in the swing of things.  We’re excited to be in our new digs.  Our advocacy partner, Feet First, is on the lower level and Back Alley Bike Repair Shop is opening its doors directly behind us in February.

A huge shout out to the dozen plus volunteers who helped us with the move—you guys were awesome!  And a special thank you to Keithly Electric and H4 Consulting for donating their services to the cause.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Transportation Advocacy Day is January 31st – Sign Up Today!

While the Bicycle Alliance of Washington can’t promise snow in Olympia in the New Year, we can promise that hundreds of dedicated advocates for biking, walking, transit, and rail will descend in all modes to Transportation Advocacy Day on January 31st!

This is your opportunity in 2012 to connect with fellow advocates from across the state and lobby your elected officials in Olympia on the issues we all care deeply about. It’s also a great chance to work and to get to know fellow transportation advocates from across the state. Plus, it’s a lot of fun!

To register, go directly to our partner, Transportation Choices Coalition, RSVP page:

Over the past months, staff and dedicated volunteers from organizations representing biking, walking, transit, rail, and public health have met to plan events and the policy agenda for the 2012 event. In December, organizers and advocates developed the Transportation Advocacy Day platform to include:

  • The Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill (SHB 1217) – the Bicycle Alliance of Washington’s top priority – that ill provide cities and towns broader authority to establish 20 mile per hour limits on non-arterial streets to lower accident rate and help protect vulnerable users
  • The Safe and Flexible Street Design Bill (HB 1700) would encourage higher-quality bike and pedestrian facilities by allowing greater flexibility in design standards.
  • Support of the Transportation for Washington principles to Fix it First and Save Lives, More Transit, and Build Health and Great Communities.
  •  Legislation to add health to Washington’s six transportation system goals to integrate health in transportation policy, planning and investments for public safety, health, and better transportation choices for all Washingtonians.

As part of the day’s events, this policy platform will be discussed and your questions will be answered before meeting with your elected officials.

The need for safer streets, and better transportation funding for biking, walking, transit, and rail are statewide issues. Join us for this all-day event on January 31 at United Churches in Olympia as we educate state policymakers on the issues and advocate for solutions.

See you there!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Alert: Remind your state legislators about their good, but unfinished work from 2011

Happy New Year! 
Send a reminder to your State Legislators about their good, but unfinished work from 2011.

Last February, the Washington State House of Representatives unanimously voted 92-0 in favor of the Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill (SHB 1217). This bill, drafted by the Bicycle Alliance and championed by Representative Cindy Ryu (D-Shoreline), gives cities and towns the ability to create safer neighborhood streets by lowering speed limits on non-arterial streets to 20 miles per hour, while at the same time reducing government red tape and cutting study costs currently required by the state.

The Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill didn't make it through the Senate last year, but now we have a chance to give this important safety legislation a jump start in the State House of Representatives.

Because time is critical in this year's short 60-day session, we need to remind our House Representatives of their essential and unanimous support for this legislation in 2011 and that the time is now to support it again. In the coming weeks, the Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill is ready for another vote in the House of Representatives so that it can move quickly over to the Senate.

Your reminder to your elected officials is critical in making this happen. And it only requires two simple steps:  UPDATE: Scroll down for one-step action!

#1 - Follow the accompanying link to contact both of your State Representatives (no need to contact your State Senators right now) by entering your mailing address here:

#2 - Email each Representative a note expressing your support of this important public safety legislation. Below we've included some model text for you to use:
Dear Rep. _________,

Thank you for your support last year of SHB 1217 - the Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill. SHB 1217 is now in House Rules Committee for third reading and is ready for a vote in the first two weeks of session.

I urge you to vote again for this important safety legislation. The Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill provides more local control, offers an additional safety tool for local governments, removes additional study costs and red tape currently required by the state, and it encourages active living by offering cities and towns the chance to create safer streets. Most importantly, when used in conjunction with engineering and enforcement, lower speeds on non-arterial streets can save lives.

Please repeat the vote of the 2011 House of Representatives. Vote yes on the Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill (SHB 1217).


[Your Name here]

Use this simplified link to send a prepared message to your legislators!  Thanks to Cascade Bicycle Club for providing it.

For more information about the Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill, please visit or read yesterday's blog post.

Thank you for your work in creating safer streets!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Paving the Way for Safer Neighborhood Streets in 2012: SHB 1217

Fresh from the holiday break, the State Legislature is slated on January 9 to head into its sprint of a 60-day legislative session. The Bicycle Alliance of Washington will be lobbying on behalf of bicyclists statewide with its list of legislative priorities for 2012. At the top of that list includes continuing legislation from 2011 – substitute house bill (SHB) 1217: the Neighborhood Safe Streets Bill.

Sponsored by Representative Cindy Ryu (D-Shoreline), the legislation counts 17 co-sponsors and last year it passed 92-0 in the House of Representatives. The Neighborhood Safe Streets Bill’s supporters include a growing list of cities, organizations, and individuals from across the state.

This legislation paves the way for local governments  - specifically cities and towns – to make safer streets and neighborhoods by allowing them the authority to set speed limits to 20 miles per hour on non-arterial streets. It does not mandate any change, it simply provides cities and towns the local control to do so. 

Wait. Can’t cities and towns set speed limits below 25 miles per hour now?

In a word: no. Current Washington law prohibits municipalities from setting speed limits lower than 25 miles an hour except in very limited areas, such as school zones. If cities and towns do hope to go below this state-mandated minimum, they are required to conduct and administer an engineering and traffic study – a process requiring staff time and money.

Given the stresses of reduced budgets and staffing for transportation in cities and towns across Washington, the Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill removes a hurdle in time and cost for local governments who want to create safer streets in our neighborhoods, residential business districts, parks, and to schools across the state.

The list is long for what the Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill can do for cities and towns in Washington:

  • Provides more local control. SHB 1217 is fundamentally a neighborhood speed safety bill that puts local governments in charge of non-arterial speed safety and takes the state out of the business of setting speed limits. Letting local governments decide safer maximum speeds is an approach that Idaho and British Columbia both take.
  • Offers a safety tool in the local government toolbox. SHB 1217 offers an important tool for public and roadway safety. It can be accompanied with additional engineering and design to create safe neighborhood streets for all residents, particularly children and the elderly.
  • Economic Development. Providing localities the authority to reduce speed limits in appropriate areas is an effective way to reduce speed limits near shopping districts, parks, and other areas their residents, elected officials, business leaders and other stakeholders deem important. Calmer streets provide more attractive places for business driven by foot traffic.
  • Removes additional study costs and red tape currently required by the state. In a time of tight budgets, this bill removes a traffic and engineering hurdle that costs cities money and takes scarce staff time to administer.
  • Promotes reduction of chronic disease and the growing obesity crisis. Public and private medical costs of obesity for our state are now estimated in excess of $3 billion. SHB 1217 can help ensure that neighborhoods provide spaces for safe physical activity and active transportation – both of which are on the decline compared to previous generations.
  • Benefits Washington’s Safe Routes to School program. Safe neighborhood speeds help to promote walking and healthy activity in our communities. Lower speeds adjoining (but not formally linked) to existing school zones could help promote walking and biking to schools. This is likely to help reduce the epidemic of chronic disease related to obesity and lack of physical activity.
  • Reduced speeds save lives. The chances of dying from a collision with a motor vehicle at 20 miles per hour is 5% compared to the 45% chance of death in a similar impact at 30 miles per hour. Slower speeds can be particularly important on non-arterial streets where we live and play.

This legislation provides cities and towns a template to create safer neighborhood streets, improve public health, reduce red tape, and save our cities and towns money. Most importantly, this legislation aligns with our values for making safe spaces to live, work, and play for our children, the elderly, and everyone who chooses to walk and bike around our neighborhoods, parks, residential business districts, and schools.

Get Involved!
Join us in urging the state legislature to take action on passing the Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill during the 2012 session in the following ways:

Check back for Bicycle Alliance of Washington Action Alerts. During the 60-day legislative session (beginning on January 9) communicating your support of the Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill will prove invaluable. We’ll be alerting our members, bill partners, and others when it’s necessary via email, blog, twitter and Facebook. Stay tuned!

Attend Transportation Advocacy Day on January 31! Join us for this all-day event on January 31 at United Churches in Olympia as we educate state policymakers on the issues and advocate for solutions. To RSVP, go directly to our partner, Transportation Choices Coalition, RSVP page:

Join our list of supporters! We’re looking to continue to expand support for this smart, cost-effective, and flexible legislation. Contact statewide policy director, Blake Trask, if you wish to add your city or organization to our list of Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill supporters.