Seattle might be nearing a point of critical mass regarding a multi-modal transportation model. There just may be a convergence of efforts striving to make the city more livable embracing city street design that enables more walking and bicycling. At least that was the general consensus from a panel of bicycle advocates Sunday at Seattle Bike Expo.
Council member Mike O’Brien said that though the opposition to Seattle’s efforts to improve the city’s bike-ability are quite vocal, from the city’s data, 60-70% of residents would like to walk and bicycle more. Kevin O’Neill, SDOT Planning and Urban Design Manager, added that if Seattle wants to grow the numbers of people walking and bicycling, then that must be woven into the broader framework through collaborative efforts. Ideas, concerns and suggestions are gathered from a variety of stakeholders, such as the Trade Advisory Board, Transit and the Port of Seattle. Mike O’Brien interjected that the Downtown Seattle Association believes that we must have bicycle infrastructure to compete with other cities. To this, panel moderator, Tom Fucoloro of Seattle Bicycle Blog, contributed that Chicago was moving forward like gangbusters [building bicycle infrastructure] and London’s major announced that London was investing $1.3 billion on bike lanes.
Seattle process became a necessary part of the conversation. Regarding Fucoloro’s comment about Chicago’s ability to move forward, O’Neill stated that Chicago had a very different kind of process. O’Brien said that he supports the Seattle process, but that he believes we “need to feel a greater sense of urgency.” Don Brubeck representing West Seattle Connections , a group that he is credited with getting off the ground, talked about building support among a broad base of the community using West Seattle as an example. Projects must show their benefits. Residents in this part of the city have felt cut off. Means to get to and from the neighborhood as well as within it, are benefits of design that the community can understand. He added that, “Connections” can use some techniques not available to Cascade Bicycle Club (CBC) or the City Council. Referring to process, Craig Benjamin representing Cascade, added regarding Chicago, that though it doesn’t show, there were “years of political work” behind the current progress.
Fucoloro wrapped up the panel stating "Things are changing even here." Council member O’Brien had mentioned some of these innovations, including Seattle’s commitment to become a carbon-neutral city by 2050, the initiation of some bike track construction, and pursuit of a bike share program. In closing Fucoloro quoted London mayor “This will save many lives and make London a better place for everybody.” The sense of the panel: Seattle too.