Next time Seattle’s transportation department wants to call off a planned bike lane, department officials may have to do some extra homework for the City Council.
Seattle City Council members unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday requiring the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to build protected bike lanes any time the city does a paving project worth more than $1 million and when those lanes are included in the city’s long-term bike plans.
Under the new law, if SDOT plans to skip building a bike lane because of cost or other factors, the department would have to explain why in a written report to the City Council.
Seattle’s Bicycle Master Plan lays out a long-range road map for where the city plans to build bike lanes in the future, but those projects can be delayed or derailed when it comes time to actually fund and build them.
Some City Council members were frustrated this year when SDOT reversed plans to build bike lanes on 35th Avenue Northeast after some in the neighborhood objected to the new lanes. Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who sponsored the legislation, said the bill was meant to prevent similar situations from happening in the future.
“The default is going to be that these projects get built. That’s the goal,” O’Brien said during a council briefing Tuesday morning.
Durkan supports the legislation, said spokeswoman Chelsea Kellogg.
Council members debated Tuesday afternoon whether to explicitly call for neighborhood business input about bike lanes in the ordinance. They settled on adding that the lanes will be built “with an expectation that the final scope and design of the project reflect continued community engagement and input in the project development on how to implement the protected bicycle lane.”
Neighborhoods for Smart Streets, a political committee “born out of” opposition to proposed the 35th Avenue bike lanes, called the ordinance “mean-spirited.” The committee currently has about $28,000 and has donated to Councilmember Debora Juarez’s reelection campaign and to Alex Pedersen, a candidate running for City Council in Northeast Seattle. Pedersen said Wednesday he returned the donation because he plans not to accept donations from political action committees.
The City Council also approved a resolution Tuesday calling on the mayor to find more funding for bike lanes, particularly in South Seattle.
Another resolution approved Tuesday asks SDOT to plan new on-street parking for free-floating rentable bikes and, eventually, electric scooters. Advocates for people with disabilities have said the scattershot parking of Lime and Jump bikes on Seattle sidewalks is hazardous for people who are blind or use wheelchairs.