Rantz: Seattle makes ridiculous excuse for massive decline in bicycling
Despite their best, transparent efforts to punish drivers so badly they end up ditching their cars for bicycles, it turns out, if you build it, they won’t come. Despite spending and committing to tens of millions of dollars of bike infrastructure in Seattle, bike commuting is down significantly.
The excuse for the rotten numbers? As bizarre as it is embarrassing.
U.S. Census Bureau figures show a national decline in bike commuting, with Seattle showing some of the worst decline in the country. According to the bureau’s American Community Survey, as detailed in USA Today, there were 3.2 percent fewer people biking to work in 2017 than in 2016. In Seattle? We’re down a whopping 20.5 percent according to League of American Bicyclists analysis of the Census data.
According to USA Today:
Besides the one-year drop in Seattle, the city saw a 19 percent drop-off from 2011 to 2017, according to the league’s report. Dawn Schellenberg, spokeswoman for the city Department of Transportation, said that may be due to the city’s famously rainy weather or commuters using bikes for only part of their trips, using them to connect to public transit.
Schellenberg is a good person who has put up with a ton of my annoying questions over the last year, so I mean her no ill-will when I say her excuse is … just embarrassing. In no part of the city are we seeing numbers of bike-to-transit commuters so high, as to account for such a dramatic decline in bike commuters. And blaming the weather? The rain is not new. She’s actually arguing why we ought to spend less money on bike lanes and more for bus and car lanes.
This data matches much of what we’ve seen coming from local surveys of bike use. Seattle bike commuting is at record lows, with just 2.8 percent of commuters using a bike, according to Census data reported by The Seattle Times.
Bike activists will claim, illogically, that the numbers are low because without a complex, interconnected infrastructure of bike lanes, people will never fully commit to bicycling.
“It shows that while we have made investments over the last 20 years (in bicycle infrastructure) we are still far from having safe and connected networks that make people feel safe biking to work,” Ken McLeod, policy director at the League of American Bicyclists, told USA Today.
Ludicrous. Bicycle commuting has gone down as cities like Seattle have burned millions in bike investments. Bike commuting should go up as traffic congestion worsens and more options are given to bicyclists, not down. And even SDOT argues rain plays a role in biking, so arguing to invest millions more makes no sense.
Will this change anything in Seattle? Unlikely. Mayor Jenny Durkan, the Seattle City Council, and SDOT have made it their moral crusade to get you out of your car by any means necessary — including means that don’t even work. Both scared and inspired by the area’s militant bike community, the city continues to pour money into infrastructure that has had the exact opposite effect it had hoped.
It’s kind of like their homelessness policies. When you’re driven by ideological virtue signaling, it doesn’t matter that your plans aren’t working. They just want the appearance of caring. Meanwhile, drivers and transit users are stuck in traffic watching a handful of cyclists riding down a nearly-empty lane that they could be driving in.
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