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Mike McGinn: I believe we should expand Seattle’s bike lanes

If re-elected, former Mayor Mike McGinn says he would look at expanding bike lanes. (AP)

During his exit interview in 2013, former Mayor Mike McGinn said driving in urban areas was frustrating long before there were bike lanes.

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He told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross at the time that there was “no way” driving wouldn’t be frustrating in a city like Seattle.

In essence, he was saying that drivers shouldn’t point fingers at cyclists and dedicated bike lanes — as well as other alternative modes of transportation — for the growing congestion in the city.

But how does he feel years later, after deciding to step back into the political fray and announcing his bid for mayor? In short, he says the city should continue to expand its network of bike lanes.

“I believe we should,” McGinn told KIRO Radio’s Jason and Burns on Tuesday. “Because … I think it’s a very effective use of street space because you can move — particularly short distances — you can move a lot more people.”

McGinn helped push the city toward being more bike-friendly during his single term as mayor. The current city administration has continued with that tone, expanding bike lanes as well as pushing for people — including its own employees — to choose an alternative mode of transportation. One of the city’s latest completed projects, the Westlake bike lane, was even named one of the nation’s “best new connections.”

Controversy around bike lanes

Not everyone was pleased with the city sacrificing parking and car lanes. The term “War on Cars” was born during McGinn’s term, and even resurfaced last year when The Seattle Times’ Brier Dudley wrote that the city, “can no longer deny it’s engaged in a war on cars.” He argued last year that Mayor Ed Murray’s Comprehensive Plan is a “shock-and-awe campaign” that targets people who drive in and around Seattle.

McGinn fired back at Dudley in his own opinion commentary.

After announcing his plan to unseat Mayor Murray, McGinn sounds as if he will return to his crusade to make city streets safer and even more bike friendly. He told Jason and Burns that one- to three- mile trips work well for cyclists, but, “people have to feel safe.”

“When it’s safe, you see bike commuting go up,” he said. “And I think you saw bike commuting go up over my four years [in office].”

City map: Bike-friendly options in Seattle

According to a survey last year, about 2.9 percent of morning commuters rode a bicycle to and from work. That is, as KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz points out, .1-percent higher than 2008 numbers. It was also fewer people than those who commuted to work in 2012, according to a survey. Of course, there are more people living and working in the city now than in 2008 — recent estimates show Seattle is the ninth-fastest growing metro in the country.

McGinn says that no matter what, the city’s infrastructure will be a challenge, and there’s no way enough street space can be built to handle all the cars.

“Even if you dedicated every bit of street space to cars, you still have problems with intersections and the clogs getting onto I-5,” he said. It’s, “just not a solution to moving people.”

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