Rantz: Seattle bike commuting is at record lows

Sep 26, 2018, 7:34 AM | Updated: 9:02 am
bike lanes, seattle, bike commuting...
(File, Associated Press)
(File, Associated Press)

The trend continues: bike commuting in the City of Seattle is at “its lowest level in a decade.”

RELATED: Putting the cost of bike lanes in perspective

A new report in The Seattle Times shows census data indicating only 2.8 percent of Seattle workers use a bike to commute to work — down 2.5 percent from 2016. Columnist and bike advocate Gene Balk calls it a “statistically significant decline.”

This should come as no surprise. I’ve been detailing the years-long decline of bike commuting using data from pro-bike activists, which is virtually identical to the census data. Back in December 2017, I reported:

According to the Seattle Department of Transportation, bicycle volume decreased by 2.6 percent, even after installing better technology to track ridership. Of the seven spots where they continuously track bike ridership, six areas saw decreases, with four of those six experiencing dramatic declines.

And it’s not just the percentage that’s dropped. The raw number has gone down, too. In 2015, we hit a record high with an estimated 16,000 bike commuters who live in Seattle. Last year, it fell below 12,000 — a 26 percent decline in just two years.

Seattle invests and promises to invest tens of millions in bike infrastructure under the absurd and irrational belief that “if we build it, they will bike.” That’s never been true. We will never get much more than what we’re experiencing and as the population grows, the ratio will drop.

Why is this the case? Activists like City Councilmember Mike O’Brien and absurdly militant and irrational bike hobbyists insist it’s because there’s no connected network in the city. Their excuses are demonstrably ridiculous: the more we build, the less people bike.

We live in a city that’s wet and full of hills. Few people want to bike to work in that context. You can’t force people to bike, as hard as they’d like to be able to. And we shouldn’t waste tens of millions on infrastructure to satisfy the needs of a handful of eco-warriors who think riding their bikes will somehow impact climate change. It’s not realistic.

This isn’t to say you stop all investments in biking. Biking is part of the way some people get around. Good for them. We should investigate spots where a high number of riders bike, and make sure it’s safe. But this is to say that we can’t just carpet bomb the city with bike infrastructure that won’t ever get the ridership anti-car activists hope for. There is no justification for spending money on that when you could be investing in the modes we know people take — and are growing.

What do the people want? More access for buses and cars. I know that hurts the eco-warrior’s souls, but they shouldn’t be able to run rough shot over the rest of us, crippling traffic to accommodate their hobby.

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Rantz: Seattle bike commuting is at record lows