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Mike McGinn says Seattle driving will always be frustrating


An avid cyclist who can often be seen biking from his North Seattle home into downtown, former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said he didn’t declare a ‘War on Cars.’

McGinn, who has officially handed the title off to Ed Murray this week and is now reflecting upon his tenure, told KIRO Radio that term actually objectified commuters and he tried hard to change the topic to road safety for both bicyclists and drivers.

“People are just trying to get home or to their jobs and I think they deserve to be safe,” said McGinn.

He said the 2011 death of bicyclist Michael Wang was a turning point for him and that’s when he started the Road Safety Summits and changed the message to emphasize safety.

“I think we started to change the debate a little bit, although people still get pretty bent out of shape about a bike lane,” said McGinn.

While drivers may feel their blood pressure rise a bit when they see bicyclists zip by in their own lanes, the former mayor points out that driving was frustrating before those lanes existed.

“Go to the interstate one day…there are no bike lanes. It’s all cars and it’s intensely frustrating,” said McGinn.

Driving in a growing urban area will always be difficult and McGinn said his administration spent money trying to make it a little easier with synchronized lights and a new tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which “we all know, even after it’s built, is going to be frustrating.”

“A decade ago, 43 percent of the trips downtown were by car. Today, it’s like 34 percent. If it was still 43 percent today with growth, we’d have to have 10 square blocks of additional parking downtown and an untold number of new lanes,” said McGinn.

And McGinn said there’s just no way to get more lanes to accommodate the growth, which is why he worked on projects like light rail to Ballard, the Transit Master Plan, and the street car.

“It’s geometry, not ideology,” said McGinn.

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