People For Bikes ranks Seattle third among major bike-friendly cities in the US

Only Brooklyn and San Francisco ranked higher than Seattle in the 2022 list of the most bike-friendly major US cities (over 300,000 residents) by the national nonprofit advocacy organization People For Bikes. Portland, Oregon ranked 5th behind Queens.

These rankings are of course a rather imperfect science, but they are interesting (NOTE: Seattle’s page says it’s the 4th major city, but their list of major cities puts Seattle in 3rd place. I’ve been going with 3rd since I can’t figure out what would be the 3rd city in front of Seattle). People For Bikes has created a list of criteria based on the existing cycling network, traffic, safety and certain elements of community response such as “the feeling of safety of people on bikes in their city”. Here is a visual of the Seattle results:

They also have a cycling network analysis tool that displays a map indicating “how well cycling networks connect people with the rhythms they want to follow”. This is quite a difficult goal to measure reliably, but it is interesting to explore their results:

Southeast Seattle looks particularly interesting here, though I suspect that’s largely due to the Chief Sealth Trail and the Rainier Valley Neighborhood Greenway. Both facilities look great on a map, but are much less useful in real life due to their many steep climbs. The flatter and more direct routes, MLK Jr Way and Rainier Ave, have no cycling facilities. But it is difficult for an automated analysis tool to capture such nuances.

The most important thing to note in the 2022 ranking is that Seattle’s score jumped from 53 to 58 once SDOT built about 10 miles of protected bike lanes that had been delayed during the first half of Jenny’s mayoral term. Durcan. These included vital and hard-to-build cycling connections to and through downtown from South Lake Union, Lower Queen Anne and the International District. I absolutely agree with the increased score here, as these projects have revolutionized bike access to the city center. A lot of people have yet to realize how great they are because so many jobs downtown have yet to come back.

The lesson here for city leaders is that when we grow our bike network, it works and people across the country take notice.

People For Bikes also posted an excellent side story focusing on Seattle and the work of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways. Here is an exerpt :

While Seattle has made significant progress in recent years and remains one of the best places to cycle in the United States, there is still room for improvement when it comes to connectivity. According [Seattle Neighborhood Greenways’ Clara] Cantor, many cycling infrastructure projects are severely compromised before completion by stopping before a major intersection, not quite reaching a destination, or being built with protection in only one direction. Compromising on individual projects can harm a network’s connectivity and disrupt ambitious mode-change goals.

“If our goal is to have more people riding bikes, that’s not going to happen if it’s like how it feels to ride bikes right now,” Cantor said. “You have to make it comfortable, efficient and joyful or people are going to try it once and not come back.”

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