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Seattle Bicycle Program

Five Guiding Principles to a Bikeable Seattle

History and Purpose of this Document

This document was first drafted in January 2002 as a tool to help the SBAB focus its energies on improving bicycling in Seattle. The Principles will be updated and clarified on a regular basis as needs, attitudes, and facilities change.

The Principles, which are guidelines for improvements to both the Physical and Social Environment, are summarized below:

1. Make all roads and bridges safe and accessible to bicyclists (enroute facilities)
2. Provide quality parking and facilities for all bicyclists (destination facilities)
3. Provide more funding to maintain and improve facilities
4. Educate drivers and bicyclists to following traffic laws and drive safely
5. Change the image of bicycling from “simply recreation” to “real transportation”

Goal: Get more people to bicycle

Why should the City of Seattle make bicycling issues a high priority?

Bicycling serves a wide variety of community goals that fall under the jurisdiction and missions of many city departments and projects. Bicycling supports:

  • Public health
  • Quality of life / livability
  • Environmental health
  • Transportation choice
  • Accessibility
  • Recreation
  • Community (human scale) development
  • Business (retail, repair, tourism)

Because the benefits of bicycling help to further so many community goals, city departments should consider the needs and benefits of bicycling and bicyclists in their projects, policies, funding, and maintenance programs.

Discussion/Desired Outcome

Inform department heads and other appropriate city staff about the board, the concerns of cyclists, the benefits of bicycling, and each department's power to promote (benefit/contribute to) bicycling and bicycling infrastructure.

Offer SBAB as resource to city departments. Resources include review of programs, policies, and projects at SBAB meetings; participation in a specific project's planning, meetings, and process; and communicating support for bike-friendly programs to Seattle City Council Members and the Seattle Mayor.

Guiding Principle #1

Make all roads and bridges safe and accessible to bicyclists (enroute facilities)

Discussion/Desired Outcome

Given that safe, high quality facilities are the foundation of bicycling; that the city of Seattle is committed to providing choice in transportation; that switching from driving to bicycling relieves congestion and reduces the cost of providing and maintaining the transportation infrastructure; and that lack of connected routes and lack of information about routes are a barrier to bicycling, the City of Seattle should:

  • Complete a connected network of paths, bike lanes and signed routes
  • Disseminate information on the trail system, including maps, signage, and promotion of the network to encourage its use
  • Maintain paths, lanes, and bicycle routes (both signed routes and those commonly used) including a) high quality repair of potholes, b) providing marked detours of facilities during construction projects, c) requiring franchise utilities to maintain safe bicycle access during maintenance and construction activities, d) keeping facilities free of debris, e) ensuring proper drainage, and f) enforcing TESC
  • Design and build all new bridges, bridge retrofits, and bridge replacements to accommodate bicycles, including all not-at-grade crossings (flyovers, overpasses, etc.).
  • Use AASHTO guidelines to design new and retrofit existing bicycle facilities (i.e., bike lanes wide enough to actually ride in).
  • Consider and accommodate bicycles in all street redesigns and re-striping.

Apply the above policy to all projects undertaken in partnership with King County, Sound Transit, Washington State DOT and other jurisdictions.

Guiding Principle #2

Provide quality parking and facilities for all bicyclists (destination facilities)

Discussion/Desired Outcome

Commuters need dedicated, secure parking, bike lockers, and shower facilities. All other bicyclists need secure, convenient, widely available parking. These “transient” parkers are using bicycles as transportation to shop, eat at restaurants, run errands, attend events, etc. If we are ever to get more people out of automobiles, we need to provide secure, quality public bike parking everywhere there is public automobile parking.

We need a city policy on bike parking that deals with street bike racks. Existing racks are often rendered unusable by abandoned bikes and locks, and obstructed by dogs, planters, news boxes and other street “furniture”. Legitimate use of racks must be clarified and supported by enforcement.

We also need to change land use policy to require more bike parking whenever automobile parking is built or expanded (e.g., parking garages, retail cores, etc.).

Employers should make it easy for employees to ride to work. Create a culture and reinforcement that riding to work is a cool and healthy way to get to work. Encourage employers to offer incentives to employees to bike to work. Look at factors that would create a biking culture within a company and develop an information campaign to address it.

  • Learn from existing successful employee bike incentive programs
  • Get fitness clubs to allow employees to use showers for a reasonable fee
  • Look at existing city programs and their results
  • Provide secure, high quality, bike parking at all public buildings, schools, parks.
  • Provide secure, high quality, bike parking at all retail centers, tourist destinations, other public gathering points.
  • Provide guidelines and incentives to operators of private parking facilities to add secure, high quality bike parking
  • Encourage businesses, retail stores, restaurants, etc., to provide quality bike parking

Guiding Principle #3

Provide more funding to maintain and improve facilities


Funding for bicycle facilities remains vastly out of proportion to funding and expenditures for automobiles. It has been said that we spend the most money on the least desirable form of transportation and we spend the least money on the most desirable form of transportation.

Desired Outcome

Funding for bicycle related functions should be increased to fully fund:

  1. City of Seattle staff, both those directly and those not directly related to bicycle-related planning, design, and construction.
  2. Infrastructure costs, included for local matches to federal grants and for the City’s annual CIP budget.
  3. All services related to improving bicycling in the City of Seattle, including street sweeping and maintenance.

Guiding Principle #4

Educate drivers and bicyclists to following traffic laws and drive safely


Many motorists are sadly unaware of how existing traffic laws apply to bicyclists, including that bicyclists have a right to ride in the road, and that bicyclists are allowed to ride two abreast. In addition, motorists often exceed speed limits and drive in such a manner to endanger bicyclists, pedestrians, and other vehicles.

At the same time, bicyclists often ride without obeying traffic laws and fail to take safety precautions, such as using front and rear lights, wearing a helmet, and wearing reflective clothing.

A driver education campaign would help facilitate educating drivers and bicyclists alike. Messages for a campaign could include:

  • Rights and responsibilities of bicyclists
  • Rights and responsibilities of motorists
  • Safety measures that bicyclists could take
  • Proper clothing, equipment and riding techniques for bicyclists
  • Selected safe bicycle routes

Desired Outcome

A safety campaign should be undertaken to educate bicyclists and motorists alike and to improve the multi-modal transportation system in the City. Means to disseminate this information could include:

  • New or enhanced web sites
  • Signs on buses and bus shelters
  • Leaflets and brochures available through a variety of outlets
  • Add “Share the Road” signs in constrained corridors (e.g., Aurora Bridge, 15th W, Airport Way S, etc.).
  • Public Service Announcements on radio and television
  • Add bicycle education to Seattle Public Schools curriculum (starting in elementary school)
  • Add “bicycle skills” training to Physical Education in public schools
  • Create “Sharing the Road” program for CTV

Guiding Principle #5

Change the image of bicycling from “simply recreation” to “real transportation”

Discussion/Desired Outcome

There is a need to shift attitudes toward bicycling from current images such as, “low-class”, “can’t afford a car”, “too dangerous”, “it’s a child’s toy”, “doesn’t belong on the street”, etc.

Sell bicycling as a sexy lifestyle choice and viable alternative in many circumstances to driving a car or as a beneficial extension to driving a car. Look at the difficulties that people perceive as being in the way of day-to-day bicycling and identify ways of educating or providing incentives for them to overcome them.

  • Higher visibility of bicycle clubs and what they do
  • Focus on getting information about bike clubs to non-bicyclists
  • Create and maintain lists of routes for walking and biking to school
  • Have a “Bike to School Day”
  • Put together guide on how to do errands, shopping by bike
  • Encourage riders to go on a date by bike
  • Promote social biking, such as a club memberships, progressive biking dinners, etc.
  • Make biking cool again – recruit well known people to bike and set-up media events
  • Purchase/promote media ads and features
  • List people to approach about riding; follow up by inviting them to participate in projects/programs/activities
  • Get together and disseminate current information on cost of owning a car vs. a bike
  • Encourage fitness club members to get more fitness in outside the club
  • More encouragement of employers to provide bike parking, showers, lockers, other bike facilities
  • Promote Bike Buddy programs (increase recruitment)

SBAB Five Guidlines to a Bikeable Seattle 15 April 2002