I just got back from a multi-day trip to Seattle, WA. A beautiful, friendly place. We thoroughly enjoyed so much of the city: the parks, the food, the Market…the list goes on. Seattle is also one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the country. Bikes are everywhere. Bike racks are available just about everyplace you visit. Parking garages routinely have bike corrals/bike parking.

We also experienced, for the first time, a number of different types of bicycle accommodations: protected bike lanes, two-way bike lanes on one-way streets, separate signals for bicycle drivers, two-stage left-turn boxes…most of which are not available where we live. Multi-modal transportation is encouraged: bike racks on buses, acceptance of bikes carried onto light rail. In spite of all this, though, I left feeling ambivalent about bicycle infrastructure.

In many ways, it seemed a great idea. The availability of all these accommodations may be a part of the reason the place is so bicycle-friendly…or may be the result. I can’t say which is causal. Perhaps neither is.

I also saw a lot of bad bicycle driving: Wrong-way riding (and no, not just in the contraflow bike lanes!). Bicyclists ignoring red lights. Roadies speeding through intersections and almost hitting pedestrians who had the right of way.

As in many citites, there’s a bike-share program. Like in New York, lots of bikes available in the downtown area, and in heavily-touristed areas, and not so many (or no availability) in areas where people could use them for transportation.

So from my long-weekend-length impression, I’m left with the feeling that there’s so much potential for amazing things. Cities like Seattle have gone so much further than most. But we’ve still got a long way to go. Bicycles can do so much for us: for our bodies, for our minds, for our economies, for our cities, for our planet.

We still need to educate people about how to drive their bicycles. We need to educate city planners/engineers about how to create efficient and safe infrastructure. We need to educate motorists about how to share the road. We need to educate pedestrians about how to negotiate the newer types of infrastructure that are being created.

In short, we need to educate.


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