Seattle gets a B grade, really?

Cascade Bicycle Club releases a report that gives Seattle a B for bicycling. Do you think Seattle deserves a B?



“After only two years with an adopted Bicycle Master Plan, the city’s service toward bicycling has been commendable,” the club said in its 2009 Report Card on Bicycling. “Seattle has nearly doubled the miles of bicycle routes since 2006, added several hundred bicycle racks, decreased the number of bicycle thefts, and maintained a consistent, if not decreasing, bicycle crash rate.”

Since 2007, the city has made integrating cycling facilities routine and started finding “innovative and expressive” ways to support cycling, the report said. “In other words, cycling is becoming an icon to Seattle.”


  • Satisfaction with pavement quality, D plus
  • Bicycle safety, B; satisfaction with bicycle safety, C
  • Gender distribution, C
  • Satisfaction with bicycle routes, C
  • Bicycle participation, B
  • Bicycle network, C plus
  • Bicycle support facilities, B
  • Bicycle counts, B
  • Level of bicycling, A minus
  • Bicycle Master Plan implementation, B plus
  • New bicycle racks, A
  • Bicycle service on public transit, B
  • Parking and ‘end of trip’ facilities, C plus
  • Bicycle crash rate, B
  • Reported bicycle thefts, A plus.

Seattle has certainly improved with wayfinding signage, sharrows, lanes and awareness, but a B? Readers?


If you think it’s too high I suggest spending some time in other cities - and not places like SF, Portland or Davis. Seattle is far better than many other large cities I’ve been in including LA, Phoenix, Dallas, Boston, and New York. In some ways it’s also better than San Francisco.

I think a B is about right. I’ve cycled extensively thoroughout the West and Seattle is actually better than S.F., not as good as Portland or Vancouver B.C. but improving under Cascade’s guidance with the city DOT. For its size Seattle does well; we all know that the bigger a city gets, the harder it is to support cycling. The best are small metropolises like Davis and Palo Alto and Eugene and Bend and so on…but it’s a factor of scale as much as of commitment.

Paul Andrews

We’ve ridden in lots of cities as well and think that Seattle is on the right track and doing well—the new signage, green lanes, and so on are all good, great actually. The biggest struggle in town is our congestion and pissed-off drivers. Us cyclists may think the town is a B, but the drivers that hate us don’t and would rather see a city with no bike lanes or sharrows. (Read a PI Forum sometime that’s overran by the bike hater club.)

I’m no sociologist, so don’t know what it takes to shift attitudes from “hating the world, cause I"m stuck in a car,” but it’s larger than painting a new lane on Alaskan Way. The report seem self-congratulatory from Cascade and my criticism is with the methodology that sampled from an online survey of the members. As big as Cascade is (and they do good work with lobbying, events, activism), they don’t represent all of us, and have their own interests to protect.

I’d like to hear from the cyclists out there that are riding big miles during the week and getting buzzed on Lake Wa or harassed. It wouldn’t serve Cascade well to release a report critical of the millions of tax dollars being spent on the Bicycle Master Plan would it or justify corporate marketing dollars on a feel-good event like Bike to Work Day.

> Ever wonder why the City painted lines on the road, when this other road a block away is way better?

> Would messengers rate it a b?

Where we’re coming from isn’t throwing stones at a report, but we’re not just given Cascade a slap on the back and a pass for a City that honestly has many challenges in the bigger picture of being livable. When I ride on Alaskan Way on Game Day, I’m reminded of that every-time.

“The biggest struggle in town is our congestion and pissed-off drivers.”

I take it you’ve never ridden on the East Coast? Boston and NY drivers are far, FAR worse than **anything** I’ve seen in Seattle. No contest. Congestion is also worse. For that matter drivers here are better than in SF. Yeah, I’ve had my share of run-ins with bozos on the road but then again I’ve had my share of run-ins with moron cyclists (I was nearly t-boned last week by a douchebag poser on a Madone blowing a stop sign at full speed!)

I could care less how messengers rate the city. Most of them ride with zero regard for the law or anyone else on the road. As a pedestrian I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve nearly been hit by messengers running red lights downtown. Asking for their opinion is like asking Bernie Madoff to oversee the TARP fund.

I do wonder about some of the choices the city and Cascade make. I think it’s dumb to put a bike path on a major street when a calmer, safer and just as fast route is nearby. Prime examples would be Stone Way (instead of Wallingford) and 24th (instead of 28th). I think the problem is people base their bike commute using the same route they would use while driving.

Yes I’ve ridden on the East Coast, but not daily no. The City and Cascade worked with a civil engineer on some of the routes, many of which no cyclist I know would ride. I don’t understand at all why cyclists ride up Admiral in West Seattle when they could go up California or Avalon. My guess is shortest path to the top.

My point about messengers is Cascade is a bike club—a large one that does advocacy and politics and doesn’t represent all Seattle cyclists as a whole. I don’t think they’ve got the staff to ride every commute in every neighborhood to understand that Alaskan Way is a freeway of bikes during the Commute or that Southpark has lots of workers that are just riding old bikes back and forth to their blue-collar jobs.

The racing community is out there commuting as well and logging hundreds of miles a week and probably not represented by a Cascade survey. When Lake Washington Blvd—a road that’s designed for Cyclists—turns into a freeway because of I5 congestion, you know how bad it is in Seattle.

I think the report card has to be taken in as “How is Seattle doing with implementing the BMP” rather than bicycling in general. Which I think is generally good. Being a cyclist, I’m in the minority, and probably have low expectations. I’m really happy that the city has responded to and resolved most of my bicycling related complaints, so I give them a lot of credit for that.

@cyclocross, I’d be really careful about being all, “screw those law breaking messengers”. That is almost word for word the stereotypical bullshit that drivers pull on cyclists in general, and thus reeks of prejudice. Don’t hate the player, hate the game sir.

Just a factual note: the survey was open to anyone, not limited by any means to Cascade members. It was posted for several weeks on our home page, shared several times in the Braking News (circ. 40k+), tweeted a couple of times, posted to the forums and it was published in the member newsletter.

Sorry we missed you. We really wanted as many respondents as possible.

If you would like to talk to the Cascade staff person who worked on Seattle’s first Report Card on Bicycling, her name is Tessa Greegor: (206) 204-0913. I’m sure she’d be happy to field questions.

And so you don’t miss the tweets/posts/fb/articles/Braking News/links/smoke signals, we’re rolling out a new crash/hazard/theft reporting site. Please help by posting real data to the site:

Cheers and safe cycling,
M.J. Kelly
Cascade Bicycle Club

Thanks for the comment and the data. [Bikewise]( looks good. Contact us directly on that so we can feature it. Bike Hugger and others *missing the survey* is a indicator of how well Cascade does with traditional media and maybe not so much with the blogs and social networks . . . .

Well put and I noted why I brought it up as Seattle is a big city with lots of cyclists and unique problems. Traffic wise, it’s an hourglass with I5 punched through the middle of it and suburbs surrounding it. I’m happy each time I stop in the [green lane]( on Dexter and then sigh when I see cars driving through Pike Place. Imagine pike as a bike/pedestrian street . . .

Since it comes up so much, I think we should level-set that Portland became so bicycle oriented out of necessity, less than a desire to become a New Amsterdam.

In the 70s, they chose to not run I5 through downtown like Seattle did and why they’ve got the bridges and geography they do and also the massive congestion that drove the citizens to finding alternatives to get around the city.

Dear bikehugger:

We are releasing, a place to learn about and report bike crashes, hazards, and thefts. By sharing our experiences with each other, and with researchers and relevant agencies, we aim to make biking safer and more fun.

bikewise is run by Cascade Bicycle Club, in partnership with sustainability activist and software developer Phil Mitchell. We’re based in Seattle, Washington, but this site is meant to be useful anywhere in the world. We started bikewise under the conviction that we could make biking safer and more fun by gathering good data on the things that sometimes go wrong.

Crashes: It’s estimated that 75% or more of all crashes go unreported. We believe that by gathering detailed information on how and why crashes happen, we’ll be able to ride smarter. Also, we hope that knowing where crash hotspots are will help us to identify issues with traffic behavior and road design.

Hazards: How many times have you ridden past a dangerous sewer grate or overgrown vegetation and wished there were someplace to report it? Now there is. We aim to not only collect hazard reports, but to pass these on to the appropriate authorities. (Please note: we’re still putting this part of the system in place.)

Thefts: Tracking where and how bikes get stolen is a key part of preventing thefts. We’re currently working on other pieces of this system, so that if your bike does get stolen, you have a better chance of getting it back. More to come on that.

Thanks for spreading the word and for adding your reports, of which I hope there are few.

Thank you for reading and for helping make Seattle and environs a better place for cycling!

M.J. @cascadebicycle

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