Seattle's Number Four!!! The annual Bicycling Magazine list of America's Top 50 Bicycle-Friendly Cities is out, and as always there is a bit of angst in the community about the ratings and what they mean. (Minneapolis ranked over Portland? Mon Dieu!) What does it mean to be fourth out of 50?
The honest answer is: Not Much.
It’s great to be recognized for trying to do right by our bicycling community, and Bicycling deserves some thanks for acknowledging the role of the not-so-recently-adopted Seattle Bicycle Master Plan (SBMP) in setting a new course for bicycle facility and program development. I’ve been here 30 years now, and it is still remarkable to me how many ride in Seattle given both our climate and topography.
What such listings don’t reflect is how far we have to go to meet the goals of the plan, nor how perceptions of what is an appropriate course of action to “promote” bicycling growth ranges across a huge spectrum of rider types and ideologies. Even during SBMP development, we heard equally from those who want the convenience and directness provided by on-street facilities, while others were just as passionate about the development of separated trails and cycletracks.
Who is right in this battle along the ideological spectrum? The answer to that question is, of course, yes.
- Yes to adequate funding of the existing plan.
- Yes to innovation in implementing new types of facilities.
- Yes to continued and increased integration of bicycling and walking in transit and general highway retrofits
- Yes to continued development of our Regional Trail system, which consists of over 300 miles of facilities in King County.
Using these lists to compare cities is a futile exercise in many ways: comparing small college towns with cities in the Midwest struggling to kick start a flailing economy just doesn’t compute. Lists aren’t meant to be a final word – they instead serve a valuable purpose in keeping the discussion alive, raising the bar, highlighting successes and promoting a vision for the cycling future that is vibrant and relevant. I’m sure advocates in Boulder and Davis will joust about the ratings, but it is nice to have a national magazine recognize the efforts of so many in this city and region to create a better transportation future.
So, may the discussion continue, and may we keep pedaling upward to a better place.