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Originally published November 1, 2011 at 9:02 PM | Page modified November 2, 2011 at 6:36 PM

Corrected version

City's 10-year bike plan obsolete after 4 years?

Just four years after Seattle published its $300,000 Bicycle Master Plan, city officials are considering spending $400,000 more to revise it.

Seattle Times transportation reporter

quotes $700,000 worth of taxpayers hard earned money for 2 bicycle plans? $240 million for... Read more
quotes How about just paving the damn streets that are falling apart into concrete chunks first? Read more
quotes I have a better idea. The City should spend $700,000 on maintaining existing roads... Read more

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Just four years after Seattle published its $300,000 Bicycle Master Plan, city officials are considering spending an additional $400,000 to revise it.

The 2007 bike plan, a 174-page document produced for then-Mayor Greg Nickels, was supposed to be a 10-year blueprint to help Seattle build a $240 million cycling network as good or better than Portland's.

Now the plan apparently is reaching obsolescence.

Urban bicycle networks are changing quickly: the development of safe walking and cycling routes called "greenways" on the side streets of Portland; a growing commuter-trail network in Minneapolis; parts of streets becoming protected "cycle tracks" in New York City.

"It's really interesting to see the public getting out ahead of us on this, clamoring for greenways," said Craig Benjamin, policy and government-affairs manager for Cascade Bicycle Club. He also is co-chair of Streets for All Seattle, the pro-Proposition 1 campaign.

Mayor Mike McGinn proposes to pay for the bike-plan update with a small piece of the city's proposed $60 car-tab fee, which appears on the November ballot as Prop. 1. The measure would raise $204 million over 10 years for transit, street, bike, pedestrian and freight improvements. If it fails, the City Council will face some tough decisions about how and whether to improve the bike plan, McGinn said Tuesday.

Another possibility is for council members to fund the study though 2012 budget amendments to be proposed this week.

Benjamin said an improved bike plan would help the city spend bicycling dollars efficiently. Study funds are well below 1 percent of the total projected car-tab revenues, he added.

The 2006 "Bridging the Gap" levy provides about $3 million a year for bicycling, and Prop. 1 would add about $1.4 million a year. When the original bike plan was finished in 2007, David Hiller of Cascade (and now working for McGinn) called it arguably the best such document in the nation.

The $400,000 to update the plan might be equivalent to the cost of installing two miles of actual greenway, based on Portland's experience, for speed bumps, signs, curbs, plantings and pedestrian islands.

Seattle officials point to a proliferation of neighborhood requests — to sort these out, the city would collect extensive data, instead of favoring areas that clamor the loudest. The city also would carry on its longstanding practice of outreach mailings and meetings.

"People care about how we use our streets. We have to have a planning process in advance," McGinn said.

David Miller, chairman of the anti-Prop. 1 campaign Sidewalks and Streets for Seattle, criticizes spending the money to update the plan, along with $6 million in other money earmarked for non-car education, outreach and incentives in one city scenario.

"This is a regressive tax, so we have a responsibility to spend money on infrastructure that actually makes a difference in people's lives," he said.

An idea similar to greenways already exists in the 2007 plan — which called for 18 miles of "bicycle boulevards" using residential streets. Seattle has added crossing signals and signs on Linden Avenue North from Bitter Lake to Green Lake. Limited work begins this fall on an east-west greenway in the Wallingford area. But the old plan pointed out that as of 2007, there was no "national consensus" on the best way to build bike boulevards.

Similar planning is under way for other transportation means, not just bicycles.

Prop. 1 also would provide $500,000 for a Freight Master Plan, as well as $18 million for planning, outreach, full engineering and slight construction funding of streetcars, probably a downtown north-south line. (The federal government just awarded Seattle a $900,000 planning grant for streetcars.)

An additional $1.5 million, from sale of surplus land near Seattle Center, would go to plan high-capacity rail beyond downtown, perhaps to Ballard. A general Transportation Plan update is coming soon, McGinn said. The administration recommends $150,000 to publicize and plan a Rainier Valley greenway.

"All of our plans, we need to revisit every four or five years. I don't think this is an uncommon time frame," McGinn said.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or mlindblom@seattletimes.com

Information in this article, originally published Nov. 1, 2011, was corrected Nov. 2, 2011. A previous version of this story said the original Bicycle Master Plan was to be completed over 20 years. It was a 10-year plan.

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