On Monday, Seattle City Council unanimously passed an updated Bicycle Master Plan. The plan aims to triple the number of trips by bicycle between 2007 and 2017 while reducing bicycle collisions by 33% over the same period. With those goals in mind, planners identified 474 miles of new or improved cycling infrastructure that – once complete – will enable safe travel by bike between any two points in the city.
The plan comes at an interesting point for cycling in Seattle. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel famously stated that he's upgrading bike infrastructure in an effort to poach cyclists and their jobs from Seattle and Portland. And while no one has died while riding a bike in Seattle since December, we still lag behind our super bike friendly rival. Portland had zero bike fatalities in 2013; a feat they've pulled off six times since 1999. But Puget Sound Bike Share is launching this summer and we're the first city to have a private developer build public bike infrastructure as part of a construction project. So we're firmly in control of our own destiny.
But what's the cost of making our streets safer and keeping meddling Midwestern mayors at bay? Current estimates (paywall) indicate that we'll need to spend $20 million over each of the next 20 years in order to fully implement the plan, with most of that money coming from state, federal and regional grants. SDOT could realize additional cost savings by piggybacking planned cycling upgrades in to its regular maintenance projects. In a city that spends $3.1 billion to replace a crumbling piece of infrastructure and $1.1 billion on a floating bridge, $20 million a year is a small price to pay enable healthy lifestyles and keep our streets safe.
Daniel Diiulio is a civil engineer and graduate student at the UW; he considers bicycles vital to humanity's future prosperity. Follow him through the streets of Seattle here.