In 2009, we produced the Report Card on Bicycling in Seattle. At the time, we were interested in measuring two things: 1) Seattle’s progress toward implementation of the Seattle Bicycle Master Plan, and 2) The bicycling public’s perception of Seattle’s bike-friendliness. By our metrics, Seattle received a “B” GPA.
This year, we were interested in looking at bike-friendliness beyond Seattle. We wanted to know if, and to what extent, cities around the central Puget Sound region were planning for and supporting bicycling. This time around, we took a different approach to evaluating the cities – rather than surveying the public, we surveyed those responsible for developing plans and policies that influence bicycling. The product of this effort is the Puget Sound Bicycle Scorecard: an evaluation of the ten largest cities in the central Puget Sound region (excluding Seattle), and their respective bicycle-related plans, policies, data-collection efforts, and other city-wide provisions.
So, you might be thinking… yeah, yeah, cut to the chase…which city received the best score?
The short answer is that we didn’t exactly rank the cities, but rather highlighted the types of things cities are doing to integrate bicycling into city-planning efforts and identified where the gaps are. For instance, we wanted to know which cities have Complete Streets ordinances, and which are working toward adoption of a Complete Streets ordinance or resolution. Our findings: five cities have adopted a Complete Streets ordinance or resolution, and two are working in that direction.
Some other interesting findings: Only three of the 10 surveyed cities have bicycle parking ordinances (Kirkland, Redmond, & Renton). Bicycle parking ordinances are important to ensure that bicycle parking is integrated into developments, such as at institutions and multi-family housing developments. It goes without saying, but quality bicycle parking is key to encouraging bicycle commuting.
We also wanted to know which cities have a “stand-alone” bicycle plan. Developing a stand-alone plan, such as the Seattle Bicycle Master Plan, is an important undertaking for cities as they seek to increase bicycling. Developing this type of plan goes above and beyond the level of nonmotorized planning required of cities under the Washington State Growth Management Act. Not only is this type of planning important for engaging the community in a process that identifies a vision for the bicycling future of that city, but it also helps to get projects funded and constructed. What we found: more than half of the cities have stand-alone bicycle plans, or are in the process of developing one. From our perspective, these were positive results.
We also noticed a slight trend (and by no means a scientifically proven correlation): the cities that responded “yes” to a higher number of Scorecard categories also tended to have higher percentages of bicycle commuters and lower bicycle crash rates.
We could go on about the findings; however, we’d prefer that you to read the Puget Sound Bicycle Scorecard and draw your own conclusions. Overall, we found this to be an eye-opening undertaking, and one that will prove valuable in our efforts to engage with these communities to advocate for the types of policies, plans and programs that will allow bicycling to become a viable and attractive mode of transportation and recreation in every city.