Last Tuesday was R’s first experience of political activism (but hopefully not her last!). We went down for a rally in support of improving bike infrastructure in the city at City Hall. It was a really inspiring experience and although R may not remember it I hope the energy and collective willpower sticks with her.
First, some background. Last year the people of Seattle passed a levy in support of transportation improvements – transit, bike infrastructure, Safe Routes to School, etc. (called Move Seattle, and no the lack of comma is not a typo so it’s a bit silly). The biking community was a huge chunk of supporters and the local bike advocacy organizations put significant effort into passing it, partly because of promises from the Seattle Department of Transportation to work on the Bike Master Plan that was created a few years ago. I voted for it in part because of that and in part to improve transit. (Though I’m a little sick of Metro running out of money and needing tax increases to run – but that’s another story.)
However, in a big slap in the face to one of the communities that worked so hard to pass the levy, the DOT decided to drastically cut the number of bike projects they promised. Worse, there is now no plan for improving the most dangerous part of the city to bike in for at least five years, if not more. One of my friends did the math and at the rate SDOT has decided to move the Bike Master Plan will not be complete until R is 28. Even if it is on schedule she will be 20 before it’s finished. So much for the cities promises to work on Vision Zero.
So, in light of all that, Cascade Bicycle Club organized a rally at City Hall. There were two parts – one a sit-in on the steps. Bikers filled the foyer with their bikes and we sat and listened to speakers while holding signs and eventually chanting “We won’t wait”. The energy in the room was palpable. I haven’t been part of a rally in a number of years and it felt good. I’m wary of the big ones here since the local anarchists have a tendency to disrupt them and damage property, but if the Longshoremen go on strike again R and I will definitely be bringing cookies to the picket line. (I was an ILWU member for a couple of years and have a lot of goodwill towards the union.) For that matter I’ll be looking for other picketers to support. I’m sorry I never made it to support the teachers last fall, but I’ll be better about it in the future.
The second part of the rally was testifying at the Transportation Committee meeting. I was on the fence, but decided that it was important for me to testify, especially since I was one of only a few people who were able to bring their children. I thought putting a face to family bikers was important. My testimony was brief and touched on my fear of biking downtown and in the Rainer Valley (I flat out refuse to bike either place) as well as the problems with my local neighborhood, mainly that the intersections have no visibility and people regularly charge into the bike lane causing close calls.
R hadn’t napped and got fussy while the meeting was going, so I had to leave after hearing only a handful of the 30+ people signed up to testify. I did get to hear some other family bikers and that was nice, but I was curious what else would come up. Apparently even the people who came to testify about a bus program for low-income Capitol Hill residents ended up mentioning their feelings about biking. I hope the City Council members took it to heart and will help enact change to SDOT’s plans.
So, here are a couple pictures and a video.