WA Bikes Supporting Legislation to Make Electric Bikes More Affordable

  • Electric bikes are a practical and healthy solution for addressing the climate crisis and transforming Washington’s transportation sector–the state’s largest source of carbon emissions.
  • Submit testimony in support of the e-bike bill before its next hearing on March 23.

What hill?

Washington Bikes is encouraging its members to support a bill that would reduce the cost of electric bikes, with the goal of boosting e-bike sales and enabling more people to pedal rather than drive.

HB 1330 would exempt e-bikes, which can cost several thousand dollars, from Washington’s 6.5 percent sales tax, making them affordable to more people. The bill has passed the House and will be deliberated next Tuesday, March 23, by the Senate Ways and Means Committee, which would have to approve the legislation before it could be sent to the full Senate for a vote.

“The more we make this emerging technology affordable, the less we have to worry about traffic, parking, greenhouse gas emissions, and steep car payments,” says the bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Sharon Shewmake of Bellingham. Shewmake, elected in 2018, is an avid e-bike rider and a Washington Bikes champion in the state Legislature.

Members and supporters of Washington Bikes are encouraged to contact their state senator to voice support for the measure. Individuals can also give their thumbs up to the Ways and Means Committee by going to this link, clicking “pro” on the Position menu, then filling in their name and information.

“It’s a win for our wallets, the environment, our health, and people who just want to get around town easily,” Rep. Shewmake says.

Why E-Bikes?

Hugely popular in bike-friendly European nations, e-bikes are less common in the United States, where their sales are growing. E-bikes must be pedaled like regular bikes, but they provide a boost that amplifies a rider’s power, making them a practical solution for replacing cars for commuting and running errands, especially in the hilly Pacific Northwest.

If passed, the exemption would take effect Aug. 1, 2021 and expire in 2027, or when $500,000 in sales tax exemptions have been granted.

Bike manufacturers and e-bike shops are speaking up in favor of the legislation. “These tax incentives will help lower the cost of acquiring an e-bike, making a purchase accessible to many more riders in the state,” says Larry Pizzi, chief commercial officer for Alta Cycling, the Kent-based parent company of bike brands including Diamondback and IZIP. “E-bike trips will replace car trips, easing congestion on our highways, benefiting the environment and improving riders’ health.”

Brian Nordwall, owner of Seattle E-Bike, says he has potential customers for whom the sales tax exemption would make a big difference. “The social, health, and environmental benefits of this bill would far outweigh the loss of revenue to the state,” he says.

Supporters point to the subsidies Washington provides to the buyers of electric cars as a precedent for passing this bill into law. Washington provides up to $2,500 in sales tax incentives for purchasing electric cars. The state sales tax incentive is in addition to a federal tax credit of up to $7,500 for buying an electric car. “We already provide exemptions to electric vehicles in Washington state, and we should do the same for e-bikes,” Shewmake says.

Cars and the Climate Crisis

Increased use of electric bikes could help solve the climate crisis, which is being driven in large part by gasoline-powered motor vehicles.

Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Washington state, accounting for nearly 45 percent of the state’s emissions in 2018. Transportation is likewise the biggest source of carbon emission in the United States, accounting for 29 percent of the U.S. carbon footprint, with gasoline alone comprising 22 percent of the U.S. carbon emissions.

More than 45 percent of car trips in the United States are three miles or less, according to the National Household Travel Survey, while more than 20 percent are one mile or less. A large percentage of these trips could be accomplished with an electric bike by people of all ages.

A study conducted in Portland, Ore., estimated the city’s carbon emissions would drop by 12 percent if electric bikes were used to replace 15 percent of car trips. “These estimates show that e-bikes have the potential to help cities and regions achieve their climate goals,” the study’s authors wrote.

A survey of e-bike owners by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities shows that, once people have an electric bike, they use their cars less. Electric bike owners ride more often, and they feel safer riding the streets on an electric bike than a traditional bicycle. Respondents said that 76 percent of their e-bike trips would have otherwise been made by car.

“It doesn’t get treated as a serious commute mode, but it is,” says Rep. Shewmake, a professor of environmental economics at Western State University in Bellingham. “I lost 10 pounds and began riding it everywhere after I got an e-bike.”

E-Bike Subsidies Work

Washington’s e-bike bill is part of a growing national and international effort to boost the use of e-bikes as car replacing vehicles. The U.S. Congress is considering an e-bike bill. The Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstart for the Environment (E-BIKE) Act would give a 30 percent tax credit up to the amount of $1,500 for an e-bike purchase.

E-bike subsidies are also popular in Europe. In Sweden, a government subsidy caused sales to increase by more than 50 percent. England is preparing to introduce subsidies for e-bike purchases. Oslo, Norway, has offered subsidies for residents to buy electric cargo bikes–the so-called pickup trucks or minivans of e-bikes due to their hauling capacity.

An electric cargo bike for hauling heavy items.

California passed a bill in 2019 that provides residents of low-income communities up to $7,500 to buy an e-bike or join a bike-share program if they trade in their car. The California Legislature is now considering the E-Bike Affordability Bill, which would create a $10 million fund to help individuals buy electric bikes.

Rep. Shewmake’s bill would also provide a sales tax exemption for up to $200 in cycling equipment including helmets, lights, and locks. She called it bipartisan legislation. “Definitely contact your senator, send them an email, and share your personal story if you have an e-bike.”

Learn More and Support the Bill!

Read Rep. Shewmake’s bill and follow its progress in the Senate.
Submit a comment on the bill.
Submit a “Pro” position to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

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Helmets Yes, Helmet Laws No

  • Washington Bikes and Cascade Bicycle Club encourage and support helmet use but oppose criminalizing people who don’t wear head protection.
  • Please read our Q&A about why we feel helmet laws are unjust, and how they distract from the more important issues of road safety and motor vehicle speeds.

If we distilled Washington Bikes’ new position on bike helmets down to a bumper sticker, it might read: Helmets Yes. Helmet Laws No.

As Alexander Lew of the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board told the Seattle Times: “I wear a helmet every time I ride a bike, but it shouldn’t be something that is criminalized.”

A lively debate has erupted online and in the media about the pros and cons of repealing the King County bicycle helmet ordinance. In addition to the Seattle Times, media outlets including Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, the Seattle Bike Blog, and Crosscut have written about the issue.

There has also been progress: the King County Board of Health, which enacted the law in 1993, is now reviewing the helmet ordinance, with the possibility of repealing or changing it.

Unfortunately, there has been confusion about the law, its harmful impacts and unintended consequences, and why Washington Bikes and Cascade support the effort to review and repeal. To clarify our intent and rationale, we’ve created a Q&A:

Is Washington Bikes anti-helmet?

No! We encourage everyone who can afford a bike helmet to wear one. And we continue to require them to participate in our events. In addition, Cascade will continue providing them to youths involved with its Major Taylor Project and Let’s Go programs, as well as providing helmets free of charge to Learn to Ride participants.

If you encourage helmet use, why are you supporting the effort to repeal the King County law?

We believe the helmet law was enacted with good intentions in 1993, but we have learned a lot in the nearly three decades since. Nationally and locally, we have seen other cities repeal or alter their helmet laws due to evidence of racial bias in enforcement, with Black, Indigenous, and People of Color often ticketed and stopped at higher rates. Last year, Tacoma, Wash., repealed its bicycle helmet law.

In light of these developments, our board of directors approved a policy position calling for the repeal of the King County law, which led to our staff joining the King County Helmet Law Working Group and local coalitions working to examine the King County law and its enforcement in Seattle. This effort is guided by our  Commitment to Anti-Racism.

A researcher with the King County Helmet Law Working Group, Ethan Campbell, recently released the results of his lengthy and exhaustive study of helmet ordinance infractions issued by Seattle police. Campbell’s data shows that Black people have been ticketed at a rate nearly four times greater than white people, despite the fact that Black people make fewer bike trips in Seattle. The law has also been used to target homeless populations.

Due to this data showing racial bias in enforcement and the targeting of vulnerable populations, Cascade and Washington Bikes decided to publicly support the effort to repeal the King County law, and to speak out on behalf of efforts to decriminalize bike riding in Seattle and King County.

In addition to racial bias, socioeconomic factors are also important to consider. Bike helmets are expensive. Should a person coping with homelessness be criminalized for riding a bike to their job without a helmet?

But don’t helmet laws make bicycling safer?

No. We found no conclusive data to support the claim that places with bike helmet laws are safer. In fact, helmet laws may make bike riding more dangerous by discouraging some people from riding and thus reducing the “safety in numbers” effect. This is why groups including Transportation Alternatives for Safe Streets for Families oppose mandatory helmet laws. Places where more people ride bikes tend to be safer, and helmet laws can have the negative consequence of shrinking the number of people who ride. This is contrary to Cascade’s mission, and to the public health goal of encouraging more people to bicycle.

OK, helmet laws don’t improve safety, but does wearing a helmet make you safer?

It sounds like an easy question, but it’s actually quite complex. First we must separate the issue of head protection from safety. Head protection is just one aspect of safety. In some types of crashes, helmets have been shown to protect people from head injuries and reduce the severity of head injuries. That is why Cascade encourages individuals to wear a helmet, and why it requires them at its events, and why it provides them for free to youths in its programs.

However, helmets are not designed to protect people riding bikes from the most frequent cause of fatalities–being hit or run over by a person driving a motor vehicle. “There are many misconceptions about helmets, unfortunately,” a spokesperson for helmet maker Giro told CyclingIndustry.news. “We do not design helmets specifically to reduce chances or severity of injury when impacts involve a car.”

Unfortunately, deaths from vehicles hitting people walking and biking have risen nationally in recent years. Researchers point to several trends: distracted driving, more SUVs and larger vehicles on the road that have more blind spots and which inflict greater harm when striking individuals, and an increase in the number of miles being driven by Americans. In short, the behaviors of people behind the wheel and trends in American vehicle use pose the greatest danger to people on bikes.

A Dutch study showed that people wearing helmets are actually more likely to be injured when wearing a helmet. That’s because Dutch people rarely wear a helmet when bicycling to town, but they do wear helmets when mountain biking or riding competitively. Wearing a helmet, the researchers theorize, may induce people to take more risks when bicycling. The study shows how statistics can be misleading, and it illustrates how the issue of helmet wearing defies knee-jerk reactions and dogma.

So how do we make it safer to ride bikes?

The European nations of the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany show the answer: protected and safe infrastructure, and policies that encourage more people–especially women–to ride bikes. In these three countries helmet use is extremely low, people ride more often than in the United States, but fatalities are much lower. In the United States, where the percentage of people who wear a helmet is far higher, the fatality rate is more than three times greater. This data shows that helmets are not the key to safe bicycling. This is why Cascade and Washington Bikes advocate for more protected bike lanes, more funding for safe bicycling infrastructure, and laws such as the Safety Stop.

Does that mean we should stop wearing helmets?

No! We will continue wearing ours, but it should be an individual choice. If safety is the goal, we should all focus our efforts on reducing the incidence of people driving motor vehicles striking people on bikes. Helmet laws have “distracted from the much more important work of designing safer streets and reducing motor vehicle speeds in cities,” says Streetsblog. This is why Cascade supports the effort underway in Seattle to reduce arterial speeds to 25 mph.

Washington Bikes encourages its members to do further research and reading. Helmets are not a panacea for safety. We acknowledge that Cascade advocated for the helmet law when it was implemented and that it will take education to undo the common assumptions about helmets and safety. The behaviors of people driving, however, appear to be highly relevant to the safety of people on bikes. This study shows that people driving are more likely to drive closer to people on bikes wearing helmets, while giving people not wearing helmets more space. Helmets, that study would indicate, cause people to drive more dangerously.

If enforcement is the problem, why not fix enforcement instead of repealing the law?

This question deserves discussion. The number of helmet citations has declined over the past decade, from a peak of 789 in 2011, down to 118 in 2019, and just 17 through June of 2020, the last date for which Campbell collected data. The reduction in tickets issued, however, does not mean police are stopping and questioning fewer people for not wearing a helmet. Just a fraction of stops result in citations, Campbell says. As long as the law is on the books, “there is nothing preventing the police department from increasing enforcement, and for those vulnerable populations it’s still an issue as long as this law is on the books,” explains Campbell.

At a time of budget cuts and national discussion about the role of law enforcement, is it the best use of limited resources to have police stopping and ticketing people for not wearing a helmet?

If King County repeals the law, could we replace it with incentives to wear helmets?

“Repeal and replace” is one of the issues being discussed by the Helmet Law Working Group. Ideas include education about the benefits of helmets, and incentives that would lower the cost of helmets. Virginia Tech runs one of the most respected helmet testing programs, and its top four rated helmets range in price from $50 to $240. Some individuals can’t afford that expense. Cars come equipped with seatbelts, making the decision to wear them easy. Bicycles do not come with helmets.

How can I get involved or learn more about the King County helmet law?

The King County Board of Health meets on the third Thursday of the month at 1 p.m., with the next meeting scheduled for March 18. People can give public comment thanking the board for adding the issue to their agenda and share their thoughts. Individuals can also email Board of Health members directly.

More Information:

Pro bicyclist Phil Gaimon articulates the “victim blaming” attitude of the media and law enforcement when cars strike people on bicycles. We urge you to watch it.

New York Times story on the rising death toll from motor vehicles hitting people walking and bicycling.

Streetsblog article: “More Evidence That Helmet Laws Don’t Work.

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Cascade and Washington Bikes Support Decriminalizing Helmet Use

  • A new study shows that Black people have been disproportionately ticketed in Seattle for violating King County’s helmet ordinance.
  • Washington Bikes urges its members to learn about the negative impacts of bicycle helmet laws on communities of color.
  • Cascade and WA Bikes fully support helmet use, but want to decriminalize their useage. 

Seattle police have stopped and ticketed Black people for not wearing bicycle helmets at a rate about four times greater than for white people since 2003, according to data obtained by the King County Helmet Law Working Group, of which Washington Bikes is a member.

Black people represent about eight percent of Seattle’s population but they received more than 17 percent of the tickets for violating the bicycle helmet law, the group found after reviewing Seattle Municipal Court data on 1,667 helmet infractions.

The disproportionate ticketing of Black people riding bikes is even more notable in light of the group’s data that shows Black people make less than five percent of all the bike rides in Seattle. Due to this new data and a growing body of evidence showing that helmet laws disproportionately impact communities of color across the country, Cascade Bicycle Club and Washington Bikes are working with the Helmet Law Working Group to gather data and community input to create a process for decriminalizing helmet use in King County and Seattle.

The Helmet Law Working Group was formed last summer by Central Seattle Greenways, a member of the Seattle Neighborhood Greenways coalition, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and its focus on racism in policing. Members include Cascade and its sister organization Washington Bikes, Real Change, and individuals from other transportation and equity-focused groups. Cascade and Washington Bikes are participating as part of their Commitment to Anti-Racism and with support from the Board of Directors to pursue initiatives that decriminalize helmet use.

The group’s data analysis was done by Ethan Campbell, a 26-year-old University of Washington Ph.D. student who got involved with the issue last summer after joining with other bike riders to support the Black Lives Matter protests. Campbell produced a Technical Report explaining the methodology and findings. He hopes to refine the study and submit it to a peer-reviewed journal for publication.

People who would like to share their thoughts about the helmet law in King County, which Seattle enforces, are invited to fill out an anonymous survey about their experiences with police enforcement of bike infractions..

Cascade previously advocated for King County’s helmet law but is now calling for public officials to review the law with the potential for repealing it. The case for repeal is even stronger in light of recent reporting that shows nearly half of Seattle’s helmet tickets go to people experiencing homelessness.

Cascade and Washington Bikes support the voluntary use of helmets, as they can reduce head injuries, and will continue to require helmet usage in Free Group Rides and at community events and all Cascade lessons and programming. However, data shows that other public policies including safer street infrastructure, such as protected bike lanes, and reductions in vehicle speeds are more important for reducing injuries and deaths among people riding bikes. That’s why Cascade supports the effort underway in Seattle to reduce speed limits to 25 mph on most arterial streets.

“The data shows conclusively that the number one safety issue for people biking or walking is vehicle speeds,” says Alex Alston, state policy director for Washington Bikes. “Anything we can do to slow down vehicles saves lives.”

Racial disparities in the enforcement of helmet laws is not just a problem in Seattle. National reporting has shown that communities of color have been ticketed and stopped at disproportionate rates in other cities, leading some communities to repeal their helmet ordinances.

Tacoma, Wash., repealed its bicycle helmet law in the summer of 2020. In 2018, a federal court ordered the city to pay $500,000 to a teenager who was thrown to the ground and tased by an off-duty city police officer after being stopped while bike riding without a helmet. The incident can be seen in this video, but be advised the video shows violence.

There are other reasons to oppose mandatory helmet laws beyond racial profiling. These laws can discourage people from bicycling, especially people who cannot afford helmets, which is an impediment to the public policy goal of getting more people to ride bikes for both health and environmental reasons.

Campbell’s analysis shows a dramatic decline in tickets issued for bicycle infractions over the past decade, from a peak of 789 in 2011, down to 118 in 2019, and just 17 through June of 2020, the last date for which he collected data. The reduction in tickets issued does not necessarily mean there are fewer police stops, however, as just a fraction of stops result in citations, Campbell says.  

If police are issuing fewer tickets for bicycle infractions, why is it important to repeal the helmet law? “There is nothing preventing the police department from increasing enforcement, and for those vulnerable populations it’s still an issue as long as this law is on the books,” Campbell says. “But for the wider public, your chance of getting stopped while riding a bike is almost nonexistent.”

Campbell, who is Asian-American, was stunned to see how people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent were one of the least-likely groups to be ticketed by police while bicycling. “It was staggering for me to see that Asian cyclists get cited for not wearing helmets at a rate 11 times lower than expected for their share of bike trips.”

“What that tells me is that police are being totally discretionary in whom they stop. Police are able to use this law to target certain communities that, for whatever reason, they already want to stop,” Campbell says.

More Information:

Attend the King County Helmet Law Working Group’s next meeting on Feb. 10.

Read Campbell’s Technical Report with data, methodology and findings.

King County Board of Health helmet law text

The Washington Department of Transportation has compiled a list of municipalities in the state with helmet laws.

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Major Progress on Washington’s Longest Bike Trail

A bike bridge over the Columbia River is among approximately $10 million in projects underway on the 285-mile Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail.

Photo courtesy Palouse to Cascades Trail Coalition.

Anyone who has biked the Palouse region of eastern Washington has seen the beauty of its rolling hills, dryland wheat fields, wide open spaces and big skies. Thanks to the work of Washington Bikes, the Palouse to Cascades Trail Coalition, legislators in Olympia, and Washington State Parks, the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail is about to get some major improvements that will make it more accessible to all.

The historic Beverly Bridge, a former railroad trestle that spans the Columbia River in central Washington, is scheduled to open for bicycling, hiking and non-motorized recreation in September, providing a key linkage in the Palouse to Cascades trail, which spans much of the state.

The Columbia River currently splits the trail, requiring people on bikes to make a long detour, or risk their safety crossing an Interstate 90 bridge that has no shoulders. Opening the Beverly Bridge, which is gated and closed due to safety concerns, will provide a big boost for bicycle tourism in Washington, according to some supporters of the project.

Washington State Parks expects to complete a $5 million construction and resurfacing project on the Beverly Bridge, built in 1909, in September, when a grand opening ceremony is planned. Nearly three-quarters of a mile long, the Beverly Bridge passes 85 feet above the river and offers spectacular views.

“This is a really cool project,” says Randy Kline, statewide trails coordinator for Washington State Parks. “In addition to being a big attraction for long-distance bicyclists, we expect that the bridge will become a destination in itself, and that people will come just to visit and walk or ride across it.”

The Beverly Bridge project is part of about $10 million worth of work underway on the Palouse to Cascades trail, which runs through the old Milwaukee Road railroad corridor from the Puget Sound region to the Idaho border. The Palouse to Cascades is the second-longest rail trail in the nation, according to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

“We support the effort to complete the Palouse to Cascades trail and other cross-state multi-use trails that allow people to bicycle on safe routes separated from roads,” says Alex Alston, state policy director for Washington Bikes, which lobbied for funding to rebuild the Beverly Bridge.

Washington Bikes advocates for full funding of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program because it pays for trail projects including work on the Palouse to Cascades.

The map above from Washington State Parks shows the many projects underway along the trail.

Another important project on the Palouse to Cascades trail that is expected to be completed this year is the 680-foot-long Renslow Trestle, which crosses over Interstate 90 about 11 miles east of Ellensburg. In March, workers are expected to finish $1.2 million in improvements to the bridge, including the addition of decking and railings to make it safe for biking and walking.

“This is an exciting project because it will eliminate another big detour,” Kline says, “and people driving by on the interstate will see people on bikes passing right over their heads.”

Workers are adding decking to the Renslow Trestle that passes over Interstate 90 to make it safe for bicycles. Photo courtesy Palouse to Cascades Trail Coalition.

Renamed in 2018, the trail was previously called the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. Washington State Parks took over management of the rail corridor from the Department of Natural Resources and has in recent years installed 23 new signs along Interstate 90 to build awareness of the trail and help people find trailheads.

Another important project expected to be completed in 2021 on the Palouse to Cascades is $1.8 million of work to resurface sections of trail between the towns of Malden and Rosalia, and to repair two former railroad trestles. State Parks plans to build trailheads with bathrooms, parking spaces, and shade shelters.

This project, like all bike tourism, will hopefully boost the area’s economy–especially if Washington can implement its Scenic Bikeways Program in the near future.

Tekoa is a small community near the Idaho border. Here, the state is adding decking and railings to open a 975-foot-long bridge located in the middle of town. “This is another beautiful trestle that is iconic to the town of Tekoa,” Kline says. The $1.7 million project is expected to be completed in the fall.

In 2019, a fire burned the trestle over Crab Creek near Smyrna, necessitating a short detour. The state plans to complete design work for a new bridge this year, with construction estimated for 2023, according to Kline.

Another ongoing project includes an effort to find an off-road trail for about 30 miles of active rail line just east of the Columbia River, from Royal City Junction to Othello and Warden. Ideas include building a trail alongside the rail line, Kline says.

Big skies and wide-open spaces. Photo courtesy Palouse to Cascades Trail Coalition.

Other small gaps in the trail that must be filled include a short stretch between the towns of Ralston and Marengo where the trestle over Cow Creek is missing, as well as a few stretches of the rail corridor that pass through private property.

By the end of 2021, long-distance bike tourists who want to pedal the Palouse to Cascades trail will have a vastly improved experience.

“Washington Bikes will continue to advocate for completing this trail because we know that it will enhance bicycle tourism in Washington and bring needed economic activity to the many rural communities along the route,” Alston says.

At the Idaho border, the trail corridor ends when it hits private property. In the future, some hope a route can be identified to link the trail to the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, a 73-mile paved trail that spans the Idaho panhandle on the former Union Pacific rail corridor.

The trail terminus at the Idaho border. 

In western Washington, bike advocates including the Leafline Trails Coalition that Cascade helped found hope to link the Palouse to Cascades trail, which ends at Cedar Falls near Rattlesnake Lake, to the Mountains to Sound Greenway, whose construction is ongoing. In the future, Cascade hopes that ongoing trail work on the Olympic Peninsula will eventually allow people cross the state from the Pacific to the Idaho border almost entirely on trails.

The Palouse to Cascades is one of five long-distance rail trails overseen by Washington State Parks. Others include the Columbia Plateau State Park Trail, a 130-mile rail corridor between Cheney and the Tri Cities.

Another is the 37-mile Spokane River Centennial State Park Trail from Spokane to the Idaho border, and the 57-mile Willapa Hills State Park Trail in southwestern Washington that runs from Chehalis to Willapa Bay on the Pacific Coast.

Cascade and Washington Bikes will continue advocating for trails in 2021 and beyond because bikes are good for our health, climate, and economy. Please consider donating to Cascade today so that we may continue this important work: cascade.org/donate

More Information:
The Palouse to Cascades Trail Coalition offers maps and resources.

Watch this video of the Beverly Bridge to learn more about its historical significance.

See the trail from the air in this video.

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Washington Bikes Outlines 2021 Legislative Agenda

Washington Bikes will push to increase investments in infrastructure for people who bike, walk, and roll during the 2021 legislative session. Join us on Thursday, Jan. 7, for a virtual meeting to learn more about our legislative priorities.

The 2021 Washington state legislative session begins next week on Jan. 11, and we’ve spent the last several months preparing for a unique and challenging session. This will be a predominantly virtual session, with tight budgets and huge community needs.

Despite these challenges, we see several exciting opportunities to advance policy and funding to make it safer for people who bike, walk or roll.

Washington Bikes 2021 Legislative Priorities:
  • Grow bike and pedestrian funding in the multimodal account in the transportation budget. Washington Bikes supports new, flexible revenue sources to support active transportation. The multimodal transportation account dedicates funds for rail, ferries, transit, biking, and walking. These investments include the Safe Routes to School program and the Pedestrian and Bicycle grant program and projects. We are working to grow this dedicated funding to ensure that all Washingtonians, especially those who rely upon active transportation because of cost or ability, can get around safely and easily. Washington Bikes supports the additional $20 million investment in the Pedestrian and Bicycle grant program ($15M) and the Safe Routes to School Program ($5M) funded in the governor’s 2021-2023 transportation budget.
  • Protecting and connecting trails statewide. Trails are the backbone of many biking and walking networks statewide. Washington Bikes supports the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program’s (WWRP) $140 million funding request in the capital budget. WWRP projects include improving outdoor recreation opportunities, trail development, and enhancing state parks.
  • Support policies and funding to address inequities in transportation and policing. Washington Bikes will advocate for active transportation funding investment that prioritizes low-income communities, communities of color, and areas of historic under-investment. These locations regularly align with high incidents of crashes, according to traffic injury and fatality data. Additionally, as part of our commitment to racial equity, we are working in coalition to support policies such as decriminalization that emerge, leveraging the active transportation equity analysis, and ensuring funding is prioritized in racially equitable ways.
  • Support measures that will incentivize or lower the barrier to electric bike ownership. E-bikes provide an efficient way to bike due to the pedal-assist that allows for longer rides, ease of traversing hills, and carrying groceries or children. 76% of trips taken by e-bike owners would’ve been car trips prior to owning an e-bike. More people e-biking means fewer people in cars, which helps meet Washington’s transportation congestion and climate goals. Washington Bikes support measures that will incentivize or lower barriers to e-bike ownership.

Washington Bikes will work over the 105-day session to help create healthier communities and thriving economies by making streets safer for active transportation, and by working to connect and grow bicycle and trail networks throughout Washington. Stay in touch by signing up for Washington Bikes’ alerts.

Join us tomorrow, Jan. 7 at noon for a deep-dive into our legislative priorities. We’ll share how we can collaborate to advocate for funding and policies that will create easily accessible, connected bike routes, bolster Washington’s local economies and tourism industry, and ensure streets are safe for all.

RSVP here and we will send the Zoom link

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Washington Bikes 2020 General Election Outcomes + Announcing our 2021 Legislative Agenda

Washington Bikes is excited to begin collaborating with newly elected and re-elected public leaders to build connected and safe bike/walk routes that get people where they need to go, and advance policies that make our streets safer for all.

Last week, Washington voters turned out in force, breaking records for the most turnout ever in the state. Almost all of Washington Bikes’ endorsed candidates won their race, securing seats in elected office to work towards our shared goals of safer biking, walking, and rolling. Voters demonstrated overwhelming support for local transportation investment ballot measures and elected officials who support healthier and safer communities through better bicycling. 

Your continued support and engagement with Washington Bikes and voting on Election Day made these election wins possible. We plan to work with these new and re-elected leaders starting from their first day in office, and holding them accountable to commitments to safe biking and walking infrastructure, active transportation funding, and support for bike tourism in order to secure our endorsement. Thank you for making your voice, in support of safe biking and walking, heard at the ballot box! 

Election night impacts:

  • In Seattle and Bellingham, voters overwhelmingly chose to approve ballot measures that raise money for increased transit service and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure improvements.
  • At the executive level in Washington, we look forward to continuing to partner with Governor Jay Inslee on transportation priorities and with Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz on outdoor recreation and trail-related priorities.
  • 85 percent of the bipartisan slate of state legislative elected officials who have championed WA Bikes’ priorities in recent years will return to Olympia this coming session.
  • Washington Bikes endorsed Senator-elect T’wina Nobles will soon represent the 28th legislative district (Lakewood, University Place, JBLM). This election is notable as the 28th senate seat has been held by a Republican since the 1960s. Additionally, Senator-elect Nobles will be the only Black member of the Washington State Senate, and the first Black member of the Senate elected since 2010

Thank you to all of the elected officials and candidates who chose to run for office in a truly unique, maybe once in a lifetime, type of campaign cycle. The real work starts now. Washington Bikes is excited to begin collaborating with newly elected and re-elected public leaders to build connected and safe bike/walk routes that get people where they need to go and advance policies that make our streets safer for all. Among our priorities for the coming year:

  • Protect and secure transportation funding for biking, walking, rolling, and trails
  • Pursue measures to make e-bikes more affordable/accessible
  • Work with a coalition to end discrimination in transportation policing 

To pass these priorities and ensure our success in the coming legislative session, we rely on the generous support of Washington Bike donors, who help us hold officials accountable and continue to serve as the statewide voice for better bicycling. Please make a gift today to see this work continue. Donate here.

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Highlights from the 2020 Bike, Walk, Roll Summit!

We had a blast at the inaugural Bike Walk Roll Summit presented by Amazon this October. Refresh your memory, or learn anew what the Summit held — and how you too can now experience the presentations, panels, and keynote addresses.  

This October, Cascade Bicycle Club and Washington Bikes co-hosted our first ever virtual Summit – The Washington Bike, Walk, Roll Summit Presented by Amazon. The Summit is in its fifth year, and 2020 was our most successful Summit, by many metrics – including registration, engagement, and attendee feedback on content. During the five day event, over 600 attendees tuned in to 15 sessions on issues from racial justice in the cycling community to the technical skills needed to make active transportation infrastructure that works for all ages and abilities. We also heard from two expert keynote speakers, Charles T Brown and Anna Zivarts, on issues of Arrested Mobility and disability rights advocacy.


Highlights from the Summit Sessions:

During the Monday keynote session, Charles T Brown explained his body of work around Arrested Mobility, discussing the ways in which Black people and communities of color are policed in public space, as well as the ways in which we must address the impacts of policing on these communities. He also participated in a follow up keynote debrief, along with experts and community leaders Dr. Destiny Thomas, Dr. Edwin Lindo, and Yes Segura, on the ways in which we can achieve mobility justice in our communities.

YouTube link to Charles T Brown Session

On Wednesday, we were joined by disability rights advocate Anna Zivarts, who leads the Disability Mobility Initiative Program at Disability Rights Washington. Anna shared her personal experiences as well as professional expertise in disability justice. She discussed the ways in which we must move away from car dependency in our transportation systems, and how we must center equity and accessibility in our communities.

YouTube link to Anna Zivarts session 

Check out some more highlights! 


tweets from the summit

tweet from the summit

tweet from the summit

tweet from the summit

2020 has been an incredibly tumultuous and transformative year, as we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the national reckoning and uprising against systemic racism and police brutality. The Washington Bike, Walk, Roll Summit presented by Amazon provided a space for advocates and professionals in the active transportation community to come together and reflect on how we can address our past failings, and step up to address the current moment and plan a more equitable future.

Our sessions included conversations about how we address and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic through equitable community engagement, organizational reform and redirection, and potential revenue streams for transportation funding into the future. Our expert speakers also discussed the need for racial equity in the cycling community, bringing together key voices in the active transportation community to speak to these issues and methods. 

The next Washington Bike, Walk, and Roll Summit will take place in Autumn 2021, and we hope to meet in person in Spokane. We are excited to continue the conversations we had at the 2020 Summit about racial equity, community engagement, mobility equity, and accessibility, and the ways in which we make systems that work for everyone biking, walking, and rolling. 

PS: If you missed the Summit, fear not! You can access each session recording here:  Summit session YouTube recordings

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The Safety Stop: Why it Improves Safety, and When You Must Still Stop

The “Safety Stop” law that went into effect on Oct. 1 allows people on bicycles to treat stop signs as yield signs, allowing them to roll through an intersection if the coast is clear. The new law was lobbied for by Washington Bikes. Read our news release.

The Safety Stop is a simple, intuitive law that gives people bicycling the right to safely yield at a stop sign-controlled intersection. This is sometimes described as a rolling stop.

Complete stops are still required when approaching a stop sign on a school bus, and for stop signs located at railroad crossings.

The Safety Stop allows a person bicycling to get ahead of motor vehicles behind them, creating space and diminishing the likelihood of collisions. Additionally, people riding bikes typically wait on the right side of the road near the stop sign. This is a frequent blind spot for people driving, leaving the person bicycling vulnerable and at risk, especially for drivers making right turns.

The Safety Stop encourages the use of streets regulated by stop signs, which are typically calmer and move at slower speeds. This lessens the amount of time people bicycling spend on busy, fast-paced streets, and also lessens the amount of time that bicyclists are exposed to risks in intersections, where the majority of serious crashes occur.

The Safety Stop legalizes typical riding behavior. People on bikes have no blind spots, unlike people in cars, and they can easily see if the coast is clear, which is why it is safe and intuitive for people on bikes to roll through intersections.

When a person on a bike stops, it takes multiple pedal revolutions to get back up to speed, which lengthens the time that a person riding remains in the danger zone. Stopping also slows down automobile traffic behind the bike rider. The Safety Stop allows a person bicycling to clear the intersection faster, enabling them to get ahead of motor vehicles behind them. This creates a smoother traffic flow.

The Safety Stop is not only safer, it is more user-friendly for people riding bikes and for people driving cars.

Washington is the fifth state, along with a number of municipalities, that have passed a Safety Stop law, improving safety and bicycle usability:

  • Idaho passed a Safety Stop law, called the Idaho Stop, in 1982. The year following enactment of the law bicycling injuries declined by 14.5%. Since then there have been no negative safety impacts documented.
  • Delaware passed a Safety Stop law in 2017, and in the 30 months since the law passed personal injury crashes involving bicycles fell by more than 20% compared to the previous 30 months.
  • Arkansas, Delaware, Oregon and a number of municipalities in Colorado have followed Idaho in passing similar laws.
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Washington Bikes & Votes: Vote for these bike-friendly candidates and ballot measures by Nov. 3

Washington Bikes announces 2020 general election endorsements

Endorsing Candidates for Elected Office

Our criteria: Washington Bikes endorsed legislators who have led or partnered on efforts to create safer streets, increase accessibility to trails, improve healthy communities and health outcomes, and contribute to the economic vitality of Washington’s communities. Additionally, Washington Bikes has endorsed first time candidates who share our vision for lowering the barriers to bicycling for all ages and abilities.

Washington Bikes works to secure funding for bicycle infrastructure and policies that increase access and safety. To make that happen, it matters who Washington’s elected leaders are and that’s why Washington Bikes spends time connecting with candidates and making endorsements.

Ballot Measure Endorsements

Washington Bikes and its affiliate, Cascade Bicycle club, have endorsed two local ballot measures, one in Seattle and one in Bellingham. The Seattle Transit Benefit District, or Proposition 1 on your ballot, will renew revenue sources that are set to expire in 2020; $50 million are raised annually though portions of sales tax and car registration to improve transit availability and access. At a time when vulnerable communities are already being left behind due to COVID-19, we cannot let people’s access to transit disappear due to cuts in funding. 

In Bellingham, the Transportation Fund, or Prop 2020-14, is on the ballot for renewal. The Bellingham Transportation Fund appropriates a portion of sales tax for citywide transportation projects. The revenue source was established in 2010 and is set to expire this year. The revenue funds street projects including, street paving, sidewalks, bike lanes and bus service. More Bellingham residents are biking than ever before, and this renewal will keep us walking, biking, and riding. 

The Washington Bikes endorsement speaks to thousands of engaged Washingtonians statewide who care about a range of issues. From wanting more connected trails, to safer neighborhood streets, to more opportunities for physical activity, Washingtonians are looking for leaders and policies that will advance these priorities. Check out the cheat sheet below. 

With just a few weeks until Election Day, we are in the final stretch! Are you ready to vote? Register if you are new to WA or have recently moved through the Washington Secretary of State’s office. If not, you have until eight days ahead of Election Day to register online or by mail

Curious what will appear on your November ballot? Check out your sample ballot at Ballotpedia. Lastly, Washington is a vote-by-mail state, so expect your ballot in the mail in roughly two weeks. 

Because turnout is expected to be high this election, we recommend you drop off your ballot or mail it in as quickly as possible to ensure you are counted! 

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Washington ‘Safety Stop’ Law for People Riding Bikes Goes Into Effect Oct. 1

  • People riding bikes can treat a stop sign as a yield if the coast is clear
  • Priority legislation for Washington Bikes, the law makes intersections–one of the most dangerous places for people riding bikes–safer

OLYMPIA, Wash. (Sept. 28, 2020) — A new law aimed at making intersections safer for people riding bicycles goes into effect on Thursday (Oct. 1).

The “Safety Stop” law allows people on bicycles to treat stop signs as yield signs, allowing them to roll through an intersection if the coast is clear. The new law was lobbied for by Washington Bikes, a statewide bicycle advocacy organization affiliated with Cascade Bicycle Club. This change is important because people on bikes face the most danger at intersections, where they are vulnerable to being struck by inattentive drivers.

Washington is the fifth state to legalize the Safety Stop, following Idaho, Delaware, Arkansas, and Oregon. Unlike Oregon, which passed this law in 2019 after multiple attempts, 2020 was the first year that the Safety Stop was introduced in the Washington State Legislature.

“The bill’s swift passage underscores the bipartisan support for biking, and Washington Bikes’ ability to pass practical, safe and smart legislation,” says Vicky Clarke, policy director for Washington Bikes.

The law, which was sponsored by Sen. Andy Billig (D-3rd) and Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34th), requires people on bicycles to slow down to a reasonable speed that would allow them to stop if necessary. As is already the case, people riding bikes must yield to any vehicle already in the intersection. Also known as the “Idaho Stop,” named for the first state to pass the law, bicycling injuries in Idaho dropped by 14 percent in 1982 following enactment of the law.

“There’s a reason this law received huge support from both sides of the aisle in Olympia–it makes sense and it makes the roads safer,” says Alex Alston, Washington Bikes’ state policy director and lead lobbyist in Olympia.

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