At this morning's city council transportation committee meeting, where Seattle Department of Transportation director nominee Scott Kubly was up for what should have been a routine confirmation hearing, some surprising news came to light: The city's Bicycle Master Plan Implementation Plan (yep, that's its actual name) is late. In fact, it hasn't even gotten off the ground.
Committee chair Tom Rasmussen lit in to Kubly and new deputy mayor Kate Joncas, who was also at the table, about a subject that has puzzled even some longtime bike advocates we talked to: Why had SDOT allowed the city's BMPIP, which was supposed to be wrapped up about a month ago, to languish, unfinished for so long? In fact, why hasn't the department even started in on the plan, which was supposed to launch in April and be finished by July 18?
Rasmussen (who also reportedly had critical words to say about SDOT's performance on the bike plan during a separate meeting today), said during the committee hearing, "What is puzzling, and I think this is something that Scott's going to have to work on, is what culture exists within the department that they did let me know, or any other council members, or the Bike Advisory Board, know, that not only has this not been done but it has not been started? ... If something happens that they get behind, if there's another priority, it is important that you let people know." "This was one of the core elements with the Bike Master Plan. We had numerous discussions with staff. It's just not credible that this was simply dropped without discussion."
In a letter dated today, August 12, to Rasmussen, the city's Bicycle Advisory Board wrote that "we have requested updates on [the BMP's] status or an updated time-frame for its completion several times, but have received no formal communication from the department. ...
"Without a clear strategy and approach to implementation, Seattle runs the risk of creating a series of well-intentioned but disconnected bicycle facility segments. Without an implementation plan to guide investments over the next several years, it will be difficult to gauge whether each project is one of the highest priorities and the most strategic to implement in the near term, as well as to track our overall progress towards meeting BMP goals."
At today's meeting, Rasmussen said, "One of the things I want to express to Mr. Kubly and the department is that failure to respond to commission or board requests is not acceptable. You need to figure out what is going on in your department that you did not respond to requests" for information on BMP progress.
Deputy mayor Kate Joncas responded that "neither [Kubly nor Joncas] caught it. The project did not get done in a timely way. It's a top priority now to get it done. It just got dropped internally and someone didn't catch it."
Kubly added, "We want to ensure you that we take very seriously all the policies and deadlines set by the council."
Rasmussen was, to say the least, skeptical. "This was one of the core elements with the Bike Master Plan. We had numerous discussions with staff. It's just not credible that this was simply dropped without discussion."
And Brock Howell, spokesman for the Cascade Bicycle Club, says Mayor Ed Murray decided to prioritize rolling out a protected bike lane on Second Avenue downtown and Pronto BikeShare over completing the bike master plan. Murray got an early bike-related win with a compromise, back in February, between business and bike proponents allowing a protected bike lane on Westlake Ave. N.
SDOT's new schedule will push the BMP rollout past the 2015 city budget planning cycle.
We have calls out to Rasmussen, Murray, and SDOT.