On Thursday of last week, King County’s Board of Health voted to repeal its bicycle helmet law due to its disproportionate enforcement against unhoused people and people of color.
This change was the culmination of a successful advocacy effort led by Central Seattle Greenways, Real Change, and Cascade Bicycle Club. Our three organizations came together to launch a Helmet Law Working Group in part because of discussions within CSG’s Racial Equity Committee in July 2020 about how to reduce unnecessary contact between police and people who bike in Seattle.
We applaud the Board of Health’s decision, which we believe sets King County on a path to encourage helmet use through expanded access and education rather than criminalization, to create true safety for bicyclists by prioritizing safer streets, and to treat disparities in policing as a public health issue. We are deeply thankful for all of our partners – local as well as national bicycling and transportation groups – who supported our call to repeal the helmet law and worked with us to make this happen.
You can find coverage of Thursday’s vote in the New York Times, The Seattle Times, Crosscut, KUOW, KING 5, and other outlets. Additionally, the South Seattle Emerald published an op-ed urging repeal ahead of the Board of Health vote, which was written by Ethan Campbell of Central Seattle Greenways, Vicky Clarke from Cascade, and Tiffani McCoy from Real Change.
After this exciting development, what is next for CSG in 2022? Well, we have a few efforts underway that all involve advocating for safer streets for those who walk, roll, and bike in our community.
Last year, CSG volunteers worked together with Beacon Hill Safe Streets to write a letter requesting interim safety improvements for bicyclists on 12th Ave S between E Yesler Way and S King St. This section of 12th Ave S is a critical and heavily-used corridor that connects the Central District and Chinatown-International District with neighborhoods north and south. We have been in dialogue with SDOT about our requests, and are tentatively hopeful that we will see safety improvements for both bicyclists and pedestrians at 12th Ave and E Yesler Way this year.
Now, we are also looking further north to 12th Ave between E Yesler Way all the way to E Aloha St. This important connection through Capitol Hill, First Hill, and the Central District currently features substandard bike infrastructure – unprotected bike lanes or sharrows – and lacks marked crosswalks at many locations. We have identified that frequently-blocked bike lanes, fast vehicle speeds, and risk of collisions (particularly at intersections), among other issues, are key challenges along this corridor. A biking audit organized by CSG in early February saw high attendance and engaging discussions about opportunities for improvements, and we look forward to advocating for changes in the coming months.
CSG has also started to explore improvements for those walking and rolling on E Olive Way between I-5 and Broadway, a stretch that sees some of the highest pedestrian traffic in the city. A CSG walking audit in early February identified a lack of crosswalks, long crossing distances, and poor signal timing as problems at multiple locations. We plan to explore ways to create a more safe and comfortable pedestrian experience on this stretch of E Olive Way—stay tuned, or get in touch if you’d like to join this effort!
Other priorities for CSG in 2022 include restarting our collaboration with Bailey Gatzert Elementary School on their Safe Routes to School initiative, working with community on the future of our Central Area Stay Healthy Streets, supporting the Garfield Super Block project, and continuing to monitor and shape improvements like the Pike/Pine Renaissance project and bike lanes on Eastlake Ave E.