2017 Review

Bicycle Security Advisors works to fight bike theft and improve bike parking, with a special focus in Seattle where we live.  As we begin 2018, we share what we accomplished in 2017 and look ahead.


Council briefing & Panel Discussion

In May, Bicycle Security Advisors presented to the Seattle City Council’s Sustainability & Transportation Committee alongside Bryan Hance and Seth Herr of Bike Index to inform the committee of the current state of bike theft and recovery and to propose solutions.

Later that evening, we held a public panel discussion with Bike Index, UWPD, and King County Sheriff’s Office. Representatives from several bike shops, REI, OfferUp, and lock and rack manufacturing companies attended, along with many community members.  We had a fantastic conversation, which we hope will help propel the city council into adopting legislation and a budget that gets bike retailers to index bikes and dedicates a police officer to coordinating bike theft.

Watch and listen to our presentations:


Working with Councilmember O’Brien on funding and legislation to fight bike theft.

Following our presentation to Councilmember Mike O’Brien’s Sustainability & Transportation Committee, Councilmember O’Brien formed a small stakeholder group with Bicycle Security Advisors, Bike Index, Project 529, REI, bike shops, SPD, UWPD, King County Sheriff’s Office, and the Seattle Police Foundation to establish a list of policy and funding priorities that the Seattle City Council could act on.

Based on our recommendations, Councilmember O’Brien proposed a $10,000 allocation in the city’s 2018 budget to address bike theft, which was supported by Councilmembers Rob Johnson and Sally Bagshaw.

Unfortunately, the proposal got cut in the budget negotiations.  We’re hopeful that the stakeholder group’s legislative and budget recommendations will get a stronger hearing in 2018.


Neighborhood Planning

In order to significantly increase bike parking in key neighborhoods, we began extensive planning processes in Columbia City, First Hill, Georgetown, International District, and University District.

The plans are modeled after similar work for the Ballard Avenue and Pioneer Square Landmark Districts, which successfully resulted in over a hundred new bike racks in the two neighborhoods by leveraging the City of Seattle’s bike rack spot improvement program that installs racks on request from businesses.

Here’s what we’ve done so far:

  • Initial walking audits of each of the neighborhoods to locate existing racks and opportunities.
  • Created full draft plans for Columbia City and First Hill.
  • Presented to the First Hill Improvement Association Transportation Committee, InterIm CDA staff, Georgetown Mobility Study Advisory Committee, Columbia City Business Association, Columbia City BIA, and Columbia City Landmark District Review Committee.
  • Public input mapping activities at the Rainier Valley Heritage Parade, Columbia City Bike Parking Open House, Georgetown Mobility Study Open House, and PARK(ing) Day spaces in Columbia City, Georgetown, and International District.
  • Online surveys for Columbia City, First Hill, and Georgetown.
  • Direct outreach to affected Columbia City businesses.
  • Gained support from the Columbia City BIA to fund an upgrade of the city bike racks to Sportworks Tofino No-Scratch, Brushed Stainless Steel Racks.

In 2018, we look forward to finalizing these plans and submitting them to the City for implementation.


Parking Code Update

This fall, the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) proposed a significant update to the city’s parking requirements, which are codified in the Seattle Municipal Code.  In addition to updating vehicular parking requirements such as reducing mandatory minimum vehicular parking for buildings along major transit routes and allowing vehicular parking garages to serve both tenants and visitors, the proposed code update also updated the code requirements.

Bicycle Security Advisors has worked on the updating Seattle’s bicycle code since even before BSA was even formed.  The 2014 Rackathon had a breakout section to specifically address the parking code, and in 2016 we informally advised SDCI and SDOT on best practices for how much bicycle parking to require for different land use types.

The city’s current bicycle parking code is currently a bit of a mess.  For example, there are three different tables that set out the required amounts of bike parking by land use type.  Paradoxically, Downtown has lower long-term bike parking requirements than any other neighborhood.

That’s why we’ve been especially excited about the upcoming update.  During the public comment period in September/October, we provided a detailed comment letter to SDCI outlining our recommended changes.  SDCI incorporated many of our recommendations into its final proposal to Seattle City Council.

The Seattle City Council is now considering the legislation and we expect a final vote in March.  We’re working to gain a few additional changes to ensure the bicycle parking code aligns with the city’s bicycle commute mode share goals and provides SDOT and SDCI with clearer authority to set guidelines to implement and enforce the code.

We’re also hopeful that the code will allow and encourage entertainment venues like CenturyLink Field and KeyArena to provide bike valet services during events.


Seattle Bicycle Parking Guidelines

Besides its bicycle parking webpage, the Streets Right-of-Way Improvement Manual, and the guidebooks produced by the American Pedestrian & Bicycle Professionals, SDOT currently has no official guidelines that it and SDCI can use to review the adequacy of the bike parking provided by developers.

That’s why this past year SDOT commissioned a new Seattle Bicycle Parking Guide which will set-out the requirements and best practices for bike parking.

A draft of the guide was completed in June, and we provided detailed comments on additional improvements to make to the guide.  SDOT is currently waiting for the Seattle City Council to adopt the new parking code update before finalizing and publishing the bike parking guide.


Design Review

While we do not have the bandwidth to review every new development project that goes before a city design review board, we do try to review the biggest development projects to ensure the planned bike parking is sufficient to meet the city’s parking code, is located in the right locations, and uses the right racks.

One victory this year was getting better racks at the 1101 8th Ave development, which is a 565-unit project surrounding Town Hall Seattle on First Hill. Originally the architect proposed installing 19 “wheel chock” style bike racks.  Thanks to our input, the design review board required the developer to install city-approved racks, such as a “staple” or “inverted-U” rack.


Neighborhood Design Guidelines

Seattle’s Office of Planning & Community Development (OPCD), has been in the midst of creating and updating several neighborhood design guidelines across the city.  With final review closing on the Central Area Neighborhood Design Guidelines this past summer, we did a quick review and recommended a change to its street furniture and bike rack guidance to ensure any future bike racks would meet basic design specifications.  To our delight, our recommendation was successfully added.

Now with neighborhood design guidelines for the University District, Uptown, South Lake Union, Capitol Hill, and more in the works, we have asked the project managers to include similar language and many have promised it’ll get added.


Working with Bike Index

Bike Index is the most effective bike registry system for recovering bikes in the United States, and we have been proud to work alongside Bike Index on several projects this year.

Since Bike Index started in 2013, they have recovered and helped return more than 4,363 stolen bikes.  Over the past year-plus, they’ve also partnered with LeadsOnline to eliminate a critical database gap that allowed pawn shops to unwittingly sell stolen bikes; integrated as an application with the Lightspeed point-of-sale system so bike shops can automatically register all bikes they sell; partnered with VerifiR to create a VIN-like system for bike registrations using embedded RFID chips; and established official bike registration systems at the University of Washington, University of Maryland, and University of Pittsburgh.

In addition to the briefing to city council, the panel discussion, and Councilmember Mike  O’Brien’s bike theft stakeholder committee, here are a few other things Bicycle Security Advisors did to promote the use of Bike Index:

Educated vendors & registered bikes at a bike swap

In February, we educated vendors at Cascade’s Seattle Bike Swap about the importance of registering bikes on Bike Index, and registered buyers’ new bikes, and we’ll be back at the Seattle Bike Swap this year as well.

Automatic Registrations at Bike Shops

We identified three bike shops in Seattle that were using the Lightspeed Point-of-Sale System and successfully got them to add the application that allows every bike sold to be automatically registered on Bike Index.  We also successfully encouraged several other bike shops to take more proactive steps to encourage bike buyers to register their bikes and to check suspect stolen bikes on Bike Index.

New Bicycle Rack Stickers

Not everyone knows how to lock their bike or the importance of registering their bike. That’s why we worked with SDOT to update the sticker it puts on its bike racks in order to educate bicyclists.

College Campuses

We reached out to colleges in the Puget Sound region to learn more about their registration systems and requirements and to recommend simplifying their systems by joining with Bike Index.


More stories from 2017

Bike Batman

Seattle’s own “Bike Batman” unmasked himself in a feature on Great Big Story after having helped recover ~40 stolen bikes. A true hero!

Bike Valet at Seattle Sounders matches

The Seattle Sounders contracted with Bike Works to provide bike valet at ten home matches this summer.  We’re hopeful they bring it back in 2018 and that it sets a precedent for all major entertainment events in the city.

Hostile Bike Racks

The city used bike racks to prevent people from making homes under a bridge. There was no other purpose.  Not cool!  There are much better ways to address the rising crisis of homelessness and pedestrians’ perceived personal safety concerns.

Pioneer Square Racks

In 2016, the Alliance for Pioneer Square developed its own neighborhood bike parking plan and designed its own bike racks using our rack size recommendations.  In January 2017, SDOT’s crews installed the racks, resulting in about fifty new beautiful racks across the historic district.  Now, the Alliance is working on a phase two to replace the old racks and add even more.

Bikeshare

With the arrival of the Lime, ofo, and Spin bikeshare systems and now approximately 10,000 of these dockless bikes on our streets, Seattle now whole new bike parking needs.  In order to address public space management concerns, we have proactively proposed new designs for on-street “bikeshare corrals” for SDOT to consider and we are identifying good locations for installing these corrals within our neighborhood bike parking plans for Columbia City, First Hill, Georgetown, International District, and University District.


Special gratitude to the following people

There are so many people to thank.  Here are a few I want to call out specifically:

  • Wyatt Hoffman, SDOT’s bike parking program manager, for always being receptive to new ideas and proactive about helping us continue to push the bike parking envelope.
  • Kyle Rowe, for his leadership on bike parking and bike share when at SDOT and now his work from within the bikeshare industry.
  • Carl Leighty, for his amazing work in designing, planning, and installing the wonderful bike racks in Pioneer Square.
  • Victoria Kovacs, for her guidance in analyzing the draft bike parking code and guides and editorial assistance writing our comment letters.
  • Vicky Clarke, for her deep knowledge of the Seattle Municipal Code and insight into bike parking code best practices.
  • Tom Fucoloro, for his constant advice, wisdom, and support on all things #SEAbikes.
  • Billy Duss, for building relationships with businesses and helping on the code update.
  • Bryan Hance & Seth Herr, for co-founding and running the best bike registration system and being willing to travel to Seattle for meetings, briefings, presentations and even tabling at a street fair.
  • Mike O’Brien, for his leadership on city council to fight bike theft.
  • LaKecia Farmer, for dealing with my bold asks, shepherding the stakeholder committee, and effort to get the green sheet through the budget process. I hope you get your bike back soon.
  • Amy Gore & Spencer Williams, for your friendship, panel discussion facilitation, and work on the bike parking code.
  • Kendra Borzio, for helping provide an inside look into policing and registration issues with a keen sense for data.
  • Tom Liu, for his everyday work as a King County Sheriff officer to track down stolen bikes and for his excellent presentation at our panel discussion and participation in Mike O’Brien’s stakeholder task force.
  • Bike Batman, for you know what you’ve done.  Thank you 40 times over.
  • Diane Wiatr, for letting me participate in the Georgetown Mobility Study Advisory Committee meetings and open houses.
  • Alex Hudson, for embracing the idea of a neighborhood bike parking plan for First Hill and being a champion.
  • Rob Mohn, for being so welcoming in Columbia City and helping guide the bike parking plan through the multitude of neighborhood organizations and securing the financial support of the BIA for higher quality racks.
  • Deb Salls, for running a great bike organization, providing bike valet at Sounders matches, and serving on the stakeholder committee.
  • Matt Childs, for the Sportworks factory tour, answering of many questions, sample Tofino rack, and sample etching.
  • Rebecca Roush, for your passion for bike access to Sound Transit.
  • Miranda Redinger, Nora Daley-Peng, Alison VanGorp, and Kevin McDonald, for taking a chance on on a CTR grant application with me and being great people doing great work in Shoreline, Mercer Island, and Bellevue.

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