"Streetless In Seattle" Policy Polarizes Citizens

Ethan Epstein chronicles the work of Seattle's mayor, Mike McGinn, who won office in 2009 from established candidates and a powerful incumbent on a "philosophically anti-car" base.
November 4, 2011, 11am PDT | George Haugh
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McGinn's Road Diet, which went into effect in July, is probably his most audacious project. 'As the centerpiece of the city's $240 million "Bicycle Master Plan," which mandates the construction of 118 miles of bike lanes and 19 miles of trails by 2017, the diet will convert 3 percent of Seattle's car lanes into bike lanes.'

McGinn has faced aggressive opposition to his plans from many in a city where the meteorological and topographical reality encourages driving. They have argued that McGinn is too focused on cycling policy to the detriment of a woeful public transit system. "The city is nearly twice the size of Boston in square mileage, yet it has no subway. Seattle's bus service is infrequent and slow-moving, and it's bound to get slower, since city buses will lose some lanes to the road diet," writes Ethan Epstein.

"Maybe it's a sign of these politically polarized times that something as seemingly nonideological as commuting has become the latest manifestation of identity politics. In Seattle and elsewhere, citizens could pay a significant price for that development."

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Published on Friday, November 4, 2011 in City Journal
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