Letter to the editor: Budget priorities — more sidewalks or bike lanes?


Seems like our city council is having difficulty setting priorities for the 2022 budget. Maybe we can help. Rather than airing a laundry list of topics here (because there are many of them), I’d like to propose we focus and help them prioritize between two specific topics first. The budget for sidewalk improvements vs. the budget for bike lanes. (In case you’re interested, the entire list of budget decision packages can be found here.)

The current proposed 2022 budget has $901,780 earmarked for new sidewalks and $1,562,390 for bike lanes. At the special city council meeting Thursday evening, Councilmember Distelhorst proposed allocating additional budget for bike lanes.

My casual observation suggests that I see more people walking around neighborhoods, downtown and the waterfront than I do see people riding bikes. And I don’t think I’d get an argument that our sidewalks throughout the city need attention. Sidewalks are everywhere (or should be). Your neighborhood, my neighborhood. I cringe when I see mothers jogging, pushing baby strollers over some of our uneven sidewalks. Or young children learning to ride their bicycles on them. Or us old people out for our daily walk. Even Council President Paine lamented after her fall and subsequent injuries as a result of a poor sidewalk. So why add more money to an already well-funded bike lane project when our needs are elsewhere?

There is somewhat a sense of urgency behind this as the council has imposed an expedited schedule for this year’s budget approval process (long story). Councilmember Distelhorst is expected to introduce his motion to increase the bicycle lane budget at the next council meeting. So here’s my ask. Please provide your comments below on how you would prioritize between these two budget line items, sidewalks or bike lanes. We’ll forward them onto the City Council in advance of their meetings. And if you’re so inclined, please send a quick note to the council directly at council@edmondswa.gov with your priorities.

Spread the word. Let’s help them help us.

Jim Ogonowski

  1. Spend money on sidewalks. Edmonds needs the existing sidewalks repaired and have more sidewalks added. No need for bike lanes on 9th Ave or 100th Ave.

  2. Anyone who walks at all around our city knows very clearly that our sidewalks are in atrocious condition. The destruction of the concrete is generally caused by the adjacent trees. City staff marks the uneven concrete with orange paint, grinds them down, patches them with asphalt, and decades later the problem trees are removed. Considerable time and money would be saved if the trees would be removed as soon as they are identified to be the source of the sidewalk problem.

    Let’s give the sidewalks the priority they deserve and get them taken care of now.

  3. Moreover – ALL of Edmonds needs sidewalks, safer shoulders, lighted crosswalks . The vast majority north of 9th. And in areas east of HWY 99 still within Edmonds limits. I followed with amazement the apparently endless and inane debate over signage on 99 announcing entrance to city limits. Vertical, horizontal, color scheme, font …. ? “Edmonds” should be for all of us and safety, lighting, parks, playgrounds, heightened police and social services presence – the list goes on and on to engage and benefit the quality of life fore all Edmonds residents. Priorities. And I think it is fair and reasonable to say that our fellow citizens north of the bowl and east of 99 deserve some long overdue attention. 1M plus on “gold standard” bike route access to the bowl is not only NOT a priority it is borderline offensive given the real, tangible, overdue and overlooked frontline “musts.”

    1. I wholeheartedly agree! The bike lanes are offensive and especially to those of us living in the Westgate area. We DON’T even have sidewalks to walk safely on!! 95th pl. west is a beautiful street but no one can walk it safely because there are no sidewalks and people drive on it like a freeway.
      Statistics show bike lane users are white males btw 25-45 years old -a small percentage of the population of Edmonds residents. Fix our sidewalks and “potholes “ FIRST!!

  4. Let’s see more and repaired sidewalks which are heavily used by all ages. It would also allow more children to safely visit neighbors and friends close by without assistance of driving another car. We need more and safe sidewalks downtown and along the busy streets.

  5. Is this truly a trade-off situation? Is anyone proposing taking money away from the sidewalk line item and shifting those funds to bike lanes? In the presentations from city staff about funding sidewalks, was there mention of the number to complete all sidewalks being larger than what they have requested? How are these two items in competition for funds more than any other lone item within that department?

  6. Thank you to Ms. Olson and Ms. Paine for addressing my concerns over dangerous sidewalks over the last several months. We have witnessed people of all ages stumble downtown in various locations. Looks like Ms. Buckschnis is on board as well. Wonderful.

    With all the many events and businesses we encourage people to attend and frequent, walking on sidewalks is involved. Many walk and push strollers for exercise. To have a new stellar civic field facility with dangerous sidewalks for getting there is horrible for public safety. All the orange paint marking spots in multiple locations downtown is self explanatory. Now is the time to fix them. We seem to have money for other priorities.

    I don’t live downtown or own a business but feel for the sake of public safety the neglected dangerous sidewalks should be fixed in this budget. Thank you.

  7. It would be terrific if the Gang of Four on the current Council actually listened to citizens. There should be an informed discussion by Council, based on what citizens are saying during public hearings and other forums. I’m sure the newly elected Council members, who have been out talking (and listening) to citizens, will have informed input to the budget process. There should be no fixed date on when budget has to be approved (other than before last Council meeting of the year) so that the budget is “scrubbed” and actually makes sense on what this City needs. One thing that hasn’t been discussed at all is what happened to all the money for new initiatives last year and whether they were fruitful or not.

  8. Residents walk. Perhaps the majority of bikers are visitors. How about bicycle parking rather than lanes?

  9. BOTH sidewalks and bike lanes are needed. The fact that you see more people walking than biking could mean that bikers ( like me) don’t feel safe. I say, “build them and I’ll come!”

    More bikers mean less cars trying to park in the precious few spots.

  10. Sidewalks over bike lanes.. 238th needs a sidewalk on at least one side. Downtown sidewalk repairs please. pot holes too.

  11. I just visited City Hall to read the Public Hearing Notice posted on the front door of City Hall. The posted notice tells all of us the following:

    – Tuesday, November 16, 2021: Second Public Hearing on the 2022 Proposed Budget, Council Deliberations, and Adoption of 2022-2027 CIP/CFP Plans

    – Tuesday, November 23, 2021: Council Deliberations and Adoption of 2022 City Budget

    – Tuesday, December 7, 2021: Adoption of 2022 City Budget (if necessary)

    I encourage interested citizens to visit City Hall and read the posted Public Notice yourself.

  12. ATTENTION EDMONDS RESIDENTS who are leaving comments here.
    Please take the time on Nov 9th to call in to the Council Meeting at 7 pm to share your comments/thoughts on this and any other concerns you have about the 2022 budget –
    We need EVERYONE to participate in the Public Hearing coming up-it’s the last one before they are scheduled to vote on 11/16. (Unless we have so many comments that the Public Hearing on 11/9 needs to be extended to occur on another Council Meeting!)

    Also, where are all the Dayton peeps?
    Have you received any follow up on the requests so many asked for on 7/27 meeting?
    Call in on 11/9 and re-share your comments!

  13. More sidewalks are needed for safety.
    The City has needed them for years and have been ponderous year by year to add sidewalks.
    Also keeping any sidewalks we have clear of shrubs and trees growing that block them and cause single line use.
    Bike lanes are second in line and cause other problems.

  14. Really, bikes lanes are offensive! Okay, everyone is entitled to their opinion. When I bike and when I drive, I appreciate the lines/lanes that provide a degree of safety. Even when I walk they make me aware that bicyclists are nearby.
    Thanks to the comments by Chris Cossu. Why should this be an either/or issue? Will spending less on bike lanes mean more for sidewalks, or vice versa? Not necessarily. Also in looking at the budget it appears that due to regional planning the city must spend money to make money for bike lanes. (I’m guessing here.)
    I like sidewalks. Some, the ones dressed in paint, need repair. On my street I don’t know how the city could put in a sidewalk. Yes, some motorists drive too fast on our streets. There are some streets with potholes. All these are true and the city is addressing them, but obviously not with the dispatch some would prefer.
    I personally like more bike lanes AND sidewalks.

  15. No additional money for bike lane projects. Please add money to the amount for sidewalk repair/new sidewalks. There are far too many areas of Edmonds in the Bowl and outside the Bowl without any sidewalks at all.

  16. If there is a sum of money somewhere from which $could be moved (implied by the statement of increasing the budget for bike lanes), I believe a better use of those funds would be to repair existing sidewalks, and add sidewalks where none exist now.

  17. Growing up in Lincoln NE. and later Edmonds we all virtually lived on our bikes until we could drive a car. I don’t recall much in the way of bike lanes or any other special provisions to protect and enhance the experience of riding our bikes in and around vehicle traffic. Helmets were unheard of. I remember lots of rules and good ideas for not getting killed on our bikes, such as become a bike walking pedestrian at busy intersections and ride single file and on the sidewalks if you could when there was lots of car traffic.

    Recently I’ve had a bicycle speed out of nowhere in front of me in the 5 corners round about shaking his fist at me because I didn’t see him coming in at about 30mph. Same place a few days later, a bicycle rider stops car traffic in the busy circle waiting his tern instead of just getting off the bike to become a pedestrian and automatically get the right of way. I’m telling you, these people feel entitled because they think they are saving the planet with their self propulsion. Mostly, they are just creating another road hazard to watch out for. Back in the day, we were the hazard and that was made pretty clear to us by car drivers and police.

  18. Absolutely sidewalks over bike lanes and more spent on putting sidewalks along streets where there are NONE over repairing downtown sidewalks. I mean, once those “hideous” streeteries are torn down, there will be plenty of parking for all of those who are unable to walk to shop. Bike lanes are WAY down the list IMO.

  19. Let’s not disparage bicyclists just because some are wreckless. There are careless walkers and motorists as well.
    Just to be clear, bicycles have as much right to the roads, except expressways, as vehicles. They must obey all traffic lights and signs. Cyclists are not legally required to dismount and walk their bikes at intersections. State laws are different but most advise or require motorists to give cyclists 3 feet of space while passing.
    The good ole days are in the past. Bicycles and vehicles are very different now. (Okay, the one still has two and the other four wheels!) There are more of them. I am pleased bike lanes keep them apart. As a motorist I would hate to injure a cyclist, and as a cyclist I would not want to get hit by a vehicle.
    Furthermore, this does not have to be a zero-sum issue. I believe people are viewing it in this way because the author of the article in Edmonds News framed it that way. The council may not put more money into or take it away from bike lanes if they change the amount for sidewalks. The two budget items are not tied together. Edmonds could have more of each. In my opinion that would be a good thing.

  20. Bike lanes are not offensive. 1.5 M line item for bike lane “wants” – not needs – IS. What bike lane $$$ are allocated to neighborhoods outside the bowl, leading to destinations outside downtown Edmonds/waterfront/ferry? What dedicated street and lane designations and signage etc for our fellow residents to safely get to significant frequent bus routes and park and rides to commute to essential services and jobs? Remember these are the neighborhoods with least amount of sidewalks and safe shoulders. Please do provide data re nos. of, and demographics of, consistent Edmonds resident bike riders (over 24 month period) and the purpose/destination of their “commute.” Removing cars from the road? Because there are so many Edmonds residents commuting to Edmonds Boeing? Edmonds light industrial complexes? Edmonds Amazon warehouse? Budget items must be justified. Existing sidewalk and road repair is a fundamental, irrefutable infrastructure priority. EXPANSION of sidewalks, safe shoulders, curbing, lighting, signage, etc., to overlooked and underserved neighborhoods is equally if not more paramount.
    We have Edmonds citizens facing rental, food, and utility insecurities. Moratoriums on both are ending(ed). So yes, 1.5M is a big deal, and a big amount of money, and could and should be spent elsewhere.

  21. No one is saying the bikes have less rights to use the roads than cars and I have no problem with the “sharrows” (share the roads) type signs that remind us all we are sharing. What I have trouble with is all the road narrowing and special bike lane marking and parking removing activities going on. It seems to me that this is urban planning on steroids; telling us that the bikes are just a little more special than the cars because they are so earth friendly and all that. They are so good we must all cater to their needs and look out for them at all times. In a car vs. bike collision, the car always wins and it behooves the smart bike rider to ride defensively and not think he/she owns the road. You can be really right and really dead, all at the same time. In the world of “needs” vs. “wants,” I’d rate bike lanes a real “big” want and a real “small” need. Fix the sidewalks and pot holes first; the bikers are just doing their walking and running sitting down.

  22. Sidewalks & more sidewalks. Many people walking in the road, all the time. 8th Ave S for example before and after school!

  23. Jeez, do any of bike-haters read? (Just kidding here!) But do read the budget numbers.
    The city has a $1.85 million dollar grant to be used for improvements for bicyclists. They plan to spend 2.1 million over an extended period of time. So the total city outlay for cyclists will be around $191,00, not 1.5 million. Meanwhile the budget for sidewalks is $901,000. This is not an issue of needs vs wants, sidewalks vs bikes, where one has to loss at the expense of the other. The city will have to spend the grant money on cycling improvements or lose it. The city cannot spend this grant money on sidewalks. I suppose the city could refuse the grant money and spend the $191,000 on sidewalks. Hey, all you sidewalk lovers, give the council members your opinion on this idea. (Again, just kidding. I too believe we need sidewalk improvements. However, as a native midwesterner, the potholes in Edmonds have some growing to do before they get troublesome.)

  24. Thank you all for your comments. As promised, I’ll forward them onto our City Council before their council meeting tonight for their consideration as they set priorities during the budgeting process.

    Now for those who are still willing to engage (or reengage) on this topic, I’d like to expand it a bit.

    Since budgets must be balanced, would you be willing to increase your taxes for:
    1) More improved sidewalks
    2) More bike lanes

    This question is all about how quickly we want to improve our city and in which direction. Again, just limiting the discussion between these two line items for now.

    Thank you

    1. The difficulty is that the comments were based on incorrect information and a false premise. As Mike noted, “the total city outlay for cyclists will be around $191,00, not 1.5 million. Meanwhile the budget for sidewalks is $901,000. This is not an issue of needs vs wants, sidewalks vs bikes, where one has to loss at the expense of the other.”

      There would have to be a HUGE note if passing this onto the city that the comments were based on massively incorrect data and assumptions, and may no longer be accurate.

  25. Jim, I like your question.
    I would not like to see my taxes increase.
    However, I am disappointed that once again I am asked to choose between sidewalks and bike lanes. There can be and is money in the budget for both. I do not believe the amounts are $1.5 million for bikes vs $0.9 million for sidewalks as stated in the article. Rather the amounts of our city money are $0.19 million for bikes vs $0.9 million for sidewalks. Whether or not these are appropriate amounts, I am very willing to leave to city officials, who listen to voters. Both deserve funding.
    But, don’t raise my taxes.

  26. There needs to be money in the budget (there is grant money available) for both sidewalks and bicycle lanes. This can’t be an either/or choice. And it should not be an Edmonds Bowl vs. Hwy 99 choice. This discussion should be about providing safe travel on our streets and sidewalks for the growing numbers of people who are looking for alternatives to getting into a car for every trip or those wanting to walk around the block. Bike sales, both pedal and electric, are booming. Electric bike sales are far outpacing electric car sales (see today’s Seattle Times article). Older folks are buying ebikes for exercise and mobility. Motorists don’t want cyclists in traffic lanes and cyclists don’t want to ride, whether for recreation or commuting, on streets filled with increasing numbers of cars. Look at the data- adding bike lanes increase usage. ST is nearing completion of light rail stations in Lynnwood and MLT, yet there are currently few safe lanes of travel for bike commuters. Car and truck traffic is increasing. Speeds are increasing. The number of bikes and pedestrians is increasing. Our sidewalks are in terrible disrepair or non-existent. I ride a bike. I run. I go for walks. I live in Edmonds. I’m a retiree. I’ve nearly been hit by cars riding, walking and running in Edmonds. It’s time to find solutions that make our streets and sidewalks safe for every user and end the ‘me first’ complaining.

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