Rachel Hultin

The Seattle :: Denver Mutual Admiration Society

Daydreaming for a more bike-friendly city

As an active transportation advocate, professional crushes are fun and necessary. Without inspiration, it’s difficult to see what is possible and help others see it with you. At any given time, my professional crushes include a few people (Jay Walljasper and Gil Penalosa), a couple of organizations (PeopleForBikes and Project for Public Spaces) and some dreamy cities (Paris and Portland).

My recent trip to Seattle for the NACTO Designing Cities Conference was a whirlwind fling with a city and the people who make cities so attractive for bicyclists. I swooned over Tamika Butler as she captivated a room of 700 city builders with her personal and powerful tale of real change to local streets. My heart was aflutter as Seattle Department of Transportation’s Donhgo Chang demonstrated engineers can be both data driven implementers and visionary storytellers.

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The real chemistry sparked during my various excursions around the alluring city. I walked, biked, rode transit and completed a gastronomic tour of Asian cuisine. It was easy and enjoyable. I was completely smitten.

A Denver girl falls for Seattle

Others might take “easy and enjoyable” for granted, but not active transportation advocates! It takes years, vision, champions, politically challenging battles and funding to get to “easy and enjoyable.” I appreciated all the little things and all the big things. In four days, Seattle won my heart with its:

  • Bike parking. It’s seriously abundant. From plenty of racks to creative bike corrals to private bicycle storage, parking your bike in Seattle is (roughly) a thousand times easier and more enjoyable than parking your car.

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  • Public/private partnerships. Amazon and the city worked together to bring Copenhagenized bike infrastructure to its new downtown Seattle headquarters.

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  • Bold vision with funding. From voter approved transportation funding to neighborhood level plans, Seattle is thinking and acting big.
  • Mobility smorgasbord. I seamlessly integrated light rail, monorail, streetcars, buses, bike share and walked my face off. All with the ease of my ORCA card and a Pronto Bike Share fob. Easy peasy.
  • Crosswalks that don’t just work, they rule. The City of Seattle has a colorful crosswalk program AND—get this—cars and buses actually stop to let people cross!
  • Oodles of sticky places for people. Getting around on foot and by bike in Seattle is incredibly rewarding! From the Gum Wall in Post Alley [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][which is literally sticky] to Street Scrabble in Capitol Hill to Ball Street to the Mystery Soda Machine, I was engaged at every turn.

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My first love wins me back

Returning home to Denver with a dreamy fondness for my new long distance crush, I saw all the deficiencies of my own city through the lens of our 45 year relationship. Why isn’t my city as easy and enjoyable as Seattle? Where are all the colorful crosswalks and abundance of bike lanes?

Luckily, a few days after returning, I had the pleasure of hosting Dongho Chang (Seattle’s complete streets champion engineer) for his first two hours ever spent in Denver. Starting from Union Station and meandering our way up the 16th Street Mall, Seattle’s rainmaker marveled at the big vision, energy and mobility smorgasbord of Union Station. He delighted in the stickiness of 16th Street Mall and the rarefied beauty of its pavers. He understood the victories behind and difficult battles ahead of Denver. Together, we fell in love with my city’s extraordinary qualities and what it will grow into.

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Seattle’s Dongho Chang on the 16th Street Mall

It’s a relationship worth staying committed to. With passion. Plus, Seattle may have a lot of enviable traits but, honestly, it’s train station could use some inspiration from the best!

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Denver Union Station photo: idesignarch.com

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Seattle’s King Station

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Rachel Hultin

About the Author: Rachel Hultin

Rachel works with agencies, organizations and communities to ensure Colorado becomes the best state in the nation for riding bikes. Her passion for all forms of active transportation fuels opportunities for successful collaboration. When not talking shop, Rachel enjoys hunting for street art with her family and volunteering in her community.

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